It's amusement park season! I am a huge fan of amusement parks and a huge fan of ghost stories, so I was all excited when I read that today (April 24th) was the anniversary of Hershey Park in Pennsylvania...and that the park is home to several ghosts.
The park officially opened on April 24, 1907 and in its early days, was not much more than a nice place to have a picnic and go boating. It was created by Milton S. Hershey as an outdoor recreation area for employees of his candy factory. Over the years, additional attractions were added, including a swimming pool complex, amphitheater, and rides. In the early 1970s, HERCO pushed for the expansion of the property as a modern day theme park with a one-price admission for total access.
Over its long history, the park has definitely picked up its fair share of ghost stories. Here's just a few of those tales!
The ghost of founder, Milton Hershey is said to roam the grounds of his park, keeping an eye on this aspect of his chocolate empire. Although a few witnesses have claimed to actually SEE Mr. Hershey's apparition after park hours, this is one ghost that is usually smelled, and not seen. A phantom smell of cigar smoke is said to indicate Mr. Hershey's ethereal presence.
|From the Hershey Community Archives|
Every amusement park needs a carousel...and a haunted one is even better! The current carousel at Hershey's is actually the park's third. A year after the park opened, Milton Hershey decided to allow the public to enjoy it as well...and added a used carousel for the enjoyment of his guests and employees. It quickly became a hit, and in 1912, a larger carousel was installed and operated until 1944. That year a new carousel was purchased, but due to a shortage of park funds, an older, used model was picked out.
That carousel was the Philadelphia Toboggan Company #47 Carrousel (notice the two 'r's). Built in 1919, the carousel began its career at Liberty Heights Park in Baltimore, where it remained for ten years. Then, it moved to Enna Jetta Park in New York before it was purchased in 1944 by Hershey Park. The theme of the carousel is one of understated patriotism. Beautifully carved eagles, flags, and Lady Liberty are sprinkled throughout the artwork of the ride as a tribute to the end of WWI in 1918--the war to end all wars. It was quite fitting that it would arrive at Hershey Park in the last days of WWII.
Today, the carousel is famous for being one of the spookiest places in the whole park! Originally installed near Spring Creek, it was moved to Founder's Circle in 1972. Since then, park personnel have seen the carousel's lights turn on by themselves, and the ride eerily start to turn without a living soul nearby. The music coming from its Wurlitzer organ begins to drift through the park, all under the command of an unseen operator. Well, mostly unseen. There is one story where a security officer was doing his rounds, when he noticed the lights of the carousel turned on. He turned them off and began to walk away, but the lights flipped themselves back on. As the officer turned back around towards the ride, a shadowy figure of a person sitting near the controls was seen. By the time the officer actually reached the ride, the mysterious figure was gone.
The original swimming pool complex of Hershey Park was completed in 1911 and lasted until 1928. The following season, a new swimming complex, complete with a concrete island lighthouse, was opened. The pools were filled in during the 1971 season and all that remains as a reminder of those years gone by is the lighthouse near the front of the park....that, and the ghosts. Over the nearly half a century that the pools were in operation, several children unfortunately drowned in their waters. The spirits of those children have been seen near the lighthouse wearing their old-fashioned swimwear, oblivious to the changes made by time.
|Hershey Park Lighthouse from Hershey Community Archives|
The Sooperdooperlooper Rollercoaster
The 1977 season of Hershey Park opened with the addition of a brand new thrill ride: the Sooperdooperlooper rollercoaster! However, the ride seemed cursed from the very beginning. On its opening day on July 4th, 1977, the ride experienced a mechanical failure, stranding passengers, including Hershey's CEO and other VIPs, on the hill lift. No one was hurt, but passengers were forced to walk down the narrow catwalks to safety. Unfortunately, it would be only a month later when someone WOULD get hurt.
William Harter was a 16 year old high school student working at the park as a maintenance man as part of a summer vocational program. On August 25th, Harter was removing some bolts from a magnetic control device designed to stop the train. Standing between the rails with his back toward the train, it suddenly started moving and ran over him. Since the incident, many security guards, maintenance personnel, and other employees in the park after dark have seen the shadowy figure of a young man standing or walking along the rails of the coaster.
The tale of the Lady of the Boardwalk can be found in Christopher Wolfe's book, Ghosts of Hershey and Vicinity. Apparently, when the park began its huge expansion project in the 1970s, several nearby private properties were purchased. One elderly lady who was a long-time resident did not want to sell her beloved home, yet felt she had no choice. Instead of giving in, she killed herself in her own attic. The area where the house once stood is located across from the Kissing Tower and is home to several shops, including Boardwalk Fries. In fact, it is believed that part of the original house does still stand, renovated into the strip of shops here. Employees of the establishment have heard the moaning and wailing of a woman, most notably coming from the second story of the building.
The Ghosts of Hersheypark by James Waldron
The Oldest Ride at Hershey Park by J.A. McLynne
Hershey Park History from Wikipedia
Hershey Community Archives