Known as the 'Joker Ghost', this mischievous prankster had a habit of terrifying people on the rollercoaster, and appearing suddenly in the Ferris Wheel cages. But all too suddenly the appearances stopped.
Who was this 'Joker Ghost'?
The 'Joker Ghost'
A quick search through various books and media stories about Luna Park in Melbourne reveals the tale of a strange figure, who would suddenly appear in front of oncoming cars on the Scenic Railway Rollercoaster. This mischievous character would also suddenly appear inside the cages on the ferris wheel, startling all who witnessed it.
As far as can be ascertained, the joker ghost started his appearances somewhere in the 1940's, and even then this rough estimate is very tenuous. We only know of this date as forums from the 1990's put the sightings down to 'about 50 years ago'.
Who could this joker ghost be?
Some of the witnesses accused the park management of being behind the trick, as a publicity stunt, but the park denied all knowledge. Making a person suddenly appear and disappear on a ride would be quite a tricky, especially at the lofty heights the ferris wheel can tackle.
If we take a look at the parks history, maybe that will reveal to us a few clues as to the Joker Ghosts identity.
Australia's First Luna Park
In 1906, Mr Erle Sigismond Salambo was granted the lease, and on 2nd November that same year, opened Dreamland, St Kildas first amusement park. Dreamland did not do as well as Salambo had expected, and even with its many amusements, slot machines, novelty band and very elaborate towers, minarest and pagodas was closed down within a year of opening operations. Dreamland was soon demolished, and the land went unused for the next five years.
In 1911, J.D. Williams Amusement Company secured a ten year lease on the land for use as a 'Steeplechase Park', similar to the one on Coney Island in the US. Besides the artificial horse ride that surrounded the boundaries, the park incorporated many attractions including picture theatres, a roller skating rink, and would also feature motor shows. Unfortunately the company had to abandon the artificial horse track, as it was deemed unsafe, and after losing this main attraction a new plan was needed: Luna Park ltd. was formed.
Luna Park in St Kilda was the first of the Australian Luna Parks, and was opened December 13, 1912, when 22,000 people passed through the mouth of 'Mr Moon' and life 'Just for Fun' had begun. The park had many attractions, including the Scenic Rail Rollercoaster with a track almost a mile in length (the oldest continually operating roller coaster in the world), that bordered the parks boundaries.
Since its opening night, the park has run almost continually up until todaym but like most amusement parks Luna is not without its accidents resulting in death.
Tragedy and Death
Mr Clarence Hurst was killed on the Scenic Railway Rollercoaster in January 1926, after he turned around to speak to someone behind him. As he was half hanging out of the car his head was struck by one of the coasters supports. The man next to him grabbed hold of his legs to stop him from falling out, but Hurst was already dead.
The Big Dipper was another of the parks rollercoaster’s, and in March of 1935 it too saw a fatality. Mr M Dyer, 21, fell out of the car at the highest point of the ride, and fell 74 feet to his death. He died of multiple broken bones, internal injuries and a severed leg.
The following year, Harry Maltby died, when he fell out of one trolley car to be struck by another
The Most Curious of Deaths
At the time Elizabeth Patrick had fainted, a Luna Park superintendant was collecting ticket money from the cashiers aided by three park attendants. One of the attendants, Keith Eagle, left the group in order to tell three youths to move on and leave the park after they had made a disturbance. The leader of the three youths, Edward Paulin, told Eagle that they were doing no wrong, and why should they leave. Eagle pulled out his firearm (carried when the park was full and he was escorting money transportation) and fired a shot. Edward Paulin threw two bottles at Eagle, who fired another shot.
This second shot hit a person witnessing the events in the hand. After firing this second shot Eagle handed his firearm to another of the park attendants, Alexander Porter, who shot himself in the leg when putting it into his pocket.
Three shots were fired that night and three people were hit. The first shot had in fact hit, and killed, Elizabeth Patrick. Her husband, only learning of this when a doctor at the hospital had told him his wife had been shot!
The result of the following trial was that death was due to misadventure, and the only thing Eagle was guilty of was carelessness (just short of criminal negligence). The park changed its method of escorting money shortly after.
It would seem anything can happen at Luna Park.