Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park

There’s something unnatural about this Mercer County attraction.

A Native American burial ground. Violent deaths. Freak accidents. Who knew a simple amusement park could have such a dark past?

Explore this creepy (maybe cursed?) land— ”one of the world’s most haunted places.” Arrange a private tour, join paranormal investigators to ghost hunt or brave the “Dark Carnival” in October.  

Lake Shawnee’s story

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Cursed from the start

Lake Shawnee Amusement Park was crippled long before local entrepreneur Conley Snidow broke ground for the circular swing— at least, that’s what most locals think. Ask anyone familiar with the area, and they’ll tell you no one should have turned the grassy field into a carnival.

But most things seem obvious in retrospect.

When Snidow purchased the property during the 1920s, he had no idea it had witnessed decades of bloody unrest.

The Clay incident

Lake Shawnee’s restless past originates in the 18th century. During the late 1700s, Mitchell Clay brought his young family out west. They established an 800-acre farm and raised 14 children.

Tragedy struck the Clays in 1783. A Native American tribe slew 2 of the children while Mitchell was out hunting. They kidnapped one of the boys, Ezekiel— only to burn him at the stake.

Clay retaliated. With the help of other settlers, he tracked down several Native Americans and killed them. The scarred homestead was never the same.

All that glitters…

The Clay property didn’t attract much notice until the 1920s. That’s when Snidow appeared with his rides and attractions: circular swings, a water slide, a dance hall, a speakeasy. He also added a pond and swimming hole, complete with canoes.

… isn’t gold

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At some point, things started to go wrong. Lake Shawnee fans know the facts intimately: a little girl died on the swings and a boy drowned in the pond. All told, roughly 6 visitors died during the amusement park’s brief history.

In 1966, the attraction was abandoned. The cheerful turquoise, red and green rides slowly faded and flaked. Before too long, their rusty skeletons surrendered to the restless undergrowth.

What lies beneath

After 20 years, another businessman approached Lake Shawnee. Gaylord White thought the sleepy meadows seemed ideal for future neighborhoods. But, as construction crews tore into grass and soil, they unearthed bones and Native American artifacts.

It turned out the amusement park sat atop an ancient burial ground. And most of the skeletons belonged to children. Archaeologists believe the remains had been there long before settlers moved west. Was the Clay family cursed, too?

Bone-chilling tours

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The White family decided not to challenge fate. Instead of developing community lots, they left the burial ground and rides intact. That means Lake Shawnee will continue to stand as a true Mercer County highlight.

But don’t just take our word for it. The abandoned amusement park has attracted ghost hunters and paranormal experts for years. In fact, Lake Shawnee ranks as one of the Travel Channel’s “Most Terrifying Places in America.” ABC goes even further. Their experts declared the property one of the “10 Most Haunted Places in the World.”

Visitors have heard footsteps, mysterious chants and children. Sometimes, one of the swings will move on its own. At one point, someone got locked in a shabby ticket booth— even though the doors don’t lock.

So, is Lake Shawnee really haunted? Decide for yourself.

Although the amusement park is private property, there are regular paranormal tours throughout the year. The owners can usually make a private arrangement for you, too. Just call them before heading out for a visit.

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Or, visit in October for the Dark Carnival. You arrive at dusk, just as the bony trees and creaky rides turn into silhouettes. People who visited the park when it was open or had their own strange encounters tell Lake Shawnee stories, give tours and light a bonfire. There’s also a haunted trail through a corn maze, complete with creepy clowns. You can even camp out— if you dare.