Haunted Road Trip: Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, Princeton, West Virginia

Lake Shawnee

Previously: TGIMM Special Edition: Clinton Road.

The theme of a modern construction being built atop a “Native American burial ground” and subsequently experiencing strange phenomena is a common theme in the lore surrounding supposedly haunted places — but in the case of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in Princeton, West Virginia, it’s actually true. Or at least, it’s a little truer than it usually is, even if it’s not 100 percent cut-and-dry. What’s more, this early history would prove to be just the beginning of a long line of tragic events taking place on the property.

Located in what’s now known as Mercer County, the land on which the amusement park stands was once home to a Native American tribe; as was wont to happen after European colonists began making their way across the Atlantic, though, it wouldn’t remain theirs for long. In 1775, Mitchell Clay, a farmer, attempted to settle the area — but in 1783 while he was out hunting, a band of understandably irate Native Americans did something perhaps a little less understandable: They killed Clay’s youngest son, Bartley, and his daughter, Tabitha; they also kidnapped the eldest son of the family, Ezekial, and burned him at the stake. Proverbially (and probably literally) mad with grief, Clay buried his children and gathered up a handful of other nearby settlers. Seeking vengeance, they then hunted down the Native American tribe and murdered as many as they could. What’s more, an archaeological dig later discovered that the ground in the area held not just the bodies of Bartley and Tabitha, but also those of 12 other people. We don’t know who they are; all we know is that most of them were children.

Lake Shawnee swingsThe area’s history, however, remained largely unknown for a substantial period of time. It was during this time, in 1926, that C.T. Snidow purchased the land, building an opening and amusement park on it he dubbed the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. Featuring a swimming pond, a dance hall, Wild West shows, carnival rides, and more, it became a popular place for locals to get away from it all and have a little fun — until the deaths of two children shut the park down for good. In the 1950s, a little girl met her unfortunate end on the swing ride; a truck parked too near to the ride, causing her swing to slam into it, killing her on impact. Around the same time, a little boy drowned in the pond after getting his arm stuck in the drain. It’s worth noting that local law enforcement personnel couldn’t verify these stories, so they may be nothing more than myth… but try telling that to the people who have seen them.

The park has been closed since 1966, its skeletal remains left in place and rusting away as the years went by. In 1985, Gaylord White purchased Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, intending to subdivide the land and resell it as residential lots; he quickly abandoned the idea, however, upon discovering numerous Native American artifacts… and having a few run-ins with the area’s ghosts.

Lake Shawnee ferrisThe little girl, you see, is often spotted by the remains of the swing ride, wearing a pink frilly dress. Sometimes, she is happy, smiling, enjoying her day at the park; other times, however, she is angry — and bloody. Even if you can’t see her, though, you might feel her; a cold spot hovering around the swings occasionally indicates her presence. There are other ghosts, too: A man occupying a seat at the nine o’clock position on the motionless Ferris wheel; the disembodied voices of children echoing around the pond; and more. They might just be stories to most of us… but to the ones who have seen them, they are very, very real.

Occasionally the park is open for tours; during the Halloween season this year, it played host to a “Dark Carnival” event, showing off the spooky property and sharing its mysterious past. But one thing’s for sure: A trip to Lake Shawnee will never be “just a fun day at the fair.”

Lake Shawnee pond

Recommended reading:

Abandoned West Virginia Amusement Park Has a Bloody History.

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.

Lake Shawnee, Princeton Area.

[Photos 1, 2, 3, 4]

2 thoughts on “Haunted Road Trip: Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, Princeton, West Virginia

  1. yo. if you look closely at that swingset.. about the second swing on the left side, in the photo, there seems to be a figure standing there in the background. any answeres for that?

    1. Hmmmm… interesting. I usually assume in cases like this that my eye is organizing random noise into a recognizable pattern (our brains like to do that — make order out of chaos), but I suppose anything is possible.

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