An Abandoned And Cursed Amusement Park: Would You Spend the Night Here?


Abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park-The Flying Swings. Source:

If you’re possibly planning a trip to West Virginia this year, and decide you’re in the mood for the thrills found at an amusement park; check out an amusement park with somewhat eerie thrills. You may never forget-the spine-chilling visit to the cursed Shawnee Lake located in the Appalachian hills of West Virginia.

I’m not sure why a businessman in the 1920’s decided to build an amusement park on land that was once the site of an 18th-century massacre. Three children were murdered here years before? But, in 1926, this plot of land was about to become a place of ultimate pleasure, or so the new owner had thought. Instead, after 40 years of operation, it was decided the site of the Shawnee Lake Amusement Park just might be cursed and haunted.


Not only was the amusement park placed on the Shawnee grounds where a Native American tribe brutally murdered the children of a white European settler’s family in 1783; years later an Indian burial ground was discovered in the same area. During those first homesteading days on American soil, the Native Americans didn’t take too kindly to others moving onto their land. Such was the case when Mitchell Clay selected this land to settle in. Ond Day while he was out hunting, a band of Native Americans killed three of his children. This act resulted In a battle between the native band of assassins and a group of settlers, who were led by Mitchell, in a bloody battle.

First Blood pilgrims massacre 631, Smithsonian Magazine (illustration picture-not the actual battle fought at Lake Shawnee.)

If you don’t believe in negative vibes, I guess the lake would make the perfect spot for a lovely park, considering its beautiful Appalachian mountain location, and proximity to Princeton- a town also known as “The Jewel of the South.”


So it came to past, in the 1920’s, businessman Conley T. Snidow purchased the land where the Clay family had once settled, to develop his amusement park.

During its heyday in the 1950s, Lake Shawnee amusement park featured a dance hall, paddle boats for lake enjoyment, and a concrete swimming pool/pond that had been dug out from the lake. A person could even pay 10 cents to rent a bathing suit if he decided to take a swim.

The abandoned Lake Shawnee Ferris wheel. Source: The Constant Rambler

Unfortunately, there were two tragic Shawnee Lake Amusement Park fatalities. One incident involved a little girl killed when a truck backed up and hit the flying swings while they were in motion. In another unfortunate accident, an 11-year-old boy drowned in the amusement park’s swimming pool. It was reported, that the park rides were responsible for six deaths. As a result, Shawnee Amusement Park closed in 1966.

Vintage photo of a paddle boat at Lake Shawnee, W.V. Source: The Constant Rambler

The abandoned park fell victim to rot and despair. Therefore, the lush green forest reclaimed the land once again..

Shawnee Lake Wood Flying swing chair. Source: West Virginia Public Broadcasting

It’s believed, that Mitchell Clay’s two children, Tabitha and Bartley, are still buried at Lake Shawnee, and a grave marker was set on their gravesites in 1937. (The third Clay child was captured and brought to another location, and then burned at the stake.)

Gravestone marker for the two Clay children killed at Lake Shawnee in 1783. Source: Only in my State

In 1985, the site of the old amusement park was purchased by Gaylord White, and he reopened it for a short time (Due to substantial improvement costs, Gaylord White decided to close the park again after three years.)


Human Remains Found

One day Gaylord and his son, Chris were working to revitalize the property and they began to bulldoze around the lake. This task came to a halt when they realized they were turning up what appeared to be Native American artifacts, which included a large number of arrowheads. Upon this discovery, they decided to contact a local college professor who became interested in excavating the lake site. An archaeological dig followed, and they unearthed the bodies of several Native Americans along with additional artifacts. It’s believed the number of dead bodies buried here could be upwards of 3,000! (I think I might agree why the grounds might be cursed, or haunted.)

All that remains of the amusement park today are a couple of old dilapidated amusement park rides and some rotted wood small structures. When walking among the overgrown brush, it’s hard to imagine that this was once a prime summertime retreat for thousands of local coal miners and their families.

Native American artifacts found at Lake Shawnee W.V. Source: The Resister-HeraldToday,

Chris White is the current owner and has stated that he and his father, Gaylord have experienced strange and unexplainable sights, sounds, and creepy feelings at the lake.

In 2005, while filming ABC’s TV network show Scariest Places on Earth, the entire crew, and a psychic, refused to enter the grounds at night because they felt the spiritual energy was too strong. They also claimed to have heard the drums and chanting of the natives who once roamed this area years ago. The Shawnee Lake abandoned park has been featured on the Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Lab,” the Travel Channel’s, “The Most Terrifying Places in America.” and the National Geographic TV series “The Watch.”

Old concession stand at Lake Shawnee W.V. Source:


According to visiting ghost hunters, the apparition of a little girl still roams the woods at night in her bloodied white dress. Furthermore, In recent years paranormal activity was reported in the form of mysterious orbs showing up in photos, and Native American chants heard at the site.

Chris talked about an eerie experience his father Gaylord had at the lake: When his father would use his riding mower on the grounds around the lake, he’d always feel something like a weight on his shoulders. One day he decided to turn around, and he saw a little girl riding with him, just like it was nothing at all. He didn’t know what to do, as he was shocked! He turned to the little girl and said, ‘Sweetie, if you like this tractor so much I’m going to give it to you.” He got up and left the tractor sitting right where he stopped it. The tractor mower hasn’t been removed from this location since.”

Current Lake Shawnee owner, Chris White. Source: Visit Southern West Virginia

Currently,  an annual event called the “Dark Carnival”  takes place the week of Halloween. The park is also open for special events during the year (with permission from the owner,) Per requests; weddings are held among the eerie amusement park rides at the lake!

Wedding at Lake Shawnee W.V abandoned amusement park. Source: BDTonline

Are you brave enough to stay the night at the Lake, or take a walk to the Native American burial grounds? Is so, don’t forget to bring your flashlights, camera, and paranormal equipment on one of their self-guided tours. Gather around the campfires and listen to noted haunted stories from Lake Shawnee’s past.

The Dark Carnival event at Lake Shawnee. W.V. Source:

Thought for the day:

“Nobody believes in ghosts, but everybody is afraid of them…” -Helen McCloy

For more stories from Contributing Writer, Patty Penke, and to find out if you have any vintage items worth a substantial amount of money, check out her blog: Turn Trash 2 Cash

What do you think?


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