The Ghost Car of Waldkirch
Broken glass of the shattered shop window sparkles in the moonlight. Family Börschig comes running out of their butcher’s shop onto the street and they are furious.
‘It has struck again’, whispers a neighbour who stretches her head out of the window. ‘It’s back.’
In the distance an engine howls, the children hide behind their father.
Then it gets quiet.
It was called many different names since the end of the 1950s as it was causing trouble in Waldkirch and the surrounding areas. It was called ‘the bowl from hell’, ‘devil box’ or ‘ghost car’. But what lies behind these legendary names? In order to understand what one of the greatest myths of recent Black Forest history is all about, we need to travel back in time.
It all began on a sunny day in the autumn of 1957. More specifically, on the 12th of October. On his eighth birthday, today’s ACE honorary member Roland Mack received a very special gift: a discarded, small petrol driven car that came from one of the first ‘bumper cars’ built by Mack at the time and which are now known the predecessor of the popular go-carts. For weeks, his father Franz Mack had revamped the discarded vehicle. He even had a more powerful engine built in to give his race-loving son a special treat.
The gift achieved its effect: Young Roland and his car were inseparable. Every day he went as far as the fuel allowed and he developed a big dream: he wanted to become a racing driver.
So far so go. But about what happened next, opinions beg to differ. Different stories were spread by residents of Waldkirch over the decades which led legendary researcher Fritz Erchinger to reconstruct the most probable course of events on behalf of the Adventure Club of Europe in an elaborate piece of work:
One night, the Mack family was sleeping soundly, young Roland was woken up by a motor noise. Unusual for the area in the late 50s. He went to the window and looked wide-eyed as his petrol driven car shot out of the garden shed and disappeared into the darkness.
Believing in a theft, Roland searched the area with a flashlight, but was unable to find his car. Disappointed and exhausted, he went back to bed, only to find the car in the garden shed the next morning. What happened? Did someone secretly kidnap the car? Or maybe he had just dreamed everything?
Over the following weeks horror stories spread about an alleged car, which was causing trouble in and around Waldkirch at night time. The most widely used term ‘ghost car’ was attributed above all to reports of eyewitnesses, who firmly stated that the car had driven through the streets without a driver.
‘My grandma said it was like a werewolf‘, wrote local author Willi Thoma once explaining the phenomenon. ‘It only came out in moonlight. It had its own will. Once when I was unable to sleep saw it in front of our house. And I swear, it drove on its own.’
Others blamed the witch Gfällrote for the mischief says the legend researcher Erichinger. Gfällrote was causing trouble around the Kandel area according to another Black Forest legend. ‘The car was spelled by the Gfällrote, my uncle used to say’, said former shoemaker Hans Streich, according to research in a radio report in the 90s once with a laugh.
Roland Mack himself is not commenting on the legend of his former vehicle.
‘I can’t remember what happened exactly’, he said with a wink when asked about the legend at an event of the Adventure Club of Europe in the summer of 2017.
But in an interview with Mr. Mack from the 70’s which he had given shortly after the opening of Europa-Park, Erchinger finally found some interesting insights. In it, the 30-year-old Roland described how he finally found out about the secret of the ghost car.
After watching his car vanishing night after night without a driver young Roland encountered similar experiences in an old family biography that Paul Mack had reported around the year 1800. The founder of the company, which is now called ‘Mack Rides’, observed at that time how a mechanical carousel he built in his spare time turned at night by itself.
After a long research Roland Mack finally found out that his father Franz had used old components of the family company for the restoration of the gasoline car. Underneath a coil, which according to legend should come from the first carousel of the family.
Roland Mack began fiddling with the car, which, as he described later, first sparked his interest in engineering. But before he managed to find the coil, it got dark. With young Roland in the driver’s seat, the car came to life as if by magic and raced through Waldkirch. It headed for the bakery window and an impact seemed inevitable. But at the last moment, the 8-year-old Roland managed to tame the car. He removed the coil and regained control of the car.
From one day to the other ended so the ghost of the ghost car of Waldkirch, which is still unforgotten today.
After the Mack family moved, the car stayed n the old factory below the Kastelburg for a while. Over the decades, it was forgotten until it finally disappeared from the scene. But Roland Mack had much to thank his vehicle for. His interest in mechanical engineering was symbolically linked to his passion for fast-paced rides, which ultimately resulted in the construction of countless thrilling roller coasters.
It was not until 2019 that another surprising change in the history of the Ghost Car of Waldkirch came about. It was rediscovered by Roland’s eldest son Michael Mack at the Musée des Arts Forains.
On the occasion of his 70th birthday, the reunification between Roland Mack and the legendary vehicle from his childhood finally took place.
Today, the Adventure Club of Europe is proud to announce that Roland Mack has provided ACE with the historic petrol driven car as an exhibit.
And when asked if he still had the old coil of Paul Mack, Roland replied with a wink when handing over the car:
‘Let’s wait and see what happens after nightfall, maybe we can here an unusual engine howl in Rust when the moon is out – then we know the spook continues.’