The Ghosts of Glen Echo

Glen Echo Park was first developed in 1891 as a National Chautauqua Assembly, which taught the sciences, arts, languages, and literature. The Chautauqua lasted for just one season, and by the early 1900s, the site had become Glen Echo Amusement Park — the premier amusement park serving the Washington area until 1968, when it closed (learn more about the civil rights story here). Below we will share with you a tragic tale that has become somewhat of a local ghost story. A video of what Glen Echo Park looks like today can be seen below.

Glen Echo Park was home to the “Coaster Dips” roller coaster. The popular attraction opened in May 1921 and remained until the park closed in 1968. Coaster Dips was nearly 70 feet tall, and the Potomac River could be seen in the distance before plummeting to the bottom of the rickety wooden coaster. Tragically, William J. Lawrence, a 21-year-old Washington drug clerk, fell from the coaster in 1929. According to local legend, screams from the coaster echo into the late evening hours on clear nights. Per the Washington Post in 1929:

A coroner’s jury in Rockville, Md., last night found that William J. Lawrence, 21 years old, Washington drug clerk, who fell from a roller coaster at Glen Echo, Md., Sunday night, died as a result of “being thrown from coaster dip at Glen Echo; causes unknown to the jury.” The body was returned to Corsopolis, Pa., last night. Funeral services have not been arranged.

John E. Mahaffey, 809 Portland street southeast, friend of the dead youth, said that he saw the boy fall from the car, but was powerless to help him. Justice of the Peace A. L. Moore, of Bethesda, acted as coroner and William E. Morgan, of Rockville, was foreman of the coroner’s jury.

Locals have also reported that crowds of people dressed in 1930s and 1940s attire are seen on occasion riding the carousel at night when the attraction isn’t running.

Information courtesy of: Glen Echo Park, Ghosts of DC, Visit Montgomery

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