Monday, January 16, 2012

The Ghosts of Kings Island



The TAPS crew of Ghost Hunters recently investigated rumors of spirits haunting Kings Island Amusement Park in Mason, Ohio. As a local resident, I was sure that they'd be looking for the spirit of Tower Johnny, but in fact, they were only interested in searching for 'the girl in the blue dress' --  the spirit of a 5-year-old girl buried near the park, who died in the 1800's.

The show started by providing a little history. Before the land was turned into an amusement park, it was the site of an ammunitions factory that exploded in 1942 killing a hundred people. Somehow, Ghost Hunters segued that into the story of a little girl, Missouri Jane, who they believe is the girl in the blue dress haunting the park. (I didn't understand the connection between the two. Or why they mentioned the ammunitions factory at all.)
Since Kings Island opened in 1972, there have been reports of a little girl in a blue dress being heard and seen in the International Restaurant, and near the White Water Canyon ride. The TAPS team captured the voice of one, perhaps even two, children on EVP, and felt satisfied that they'd communicated with the girl.

But what surprised me is that there was no mention of John Harter, or the "Tower Johnny" ghost that is rumored to haunt the Eiffel Tower. As a local who grew up going to Kings Island every summer since it opened, his story, if not his ghost, has always haunted me.

I was a young teenager the night John Harter climbed the Eiffel Tower and fell. It was the Friday the 13th, and he was at Kings Island for Grad Night, drinking and fooling around before he fell on top of one of the elevators and was crushed by the elevator weights. At least, that's how I remember the news. Naturally, as with any gory death that involves a teenager, drinking, Friday the 13th, elevator shafts, and an amusement park, stories grew more and more macabre. But at the root of it the facts remain: Johnny Harter attended his Grad Night event at Kings Island on Friday, May 13, 1983, got drunk, and fell from the Eiffel Tower to his death. Since then, it's been rumored that his ghost still haunts the place.

But TAPS skipped all that.

They skipped the death of another drunk woman who fell from a ride. They missed the two men electrocuted in the pond near the Viking Fury, and apparently missed the story of a little boy who haunts The Racers rollercoaster. Instead they focused on the spirit of a little girl who had nothing to do with Kings Island at all.

I was a little disappointed and can't help but wonder why. All I can think is that the Public Relations staff of Kings Island is trying to keep these ghost stories and bad press under wraps. But what they forget is that most of the people who go to Kings Island are locals and already know the stories. As for the rest of the world watching Ghost Hunters, a good gruesome ghost story would have been the best advertising Kings Island could have had!

19 comments:

  1. Weird. I'm glad you told me about the real ghost stories, though! As a non-local, I've never heard of them, and they're fascinating. (Sad, but fascinating.)

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  2. Wow I can't believe all this happened at Kings Island it's weird if u think about it how we Kno this but don't actually think about it.

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  3. Anonymous
    I worked at kings island when I was 16 and 17, I was told from a early age that there was ghost at Kings Island, my mother and father had both worked there in 1983, my dad was there the night that John Harter died. I was 17 when I saw the little girl, missouri girl and the racer boy, I saw them both together by the swings near the racer. I was in my booth of a ride no longer there called the vr vorger. I knew that the park was close and there was no one near me, I also knew that these kids were ghost and they didn't belong to our time. But I don't believe the little girl was from the 1800's due to her clothes. The racer boy maybe 1950 to 1970. I have never seen or heard anything else and I use to work in rides. I know that Kings Island is haunted but nothing to be scared of.

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  4. Ooh. Thanks for sharing your personal experiences, Anonymous. Very interesting...

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  5. I was working in the rides dept. from 1981 to 1988 and was there when tower johnny fell, he did not climb the tower, he got into the door of the transfer stairs between the two levels of the top. He got caught up in the cable and the counterweight wheel which made the elevator not come down right, the girl running the elevator decided to take the elevator up empty, releasing his body which fell 275 feet, hitting the top of the elevator, causing it to stop. A large sheet was hung around the area of the tower to keep things from view. Employees were given a memo the next day explaining what happened and instructing us not to talk to the media. My wife worked on the Eiffel Tower for several years after that and never saw a ghost.

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  6. Yes, this is pretty much what I heard at the time. I heard he got caught in the cable and was smashed on top of the elevator. It was hard to know what exactly happened in those days. A million different stories circulated among the high schools. It was horrible, that's for sure.

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  7. i too was rather disgusted with the TAPS episode. "do you like the rides in the amusement park" do you wish you could play with the other kids in the park" unless you are dealing with an intelligent spirit, a little girl from the 1800's doesn't know what an amusement park or a rollercoaster is. further, to focus on a 19th century ghost in a location with 108 tragic deaths on record in the past 100 years. 100 in the munitions factory explosion, and 8 recorded since the opening of kings island in 1973. lets focus on a girl who is buried in the cemetary on the edge of the property (old family farm plot). I personally would have been much more interested in investigating the beast and eiffel tower for johnny's ghost, searching for "tram girl" who was either eaten by a lion in the wild safari section in the 70's or may be mixed in with the girl in the blue dress. and racer boy who is seen around the famous roller coaster in the coney fair section of the park. piss poor job on the part of TAPS. thanks to this author for penning the very letter that I intended to following my research

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  8. I have seen a pic of Missouri Jane. Just today. Freaked me out. I believe in ghosts now.

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  9. TAPS is so wrong! Unless there was an ammunition factory that I'm not aware of, it's a little further north and not on King's Island property. (Peterson Ammunition-which I've heard is haunted as well.)

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    1. [Thank YOU!! Yes the Peters Power Factory is indeed NOT on nor has it ever been part of Kings Island property. It is off to the North of the park and can be seen from the tower of Kings Island. I have been there and you can clearly see the remains of the explosion. It is a very HOT paranormal site that I do not suggest anyone checking out.

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  10. I've never seen but have been told stories of what is believed to be one of the original train engineer lew brown walking along the train track with a lantern checking the switch in from of the engine house the walking toward river town and disappearing. And also stories of the little girl in the blue dress throwing rocks at workers working at the whitewater canyon.

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  11. Last night, we visited the park before it opened to our season passes. I thought of TAPS when there and decided to go to the cemetery. It had a creepy vibe to it and not realizing it, I had stared at Missouri Jane's grave for a few minutes. I'm a genius.

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  12. John Harter was a member of my High School graduation class of 1983. He is truly missed and is thought about everyday, at every class reunion, and by all of his classmates.

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  13. Wow I didn't even know anything about that I wish they would have said something about that because I would rather hear about that

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  14. I too am a member of John's graduating class. His death was a terrible accident. He is lived by all to this day. The senior skip day, the partying, and alcohol abuse that happed is a lesson that should be learned by all. It opened up many an eye and I for one will never forget it. WE LOVE YOU JOHN

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  15. I live kinda close to Kings Island and this summer was my first time. When I got home I found out about all the other ghosts, because I went on the train and the speaker talked about Missouri Jane, which led to me looking that up. I watched the Ghost Hunters episode about KI and it sucked. They basically deny that KI is haunted and they have like one EVP, and then they went to some woman's house. God that episode sucks.

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  16. I was there at 1983 Grad night on the evening John fell on the tower. I remember, not everyone knew what was happening at the time. I stood at the bottom after and there was a Q102 radio station van..... I think there was only one, maybe 2 ambulance. So long ago, I forget things. I went to school at Kings and the haunted powder mill is close to the former middle school near ton. My school bus went by every day showing where the elevator was stopped at.
    For those there that night I remember 2 songs played vividly right after the tower accident. One songs lyrics fit exactly to what was happening called "Why Me" by Planet P. Check it out.

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  17. I grow up in Ohio and absolutely loved going to Kings Island whenever we got the chance. I was 14 in 1983 and remember hearing about John's tragic passing. I always heard the rumor that John Harter was decapitated. It is so sad how rumors get out of control the more they are told because I know this has to be so hard for his family. Bottom line, he was someone's son, family and friend and such a senseless, avoidable death. I'm sure this was a wakeup call for many young people in the area and to those who knew him. We all do foolish things when we are young and it's sad that this young man had to pay the ultimate price for his.

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