Righting America

A forum for scholarly conversation about Christianity, culture, and politics in the US
Ken Ham the Huckster | Righting America

by William Trollinger

A religious temple with a gold-plated façade, four immensely tall Corinthian columns, and a grand staircase leading to its entrance.
Screenshot from Ken Ham’s Facebook page requesting donations for Ark Encounter and Creation Museum Building projects.

Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis (AiG) are busy promoting the idea that the “Ark Encounter and Creation Museum Are Groaning” under the weight of “record crowds” flooding into these tourist sites, sites that are devoted to making the case that the universe was created in six 24-hour days 6000 years ago and to celebrating the watery slaughter of up to (according to AiG) twenty billion human beings.

Record crowds? As is often the case with Ham, the facts just don’t add up.

Regarding Ark Encounter, every month the intrepid Dan Phelps (president and founder of the Kentucky Paleontological Society) requests the “safety assessment form” – the total amount raised that month from the 50 cent “safety fee” added to each Ark Encounter ticket —  from the city of Williamstown. What this means is that we don’t have to rely on the unreliable Ken Ham. We can check Ham’s claim of record crowds at the Ark against actual numbers. 

And here’s what we see when it comes to Ark attendance (and note that we don’t have the numbers for 2016, which is the year the Ark opened): 

  • Summer 2017  248,787           (note: these numbers are for July/August)
  • Summer 2018  347,929
  • Summer 2019  388,704
  • Summer 2020  144,628           (note: COVID impact)
  • Summer 2021 328,465
  • AG 2017           106,161
  • AG 2018           98,106
  • AG 2019           104,350
  • AG 2020          46,452             (note: COVID impact)
  • AG 2021           83,826

One does not have to look very hard to see that, whatever the AiG fog machine might be spewing, Ark Encounter is not experiencing record crowds. In fact, this past August saw the lowest attendance in the Ark’s history (save for the COVID year).

But I can assure you that these numbers – these facts – will not stop Ken Ham from telling untruths. This is what he does. For example, in a successful effort to convince Williamstown to issue $62m of junk bonds to get the Ark project started – a nice deal made even nicer by stipulating that 75% of what the Ark would have paid in property taxes would instead go to paying off the loan – Ham and company promised attendance numbers that Ark Encounter has never, ever come close to reaching. 

With each passing year the projected numbers become even more ludicrous, given that the AiG promoters assured the town leaders that the Ark would enjoy a 7% annual attendance increase for the first decade of the big boat’s existence. 

Ham and AiG apparently do not mind in the least that they have not come anywhere near the attendance they promised Williamstown. They certainly have never lamented this shortcoming. But why would they? They had their $62m worth of bonds, and they have and will have their very substantial tax forgiveness. That is, they have their money.

So they have moved on. With their stories of “record crowds” bursting the Ark Encounter and Creation Museum, they are now seeking – as the attached image indicates – to secure $17 million in donations to expand both sites.

Ken Ham. Ever the huckster.