A Weird Personal Story

In Stephen King’s IT, Bill Denbrough claims that all horror writers have to answer the question about where they get their ideas and if they come from scary dreams.  He insists that the stories don’t come from dreams, and generally speaking, he’s correct.  It’s a pipeline from the place those sorts of dreams come from that provides a lot of the stories, but usually dreams themselves don’t turn into actual tales to be told.

This is a little different.

About twelve years ago, I had a very detailed dream.  Lucid dreaming is what some people call it; it was a dream so vivid that I couldn’t distinguish it from reality.  The colors were sharp, the smells, the sounds, everything was crystal clear, more like a memory than a dream.  Like most people, I rarely remember much of what I dream, but when I woke up, this one stuck with me and became a true memory itself, as if I had experienced it and not just dreamed it.

In the dream, I was at an amusement park.  I’ve been to several parks here in Ohio and I was fairly sure this wasn’t one I had been to before.  There was a castle-like entrance way, and a train track leading up to it.  I remember a sky-lift style ride that went from the entrance to the center of the park, and a large swimming pool with people splashing and whooping with joy.  It was a perfect summer day, warm with just a hint of a breeze that brought the smell of flowers.

There was nothing scary about the dream.  There was nothing unusual about it at all.  It could have been some sort of amalgam of memories of trips to the state fair, Kings Island, or whatever, but it felt real.  It felt solid, not like the shifting quicksand that dreams usually are made of.

I didn’t think too much of the dream, other than how vivid it had been, and I simply stored the memory of it away.  I did write down a few notes, “castle entrance”, “sky-lift”, “pool”, and “train tracks”, but that was all, mostly written down so I’d know I really had dreamed it and not just imagined it.

Here’s where the story gets hinky.

A few years later I was running an online roleplaying game based on White Wolf’s World of Darkness setting.  I was coming up with a new story line and wanted to do something based on real Columbus history.  I started cruising through websites looking for haunted house stories and stumbled on one about the Olentangy Apartments.

A fairly large development, the Olentangy Apartments were said to be haunted, possibly by people who died at the old Olentangy Amusement Park.  I’d never heard of such a place, but the swimming pool at the apartments was apparently the last remaining piece of the park.  Maybe it was the pool reference, or maybe it was just dumb luck, but I decided to check out the history of the park to see if it would fit into the game.

What I discovered still chills me to the bone.

I won’t go into a lot of detail about the history of the park.  You can find that on Wikipedia.  However, here’s the salient details:

  • In 1895 the land that would become the park was purchased by the Columbus Railway, Power and Light company.  It was just across the street from their trolley house.
  • Sometime between 1899 and 1910, a “castle gate” was added to the park, which was a sort of zoo at the time.
  • By 1910, the park was the largest in the United States and boasted several rides, including a sky-lift.
  • In the 1920s, the “world’s largest swimming pool” was added to the park.

It seemed crazy, completely impossible.  I looked further and found a photo:

The Castle Gate
The Pool

The castle gate…the tracks…the pool…the lift… had I somehow subconsciously seen these images somewhere?  I doubted it.  I hadn’t even heard of the place before, and now, here was my dream park, only it was real.

To this day I can’t explain how I dreamed of a park that was torn down before I was ever born.  Past life experience?  Postcognition?  I can’t say.  What I know is that I did dream about Olentangy Amusement Park years before I knew it had ever existed, and it’s one of the reasons I like to write about the strange and unusual.

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2 thoughts on “A Weird Personal Story

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  1. Your info on the olentangy amusment park (now olentangy village appartments) was really freaky. I live just north of campus at OSU and often run past the site of that park without any idea that it existed. Also, my girlfriend, who is Chinese, has many Chinese friends who live at OV; I’m sure many of them are just as clueless as I was until I read your story (by pure dumb accident. See, I was searching Google for parallels between the characters of It and Southpark. The jew, the Fat boy, the dickheads, the stutter…obviously they aren’t the same characters but I do wonder whether southpark’s creators found a little inspiration from King’s. I love stephen king’s work and whenever I can (usually in a lecture I find particularlly boring). I am about a quarter of the way through It and absolutely love the Tower series and Duma Key. Thanks for your story; please let me know if you found anything else about the place that is strange or unusual.

    1. Actually, there is one thing I don’t think I put in the story – the carousel that was at the amusement park is still in operation today, and in fact is said to be haunted. It’s the carousel at the Columbus Zoo, the one in glass in the zoo itself. It’s been restored and looks really nice now, but it was originally installed at Olentangy Park and bought by the zoo when it closed. For several years it was at the Zoo Amusement Park, which became Wyandot Lake. I worked there one summer and the carousel was notorious for running in the middle of the night when no one was around. The ride’s operator would come in each morning to find the carousel in a different position from where it had been when the park closed the night before. It was easy to tell because the horses were very distinctive.

      I don’t know if it continues to spin on its own at its new home in the zoo, but I’d bet that it does. An interesting bit – some of the horses from the carousel were sold at one point (they put in those bench-type seats) to Cedar Point, and not long afterward there were stories of a haunted carousel horse…

      As for IT and South Park, I’d say it’s more a case of the kids in IT representing tropes. Basically they are stereotypes of kids, as are the South Park characters. Also, I’d say Cartman and Ben Hanscom have very little in common other than a weight problem!

      I’m not as much a fan of the Dark Tower series as I am his stand alone work. Part of that is because I feel the real story of the Tower is in those other books, and part of it is that although the Tower series is very well done, it pales compared to IT, The Stand and other earlier works where he really created the fabric of his shared reality. I will say that Cell is, basically, a retelling of the Dark Tower in a single book – the characters are, if you look closely, versions of Roland and his Ka-tet, and they end up at a tower with a blinking red light on top. The main bad guy is a man in a red hoodie, and the primary threat is mindless people (slow mutants).

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