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Sunday, January 31, 2016

The Spee-Lunkers Cave At Six Flags Over Texas

Before The Minions and even before Fraggle Rock, there were The Spee-Lunkers of Six Flags Over Texas.

As this promotional Spee-Lunker puppet explains, the Spee-Lunkers were fanciful characters (puppets themselves, technically) who welcomed visitors to their hidden world at Six Flags Over Texas.

"What is a Spee-Lunker?" you may ask.  Well, imagine if Dobby the House Elf from Harry Potter mated with a Seahorse.  Their offspring might look something like a Spee-Lunker.

"Spees" as they were nicknamed, were part of a dark boat ride at Six Flags Over Texas, housed in "The Cave."

Six Flags Over Texas opened in 1961.  Located in Arlington, this was the very first Six Flags park.

The Cave full of Spee-Lunkers debuted in 1964.

Six Flags is not famous for dark rides, but the three original Six Flags parks (in Texas, Georgia, and Missouri) each had their own special dark ride.

The Spee-Lunker's Cave is a distant cousin of The Monster Plantation (now The Monster Mansion) that opened at Six Flags Over Georgia in 1981.

Having never been to Six Flags Over Texas, my first introduction to the Spee-Lunkers was this magazine from July 1967.

I found this magazine when I visited my local Library's used book store when I was a kid.  I quickly bought it.

One of the original icons for Six Flags Over Texas was Skull Island.

Spooky, but also kind of adorable.

So, this is where I first encountered the Spee-Lunkers.

Notice there is no description for what we are seeing.  What were these little creatures?  Were they sea monkeys?  They had me hooked!  At the time, there was no Internet, so the identity of these characters remained a mystery to me for many years.

Some Groovy, stylish young adults take us on a tour of Six Flags Over Texas.

Seeing the Sheriff scene here makes me think of theme parks like Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee or Knott's Berry Farm in Buena Park, California.

Wholesome young adults enjoy a wholesome day.

Early Six Flags is quite different from the EXTREME Six Flags we know today.

"Hello, Karen.  I'm the Six Flags Magician.  It's pretty amazing what I can do with doves and cards, but I think you'll agree that my hair is even more impressive and magical."

For about five years, some of my family members lived in Texas.  My visits were typically in December or November, and in all that time, I never made the trip to Six Flags Over Texas.  On one Christmas visit, I found some local 1960's high school yearbooks for sale in a store.

I bet these high school Seniors had some fun at Six Flags Over Texas.  The big hair inspired me to create my own imaginary pitch for a Sixties TV show for the CW Network called Bigger In Texas.

Early Six Flags Over Texas had its own identity and character.

Every hour, oil would erupt out of the Six Flags Over Texas Oil Derrick, showering unsuspecting people under the tower.

Or not.

Whoa!  Where are the wall-to-wall roller coasters?

The arrival of licensed characters kind of robbed Six Flags Over Texas of its original life force and soul.

Skull Island was featured in quite a bit of park merchandise.

Skull Island is kind of similar in some ways to the Skull Rock that used to be at Disneyland in California from 1960 to whenever it was destroyed for the New Fantasyland that debuted in 1983.

Here we can see The Cave (home of the Spee-Lunkers) and Skull Island on an old Six Flags park map.

Like the Spees, Skull Island is no longer at Six Flags Over Texas.

Early Six Flags merchandise could be very unusual.

How about a mod piggy bank?  Well, this isn't a typical piggy bank.

Yes, it is a Spee-Lunker Piggy Bank!

The Spee-Lunkers never got the Smurfs or Snorks treatment, but they did appear on merchandise.

The cute yet grotesque Spee-Lunkers were designed by Walter McKeegan.

Walter McKeegan was an art director for TV shows like I Love Lucy, Petticoat Junction, and The Beverly Hillbillies.

The Spee-Lunkers Cave was designed by theme park designer Randall Duell.

The Six Flags Over Texas Charm Bracelet may be the most coveted souvenir dedicated to the original version of the park.

Included in the assortment of park icon charms are Skull Island and a Spee-Lunker.  Yes, a Spee-Lunker!

This is as close as we'll ever get to a Spee-Lunker action figure.

The Six Flags Over Texas Charm Bracelet sells for big bucks (if you can even find it).

A "Charming" Vintage Six Flags Over Texas Spee-Lunker

This vintage patch seems to predict the future.  In 1985, the Warner Brothers Looney Tunes arrived at the Six Flags chain.  The characters gradually became the focus of promotions and merchandise.

In 1992, the Western Looney Tunes themed "Yosemite Sam and the Gold River Adventure" dark ride replaced the aging Spee-Lunkers attraction.

The unique Spees are gone, but not forgotten.  Allegedly, some of the Spee-Lunkers made their way into the homes (and Christmas displays) of loving Texans.


  1. Is the Looney Tunes dark ride still at the park? I love the fact that some of the Six Flags parks had dark rides! Six Flags Magic Mountain here in Southern California didn't have a dark ride, but they had a walk-thru fun house called the Magic Pagoda that was pretty cool. Unfortunately it closed decades ago and it wasn't replaced with anything. :-(

  2. Hey TokyoMagic! Yes, The Yosemite Same Gold River Adventure is still at Six Flags Over Texas. The Injun Joe's Cave dark ride at Six Flags St. Louis changed themes a few times (including a Scooby Doo dark water ride) until it recently became a "dry" dark ride called "Justice League: Battle for Metropolis". The Justice League dark ride is being added to many Six Flags parks, and was recently added to Six Flags Over Texas, too---so Texas is a rare Six Flags with two dark rides!

  3. Oooh, I wonder if Six Flags Magic Mountain will get the Justice League dark ride?

  4. My guess is yes. Justice League is a big win for Six Flags. It looks to be their big franchise dark ride. They can easily update it and link/upgrade with multiple parks in the chain. It does make me worry about the future of Georgia's Monster Mansion: A DC Super Friends land is going right near the monster ride at that Six Flags.

  5. That is some impressive hair! Who needs magic with that on top of your head?

    Had no idea that Six Flags had a dark ride. And you're right, if Dobby mated with a Seahorse, you'd get Spees.

    That's some cool-looking vintage photos in the Campus Life mag. Nice find.

  6. Thanks, Snow White Archive! Sixties Six Flags was all about the hair. And everything is bigger in Texas.

  7. The speed lunker cave still stirs up old feelings of gloom in me. I can't even look at the photos with the strange lighting and the spee lunker's vampiral appearance. Does anyone else wish they had not been exposed to such a ride. I was very young when my parents took me on the boat. I couldn't have been more than 4 since I believe it was before I started kindergarten. I am sorry the ride was not removed sooner. Spee lunkers are not cute at all. Is like to read a psychologists take on all this.

  8. I have Dolly lunker and a merlunker. I cant get the picture to attach here. I signed the petition to bring back the ride. I used to like bugs bunny until the park changed to that.

    1. Wow, that is cool! Feel free to email me and I'll post it with a credit.