Fascination is a lot like what you’d get if you crossed bingo with sit-down skeeball. Created in the early 20th century, it was a fixture of old-time amusement parks and boardwalk arcades in the U.S., especially in the Northeast. But it fell out of fashion with the rise of modern theme parks and new high-tech games. Fascination started to disappear.
The game is played at wooden tables, each with 25 holes in a five-by-five grid. Players roll hard rubber balls across the table to try and sink them into every hole (except the center, which is a freebie). Each time someone manages to sink a ball in a new hole, a light illuminates the backboard above. Often, eight players compete in a single game of Fascination, and the winner is the first person to light all five rows.
The tables in the Fascination parlor near Nantasket Beach in Hull are the oldest remaining Fascination tables still in use. They were originally built for Coney Island in 1918 and were moved to the Massachusetts boardwalk known as Paragon Park in 1945. From the turn of the 20th century until the mid-1980s, Paragon Park was a beachfront amusement area with a roller coaster and plenty of charm to attract the likes of Fats Domino and Judy Garland. When the park closed in 1984, it took a shark-sized bite out of the boardwalk’s business, including the Fascination parlor patronage, which limped on despite a decline in popularity.
Across the locations where the game is still played, Fascination has gone out of style partly due to the cost of upkeep. The table lights run on an antiquated telephony system that, along with the heft of the old solid wood tables, has contributed to the game’s obsolescence. It’s simply difficult and expensive to maintain so many old, heavy components.
The Nantasket Beach Fascination parlor had been shuttered for several seasons when, in 2017, a couple from nearby Hingham bought the boarded-up strip and set about revitalizing and reopening the parlor and gaming arcade next door. The Fascination parlor is now open again to the to the public, and while several other Fascination game halls still operate across the United States, the Hull parlor is the only one in the world where winners compete for an all-cash prize.
Know Before You Go
Located on Nantasket Avenue in Hull near the mini-golf course and next to the arcade. As of 2018, the parlor is open Friday and Saturday nights. You must be 18 or older to play Fascination.