Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is a defunct amusement park that closed in the ‘60s located in Princeton, West Virginia—not to be confused with Princeton, New Jersey where you’ll find Princeton University (or the much lesser-known Princeton, BC). The park is not surprisingly located alongside Lake Shawnee and is currently privately owned.
What makes it so interesting to us here at the #DickSquad is the fact that PRIOR to becoming an amusement park in the 1920s, the land was the site of a brutal “Indian massacre” along with also being built on an “Indian burial ground” and the place where three children were brutally murdered. Then, after opening as an amusement park, the land saw the deaths of six of the amusement park’s little guests.
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Join The Lady Dicks as they dick-tect the history, mysteries and ghost stories at Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. You can listen to this episode on your favourite podcast player or you can stream it below:
Visiting Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
While Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is obvi no longer in operation—you know, considering the deaths and what not) you can still visit it today—or, more accurately, when COVID-19 is no longer ravishing the Earth.
According to West Virginia Tourism, the owners give tours of the land Monday through Saturday from 2 PM to 5 PM. You need to book an appointment in advance to participate in a tour, which you can do by giving them a call (you can find the phone number on TheLadyDicks.com on the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park post). These tours cost a measly $30 per person, and they do have large group rates so definitely ask about them. And, they totally allow photographs. You can also book a tour then tour the ground yourself. AND if you want, you can stay over night.
However, if you happen to be in-and-around the Princeton area around Halloween you’re in luck because they have a special Halloween event there yearly. The Dark Carnival attraction ran last year on Fridays and Saturdays in October. It also looks like Dark Carnival has ghost hunt events.
Ready to book your flight to West Virginia?
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park’s history starts back in the 1700s when Mitchell Clay the Patriarch of the European family the Clays moved to the land to settle his young family. Clay, along with (we assume) his wife and their 14 children settled on the land that today houses the abandoned amusement park and set up an 800-acre farm.
But local Native American tribes in the area were allegedly unhappy with the Clay family moving in, and tragedy struck the family in 1783. While Mitchell was off enjoying a hunt, a band of Native Americans came onto the property and killed his youngest son Bartley Clay. During the struggle, Clay’s daughter Tabitha was also “knifed to death.” The group then kidnapped eldest son Ezekiel only to burn him at the stake later.
Upon Clay’s return he buried his children before promptly rounding up the boys in the area and setting out for revenge. With the help of Clay’s band of “white settlers” he manged to murder several of the men who had killed his children. But while vengeance had been sought, legend has it that the property was never the same again.
The Opening of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
In the 1920s the former Clay homestead attracted the eye of local area businessman Conley T. Snidow. He decided that developing the land into an amusement park was an opportunity that he simply couldn’t pass up.
Snidow installed a circular swing set and ferris wheel in the park. He then built a dance hall, set up a pool and waterslide, and set up canoes in one of the ponds. And voila! Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was complete. According to DoYouRember.com, in its hey-day, “a person could even pay 10 cents to rent a bathing suit if he decided to take a swim.”
The Park opened its doors sometime in the 1920s. There are little known facts about what exactly happened in the park, but it wasn’t open long before mishaps started. In all, it’s said that the park was responsible for a whopping six deaths. While we could only find out information on two of them:
In one incident, a little girl in a pink dress was killed while riding the circular swings. The swings were circling around when a truck backed into its path. The second known death saw a little boy die. According to one of the land’s keepers featured in the video “Alone at the Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park with Jason Lanier” the boys parents had dropped him off at the park to swim. But no one that was swimming that day knew him, so he was essentially swimming alone. He ended up getting his leg stuck in the water return pipe and drowned. What makes this story worse is that apparently no one noticed him in the pond for THREE FUCKING DAYS… I also found a different variation of this story in an article on The Lineup that read “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.”
In 1966, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was finally closed down. While it’s not confirmed if it was the deaths of the Park’s young patrons or something else that caused the park to close like the fact that there were significantly less coal miners living in the area as the mines were being shut down and the workers laid off, the park was shut down and all of the equipment simply abandoned, left to rot.
The park was briefly re-opened in 1985, when Gaylord White bought the land. He hoped to restore the park to its former glory, but it was short-lived lasting only three years. It’s said that part of the reason why the park closed the second time was because of paranormal experiences…
Ghosts of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
What’s left of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is terribly creepy, even without adding in any ghost stories. The structures that still stand are overrun with plant life and stand rusted, still making noises in the wind and looking creepy as hell. Not only that but right in the park you can find a headstone that was placed on the property in 1937, which we believe is in recognition of the Clay children that were murdered by the Native American group. In fact, it’s believed that Tabitha and Bartley are still buried on the property.
Sometime in the 90s the “Indian burial grounds” that are mentioned in almost every article written about the park were unearthed. The owners at the time were digging a “mud bog” (which, for those of us that don’t know is basically a pit of mud for ATVs and other off-roading vehicles to drive through) when they came across artifacts that included arrows and bows. They must have called the local university because Dr. Jones from Marshall University came out and unearthed several full Native American skeletons. They suspect that there might be as many as 3,000 people buried on the property. It’s actually important to note that it’s often being touted as being on top of not one but TWO Native American burial grounds, but we didn’t find anything else about the second one.
The site today is frequented by paranormal investigators, and it sounds like the owners are pretty open to it—just make sure you call first! As far as paranormal experiences in the park, there are a few:
In the video “Alone at the Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park with Jason Lanier” the park owners show Lanier a photo (that you can see) of an apparition in the ticket booth. They’re quick to point out that this photo was taken “before Photoshop” to confirm its authenticity. Though, we should point out that Photoshop isn’t exactly the be-all-end-all of image altering and there were definitely ways to alter photos before it was released.
A previous owner was said to have been cutting the lawn with a tractor sometime in the late ‘80s and kept seeing a “little girl.” One time he turned around to find her “sitting on his shoulder.” She allegedly told him to stop the tractor, so he did. The tractor hasn’t been moved since. Apparently they went to move the tractor once but noticed it was “leaking out of the line” which they suspect was why she told him to stop.
The current owners say they see a fog or mist around the lake. They also share that they often capture things in photos, along with feeling like something is behind them when around the headstone.
While filming ABC’s Scariest Places on Earth in 2005, apparently the crew and a psychic refused to go on the grounds at night because “the spiritual energy was too strong.” The group also said they heard “drums and chanting of the natives who once roamed this area years ago.”
And in 2013, the owner Gaylord White said he often hears the wooden swings creek. 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 more. We believe that’s her spirit.” His son, Gaylord White II says he’s even seen the little girl with her dress covered in blood.
The Lady Dicks did not just magically come up with the information for Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park themselves, they, in fact, did research beyond Wikipedia (thanks jerky iTunes reviewer for your one-star comment), and here are those sources:
- Alone at the Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park with Jason Lanier, Jason Lanier.
- Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park, wvlakeshawnee.com.
- Lake Shawnee Facebook Page.
- Abandoned West Virginia amusement park has a bloody history, NY Daily News.
- A Brief History of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, Culture Trip.
- Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park daytime tours, West Virginia Tourism.
- Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park, Visit Mercer County.
- The Bloody History of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, The Lineup.
- An Abandoned And Cursed Amusement Park: Would You Spend the Night Here?, Do You Remember.
The Lady Dicks Podcast was created by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks are Andrea Campion, Nikki Kipping and Tae Haahr. “Haunted Lake Shawnee Amusement Park” was research, written, edited and produced by Tae Haahr. The Lady Dicks theme music, A Pink Panther, is licenced through AudioJungle.
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