Since it’s Friday the 13th, what’s more fitting than exploring 13 haunted amusement park attractions?
Whether or not you believe in the paranormal, you’ve clicked on this post. The paranormal interests you.
For me personally, I do believe. My family had a farmhouse at one point that was used as a makeshift hospital during the Civil War and let’s just say it yielded all sorts of ghost stories.
But more recently, the subject of haunted amusement park attractions brought itself up one night when I was at Escape from Pompeii at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I had not known at that time that paranormal activity wasn’t uncommon for the ride. I’d heard people share their ghostly experiences with other spots at Busch, but Pompeii was something I found out about on the fly. To that end…
What haunted amusement parks will we be exploring? Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Cedar Point, Elitch Gardens, Busch Gardens Tampa, Chippewa Lake Park, Kings Island, Hershey Park, and Dorney Park.
Now grab your popcorn and turn off the lights. Here are 13 theme park ghost stories…
Related Reading: Behind The Scenes Of Howl O Scream: Ripper Row
Escape From Pompeii
Kicking off with the ride that sparked this blog post, Escape From Pompeii is a shoot-the-chutes water ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. Opened in 1995, it’s themed to a boat tour of Pompeii turned disaster when Mt Vesuvius erupts again.
The ride takes place in the building’s top floor, with its ground floor hosting a maze attraction for their Halloween event. I was walking a path under its lift hill late one night for weather related reasons when under the base of the lift, an unfriendly feeling hit.
The walk prior was uneventful. My mind was trying to figure out where I was going amongst other rogue topics. The ride was closed. Anything related to the paranormal wasn’t on my radar. Why would it be?
But the sensation that spontaneously hit made me stop. I was confused. I’d actually thought it was a safety gut instinct sort of thing, like a person or wild animal in the woods to my right. But I didn’t see anything, and the air grew more uncomfortable in that area.
I continued by the base of the lift and past the load/unload platform. It felt unpleasant, daunting, heavy, and like I was being watched. It didn’t dissipate until I’d passed the exit gate.
It was really weird for me, still is, because I’ve never experienced anything like that outside of this instance. Even having ridden the ride for years, been through the first floor before, that was the first time I sensed something off. It was strong enough that I haven’t ridden it or been back in the building since. I just don’t care to.
And, my experience and feelings towards the attraction has been reaffirmed by folk I know who’ve worked the ride. Evidently, employees have heard footsteps ascending empty stairwells, knocking on doors to control rooms, and other sensations of negative energy. Some don’t like working the certain rooms of the attraction by themselves because they feel the furthest from being alone.
Historic Elitch Theater
Grand ole Elitch Gardens is a park with a rich history that spans as long as Cedar Point’s. It resided in its original location in northwest Denver from 1890-1994 before moving to its current location in downtown Denver in 1995.
At its original location, and the more beloved, the Historic Elitch Theater remains. It opened with the park and became known as “the cradle of American drama,” having presented a wide variety of quality entertainment from vaudeville to film.
Both the Theater and the park were owned and operated by Mary Elitch until she was unable to, at which point two viewing boxes were permanently reserved for her. A reservation which apparently continues on in death.
Since the 1960s, performers at the Historic Elitch Theater have reported seeing Mary Elitch sitting in one of her theater boxes. The spirit of a philanthropist who helped save the Theater is also said to be haunting it. Unexplainable sounds and voices are heard from time to time, and paranormal groups in the area say they’ve had great success catching activity at the site.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg isn’t the only haunted Busch Gardens. Its older, African themed counterpart in Florida is also home to a spirit or two.
The Serengeti Overlook, then known as the Crown Colony House, originally opened in 1964 as a Valentine’s Day gift for the third wife of August Busch. It closed in 1982 for refurbishment and didn’t reopen until 1990.
It was when the restaurant reopened in 1990 that the first of the paranormal activity began. Employees reported experiencing cold spots, phantom piano music, and apparitions.
One spirit occasionally seen is that of a little girl. Sounds of children playing in the restaurant after hours isn’t uncommon either. Another spirit seen is of a woman dressed in a white gown.
Over the years, employees have detailed the activity usually picks up around closing time when they’re shutting down and that the fourth floor seems to be the most active. Numerous have felt a presence following them on the floor and the temperature inexplicably drops anytime they press the elevator button to leave.
Orbs, moving trays, shadows, and cigar smoke are also noted amongst the occurrences. Some of which, diners have noticed.
Busch Gardens Tampa allowed the team Haunted South to conduct a paranormal investigation at the Serengeti.
On July 13, 1929 at Hershey Park in Pennsylvania, Milton Hershey opened a sprawling (for its time) pool complex at his park that included a bathhouse, beach area, and lighthouse. The pools were closed in 1971 and filled in, but the Hershey Lighthouse remained; and with it, a few ghosts.
Over the course of the 40+ years the pool complex operated, multiple drownings occurred and are believed to be the source of the hauntings within the Lighthouse. Apparitions of spirits wearing old fashioned swimwear were spotted in and around the Lighthouse up until 2019 when the structure was removed for the new Chocolate Town area.
The Kisses Fountain underneath Candymonium is the site where the Lighthouse once stood for 90 years of the park’s run. Whether or not the site’s hauntings will continue in Chocolate Town is for only time to tell.
Tucking into Chippewa Lake Park in Ohio, the Big Dipper was the park’s hallmark roller coaster commonly referred to as simply the Coaster. It opened in the 1920s at the park’s entrance and operated until Chippewa closed in 1978.
Years after the park went dark and was left abandoned, locals described hearing sounds of a roller coaster operating, from the lift chain to the car running the rails. These locals lived in the old park cottages closest to where the coaster stood. The trees and foliage had grown through the coaster’s tracks by this point, but this did little to stop the ghostly sounds.
The Big Dipper was razed in 2010 when condominiums were planned for the site, but the project was cancelled after they’d already torn down the roller coaster. Its lift chain mechanism resides just outside of where the attraction once stood, in the front yard of a museum dedicated to the park.
Lingering in Chippewa Lake Park, the Starlight Ballroom was the park’s iconic dance hall that opened in 1920. It boasted A-listing bands from the roaring 20s to the rock centric 70s before it too closed with the park in 1978.
Like the Dipper, some years after the park had closed, a few locals who lived in the park’s cottages talked about hearing old big band music sourcing from the Ballroom. This residual energy-esque haunting was noticed before the Big Dipper’s was.
One person said they’d wandered the abandoned park before finding it was indeed stemming from the empty Starlight. Another described the phantom music as sounding in “waves,” the volume fluctuating between faint and loud. They also clarified that the music was circa 20s-40s, and not modern-day tunes, whenever it was heard.
The Starlight Ballroom stood in the abandoned amusement park from 1978-2002 when it succumbed to arson. Its remains have been residing in, and haunting, the park ever since.
Related Reading: The Tragic Demise of Chippewa Lake Park
Crystal Gardens Ballroom
On the topic of ballrooms, we continue on in Ohio and shift to Cedar Point where its ballroom resides on the second floor of the midway’s Coliseum. The Crystal Gardens Ballroom opened in 1906 with the pavilion it resides in and used to host all sorts of bands during its heyday. Evidently, some of the dancers never stopped dancing.
Numerous accounts of cold spots, shadows, and spectral music haunt the dance hall. Some have said they’ve even seen the ghosts of dancers in the Coliseum’s second floor. But catching a glimpse of the activity is for the select few, namely park employees and anyone lucky (or unlucky) during a special event hosted there.
The Crystal Gardens Ballroom is no longer open to the public. Fire codes and ADA guidelines have rendered regular operation of the hall largely impractical. However, it is still used for employee trainings, occasional tours, and special events. Not to mention, phantom balls.
Still at Cedar Point (it’s quite haunted), Hotel Breakers is a notorious hotspot for paranormal activity. A former National Historic Landmark built in 1905, Hotel Breakers sports beachfront resort decor, 600+ rooms, and a fair share of spirits (not the drinking kind) to boot.
Of our list of haunted amusement park attractions, Hotel Breakers has the most activity across numerous areas of the hotel. Its TGI Friday’s restaurant, room 169, the balconies, and ballroom are home to ghostly activity. Some have their own backstories while others seem to be haunted just because the hotel is.
The tale of TGI Friday’s is brief. Items in the restaurant have been found moving on their own and apparitions have been spotted. The Hotel Breakers ballroom is another general haunting, apparitions and old music are periodically encountered, similar to the Crystal Gardens.
Room 169, however, does have a story to tell. A woman passed away in the shower of that room. And ever since, guests have reported the shower turning on and off by itself, cold spots, phantom crying, and electrical problems. The room is no longer available to book.
Lastly, the balconies are purportedly haunted in the form of guests, particularly female guests, feeling pulled or pushed towards the balcony’s edge.
Story goes: a couple made a pact to jump from one together and went through with it. However, the woman made a split-second decision to grab the ledge and save herself while the man fell to his death. The spirits of both are said to be haunting Hotel Breakers. And evidently, the man is resentful of any woman that nears a balcony.
Town Hall Museum
One last Cedar Point attraction on our haunted theme parks list is the Town Hall Museum. And, this one is haunted because of another Cedar Point haunted attraction, the Frontiertown Carousel.
The Town Hall Museum showcases an extensive collection of Cedar Point memorabilia, photos, maps, posters, arcade machines, and carousel horses. And what happens when any museum houses a haunted artifact? The museum ends up housing the haunting too. You’d be hard pressed to find a museum that is haunted for a reason that’s not attributed to one of the items in its collection, and the Town Hall Museum is no different.
It seems the Town Hall haunting is the average cold spots and unsourced sounds type of activity that began when one new addition joined the museum. Imaginably, the ghostly occurrences are largely centric to the black military carousel horse that was removed from the Frontiertown Carousel and was put on display here. And, the story surrounding that particular carousel horse is chronicled below, because the carousel it’s from is still haunted and now operates at another park.
As for the Town Hall Museum, it hasn’t reopened since its closure during Covid. As for the carousel haunting two amusement parks…
After the haunted Cedar Point Frontiertown Carousel was stripped of its black military horse, the carousel itself was relocated to Dorney Park in Pennsylvania where it remains operational today. In 2021, the carousel celebrated its 100th year anniversary.
Now known as the Antique Carousel, its backstory is that Daniel Muller’s, the carver of the carousel horses, wife favored that black military horse. It was branded “Muller’s Military Horse” and subsequently haunted by her spirit after she passed away. At night, her spirit would be seen riding the horse.
So, what happened when the horse was split from the carousel? Apparently, she took to then haunting them both.
Dorney Park itself stated that some of their associates have seen the carousel’s lights turn on or Wurlitzer Organ start playing on its own after they’d closed the ride for the night.
Heading back to Busch Gardens in Virginia, the Globe Theater is another of the park’s attractions rumored to be haunted.
The Globe opened with the park in 1975 and has hosted various shows over the years, from theater to film. It is based on the original theater that stood in London in the early 1600s before being lost to fire.
Busch Gardens’ Globe Theater has been subject to talk from employees of hauntings in its backstage areas. The feeling of a presence, cold spots, and occasional shadows have been experienced in its corridors.
Like Pompeii, there’s no legend or backstory surrounding the hauntings. But unlike Pompeii, its activity doesn’t strike as being the negative kind.
I’ve never experienced anything in my times at the theater, but I have a few friends who have. One of whom was entirely unfazed about it. *door closes by itself* “Meh.”
Closing off our last two haunted attractions at Kings Island in Ohio, the Racer is the park’s iconic white wooden roller coaster that runs the length of the midway.
The coaster debuted with the park in 1972 and is notable in pop culture for its appearance on The Brady Bunch. Amongst coaster enthusiasts, it’s cited as sparking the second Golden Age of roller coasters.
It is said that at one point (likely early on), the Racer used cars from the old Coney Island’s Shooting Star, a nearby roller coaster that closed in 1971. The Shooting Star reportedly had a boy fall from the ride, who’s thought to be haunting the cars and the Racer.
Dubbed the Racer Boy, a little boy wearing all white is said to be seen around the Racer. He usually appears just before sunset or right after dark, walking along the ride tracks or inside the tunnels. He’s spurred a few guest reports to employees about a child on the Racer’s tracks.
Our second Kings Island haunted attraction is a little more vast.
Moving to the front of the park, the spirit of a little girl with blonde hair in a 19th century blue dress is the one most commonly seen by employees and guests. There is a cemetery in Kings Island dating back to the 1800s and that is believed to be where she comes from at night.
Referred to as the Tram Girl, she is most often seen running in front of trams in the parking lot, causing the drivers to break abruptly before she would disappear into thin air. Less frequently, she is spotted roaming the parking lot, front gate and admissions area, and the restaurants on International Street.
All accounts of her sightings have maintained that she’s a “friendly thing, not threatening or scary” and that “she’s just kind of there.”
Some have speculated that her name is Missouri Jane, but this report is unconfirmed.
Related Reading: All Kings Island Ride Heights
Back in the realm of the living, I hope that you enjoyed this round up of 13 theme park ghost stories! And hopefully, you’ll still be able to sleep tonight.
I know that Cedar Point, Kings Island, and Busch Gardens Virginia have more attractions purported to be haunted. But those, plus the myriad at Disney Parks and even Conneaut Lake Park might eventually become another post closer around Halloween time.
Are there any other haunted amusement parks or attractions that I haven’t mentioned? Let me know in the comments below!
They might be included in the next post this fall. Until then…
If you’re looking for more spooky attractions, but maybe with a little less paranormal (you gotta sleep tonight, right?) then check out:
Thanks for reading!