Home News The Haunting History Of A Former West Virginia Amusement Park

The Haunting History Of A Former West Virginia Amusement Park

by jvcc

Long ago, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was a sparkling gem for the town of Princeton, West Virginia. Upon its first open in 1926, the park was filled to its brim with the children of the many local coal mining families. From its iconic Ferris wheel and swinging carousel attractions, the park saw additional fortune with the development of a race track, dance hall, and cheap cabins for overnight stays.

For a long 40 years, the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park continued its successes until the park’s closure in 1976 due to a failing health grade. But that’s not to say the park was not without its disturbances throughout its lifetime.

During its four-decade run, the park would become involved with the death of six individuals. One little girl perished when a pickup truck backed into her as she sat strapped into the seat of the swinging carousel ride. Another young boy had sadly drowned in the park’s swimming pool. An additional four deaths would also be attributed to the rides within the park.

Although not all of these deadly incidences can be placed on the amusement park itself, this place of attraction would come to be known as a cursed place. Even during its heyday, urban legend spread word that the land was haunted as the death-count of its paying customers continued to grow. 

Ironically, there’s much more truth to these urban myths than first realized.

During the late 18th century, a European settler and his family moved west, landing near the ground where the amusement park still stands, decaying. Here, Mitchell Clay and his family developed an 800-acre farm. Clay and his wife would go on to raise 14 children. Sadly, as this land formally belonged to the indigenous Shawnee Native American Tribe, a deadly turf war between these two parties began.

At first, during August of 1783, a small group of passing Shawnee killed three of Mitchell’s children while he was out of the home. His youngest son, Barley, perished first. His daughter, Tabitha, was stabbed during the chaos, dying not long after. Lastly, his oldest son, Ezekiel, was kidnapped. As the eldest, his fate was much worse then that of his younger siblings. He was brought back to the Shawnee’s campground and burned at the stake. 

With vengeance in his heart, Mitchell would go on to kill a number of the Shawnee people with the assistance of other nearby settlers. 

Time would pass and these dreadful stories would fade into the background. Over a century-later, during the early 1920s, Businessman Conley T. Snidow then went on to purchase the blood-soaked land and begin constructing what would become Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. 

After the park’s 1967 closure, a former employee, Gaylord White, purchased the land on which the park lay silent. He reopened the park for a short while in the summer of 1987. Unfortunately for White, an archaeological dig would discover many artifacts of the former Shawnee Tribe. Over a dozen skeletal remains were also uncovered… many of them children. Taking the hint, White closed the park three years after buying the place in 1985. 

With several centuries worth of dark history, word of mouth has continued to perpetuate the cursed and haunting nature of the former amusement park and massacre grounds. 

Due to such tragic events, the curious still seek out and attempt to communicate with the cursed souls and ghosts of the park. Many who have visited have had supernatural experiences themselves. In fact, the Travel Channel named Lake Shawnee Amusement Park as one of “The Most Terrifying Places in America.” For the thrill seekers and paranormal enthusiasts out there, the current owners hold tours once a year, for one week only. Any guesses when? For the brave, and living, souls, tours can be taken from October 25th to October 31st. Joy. 

America has its fair share of haunted places. From abandoned penitentiaries and asylums to battlefields and famous murder scenes, the country has plenty of macabre spots where the barrier between our world and the other side seems to weaken. However, there are some sites that seem to be more haunted than others scattered across the country, possibly because the horrors that occurred in these sites were so inhuman. These are the three most haunted places in America.

Villisca Axe Murder House

Located in Villisca, Iowa, this sprawling house is the site of one of the most infamous unsolved mass murders in U.S. history. On the night of June 10, 1912, 43-year-old Josiah B. Moore, his 39-year-old wife Sarah, their four children – Herman (11), Mary Katherine (10), Arthur Boyd (7), and Paul Vernon (5) – and two neighborhood children spending the night – 8-yesr-old Ina Mae and 12-year-old Lena Gertrude Stillinger – were brutally murdered.

All eight victims were found the next morning with woulds consistent with bludgeoning by axe. Despite numerous suspects and two trials, no one was ever convicted for the crime. In the century + since the murders, various residents of the home have reported “visions of a man with an ax, children crying and unexplained paranormal activity.” These happenings have only increased since the home was renovated back to its 1912 form and turned into a tourist attraction.

Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, located in Weston West Virginia, was open from 1864 to 1994. The asylum was allegedly overcrowded, unsanitary, and lacked the basic essentials of life, including fresh water and heating. Over the 130 year it was open, well over 100 inmates at the asylum died at the asylum, many under mysterious circumstances.

In the 25+ since its closure, the site has become a hotspot for paranormal activity. Currently, the Trans-Allegheny site offers several types of paranormal tours. These include Ghost Hunts and paranormal tours of both he Main Building and the Medical, Forensics and Geriatrics buildings. The tour’s are advertised by the site’s current owners as follows:

The Asylum has had apparition sightings, unexplainable voices and sounds, and other paranormal activity reported in the past by guests, staff, SyFy’s Ghost Hunters, Ghost Hunters Academy, the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures and Paranormal Challenge. Step back in time and see how the mentally insane lived, and died, within these walls.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Philadelphia’s Eastern State Penitentiary is alleged by many to be the single most haunted building in America. The prison, known colloquially as ESP,  was open from 1829 until 1971. ESP was revolutionary for its approach to imprisonment. Based on Quaker ideals, the penitentiary emphasized “principles of reform rather than punishment.” To modern ears this may make ESP sound like it was a comfortable place for inmates, however this couldn’t be further from the truth. The prison’s guards implemented infamously strict rules, even for the time. These included solitary confinement in tiny cells whose only light came from a small skylight nicknamed the “eye of God.” Prisoners were often physically beaten, and kept hooded and chained for the most minor of infractions. Further torture methods included “dousing prisoners in freezing water outside during winter months, chaining their tongues to their wrists in a fashion such that struggling against the chains could cause the tongue to tear, and strapping prisoners into chairs with tight leather restraints for days on end.”

Due to these terrible conditions, many believe that the prison is currently haunted by the spirits of inmates who were mistreated there. According to NPR, “Cellblock 12 is known for echoing voices and cackling; Cellblock 6 for shadowy figures darting along the walls; Cellblock 4 for visions of ghostly faces. Many people have reported seeing a silhouette of a guard in one of the towers. Footsteps. Wails. Whispers. The same stories, over and over again.”

Furthermore, a former guard of the prison site – Gary Johnson – claims that in the early 1990s, ” a force gripped him so tightly that he was unable to move” while on his shift. Furthermore, Johnson has said that a “negative, horrible energy that exploded out of the cell. He said tormented faces appeared on the cell walls and that one form in particular beckoned to him.”

A different as their histories are, these three haunted places all share a common backstory of the terrors of inhuman behavior in life haunting them in death. Would you risk a visit to any of them?

Since the National Baseball hall of Fame opened in 1939, it’s become the Mecca for all those who play and follow the sport. So much so that the name of upstate New York town where the Hall is located – where baseball was invented by general Abner Doubleday and whose financial stability is predicated on the museum drawing in tourists –  has become synonymous with it, with players on track for induction often being labelled as on the “path to Cooperstown.” The only problem? Abner Doubleday had nothing to do with inventing baseball and the game didn’t originate in Cooperstown. In other words, the Hall of Fame is built on a lie.

The origins of the myth that Abner Doubleday invented baseball in Cooperstown can be traced back to the early 20th century when there was strong debate as to whether baseball was directly descended from British games like rounders and cricket. The sportswriter Henry Chadwick was a proponent of this idea, writing in 1903 that “There is no doubt whatever as to base ball having originated from the two-centuries-old English game of rounders.”

The baseball establishment at the time, including sporting goods magnate-turned-Chicago Cubs owner Albert Spalding and the presidents of both the National and American Leagues, seeing monetary value in the idea that baseball was a “patriotic” game “invented” by Americans in America, sought to discredit Chadwick and those like him. Spalding announced the formation of a commission to investigate baseball’s beginnings, and asked for anyone who supposed information on how the sport came to be to provide it.

A Denver Colorado miner named Abner Graves wrote to the commission claiming that stated that American Civl War Hero Abner Doubleday had invented baseball as we know it in Cooperstown in 1839. According to Graves, the first game had “matched players from “Otesego Academy” and Green’s “Select school.”  Graves’ description of Doubleday’s game indicated that each team had 11 players: “the pitcher, a catcher, three infielders by the bases, two further infielders who covered the areas between the bases, and four outfielders.”

Even a quick factual analysis of Graves’ letter reveals several inaccuracies that cast doubt on the story, starting with the fact that Doubleday was at Westpoint in 1839 while Graves was only four-years-old. In addition, despite volumes of correspondence form his lifetime, there is only one recorded instance of General Doubleday discussing baseball, none of which is related to the creation of the game. However, thanks to Spalding and the other baseball powerbroker desire to keep baseball as an “American” game – and attribute its creation to a Civil War hero to boot – Graves letter was presented as irrefutable truth, and Doubleday was credited with the creation of the game for much of the early 2oth century.

Three decades later, in the midst of the Great Depression, Cooperstown resident and philanthropist Stephen C. Clark was looking for a way find a way to honor the alleged 1939 “centennial”of the game (and jumpstart Cooperstown’s economy) when he came upon the idea of a Hall of Fame.

As explained on the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum’s website, Clark “asked National League president Ford C. Frick if he would support the establishment of a Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown. The idea was welcomed, and in 1936 the inaugural Hall of Fame class of Ty Cobb, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Babe Ruth and Honus Wagner was elected.”

In the eight-plus decades since the Hall of Fame first opened to the public, the Doubleday Myth has been debunked repeatedly, thanks to the reasons specified above as well as copious amounts of evidence that games similar to baseball had existed in both Britain and the United States for nearly a century before Abner Doubleday supposedly invented the game. In fact, the Hall of Fame itself acknowledged the true nature of the Doubleday Myth on the occasion of it’s 75th Anniversary in 2013, releasing a statement that read in part:

On June 12, 1939, the National Baseball Museum opened its doors for the first time, in honor of the 100th anniversary of the mythical “first game” that allegedly was played in Cooperstown on June 12, 1839

However, despite this, Doubleday remains a part of baseball culture, especially in Cooperstown which still houses Minor League stadium named Doubleday Field.

Why? Well, the Hall of Fame’s exhibit on Doubleday provides an answer that’s alarmingly similar to the reason the Spalding Commission first pushed the story a century ago. The museum refers to the legend as “a thriving legend that reflects Americans’ desire to make the game our own.”