The oldest continuously operated theme park in the United States: Lake Compounds.
The place opened in 1846 but its history reaches back even further to the 1600s. Mattatuck Indian tribe leader Chief John Compound sold his territory to a group of white settlers. A few days later, John Compound had drowned in the lake after attempting to cross it.
Now under property of Gad Norton and Isaac Pierce, the land was first used as an area to test explosives, but later transformed it into a theme park. As the park expanded, so did its reputation.
Lake Compounds is notorious, however, with a variety of tragic deaths that have occurred over the past 30 years. The first death was in 1981, when a teenage girl fell out of one of the roller coasters after attempting to stand inside of her cart due to a safety bar malfunction.
Later in 2000, a young boy drowned in the lake unnoticed by lifeguards. His body was found almost half an hour later, curled up at the bottom. He died in the hospital about a week later. Before his death, he mentioned that it felt like something was pulling him to the bottom, though park officials figured that his foot was probably caught in some underwater flora that had grown in considerable length.
A year later, a maintenance worker was decapitated by one of the roller coasters as he was trimming weeds near the track. Little did he know, this was during the ride’s testing hours. Because he was wearing earplugs, he could not hear the speeding train coming towards him.
The most recent guest death was in 2004, when the branch of a dead tree broke off and struck a 5 year old child near the mini-golf course, killing him instantly.
The head general manager of the park at this time, Travis Byrnes, started to behave more strangely as noticed by fellow employees. Some days he’d show up hours late, or not at all. He would interact less with his fellow workers, and constant nervous, fidgety anxiety started to replace his regular light-hearted, down to earth demeanor.
This erratic behavior ended when he eventually committed suicide by purposefully plummeting his car off a highway not far from the actual park. His family, friends, and co-workers speculated that it probably was because of all the stressful deaths and lawsuits he had to deal with.
Because of its notable history of violent deaths, Lake Compounds has revised its policies to very strict levels to ensure safety. Since then, there have been no deaths in the park for 10 years.
Well, reported deaths that is.
Lake Compounds operates from May to September but reopens during October for their Halloween theme titled “The Haunted Graveyard.” On the weekends, the park opens at night and guests can go on rides (besides the water park) or walk through the optional haunted trail.
The haunted trail is about a 45-minute walk through houses, graveyards, catacombs, and other horror-themed sets. Employee members dress up in frightening costumes and scare guests for a thrilling experience.
This trail is located in the backwoods perimeter, wedged between the employee services building and the large mountain that makes up the west side of the park.
October of 2012 my friend Rick and I decided to go through the trail. At the front admissions gate the employee recommended we start the trail first before going on rides because the line for the trail could last as long as 2 hours.
It was obvious that the guy in the ticket booth gave everyone this information, since the line was already stretched by the time we rushed there. The wait wasn’t too long, though. We already reached the entrance to the trail in about half an hour.
While we waited in line, a Vincent Price-like voice over the intercom stated the rules. It was obviously a recording on loop, that must have repeated over 50 times while we waited, up to the point where I started to recite the damn speech out of sheer boredom.
When we reached the entrance, some young, disinterested female employee dressed in a shoddy cloak restated the rules to us in the most monotonous tone I’ve ever heard. Poor girl, I thought to myself. Must suck being paid a minimum wage to repeat the same sentence over and over to a ton of people on a late Friday night.
The first part of the trail was a medieval themed set. Stonewalls resembling the architecture of an old, worn down castle lined either side of the path. Red light bulbs in the shape of torches patterned the walls, giving the path a red ambience. Gargoyles were perched atop various pillars, smiling down at us. Costumed cast members were dressed up as druids and other religious zealots, repeating god knows what type of bible versus over and over.
This section wasn’t very scary of course, though I do admit it was very cool to look at. A very eerie song played in the background; it sounded like a combination of Gregorian chants, a church organ, and heavy drums.
We then reached what seemed to have been a torture room. Stretching tables, iron maidens, spiked pits, and cauldrons of boiling water made up the set as painful screams were heard in the background. Must have been just a recording of employees. A tall, muscular cast member dressed as an executioner stood at the end of the corridor. Axe in hand, he beckoned for us to continue down the trail.
The medieval themed section was over, and now the trail transformed into some Aztec-themed, jungle ruins. A vast amount of vegetation surrounded the path, difficult for me to tell if they were real plants or not. Stone statues of ritualistic Aztec idols decorated the area. A track of tribal music repeated in the background, equipped with the sounds of birds tweeting and monkeys hollering.
The large bushes and trees made it perfect for employees, who were dressed in tribal gear, to jump out and shock us. One of them scared us so unexpectedly that I actually slipped backwards and fell to the ground. Instead of helping me up of course, Rick just laughed at me. We were always assholes to each other; it’s how we pretty much became friends.
The next portion of the trail was a graveyard, which was the most open area out of the whole trail since fake walls didn’t surround it. The graveyard’s area was a large square, so the walkway was in a zigzag fashion to cover the interior of the yard.
Several tombstones were visible to look at, most with humorous text on them such as, “Here lies Sir Thomas Drake, who stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake.” Corny as hell, but it lightened the mood for those who were scared.
We were almost finished with the graveyard bit when I stopped, and reached into my pockets. “My wallet’s gone.”
“Do you remember when you last had it?” Rick instinctively asked.
“Dude I don’t know. It’s probably somewhere back there.” I pointed down the other direction of the path from where we walked previously.
“Let’s go find it then, come on.”
We had to push through groups of guests who walked in the opposite direction as us while we walked back, resulting in dirty looks and comments on how we weren’t following the rules. I didn’t pay them any mind. I just wanted to find my wallet.
When we reached the jungle-themed area again, it occurred to me that my wallet might have fallen out of my pocket when I slipped to the ground. We traversed through thick leaves hoping to find the exact spot but the darkness of the night didn’t make things any easier.
As we walked, I kept thinking to myself that something wasn’t the same. The path we were walking on didn’t look familiar at all. I was still walking on a clearly defined dirt road lined with a rope fence, but I saw nothing else that resembled the set we ventured through earlier.
The path suddenly halted, as an enormous, bushy tree blocked the end of it. Dead end? On a trail like this? Without giving it much thought I squeezed my way between the branches and leaves, hoping that I would end up back on the normal trail when I made it through. Branches whipped my face and leaves brushed against my body. I could hear Rick following me from behind.
After what seemed to be a couple of minutes, I made it through and was in an open space again.
“Man where the hell are we?” I asked Rick. I turned around to see if he made it through, but no one was there. I called his name out again. No answer. Dumbass probably came out some other end so I began to walk along the stretch of trees and bushes.
I definitely was not on the main trail anymore, probably along the outskirts where guests weren’t permitted to go. I was hoping to find some costumed member so I could ask how to get back to where I was supposed to be but I couldn’t find anyone. Was I that far off course?
I continued on, frantically looking in every direction hoping to find something that could take me to where I wanted to go. I was hoping to hear sounds from the attraction itself like background music, sound effects, or the screaming of guests. But the only sounds I heard were my footsteps on the dirt ground, the chirping of the crickets, and the drum-like beats of my heart.
I started to panic. I had no idea where I was going in these god-forsaken woods. With each step I felt as if I was wandering farther and farther from the park. I nearly started to run and bellow for help, but who would hear me?
Then, I heard it. A gurgled cry that elevated into a blood-curdling scream. A scream as mentally jarring as it was physically. Rick’s scream.
I bolted towards the direction from where the sound came. Hadn’t it been for the illumination of the moon, I might have ran straight into a tree. The longer I ran, the longer the scream dragged on. I could hear it coming closer… closer…
Then the screaming stopped, but I was still running, my feet pounding the ground in a rhythmic fashion. I could see a light in the distance. It was a lamppost.
The lamppost’s bright yellow light illuminated anything within 10 feet of it. I looked on the dirt ground and saw Rick. I recognized him by his gray hoodie and dark blue jeans.
His right arm was twisted across the front of his body. His left arm bent backwards at the elbow. His legs were sprawled out and contorted. Dark, crimson blood pooled where his head was. Wait, no. Where his head was supposed to be.
My whole body went stiff. My skin tingled from the cold sweat that surrounded every inch of me. I could feel bile climbing up my throat. I quickly turned and looked away, squeezing my eyes shut. I felt like vomiting, but it just wouldn’t come out.
When I finally had the courage to open my eyes, I did so extremely slowly. Bit by bit, I turned back to Rick’s body. That’s when I saw it.
It was a man. A tall stature, broad shoulders, long arms. A ghost-white dress shirt covered its physically imposing body, complemented by a thick, black tie and black dress pants. Bloodstained gauze wrapped around its head that covered everything but its eyes and mouth. Those soul-piercing, hungry eyes stared me down. That awful smile, adorned with crooked yellow teeth. Drooling. Groaning.
In its right hand was my wallet. In the left hand hung Rick’s head. Eyes rolled back, mouth gaping, fresh blood dripping from his neck and pooling onto the ground.
It was almost a blur at that point. All I remembered was running for my dear life, finding my way back on the trail, pushing through other people, and making it to the exit. I screamed for someone to help, but the theme park’s Halloween-themed occasion had voided any real concern for my wellbeing. Guests looked at me like I was just some nut playing pranks.
I didn’t know whom to tell. Nobody would have believed me if I told them what I saw, considering that it happened in a haunted attraction. I couldn’t just tell anyone there. I needed to take it one step further.
I contacted the authorities, and told them everything that I saw. They looked through the entire proximity, including the haunted trail itself as well as the rest of the surrounding woods.
They found nothing.
Credit To – PalerLaze