Specters on Stage—Guide to Haunted Southern Theatres

Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more.

—Williams Shakespeare, Macbeth, Act V, Scene 5

The world of the theatre is filled with mysticism, superstition, and spirits. As a theatre person, nearly every theatre I have worked in has this mysterious side, especially in the connection to the spirit world. In his Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans, author Jeff Dwyer contends that one can be almost certain that a theatre will be haunted.

There are few certainties in ghost hunting. But when it comes to haunted places, ships and theaters offer ghost hunters the greatest opportunities for encounters with the spirit world. Theaters often harbor the ghosts of actors, writers, musicians and directors because something about their creative natures ties them to the place where they experienced their greatest successes or failures. Stagehands and other production staff may haunt backstage areas where they worked and, perhaps suffered a fatal accident. They may also be tied to room where props are stored. The ghosts of patrons remain long after death because they love the theater or, more likely, they loved an actor who performed regularly at that location.

Much of the mysticism in theatre revolves around actors, especially in how they take on a character. Even the language of an actor bears parallels with the language of ghosts and spirits. Some actors will describe an experience akin to possession when they are inhabiting another’s body and lose themselves. Certainly, within the ritual of preparing for a show, there may be a ritual in applying makeup, getting into costume, and warming up. I’ve watched as some actors will walk the set, absorbing the energy of the world of the play, all of which resembles summoning. If the play utilizes masks, actors may put on the mask in a nearly religious manner. Onstage, the actors are in tune with the energy that surrounds them, including that from other actors, the set, the audience, the crew, and the audience. Once the actor has finished his hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage, these spirits are banished to the world of fiction. But, are they really? Perhaps some of these spirits linger in the theatre?

As for the directors, writers, musicians, technical crew members, and the backstage functionaries, many imbue their work with their own passion, thus leaving a little bit of themselves behind in their work. Even once these people pass on, they may return to the theatres to feed their passion in the afterlife.

The practice of leaving a ghost light onstage when the theatre is dark is wrapped up in superstition and practicality. Some will argue that the light assures the theatre’s spirits that the theatre is not abandoned and provides light for their own performances. In a way, this could be a sacrifice to the genius loci, or the spirit of a location. As for practicality, non-superstitious thespians will contend that a ghost light provides illumination to prevent injuries if someone enters the darkened space.

Theatres are often inherently dangerous places where actors, crew, and even some patrons can, and do, get injured. Indeed, there have been numerous accidents throughout history where deaths have occurred on or just off stage sometimes leaving spirits in limbo within the space. The haunting of the Wells Theatre in Norfolk, Virginia comes to mind. One of the spirits in this 1913 theatre may be that of a careless stagehand who became entangled in the hemp rope-operated fly system (a system that is still in use) and accidentally hung himself. Other deaths may be blamed on medical conditions that have claimed have claimed lives while people are at work.

As for lingering spirits of theatre patrons, a love for theatre or a particular space may be reason enough to return in the afterlife. Though it seems that most of the hauntings by members of the audience are residual in nature with phantom laughter and applause sometimes being heard.

Contributing to theatres’ haunted natures, some theatres occupy spaces that were not intended to be performance spaces. These repurposed buildings may already be haunted, and the spirits adapt to the new use of the location. Among the numerous examples of these types of theatres are the Baltimore Theatre Project in Maryland in an old building originally constructed for a men’s fraternal organization and the Hippodrome State Theatre in Gainesville, Florida, formerly a post office and courthouse.

Over the decade I have worked on this blog, I have covered a number of theatres and theatre spaces. In addition to places that have formerly served as theatres, I have added movie houses, larger structures that include a theatre, structures that are associated with theatres, and the Maryland home of the Booth family, which included some of America’s most famous and infamous actors in the 19th century.

Alabama

Lyric Theatre Birmingham Alabama
Balconies of the Lyric Theatre. Photo by Andre Natta, 2006, courtesy of Flickr.

District of Columbia

Tivoli Theatre Washington DC
Tivoli Theatre, 2005, by D Monack. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida 

Floirda Theatre Jacksonville Florida
Florida Theatre, 1927. Photo courtesy of the Jacksonville Historical Society.

Georgia 

Wink Theatre Dalton Georgia
Wink Theater, 2018. Photo by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

Kentucky 

Louisville Palace Theatre Kentucky
The house and stage of the Louisville Palace. The theater is designed to ensconce the audience in a Spanish Baroque courtyard. The ceiling is an atmospheric ceiling with clouds. In the 1960s, this balcony was enclosed as a second theater, but this alternation was removed in the 1990s restoration. It’s not hard to imagine spirits spending their afterlife in such a magnificent edifice. A handful of spirits have been reported here including a man in 1930s clothing that has been seen in this balcony. When approached by ushers, the man disappears. Photo taken in 1928, courtesy of the Historic American Building Survey (HABS) collection, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Louisiana

Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium Louisiana
The elaborate facade of the Shreveport Municipal Memorial Auditorium. Photo by Michael Barera, 2015, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Maryland 

Maryland Theatre Hagerstown
The modern entrance to the Maryland Theatre, 2014. Photo by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Mississippi

Temple Theatre Meridian Mississippi
Temple Theatre, 2008. Photo by Dudemanfellabra, courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina 

Carolina Theatre Greensboro North Carolina
Greensboro’s Carolina Theatre in 2008. Photo by Charles Brummitt, courtesy of Wikipedia.

South Carolina

Riviera Theatre Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Riviera Theatre, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Tennessee

The proscenium arch of the Orpheum Theatre, 2010, by Orpheummemphis. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

Hanover Tavern Virginia
Hanover Tavern, 2007 by BrandlandUSA. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia 

Apollo Theatre Martinsburg West Virginia
Apollo Theatre, 2009, by Acroterion. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Sipping with Spirits—Guide to Spirited Southern Bars

N.B. Last updated 29 May 2020.

Throughout the South, there are many places where you can sip with spirits. This guide covers all of the bars that I have explored in the pages of this blog over the years. Not only have I included independent bars, but breweries, wineries, restaurants, and hotels with bars as well.

Alabama

Buttermilk Hill Restaurant Sylacauga Alabama ghosts haunted
Buttermilk Hill Restaurant, 2016. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, all rights reserved.

District of Columbia

Omni Shoreham Hotel Washington DC ghosts haunted
Omni Shoreham Hotel, 2009. Photo by Jurgen Mattern,  courtesy of Wikipedia.

Florida

Island Hotel Cedar Key Florida ghosts haunted
Island Hotel, 2007. Photo by Ebyabe, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Georgia

Jekyll Island Club Hotel Jekyll Island Georgia ghosts haunted
Jekyll Island Club, 2012, by Lewis Powell IV. All rights reserved.

Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern Bardstown Kentucky ghosts haunted
Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Louisiana

Hotel Monteleone French Quarter New Orleans Louisiana ghosts haunted
Hotel Monteleone, 2009 by Bart Everson, courtesy
of Wikipedia.

Maryland

Middleton Tavern Annapolis Maryland ghosts haunted
Middleton Tavern, 1964. Photograph for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). Courtesy of the Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division.

Mississippi

Weidmann's Meridian Mississippi ghosts haunted
Weidmann’s, 2010, by Dudemanfellabra. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

North Carolina

Lake Lure Inn North Carolina ghosts haunted
The 1927 Lake Lure Inn. Photo 2012, by Lewis Powell IV, all rights reserved.

South Carolina

Mad River Grill Charleston SC ghosts haunted
Mad River Grille, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV. All rights reserved.

Tennessee

Earnestine and Hazel's Memphis Tennessee ghosts haunted
Earnestine and Hazel’s, 2012, by Thomas R.
Machnitzki, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Virginia

Michie Tavern Charlottesville Virginia ghosts haunted
Michie Tavern, 2005, by Forestufighting, courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia

Turnpike Terror—West Virginia

West Virginia Turnpike—Interstate 77
Between Princeton and Charleston

N.B. Part of this article was originally published 22 December 2014 as part of my article, “13 Southern Haunts You’ve Probably Never Heard Of.” This article has been revised and expanded.

If there was ever a place for a ghost, it’s that two-lane holocaust.
–Terry Marchal, “Always on Sunday,” Charleston Mail Gazette, 12 September 1971

The West Virginia Turnpike was plagued with problems from the very beginning. In the early 20th century the very mountains that made “The Mountain State” unique also cut off much of the state’s population from the outside world. To rectify this, the state looked into a major north to south thoroughfare between two major cities.

After a route was chosen, construction involved literally moving mountains at tremendous cost. By the time it opened in 1954, the project’s price amounted to $133 million—around $1.5 million per mile—over two years. But, the staggering statistics do not stop there; construction required the movement of 33 million cubic yards of earth, 16 million pounds of dynamite, 60% of excavation through rock, 116 bridges within the road’s 88 miles, and, sadly, five lost were lost during the project.

As it opened, some even deemed the highway “88 miles of miracle,” though that positive image did not last. Criticism followed with the two-lane road being called “the road to nowhere” by The Saturday Evening Post. As it became packed with the increased traffic brought to it by the Interstate Highway System, even more scorn was heaped upon the highway.

West Virginia Turnpike 1974
A two-lane section of the turnpike in 1974. Photo by Jack Corn for the EPA.

With the traffic and congestion also came a sharp increase in deaths on the road. Terry Marchal’s 1971 quip about the turnpike being a “two-lane holocaust” was apt considering the huge death toll. By 1975, the toll stood at 278 fatalities.

During the late 1970s and into the 80s, the road was expanded into a four-lane highway, which has eased some traffic woes, though congestion remained a problem. Another issue that arose—although the state government could not have foreseen such a thing—was ghosts.

congestion on the West Virginia Turnpike
Modern congestion on the turnpike in Raleigh County, 2006. Photo by Seicer, courtesy of Wikipedia.

By 1971, tales had been told for years about ghostly hitchhikers along the road’s route, when an article appearing in the Martinsville Bulletin of Virginia stirred some interesting commentary among West Virginia newspapers.  The article reports that the Associated Press reported that a West Virginia radio station reported (many people are reporting on others’ reporting in what might be a classic example of the telephone game) that witnesses have encountered a ghostly hitchhiker on the turnpike.

Columnist Bob Wills in the Raleigh Register (in Raleigh, West Virginia) pointed out this farcical reporting in his column on September 20, 1971, describing it as “another case of ‘I know a man who etc…’” Wills reprints the original Martinsville Bulletin article to show how ludicrous it is. The original article in the Martinsville Bulletin takes a humorous turn with the author suggesting several “answers to the mystery of the vanishing hitchhiker,” including “Anything can happen in West Virginia…and will on the West Virginia Turnpike.”

Despite the article’s skeptical tone, it seems that the story itself may still bear a kernel of truth, especially when compared to more recent stories from the turnpike. Wills reprinted the entire Martinsville Bulletin article in his column of which this is the most interesting part, my own notes are provided in brackets:

According to the AP, as reported by a West Virginia radio station, 22 motorists on the turnpike between Princeton and Bluefield [this is the southern end of the turnpike] have reported they picked up a hitch-hiking man who later vanished from their cars. [I can find no evidence of the Associated Press coverage of the hitchhiker, though this may simply be due to the fact that many papers from this period are not yet available online.]

You read that correctly. The man just vanished from their vehicles—in some cases while they were traveling at 65 miles an hour.

Some motorists even reported the car seat belt was still hooked together on the front seat after the man disappeared.

According to the radio station, the neatly dressed man got into the cars when motorists stopped, but said nothing.

But in cases he later spoke one sentence—“Jesus is coming.”

And with that he vanished.

Earlier that month, Bob Wills reported on a message the newspaper received on its reader tip line:

This is Charley Jackson, City Councilman at large, Beckley, West Virginia. Something happened to me not too long ago and people have been asking about it since. Also, it was announced on the radio that I was one of the witnesses that could explain it…it happened on the West Virginia turnpike…Well, this is it:

I was going down the Turnpike and I saw a hitchhiker. I picked up this hitchhiker and I had reached the climax of 60 miles an hour when this gentleman said to me, he said, “Jesus is coming soon.” And then he disappeared. Where he went to, how he left, only God knows. But I do know that it is mighty strange. There were no witnesses, no warlocks, no magic; but something is going on. There is a change that should be made in everyone’s life—and that is my story.

Wills says that the reporters who listened to the recording were well familiar with Councilman’s Jackson’s voice and the voice on the recording was not his.

While they also noted that the story was “a thin tale with an evangelistic bent” the story does seem to bear the hallmarks of more recent stories from the turnpike. In the intervening years, several state troopers have reported experiences here including one who discovered a little girl who appeared lost and wandering on the side of the road. After picking up the unusually quiet child and putting her in the backseat of his car. During the drive the trooper glanced in his rear-view mirror and was shocked to discover the child had vanished.

Another trooper encountered a pedestrian along the turnpike and arrested him as pedestrians are forbidden from walking along the road. Placing the handcuffed man in the back seat of his patrol car, the officer headed back to headquarters. At some point during the drive, the trooper looked in the rear-view mirror to find the back seat was empty. The pedestrian simply vanished leaving the handcuffs on the seat.

ghostly hitchhiker haunted West Virginia Turnpike
West Virginia Turnpike as it passes through Fayette County. Photo 2006 by Seicer. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Blogger Theresa Racer writes in her blog of her own experience. She and her mother were traveling along the turnpike when they passed “a scraggly looking young man wearing dark clothing and carrying an olive green army-like sack” standing in a particularly lonely area of the interstate. After passing him, they looked in their rear view mirror to see the figure had vanished. They turned their car around and did not see anyone along that same lonely stretch of interstate.

Folklorist Dennis Deitz posits in his The Greenbrier Ghost and other Strange Stories that the road cuts across two creeks where tragedies have occurred. Along both Paint and Cabin Creeks there were many mines where miners were killed in accidents. He also notes that both creeks have experienced flooding that has killed residents in the area. During the turnpike’s construction in the 1950s there were also a number of old cemeteries that were moved, perhaps these hitchhiking spirits are trying to find their way back to their earthly remains?

For further stories of ghostly hitchhikers in West Virginia, see my article on Fairmont’s Old Grafton Road, and  WV Route 901 in Berkeley County.

Sources

  • Deitz, Dennis. The Greenbrier Ghost and Other Strange Stories. South Charleston, WV: Mountain Memories Books, 1990.
  • Gavenda, Walter and Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
  • Monday, Christopher R. “The West Virginia Turnpike: “88 Miles of Miracle.” West Virginia Historical Society Quarterly. Volume 11, No. 2.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WV Turnpike.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 2 March 2011.
  • “West Virginia Turnpike History.” West Virginia Parkways Authority. Accessed
  • Wills, Bob. “The Turnpike Ghost turns up on tape.” The Raleigh Register. 14 September 1971.
  • Wills, Bob. “Virginian enlarges TP ‘Ghost’ tale.” The Raleigh Register. 20 September 1971.

Guide to the Haunted Libraries of the South—West Virginia

Libraries are as the shrine where all the relics of the ancient saints, full of true virtue, and that without delusion or imposture, are preserved and reposed.

–Sir Francis Bacon

Several years before I started this blog in 2010, a series of articles by George Eberhart about haunted libraries was published in the Encyclopedia Britannica Blog. This comprehensive list, still up on the now defunct blog, covers perhaps a few hundred libraries throughout the world with a concentration on the United States. After perusing the list and noting the many Southern libraries missing from the list, I’ve decided to create my own list here.

Like theatres, it seems that every good library has its own ghost. George Eberhart argues that there are two reasons for libraries to be haunted: one, that the library inhabits a building that may have been the scene of a tragedy, or two, that the library may be haunted by a former librarian or benefactor who may continue to watch over it.

For other haunted Southern libraries, see my entries on Alabama, District of Columbia, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library
404 West Pike Street
Clarksburg

A bronze plaque in the vestibule of Waldomore Mansion paraphrases the above quote from the English philosopher and statesman Sir Francis Bacon: “Books are the Shrine Where the Saint is.” Perhaps there is a saint remaining in spirit within this former residence.

Waldomore Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library haunted ghosts Parkersburg West Virginia
Waldomore, 2015, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the West Virginia Collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

Standing in stark contrast to the modern Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library next door, Waldomore Mansion preserves an old-world elegance and many fond memories for the citizens of Clarksburg. Built around 1839 for Waldo Goff and his wife, Harriett Moore, the home was dubbed using a combination of the state senator’s and his wife’s names. The Greek Revival home was occupied by the Goff family until heirs deeded the property to the city with the express condition that the house be used as either a museum or library.

In 1931, the home was opened as a permanent home for the local public library and served as such until growing pains required the library to build a modern facility next door in 1976. The building now houses meeting space for the library as well as its local and state history collection, among them the papers of paranormal researcher Gray Barker. Waldomore underwent restoration and renovation in 2016 and 2017 which installed a new wiring system and helped to preserve the home to allow it to continue to make memories for local citizens for many years to come.

As for the spirit that may continue to occupy the home, some locals have reported the figure of a woman in white peering from the upstairs windows and the tinkling of piano music heard coming from a lone piano in one of the parlors.

Sources

  • Collins, Rodney S. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for Waldomore. 14 February 1978.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.
  • Murray, Brittany. “Waldomore upgrades, renovation near completion.” The Exponent Telegram. 8 February 2017.
  • Racer, Theresa. “Waldomore Mansion in Clarksburg.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.

Downtown Campus Library
West Virginia University Campus
Morgantown

N.B. This was originally published as part of my “Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia.”

Studious spirits inhabit this 1931 library. One staff member was studying here when he heard the elevator doors open and someone walk to the desk on the other side of the partition and pull the chair out. When he looked shortly after that, no one was there. Legend blames this activity on a staff member who died after falling down an open elevator shaft.

Sources

  • Kinney, Hilary. “Spooky stories surface throughout campus.” The Daily Athenaeum. 31 October 2013.
  • Racer, Theresa. “WVU haunts around campus.”Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 20 May 2012.

Kingwood Public Library
205 West Main Street
Kingwood

The small town of Kingwood, in Preston County, is home to the West Virginia Zoo and a haunted library. Sandwiched between a gas station and a McDonald’s, the Kingwood Public Library occupies a 1966 building that stands on land that has a dark history. A brick jail was built on this plot of land in 1871 and housed inmates until a new jail was opened nearby in 1925. The old jail was then acquired by the American Legion and housed a post until 1966 when that building was razed for the library.

Theresa Racer reported that a librarian posted of activity on the WVGhosts website which collects accounts of ghosts from throughout the state. The librarian noted that odd sounds were heard throughout the building including footsteps on the concrete basement stairs. “Objects move around on their own accord, and doors open and close without any living hands assisting. Most interesting are the stories of books actually jumping off the library shelves!”

Unfortunately, the link to the story on WVGhosts no longer works and the story may have been taken down, leading to the question of if the activity remains.

Sources

Martinsburg Public Library
101 West King Street
Martinsburg

Like the Kingwood Library, the Martinsburg Public Library occupies the site of a former building, but one with a less dark history. On this respectable location in the heart of Martinsburg, across from the courthouse the Flick Building, later called the Wiltshire Building, was constructed in 1815. Ten years after the building’s construction, a group of locals met here to establish the Martinsburg Library Society.

During the Civil War, the building was the headquarters of General William Henry Seward Jr., son of the Secretary of State William H. Seward Sr., who commanded a brigade in the area. This building was torn down in 1966 (the same year as the demolition of the jail in Kingwood for construction of their library) and replaced with the current library building.

Martinsburg Public Library West Virginia haunted ghosts
Martinsburg Public Library, 2015, by Carol M. Highsmith. Courtesy of the West Virginia Collection of the Carol M. Highsmith Archive, Prints and Photographs Division of the Library of Congress.

According to Justin Stevens in his book, Haunted Martinsburg, the library has been the scene of odd doings since the 1970s. At that time, staff members would regularly hear people on the third floor after closing and at times when the library was otherwise empty of patrons. The odor of coffee was also detected. Most strange were the puddles of water that mysteriously appeared throughout the building. Some people actually witnessed water running down the stairs from the third floor, though no source was ever discovered. In the childrens’ section, a librarian had several experiences with child-like spirits.

In the 1990s, a library director brought in a psychic medium to try to contact the resident spirits. The medium eventually contacted a spirit named Jeff who had served in the Civil War. Staff members performed a ritual to free Jeff and the other spirits within the building. There has been little to no paranormal activity since.

Sources

  • Stevens, Justin. Haunted Martinsburg. Charleston, SC: History Press, 2016.

Morgantown Public Library
373 Spruce Street
Morgantown 

Staff and patrons of Morgantown’s 1923 Public Library have often heard the sound of falling books only to discover that none have fallen. The spirit has been dubbed, “Isabelle Jane,” though the apparition seen is that of a man in 19th century clothing. The library was constructed on the site of two homes, but it is unknown if the haunting is related.

Sources

  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.

Morrow Library
Marshall University Campus
Huntington

N.B. This was originally published as part of my “Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia.”

Library patrons are sometimes interrupted in this 1930 library by the sounds of arguing, though the source is never found. Originally the main university library building, this building now houses special collections.

Sources

  • Donohue, Kelly. Unnamed article. The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.
  • Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.

Trans Allegheny Books
(formerly the Parkersburg Carnegie Library)
725 Green Street
Parkersburg

Parkersburg Carnegie Library, formerly Trans Allegheny Books, 2010. Photo by Richie Diesterheft, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0.

Once occupying the old Parkersburg Carnegie Library, Trans Allegheny Books, a popular bookstore closed on the death of its owner. Several spirits, both human and feline may still reside in the old library. See my entry, “Book Heaven—Trans Allegheny Books,” for further information.

“It came upon a midnight clear”—A West Virginia Christmas Tale

Old Grafton Road
(WV-310)
Between Grafton and Fairmont

Late one Christmas Eve a trucker was hauling a load of dry powdered glass to the Owens-Illinois Glass Plant in Fairmont, West Virginia. After passing through Grafton, the trucker drove north on West Virginia Route 310, also known as Old Grafton Road; passing the Tygart Valley River as it parallels the route for part of the journey. After it parallels Old Grafton Road, the river swings northwest before it meets the West Fork River to create the Monongahela River in Fairmont.

Monongahela River Fairmont West Virginia
Monongahela River in Fairmont. After picking up the phantom hitchhiker on Old Grafton Road, the trucker would have crossed this river to reach downtown Fairmont. Photo by Tim Kiser, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

In the vicinity of Valley Falls Road, the trucker noticed an odd figure on the side of the road waving him down. Stopping, the driver stepped down out of his rig to find a young woman standing in the cold in a red gown. She was wet, and her hair matted. She asked to be taken to Fairmont.

Despite being late with his delivery, the driver knew he could not leave the young woman by the side of the road. Helping her into the passenger seat of his cab, he grabbed one of his coats and put it around her shoulders for warmth. After climbing into the driver’s seat, the trucker asked where in Fairmont the woman wanted to be taken. Quietly she replied that she wanted to be dropped off at the Cook Hospital.

While he may have known that Cook Hospital had been replaced by a modern hospital, the driver was anxious to get his haul to the glass plant. Stopping in front of the old building at the intersection of Gaston Avenue and 2nd Street, the driver stepped down from the cab, and walked around to help the young lady down. Opening the door, the driver was stunned to see the seat was empty except for his coat.

Heading to the glass plant with his haul, the driver told the manager his strange tale. He was fired for his tardiness anyway.

Hearing of folklorist and Fairmont resident, Ruth Ann Musick, the unemployed driver contacted her with the hope that she could lend credence to the his tale. Musick was indeed familiar with the tale and agreed to call the managers of the glass plant on the driver’s behalf. The driver was rehired after Musick’s call. The moral of this story is that if you cannot be fired if you run into beings from West Virginia folklore.

This is far from the typical ghostly hitchhiker scenario because of its details. This story was detailed in a 2015 article in the Clarksburg, West Virginia Exponent Telegram that looks at folktales throughout the Mountain State. The story has been passed around by many folklorists. I stumbled across this wonderful story in a December 16 post from the Haunted West Virginia page on Facebook.

What makes this story unique are the details that fits this typical type of story into the West Virginia landscape and the involvement of Ruth Ann Musick. It is possible to roughly date this story through its precise details. The Owen-Illinois Glass Plant opened in Fairmont in 1910 making bottles. With the construction of a large factory on 40 acres east of town, the company expanded production and the plant began running 24 hours a day, which would account for a trucker making a Christmas Eve delivery.

According to a recent article in The Fairmont News, production ramped up over the decades to where, in the 1970s, the plant employed nearly 1000 employees. In 1978, the company began to phase out operations at the plant, laying off the bulk of the plant’s employees by 1980. The plant was shuttered in 1982. Last year, it was announced that the site of the former plant will be developed into a business park.

The Cook Hospital in the story still stands, though it no longer operates as a hospital. The large Italianate building was built in 1903 for Dr. John R. Cook as a 100-bed hospital. A nursing residence was added in the 1920s and the hospital served as a training ground for nurses. The hospital closed in the late 1930s with the construction of Fairmont General Hospital. In the intervening years, the building has also been used as offices for the Marion County Board of Education. In 2017, it was announced that the building would be renovated for use as low-income housing.

The Exponent Telegram version of the story adds a detail with the trucker dropping the young woman off at the Marion County Courthouse instead of the Cook Hospital. A folklorist quoted in the article also points out the fact that regardless of where the spirit requested to be dropped off, spirits aren’t known to cross water. However, the story would require that the trucker drive over the Monongahela River to reach downtown Fairmont where the hospital and courthouse are located. The folklorist concedes that perhaps the man’s coat weighted the spirit down.

Marion County Courthouse Fairmont West Virginia
Marion County Courthouse in downtown Fairmont, West Virginia. Photo by Tim Kiser, 2006. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Ruth Ann Musick, the folklorist who came to the trucker’s defense, is an eminent figure in the preservation of the state’s folklore. She originally came to Fairmont State College (now Fairmont State University) to teach mathematics and English in 1946. During her more than two decades at the school she delved into folklore, becoming a passionate champion of West Virginia’s peculiar tales. As well as creating classes about folklore, she revived the West Virginia Folklore Society and started and served as editor for the West Virginia Folklore Journal.

As a collector of the stories and tales that sprang from the rocky soil of the Mountain State, she published several collections that are still in print including The Telltale Lilac Bush and Other West Virginia Ghost Tales and Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales. The folklorist quoted in the Exponent-Telegram articles notes that Musick knew 21 versions of this story, so the trucker was right in contacting her to strengthen his excuse. We can also use Musick to add a date to this story. According to her Wikipedia entry, Musick was diagnosed with spinal cancer and passed away July 2, 1974. Coupled with the dates from the glass plant and Musick’s death, that would likely set this story sometime in the late 1960s or very early 1970s.

Sources

Apollo Apparitions–West Virginia

Apollo Theatre
128 East Martin Street
Martinsburg, West Virginia

On August 21, 1927, a brief item from the Associated Press appeared in papers nationwide describing the death of architect Reginald Geare. In a room in his Washington, D.C. home, Geare’s body had been found with a gas tube next to it.

Five years previous, the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington collapsed under the weight of snow while an audience was inside watching a movie. With a death toll of 98, authorities questioned the integrity of Geare’s design of the building. Though he avoided prosecution for the disaster, the shame continued the crush the architect. That shame would also lead to the death in 1937 of the theatre impresario, Harry Crandall, who owned the Knickerbocker. It is believed that his spirit may roam the Tivoli Theatre in Washington, another of the theaters in his chain.

The Atlanta Constitution, 21 August 1927, Page 28.

Martinsburg’s Apollo Theatre was an early design success for Reginald Geare, in company with local architect Chapman E. Kent. It was the first theatre in the state built primarily for showing films, though the stage was large enough to accommodate live performances. After opening in 1913, the theatre underwent an expansion to provide for better live performance facilities. Throughout its history, the Apollo, named for the Greek god of music, has provided entertainment for citizens throughout the West Virginia panhandle.

Apollo Theatre Martinsburg West Virginia
Apollo Theatre, 2009, by Acroterion. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Stories of the Apollo’s haunted reputation have circulated for decades with some of the oldest stories dating to the mid-1970s. There are no records of deaths within the theatre, though the building may have been used as a hospital during the 1918 influenza epidemic. Apparently, there are several spirits here, two of which are known as Charlie and George. In 2008, a theatre board member told The Journal about his run-in with George in the early 80s. “During the curtain call I saw an old man in the back of the theatre, in a plaid shirt with a cigar. No one but me saw him and suddenly he was gone.” During the filming of Gods and Generals, a female reenactor using the restrooms at the Apollo let out a scream after encountering the same figure in the ladies’ room.

Charlie, one of the theatre’s other spirits, may also smoke cigars. A resident of a nearby apartment building may have seen Charlie once standing outside the theatre. The figure wore a fedora pulled down over his eyes and stood hunched over with the collar of his coat pulled up around him. The apartment resident was astonished when the figure suddenly vanished before her eyes.

Sources

  • Pauley, Michael J. and Rodney S. Collins. National Register of Historic Places Nomination form for the Apollo Theater. 12 September 1979.
  • Racer, Theresa. “The Apollo Theatre.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 16 January 2011.
  • Strader, Tricia Lynn. “Halloween haunting is close at hand.” The Journal (Martinsburg, WV). 31 October 2008.
  • Swayne, Matthew. Ghosts of Country Music: Tales of Haunted Honky Tonks & Legendary Specters. Woodbury, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 2017.
  • “Theater architect ends life with gas.” Atlanta Constitution. 21 August 1927.

Haunting Legislation–West Virginia

West Virginia State Penitentiary
818 Jefferson Avenue
Moundsville, West Virginia

N.B. According to this article from WTOV, the language in these bills covering the leases on the WV Penitentiary has been removed and the leases will remain in place in their current forms.

The biggest news in the Southern paranormal world in the past few days has been two pieces of legislation currently wending their way through the West Virginia state legislature. The bills, House Bill 4338 and Senate Bill 369, would terminate the current lease of the West Virginia State Penitentiary in Moundsville held by the Moundsville Economic Development Council (MEDC). Furthermore, it would restrict leases to five years and allow the state to terminate a lease at any time. This threatens the use of the prison for tours, events, paranormal investigations, and seriously damages tourism in the northern region of the state.

The West Virginia State Penitentiary as seen from atop the Grave Creek Mound, 2016. Photo by Rhonda Humphreys, courtesy of Wikipedia.

The stern, Gothic edifice with a commanding view of the Ohio River has dominated the literal and economic landscape of the region for more than a century and a half. From its construction following the end of the Civil War, through years of housing the most dangerous inmates in the state and 94 executions, prison breaks, riots, and finally decommissioning in 1995 the Moundsville prison has been a major economic driver for the area. After the prison’s closure damaged the local economy, the Moundsville Economic Development Council signed a lease with the state department of corrections to employ the massive sandstone fortress in the tourism industry.

The MEDC opened the site for tours and eventually rolled out the red carpet for those wishing to explore the darker, paranormal side of the building. Paranormal television spread the gospel of the tremendous activity found throughout the building. Over the years, hundreds of investigators have walked among and interacted with the numerous spirits that continue to roam the halls of the West Virginia Penitentiary. In short, the site has become a paranormal mecca.

Several books have been written about the haunted prison including two excellent books by West Virginia investigator and writer Sherri Brake, and several articles by local paranormal blogger and investigator Theresa Racer. It should be noted that few hauntings become as well-known as to garner a single book, much less more than one book and numerous articles.

Despite all this interest, and the work conducted by MEDC to bring people to this often ignored region of West Virginia, legislators have not provided a reason for the inclusion of this action in the bills. In fact, there are a couple legislators who are working to remove the language regarding the prison from the bill. The bills are necessary to reform the state department of corrections, which is woefully in need of change; however, this change needs not have such a detrimental effect on the tourism industry in Moundsville.

Theresa Racer’s coverage of the WV State Penitentiary on her blog, Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State.

Sources

Railyard Revenant—West Virginia

Facebook can be a marvelous resource for ghost stories, but only if you can stand wading through unsourced posts, over-eager amateur ghost hunters with blurry ghost photos, and memes asking if you believe in ghosts. The information on this haunting came from a post on the Haunted West Virginia page that included the original article along with the name of the paper and the date, hallelujah!

The Norfolk and Western Railroad got into the coal business in the late 19th century. After the purchase of the Flat-Top Coal Land Association and the massive coal fields under its control, the railroad reorganized the organization into the Pocahontas Coal and Coke Company and began to expand its railroads into the coal fields of southern West Virginia. As the company began cutting into this remote region, towns were established including the small town of Williamson.

Aerial view of Williamson in 1990. Taken by the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers. Notice the railroad cutting through the middle of town.

At a point along the Tug Fork River, at this point the border between West Virginia and Kentucky, a marge railyard was established with a town being established around it. The railroad still cuts through the heart of this small town with the large railyard still in operation, though the railroad’s name has changed from the Norfolk and Western to Norfolk Southern. The town is now the county seat for Mingo County.

On September 1, 1935, the paper in Bluefield, West Virginia, the Bluefield Daily Telegraph, reported on paranormal activity experienced in the railyard.

But today comes the strangest ghost tale every published. The wonder of it is some of the big newspapers have not grabbed it, for it sure is a knockout. Many Norfolk and Western railroad men vouch for the truth of the story, men whose word is as good as their bond.

This amazing happening has its setting on Williamson yard, and has been told and retold until around the Mingo county seat the kiddies are sometimes put to sleep thinking of the yarn.

But we will not [sic] longer keep the reader in suspense.

From the inferno of the boiler of a Norfolk and Western yard engine in use in Williamson yard may be heard the pitiful cries of baby. Of course, there is no baby in that firebox. Even a child need not be told that.

But often during the dead hours of night from the firebox the engineer and fireman almost stand speechless as the faint cry of an infant is emitted from the seething furnace of their locomotive.

Billy Dotson, veteran engineer, is said to have been the first to hear the baby cry, but since, others claim to have heard the voice distinctly.

One theory advanced is that a long time ago a young baby in some maner [sic] was tossed into the firebox of this particular engine, and that its tiny spirit remains.

Anyway, you have the story. It is not for us to offer a solution of this amazing phenomena.

Panoramic view of the Williamson Railyard, 2013. Photo by Magnolia677, courtesy of Wikipedia.

As far as I can find, this is the only reporting on this incident. It is unknown as to if the activity in the Williamson Railyard has ceased.

Sources

  • Norfolk and Western Railway. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 January 2018.
  • Williamson, West Virginia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 16 January 2018.
  • “Writer unfolds a new ghost story.” Bluefield Daily Telegraph. 1 September 1935.

‘Twas the Night Before Halloween—Recycled Revenants

‘Twas the night before Halloween and all through the blog, little was stirring…

This move from Blogger to this new site has been tedious and time-consuming. I’ve tossed out a great deal of junky posts and put many posts aside that need to be updated and refreshed leaving me with many bits and pieces that should be republished in a different context. This is a selection of recycled pieces for Halloween.

East Coast/West Coast
138 St. George Street
St. Augustine, Florida

This modest commercial building once housed Kixie’s Men’s Store and some odd activity. The shop employed a young tailor, Kenneth Beeson who would later serve as mayor for the city. While working late one evening he noticed a door opening by itself followed by the sweet scent of funereal flowers. After experiencing odd activity for a while, Beeson put out a tape recorder and set it to record just before he left. When he returned the following morning, he was shocked to discover a plethora of sounds including marching feet and guttural growls. Disturbed by these incidents, Beeson had a priest exorcise the building. The activity ceased.

Sources 

  • Cain, Suzy & Dianne Jacoby. A Ghostly Experience: Tales of St. Augustine, Florida. City Gate Productions, 1997.
  • Lapham, Dave. Ghosts of St. Augustine. Sarasota, FL: Pineapple Press, 1997.

Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel
Chetoogeta Mountain
Tunnel Hill, Georgia

As the railroad spread its tentacles throughout the nation before the tumult of the Civil War, a route was needed from Augusta, Georgia to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Numerous obstacles stood in the way, but the biggest was Chetoogeta Mountain. Plans for a railroad tunnel dated to the second half of the 1830s, but work did not commence until 1848 with work completed two years later. The new tunnel was instrumental in Atlanta’s growth as a railroad hub and was a strategic feature for the Confederacy to protect during the Civil War.

The tunnel’s strategic importance led to a series of skirmishes being fought here leading up to the Battle of Atlanta. Following the war, the tunnel remained in service until 1928 when a new tunnel was built a few yards away. The old tunnel became overgrown with kudzu and was largely forgotten until 1992 when preservationists fought to save the tunnel. It is now the centerpiece of a park that features reenactments of the skirmishes fought at the site.

Entrance to the old Western & Atlantic Railroad Tunnel, 2011. Photo by Lewis O. Powell, IV, All rights reserved.

It is often re-enactors who have encountered anything supernatural at the site. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of documented accounts of spirits at Tunnel Hill. At least four books and a handful of good articles document the high levels of activity at this site. Accounts include the apparitions of soldiers seen both inside the tunnel and around it. Ghostly campfires, disembodied screams, spectral lantern light and the smell of rotting flesh (minus the presence of actual rotting flesh) have all been reported by re-enactors and visitors alike.

Sources

  • DeFeo, Todd. “Antebellum railroad tunnel still a marvel after all These years.” com. 22 June 2009.
  • Kotarski, Georgiana C. Ghosts of the Southern Tennessee Valley. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2006.
  • Underwood, Corinna. Haunted History: Atlanta and North Georgia. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2008.
  • Western and Atlantic Railroad Tunnel. Tunnel Hill Heritage Center. Accessed 28 November 2010.

Old Talbott Tavern
107 West Stephen Foster Avenue
Bardstown, Kentucky

Old Talbott Tavern, 2008, by C. Bedford Crenshaw. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Continuously open since the late 18th century except for a period in the late 1990s when the tavern was being renovated following a disastrous fire, the Old Talbott Tavern has hosted an impressive array of visitors ranging from Daniel Boone to General George Patton. Perhaps one of the famous guests who has never checked out is outlaw Jesse James who stayed frequently in the tavern while visiting his cousin who was the local sheriff. With the claims of Jesse James’ spirit which may also roam the halls of Selma, Alabama’s St. James Hotel, James’ spirit may split the hereafter between two favorite locales. But James’ spirit is not the only spirit acting up in the Old Talbott Tavern. Other ghosts may include formers guests, owners and their families.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Kentucky. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2009.
  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted South. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Starr, Patti. Ghosthunting Kentucky. Cincinnati, OH, Clerisy Press, 2010.

Old Louisiana State Capitol
100 North Boulevard
Baton Rouge, Louisiana

When the state capitol was moved from New Orleans to Baton Rouge in 1846, the city donated land atop a bluff over the Mississippi for the capitol building. Architect James Dakin designed a Neo-Gothic building very much unlike the other state capitols which were often modeled on the U.S. Capitol building in Washington. The magnificent crenellated and be-towered structure was used as a prison and garrison for soldiers under the city’s Union occupation and during this time it caught fire twice leaving it a soot-stained shell by the war’s end. The building was reconstructed in 1882 but abandoned in 1932 for Governor Huey Long’s new state capitol.

Old State Capitol, 2009, by Avazina. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Even before the capitol burned during the war, there was a ghost gliding through its halls. Pierre Couvillon, a legislator representing Avoyelles Parish, enraged by his colleagues’ corruption, suffered a heart attack and died. Though he was buried in his home parish, his spirit was said to reside in the capitol; perhaps checking up on his colleagues. When the capitol building underwent restoration in the 1990s, the spirit or spirits in the building were stirred up and activity has increased. Staff members and visitors have reported odd occurrences. One security guard watched as movement detectors were set off through a series of rooms while nothing was seen on the video.

Two organizations investigated the building in 2009 and uncovered much evidence. Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations picked up a number of interesting EVPs including someone singing the old song, “You Are My Sunshine.” Everyday Paranormal, in their investigation had a few encounters in the basement of the building, the area used as a prison during the Union occupation. It seems that there are many spirits within the crenellated walls of the Old Capitol.

Sources

  • Duvernay, Adam. “Several Baton Rouge sites said to be haunted.” The Daily Reveille. 27 October 2009.
  • Dwyer, Jeff. Ghost Hunter’s Guide to New Orleans. Gretna, LA: Pelican, 2007.
  • Louisiana Spirits Paranormal Investigations. Old State Capitol, Baton Rouge, LA. Accessed 11 November 2011.
  • Manley, Roger. Weird Louisiana. NYC: Sterling Publishers, 2010.
  • Old Louisiana State Capitol. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 9 November 2011.
  • Southeastern Students. “Old State Capitol Still Occupied by Former Ghosts.” com. 29 October 2009.

Jericho Covered Bridge
Jericho Road at Little Gunpowder Falls
Harford County Near Jerusalem, Maryland

Jericho Covered Bridge, 2009, by Pubdog. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Straddling the county line between Harford County and Baltimore County over the Little Gunpowder Falls is the Jericho Covered Bridge, constructed in 1865. According to Ed Okonowicz in his Haunted Maryland, there are legends of people seeing slaves hanging from the rafters inside this nearly 88-foot bridge. Certainly, there is an issue with this as the bridge was constructed in 1865, after the end of both slavery and the Civil War. Other, more realistic legends, speak of a woman seen on the bridge wearing old-fashioned clothing and people having their cars stop inexplicably in the middle of the bridge.

Sources

  • Jericho Covered Bridge. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 20 January 2011.
  • Ed. Haunted Maryland. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 2007.
  • Varhola, Michael J. and Michael H. Varhola. Ghosthunting Maryland. Cincinnati, OH: Clerisy Press, 2009.

Corinth Battlefield
Corinth, Mississippi

Following the Confederate’s disastrous attack in April of 1862 on the Union forces at Shiloh, Tennessee (for a battle description see my entry on the Beauregard-Keyes House in New Orleans), the Union army laid siege for two days to the vital railroad town of Corinth, just over the state line. To save his army from annihilation, General P.T.G. Beauregard gave the appearance of reinforcement troops arriving and being put in place while efficiently moving his troops out of the city to nearby Tupelo. The Union army entered the city the following day to find it devoid of Confederates. In October of the same year, Confederates tried once again and failed to capture the city losing some 4,000 men (including dead, wounded and missing) in the process.

The railroad junction at the heart of Corinth. Photo 2013, by Ron Cogswell. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The battlefield on which these two battles were fought is now incorporated into the mid-sized city of Corinth. Portions of the battlefield and earthworks are now preserved as the Corinth unit of Shiloh National Military Park. As one might expect, some of those portions have spiritual artifacts remaining. Some of the best stories from Civil War battlefields come from re-enactors who have experiences while re-enacting battles and one of the primary reports of ghosts from the Corinth battlefield comes from a re-enactor whose story was documented by Alan Brown. This particular re-enactor heard the sound of a phantom cavalry and a few nights later, the sound of someone rummaging through her tent while camping on the battlefield.

Sources

  • Brown, Alan. Stories from the Haunted Southland. Jackson, MS: University Press of Mississippi, 2004.
  • Second Battle of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.
  • Siege of Corinth. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 27 January 2011.

North Carolina Zoological Park
4401 Zoo Parkway
Asheboro, North Carolina

North Carolina lawyer and folklorist Daniel Barefoot has done much to preserve North Carolina and Southern legends and ghost stories in his books. His series, North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred provides a single ghost story or legend from each of the state’s one hundred counties. From Randolph County, smack dab in the middle of the state, comes the legend of the aptly named, Purgatory Mountain, now home to the NC Zoo. The state-owned zoo is the largest walk-through habitat zoos in the world and a major attraction in the region.

NC Zoo sign, 2010, by Eleazar. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

During the Civil War, much of rural North Carolina was resistant to seceding from the Union and, as a result, the state was the final state to secede. Still, many citizens, including the peaceable Quakers of Randolph County resisted joining the butternut ranks. Recruiters were sent to these areas to nudge and sometimes force the inhabitants to join. One particular recruiter in this area earned the nickname, “The Hunter,” for his harsh methods.  He rounded up a group of Quaker boys, tied them roughly and marched them to Wilmington to join the army, but a few escaped and returned, bedraggled to their rural homes. When the recruiter returned, this group of escaped boys shot him outside of his cabin at Purgatory Mountain. His malevolent spirit is still supposedly stalking the crags of his mountain home.

Sources

  • Barefoot, Daniel W. North Carolina’s Haunted Hundred, Vol. 2: Piedmont Phantoms. Winston-Salem, NC, John F. Blair, 2002.
  • North Carolina Zoo. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 11 April 2012.

Carter House
1140 Columbia Avenue
Franklin, Tennessee

By some accounts, the Battle of Franklin, November 30, 1864, was one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Some historians have even deemed it the “Gettysburg of the South.” Fought right on the edge of the town of Franklin, the battle hit very close to the home front and absolutely hammered the farm of the Carter family which was located at the center of the main defensive line. During the furious fighting, the Carters, neighbors and slaves cowered in the basement of the house, emerging after the battle to witness the carnage spread through their yard and around their house. The house and outbuildings still bear bullet holes, attesting to their experience.

Fanny Courtney Carter, who was 8 years old when the battle overtook her family’s farm, later recalled the day following the battle: “Early the next morning after the Battle I went to the field. The sight was dreadful. It seemed I could scarcely move for fear of stepping on men either dead or wounded. Some were clod and stiff, others with the lifeblood ebbing out, unconscious of all around, while others were writing in agony and calling ‘Water! Water!’ I can hear them even now.” Fanny’s brother, Tod, who had enlisted in the Confederate army was found some yards from the house, his body riddled with eight bullets, but still clinging to life. The family brought him into the parlor of his home where he died on December 2.

Carter House by Hal Jesperson, 2009. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The pastoral fields that once surrounded the Carter House as well as the town of Franklin that saw so much blood that November day have mostly been lost to development though the spiritual imprint of the battle is still felt throughout the city. The spirit of Tod Carter may be one of the more active spirits at the Carter House. He has been seen sitting on the edge of the bed where he may have died and according to Alan Brown, he took a tour of the house, correcting the tour guide when she didn’t use the correct name or date and disappearing before he and the guide could descend to the basement.

Apparently he’s not the only lingering spirit. Poltergeist activity in the house has been attributed to Tod’s sister, Annie. Objects have moved from room to room and one visitor on a tour watched a figurine that jumped up and down.

Sources

  • Battle of Franklin (2009). Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Brown, Alan. Haunted Tennessee: Ghosts and Strange Phenomena Of the Volunteer State. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2009.
  • O’Rear, Jim. Tennessee Ghosts. Atglen, PA: Schiffer, 2009.

Rockledge Mansion
440 Mill Street
Occoquan, Virginia

The town website for Occoquan (pronounced OK-oh-qwahn), Virginia states that the city, “has an inordinate amount of spooks per capita” and then goes on to list a number of locations in the town with ghosts. Among this remarkable collection of haunted locations is the magnificent Georgian mansion, Rockledge, which commands a literal rock ledge above Mill Street. The town was founded in the mid-eighteenth century as a port on the Occoquan River and during the Civil War this northern Virginia town served as a post office between the North and the South.

Rockledge Mansion by AlbertHerring, 2008. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Quite possibly the work of colonial architect, William Buckland, Rockledge was built in 1758 by local industrialist John Ballandine. In the yard of this house the ghost of a Confederate soldier has been seen and possibly heard. One witness saw the soldier then noticed peculiar wet footprints on the front steps that appeared to be from hobnail boots, the kind that would have been worn by soldiers during the war. Many people have heard loud footsteps in the house as well as someone knocking at the door. So far, no source has identified this soldier.

Sources 

  • Occoquan History. com. Accessed 16 November 2010.
  • Occoquan, Virginia. Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. Accessed 13 December 2010.
  • Streng, Aileen. “Benevolent ghost believed to haunt mansion.” com. 27 October 2010.
  • Virginia Historic Landmarks Commission. National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form for Rockledge Mansion. Listed 25 June 1973.

Berkeley Castle
WV-9
Berkeley Springs

Berkeley Castle by Jeanne Mozier. Courtesy of Wikipedia.

Berkeley Springs, also known as “Bath,” has attracted visitors who come to take the waters of the mineral springs located there. Overlooking this quaint town from a commanding position on Warm Spring Mountain sits Berkeley Castle, seemingly a piece of medieval Britain transplanted. Modeled and named after Britain’s own Berkeley Castle, the castle was built as a wedding gift from Colonel Samuel Suit for his bride, Rosa Pelham. The Colonel, who was quite a bit older than his bride, died before the castle was finished and his widow finished the building. She lived in the castle after his death and squandered the fortune she inherited and died penniless well away from the castle, but legends speak of her return.

The castle was purchased by paranormal investigators in 2000 but sold fairly shortly after that. Once open for tours, the castle is now primarily a private residence, though it may be rented for weddings, parties and other events.

Sources

  • Fischer, Karin. “Castle in Eastern Panhandle could be in need of a new lord this spring.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail. 21 November 2000.
  • History Berkeley Castle. Berkeley Castle. Accessed 19 March 2011.
  • Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia. Winking Eye Books, 2008.

Southern Index of Higher Ed Haunts—West Virginia

I’ve embarked on a project to comprehensively document haunted college and university sites throughout the South. When I first conceived of this project, I imagined I would only have about 200 or 300 locations, but after scouring my personal indices of locations, I ended up with over 500, so I’m breaking this up by state.

Please note that the references quoted at the end of each entry are only those sources that specifically note the hauntings. If you have experienced a haunting at any of these locations, know of other haunted college and university locations not included here, or have a correction, please email me at southernspiritguide@gmail.com. I’d love to hear your story and include that information here.

Bethany College, Bethany

ALEXANDER CAMPBELL MANSION & GOD’S ACRE CEMETERY – This mansion and cemetery, the former home and burial site of religious leader and Bethany college founder Alexander Campbell, are now owned by Bethany College. Campbell’s spirit has supposedly been spotted within the small, hexagonal study building on this estate. The spirit of Campbell’s young son Wickliffe, who drowned nearby, may make appearances within the house. Legend holds that the low stone wall entirely surrounding the cemetery across the road may hold spirits within this historic family cemetery, thus the numerous stories involving encounters here between the living the dead. 6, 10, 16, 22

COCHRAN HALL – A spirit in this 1910 residence hall’s first floor guest apartment still makes its presence known, though it has yet to be identified. 25, 27

GRACE PHILLIPS JOHNSON MEMORIAL VISUAL ARTS CENTER – Originally constructed as Irvin Gymnasium in 1919, this structure is home to visual arts classes and possibly the spirit of the building’s namesake. Security guards have reported that they encountered the spirit of Ms. Johnson while others have reported that the eyes in her portrait follow people around the room. 25, 27

OLD MAIN CLOCK TOWER – A student’s suicide is reenacted at the iconic clock tower on Old Main. Lore states that a female may have committed suicide here by leaping from the clock tower to her death. 11

PHILLIPS HALL – This 1929 residence hall may be home to two ghosts: Sarah, a student who hung herself in the attic and a sailor who died as he was either visiting a student or sneaking out of the building when it served as navy housing during World War II. 8, 11, 27

Bluefield State College, Bluefield

MAHOOD HALL – One of the oldest buildings on the campus of this historically black college, Mahood Hall is believed to be the home of a little girl’s spirit. For years, students have awakened here to find themselves face to face with a little girl who quickly disappears. A 2010 investigation by Black Diamond Paranormal Society captured several EVPs and a brief video showing a figure passing by an open doorway in the supposedly empty building. 12

Concord University, Athens

SARVAY HALL – Comments on Theresa Racer’s blog post about Concord University note that this dormitory may be fairly active. 13

WILSON HALL – The third floor of this early-1960s era dormitory is supposed to be quite paranormally active. Blogger Theresa Racer’s post on Concord University notes that a student may have committed suicide in room 320, though comments on this post reveal that other rooms on the floor may also be active. 13

Halliehurst at Davis & Elkins College, 2014. Photo by Generic1139, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Davis & Elkins College, Elkins

GRACELAND INN AND CONFERENCE CENTER – One of two Victorian mansions (the other being Halliehurst, see below) constructed as summer homes for a pair of friends, businessmen and later senators, Henry Gassaway Davis and Stephen Benton Elkins. Their families later donated the grand estates to create a campus for the small, Presbyterian-affiliated college established by Henry Davis. Built by Henry Davis, Graceland may be haunted by the spirit of Grace Davis, one of his daughters. During a 2008 walkthrough of the house with paranormal investigator Chris Fleming, students were treated to some EVPs and the gas burners in the kitchen turning themselves on. 5, 24

HALLIEHURST – Like its Victorian sister, Graceland, students, staff members, and visitors have experienced the unexplained in Stephen Elkin’s former summer home, Halliehurst for many years. Stories at Halliehurst date to the home’s use as a women’s dormitory in the 1950s. Gavenda and Shoemaker note in their A Guide to Haunted West Virginia that nearly all of the encounters with the paranormal here are positive and helpful with students being saved by phantom hands from injury or death. 24, 26

Glenville State College, Glenville

CLARK HALL– An October 2011 edition of The Barr Bulletin a college newsletter written by Betsy Barr, wife of GSC’s president Peter Barr, makes note of the college’s most famous ghost, “Sis Linn.” Sarah Louisa Linn, known familiarly as “Sis” Linn, was an 1877 graduate of the Glenville Normal School that preceded the state college. She later owned a boarding house where she was bludgeoned to death in 1919. The boarding house was later torn down to construct a women’s dormitory Verona Maple Hall. Sis Linn’s spirit was observed here in the years before the building was replaced with Clark Hall. Linn’s spirit may still be present here as well as in other places on campus. Here, Linn’s spirit seems to cause much noise. 1, 14

HARRY B. HEFLIN ADMINISTRATION BUILDING – According to legend, a bell that hung in this building would often chime thirteen times until it was recently removed. Within this building lights flicker, keys left in doorknobs jingle on their own accord and disembodied whispering is heard. 28

LOUIS BENNETT HALL – When it served as a men’s dormitory students in Bennett Hall were sometimes awakened by a Lady in White. After the building’s conversion into offices, odd phenomena is still observed here. 28

OLD GLENVILLE CEMETERY – Sis Linn, the college’s resident spirit was buried here after she was bludgeoned to death in 1919. Her spirit is said to be observed walking through the cemetery. 14

PICKENS HALL – According to author Tom Ogden, students in this residence hall have reported hearing furniture being moved on the floor above them and the sound of marbles rolling across the floor. 28

Old Main at Marshall University, 2013. Photo by WVFunnyMan, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Marshall University, Huntington

ALPHA CHI OMEGA HOUSE (Fifth Avenue)Legend holds that a little boy killed here in a fire now haunts this sorority house. Sisters in the house have reportedly experienced flickering lights, unexpected cool breezes, and objects being moved. 2, 27

ERMA ORA BOYD CLINICAL CENTER– Built on the site of Fairfield Stadium, this 2007 building is reportedly filled with activity after hours. Elevators operate on their own accord, televisions turn on by themselves, and the sound of two men chanting has been heard in the commons area. 2, 27

MORROW LIBRARY – Library patrons are sometimes interrupted in this 1930 library by the sounds of arguing, though the source is never found. Originally the main university library building, this building now houses special collections. 2, 27

OLD MAIN – The oldest and most iconic building on campus, Old Main also harbors ghosts. One of the more recognizable spirits haunts the old auditorium within this building. Believed to be the spirit of a former theatre director, the spirit has been seen backstage and walking the catwalks. A 1996 article notes that in addition to the auditorium, the attic and Yeager Suite are also the domain of spirits. For further information see my blog post, “Phantoms of the Opera, Y’all.”2, 27

SIGMA PHI EPSILON HOUSE (1401 5th Avenue) – Like the Alpha Chi Omega House nearby, this fraternity house is purported to be haunted by the victims of a fire, though in this case the victims were a mother and her two children. The lore states that this fire took place in the late 1960s or early 1970s and residents still hear the sounds of sobbing. 2, 27

TWIN TOWERS EAST – The spirit of a student who committed suicide is said to remain in his room, 1218, of this 1969 residence hall. A student reported in a 1996 article in The Parthenon that he awakened to see the image of a young man sitting in his room. The apparition disappeared after the student pulled his covers over his head. 2, 27

Mountwest Community & Technical College, Huntington

ACADEMIC BUILDING – Mountwest Community & Technical College took up residence in its main academic building in 2012. Built in 1980 as an office building for the Ashland Coal Company, the building may be occupied by the spirit of an employee of one of the companies that occupied this modern office building previous to the college’s occupation. Theresa Racer notes in her blog that after the death of an employee here from a heart attack in 2002, people on the fourth floor began to experience doors opening and closing by themselves, a feeling of being watched and the smell of pipe tobacco. 17  

McMurren Hall at Shepherd University, 2012. Photo by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shepherd University, Shepherdstown

GARDINER HALL – The spirit of a former homecoming queen named Patty still stirs in this residence hall. She supposedly died here after falling in the shower and hitting her head sometime in the late 1980s. A portrait of Mabel Gardiner, the building’s namesake, is supposedly hung upside down to appease Patty’s restless spirit. 4, 27

KENNEMOND HALL – Residents of this residence hall regularly encounter the spirit of a young boy wearing knickers and a driving cap. His story says that he was killed in a fall at a local construction site. He is known to play with student’s electronic devices. Author Rosemary Ellen Guiley reports that there is also a spirit encountered in the building’s basement. 4, 27

McMURRAN HALL – Construction began on this building on the eve of the Civil War and it remained unfinished for a few years following the war. After the bloody Battle of Antietam was fought nearby in Maryland, this was among local buildings commandeered for use treating the wounded. The spirit of a soldier is often seen peering from the bell tower. For further information see my article on Shepherdstown, “None of the town is spared a ghost story—Shepherdstown, WV.”3, 9

MILLER HALL– A young girl who died in a fall from a hayloft on this property prior to the construction of Miller Hall has been seen roaming the halls of this building. Local lore also notes the death of a nursing student by her own hand here, but her spirit has not been spotted. Lore also mentions that an exorcism was performed in room 201, though a residence life staff member told the student newspaper in 2014 that this was likely just a blessing of the room to put paranormal activity at rest. 4, 27

SHAW HALL – The apparition of a woman has been seen at some of the windows of this building. 27

THATCHER HALL – The spirits of those of those interred in the nearby cemetery haunt the B Wing of this residence hall. 4, 27

TURNER HALL – The Victorian girl who haunts Miller Hall has also been seen here while the spirit of a construction worker also roams the halls. During the construction of Turner Hall a construction worker fell to his death on the rocks that are now a part of the building’s basement. 4, 27

YELLOW HOUSE (ENTLER-WELTZHEIMER HOUSE) – One of the oldest houses in Shepherdstown and the oldest on campus, the Yellow House is purported to still be the residence of a cobbler who was killed here in 1910. The tapping of his cobbler’s tools are still heard. For further information see my article on Shepherdstown, “None of the town is spared a ghost story—Shepherdstown, WV.”3, 21

University of Charleston, Charleston

EAST APARTMENTS – Built on the former site of haunted Dickinson Hall, this dormitory may have inherited the paranormal activity from that building. 27

GEARY STUDENT UNION – This student union building is apparently haunted, though little information is available as to the exact nature of the paranormal activity. 18, 27

RIGGLEMAN HALL – Built in 1950, Riggleman Hall may have a few spectral residents including a female suicide victim and Leonard Riggleman, former president of Morris Harvey College, predecessor to the University of Charleston. The activity blamed on these spirits includes odd noises and shadows. 18, 27 

Woodburn Hall at West Virginia University, 2008. Photo by Swimmerguy269, courtesy of Wikipedia.

West Virginia University, Morgantown

BETA THETA PI HOUSE – Two spirits may haunt this fraternity house: the spirit of a butler who served the brothers in the 1940s and the spirit of a homeless man who committed suicide in the basement in the 1980s. 24

BOREMAN HALL – Odd sounds and other paranormal activity has been encountered throughout the north section of this residence hall. 24

DOWNTOWN CAMPUS LIBRARY – Studious spirits inhabit this 1931 library. One staff member was studying here when he heard the elevator doors open and someone walk to the desk on the other side of the partition and pull the chair out. When he looked shortly after that, no one was there. Legend blames this activity on a staff member who died after falling down an open elevator shaft.  7, 19

ELIZABETH MOORE HALL – Built in the late 1920s, this historic building may be haunted by the spirit of its namesake, Elizabeth Moore. 19, 24

WV ROUTE 857 – While not on the campus of WVU, this haunting involves two students who were abducted from the campus January 18, 1970. A few months later, the headless bodies of the two females were discovered near Cheat Lake. The heads have never been recovered. An arrest and conviction was garnered in this case. Drivers at night near the site where the coeds’ bodies were discovered have spotted the apparitions of two females in the woods. 24, 27

THE MOUNTAINLAIR – A spectral girl dancing in a yellow party dress has been observed here. 27

WOODBURN HALL – Perhaps one of the more unique ghost stories in West Virginia involve the spectral bovine mooing that is heard here. Legend speaks of a student prank gone awry when students lead a cow up the stairs to the clock tower of this building. When the students could not get the cow back down the stairs the cow apparently had to be killed and butchered. 19

West Virginia University Institute of Technology, Montgomery

RATLIFF HALL – Besides very typical paranormal activity including footsteps and slamming doors, one female student claimed to have seen the specter of a firefighter in this dormitory building. 20

West Virginia Wesleyan University, Buckhannon

AGNES HOWARD HALL – Named for a student who was stricken with a sudden illness while at school here and passed away, Agnes Howard Hall may have paranormal activity including shaking beds and a student hearing her name whispered three times. 15, 23

Sources

Articles

  1. Barr, Betsy. The Barr Bulletin. October 2011
  2. Donohue, Kelly. Unnamed article. The Parthenon. 29 October 1996.
  3. Engle, Georgia Lee. “Restless spirit roams campus, haunts High Street Cottage.” Shepherd College Picket. 28 October 1954.
  4. “Ghouls & Ghosts: Legends and hauntings of Shepherd University.” The Picket. 28 October 2014.
  5. Higgins, Carra. “Paranormal says hauntings present at Graceland, Halliehurst.” The Inter-Mountain. 28 October 2008.
  6. Jackson, Mary Robb. “Paranormal activity spooking up some fun at Bethany College.” 30 October 2013.
  7. Kinney, Hilary. “Spooky stories surface throughout campus.” The Daily Athenaeum. 31 October 2013.
  8. McQuillan, Kayla. “The haunts of Bethany College.” The Tower. No Date.
  9. Molenda, Rachel. “Town serves as home to ghosts from past.” Shepherdstown Chronicle. 28 October 2011.
  10. Racer, Theresa. “Alexander Campbell Mansion.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 20 April 2012.
  11. Racer, Theresa. “Bethany College.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 22 January 2012.
  12. Racer, Theresa. “Bluefield State College.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 5 September 2012.
  13. Racer, Theresa. “Concord College.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 29 February 2012.
  14. Racer, Theresa. “Ghost of Glenville State.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 12 September 2011.
  15. Racer, Theresa. “The Ghost of West Virginia Wesleyan.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 2 March 2012.
  16. Racer, Theresa. “God’s Acre Cemetery.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 23 May 2011.
  17. Racer, Theresa. “Mountwest Community & Technical College inherits a ghost!” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 21 September 2013.
  18. Racer, Theresa. “University of Charleston.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 7 October 2012.
  19. Racer, Theresa. “WVU haunts around campus.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 20 May 2012.
  20. Racer, Theresa. “WVU Tech’s Phantom Fire Fighter.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State. 4 September 2012.
  21. Shepherd University. “The Legend of the Yellow House.” Accessed 2 October 2011.
  22. Shinn, Emma. “Stone wall said to keep spirits, stories in Bethany cemetery.” Observer-Reporter. 28 October 2013.
  23. Wagoner, Becky & John Wickline. “Bone chilling tales of ghostly wails.” The Inter-Mountain. 27 October 2007.

Books

  1. Barefoot, Daniel. Haunted Halls of Ivy: Ghosts of Southern Colleges and Universities. Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 2004.
  2. Carney, Brent. Bethany College. Charleston, SC: Arcadia, 2004.
  3. Gavenda, Walter & Michael T. Shoemaker. A Guide to Haunted West Virginia. Glen Ferris, WV: Peter’s Creek Publishing, 2001.
  4. Guiley, Rosemary Ellen. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole, 2014.
  5. Ogden, Tom. Haunted Colleges and Universities: Creepy Campuses, Scary Scholars, and Deadly Dorms. Guilford, CT: Globe Pequot Press, 2014.