I WOODEN WORK ON THAT HORSE, or ROUND AND ROUND WE GO!
by Ken Keckler DVM
Not being a native Clevelander, I have no fond memories of the historical Euclid Beach Park. When the once popular local amusement park closed in 1969, I would have been a mere child, and besides, I grew up in Northwest Ohio. However, the recent restoration of the Euclid Beach carousel caught my attention and revived some old memories. The carousel, with its many fancy carved horses, has been rebuilt at the Western Reserve Historical Society in University Circle and is open for business. Two rides with a $10 museum admission seem to be a bargain for a nostalgic turn on a classic attraction.
Photos from Cleveland’s Euclid Beach Park Carousel Committee.
My memories of carousels are more recent and from one of my favorite places: Cedar Point. As a teenager, CP was always a popular destination. The amazing roller coasters (a new, taller, faster thrill ride every few years), the deep fried foods (corndogs, French fries, mozzarella sticks), the peaceful stroll through log buildings in Frontiertown, and the lights, sounds, and SkyRide of the midway called me back year after year. Cedar Point had three carousels. The Cedar Downs Racing Carousel turned quickly and the position of the horses moved, so a competitive rider could finish ”first” when the ride stopped. Kiddieland had one that I never explored, and in the back of the park was the traditional, vintage merry-go-round: the Frontiertown Carousel.
I was lucky enough to spend three summers during college working at Cedar Point. I have never enjoyed a job or a place as much as "Ohio's Roller Coast". Being able to see some of the “behind the scenes” areas of the park (the Ballroom, where many famous musicians and big bands played, for instance) was eye opening as to the rich history of the island.
My favorite story was of the Frontiertown Carousel, which opened on the midway in 1946 (originally called the Midway Carousel. Imagine that.) The wooden horses were all hand carved by Daniel Muller, who is famous in the world of hand carved carousel horses. (Who knew?)
The tale is about one particular horse, a dark bay with its proud head raised, wild mane and forelock, and his mouth open in an aggressive pose. The way I heard it, this was the last horse Daniel Muller created, and the lead horse of the carousel. It is the only one with a holstered pistol and a long sword in a scabbard. These you can see in the photos.
On his left side there is a carved face of a man: supposedly Daniel Muller himself. On completion of this combative equine, Mr. Muller went home and promptly murdered his wife, and then committed suicide. The carousel was said to be haunted, and would quietly turn in the wee hours of the night. No matter where it was stopped when the ride was shut down, in the morning, the legend went, this proud steed would be found in the front. I could imagine the dark, spooky merry-go-round whispering its way around to put this horse in its rightful place of dominance.
Photos from Pennsylvania Haunts and History and The Ghosts of Ohio
According to the websites “Pennsylvania Haunts and History” and “The Ghosts of Ohio”, the original story was that Mrs. Muller loved and coveted the horse. After her death, and always after midnight (when the park was closed, of course) the carousel pipe organ and lights would start up, and a ghostly woman’s figure could be seen riding the horse around and around.
Also, her obsession that no one else have any part of the horse causedpictures taken of the charger to be blurred, or appear to be misted over. One story going around said that Mr. Muller had killed his wife and stuffed her body into the horse. Of course it would be possessed!
Unfortunately, (or fortunately, depending how you look at it), none of these scenarios are true. The horse is on display at the museum in Cedar Point, and a replica is in the merry-go-round museum in Sandusky Ohio. You can obviously take pictures of this majestic horse, and no one has since seen Mrs. Muller sitting on the military saddle.
So much for a good ghost horse story…