Lake Compounce, Bristol

May, 2009 by Ray Bendici
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ridesattractions_image_1The Damned Story: As the oldest continuously operating theme park in the United States, Lake Compounce in Bristol is well known as a spot where people congregate for summertime fun. From rides like the storied Wildcat and Boulder Dash to other attractions such as the water park and the lake itself, the park has a long history of good times and great enjoyment.

However, Lake Compounce also has a long history of tragedy and accidents, and not coincidentally, a reputation for being haunted.

For whatever reason, it seems as though Lake Compounce has been cursed from the very beginning — legend has it that shortly after John Compound (the Native American chieftain who the park is named for) traded the property in 1684 to a group of white settlers, he drowned in the lake “while trying to cross it in a large brass kettle.” (Hey, that's the story!) Another version has Compound killing himself when he realized he hadn't gotten fair value for the land, while yet another suggests his own tribe murdered him in retaliation for giving away their sacred ground. Whatever happened, it didn’t subsequently dissuade people from visiting the scenic lake, nor did it prevent eventual Lake Compounce owner Gad Norton from opening the park to the public in 1846 for picnicking and other amusements.

In the ensuing decades, the park grew steadily, adding more picnic and swimming areas as well as the state’s first 10-pin bowling alley and a ballroom. In 1911, a carousel was built, followed by a roller coaster in 1914. A few years later in 1927, the renowned Wild Cat wooden roller coaster -- a ride you can still enjoy to this day -- started thrilling visitors. More attractions were added, and the park grew in stature — during its heyday in the 1940s, famous big bands came to play Lake Compounce's Starlite Ballroom, including Tommy Dorsey’s band featuring a young Frank Sinatra.

The later half of the 20th century saw the park's business slowly fade, struggling and passing through the hands of multiple owners in the 1980s and 90s. It was finally purchased by Kennywood Entertainment Co. of Pennsylvania in 1996,  and has enjoyed extensive renovations and expansions to become the family-friendly destination it is now.

You can read the park's official unabridged history here.

As you might expect with any decades-old amusement park, there have been fatal mishaps. Unfortunately, there isn’t much in the way of documentation before the last half century, although there are vague stories about workers being killed in construction accidents and children drowning in the lake. In more recent times, however, there have been many all-too-verified events. In 1981, a 16-year-old girl fell off a moving roller coaster when she tried to stand up; in 1999, a 16-year-old park employee was struck and killed by the Tornado ride; in 2000, a 6-year-old boy drowned while riding the park’s Lake Plunge water slide; and in 2001, a 23-year-old maintenance worker was killed while working on Boulder Dash. And in a tragedy that hit too close to home, in 2004, a 5-year-old Shelton boy — who was in my son’s preschool group and we knew well — was killed when a tree branch fell and struck him (a sad, freak nightmare occurrence that still haunts me).

As you might expect with so many tragic events and such a long history, there are many stories of supernatural goings-on surrounding Lake Compounce. Dark shapes and spirits have been seen in and around the ballroom, strange music and the disembodied voices of revelers past have been heard, and there are reports of inanimate objects moving and lights turning on and off of their own volition. Nighttime security guards also allegedly have  seen strange things after hours.

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The good news is that despite the unfortunate tragedies and accidents, many people have enjoyed themselves immensely at Lake Compounce Amusement Park over the past 153 summers, and will do so again this year.

Oh, a final note: Possibly the most tragic death of all happened at the park on the night of July 21, 1989 — it’s the night that marked the extinguishing of the bright light that was Milli Vanilli as Rob and Fab were performing “live” on the stage at Lake Compounce when their record started skipping. The boys were quickly outed for being lip-synching frauds, and fell from grace faster than if they were riding Down Time. Girl, you know it’s true.

The horror.

Our Damned Experience: Like many of you, we have been to Lake Compounce many times, most recently in summer 2008 -- and aside from the screams and shrieks of people on thrill rides, have yet to experience or see anything unusual or otherworldly.

If You Go: Lake Compounce is located in Bristol, and chances are if you've grown up in Connecticut, you've probably already been there!

If not, it's located just off of Route 229 in Bristol, directly across the street from the ESPN campus -- you can't miss the array of satellite dishes. The park is open daily from May through September (admission prices and hours vary), and then on weekends in October for the always-fun Haunted Graveyard, where the scares, spooks and spirits are fake . . .

. . . or are they?

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Comments

When my mom went into their recent "Haunted Graveyard" she said she saw a man with blood on him.She was SUPER freaked out 'cuz he was see-through.And she asked my cousin Joey (he works there) if he was a new recrute (I probobly spelled it wrong) And my cousin didn't say a word.We later found out that it was a ghost, not only for its filmy figure, but Joey didn't have any clue who she was talking about...Creepy right?

Submitted by Tony (not verified) on
Many fond memories from the late 50's and early 60's of Lake Compounce. My dad would take us there on Sunday afternoons in the summer to listen to the live "cowboy music."

Submitted by Bianca (not verified) on
This is crazy. I have been to Lake Compounce 17 times in the past 4 years (with a season pass) and I've never heard or seen anything bad. Sure, in the past there were a few accidents, but every park has some. Most of them, however, have been caused by people not paying attention to any signs or anything. Lake Compunce is a wonderful park- it just had some bad mishaps. IT IS NOT HAUNTED.

Submitted by MJ Gray Wygant (not verified) on
I grew up in Bristol and spent most everyday there, as my dad, Wally (ior Ralph) Gray, and Walt Swenton were carpenters that took care of the wild cat. The only thing bad that happened was on the high diving board- my brother took a dive and when he landed he hit another swimmer and split his head open. Never did see any ghosts, but there were some scarry people!!!

iv been the once and we saw a shadow of a little 6-year-old boy and trust me it was creepy

Submitted by jimmyf (not verified) on
If your going to make up a story, at least have half brain to make one up where you not easily going to get caught in a lie,lol

Submitted by emily (not verified) on
"iv been the once and we saw a shadow of a little 6-year-old boy and trust me it was creepy" LOL. how did you know this shadow was of a 6 year old boy?

Submitted by Janet (not verified) on
@emily- Hehe LOL. I completely agree with you. The curse may be true, but this user is lying. How did they know it was a 6 year old boy? funny. XD

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on
How would you know it it was a boy and was 6? just curious lol

Submitted by Matt Valenti (not verified) on
Loved Lake Compounce when I was a kid. We used to get free ride tickets from the local tv studio, and we would spend the day. The old rides were great. I remember the Jet boats, the Laff in the Dark, the Old Bumper Cars, Rocket Ships. Wish it was like that again.!

Submitted by Lyme (not verified) on
I worked at Lake Compounce for two years, and have walked through the park alone and at night plenty of times. Aside from the silence and darkness being a bit creepy, I've never experienced anything strange then. But last year, I worked at the front of the haunted maze in Starlight Theater. Some of the maze employees and I saw a thick smoke coming from down an abandoned hallway. When we went to investigate, we saw that it was a fire extinguisher with a gash in it--which was very odd, considering that absolutely no one went down that hallway prior to us.

Submitted by kodi hall (not verified) on
IV BEEN GOING TO LAKE CONPOUNCE FOR THREE YEARS AND I SAW WHAT APPERED TO BE A GHOST IT WAS NEAR THE LAZY RIVER AND ALSO AT THE STAR LIGHT THEATER IT SEAMED TO BE A LITTLE BOY AROUND 7-OR-8 YEARS OLD HE SEEMED AS THOUGH HE WAS HAVING FUN

Submitted by cosmo (not verified) on
I saw what appeared to be a ghost/corpse making strange noises but as I came closer I realized it was only Abe Vigoda eating a taco

Submitted by whoknows (not verified) on
Call in TAPS!!

Submitted by Jorah (not verified) on
Soo, all my life I have lived in Ct.. and Every summer I go to the park to my friends and I also go to the haunted graveyard. Neither of which are "haunted".. (:

My mom sang there in the 1940's. Her stage name was Shirley Lee. She was in her teens. Does anybody remember her? My e-mail address is:[email protected]

Submitted by Hector L Negron (not verified) on
I visited there since I was a child and now I bring my family for years. I never seen or heard of ghost. Eventhough I would love to see one but I think the stories are mad up. I can only tell you this, if families has been bringing their family generations for many years, then you know that this place is the place for you and your family. Visit the Park fir your self and make up your own experience and bring out the kid in you. See you there...

people are just making up stories to get comment I go to lake compounce like everyday over the summer every summer I've never been freaked out or heard of anything from my friends or someone about ghost until now in these comments that are made up.

Submitted by Megan (not verified) on
I have also been to lake compounce and i have never see a ghost or anything creepy? Maybe there are strange accournces but i doubt it very much i feel bad for all the people that did lose there lifes on crazy rides.

Submitted by Alaysia (not verified) on
Look, I have been to Lake compounce ever since I was a little girl. That place is freaking awesome! But, I must say I have NOT seen any ghosts or heard any wierd noises. Nor have I seen any unsightly images throughout the park. Maybe once I had a little chill here and there, but that's only from being near the water park so much. So if you believe that Lake Compounce is HAUNTED, well then I don't know what to tell you. Besides, all parks have a little mystery to them. That's what makes them so great!

Submitted by sam (not verified) on
i go to lake coupounce alot and it is not haunted

Submitted by Dee (not verified) on
i went to lake Compounce for the first time the other day which was 7/02/2011 and decided to ride the wildcat and i banged my knees on the metal when my body slid forward and they are still swollen from that...never again!!!!

Submitted by glory (not verified) on
i use to work at the lake as house keeping..i loved it...but the one place i did not love was the ballroom at nite.....every nite that my partner n i went to clean the ballroon we always felt like someone was lookin or was behind us...we never saw anything but we would here footsteps near the dreesing rooms..on stage...n around the ballroon floors....other then that i loved going to the parkwith my kids n having fun under the sun...

Submitted by Tarheel (not verified) on
**you got the date wrong on that Milli Vanilli show - it was July 29, 1990. I was there...it was magical.

Submitted by Shaniqua (not verified) on
i have worked at the haunted graveyard, which is in the middle of the woods, for the last two years. I have had to walk through the show (and park) forwards and backwards countless times both during the day and in the middle of the night, alone and i have never seen anything. it's not haunted.

Submitted by YIKES (not verified) on
I have been going once every summer for quite a while. I'm a camp counselor and we like to bring the kids there for a field trip. This is the first that i have heard of ghosts at the lake. But if you do go, avoid the water park...it is disgustingly scary and full of very large people. (men, women, and children) We brought the camp about a week ago. At the water park I played a game with a co-counselor where he would count the normal sized people walking by and I counted the larger park goers. Let me tell you, we played for 5 minutes and only counted the people who walked directly in front of our chairs. I won 100 to 25. What does that say about our countries health? It was so repulsive that walked around the park looking for something healthy to eat for dinner...i didn't have much to choose from.

Submitted by Patti (not verified) on
I found this site Googling "rumors of ghosts near the boulderdash at lake compounce". We were there yesterday....my daughter & husband went to go on the boulderdash and when they were near the covered bridge in line my husband heard a man's voice speaking frantically in his ear....but he couldn't understand what was being said.....there was no man standing near him. Later my daughter & i were in line.....same spot....my daughter looked at me and said "what?" I said "I didn't say anything" and she replied "I know I was looking at you and your mouth wasn't moving - but someone just said something really fast in my ear"......I was LOOKING at my daughter and no-one was *that* close to her. By the way....spirits are everywhere.....not so much "Haunting" but just there - amoungst us :)

Submitted by Jessica (not verified) on
The ferris wheel is closed this season in 2011 because an eleven year old boy, while at the top, jumped off the gondola! That explains why there is one missing at the top. I don't know why he commited suicide, he was so young. :(

Submitted by mike (not verified) on
I grew up in bristol and knew many people who have worked there over the last decade. All will ttify that they have seen lights go on and off ...midway games that were.closed make noise and odd figures in the starlight ballroom. So yes it is haunted.

Submitted by aslan (not verified) on
I'm kinda weirded out, because I wanted to go to the haunted graveyard, and now, im thinkin im gonna run into a ghost or something!

Submitted by veronica (not verified) on
It is def. haunted. As a former employee there are many little things that happen there all the time. And Jessica, there was no incident at lake compounce regarding their ferris wheel. an incident happened at another park, and it forced them to shutdown theirs.

Submitted by ti (not verified) on
It is haunted I worked there for several years and a group of us employees were walking past the ballroom(some of the small windows to the ballroom were open still) to leave at night and we heard many people talking and the sound of a honky tonk style piano playing the song "Oh Susanna" coming from the ballroom, it sounded as if there was a party going on in there. I even remember part of the conversation that we heard coming from one of the windows, a lady said that her son had gotten into a skiing accident when he went skiing up north during the winter and he broke his arm and the closest hospital was in Hartford, CT so, he had to make a 5 day trip to get there half of the trip being horse and carriage and the other half train. We all didn't understand what we heard at first. horse and carriage? those haven't been in operation for transportation since the 1800s we thought, so the next day we asked our boss about what type of party was going on in the ball room was it a 1800s themed party or something that night and she told us no one was in the ball room. She believed what we said and told us it was probably the ghosts. I don't care if no one believes me but I tell you it is all true after all I did work there.

Submitted by Donna (not verified) on
I heard the same honky tonk piano in the ballroom as a child. We were camping there for a C.B. jamboree back in the 70's. I asked my Mom if the c.b.ers were having a party there. She told me no the event had closed for the night, and it was quiet time.... I have also seen unexplained shadows at night as a Lake Compounce employee. Just some weird occurances ...

Submitted by Christin M. on
I worked at LC in 1999 / 2000 / 2001 (yea, those tough years) and we heard music from there quite a bit. Always that same music. The chatter was indiscernible, probably because we just weren't close enough. We also saw that top gondola on the Ferris Wheel start swinging back and fourth (30 mins AFTER lock out, tag out) every night. "Hey Chief, have a good night." LOL! It was just the norm. The Chief is obviously active, but means no harm. Those in the ballroom are not, it's just a moment in time that plays over and over every night.

Submitted by Patwell (not verified) on
Not anything dangerous, but certainly adds to its unfortunate notoriety: Lake Compounce is the park where Milli Vanilli was performing in 1989 when the record they were lipsynching to started skipping.

Submitted by Patwell (not verified) on
Wait... I missed the last paragraph. Now I feel stupid. XD

Submitted by Heather S. (not verified) on
As a person who grew up here in Bristol I'd have to say i never experienced anything either, however that doesn't mean something doesn't exist cause you don't see it. some people are lucky to witness these things. I don't find it hard to believe, it is on sacred land among "mountains", which supposedly have some energy force in the minerals. Also, a good friend of mine worked at the park as a teenager and she claims to have seen, heard and felt unexplainable things. she ain't crazy or high either.

Submitted by Christin M. on
Most of the experiences reported at LC come from employees. They happen mostly at night (I know, seems so cliché for "hauntings") and are "times stamps". They are moments in time playing over and over. I've (former employee) experienced those, as well as signs that at least the Chief is active. He pretty much let us know he's still there and looks out for people. Any rumors that he causes accidents is absolutely absurd. Example: The Sky Coaster. If the gate was left open, *click*. And yes, EVERYTHING was checked in attempts to debunk the paranormal. So every time, "Thanks Chief".

I worked at the Lake in the summers of 2000-2002. I was a ride operator for the deep south team. I must say it was very creepy. In between the Skyride and Thunder river there is a pathway with a little bridge for us to cut in between the 2 rides. So that way it is quicker for us to get around instead of going through the lines with the public. Well after the Sky ride closed for the night we usually would have a cigarette on the bridge and the maintenence guys would scare us. Well one night I was having a break with a co-worker and my shirt was pulled so hard I was pulled off the bridge onto the ground. The girl who was with me turned absolutely pale white dropped her cigarette and ran. I panicked and screamed. There were also plenty of nights when walking back into the main portion of the park after the guests had left that were unbelievably creepy. Walking along the path next to Boulderdash and hearing footsteps in the leaves on the other side of the fence walking quicker than you. Hearing kids laughing when no one else was around you. And then there is always the fact that the man who owns the park present day refuses to go into the Ballroom by himself because everytime he does he gets touched. This I know because he made me go with him one night to get a mop bucket from behind the stage. It is def haunted. Nothing malicious just creepy.

Submitted by jan and jazzy (not verified) on
OMG all those are true because we worked there of college.After the ghoust hunters came we had to quit it was getting out of hand so we left. And on halloween we go to lake compounce with family and we still get chills when we go.Beware.

Submitted by Dennis (not verified) on
I have grown up going to Lake Compounce and have been affected by 4 of these unfortunate happenings. My parents brought me to the park the night of the Milli vanilli concert, my neighbor and close friend Matt was killed working the tornado. I worked for the park for 3 seasons, in that time I was working the exit ramp of the wildcat while a human chain was walking the lake to get the drowning victims body which was very sad, seeing him carried out of the water was unsettling, In my second and 3rd season I was one of the main operators of the brand new Boulderdash, one morning I went into work to find my ride closed, when I walked up I found out an employee had been wearing headphones while landscaping under the coasters low clearance ending, and did n

Submitted by Dennis (not verified) on
Not hear the loud test alarms going off while lifting his head between the tracks. Unfortunately for me I spent a very dark time there, but I have also had amazing times at the park and will always consider it a great place close to my heart!

Submitted by alisha louis (not verified) on
i rode the wooden rollercoaster two days after it decapitated that matinence worker in 2000 it was also the day after the more updated rollercoaster across from the wooden on got stuck upside down for hours i felt bad for riding it so soon after.... well kinda lol. i didnt see or feel anything on the coaster but while riding the skilift i couldnt help but feel alot of energy coming from the land itself

Submitted by Former employee (not verified) on
I worked at lake compounce one summer (around 2003) and I worked in the candy store. One day a group of day camp children stopped by (as they normally did before they left the park) this little boy around 7 or 8 face pale white lips black hair black , no shoes, blue swim trunks no shirt dripping wet asked me for quite a bit of candy (as all kids did before they left)... ( What made this unusual was that it was a day only open for the camp kids and he was the only one in a bathing suit. ) The other weird thing was the little boy made no real interactions with the other children. He looked like he wanted them to share with him or even notice him... I just thought the kids were being kids and thought it rude of them. Also I was a little angry because I had to put the whole bag of candy back because the kid didn't buy it. The rest of my shift I kept seeing the kid running in and out of the store (no one seemed to care or notice). A few nights later I see the boy again (this time it's 12 am and I was getting rid of the garbage outside) I see other employees leaving for the night the little boy ran laughing right by them.. They didn't do anything. I shout to them, hey that little boy went back to the water park! Aren't you going to go get him? They looked at me laughed said some nasty thing and kept walking. . . . I told the person I was closing with and she went to investigate and found no one there!

Submitted by Mike (not verified) on
I worked there in the summer of 2002. In orientation, they talked about the accidents that happened and what we could do for safety, etc... It was no secret to people that live in Bristol, that Lake Compounce is rumored to be haunted. One of the employees asked the big wigs about it and they talked about pretty much the same thing that's in this article. It's mostly guards that work over night or off-season that have seen/heard things. I think the nuttiest story I heard was from a guard who's worked there since the new ownership in '96. He was one of those off-season guards who sit in a hut and watch video cameras from all over the park and periodically does a walk-around. During one of these walk-arounds, he heard kids laughing from near the lake. He shined his light and saw 2 middle school aged kids running around bare foot and what looked like deer skin clothing. He ran after them, yelling to stop, but they disappeared. I think when this happened, it was near where the chair lift is so there's really no where these kids could have gone. He let Bristol PD know that some kids broke in and to keep an eye on the area. When he got back to the main park, the starlight ballroom had all the lights on in the inside and he smelled fresh popcorn. A bunch of seasoned workers have stories ,but I thought that one was the most interesting. I keep reading on here , "I've been going there every summer since I was a kid and have seen nothing, it's fake blah blah." You guys need to remember that most spirits don't come out around a huge ass crowd like that, or they simply just blend in with everyone else. Lake Compounce, from what I hear, does the haunted theme year round with the haunted games, ride etc.. because of the fact that it's believed to be haunted.

Submitted by LuvCats88 (not verified) on
C'mon!!! Why is it Lake Compounce, the best place in the universe, that always has to be picked on! So what if it's haunted? So is every amusement park! These incidents could easily have happened by accident. A 6-year old boy drowning? The poor boy probably didn't know how to swim! Trees become old, and sometimes their branches fall at unfortunate times. A tree broke my mom's car in my backyard, but my backyard isn't haunted! Oh my the poor employees! But they didn't die because the park is haunted! It was just a horrible, horrible coincidence. I honestly don't know why the girl tried to stand. Maybe she was trying to commit suicide and she knew it, but that's not the park's fault!The shapes COULD however mean it's haunted, but I've been having the time of my life in Lake Compounce for 10 years and I just went today:), and nothing will ever stop me from adoring it. After all, haven't there been just as many death reports for places like Six Flags? Really! Lol

Submitted by Michael (not verified) on
I'm from Bristol and still go to lake componce. I saw a small very pale boy standing near zoomerang about 5 years ago I walked by and when I looked back he wasn't there. Otherwise the scariest thing I saw was a lady in the waterpark that was very fat, AND pregnant wich made her even bigger. Wearing a bikini and had 5 children with her. It wasn't pretty

I'm 64 YO. I grew up in Plainville, the next town over. I started going to LC when I was about 5 with family and friends. Then, and several times a year in the summers until I moved out of the state in the mid 80's. My favorite thing to do was spend hours on Saturdays in the arcade where it didn't matter whether it was raining or sunny. Literally hours and hours, all day and into the evening. On only $5. When I was about 15 or 16, two of my neighborhood friends and I one Saturday morning went on a Wildcat ride. We were going up the first incline and as we reached the very top where you could get a wide view of the park and lake, leaning against the four foot wooden handrail on the right was an old man with a green vest and brown baggy trousers smiling at us as we were right at the pinnacle about to descend. When we got off the ride we told the Wildcat operator that we saw an old man up there at the very top of the ride greeting us with a smile. But he didn't say anything. Several years later I was in a pub in Bristol with my girl friend and a few others. Four of us were sitting in a booth having a couple beers. I looked over to the wall at the right where there were several old antique B&W pictures. One of them caught my eye and I suddenly felt a cold shiver run up and down my spine. Nancy, my girlfriend at the time was poking me in the side saying, "Peter..Peter!!! earth to Peter!!" I was looking at a photo of one of the earliest pictures of the construction or maintenance, of the Wildcat at Lake Compounce. The photo must have been 100 years old at least. There, in the photo was an old man with a shabby vest and baggy pants with long white sideburns smoking a cigar with a huge familiar grin right at the very top of the first hill.

Very nice story Peter, Lake Compounce has some of the most interesting stories on the site IMO. Steve

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