Bizarre murder story of a cadaver found hidden in an amusement park haunted house attraction.
In the spring of 1979, workers dismantling a haunted house attraction inside Atlanta’s now defunct ‘Wonderland’ amusement park made a most usual discovery. One of the full sized figures that had been terrorizing eager patrons inside the funhouse for nearly forty years was, in fact, a human cadaver. The workers only discovered this when they attempted to take apart the ‘figure’ in preparation for its shipment to San Antonio. But instead of the usual inner workings of an audio animatronic mannequin, they found real human bone and sinew tucked inside, perfectly preserved beneath a tough layer of dense yellowed wax.
Even more curious was the fact that DNA testing conducted on this mummified body revealed it to be at least ninety years old, thereby placing its origins somewhere around the turn of the last century. For Mr. Edmund Pew, the new owner of this haunted attraction, the discovery of a real live – or dead, as the case may be – ghoul was something of a cause for celebration. He decided with all speed to hire a private investigator to look into the history behind this mystery man.
Over the years, the spooky ‘dark ride’ had undergone several landmark renovations, to say nothing of the yearly maintenance updates that had greatly altered its primary condition. Thankfully, one artifact from the structure had remained intact; a small metal plaque with its raised lettering all but filled in by many layers of paint liberally applied throughout the intervening years. The plaque had been bolted to a narrow stretch of rail track inside the funhouse. It bore the name, Tarot & Masters Inc.; a Pittsburgh based company that had specialized in creating early ‘thrill rides’ from late 1900 to 1950 but had, in 1962, been purchased outright by Chicago’s Dooley & Co. – an even bigger manufacturer of carnival amusements that is still in operation to this day.
So Edmund Pew sent his private investigator, Terry Mullens, to Chicago to learn all that he could about the manufacturing of this ghost ride. One week later, Mr. Mullen’s returned to San Antonio with a story to change even Mr. Pew’s Grecian Formula raven locks immediately to the color of chalk.
“Well?” said Edmund, “What did you find out?”
“Think maybe I could have a drink first?” replied Mr. Mullens. After all, he had come straight from the airport to Mr. Pew’s home office.
“Oh, very well,” muttered Edmund, hastily pouring Terry Mullen’s a short brandy and nervously tapping his fingers on the surface of his desk while the man savored it.
“I think your stiff’s none other than Mr. Eugene Ogelvy,” said Terry.
The name meant absolutely nothing to Mr. Pew.
“Mr. Johannes Tarot’s silent partner.”
“Silent indeed,” agreed Mr. Pew, “the man’s been dead for the past hundred years.”
“Well, he was very much alive until the evening of August 31, 1902,” explained Terry, “See, that was the evening of the big Founder’s Day picnic in Savannah.”
Apparently, Mrs. Frederica Ogelvy ran the local flora and fauna preservationist’s society; dedicated to the cataloging and display of reincarnated plant and wildlife preserved in wax. It was a noble pursuit that greatly advanced Savannah’s historical standing within the new south. Money was raised and a museum was built on the sight of an old Civil War stockade to house Mrs. Ogelvy’s ever expanding collection.
In the meantime, Eugene Ogelvy concerned himself with establishing a visiting menagerie of oddities that travelled all over the country, from New England to Kansas City and parts in between. For Frederica, her husband’s ambitions proved something of a mild, though highly lucrative embarrassment. While she was out to beautify the world, he had been exposing its most wickedly perverse dregs; misshapen and tattoo covered midgets, overgrown women with braided facial hair, one eyed deviants who ate live chickens on stage, and three-legged conjoined twins that could dance the can-can on a bed of nails.
Anyway, one afternoon in late May, Mr. Ogelvy apparently came to his wife’s boudoir pale-faced and blood stained from the waist down. He regaled his wife with a most repugnant ordeal. Apparently, Gwendolyena – his armless and legless blob, billed as ‘the human top,’ had given birth to Chodar, one of the deformed mute’s love children. The male child was stillborn and horribly disfigured. Mr. Ogelvy, who had been called in to witness the birth, and presumably, to take the child away to a nearby orphanage upon its arrival, was now instead inclined to incinerate the tiny corpse that resembled a winged gargoyle in the furnace at the factory he and Messers Yoder Tarot and Jacob Masters shared.
Unfortunately for Mr. Ogelvy, he was discovered quite by accident by Yoder who had returned after business hours to collect his latest blueprints for the haunted house attraction all set to debut that summer at Wonderland Park. What plausible explanation could he have offered Yoder for his actions? In the heat of the moment, none came to Eugene Ogelvy, who instead seized a draftsman’s metal T-square from a nearby wall hook, bludgeoning his business partner to death until the workroom looked like an abattoir.
For hours afterward, Eugene remained locked inside with the body, surrounded by his own bloody carnage and a fearful curse, that at any pensive moment he might be discovered by Jacob Masters. But Mr. Masters had remembered his blueprints the first time around and would not return back to the offices until early the next morning.
After the sun had set behind the trees, Eugene Ogelvy, dressed in the long protective trench coat he usually wore to inspect the paint and acid wash silos out back, dragged Yoder Tarot’s limp and still oozing remains to the sulfuric acid vat and dumped him into its sizzling liquid bath. The toxic fluid easily ate through Yoder’s clothes, skin, eyes and hair. In a few days, it would also devour all of his internal organs and almost everything of his dense bones and teeth.
Afterward, Eugene returned to the workroom to light a fire in its iron stove furnace. But tonight he would deliberately leave the cast iron doors wide open and overstock its hearth so that the popping embers would fall to the floor below where he had left several large jars of flammable cleaning fluid to catch fire. By morning’s light nothing would remain of Tarot and Masters but smoldering wreckage.
“Murderer!” declared Frederica Oglevy.
“I had to!” insisted Eugene, dropping to his feet to beg for his wife’s forgiveness.
“But that still doesn’t explain how Eugene Ogelvy wound up petrified inside my house of horrors,” suggested Mr. Pew.
Terry Mullen paused to refresh his own drink.
“No,” he admitted, “for that we have to turn to another page in history.”
At a quarter to midnight the fire inside the furnace caught the first vapors from the open bottles of cleaning fluid. In no time at all a three alarm blaze had consumed Tarot and Masters workroom facilities and had spread even further to engulf the stockyards directly behind the company, as well as a modest distillery set up by neighbor, Toby Jenkins, whose backyard faced the property.
This inferno brought virtually everyone within a mile radius to Tarot and Masters front door. Some came panicked, with overflowing buckets of cold water from a nearby cistern, determined to isolate the blaze before it spread any further. But most simply came to gawk and speculate how the fire had begun. One man, however, was nowhere to be found: Eugene Ogelvy.
Driving his carriage with all speed to fetch his business partner, Mr. Jacob Masters was politely told by Frederica that her husband had not come home that evening.
“Well?” said Jacob, mildly perturbed by the woman’s vagueness, “Where the hell is he?”
“I’m sure I don’t know,” Frederica coldly replied before closing the door.
The next morning, as the ruins continued to smolder the body of Yoder Tarot was discovered still fermenting in the sulfuric acid vat out back. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately for Frederica Ogelvy – the body inside was in such an advanced state of decomposition that it was easily misidentified as Eugene Ogelvy. With heavy heart and great regrets Mr. Masters returned to the Ogelvy home to relay this news to Frederica, who shed a few crocodile tears on his behalf.
In truth, however, she had exacted her own revenge on Eugene Ogelvy the night before. After accepting her husband’s murderous confession, she quelled his fears and calmed his nerves with a most elegantly prepared pork roast, new potatoes and cleverly arranged salad made with hand selected leaves from the garden out back; all of them spiked with a sufficient amount of arsenic to stifle even the most stouthearted of men.
As Eugene Ogelvy’s heart was already not what it ought to be, he easily – and rather quietly – succumbed to this poisoning. After Frederica Ogelvy had dispatched Mr. Masters to his home, she set about embalming her husband’s remains, employing the same taxidermy process she had developed to preserve her collected plant and wildlife specimens for the museum.
For some months after her husband’s funeral, Frederica Ogelvy consistently hinted to her patrons – who came to offer their condolences – that a special tribute to her husband was already ‘in the works’ and would make its debut at the Preservationist’s Museum shortly. And so, on August 11, 1902, Frederica Ogelvy debuted the remains of her husband, whom she had cleverly stuffed and dipped in wax to forever preserve him for posterity.
Dressed in his Sunday best, Eugene Ogelvy stood tall and erect as the day he had fallen, his mummified corpse proudly introducing his wife’s waxworks collection of natural wonders inside the museum’s front foyer. In death, he had become the arbitrator of good taste Frederica had always wanted him to be in life.
And there he would remain until Frederica Ogelvy stepped down as curator of the museum in 1926. At the farewell dinner given in her honor the incoming curator made Frederica a gift of ‘the statue’ that had meant so much to her over these many years. Mr. Ogelvy returned to the house he had shared with his wife, with a ceremonial place of honor near the front stairs where he continued to greet visitors until Frederica’s death by natural causes in 1939.
The Ogelvy’s house and contents were sold at public auction that same year. Mr. Ogelvy went into public storage for almost ten years until the proprietor of that warehouse decided the statue’s visage was strangely unsettling and ‘too real’ to keep around his place. Hence, when a traveling carnival came to town, the proprietor suggested they take Mr. Ogelvy and install him as part of their ‘house of haunted horrors’ attraction. He could not have known that the manufacturers of their ‘dark ride’ were the descendants of Tarot and Masters. So, in essence, Mr. Ogelvy went home again.
Stripped of his blue pinstripe suit and redressed in a long flowing black cape, Mr. Ogelvy became ‘the hooded menace’ for a number of years, a ghoulish executioner who terrorized visitors to this anti-chamber filled with buckets of severed heads. Then, several more years, he stood in as the mad scientist, dressed in the white robes of a surgeon and given a syringe and scalpel to clutch in his hands as he was forcibly bent at the waist to appear as though staring down at a terrified patient strapped to an operating table and still very much awake.
By now, however, the waxen death mask had begun to visibly crack, chip and crumble. And there was also a peculiar smell emanating from the figure; a putrid odor that equally turned the stomachs of guests and the maintenance crew overseeing the haunted house attraction after hours.
Mr. Ogelvy was removed from the display and sealed in a vacuum bag for two long years, stored in a un-air conditioned facility until even there, he managed to stink up the place. He almost met with the incinerator himself in 1961 before an ambitious sculptor working in the thrill ride industry suggested that a new coating process might restore ‘the figure’ to its original stature and appeal.
As it was perceived by the powers that be that no more harm or damage could possibly come to this sad and deteriorating likeness, Dooley & Co., who had acquired Harlen and Masters Inc. that same year, allowed their third class assistant his experimentations. And to everyone’s surprise, his restorative efforts yielded a rather glamorous result. Not only did Mr. Ogelvy no longer stink up a room, but now he was also outfitted with a spectacular suit of clothing, satiny green and gold and lavishly appointed with bells on his finger and toes, wearing a headdress that vaguely resembled a court jester.
This is how he would remain for the rest of his days – a figure of fun – leaning into an endless cavalcade of careening cars that wound their way with terrified guests through Wonderland’s House of Horrors.
Mr. Pew leaned back in his leather chair.
“Well,” he concluded, “what’s to be done about Mr. Ogelvy now?”
“That’s your problem,” said Terry Mullen, “mine was uncovering the truth. And now that I have I should like to be paid for my time.”
Mr. Pew wholeheartedly agreed, reaching into the top drawer of his desk to produce his check book. At the end of their transaction the two men shook hands. Only one thing troubled Mr. Pew now. With his acquisition of the funhouse and a few other rides from Wonderland he had incurred a considerable debt. But perhaps he had suddenly discovered a way to resolve at least part of his financial concerns.
“Mr. Mullen,” said Mr. Pew, placing a warm and inviting hand around Terry’s shoulder, “Come with me. I’d like to show you where we make our figures.”
About the author
Nick Zegarac is a freelance writer/editor and graphics artist. He holds a Masters in Communications and an Honors B.A in Creative Lit from the University of Windsor. He is currently a freelance writer and has been a contributing editor for Black Moss Press and featured contributor to online's The Subtle Tea. He's also has had two screenplays under consideration in Hollywood. Currently, he has written two novels and is searching for an agent to represent him.