3 Creepiest Hauntings in Southern WVOctober 6, 2015
There are plenty of spooky places in Southern WV, but these 3 creepy tales are the most mysterious.
Unravel the mysteries of the old Whipple Company Store, learn the tragic history of the abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, or delve into the many legends that lurk in Haunted Lewisburg on a dark, candlelit night.
Lake Shawnee Amusement Park
Chris White, one of the owners of the abandoned Lake Shawnee Amusement Park, won’t tell you what spirits are roaming the grounds. But he knows they’re there. The few dilapidated, dystopian carnival rides scattered across the field are ominous enough, but a handful of ghostly regulars like to give guests real chills.
The haunt people do know about is the little girl on the garish swing set— which must have looked utterly terrifying even when it was open. The bony, circular structure leaks chains from an umbrella of spindles. As it towers there stoically, a single wooden seat sometimes creaks to life with a smooth, slow rock as the lingering child surveys new visitors.
She died there on the circular swingset, which used to swirl riders gently around and around. As she circled, a delivery truck backed up into the path.
“She’s the most present activity,” Chris said. “I don’t talk about my stories. I don’t want to lead anybody in any direction. But there’s a lot of frequency of some of the same stories.”
A few of the park’s unexplainable happenings are common: figures peering from the ferris wheel, echoes of the boy who drowned in the pool. But then there are the rogue occurrences. People locked in concession stands, psychics brought in for filming that refuse to stay. Whatever is in the park is not shy, and it’s not singular.
Given the park’s past, it’s no surprise it’s crawling with spirits. Its history spans through at least 3 eras of tragedy, the earliest of which is only evident through its skeletons— literally. The first major sweep of death was enshrined in a Native American burial mound.
“The belief is that the tribe got a flu or something,” Chris said. “Back then, to save the tribe, they’d move the healthy ones away.” Many of the bodies were children. As with any sickness, the weaker immune systems of the young and elderly are more susceptible.
Maybe death got a taste for young blood. The next tragedy claimed children, too— all 3 of the children of the first white settler on the land. They were murdered by the local Native American tribe, the eldest burned at the stake. In retaliation, their father killed several tribesmen, too.
The fact that many of the carnival’s victims were children should be no surprise. It was a carnival, after all. But in context of the park’s history, it’s hard not to wonder why children seem to bear the brunt of its “bad luck.” But that’s just one of Lake Shawnee’s many mysteries.
The cursed property has been featured on Discovery Channel’s “GhostLab,” Travel Channel’s “The Most Terrifying Places in America,” and ABC Family’s “The Ten Most Curious Places in the World.”
“I don’t know that anything surprises us anymore. I don’t know that anything could.”
Not all its attention has been ghost-related. National Geographic just wrapped up filming for a show more loosely about amusement parks. They got more than they bargained for. They weren’t looking for the ghosts, but Chris said the crew had plenty of spooky encounters.
You can investigate yourself during paranormal events throughout the year, or schedule a tour.
For the best insights, come for the October photo tours. Fall brings out the creepiness of the park, when the dark rust on the bony rods of the ferris wheel and swing set mirror the tangled branches of the bare trees behind them. It’s almost surreal.
During the photo tours, not only can you roam the grounds and capture the eerie gloom on film, you can meet some of the locals who remember visiting the amusement park when it was alive with glittering lights and games.
Don’t want to meet a real ghost? Enjoy a more lighthearted exploration of Lake Shawnee in the “Dark Carnival” haunted trail, where all the frights are created by costumed characters… probably.
Whipple Company Store
Joy Lynn doesn’t believe in ghosts. When she bought the old Whipple Company Store, she wanted to share its rich coal history, and shed some light on West Virginia’s unique culture. But some of that history was a little… odd. And some of the things that happened around the museum were a little… odd.
Once the heart of a coal camp, the company store was the center of the community. It was the same for every mining community. The company store was the town headquarters. And that wasn’t really by choice. Miners were paid in company-branded currency called scrip, which they could only spend at the company store. It was their only resource for everything from bread to tools to coffins.
So everyone from around that time remembers the ol’ company store. People in their 80s and 90s came in to tell Joy about their visits there as kids, and their memories of it. The history you learn when you visit isn’t just pulled from dusty records and papers and figures. It’s a look through a collective memory of the store in its golden era.
But even some of those memories were… odd.
“People would just throw out something casually when they were talking,” Joy said. “Just something like, ‘Someone’s always looking at you from that window.’ “
The creepy part wasn’t hearing about the weird things people saw around the building. It was that even though you hadn’t heard that story before… you kind of knew it already.
“You would start to find that some of the things you’d experienced in the building had a history,” Joy said. “But they didn’t come in to tell you a ghost story. they just came in to share their history.”
As the stories— and the weird experiences— piled up, Joy started inviting visitors to come explore the place after dark.
The tour itself is historic. And Joy also shares a few of the things she’s heard about weird occurrences. Afterward, guests can freely explore the entire building, which is peppered with intriguing architectural quirks— a secret hidden floor, the ballroom, the vault. Roaming the grounds, people report cold chills, and their own weird experiences. Most of them overlap with those shared by the old store customers, or other visitors.
Joy guesses the number of unique ‘oddities’ in the store that recur often are somewhere around 100-150. She only shares a few on the tour.
“I never say there are ghosts here,” she said. “And I’m very careful not to throw out things I don’t really hear repeatedly. Some of these people are remembering from when they were a child, so you have to keep in mind… it’s the memory of a child. So I just present the stories. And ask people what they think about it.”
Some of the weird happenings, she’s found, connect to real, verifiable history. Murders, graves on the property, deaths from heat exhaustion… which is nothing unusual, she says.
“The building is old. People die in houses all the time. We just don’t think about it.”
For other weird stories, there’s no traceable link. Like the door that opens and closes at 8:13 on the dot every morning.
Now, Madge, the owner of the building after its days as a company store, told everyone the place was haunted. She was convinced, and she wouldn’t hesitate to tell you about it. She kept areas off limits, to keep people away from the ghosts.
To Joy, Madge and her wild tales are just another part of the place’s history. But still… even she admits some of the things she’s seen, she can’t explain.
The one that stand out to her— that frightened her— happened in broad daylight.
She was giving a tour of the museum to an older gentleman and a young boy, who was maybe 8 or so. The tour goes into the bookkeeper’s office, where the old vault is.
In the 20s, one of the guards was known for sneaking off to the vault to indulge in a cigar. The smell of smoke never really faded away, even with dutiful, deep cleaning. On the off occasion, people reported weird fog lingering around the room. Of course, the visitors didn’t know anything about this. They were out-of-towners, just interested in the coal history.
“You can go in and look around, if you’d like,” she encouraged the little boy, hoping to excite him with the cool vault room.
“I never say there are ghosts here. And I’m very careful not to throw out things I don’t really hear repeatedly."
But the boy wasn’t excited. He just pointed inside.
“I thought we weren’t supposed to smoke in here?”
The gentleman, a smoker himself, was confused. “We’re not. I’m not smoking.”
“Why’s he smoking?” The boy’s eyes got wide when he realized no one else saw the man in the vault.
Still confused, the gentleman tried again to encourage the boy to look around and enjoy the tour. He gave the boy a little nudge, and told him to go check it out. But now he’d gone white, and he was definitely not interested in exploring the vault.
Trying to change the subject, Joy directed attention behind them to the next part of the tour, as she grabbed the door of the vault.
“As I closed it, a puff of cigarette smoked billowed out— all over me, and all over this little boy, who was looking at me with eyes wide as saucers,” Joy said. The pair abandoned the tour and quickly left the building.
It’s not the only one that’s left Joy at a loss for answers. Like the small, freshly wet footprints that would appear when she was alone in the building.
Over the years, she’s set up cameras, and caught things that don’t seem possible. After several tries, she finally got the footprints. Other people send in their own photos of orbs. She shows all that to guests on the tour, too. She wants people to be able to see it all for themselves, to question it and maybe help her fill in some of the answers.
“I definitely don’t want to make it a joke,” she said. “There were dark things people here had to live through. I want to keep a level of respect for what happened here.”
That’s part of the wider mission. running the museum, visitors from around the country come in with only stereotypes of the state. Coal shaped so much of the heritage, she feels like it gives people a better insight into West Virginia.
“Some people have made a mockery of us, not really understanding what they’re saying,” she said. “People don’t know why we have pride, why we help each other, why they find hospitality and friendliness, but guarded and protected. I think I have a lot of people walk away with a true understanding of West Virginia culture and lifestyle, and a great deal more respect for coal mining life.”
Even in the supernatural tours, things are very straightforward, and Joy says that’s out of respect. Guests can come, learn, ask questions and explore the strange nature of whipple with the reverence it deserves.
Visit the museum during regular hours for a look into West Virginia’s past, or reserve a spot on an evening ghost tour at (304) 465-0331 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the nature of the tour, guests must be 21 or older.
The cemetery is the first stop on the town’s long-running ghost tours. Looming above, illuminated by only candlelight, a stone angel with protruding eyes guards the grave of a young, blind boy who was hit by a truck. Its driver, in his grief and guilt over the accident, had the monument carved— not knowing it would turn on him. When he touched the angel’s eerie sockets, he himself went blind within the week.
Another headstone marker bodes a more ominous fate for those who dare to touch it. During the funeral, relatives of the young girl buried there kissed the monument on the cheek simultaneously, revealing the statue t be an angel of death, claiming each of their lives within the year.
With such a foreboding introduction— do you dare continue? Tour owner John Luckton bets if you do, your bravery will pay off.
“There’s just so much, and it’s a lot more variety than you find in other historic towns, where all the tales are from the war,” John said. “Women love the sentimental, bittersweet love stories. Men love the hotness of battle. Kids get scared by the little ghosts their age that still haunt the cemetery. The setting could not be more beautiful. People really love it.”
The ghost tours, now in their 20th year, lead you through the cemetery, the Civil War spooks and on to the other haunts lurking in the historic town.
“There’s just so much, and it’s a lot more variety than you find in other historic towns, where all the tales are from the war.”
“All of the buildings are very old,” john said. “I’m talking 1770s to more ’modern’ places from 1887. It spans the 18th century, Revolutionary War and the early days here in West Virginia. Everything we talk about is old, historic and true.”
Ghosts are so literally etched into the town’s history, they are immortalized in the local records. The area’s notorious Greenbrier Ghost is the only spectre to ever have her testimony accepted in court— to solve her own murder. “Solid, but ice cold,” read the transcripts.
The dim flames of the candlelit tours add a creepy glow about the town to set off the spooky nature of its tales— especially in the cemetery, where a handful of souls are said to still roam.
“Is that real?” asks a wide-eyed child.
“Yes it is,” assures John, trying to sound solemn. “In fact, the little girl likes to follow people about your age.”
All the youngsters huddled in the graveyard peek over their shoulders— just to be sure.
“My favorite is watching the little kids,” John said. “The 10- and 11-year-olds say ‘I’m not afraid of anything,’ and are rambunctious at the start. By the time we’re through the first couple stops or so, it’s like they’re in military school.”
The ghost tours are a local institution, and some people return decades later, or come year after year, always engrossed in the supernatural stories, from the lovelorn maiden walking the halls in her ghostly gown, to the fallen soldiers still manning their posts.
The town is so connected to its ghostly past, even after 20 years, John is still uncovering more spooks.
One evening, a woman snuck in a ouija board (although they are not allowed on the tours). When she asked it if anyone in the graveyard would like to speak to her, all that came up was a number. She was disappointed when John didn’t know anything about the number, assuming it hadn’t worked.
“The next day, one of the caretakers said, ‘You know what? When she kept getting that number… that’s one of our plot numbers!’ Someone in that grave must have wanted to talk to her!”
Seems the spirits are eager to chat. Come meet them for yourself every Friday and Saturday evening in October. For a reservation, call John at 304-256-8687.