Devil’s Backbone

Status: Former Amusement Park; Abandoned; State Park


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Both Photos from Wikipedia

Gmiller123456 - Own work


In the late 19th century this area was developed as a family picnic ground and church camp and was known as Fern Grove due to the large number of ferns growing in the area.

It was then purchased by the Louisville and Jefferson Ferry Company and promoted as a destination to increase business for their ferries over the Ohio River.

In 1923 David Rose purchased it and converted it into an amusement park and renamed it Rose Island. A hotel was built as well as a swimming pool, wooden roller coaster, a ferris wheel and a combination dance hall/roller rink. There was even a small zoo containing wolves and a black bear named Teddy Roosevelt.

Rose sunk $250,000 (just under 4.5 million in 2023 dollars) into the new amusement park.

It could be reached either by a steamship from Louisville or by parking and crossing over a swinging bridge by foot.

When the Great Depression began in 1930 it decimated the finances of the park. After the Great Flood of 1937 – destroying much of the park’s infrastructure and flooding the site with 10 feet of water – the park was closed.

The swimming pool still exists – see photo above – but all that’s left of the buildings are some concrete foundations. The foot bridge was destroyed by falling trees, but the footings are still visible.

The site became part of the Indiana Ammunition Plant – much of which has now been demolished – and finally it was transferred to the Indiana Department of Natural Resources and became part of the Charlestown State Park.

Since 2011 the area has become accessible again – other than using a boat - via Trail 3 in the State Park.


Paranormal Activity

Amusement parks in the first half of the 20th century and earlier did have the strict safety laws modern parks operate under. All of them had their share of fatalities although there’s no historical record of any here, any records of them would probably have been buried quickly, people dying is not good for business.

As a whole the flood of 37 did have a large number of fatalities it is unclear if any of them were in the park.

Shadow figures and apparitions have been reported as watching people from in the trees.

Phantom footsteps, disembodied voices (including some recorded EVP’s) and other unexplained noises are heard.

The phantom sounds of the roller coaster operating and children laughing and playing are also reported.

Balls of light and sudden mists have also been reported.

People also report suddenly feeling as if they are not alone and being watched by unseen spirits in the park’s ruins.

Overall, the energy of the site is reported to be positive; after all people did come here to have fun.

Testimonial by parafrankiec

Just be very relaxed, carry your digital recorder, sit down and relax and you will be able to carry a cool conversation with the souls hanging around there. Very chill place, I would do that your first visit, then gradually bring in more gear, very cool place.