“Lake Shawnee” Portals to Hell

Lake Shawnee is considered to be one of the “scariest places in America”.  Like we all haven’t heard that line before?! You hear this all the time-haunted places claiming to be the world’s scariest, but are they really? Let’s dive into the fascinating history of Lake Shawnee Amusement Park and the experiences I had there while filming Portals to Hell.

Mercer County was home to a Native American tribe until 1783, when the European Clay family attempted to settle the land sparking a violent turf war. While Mitchell Clay was out hunting, a band of Native Americans killed three of his children. This started a murderous feud on the property which is now the location of the park. The Clay children are buried on the property.

In the 1920’s Conley Snidlow purchased the property and turned it into an amusement park, having no clue of the properties bloody history.  Popular among coal miners and their families, the park had a ferris wheel, circular swing ride, pool, dance hall, cabins, paddle boats and more. Quickly things started to go wrong.

Documented deaths

In the 1950’s a young girl was swinging on the swings when a soda truck backed up into the path of the swings killing her. It’s documented that she wore a pink dress.  She is one of the more prominent apparitions seen on the property always wearing her pink dress. This death was confirmed by a newspaper article. In 1961 A 6 year old boy named Wayne drowned in the swimming pool and in 1966 an 11 year old boy named John got sucked into the drain of the pool and died. In 1935 there was a hit and run on route 19 which runs adjacent to the park. That could definitely explain the apparition often seen walking along the busy road. Overall 6 children deaths occurred on the property but we couldn’t find documentation for all of them.

The park closed in 1966 and was purchased in 1985 by a former employee who dreamed of turning it into a bigger amusement attraction. While digging on the property a construction crew unearthed the remains of 13 skeletons believed to be the Shawnee Indians, along with Native American artifacts. Most of the skeletons were children. A proper archeological dig basically rewrote the history of West Virginia. Archeologists spent 2 years examining the area and came to the conclusion that the Shawnee Tribe passed through this land 2,000 years ago.  The owner erected a monument where visitors could leave offerings.

So what makes this place the scariest? Is it the ominous presence of ancient amusement rides reclaimed by the earth? The mega thick fog that rolls in once night falls? Or the fact that visitors camping on the land have been so spooked that they leave in the middle of the night, even after driving hours to get there? This is what we know…


  • reports of being followed and watched on the land, never feeling alone, especially along an area called the Creepy Trail leading to the Clay children graves. People have reported feeling pressure on their chest.
  • full body apparitions (the little girl is the most active, 7 foot tall Native seen emerging from the pond, a man walking near the road)
  • little girl appearing on tractor
  • shadows among rides
  • shadow of a person seen in one of the ferris wheel carts
  • sounds of children laughing, sounds of chanting
  • people have been pushed
  • EVP’s have been recorded
  • visitors there during investigations often leave in the middle of the night when something happens, one guy took hours to drive to the park and left immediately after he claims he was pushed out of a ticket booth
  • the owners mom lives in the property and says that things in her house get moved


There’s some different angles to explore with this one. Is activity on the property connected to the violent turf war between the Native Americans and Mitchell Clay? Is it connected to all of the children that were killed on the property from the freak accidents? Is it haunted because the burial grounds were disturbed? Are the Native Americans vengeful that their land was taken over and perhaps disrespected? (This could explain the feelings of being watched and followed.) The people that had unpleasant experiences on the property-were they being disrespectful in some way. Does having Native American blood change the level of experiences people encounter? The current owner Chris has not had as many paranormal encounters as others. He is part Cherokee as well as a descendant from the Mitchell Clay side, so his blood lines run on both sides. So many questions!

Before we get into my findings from staying on the property, let’s talk about how I drove a 30ft RV for the first time to the location like a champ! After a few practice runs around the hotel parking lot the night before, I drove this beast down a winding mountain road with cameras in my face, while holding up traffic, trying not to roll down a mountain AND also focusing on having a conversation with Jack. I looked like a little action figure while doing it.

One of the most interesting experiences during our night investigation occurred near the swing set. Jack and I were attempting to make contact with the little girl since she is most often seen. We had a variety of trigger objects like a slinky, balloons and cotton candy. We utilized the REM Pod (Radiating Electromagnetism Pod) It radiates its own EM field and detects a difference in field strength whenever a conductive material enters its zone. I never put much trust into equipment but on Portals to Hell I actually had great experiences using this device. We placed it on the ground under the swing set that she passed away on. At times it wouldn’t stop going off even after we’d restart it. Jack and I started tossing around a balloon. While a balloon was in mid air behind me near the top of my boot, it popped loudly before hitting the ground. There was nothing that should have caused the balloon to pop. Seconds later the REM Pod went nuts as if something just ran right by it. Was it the little girl being mischievous?! We tested the REM pod in different locations and it was always the most active near the swings.

Jack and I spent time near the burial grounds and left some tobacco as an offering. Right after he said “we brought you an offering of tobacco…” coyotes nearby started howling and going nuts.

While staying on the property I left my RV late at night and walked around alone. I didn’t experience anything but I can obviously see why the place comes off as being visually scary. The only odd happening I could note is that while staying in my RV the first night I felt this weird numbness go through my entire body. I was laying there thinking about what Michelle was going to pick up on her reading the next night. The feeling started at my feet and went up through my entire body. I’ve never had anything like that happen and really couldn’t explain it.

Everyone views scary in a different way, not every haunting has to be terrifying. Sure Lake Shawnee has a creepy atmosphere but I found it to be very relaxing there. I personally didn’t have any negative experiences. Maybe I’m desensitized at this point but I think that if you go there and respect the land then you’ll have positive experiences. I think that there’s non threatening activity brought on by mostly children. The land is their playground.