Would you pay to see a display of dead celebrity skeletons?

skeletonKings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio, about 15 minutes from where I live, asked themselves that very question. And because they thought the answer was yes, they have been getting a lot of local, and some national, coverage. But none of it the sort of coverage they really want.

Kings Island is mostly open in the summer, but it does some brisk business on the weekends during the fall. At Halloween season they deck the place out in a ghost and ghoul theme.

They had been planning a Halloween Haunt display that was going to be full of fake skeletons dressed to look like dead celebrities.The display was up and ready to go until apparently some people started complaining after Kings Island began promoting the event.

Among the personalities that would have been represented were recently slain NFL quarterback Steve McNair, who was killed July 4 by his mistress, Sahel Kazemi, who then shot herself. Her skeleton was in the display as well. The McNair skeleton was sitting on a couch wearng a a No. 9 jersey and holding a Tennessee Titans snack bowl. Kazemi's skeleton, wearing a dress, was sitting in McNair's lap. A gun was on the ground.

But that was just one part of the display. There were also skeletons dressed as Michael Jackson and Heath Ledger. (Click here, at The Cincinnati Enquirer story, and you can see a photo of Jackson's "skeleton.")

It almost sounds like I'm making this stuff up. It's really amazing how nobody at Kings Island thought, "Gee, maybe this is a bad idea." They had a skeleton scene with Sonny Bono, the singer turned Congressman, tied to a tree wearing ski equipment. He was killed about 12 years ago in a skiing accident.

At first, the Kings Island folks, or at least a spokesperson, was pretty jazzed by the dead skeleton celebrity display. "You're gonna see Ted Kennedy, Ed McMahon, and there's still other ones yet to be placed," Don Helbig reportedly told the Cincinnati NBC affiliate. But he wasn't so excited after the uproar and the display was removed. In fact, Kings Island has been quite quiet about the whole thing, although Helbig did release a statement to the press: "We were not intending to be distasteful, and we apologize if we offended anyone."

I have to admit, I kind of found the idea of baseball legend Ted Williams, stuffed in a glass-door freezer because he was cryogenically frozen after he passed away in 2002, kind of clever. I guess one does have to give whomever came up with this idea some points for creativity.

But any creativity is pretty much wiped out by the tackiness of it all. It'd be one thing if they had created skeletons from dead celebrities from the 1800s, like Jesse James and Billy the Kid. I doubt any descendants, were they to wander into the park and see a display like that, would be offended or saddened. But Wendy's founder Dave Thomas, who died in 2002? Wendy's headquarters is just a couple of hours away, in Columbus, Ohio. Some of his family or friends could have stumbled upon the display.

But to put up skeletons of departed people who have been gone just months and weeks is definitely beyond the pale. I mean, skeletons of Farrah Fawcett and TV product pitchman Billy Mays? Really?

Yes, really.

Even more grim, there had been a display in the window, apparently in of one of the theme park's shops, with a skeleton dressed as Death, sitting at a desk with seeveral skeleton public figures at his side, including McMahon, Kennedy and Golden Girls and Maude actress Bea Arthur. On a marker board nearby is the word "agenda" with a list of dead celebrities' names crossed off as well as living celebrities names waiting to be crossed off.

Among those living celebrities names? Carrot Top, actors Kevin Bacon (Kevin Bacon? C'mon, what did he do to anyone to deserve this?) and Robert Pattinson, TV personality Kim Kardashian, convicted felon Bernie Madoff, football player Ben Roethlisberger, and (good grief!) youthful singers Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and The Jonas Brothers. "Universal health care" also gets a mention, as do the fictional characters Dora the Explorer and Hello Kitty.

You know, I've been going to Kings Island since I was a kid -- took my daughters there this summer and had a wonderful time -- and it's an amazing family-friendly theme park. It has such a great reputation that I can't imagine for a moment that this incident will keep the public away. It won't keep me away next year. People are human and all of that, but clearly, someone, or several people, goofed big-time. Big-time.

I will give the park credit for this, though: Halloween is a season known for its creepiness, and they did create a display that's not just creepy but sick and twisted. In that regard, the display that never quite received a public viewing was a success -- beyond their wildest dreams.

Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the author of C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America (Rodale).
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