In the wake of our September 17 story regarding the closure of the Los Angeles Live Steamers’ annual Ghost Train event, fans of all walks have expressed their sadness and disappointment online and on social media. Certainly, the disappointment is widespread, as the LALS board of directors surely must have been anticipating when they voted to cancel the Halloween event.
Jay Carsman, a member of the club who originally reached out to Theme Park Adventure, asking us to remove all Ghost Train content on our site, instead voluntarily offered us a very detailed explanation into the club’s decision to do away with this 15 year-old event in Griffith Park here in Los Angeles.
Unfortunately, Mr. Carsman must have had a change of heart and reached out to TPA and the community once again this morning in a public post on our Facebook page in response to peoples’ disappointment. Speaking again on behalf of the Los Angeles Live Steamers members, Mr. Carsman said ever-so-bluntly:
“Do our club a favor. Get over the fact we are done permanently with Halloween and any other fund raising event. We are an educational organization that must follow IRS regulations. A private company, Show Development, Inc. made a lot of money promoting the Halloween event. The club earned money, but paid an enormous cost in damaged trains, many owned and built by members, and heavy wear on the structure of the railroad.
“As a private group, we cannot continue to expose our club to the possible liability for someone injured in the facility and in the adjoining streets and parkland. One child hit on Zoo Drive in the dark, or someone getting hurt or assaulted while waiting in line out in the darkness of the picnic area, and our club is sure to be closed by the city and we would be destroyed by the lawsuits.
“Theme Park Adventure [SIC], Show Development, Gary Baker, and his various business associates keep pressuring our club to continue Halloween events because they make money off the event while we do all the work. There were also some serious tax issues caused by this event that we cannot risk happening again.
“Sadly, the continuing pressure has caused many members to just walk away in disgust. So even fewer club members are willing to support and repair the tracks and trains. If you like the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, come by on a Sunday and enjoy a train ride. But understand, we do not intend to do another Halloween event and we are very tired of being pestered on social media by people who refuse to accept the fact that this event is over and done, finished, kaput, gone and buried.
“If you don’t understand, then go work out your frustrations at Disneyland, Knott’s Berry Farm, and Magic Mountain.
“Just leave us alone!”
A very sad statement by Jay on behalf of the Los Angeles Live Steamers Railroad Museum, its board, and its members. The public is mourning the loss of an amazing, 15-year tradition that has been one of the only family-friendly haunted attractions to enjoy during the Halloween season at night. The board must have surely known there would be backlash and great disappointment from the community – the event drew thousands each season; you don’t just pull the plug on something that popular and expect no one to say anything about it.
Full disclosure: Gary Baker is a close personal friend of ours, and is the Executive Producer of Midsummer Scream, which we co-produce together. When the LALS board of directors voted to cancel the Ghost Train event, Gary asked that TPA not write about it, despite us wanting to get the word out to the public after the organization’s own statements were removed from their social media pages as soon as negative response started coming in. We respected Gary’s request. It wasn’t until Jay Carsman sent us an email, practically demanding that we remove any and all content regarding Ghost Train from this website. At that point, we responded to him that we would not do that, but would love any insight he might be able to provide into the situation so that we could better understand the reason behind their decision. Jay sent back a very detailed response, which we then published in its entirety, so the public could get the word straight from the horse’s mouth.
Since publishing our story, the public has reacted and shared their thoughts of disappointment, as well they should be able to. Not once have we publicly or privately pressured LALS to change their minds, or to resume operation of Ghost Train in the future. Mr. Carsman’s accusation that we have pressured them to alter their decision or to resume operation of Ghost Train is simply untrue.
Another untruth is that TPA makes any profit off of Ghost Train. Where Jay gets that notion is beyond me. Truth be told, we have spent our own time and money promoting their event – not profiting from it. That is simply untrue and completely inaccurate.
Whether Gary has profited from Ghost Train in the past is actually not the issue; if the organization made any profit due to his personal or professional involvement, I fail to see what the problem is, considering LALS lives and dies by public donations. Having a professional company come in and help bring thousands of people (and dollars) to an event – that’s nothing shady or strange, even for a non-profit organization such as LALS. When you boil it down, it’s very apparent that Carsman has a personal bone to pick with Gary; and that isn’t the story here – the loss of this attraction after 15 years is.
Reacting the way Mr. Carsman has by telling the public to “get over it” and for the public to “leave us alone” is definitely worrisome; if I were a member of LALS, I certainly wouldn’t want that to be my public face or position on the situation.
I responded in kind by telling Jay this via a Facebook response, reiterating how shameful it is to lash out at the public in such a manner when all anyone is doing is voicing their sadness and disappointment over the situation. The return comment from him was loaded with name-calling and threats against me and against Gary Baker, promising that we’d, “regret this and any further conversations”.
We don’t take kindly to threats, especially when they come from an organization that we have supported wholeheartedly for several years. In a season that is our favorite time of year, when we are very active with many haunters and organizations out there, it’s very unsettling and sad that this is how the legacy of Ghost Train is going to be remembered. I have to believe that Mr. Carsman and one other member who “liked” his comments back to me on our Facebook page are in a very small minority when it comes to the temperament and overall class of the club’s membership. Every model has a blemish, every fortress has a gargoyle, and every club or organization has an embarrassing member; I can’t help but hope Jay Carsman is theirs. If not, and Jay’s comments and piss-poor attitude toward the public (let alone his personal attacks on Gary or myself) are the general consensus of the club, then the whole place should be shuttered and Walt’s/Disneyland’s property should be relocated to San Francisco to the Walt Disney Family Museum or to another group that is worthy of such artifacts.
I reiterate once again – it completely and utterly sucks that the Los Angeles Live Steamers and their board voted to discontinue the Ghost Train event. There’s no other way to put it; it’s a loss for thousands who came to make it an annual Halloween tradition for the past 15 years here in Southern California. If public disappointment and negative comments truly came as a shock to the board or its members, we suggest they get out more and understand how people react when something they care about is taken away with little or no warning or explanation. There’s no way they didn’t count on people being upset and disappointed.
What we didn’t count on was the club responding in such a harsh manner, telling everyone to leave them alone. As requested, we will take our interest and business elsewhere – be it Disneyland, Knott’s, Magic Mountain or any other haunt group or event this time of year; we encourage others to do the same, starting new traditions with groups and organizations that do appreciate us all.
- Rick West