Estimated reading time — 8 minutes
Details of this story have been changed or censored by the State Court of Illinois and by those person’s involved in this case whose safety or reputations could be damaged by such information being released to the public.
In 1959, a small town in Illinois suffered from an economic blow after a Chevrolet automobile factory was shut down. During their period of decline, many of the citizens tried to bring forward their own personal ideas for reviving the economy. A man named Travis Leroy, who owned a large plot of farming land near the edge of town, decided to use the opportunity to pursue what he claimed to be a long forgotten childhood dream of his and opened an amusement park in hopes of bringing in tourism from nearby cities.
Travis wasn’t very well known by the rest of the town and had always been fairly quiet, but he had never said an unkind word to anyone and he’d didn’t have a single enemy to speak of. A few of the other men in town were hired to help plow the land down and assemble the buildings and decorations for the mechanical rides and carnival stands. Most of the rides were generically shipped in and set up on spot without much effort, but there was one custom attraction in particular that was assigned the most care and preparation by the founder of the project. It was an original idea of Leroy’s that he insisted on including in the park, as it was one of the few things he had specifically envisioned as part of its final opening.
It was a slow indoor track-car ride that would be lit and decorated to appear like an enchanted forest, complete with different animatronics of animals and lifelike statues of pixies, fairies, and other magical woodland creatures. Leroy personally had the statues and moving figures brought in from a larger outside company, and the rest was easily constructed with nearby shrubbery and donations from the town’s taxidermist.
Before Travis officially opened the park to the public, he insisted on doing a final walk-around on his own as he marveled the creation and assured himself that everything was perfect for its first day of general admission. Once it was approved to his standards, the local children were abuzz with anticipation to see it and the attraction was an immediate sensation in the region. The park was successful for many months and was immediately bringing in more revenue and income to the surrounding community, as well as to all the townspeople who were employed in many of the stands and vending booths.
As a whole the place was well-loved by all and commonly visited, but as time went by it was clear that the enchanted forest was not entertaining as many guests as some of the other rides or games. However, when it was suggested to Leroy by any of his employees or associates to shut down the ride, he would immediately cast off the idea and become seemingly offended. Because it wasn’t using up very much of the profits on maintenance or repairs, the majority of those who asked never argued otherwise and the subject was eventually dropped completely.
After a few years of the theme park thriving and growing, one of the local four-year-old boys was reported missing after disappearing in the ravine by his backyard on the outskirts of town. Traces of evidence were found in the brush near the other side of the creek, a shoe and some locks of hair, but there was no sign of blood or violence. The case was eventually concluded as an animal attack and closed by the parents and the department of the state.
Even after its close, some citizens were suspicious of the lack of evidence or remains found of the toddler by search parties or authorities. The suspicions never came to much fruition, as coyotes and wolves stalking unwatched pets and children was not uncommon for the area. Then, five months later another child went missing in an outside county. It was nearly an hour’s drive to the park and its town, and thus was barely noted by many around.
At least not until the town’s sheriff and pastor brought to attention that the circumstances of the missing child, as well as the lack of evidence and general surroundings, were very similar to each other. Upon the pastor’s further investigation, it was also discovered that the two children were very similar in appearance. They both had dusty blond hair near the same length, and were both round-faced boys with similar heights and complexion. Police launched into further investigation and were unable to find any other connections over two weeks of questioning and researching each victim’s family. About a month into the reopening of the cases, the mothers of the boys noted that they had both taken their children to the local theme park within three weeks of their disappearance and notified the detectives.
The entire staff was interrogated over the matter and the lot was inspected, but most of employees were unaware of the disappearances even occurring and there was no suspicious findings in the park. Travis Leroy was put under the most thorough questioning, being the owner of the property and main executive manager of the establishment, but answered the majority of the questions with ease. He had seen neither of the boys in the park the days they visited and spend most of his time during park hours in his office or in the maintenance back lots.
The case was again closed without further evidence until another disappearance a few miles down the ravine from the brush the first child’s traces were found. This child was a girl of three, but again matched the appearance of the other boys having short blonde hair and round, rosy cheeks.
After the parents of the girl were brought in for search and investigation, it was soon discovered that they had also just visited the theme park only a few days before. The park was then officially shut down by authorities until further notice for a intricate search and investigation, much to the outcry and complaint of the town receiving its valuable income. The rides were dismantled and the offices were cleared, but no undeclared components or secret areas were found anywhere. Even after a search of Travis Leroy’s living quarters and the homes of a few other managing staff members, nothing was found to be connected to any of the missing children. The only area noted by detectives that had yet to be investigated was the building housing the forest ride due to the lack of installed lighting and commonly used exits.
Because the only usable lights in the ride were the colored atmospheric yard lamps set up through the trees and across the ceiling, the police did the majority of their search using flashlights and lanterns. Nothing was found out of place on the track or in the cars themselves, and most of the officers seemed to be somewhat impatient to leave the area. However, the head detective became especially curious of the few display cases set up through the ride of the fairies and sprites. He requested that Leroy allow him into the cases, which Leroy denied by saying they were completely sealed off in glass and had been since the opening of the park. The detective was still unsatisfied, but let the owner and his employees off without a problem.
Later that night, according to the head detective himself, the detective used his warrant of the premises to search the ride again on his own and attempt to find a way into the cases. He wasn’t able to manage a way in, but what he did discover was that the sealant bordering the corners of the glass paneling was still fresh, suggesting it had recently been opened and resealed. This peaked the detective’s concern enough to request another search of the building with assistance from the other officers on the case. Leroy was insistent that opening the cases would permanently damage the integrity of the display and the ride’s condition, but after several different debates of policy and warranting, the police were finally able to surpass Leroy’s complaints and permitted inside under state policy.
On March 18th, 1963, a party of seven different police officers and investigators entered the enchanted forest ride in search of further evidence of the missing children. After only two hours of inspection and investigation that day, the park was immediately dismantled and the town nearby went down in local infamy, despite most citizens not knowing the details of their discoveries. What was found in the ride was said to be so disturbing that the photographs taken for evidence were strictly kept from the public and many of the officers in the party refuse to recall the experience.
The group of authorities walked into the building and followed the car track around its winding bends and turns through the different displays before stopping at the first glass case about halfway through the ride. Armed with crowbars and paint scrapes, the police were able to separate the first two panels and split the rubber-like seal in a little under an hour. Immediately the scent of stale air and embalming chemicals were evident from the box, which was not unexpected due to the amount of taxidermy animals in the case to complete the forest ensemble.
But there was a different smell beneath the formaldehyde and thin layer of dust that left the party uneasy and a few feeling ill. It was described as a bitter scent with a hint of sweetness, similar to that of spoiled meat and rancid flowers, as one described. As the men delved further into the case, they seemed to agree that the smell was emanating from the statues and figurines.
The head detective approached one in the middle; a small dark-haired sprite in a homely outfit of overalls and hat who was staring curiously up at the ceiling and holding a preserved bird perched on his fingers. He peered closer at the figure’s expression and stared into its lifeless glass eyes before quickly being overpowered by the previously noticed smell. Covering his face with his sleeve, he continued meticulously inspecting the sprite to find what the source of the odor could be. While searching it, he noticed that there was almost a faint hint of freckles on its cheeks under what looked like a thick layer of lacquer or resin. What happened next sent the whole of the group into a fit of disgust and one man had to rush from the building to vomit outside.
The detective raised his hand to scrape away a layer of the enamel from the sprite’s face and sample it for later testing. But instead of peeling back a flake of enamel, a large chunk of the figure’s cheek fell away under his fingernail and dropped to his feet. Beneath the layer of flesh-tone covering was what seemed to once be living, raw flesh and muscle, long congealed and dried from years of preservation and stagnant presence in the glass box.
The detective quickly swabbed the flesh for sampling before excusing himself outside, as the smell and the atmosphere of the area was becoming too overwhelming for him and the others to handle. More authorities were sent in after and the rest of the displays were opened, all proving to hold the same grotesque odor and stale air of unease. All figures and statues were inspected, and almost all proved to show the same conclusion.
After the entire ride was emptied and investigated, a total of 17 children’s remains were recorded to be held in the ride’s displays, three of which were the bodies of the missing boys and girl from the previous months. A few were unidentified, and the rest were found to be long-lost children of the nearby townspeople or others from a near area. The youngest child found, an infant no older than twelve to sixteen months, was found to be the son of none other than Travis Leroy himself who was said to have died at birth along with his departed wife.
Leroy was immediately arrested and charged with the first-degree murder of all seventeen children and the park was permanently closed. Most of the other rides were dismantled and returned to their original owning companies, but the majority of the citizens refused to approach the building of the enchanted forest. The townsfolk held to the strict belief that the land was drenched in evil, and ill fortune would come upon any who entered it again.
An outside construction team, unaware of the lot’s past, was hired to dismantle the building a few years later. They refused to complete the task after being unable to remove the sickening smell and reporting sounds of children’s distant laughter. The town left it abandoned after that, but kept very careful watch on it to keep any outside tourists or journalists from breaking in.
To this day, the building still stands with the other scraps remaining of the park on the plot of farmland near the edge of town. There have been no reported entries of the building or visits of the property since.
Credit To – iwasfriendswithaghostonce
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