The 13th Floor

Is West Virginia’s Shawnee Lake Amusement Park Cursed?

If you learn anything from a lifetime of watching horror movies, the most important rule is to never, ever build atop a Native American burial ground. The people of Mercer County in West Virginia learned that the hard way.

A bloody fight over land that once belonged to the Shawnee tribe, followed by an amusement park that resulted in the deaths of six children, and an archaeological dig that revealed thousands of bodies should be enough proof that the land of Lake Shawnee is cursed.

Present-day Mercer County was home to the Shawnee tribe until 1783, when a European farming family, the Clays, decided to settle the land. It was August, and father Mitchell went hunting, leaving his sons Bartley and Ezekial to build pens for the grain and several of his daughters to do laundry at the river. A group of eleven Shawnee Native Americans crept onto the land and shot Bartley dead. The girls heard the shot and attempted to run home, but their path was blocked by Bartley’s corpse, who was being scalped. Tabitha, the eldest daughter, got into a struggle with the Shawnee and was stabbed to death.

The Shawnee took the scalps of Tabitha and Bartley, and took Ezekial prisoner. Mrs. Clay took her small children and left the cabin, taking refuge with her neighbor, six miles away. When Mitchell returned home, he found nothing but blood and death. He left and gathered a party of men who pursued the Shawnee tribe. Several of the tribe were killed, but not before Ezekial was burned at the stake.

Over 100 years passed without any (documented) incidents. Then in the 1920s, businessman Conley Snidow purchased the property and turned it into an amusement park. It was quite popular for a number of years. But one day, a mother dropped her son off to play at the park. When she came back hours later, her son was nowhere to be found. A search of the property lead to a dark discovery: the little boy had drowned in the swimming hole. The swimming hole was quickly and quietly filled with sand. In another incident, a little girl in a pink ruffled dress was taking a turn on the swing ride, when a delivery truck crashed into the ride, killing her.

It has been said that at least six children died at that amusement park, but I haven’t been able to find any info on the other four. The damage was done, though, and the park closed in 1966.

In 1985, Gaylord White decided to give the amusement park another try, and he reopened the park. It only remained open for three years before it was shuttered, this time for good. After the park closed for a second time, it was decided that the land would be developed for real estate.

Developers discovered skeletons, and an archaeological dig took place. More skeletons were found, as well as Native American artifacts. Those who surveyed the area suggested that there may be hundreds of corpses buried beneath the dirt, and determined it was once a Native American burial site. The digging stopped, and the land was left alone.


To this day, ghosts and spooky incidents are connected to Lake Shawnee: Many people report seeing a girl in a pink ruffled dress on the swing ride. Others claim to see children riding the Ferris wheel. Chains rattle and boards creak, despite the air being still. Lake Shawnee has been popular with paranormal investigators, and has appeared on shows like Travel Channel’s MOST TERRIFYING PLACES IN THE WORLD. One of the crew members of Discovery Channel’s GHOSTLAB claimed to have been trapped in an abandoned ticket booth, despite there being no locks on the doors.


Between the bloody history of the site and the rusted-out equipment, overtaken by weeds and vines, it is no surprise that the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park has become a creepy tourist trap. Haunted tours are given regularly — check out their Facebook page for more info.