By JAMIE PARSELL
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
BLUEFIELD — From hair-raising shivers to cold goose bumps on the skin, ghost lovers are finding more places than ever to get the scare of their lives. During the month of October, folks can get their fair share of chills and thrills at local haunted buildings, mysterious forgotten amusement parks and even a psycho circus, complete with a skeleton trapeze performer. Weekends now belong to the spirits of the two Virginias.
Tony Riffe, of Princeton, is spending Saturday nights at Lake Shawnee, near Spanishburg in Mercer County. Riffe, a founding member of Appalachee Paranormal, is giving people a chance to experience the paranormal with something other than a flash light and a bad case of nerves.
The Spirit of Lake Shawnee tour begins at 7 p.m., right around dusk.
“They get a history tour about the park from the landlord’s son Gaylord White II. He does a walk through and talks about the hot spots,” Riffe said. “He then tells the story about the seven untimely deaths in the park.”
One “hot spot” is the story of a young girl who was supposedly killed on the swings. According to both White and Riffe, a delivery truck slid or backed up in the path of the swings. The young child was killed on impact. Her ghost has been seen several times.
It isn’t all ghost stories. With Appalachee Paranormal, participants can be a part of an investigation. Riffe and other paranormal members will allow people to use their equipment.
“We end at midnight, at least. They get about four to five hours of investigating. They need to bring flash lights and if they have equipment, they can bring it as well,” he said.
The brave ones have the option to camp during the night.
The tours are a part of a collaboration with the land owners, Riffe added. He hopes people will come out because of Lake Shawnee’s popularity with locals and out-of-state ghost hunters.
“This place has been featured on the Sci-Fi Channel, the Discovery Channel and the Travel Channel,” Riffe said. “It is a local place, but it is known nationally.”
The history of the land goes back to the pioneer days. The Clay family settled in the Lake Shawnee area, but Tabitha and Bartley Clay, children of Mitchell Clay and Phoebe Belcher, were killed during an Indian attack. Their younger brother Ezekiel was taken to an Indian village in Ohio, where he was burned at the stake. The family left the area and returned to Giles County, Va.
In 1926, C.T. Snidow opened an amusement park. It closed in 1968. The current owners — the White family — purchased the land in 1985. While working on the property, they started to notice strange events.
“From day one, we knew it was haunted ... in the ’80s, we were afraid to tell people about it. Our friends and neighbors knew though,” White said.
In the early 2000s, he caught a local woman sneaking into the park to take pictures. Her eagerness about the area caught him off guard. Between 2004-2005, the state contacted White about allowing a film company to explore the area. Other film companies, paranormal investigators and TV shows have followed. ABC Family produced “The Ten Most Curious Places in the World.” The Travel Channel filmed the area for their show “The Most Terrifying Places in America.” More continue to come. White even hinted at a possible movie in the future.
Local residents can experience the same eerie feelings every Saturday night. So far, Riffe said families as far away as the Charleston area have traveled for the tour. Tickets are $50 for adults and $25 for children. There is no age limit, but parents should use caution with younger children, Riffe said. For more information, call 304-425-5716.