The Bloody History of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

When the park opened in the 1920s, its owner knew nothing of its bloody past.

By Steven Casale
The Bloody History of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

The Ferris wheel has rusted over and the chair swing ride no longer spins. Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in West Virginia has been eerily abandoned for decades.

Many amusement parks come and go, but the tale of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park runs a bit deeper—and a bit darker. In the 18th century, the land was home to the Clay family, who were early settlers in the region. In the 1920s, it was purchased by a man named Conley T. Snidow, who turned it into an amusement park, which became a popular attraction for coal mining families in the area.

Lake Shawnee ferris wheel

Photo: Forsaken Fotos / Flickr (CC)

What Snidow didn’t know is that his park had been built on a Native American burial ground. It was also the site of the massacre of the Clay family children.

The amusement park drew crowds, and the sound of children’s laughter filled the air every summer, until a very mysterious death occurred. A mother left her son at the park in the morning and planned to return later on to pick him up. However, when she returned, he was nowhere to be found. After a search of the grounds, his body was found floating in the swimming pool, drowned.

The pool was quickly and quietly filled up with sand. No one spoke of the death. But another one would soon transpire.

While on the swing ride, a young girl died when a delivery truck backed up into the contraption.

Unable to shake its growing reputation, the park eventually closed in 1966. The rides sat, deserted. Slowly they were enveloped in vines, and untamed grasses grew wild. Time forgot Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.

Lake Shawnee swing ride

Photo: Forsaken Fotos / Flickr (CC)

Then in 1985, a man named Gaylord White bought the land. He decided to reopen the park and return it to its glory days. It only lasted three years though, as it became quite apparent that the energy in the area was nothing short of paranormal.

White reported sightings of the young girl who died on the swing ride. She’d walk the grounds in a ruffled pink dress, covered in blood. He also claimed to have heard the sounds of Native American chants echoing through the trees.

The search for the land’s secret history ensued. It was eventually discovered that it was the site of a large Native American settlement and burial ground that thrived far before European settlers. As many as 3,000 Native Americans are thought to have been buried under the park.

Here, the storyline led back to Mitchell Clay and his family, who arrived in 1775 to set up their farm. In 1783, while Clay and some other men when were out hunting, his children were ambushed by Native Americans.

His son Bartley was killed and scalped, and his daughter Tabitha was also killed as she attempted to save her brother’s life. And, lastly, his son Ezekiel was kidnapped. A search party was sent out for the missing boy, but by the time his whereabouts were discovered, it was too late. The Native Americans had taken him deeper in the forest and burned him at the stake. Clay sought revenge on the Native Americans who had killed his children, and murdered several of them.

Lake Shawnee shed

Photo: Forsaken Fotos / Flickr (CC)

Such was the blood-stained plot of land upon which Snidow opened his theme park in the early 20s. What began as a thriving Native American settlement turned into a place of murder and death, haunted by vengeful spirits.

For now, at least, the ride has ended at Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.

[via NY Daily News; Visit WV]

Feature Photo: Forsaken Fotos / Flickr [CC]