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The abandoned amusement park is a setting for many stories, especially cartoons like Scooby Doo. but the Mystery Machine won’t be exploring this abandoned park, not even with the dozens of reported hauntings in the area and the eerie feeling you get surrounded by towering rides, rusted with age. The old concession stand boarded up and the signs fading. You can almost see what it once was, and how much fun the patrons must have had during its heyday. But you need to be vigilant; watch for shadowy figures peeking around the corners at you, or the sense of coldness on an otherwise warm evening. Today, we’re exploring the abandoned and haunted amusement park, Lake Shawnee. 

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was first built nearly 100 years ago in 1926. A man named C.T. Snidow purchased the land and commissioned the construction of the first amusement park in West Virginia. The land he purchased already had a bloody history, having been the sight of a massacre in 1783. During the animosity between indigenous peoples on the land, a band of Native Americans for whom the park would later be named, the Shawnee ambushed and attacked Michael Clay and his 14 children, who were said to be the first white settlers in the region. The Shawnee killed two of Clay’s children and took a third captive, later executing him by burning him at the stake. The tragedy was compounded by Clay’s belief that his entire family had been slain, and he ran for the nearest township to escape the same fate. The children were later buried, without their scalps, in small graves on the land. 

The area was named Shawnee Lake by later settlers, and it set the stage for the history before the amusement park to seep into the urban legends and stories of hauntings at the park in later years. The park took shape in the 1920s and quickly became a popular summer escape for the youth of the region. Many coal mining families in the region flocked to the amusement park for family fun and a break from the difficult work in the underground mines nearby. The park featured a swimming pool, concession stands, a dance hall, race track, and cabins for overnight stays. As much of an oasis the park was for local families, it was also the site of several tragedies. In the 1950s, a young girl was killed on the swing ride when a delivery truck backed into the path of her seat, killing her instantly. Shortly after, a young boy was killed when his arm became stuck in a drainpipe of the swimming pool, causing his drowning. 

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park would close its doors once in 1967, opened once more in 1987, but its revival was short lived when human remains and Native American artifacts were discovered on the grounds and archeological surveys were required. This lends credence to the urban legend that claimed the park was built on a Native American burial ground, a common trope that seems to actually be true in this case. After its final closing in 1988 with one final summer in operation, the park was closed for good and almost immediately became a popular spot for urban exploring and paranormal investigations. 

Many say the spirits of those who lost their lives on the blood-soaked ground still haunt the park, long after it’s final ride. The spirit of the young girl who died on the swing ride is said to still haunt the structure, a red ribbon tied on the swing she was in before her untimely demise. Beside it is a toy owl that can sometimes be seen moving on its own, bouncing and tumbling in the seat as if a ghostly hand were playing with the toy. The young boy who drowned on the premises is also said to wander in the afterlife, wearing swim trunks and being soaked to the bone, some visitors to the amusement park even reported his appearance when the park was temporarily reopened in the 1980s. Paranormal investigators say he is a positive spirit who prefers the front of the park, where he can protect and greet the visitors, as if looking for redemption after he was unable to protect himself. A pinwheel near the swimming pool appears to spin with no breeze, turning in the still air as if pushed by another child’s hand in play. 

The most tragic thing about the abandoned amusement park is the demographic of the ghosts and their passing on the premises. Young children seem to be the only spirits in this location, including the young Clay children killed back in the 1700s; seen wandering among the trees and screaming in the night that can be heard above the ferris wheels and boarded up concession stands. Today, it’s a popular site for paranormal tours and overnight stays, and nearly every group who has visited the site reports some kind of activity at the park. Are ghostly children continuing to play at the abandoned amusement park? You might just have to visit to find out. 

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