Cache of Joyland’s stolen goods recovered with Louie the Clown

Porky the Paper Eater was a unique trash container at Joyland. The vacuum-equipped pig sucked the trash right out of your hand. Porky’s head was found recently in the same house where Louie the Clown was recovered, according to Wichita police.
Porky the Paper Eater was a unique trash container at Joyland. The vacuum-equipped pig sucked the trash right out of your hand. Porky’s head was found recently in the same house where Louie the Clown was recovered, according to Wichita police. Eagle file photo

Apparently, Louie the Clown had company.

Wichita police returned last week to the home where Louie previously was found and recovered other items from Joyland Amusement Park, including the Vampiress, ghosts and tombstones from the Whacky Shack, and Porky the Paper Eater’s face, according to Roger Nelson, son of Margaret and Stan Nelson, the longtime owners of the park.

Wichita police Detective Matt Lang confirmed this week that other Joyland memorabilia was recovered at the house.

A police report Wednesday lists $26,100 in property taken from the Nelsons’ amusement park on South Hillside over a two-year period from 2006 to 2008. Some of the items have already been recovered, Lang said, while others are still missing.

Since news broke a week ago that Louie, the infamous clown who greeted Joyland visitors for decades, had been located, the Nelson family and Greg Kite have been inundated with calls and e-mails about other items elsewhere in the area that may have been taken from Joyland.

“We have been provided with names, addresses and all sorts of identifying information,” said Kite, president of the Historic Preservation Alliance of Wichita and Sedgwick County.

He is hoping that many of the missing items will be returned voluntarily rather than requiring law enforcement officials to pursue them.

“The Nelsons and the Preservation Alliance are more interested in having Wichita’s heritage returned than in putting people in jail,” Kite said. “Return them and your name will not be asked for – no questions asked.”

Kite said people with Joyland items are encouraged to turn them over to the office of the Historic Preservation Alliance at 230 N. Market for return to the Nelson family.

Louie: Is he, or isn’t he?

Louie – missing for nearly a decade – was found last week in the home of Damian Mayes, a former Joyland employee. Lang said Mayes may face felony theft charges in connection with the disappearance of Louie, valued at $10,000. Another suspect may also face charges, police said.

Wichita police have presented evidence in the case to Sedgwick County District Attorney Marc Bennett and the case is under review, officials said.

Since news of Louie’s re-emergence, some people contend the clown recovered is not the real Louie – that it is a reproduction.

“What I was told was that there was not just one but several Louie the Clowns,” said Michael Coup, a friend of Mayes and president of Wichita Theater Organ Inc. “That clown, as it sits now, never sat on the bench at Joyland’s organ.”

But Roger Nelson said there is no doubt that the clown recovered last week is the real Louie.

“Yeah, good luck with that one. I went down and identified him,” Nelson said. “He (Mayes) may have put some newer pieces on Louie, but you can tell it is old.”

Lang said there are certain maker’s marks on the clown identifying it as authentic.

“The owners are sure,” Lang said. “All that was checked.”

Mayes helped restore the clown in 1994. In 2008 police went to Mayes’ house on a tip but did not find anything.

Mayes, 39, is serving a sentence at the Norton Correctional Facility, according to Kansas Department of Corrections records. A Harvey County jury convicted Mayes in 2010 of aggravated indecent liberties with a child and of aggravated criminal sodomy.

When contacted by The Eagle, Mayes’ wife, Sheri, said she has been advised by her attorney not to discuss the Joyland case. The attorney, Robb Hunter, said the investigation is still ongoing.

“Sheri is fully cooperating with the investigation as much as she can,” Hunter said. “Miss Mayes has done what she can to assist.”

Joyland’s Wurlitzer organ

Besides Louie the Clown, one of the other well-known features of Joyland was the huge Wurlitzer organ where Louie sat on a bench for decades blasting out music across the amusement park.

That organ was also in Mayes’ possession, according to Roger Nelson. According to a written contract, Mayes was buying it from Margaret Nelson for $39,000, but failed to make the final payment of $9,000, Roger Nelson said.

The Joyland organ, Coup said, is about 8 feet deep, 20 feet long and 10 feet high. It was capable of making instrument sounds such as trumpets, flutes, strings, clarinets, drums and a glockenspiel, xylophone and triangle. Mayes kept it in a house next to his home that he converted into a workshop, he said.

“It was built to be extremely loud,” Coup said. “Those organs were built to be outdoors. It was the largest band organ Wurlitzer made and the only one left. It was built in 1908.”

What happens next

The Nelsons and Kite are eager to see the return of all the items that were taken over the years from Joyland.

Things such as the bell off the miniature train and the sign that used to be on top of the roller coaster, Kite said. The memorable Kilroy sign on top of the roller coaster that warned people to remain seated is valued at $2,000, according to a police report from 2009.

The police report dated Wednesday lists $26,100 property taken from the amusement park from 2006 to 2008 and their estimated values, including: Porky the Paper Eater Face, $1,500; numerous Gingerbread signs, $1,000; skull signs and emblems, $1,100; an animated flying ghost, $600; dimensional tombstones, coffin air operated skeleton, $1,700; skull waterfall, giant fiberglass skeleton and fiberglass bats, pumps, plumbing, lighting, $2,900; skeleton that sat in prop, $1,100; electric spider with background, $1,100; vampire in box, $1,000; tom tom player, $2,500; witch doctor, $2,500; and brass pipes for an organ, Wurlitzer, $5,500.

“Besides the recovery and the return of these valuable Joyland artifacts, it is equally important that Louie the Clown and the mighty Wurlitzer are brought back together so that they can play that fantastic carnival music again for the enjoyment of the citizens of Wichita,” Kite said. “This is our heritage.

“Of all the projects HPA has been involved in, none has been more important and representative of Wichita’s heritage than Joyland Amusement Park.”

Reach Beccy Tanner at 316-268-6336 or btanner@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @beccytanner.

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