Summer time is just around the corner and no doubt your mind is drifting towards vacation. Maybe you’re thinking about heading down to Cincinnati to see a Reds game, visit the aquarium or art museum, tour the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center museum or spend a day at Kings Island. I’ll warn you though, one of them is haunted and it might not be the one you’re thinking.
Kings Island amusement park is located in Mason, Ohio, about 24 miles northeast of Cincinnati. The park opened to the public on April 29, 1972. It was named for the Kings Powder Company, which created the town of Kings Mill for its employees. The 700-acre property rests on land once owned by the company. What most visitors to the park don’t realize is that tucked away among the roller coasters, water rides and midway games, is an ancient cemetery. And, by the way, Kings Island is haunted.
The small historic cemetery, dating back to the 1840’s and known historically as the Dog Street Cemetery, sits at the north end of the Kings Island parking lot entrance off Columbia Road (between the campground and the parking area). There are nearly 70 grave sites in the cemetery, although only about 50 headstones still stand today. Contrary to what you might think, the ghosts of the park are not all connected to the ancient boneyard. For decades, rumors of accidental deaths inside the park abounded, but there are several verifiable deaths within the park that may account for the ghostly reputation.
Some of those park deaths include a 20-year-old Lion Country Safari Ranger who was mauled to death by a lion in 1976 after leaving the safety of his jeep to relieve himself. The Safari ride operated from 1974 to 1993 and is now the site of the Son of Beast roller coaster and a storage area. On Friday May 13, 1983, the park hosted a Grad night for local high schools. An apparently inebriated young man named John Harter was killed after climbing around the restricted areas of the Eiffel Tower and falling to his death down the elevator shaft. The common version claims he was decapitated after either being hit by the counterweight of one of the elevators. More on that later.
On June 9, 1991, a day known in park history as Black Sunday, a young man named Tim Brenning was with friends at Oktoberfest, near the Viking attraction. It was hot that day and he playfully dipped his hand into a fountain to splash his friends. Unbeknownst to him, there was a short in the electric lighting and he was badly shocked and fell into the water. His friend, William “Eddie” Haithcoat went in to save him, but was electrocuted. A nearby security guard rushed to the fountain, jumped in to pull the men out but was also instantly electrocuted. Both the security guard and Eddie died on the scene; Tim barely survived and remained crippled for life. A woman on the nearby ride Flight Commander witnessed the commotion and while wriggling around in the open cockpit to get a better view, came out of her harness and fell to death some 50 feet below.
These tragic deaths have contributed to the ghost sightings at the park, but it is the ghost known as “the little girl in the blue dress” that is seen by visitors and employees far more than the others. Not much is known about the diminutive little ghost, other than that she seems to predate the park and is connected to the land. Witness accounts describe her as a young girl about 4 foot tall, dressed in an old fashioned 19th century blue dress. She aimlessly roams the Kings Island parking lot, front gate, admissions and International Restaurant areas. Her ghost holds dominion over the entire park and she is often seen by security guards wandering around after dark. One of her favorite “haunts” is the water park, ironic for a girl whose life was ended by water.
All of the witness counts, although independent of each other, are remarkably similar in nature. They describe her as a “friendly thing, not threatening or scary. She’s just kind of there.” Park employees have named the ghost “Tram Girl” after the many sightings by tram drivers after closing time. Reportedly, she runs onto the tram tracks, causing drivers to stop suddenly before disappearing into thin air. Although unsubstantiated, several
Web sites claim that the girl drowned in a lake on the property and that she is buried in the cemetery. Queen City paranormal investigators call the ghost girl “Missouri Jane” after a grave in the Kings Island cemetery for a Missouri Jane Galeenor, who died in 1846 at the age of five. Although seemingly friendly in nature, psychics claim that “Missouri Jane” is sad at seeing all the children in the park having fun without her.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, she is not the only child ghost in the park. Employees and guests have witnessed a little boy ghost dubbed the “Racer Boy” who is reputed to wander around the park near the Racer roller coaster. He is most often seen dressed entirely in white and his presence startles guests who often alert employees about the very realistic looking child wandering alone too close to the wooden roller coaster. The story states that two of the four cars on the Racer roller coaster ride originally belonged to a ride at Coney Island called the Shooting Star.
Legend claims that a long time ago the body of a young boy was found dead on the tracks of the Shooting Star, killed by the train cars. Apparently, the child had been seated alone in the back of the roller coaster and when it pulled back into the Coney Island shed, he was gone. A search ended with his body being found in a valley of the track. Racer riders report seeing Racer Boy standing alongside the tracks and in the tunnels of the popular ride. Curiously, while the Racer is one of the oldest rides in the park, with ride components actually pre-dating the park, Racer Boy sightings weren’t reported until the early 1990s.
Then there is “Tower Johnny,” the ghost of the afore-mentioned teenage boy who tragically fell from the riggings of the Eiffel Tower in 1983. Tower Johnny haunts the environs of his death; the Eiffel Tower. Ghosties love to tell his story, as it is easy to exaggerate the circumstances of his death by gruesomely accentuating the fall from the tower. After foolishly climbing up the closed elevator shaft to show off for friends, Tower Johnny lost his grip on the greasy metal ropes, falling down the shaft where he was sliced like lunchmeat by cables on his way down. Tower Johnny is one of the most popular ghosts at Kings Island, and most odd occurrences are blamed on him. Some claim to see him looking back at them from the Tower, or hanging out at the fountain in front of the Tower. The sightings began shortly after the actual death at the park. Tower Johnny is often blamed for the electrical malfunctions in the park. In fact, to this day, tripped sensors with no apparent cause are called “Johnnies” by Kings Island employees.
Of course, with over four decades of service hosting millions of visitors and employees, these are not the only ghosts associated with the park and the list will undoubtedly continue to grow in the coming years. Other spirits found in the park include a ghost attached to the White Water Canyon rafting ride. Countless employees have heard the disembodied sounds of a child’s giggle accompanied by the pelting of rocks against their observational towers after the last visitors have exited the ride. Employees call the poltergeist “Woody” and is most often experienced at Observational Tower 2, which is deep in the woods, and only accessible by a small footpath. Another ghost reportedly haunts The Beast roller coaster. Riders claim to see glowing red eyes in the woods located near the ride. It is often said to be the spirit of a visitor who died while riding the roller coaster. The Octopus ride is also rumored to be haunted by a park guest who died while on the ride.
But for my money, as a devotee of all things historical, any ghosts that may linger on the Kings Island property might be more accurately attributed to an event that took place nearly 125 years earlier on the site.
Next Week- Part 2 — The Kings Mills Powder explosion of 1890.
Al Hunter is the author of the “Haunted Indianapolis” and co-author of the “Haunted Irvington” and “Indiana National Road” book series. Contact Al directly at Huntvault@aol.com or become a friend on Facebook.