The dark carnival of souls
The Shawnee have a name for their dead. They call them Asanwaa which means ‘Gone Home’. Some souls are not that lucky.
There is a place in southern West Virginia where the souls are said to linger on. In other words, they have not found their home in the afterlife and continue to haunt. Located near the town of Princeton is a spot that has had a longtime reputation of being haunted. As you drive past it you can catch a glimpse of an old and rusty Ferris wheel sticking out of a grown-up landscape. The wheel stands silent like an ancient metal monument of a bygone era. If you look closer, you can barely make out other amusement rides and rickety wooden seat swings from the junction of US 19 and WV 10. Some folks keep on driving by without more than a glancebut a few others cannot resist the temptation to stop and have a quick look around. Amusement parks are a place for fun. Rides, children, taffy all add up to a wonderful time. Abandoned amusement parks an entirely different story.
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was a draw for thousands of people from its start in 1926. It was bought by its current owners in 1985 as a defunct property. The current owner thought that a few house sites would be a nice income, but was surprised to find Indian graves and artifacts in the ground as it was being excavated. It is thought that around three thousand Native American graves may be scattered across the property. This being said, a housing development was out of the question. The owner decided to re-open as a small amusement park, which offered about thirty rides.
Three years later, the park closed and when it did, stories started circulating about the paranormal activity that some had experienced. When ABC’s Scariest Places on Earth” filmed a segment here in 2005, the word was out and people flocked from all over to explore, snap photographs and see if the dead still lingered among the rusting rides. During the production of the show, some of the crew refused to venture into the park at night. Other visitors have spoken of unexplained feelings and seeing shadows that flitted around in the fading light. To make matters even more eerie, the story of a small girl dying in the 1950s gave grounding to some of the ghostly sightings. This little girl was on the swing ride when she was killed by a soft drink truck backing into the ride. The current owner says that he “has seen” the girl and others have sworn they have glimpsed her as well after her violent passing.
Even before it ever became an entertainment place for young children, it was home to at least two Native American Indian settlement sites. The Shawnee lived on this land for some time before abandoning it. The first European settler, Mitchell Clay, arrived on the very same land in 1775. (200 years after the Indians) It was a place of death long before C.T. Snidow opened the amusement park in 1926 and operated it until 1966.
The story goes that in 1783, while the local men were away hunting, Indians rode down from the ridge. They killed and attempted to scalp one of the boys. Little Tabitha Clay was trying to defend the body of her dead brother and prevent the Indians from scalping her brother; during this struggle, Tabitha was cut to pieces by the Indian with a butcher knife. The younger girls made it to the house safely. There is a monument to the children at the site and many have wondered if this tragedy is the basis for the paranormal activity that some have experienced.
The paranormal activity experienced at the old park varies and ranges from unexplained noises (mostly creaking and doors slamming) to apparitions. Some claim they have seen things that they cannot explain. Empty wooden swings move on their own accord and when no wind is present. Some claim to have seen orbs move on or around the swings. Throughout this small park, you get the feeling that something does not want you there. The activity does not scare everyone away. Multiple television shows have filmed at the old amusement park, psychics have walked the fields and woods sensing its energy and ghost hunters continue to search for the entities. Me? I just hope the souls that wander there will eventually find some peace. They deserve it.
Sherri Brake is a paranormal researcher, author and owner of Haunted Heartland Tours. Her website is www.HauntedHistory.net