I believe an introduction is in order. My name is Johnathan Andrew Mathews (You can call me John). I'm 18 and I live in a suburb just outside of Chicago. I've never wanted to be a writer, I could care less about typing away at a computer for hours. But, that changed only a few months ago. That's because, I was almost killed by someone who I know cannot be stopped. I have to write this for the safety of not only the people of Chicago but for anyone willing to read this.
But to be fair you probably have no idea what I'm talking about don't you. Well I might as well tell you for safety's sake. I used to go to an amusement park as a kid, Joyland Park in the urban area of Chicago. I went every summer on the weekends with my sister Mary and my parents. It was great. We rode on all the coasters, carousels, and various other rides. We enjoyed the hell out of that park playing the assorted carnival games (Even though we never won) and riding all of the rides. I must have gone to Joyland every summer for at least 10 years, from the time I was 5 to 15. It was at a more innocent time of my life, before I knew the truth behind that park and its history.
But, the one thing that stuck out in all the years of going there was a building next to the smallest coaster in the park (Its name slips my mind now) with a sign on the front of the large, square, red building that read, "Paulie's Puppet Show" with a cartoon puppet with jet black hair smiling next to the last letter. I remember it so vividly because it was always locked, not just with one little padlock but multiple heavy duty padlocks, at least three. I would pass by and stare at that building before being nudged along by my father. It had this odd vibe to it, like it was out of place compared to the rest of the park. I had no idea as an innocent child the impact that building would have on my life.
Anyway, Joyland ran for a good 20 years before shutting down. For a while I had no idea what had happened to make it shut down and honestly didn't care as I was 18 and had long outgrown the kiddy park. But I soon grew curious upon one of my good pals Kevin mentioning an actual death at the park only a few days after the park closed. I discovered the history behind the abandonment of the park soon after.
The park originally opened in 1964, 49 years ago with the name Sanders Carnival (This was later changed to Joyland to widen their target demographic). The owner Carl Sanders was one wealthy son of a bitch. His father was a wealthy man who made his fortune as an oil prospector in Texas before passing away in 1962 and handing over his entire fortune to his 18-year-old son. Carl had officially opened the park as a 20-year-old millionaire with a puffed chest and an insatiable avarice. Numerous accounts of him buying cheap parts only for the sake of saving a buck had muddied the park's reputation and Sanders had to make the park real popular real fast or his investment would dry up like a lake in the Sahara.
So, he brought in a child's entertainer, Andrew Paulson as his new business partner in 1974. "Paulie" was his stage name. He was everything that Sanders was not, fun, humorous, good with kids, and he was considerably older than Carl with a short crop of grey hair and a wrinkled but still cheerful face. He began by revamping the decor and music of the park making it more family friendly as well as making a building for his main attraction, his puppet shows. This new revamp worked, the park became prosperous and people actually started coming to the park in huge packs. That was until, that October day in 1997.
Paulson was doing his typical puppet show with his main puppet, "Henry" the same one on the sign on the building for Paulie's Puppets. The children were all laughing and cheering as Paulson and his character on stage were saying their usual jokes when Paulson and nearly everyone in the room were shocked silent by the sound of a piece of metal hitting the floor. It was the safety pin that kept one of the stage lights in place. And like that the stage light fell like a great black boulder, constantly draining light from the stage until at last it met Paulson's head right at the crown, snapping his neck and killing him instantly. The children in the room screamed and cried as a few ran out and alerted a nearby employee that Andrew Paulson was indeed dead. Park goers were dismissed and the entire amusement park was closed early. The Paulie's Puppets building was closed soon after the final show and locked with several padlocks.
The following week Paulson's wife Carol came to the park demanding that she see the owner. She wanted to sue the company for damages. But when it came down to it, the media connections and Joyland's lawyer force came into play and Sanders got off scot-free. But, that was not the end of it. Between the years of Paulson's death and the park's closing people at the park began seeing a strange figure lurking around in odd places. Many witnesses have revealed themselves over the years and all offer a very similar description. A man with jet black and oiled hair and almost chalk white skin with a black tuxedo and a red bow tie. The most striking feature of the figure is his smile. It was almost freakishly large, stretching from ear to ear, quite literally. He is always seen with this expression. He was seen all over the park. In crowds, in between carnival games, always watching the person looking at him with that same grin on his face. Many people who saw the figure reported having vivid nightmares of the figure watching them in their sleep.
The peak of this hysteria occurred in 2013, the year of the park's closing and my personal investigation when a young woman boarded the tallest roller coaster in the park, The Goliath. She boarded like normal and so did a few other passengers before taking off. Passengers aboard the coaster at the time all report that only a few moments into the coaster beginning, the woman looked to her right, a vacant seat, and began to scream hysterically and shrieking "It's him! It's him! It's the grinner!" over and over. She was squirming and wriggling away from the right seat like it was death if she touched it. She was sobbing and shrieking over and over as the coaster climbed to its first peak. The passengers aboard attempted to calm her but to no avail.
At the peak of the first drop the woman eventually freed herself from the safety bar and proceeded to jump from the coaster, 50 feet, to her death. The operator, having seen this atrocity, immediately pulled the E-Brake on the coaster and stopped the ride. Screaming passengers and confused park goers were evacuated and the park closed once more for the tragedy of a death. This time, Sanders' great army of lawyers couldn't even save him and the young woman's family sued Sanders for a fortune and the park, with no money or good publicity in sight closed for good.
Anyway, back to my experience. I discovered the whole story and came to the conclusion that it would be pretty cool to explore the old place and see if I could find this "Grinner" myself. So the following Friday night, I packed my flashlight, pocket knife, and a few bobby pins, slipped my hoodie on and drove a few miles into the city to finally find that old stinking place.
As I arrived I was astounded. I was hit by a great wave of nostalgia as I stared at the gaping mouth of the clown mascot on the front sign reading "Joyland Park!" being illuminated by a single street lamp. All the happy memories of the weekends and summers spent there and how much fun I had with my family. But like a book slamming shut I saw the great steel gates of the park closed shut and locked and my heart sank and I snapped back to the present. Picking the lock was somewhat easy, I had done it on plenty of doors before so this wasn't too difficult. And with one swift click, I entered the park and began to search.
As I moved through the park, It was somewhat jarring. Every one of the carnival games were locked as well as the rides. It was just so odd, seeing a place you remember so fondly so incredibly bleak and boring. For a while I don't remember hearing or seeing any sign of the grinner until I had just passed the Goliath coaster. It might have just been my head or the sound of cars playing tricks on my mind. It sounded like a girl saying:
"I want to go home."
"You don't deserve it. Do you know what you've done," another voice had said.
"I-I just want you to leave me alone."
It sounds crazy, I know but bear with me. After a good deal of walking I finally found it, the same sign reading "Paulie's Puppets" and the same face with the same old locks. I began to fool around with the locks and within a few minutes the first one was gone. My heart stopped when I heard the lock hit the ground but soon realized I was scaring myself to death over nothing. The second lock went down after another few minutes of trying and the third only took another minute. But the second I attempted to open up that door I felt my heart sink down to my stomach. I felt all life drain from me before saying to myself "What the fuck was that?" I took a moment to catch my breath before finally opening the door. To you as the reader, opening that door was my worst mistake.
The moment I opened the door I was hit like deer would be by a truck with a rancid aroma, it smelled like shit, it smelled worse than shit, it smelled unholy. I took a step into the pitch black room and the smell only intensified. I couldn't take that smell no matter how much I wanted to explore. I turned my back to head out the door, when the light drained from the room. The door had closed. It wasn't just closed, it was welded shut. I panicked, I slammed my hands in futile anguish for what seemed like hours, screaming at the top of my lungs, before the lights came on. There was a single aisle that was lit by lights on the side of the aisle seats. I cannot even describe what I saw in those seats. In each seat, was a dead body. Every one of them was duct taped to the chair, their throats slit and devilish smiles carved into their cheeks. I had to choke back vomit, I could hardly believe what I was seeing. Women, children, men, all slaughtered like livestock. I was welling up with tears. I just barely whimpered to myself:
"Wh-who did this?"
When I received a response.
"I did silly. I'm glad you like it."
And like that I was struck in the back of my head with a blunt instrument and I was out cold. I had no Idea how long I was out for because when I woke up I was duct taped to the front row aisle seat, dead bodies surrounding me with their bloody clothes and fiendish grins. I tried to scream and struggle but my mouth was duct taped and I was tied solidly to the chair. I sat there for a good ten minutes before I saw it. That, thing that so many had seen. Words cannot describe how horrified I was. He was just like the description, the tux, the bow tie, and oh god, the grin. It wasn't even a grin, it consumed half his goddamn face as he smiled. He waltzed onto the lit stage and I saw the horrible monstrosity before me. It took me a few moments to decipher who the man tied up on the wooden stool on stage was but ultimately, I remembered who he was. It was Mr. Sanders, the man who started this goddamn place. His eyes were welling up with tears and he was sweating hard trying to break himself free from the bindings of his chair. The figure continued to walk cordially over to the struggling man before laying a single hand on him and saying in a voice I will not attempt to even describe:
"Shh. Struggling just makes it hurt more."
Like that, the figure ripped the duct tape from Sanders' mouth and gestured to me.
"Enjoy the show," the thing said in a dreadful happy voice.
"What the hell do you want!" Sanders screamed in pain and anguish.
The thing looked almost disgusted that he had asked that. It walked in front of him and looked him right in the eyes, still smiling.
"Remember Sanders, October 1997!" it screamed at him.
Sanders sat there for a moment with a puzzled look. But, within the next few moments his face changed to one of utter shock as he muttered,
"The one and only," the thing giggled. "And now. You are going to pay for what you did. Your greed brought this upon yourself. I only asked that you stop buying those cheap parts and they ended up being the death of me. Now you die."
I attempted to gasp in horror as the thing dragged from the tux a large serrated knife. He gently dragged the blade over to Sanders' neck as the poor man screamed and pleaded for mercy and began to dig the blade into his throat as it cut through the flesh like clay. So much blood. So much blood fell to the floor as I heard a sickening gurgle come from Sanders. The thing then turned the blade and began to carve the same smile as the previous victims into Sanders.
After the sickening display I was beyond horrified and my eyes were pouring out tears like a faucet. The thing, that murderer looked over to me and gestured to the mutilated corpse next to me.
"Do you like it?" the thing asked.
I didn't respond, I merely stood there staring at the figure as it moved off the stage and slowly walked toward me while saying,
"You next," over and over.
In that moment I was done. I don't know whether it was instinct or adrenaline or what but I ripped through the right duct tape binding and punched the thing looming in front of me. It fell back as I began to free myself from the other restraints. The thing began to slowly rise to its feet again and lift the knife right as I finally freed myself from that awful death chair. It lunged for me but I dodged and ran to the door. I slammed into it with all my primal might and it came free. I had no time to linger or fear I just ran, duct tape still on my mouth, as fast as I could while the thing could still be heard still giggling behind me.
I ran to the gate, ripped it open and leaped into my car. I started the ignition and I drove out of that parking lot like a bat out of hell. I could still see his face, that grinning, happy face as I drove out of there, but at that point I didn't care. I just drove home, opened my door, and collapsed on my bed in a fit of sobs and whimpers.
To this day, the events of that night have still shaken me. Mr. Sanders is still classified as a missing person. I haven't gotten the guts to call the local police because I'd sound like a lunatic if I did. But something needs to be done. That is why I am writing this right now. I am writing this as a warning. If you live in the Chicago area, stay the hell away from the Joyland amusement park.
It's just too dangerous. If you were to go there it would very well mean your death. If you see that thing, the grinner as everyone calls him, run. If you hear giggling in the middle of the night, run. And for god's sake, if you go to the park grounds despite what I've told you, just stay the hell the way from the Paulie's Puppets building.