The Shady History Of The Cursed Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

In April 1774, American Family History reports Mitchell Clay, who was a veteran of the French and Indian War, applied for and was granted an 800-acre tract of land along Lake Shawnee in what would become Mercer County in the state of West Virginia. As reported by The Culture Trip, Clay, his wife Phoebe, and their children became the first non-native family to settle in the area.

Over the next decade, the family built a house and a working farm on their land –- which had become their new home. However, tensions between the Clays and local Native American tribes, who previously occupied the land, never ceased. Although the specific details are unclear, Mitchell and his family abandoned the land in 1783, after they were ambushed by members of a local Native American tribe and two or three of Clay's children were brutally killed.

Bug Dust reports one of the more popular theories is that two of Clay's children were scalped and ultimately killed by 11 members of the Shawnee tribe while they were working on a fence. A third son, Ezekial, was reportedly kidnapped. Clay and several others went after the Native Americans and killed at least four members of the tribe. In retaliation, Ezekial was later burned at the stake. 

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park opened in 1926

One hundred forty-three years after Mitchell Clay and his surviving family members fled the land, it was purchased by a man named Conley Snidow, Sr. As reported by Road Unraveled, the region had become a popular destination for coal miners and their families, who spent their summers vacationing along the banks of Lake Shawnee. Snidow thought an amusement park would appeal to the families, and possibly encourage more people to travel to the region.

In 1926, Snidow opened the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. In addition to a Ferris wheel and a swing ride, the park boasted a dance hall, a man-made swimming pond, a race track, and cabins — which the families could rent for the duration of their stay.

According to The Register Herald, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park remained a prominent tourist destination for 40 years. However, a series of tragedies eventually prompted the closure of the popular park.

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park closed in 1966

As reported by The Register-Herald, at least two drownings were reported at Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. One boy drowned in the park's swimming pond and one drowned in Lake Shawnee –- which was not open for swimming. However, it was the death of a young girl on one of the park's most popular rides that ultimately led to the park's closure.

In the summer of 1966, a girl was on the swing ride when a truck, which was delivering drinks, inadvertently backed into the path of the moving swings. The child was killed on impact. The Register-Herald reports Lake Shawnee Amusement Park closed shortly thereafter.

In the late 1970s, the property was purchased by Gaylord White, who had plans to revive the abandoned amusement park. Although all of the rides had been sold, some of the original structures remained on the property and White hoped his new park would be even better than the original.

The remains of numerous children were found buried under the abandoned park

In addition to purchasing a new Ferris wheel, The Register-Herald reports White found the original swing ride in New Jersey and had it brought to the park for restoration. To appeal to a wider variety of guests, White added bumper boats, paddle boats, and a stage to host live entertainment. Although the park became a popular destination for families, the increasing cost of insurance eventually forced White to close the park.

Despite the closure of the amusement park, White continued to host fishing tournaments and similar activities on the property. He also planned to build a mud bog for off-road motorsports. However, as the construction crew began digging, they made a disturbing discovery.

According to the West Virginia Antiquities Commission, the abandoned amusement park was situated on top of what was determined to be a Shawnee campsite. In addition to arrowheads, pottery, and other artifacts, The Register-Herald reports the remains of numerous children were found at the site.

The site was determined to be an old Native American burial ground

According to The Register Herald, a team from Marshall University conducted a dig at the site and determined as many as 3,000 Native Americans were buried at the site -– a majority of whom were confirmed to be children. Gaylord White said the experts think the rest of the tribe was inflicted by a virus and left the region. They believe they left the children behind to prevent them from being infected.

Although they were unable to disturb the burial site, the White family retained possession of the property. In the 1990s, they started offering tours and campfire story time during the Halloween season. As the property had been the site of several tragedies, it was rumored to be haunted –- which only increased interest in the tours. The remaining rides and attractions, which are in clear disrepair, only add to the spooky ambiance. The Register-Herald reports the site has also been used as a filming location by ABC Family, the Discovery Channel, National Geographic, and the Travel Channel.

The abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is allegedly haunted

Gaylord White II has not denied rumors that the abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is haunted. On the contrary, he said he has experienced his own share of unexplained phenomena at the park.

As reported by Daily News, White said he has often heard the wooden seats on the swing ride moving, although it had been closed for decades. He said, "Sometimes the seat will start to move underneath your hand until you feel cold air blowing through the seat ... And when you get to the middle you feel something warm."

Referring to the girl who was killed on the ride in 1966, he said, " ... we believe that's her spirit." White said he has also seen the child's ghost, which appeared to him as a young girl wearing a dress that is covered in blood. According to WV Lake Shawnee, the "Dark Carnival" continues to offer tours of the supposedly haunted park every year during the month of October.