By: Susie Beever ……
Picture the creepiest setting imaginable. Perhaps it’s an ominous Victorian mansion haunted by residents past, or maybe it’s the woods at night-time, Blair Witch-style?
But few would argue there is a scene more eerie than an abandoned funfair – or worse, an abandoned funfair on an ancient burial ground where ghosts are seen on the regular.
As much as it sounds like the backdrop for a low-budget horror, this place exists in real life in the form of America’s Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.
A booming theme park which has now been closed for four decades, those daring to visit Lake Shawnee have seen shadowy figures on the skeletal derelict Ferris wheel and heard children’s giggles and sinister carnival music.
Many have also reported the lingering smell of fast food stands, despite none being served since the park’s closure in the 1980s.
Built on land belonging to the Shawnee tribe in West Virginia, the site has a dark history stained with murder and tragedy.
Before it was transformed into an amusement park, Lake Shawnee was originally farmland where the region’s first English settlers – the Clay family – moved in during the 1770s, despite warnings from Natives.
Three of the Clay children were later killed by the tribe who were furious at their land being stolen, and are both still buried on the property to this day.
Over a century later in 1926, businessman Conley Snidow bought the land as an investment, due to the explosion of coal mining in West Virginia at the time.
Merry-go-round swings, a Ferris wheel and water slides were erected, and a speakeasy and swimming pool were also opened to the public.
But the site’s reputation as a family fun spot took a dark turn in 1934, when a woman was shot and killed on the outskirts of the park by a spurned lover.
Six people – many of whom were children – would go on to be killed in either murders or tragic accidents over the following decades before it was eventually closed in 1966.
One such accident occurred when a three-year-old girl was crushed by a lift, while another boy aged 11 drowned in the swimming pool after getting his arm stuck in one of the drains. Another boy aged just six also drowned in the nearby lake.
The final nail in the coffin for Lake Shawnee came in 1966, when a delivery lorry was turning around and backed into the oncoming path of the giant swings.
A young girl on one of the swings crashed into the lorry head on, and was killed instantly. The park closed that year out of respect for the families.
Businessman Gaylord White bought the land in the 1980s in a successful, but short-lived, attempt to re-open the park.
It’s frequently reported that Mr. White tried to buy swings which were as similar as possible to the original ones in the park, and tracked some down from an antiques dealer.
After purchasing them and checking the serial number however, he realized in an insidious turn of fate they were the exact same swings.
The ghost of what is widely thought to be the girl who was killed has been seen regularly, with the swing where she took her last breath poignantly marked with a red ribbon.
While business boomed for three years, soaring insurance costs forced White to close the park. Later excavation of the site unveiled around 3,000 bodies, leading anthropologists to believe it must have been a sacred burial ground.
Nowadays, Lake Shawnee is still regularly visited by those intrigued by its dark past, and many leave dolls and toys as offerings to the various children who have died there.
It’s said to be busiest in Autumn as people get in the mood for the Halloween season. But whenever you visit, you can be sure you’re unlikely to be alone.