Is Kings Island haunted?
Let’s just say paranormal investigators didn’t leave the Mason amusement park disappointed.
Paranormal investigators Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson of the Syfy Channel’s “Ghost Hunters” show spent the week of Nov. 14 at Kings Island investigating reports of supernatural sightings for the season opener, which aired Wednesday.
Hawes and Wilson are co-founders of the Atlantic Paranormal Society, or TAPS. The society, based in Warwick, R.I., responds to domestic disturbances where supernatural activity is suspected.
Park guests and employees have reported all kinds of spooky happenings since Kings Island opened in 1972 — sightings of a ghostly girl in a blue dress; pots and pans rattling in an unoccupied kitchen at the International Restaurant; unexplained footsteps after the lights go down; and strange noises and voices in the dark.
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Park supervisor Jim Wilson related his chilling account of working in tower two of the White Water Canyon ride and finding himself locked in after hearing the voice of a girl giggling below.
“It was freaking me out. I could hear her outside the door,” he said. “All of a sudden the door opened right up. There was no one there.”
Kings Island spokesperson Don Helbig says he’s never seen a ghost himself, but has long heard stories of haunted happenings at the park. Local paranormal investigators have investigated the claims through years without much validation, but still the stories persist, he said.
“There’s enough people who have spoken with conviction about what they have seen, so we wanted to invited TAPS out to see if there is any validity to these stories that have been reoccurring over the past 40 years,” said Helbig.
Investigators were left on their own overnight to investigate paranormal activity at the park, including claims of hauntings arising from the 1890 explosion at the nearby King Powder Co., which killed 11 men, women and children.
Most prevalent among Kings Island’s urban legends is that of “the girl in the blue dress.” According to Helbig, most accounts describe her as a young girl, dressed in a period blue dress that appears to be from the 19th century, and that she roams the park’s parking lot, front gate, admissions and International Restaurant areas.
Other popular tales not mentioned in the show are that of “Tower Johnny,” a teenage boy reportedly seen near the Eiffel Tower, and “Racer Boy,” a boy dressed in white who reportedly haunts the Racers roller coasters.
For the first hour, the crew interviewed Helbig and employees about their strange encounters and visited a cemetery on park property at the north parking lot off Columbia Road.
The historic site, known as the Dog Street Cemetery, dates back to the early 1800s. The ghostly girl is believed to be that of a girl known as “Missouri Jane” Galeenor, who died in 1846 at the age of five years and is buried in the cemetery.
Caution, Spoiler Alert!
Crew members then spent the next several hours roaming the park grounds near the front entrance, Planet Snoopy and the International Restaurant with high-tech night-vision cameras and sophisticated sound recording devices.
TAPS debunks about 80 percent of supernatural activity claims and many of Kings Island’s spooky happenings have a reasonable explanation, said Hawes.
He noted that a fan in the White Water Canyon tower and condensers in the International Restaurant kitchen can lead people to misinterpret random noises into more recognizable sounds, such as the clanging of pots and pans or footsteps.
“Sometimes you have a situation called audio-matrixing, where you’re hearing things through sounds like a fan or a vacuum. It’s just the way you’re interpreting the sounds,” he said.
However, investigators said they were able to capture what some would say are voices of the dead with the help of sensitive recording devices that can capture low-frequency sounds not detectable by the human ear. In the paranormal world, it’s called “electronic voice phenomenon” or EVP.
In a recording played by investigators, a disembodied voice of a young child can be heard inside the International Restaurant pleadingly talking about “finding my mom.”
Depending on what and whom you believe, it’s either a voice from beyond or a product of creative editing.
(If the voice captured by the “Ghost Hunters” is purported to be that of Missouri Jane, the choice of language seems unlikely, considering the girl died nearly 50 years before the word “mom” came into popular usage. The Merriam-Webster dictionary dates the word “mom” to circa 1894, as does the Oxford English Dictionary.)
Regardless of where you stand on the subject, the rabid interest in Kings Island’s supernatural lore and in shows like “Ghost Hunters” suggests that even for skeptics, the truth doesn’t stand in the way of a good story.
“So what if it’s real or not,” said Jessica Docter of Mariemont. “It’s just the thrill of being scared sometimes.”
Miss the show? “Roller Ghoster” will air again at 9 p.m. Sunday on Syfy.