Back in August 2013, I first posted about the decaying Joyland amusement park in Wichita, KS. That story was updated for the second issue of The Basement Sublet of Horror magazine. Parts of Joyland now belong to the Historical Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County. The merry-go-round is now owned by Botanica, who have plans for a full restoration. However, the one iconic piece that was still shrouded in mystery was Louie the Clown…until now.
Louie the Clown was a centerpiece of activity in Joyland. He entertained and terrified children for more than 60 years. He sat at an organ, symbolically playing music that could be heard throughout the park. One YouTube video shows Louie as he really was back in the day while another has made some horrific changes. Both are equally as creepy. When Joyland shut down and became embroiled in a lawsuit between the original owners and some gentlemen who had attempted to restore the park (with questionable results), it was quickly discovered that Louie was missing. An immediate suspect was maintenance man Damian Mayes.
Stories about Damian and his “love” for Louie date back as far as 1994. He started working at Joyland and maintaining Louie, along with the organ, at the age of 15. Joyland owners Stanley and Margaret Nelson even allowed him to take Louie home during the off-season. Damian would clean Louie and make new clothes for him. So, it was only natural that when Louie disappeared circa 2008, police contacted Damian about its whereabouts. After all, he kept a framed picture of Louie on his mantle. Disturbing and straight out of a horror movie. Louie was never found but the Joyland faithful continued to circulate rumors that Damian did indeed have Louie.
The story takes a very creepy turn when, in 2010, Damian was convicted of aggravated indecent liberties with a child. He is currently incarcerated and not eligible for parole until 2028. After a recent phone call tip implied that Louie had been found, the Wichita Police Department began an investigation lasting several months that ultimately resulted in a trail leading right to the home of Damian Mayes. Once there, the police discovered Louie in plain sight. Louie has been found and brought home.
Louie is valued at $10,000, so Damian will likely face felony charges. Louie’s discovery could lead to other missing parts of the once-grand Joyland park. All that is left now are decaying buildings, a decrepit roller coaster and a Whacky Shack full of ghosts from the past. However, Louie is getting the last laugh. Where Louie will go next is unknown but he will likely be returned to the Nelson family, who are his rightful owners. I once said that Louie would never see the light of day again. Well, I was wrong. His long and dark journey has ended. Now, I suspect Louie is ready for a vacation. Perhaps he can take the time to visit the Clown Motel in Tonopah, Nevada. Now excuse me while I check under my bed and turn on the lights. True life can be scary as hell.