Carl Eichelman, who accrued a park-record 4,400 rides on The Beast roller coaster at Kings Island from 1979-1985, passed away in September.
He was 77.
Carl was no ordinary tax man. A computer operator for the IRS in Covington, KY during his Beast-riding years, he enjoyed traveling to amusement and theme parks across the country to ride roller coasters in the 1970’s before he was drawn to The Beast and became the attraction’s most prolific rider.
When construction began on The Beast in the summer of 1978, websites and social media didn’t exist back then so the only way for the public to receive updates on the progress was through the news media. Carl became intrigued about what Kings Island was building when he saw aerial footage of the construction on a Dayton TV news station. He began contacting Kings Island asking for construction updates, initially every couple weeks and then multiple times a week. Ruth Voss, Kings Island’s public relations manager at the time, fielded most of Carl’s inquiries, eventually telling him, “I can’t tell you how many more nuts and bolts we added today.”
His interest in The Beast was noted by Ruth and other Kings Island officials, and he was extended an invitation to attend media day on April 13, 1979. He rode the coaster six times that day (all in the pouring rain) and couldn’t get enough. Soon he found himself riding The Beast daily, riding 530 times in 1979 and 1,230 times in 1980. By the time he reached 2,000 rides in 1981, he had become somewhat of a celebrity, doing literally hundreds of TV, newspaper, magazine and radio interviews from coast-to-coast about his unusual hobby riding the same roller coaster over and over. His excitement and passion for The Beast was genuine and came shining through in every interview he did and with everyone he spoke to about the ride.
While The Beast garnered international attention when it debuted in 1979 as the tallest, fastest and longest wooden roller coaster in the world (it still stands today as the world’s longest wooden roller coaster at 7,359 feet), Carl’s exploits helped keep the ride in the spotlight with the news of his milestone rides (1,000, 2,000, 3,000, 4,000) traveling as far away as China, Germany, Japan and Russia.
The Beast was different than other roller coasters, and that’s what made it so much fun for Carl to ride. There wasn’t anything else like it. He loved the mystic of The Beast, hidden from view out in the woods where the only way to know what you were getting into was to experience it.
The search for the ultimate roller coaster is something enthusiasts have always been in pursuit of. What’s the next tallest one they can conquer? What’s the fastest? For Carl, the ultimate roller coaster didn’t exist. He believed when you found a roller coaster you really enjoyed, that was your ultimate roller coaster. For Carl, that was The Beast.