When Conley T. Snidow purchased the land that would become Lake Shawnee Amusement Park in 1920, he had been completely unaware of the area’s bloody past. Featuring rides, a swimming pool, concessions and more, a series of bizarre and tragic accidents throughout the park’s years of operation would force the doors to be closed in 1966.
Rumor had it that the land was cursed and after a little research by the park’s owner, the land’s grim history slowly began to come to light. On August 14, 1937, a marker was placed near the park in honor of the Clay family.
The Clay family had been some of the area’s first European settlers and, like most settlers, tensions ran high between themselves and the area’s Native Americans. Mitchell Clay’s sons, Bartley and Ezekial, were out in the yard hammering in fence pegs while the girls were doing their weekly wash down at the creek bed. Mitchell had been out hunting that day, when a group of Shawnee natives surrounded the Clay homestead, shooting young Bartley on sight.
Hearing the deadly shots, the girls all began to run for the safety of the homestead, which happened to cross the path of Bartley’s body. The oldest of the Clay girls, Tabitha, ran up on one of the Shawnees attempting to scalp Bartley in order to defend her brother’s body. The two got into a struggle and Tabitha tried desperately to reach for the knife that had been hanging from a holster on the native’s hip. Tabitha failed and before she had the chance to run, she was hacked to death.
The Shawnees ran off, taking Ezekial Clay along with them to their settlement in Ohio.
As this fierce battle ensued, a man named Lincoln Blankenship came to pay a visit to the Clay home. Mrs. Clay begged Blankenship to shoot the native who was in the process of fighting her oldest daughter. Instead, Blankenship ran away.
Mrs. Clay took her slain and scalped children and placed them on their beds before gathered up her remaining children to go to the home of the Baileys for safety. Mitchell Clay returned from his hunting trip to stumble upon the horror of his deceased children and believed that the rest of his family must have been murdered as well.
Clay assembled a team of vigilantes to search for the natives responsible for murdering his children. The team caught up with two Shawnees and killed one of them. Ezekial was still in captivity as the natives continued on towards Ohio. By the time Clay and his men tracked down the Shawnee encampment it was already too late. Ezekial was burned alive at the stake.
The Nation’s chief allowed Clay to take what was left of the boy’s remains back home and he was buried with his siblings. But even before the arrival and massacre of the Clay children the land had an even more ancient history. A history that wouldn’t be discovered until long after the park had closed its doors for good.
In 1985, former park employee Gaylord White acquired the land. He attempted to revive the park, but a lack of interest forced him to close up shop again three years later. He intended to raze the skeletal relics of the old park’s rides — which include to this day, a ferris wheel where a rider had been decapitated and a rotating swing ride where a little girl was struck and killed by a soda truck while waiting to board — in order to expand the park to include a racetrack and to build residential lots where the original park’s visitor cabins once stood.
As the construction and excavation of the land was underway, unusual things began to happen. Construction workers and White, himself, claimed they had begun to experience poltergeist-like activity. Chanting could be audibly heard and some claim they had witnessed apparitions on the construction site. After dozens of bones, primarily of children, started to be unearthed, construction came to a halt and archaeologists were called to investigate the area.
It is believed that at least 100 years before the Clay family had made the land their home it was once used as a sacred burial ground. Thousands of bodies were laid to rest under what was once the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. Some say that the six accidental deaths that occurred at the park during it’s original run were a result of angry spirits and may have accounted for the unexpected ambush of the Clay family.
Today the park still stands as it was. Though permanently closed, paranormal investigators are drawn to the area and special events are scheduled for curious groups of ghost hunters to conduct their own investigations.