Magic Harbor-Myrtle Beach, SC

This park is commonly referred by locals as “Haunted Harbor” here’s a brief history why. The park originated as a Wild, Wild West Theme Park in the 1960,s complete with Cowboys, Indians, gunfights and more. Located 4 miles south of Myrtle Beach on the old Highway 17, it was a novel attraction for its time. The first in many deaths occurred as a Stage Coach Ride tipped over and Killed one person while hurting several others. The park closed due to this and bad word of mouth. Another business group bought the park and turned it into a more traditional type of amusement area with classic rides. This too turned to tragedy as a worker at the park, broke into the park managers office shooting him with a gun while robbing that day’s money take. Again, the park changed hands and the company that owned “Blackpool Pleasure Beach” bought into the park. A lot of money was spent turning the old grounds into a Great, New European Themed British Amusement Park. One of the biggest Ferris Wheel’s in the world was added as well as a Log-Flume, Teacups, a steel Roller-Coaster called the “Black Witch” while all new buildings and midways were created. It was truly a beautiful place as it was located above a lake with a campground (still in use) on the other side of the lake. The grounds were thickly wooded and the grounds had several man-made lakes centered around a games area. A Sky-Ride carried park patrons to and from an island located on the lake. Once again, a dark cloud appeared as a young women stood-up on the “Black Witch” coaster and was nearly decapitated, she died. The park had struggled to make it and this only caused more people to refrain from visiting. Blackpool wanted to pull out and again, the park grounds and buildings were put up for sale, the rides removed and sold off. The grounds began to take on a sinister look for several years. Senior Citizens from the local RV park used several walkways in the park to exercise while the water slides in the parking lot were operated by a local person as a separate attraction. But the grounds looked just like a Haunted Town. In the mid 1990’s, a Carnival Ride Company took lease of the park grounds. They put in several portable rides like a Sky Diver, Sooper Loop, Himalaya while the buildings and grounds were spruced up and given a new coat of paint. The former Pretzel ride building was converted into an Arcade though. The “New” park opened to great fanfare and fireworks on Memorial Day Weekend, but without Major Theme Park type rides, attendance soon went downhill. After two months, several rides were taken away to go to a large State Fair up North, by the end of the season, all the rides were gone, the lights turned out for the last time.[Black Witch Roller Coaster] The city, realizing that the buildings were a fire hazard, bulldozed everything the following year. “Family Kingdom”, in Myrtle Beach now has the top of the famous Lighthouse Steeple that used to grace the parks parking lot. The grounds still remain vacant, awaiting a new beginning or another use possibility? Or yet another tragedy? It’s no wonder while locals refer to the park as “Haunted Harbor”.

Brochure
The Black Witch
Park Map

This article was copied form the Defunct Amusement Parks Website from an article written by Bret Malone.

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33 Responses

  1. Dear Sirs,

    I’d just like to point out that, while an interesting idea for a story, a lot of the information in the article by Bret Malone about Magic Harbor was incorrect. The Park wasn’t a Wild Wild West Show Park. It was a regular amusement that had a Frontier Section where they had a gun fight/stagecoach show. There was an accident, but it didn’t close the park. The Park just wasn’t making enough money, so the owners just sold it. The new owners did not change the park at all. Yes, there was a robbery/murder, but it was actually the owner who was killed as someone broke into his home to rob and murder him. The next owners were not from Blackpool, England, but were the owners of the neighboring campground – Lakewood Camping Resort. They are the one’s who built the Water Slide (the first fiberglass slide on the East Coast), built the Log Flume, added the Corkscrew Roller-coaster, a live Dolphin Show, had Hot Air Balloon rides, and built the High Steppin’ Country Theater creating what would become the longest running show in Myrtle Beach). They owned the park for about ten years. The changes they made were actually very successful. Magic Harbor was thriving! Thriving until they changed the name to The Lighthouse, and the theme of the park to a Christian Theme Park (Possibly the first Christian themed theme-park in the US – long before PTL, etc…). The Christian theme proved to be a mistake, and attendance dropped dramatically. There were no tragic deaths, which is probably why your author, Bret Malone, left these owners out. They went searching for a buyer, and found one in Jeffery Thompson who does, in fact, own Pleasure Beach theme park in Blackpool, England. Thompson changed the name back to Magic Harbor, and themed the park A British Amusement Park. It was complete with British Carneys, an Ice Show (where the dolphin show used to be), and Benny Hill style shows and street performers. It was novel at first, and attendance was high. Until… as Malone points out, a young girl stood up on the roller coaster, and died from her near decapitation. The Thompson’s packed up and left town. They didn’t actually shut the park down, they did legally, but technically they still owned it. There wasn’t a “local person” ,as Malone put it, who took over the Water Slide, and put up portable rides in the parking lot… It was the manager of Magic Harbor who had come over from Blackpool with the Thompsons. The basically gave it to him to see if he could make a run of it, because he didn’t want to return to England – He liked Myrtle Beach. It was a miserable failure, and the city finally shut it down (it actually looked like a traveling side show, and employed a lot of unsavory characters imported from England). The city has always owned the land, and just leased it to the owners of the Park/Parks over the years. After shutting the Side Show down, the lease reverted back to the city. It sat unused for years, until, as Malone says, they bulldozed the whole thing. It did seem to be somewhat cursed (though it has never been referred to as “Haunted Harbor”), and they had a hard time re-leasing it. Finally, Lakewood Camping Resort, the campground that once owned the park and changed it’s name and theme to The Lighthouse; along with another campground, Pirateland Campground, who occupies the land on the opposite side of what was once Magic Harbor, leased the land and split it down the middle. They both created small communities -They call them Villa Communities – where they built modular homes that people use as their vacation homes because they love the campground atmosphere, but no longer cared to drive a big RV. It is proving to be quite successful for both Pirateland and Lakewood; and there seem to be no reports of hauntings.

    Peace,

    Blayne Perry

    • Blayne-
      I would like to correct some of the mistakes you actually made in your comments, which were quite hurtful to me and my family.
      First of all, Sherri DePew was not nearly decapitated at all, as I was sitting two cars behind her when she tragically came out of her seat and knocked her head on the rail that enclosed the Black Witch. As horrific as her death was, you all make it worse with comments like that.
      Secondly – the manager from Blackpool to whom you referred is my father, Carl.
      You write:
      “The Thompson’s packed up and left town.”
      Geoffrey Thompson owned three additional amusement parks in England and never maintained an office in Myrtle Beach. There was no packing up and leaving town as you incorrectly wrote. The park did continue to operate as-is after Sherri’s death, but there were continuous lawsuits against Blackpool Pleasurebeach, LLC from the time of their purchase by local groups, not to be named here, who greedily felt they should have the park and not an international company, even though Blackpool introduced the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel, at that time and make Magic Harbor a great place. It did not make wise financial sense for Mr. Thompson to continue to invest money into MH when he was constantly paying unwarranted attorney fees to defend what he rightfully purchased and tried to do well.
      My father ran that amusement park and waterslide with compassion and honesty and fairness to his employees. Don Perry Sr. will attest to that, as would others. I still maintain friendships with former employees who adored my dad and the tireless efforts he put into Magic Harbor.
      My father was born in Pennsylvania and moved us all to Myrtle Beach from England in 1981, specifically for Magic Harbor, after working for Mr. Thompson at another of his parks in England.
      When the legal fees continued to mount, Mr. Thompson had no choice but to cut his losses. He did keep Magic Mountain open, as my father successfully ran on Mr. Thompson’s behalf and I worked for him for a few summers myself. The parking lot was leased out to the carneys to try and bring in some revenue to offset the legal fees. I can precisely say NOT ONE of them was from England, as you incorrectly wrote. In fact, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a Perry in sight at that point to confirm any of the operators. Trust me, we didn’t like them there any more than anyone else.
      My dad wasn’t “given the park to make a go of it” whatsoever. My dad moved his entire family over to America from England and with three of us in school and no family in this area, he didn’t not want to uproot us again. He continued to work there because he had no other choice for his family. And to be honest – he hated Myrtle Beach and all the local beaurocracy on which it ran at that time. My dad made the best attempt to keep Magic Harbor and Magic Mountain running, but it was by NO fault of his that it closed.
      Blayne, I hope you can correct your inaccuracies. I was extremely saddened to read your words.

      • Tina,

        What happened to the Ferris Wheel and Black Witch? Were they sold or torn down?

        Thanks!

  2. Thank you very much for your comment. I would like to point out that the park has been refered to as Haunted Harbour though. Maybe not in legal name, but since the accident it did gain that nickname.

    s

  3. I live and grew up in the community that’s right across 17 from where Magic Harbor used to be. I’d never heard it referred to as Haunted Harbor, but instead as Tragic Harbor.

    • It is true that the name Tragic Harbor (as a play on Magic Harbor) was, and is, used to reference the Park for many reasons: the obvious tragedies that occurred, the multiple ownerships, the questionable business tactics and employee treatment from the British group, etc… Thanks for the comment Ky!

  4. I grew up along the Grand Strand and still live here today. I visited the park in the 70s and very often in the early 80s; I had a high school friend who worked there.

    I never heard the phrase “Haunted Harbor” until I read it on this website and on the original article at the “Defunct Amusement Parks” website.

    Maybe some people have used the term, but it isn’t widespread or common.

  5. I would also like to comment that Blayne Perry’s account above is much more similar to what I recall than is the original account by Bret Malone.
    Perry has many more details than I can recall, but from the ones I can remember, his information is consistent with my recollection.

  6. It was my best friend’s step father that was murdered Labor day weekend in 1976. My Mom and I both worked in the park. Her younger brother was also murdered then. I find it sad that no mention was made of it.

    • T., Sorry to have not given more details about the murders to include the others murdered back in 1976. I was just trying to clarify Bret Malone’s misinformed recounting of the Park’s history. It was inconsiderate of me not to have been more thorough, and I apologize…

  7. More corrections… I was a performer at Magic Harbor in 1986. Our cast lived on the park premisies and put on country music and and stage magic shows daily. There was also an ice skating show. At this time the park was most definitely owned and managed by a company from Blackpool England. We spoke on the phone with them frequently.
    We used the nickname Tragic Harbor ALL the time (referring mostly to our treatment by the Blackpool ownership) but I never heard the phrase haunted harbor.

  8. I went to the magic shows when I was a child. I remember sitting on steps of an outside theater and I was once called on stage. We moved away from Myrtle Beach when I was in second grade, back in 1984. I was actually looking to see if the park was still running and to my dismay, it is not. I remember alligator shows, airlift rides, the log plume, and this gigantic thing you got in and the floor dropped out of. I seem to remember being very afraid of that. My memories of that time have become insanely romanticized and it is very sad for me to hear that it has all been flattened. Oh well, such is life for the new to overtake the old.

  9. I used to go to Magic Harbor as a child. In fact The Black Witch was my first hard core rollercoaster. We also have friends that own property in Pirateland Campground and have stayed there numerous times. Some years after the park had closed we were staying a this friends and were awoken in the middle of the night to a fire on the Magic Harbor property. I distinctly remember this. Can some refresh my memory and tell me what year that took place.

  10. I operated the “upside down” roller coaster there in the mid 70’s. Great fun but it only lasted one year under that ownership. Seems like the location was Surfside Beach not Myrtle Beach. I had a GREAT time working there!

  11. “The Corkscrew” was the name of that coaster. Whew! That was a LONG time ago! Made a lot of great friends there.

  12. Blayne-
    I would like to correct some of the mistakes you actually made in your comments, which were quite hurtful to me and my family.
    First of all, Sherri DePew was not nearly decapitated at all, as I was sitting two cars behind her when she tragically came out of her seat and knocked her head on the rail that enclosed the Black Witch. As horrific as her death was, you all make it worse with comments like that.
    Secondly – the manager from Blackpool to whom you referred is my father, Carl.
    You write:
    “The Thompson’s packed up and left town.”
    Geoffrey Thompson owned three additional amusement parks in England and never maintained an office in Myrtle Beach. There was no packing up and leaving town as you incorrectly wrote. The park did continue to operate as-is after Sherri’s death, but there were continuous lawsuits against Blackpool Pleasurebeach, LLC from the time of their purchase by local groups, not to be named here, who greedily felt they should have the park and not an international company, even though Blackpool introduced the World’s Largest Ferris Wheel, at that time and make Magic Harbor a great place. It did not make wise financial sense for Mr. Thompson to continue to invest money into MH when he was constantly paying unwarranted attorney fees to defend what he rightfully purchased and tried to do well.
    My father ran that amusement park and waterslide with compassion and honesty and fairness to his employees. Don Perry Sr. will attest to that, as would others. I still maintain friendships with former employees who adored my dad and the tireless efforts he put into Magic Harbor.
    My father was born in Pennsylvania and moved us all to Myrtle Beach from England in 1981, specifically for Magic Harbor, after working for Mr. Thompson at another of his parks in England.
    When the legal fees continued to mount, Mr. Thompson had no choice but to cut his losses. He did keep Magic Mountain open, as my father successfully ran on Mr. Thompson’s behalf and I worked for him for a few summers myself. The parking lot was leased out to the carneys to try and bring in some revenue to offset the legal fees. I can precisely say NOT ONE of them was from England, as you incorrectly wrote. In fact, I’m pretty sure there wasn’t a Perry in sight at that point to confirm any of the operators. Trust me, we didn’t like them there any more than anyone else.
    My dad wasn’t “given the park to make a go of it” whatsoever. My dad moved his entire family over to America from England and with three of us in school and no family in this area, he didn’t not want to uproot us again. He continued to work there because he had no other choice for his family. And to be honest – he hated Myrtle Beach and all the local beaurocracy on which it ran at that time. My dad made the best attempt to keep Magic Harbor and Magic Mountain running, but it was by NO fault of his that it closed.
    Blayne, I hope you can correct your inaccuracies. I was extremely saddened and shocked to read your words.

  13. I was young back then, 10 yrs old, but my brother was in High Steppin’ Country from the day it started till it moved into Lakewood Camp ground and beyond. I spent almost everyday in the park and was(and still are) VERY good friends with “the Brits” that ran it. Now I can’t say how all that worked there where treated, but I do know that I never saw anyone unhappy at thier job. Everyone always had a smile on and was having a wonderful time. Not to mention alot of GOOD friends where made for life times. And yeah I guess Blayne Perry should have it down as to who ran what..his family ownes Lakewood CG. and BTW, I have lived in MB my entire life and never has the name “Haunted Harbor” been used,,, Tragic Harbor yes, cause whenever someone is hurt or killed it is Tragic…but if people would read the damn signs on the rides they’d probably still be alive!!!!

  14. I went here often as a child and I don’t remember any rollercoaster named the corkscrew at Magic Harbor. I remember the corkscrew coaster at the Pavilion Amusement Park. Was there one by the same name at Magic Harbor as well?

  15. As a lifelong resident of the MB area, I also have to question the original poster as to the veracity of his claims. I have never heard anything about the Magic Harbour property having been called “Haunted Harbour.”

    Bret Malone must not have thoroughly researched his article.

  16. Was this park named “Pirate Land” back in 1971?

  17. Hey is it just me or does the flyer for Magic Harbor look like there are some serious ass-slamming activities about to go down between the the two boys and the old man?

  18. Wow. What a walk back in time reading all these posts! My family lives in western NC and camped annually at Lakewood from around 1976 until I was in junior high around 1984.

    My female cousins and friends that I took along on our beach trips all loved Magic Harbor as well. As young girls I think we all fell in love with any number of cute high school guys working there each and every summer! The highlight of our trips would be to tan on the campground beach all day listening to Duran Duran and then spend our evenings walking around the park, the High Stepping Country shows blaring adn thumping in the background, taking in those endless summer evenings.

    The Corkscrew rollercoaster was front and left of center of the entrance at the park in the mid-late 1970s. You could see it easily from the highway. I imagine it’s the exact same coaster that was later relocated to the downtown Pavillion park where it was enjoyed for many, many years by millions of people. But its first home in Myrtle Beach was at Magic Harbor, unless I am mistaken and it’s not the same coaster…but I am pretty sure it was. Same color of teal blue and everything.

    I don’t remember the giant Ferris Wheel…it may have been there in the 60’s or early-mid 70s before I began visiting Myrtle Beach. I do, however, remember the swings ride, bumper cars and the Scrambler in that area of the park. The Corkscrew rollercoaster was long gone by then.

    The arcade was always happening! We always made sure we had pockets full of quarters because Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and Q-bert were ALL the rage! The indoor “ice” rink was located there as well, only, it’s wasn’t real ice. It was some kind of plastic and you couldn’t skate on it at all. It was funny to watch little kids try!

    I also remember that the Island Hopper chairlift skyride made its turn on a tiny island near the campground and it had goats below keeping the grass at a reasonable level. Not far from there across the way was the alligator swamp which provided tons of entertainment if you had a pack of Saltine crackers.

    To all the cute high-school aged guy MH employees that we teenaged girls swooned over: Ken at the log flume (looked like tv’s Peter Brady!) who was heading off to study at Clemson University, Andy at The Bucket drop, Sir Hugh at the pub, Bryan, Scott, Johnny, etc…you guys were truly charming! What fun memories I will always have from Magic Harbor, circa 1983+. I must have ridden the log flume over 100 times one summer! All the employees seemed to be friends with one another and enjoy their jobs.

    And I had forgotten how the park changed into The Lighthouse Christian amusement park…

    Thanks for the walk down memory lane. Indeed, tragic accidents may have happened there along the way but it sure provided hours of entertainment to many people. My condolences to those families.

  19. when i was a kid, i really enjoyed going up and down on water slides, it is a very enjoyable experience -`’

  20. Anybody else rememebr the skating rink you skated on wax (it think) with ice skates. I remember by mom and aunt doing this when I was little.

  21. Way before this place was Magic Harbor, it was Pirateland, just as the campground next door still is. In the early 70’s I worked there as a early teenager and my older brother was one of the “Pirates”. They’d use college guys as pirates and there’d be a couple street sword fights. There was a paddlewheel boat that went around a small lake and the pirates would attack it as well. The pirates used a small cannon to make a big boom at the paddlewheel boat, and during one such exhibition, the cannon blew up, sending my brother the pirate over a building. Later, as a late teen myself, I worked at the Western theme Christian rework of the park to run a shop and do the gunslinger show, where nightly I got gunned down by the sheriff, all in good Christian fun. Cool summer jobs in the 70’s…

  22. Summer of 1981 I was a performer in the High Steppin Country Show and Blayne Perry was in it with me and his dad Phillip was the boss. Would love to hear from you Blayne. Facebook Teresa Caffrey Taylor. “)

  23. I spent a lot of time there the summer of 1980. I doubt Blayne remembers me but my bff at the time was dating his brother, Tony. Tony ran the sound system and lights for High Steppin’ Country and we were there almost every night during my many trips to the beach that summer. I had the biggest crush on one of the other performers. I can’t remember his name but he sang “Timber I’m Falling” and “Anytime You’re Feeling Lonely”. I was a junior in high school and never got the courage to say more than “Hello” to him.

    It seemed to us that the people who worked at Magic Harbor and the cast of HSC were more like family than co-workers. My bff also worked at Magic Mountain Water Slide so our days were spent there. Not sure who the manager of the slide was at the time but she adored him and his family. She was a high school senior living on her own for the summer and he and his family treated her like another daughter. She also obviously knew the Perry’s well and they were always friendly and welcoming.

    Lots of great memories and good friendships formed that summer. I live in upstate SC but every time we visit MB and ride by what is now filled in with campsites, I can’t help but to think about that summer and smile. So glad I found this. It really takes me back.

  24. Bonnie Scharett, on July 9, 2011

    I worked at Magic Harbor from 1984 to 1988. Those were some of the best summers of my life. I made many friends and always felt part of a big familly that truly cared for one another. I’ve had many jobs since and none have ever treated its employees as well as we were all treated at Magic Harbor. I am doing some scrapbooks and don’t really have any good pictures of the park itself just my friends. If anyone has some would you please share them with us. Funny I’ve been to all the Disney World and Lands except Euro Disney. I have tons of pictures from one day at each one yet not enough of the place where I grew up and became the person I am today. I wish my daughter could have a place to work here in Myrtle Beach today that was atleast half as fun as Magic Harbor was. The real tradgedy is how much we have grown apart since then and seldom ever see each other as we are all probably looking forward to becoming or already grand parents. I do have one question who were the people suing for business reasons and not reasons related to any of the tragic deaths that occurred? Please email any pictures you would like to share to scharettbonnie@gmail.com. Hello to all the people who worked with me during those four wonderful summers.

  25. If anyone knows the history of Magic Harbor, it’s Blayne Perry. His family owned the park when it was successful. As far as I know, they still own and operate Lakewood Camping Resort. They were and are the “first family” of Myrtle Beach.

    The Perry family created the longest running live show in Myrtle Beach, High Steppin’ Country. Blyane got his start in the show and went on study and work in New York City.

    I performed in High Steppin’ Country in Gatlinburg, TN in 1987, the only year the show ran in both Myrtle Beach.

    I was 19 years old. The Perry family (Phil, Tony, Rhonda, Gail) treated us like gold. Tony was our production manager. Rhonda was a cast member for many years (including the days at Magic Harbor). Malory Graham was our director and choreographer. (Malory is a Grammy winner now.)

    Former cast members include Josh Turner (#1 country artist). Many performers and techs have gone on to work in Las Vegas, New York, television, film, and the recording industry.

    The Perrys always spoke fondly of their time as owners of Magic Harbor.

    The work of the Perry family has had a significant, positive impact on the economy of Myrtle Beach and countless young people.

    So, it’s highly unlikely that Blayne’s account is untrue. Who would know better than someone who has lived right next door to the property since birth? Blayne’s account is highly credible.

    Darin Spencer, CPA, MAcc, MBA (PhD. candidate)

  26. I’ve lived horry county all my life and haven’t heard of Haunted Harbor. The ride that. the bottom fell out of was similar to The Gravitron. I went many times but the best being when Santee Cooper rented the park out for employee families. I remember the last time I went and I think possibly the last time it was open. it was July 4th in the mid 90s. I think it had been closed for awhile and opened for a few days. there were a lot of state fair type rides that weren’t part of the original MH. There were some unscrupulous characters operating the rides that day but all the operators in years before were decent. they would happily let us ride over and over if possible. I’d love to be able to go again, it was a awesome place!

  27. As the person who wrote this, perhaps you should learn some manners and ACT like you’re from the South. You wrote a great little memory piece right up till the end there.

  28. Does anyone remember Pirateland? One person mentioned it.
    I’m not sure when it was started or when it ended, but it was thriving during the moon-launch summer of 1969. the buildings were built two-thirds scale to those in Charleston. It featured an Opera House, train, sternwheel boat, chairlift out to Skull Island and back on Buccaneer Bay where an alligator lived, as well as a puppet show, pirate fights, an aquatic show(I think), a pirate museum, and a then-new log-flume ride. I know because I worked there and am actually writing a novel about it. Any remembrances would be appreciated.
    Chris at: emai me at achristopher.mathews@gmail.com

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