A Brief History of the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park | © Forsaken Fotos / Flickr
Kristina Gaddy

Man-made structures that have been abandoned make for some of the creepiest places on earth, a reminder that one day animal and plant life may go on without us. Even scarier—and perhaps more interesting—than an abandoned building is an overgrown, haunted amusement park tucked into the backwoods, which is exactly why people trek to Rock, West Virginia to see the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park.

Clay family massacre and retaliation

In the late 1700s, the dense woods of western Virginia (West Virginia wasn’t a state yet) were the frontier of the newly formed United States. The Clay family bought land around Lake Shawnee near Bluefield, West Virginia, set up a farm, and created a new home. But Native American tribes had been calling that same land home for thousands of years. The story goes that father Mitchell Clay left his children to go hunting in August 1783 and a group of eleven Native Americans attacked and killed two of his children, while taking a third captive and eventually burning him alive. A group of men then went after the Native Americans, killing several of them. Locals say the trauma of this incident seeped into the land around Lake Shawnee.

The Lonely Lake

Amusement park


Between 1927 when the park opened and 1966 when it finally closed, six people died at the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. It may have been that reputation that caused the attraction to close, or simply the fact that less and less coal miners lived in the area in the second half of the 20th century, as coal mines closed and laid off workers. Whatever the reason, the park and rides were never dismantled, and sat abandoned for twenty years before the property was rediscovered.

Bones and a haunted attraction

In the 1980s, Gaylord White bought the property planning to do something with it. But, he discovered the park had been built atop of ancient graves of Native Americans. Locals now believe the burial ground may have cursed the land even before the Clay family arrived. Today the park is the perfect place for experiencing spirits; you can call to see if a tour is coming up soon, or visit in October for the Dark Carnival haunted tour of the park.

landscape with balloons floating in the air


Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world

Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.

Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.

Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.

Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.

We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.

Winter Sale Offers on Our Trips

Incredible Savings

Edit article