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June 23, 2009

W.E. (Bill) Mason Carousel at Oak Meadow Park, Los Gatos (photo by Mary Pope-Handy)The gorgeous W.E. (Bill) Mason Carousel at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos is as historically interesting as it is beautiful. It conceals more than a surprise to two.

Built in 1915 in England, the carousel was made of horses from England and Germany (some horses made by a Frenchman too). It was a long voyage to California – it had to be shipped around the horn (the Panama Canal did not yet exist) and then it debuted at the Panama Pacific Expo in San Francisco (which began in 1915). Following the exposition, it toured around with a circus beginning in the 30s for awhile before finding itself in storage in Redwood City for an untold number of years.

Happily, though, the story doesn’t end there. In 1980 the ride was purchased by the town with $50,000 in collected donations, and then it resettled in this sweet spot among Siicon Valley parks. The wooden horses, all hand painted, were lovingly restored over several years by volunteers. Additionally, upgrades were made to the mechanical side too, bringing it up to date. The ride was name after the late Bill Mason, Sr., of the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad fame, and dedicated in 1990.

The carosoul is a great compliment to the park with its train, airplane, open space and play structures, and it’s a huge hit with kids and parents alike. Is is truly “living history” right in our own backyard.

But wait, there’s more!

The lovely merry-go-round is also haunted.

Los Gatos Ghost Tour - Haunted Los Gatos, by Mary Pope-HandyNot to worry, parents, the ghost is benign – in fact, benevolent. Nothing scary happens here and it appears that the ghost simply loves the attraction. Some employees have experienced minor events such as noises without explanation and safety belts all mysteriously appearing latched when they should have been loose, and of course, that sense that someone’s there or someone’s watching when no one is visible.

I was at the park yesterday with Annette Martin, who asked me to introduce her to some of the haunted places in Los Gatos, and this was our last stop. Later this year she’ll share her experiences of this visit in an article or book. Not to spoil her story, I’ll let her tell “the rest of the story” at that time. (But be assured, she didn’t find anything for children or parents to fear.)