Phantas Notes Phantasmagoria

Phantas Notes, Pt. 2: Cover-Art

If you don’t know anything about our album-cover, the story behind it’s kind of interesting. “Phantasmagoria” was an actual haunted-house which operated at Bell’s Amusement Park in Tulsa, Oklahoma, from the early 1970s until the park’s closure in 2006. The ride’s façade changed a lot over time — but in the beginning, as I remember it from my childhood, it was freaking ELABORATE, and strange enough to captivate and terrify any 5-year-olds like me. It was like a strange, dark, alternate dimension looming inexplicably there at the North end of the midway.

When I finally got all the mixes finished, and started working on the album-cover, I already knew the album-art would be centered around images of this place; I’d already landed on “Phantasmagoria” as the title, and as the central kind of organizing visual symbol for the album.

I scoured the internet for any good, high-quality, color pictures of the ride in all its original glory. Unfortunately, all the color pictures I found either weren’t of the original façade, or they were of such low quality that they were unusable. But I did find one really fantastic black-and-white image which “almost” worked, except that the angle wasn’t quite right, there were a lot of odd shadows, and the resolution still really wasn’t high enough. And, yeah, I mean it was a shame that it wasn’t in color.

So I did some work to upscale the image resolution, to clean-up some ugly artifacts, and to remove the shadows. A friend of mine, Chandra Valkyrie, straightened-out the angle (something I didn’t realize could be done so effectively). I extended the sky, put some subtle bats up there, drew the top of the house’s peak more or less by hand basically using the cloning tool. Oh, and yeah, I colorized it.

I also fussed around a lot with the bottom of the image, where all those shadows loom weirdly over the blacktop. I wasn’t sure what to do with that area for a long time. Ultimately, I had to make some decisions fast because my time was limited, and so I decided on creating a silhouette of a couple approaching the ride. And then I decided on using some artwork clipped from some old “garden of eden” wallpaper to create a suggestion of rich vegetation around them. I felt like that kind of tied them together with some of the things happening in the album’s opening tracks.

This all probably would have looked a lot better if I’d found a way to photograph an actual couple, and actual flowers. But sometimes under a deadline we just do our best with the time allotted.

I’m not sure who to credit for the original b/w photo. It apparently was not taken by Kirk Demaris, whose “I Rode Phantasmagoria” blog was where I found the photo in the first place. I emailed Kirk, and he said he’d obtained the photo from a guy named Kyle J. Wood. So I tried to write to Kyle — but he’s a bit famous, used to write and work on movies, and apparently he doesn’t care to be contacted by strangers. I mean, I never could find a working email account for him, or even a Twitter or Facebook account I could confirm was his. I also tried to contact the Bell family, but to no avail.

So, the photo has no known provenance. Perhaps it always existed — something mythological, a moment trapped in memory, a figment of the collective unconscious, just waiting to finally express itself through the Internet. And now you’ve seen it! It’s too late! Make a copy and pass it on, or in seven days, you die.

— Mazus