This article touches on Shepherd University. For a further examination of the hauntings on that campus, please see my guide to higher education haunts in WV.
I must sheepishly admit (pun intended) that I was not familiar with Shepherdstown, West Virginia until I stumbled across the website for Shepherd University with a recounting of its campus ghosts. Upon googling local ghosts, a marvelous article from the Shepherdstown Chronicle popped up with the above quote from a local historian. Of course, that got me excited.
Shepherdstown is located in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia in Jefferson County. Of the counties in West Virginia, Jefferson County seems to be one of the most paranormally active, most certainly in the area of Harpers Ferry. Standing in the large shadow of Harpers Ferry ghosts, I imagine that is why there really isn’t much written about Shepherdstown’s ghosts.
Settlement of the area began in the early 18th century with Thomas Shepherd being granted over 200 acres in the area. He set aside a portion of that acreage for a town which was chartered in 1762 and is—“arguably” as Wikipedia says—the oldest chartered town in West Virginia. The town was named Mecklenburg and would remain under that name until after the Civil War.
One of the city’s oldest remaining structures is the ENTLER-WELTZHEIMER HOUSE, also known as the “YELLOW HOUSE” (East High Street, Shepherd University Campus) which is now owned by Shepherd University. Not only is the yellow house one of oldest in the city, but the ghost story told about it may be one of the oldest documented ghost stories in the city as well. The story was mentioned in a Shepherd College (as it was called at that point) yearbook in 1928. An article in the student newspaper, the Shepherd College Picket, in 1954 also covers the tale.
In 1910, the Yellow House was the home of a local cobbler, George Yontz and his furry companion, a cat named Ham. When Mr. Yontz’s body was found not far from the cabin, locals assumed he had been killed for his money (many thought him to be very wealthy), though none was found when the house was searched. Since his death, the cobbler’s taps of his cobbler’s tools have been heard in and around the house.
The student newspaper mentions that a family moved into the house not long after Yontz’s death and their cat heard the tapping in the attic. The cat headed up the stairs and not long after came streaking back down and out the door. The cat was not seen again.
The house is built on the site of what was a fort built in the area during the French and Indian War. The house was purchased by the university in 1926 and has been used for a variety of educational uses—including as a Home Economics Cottage—until recently. The university was recently granted money to preserve the house.
Just down the street and around the corner from the Yellow House is McMURRAN HALL (NE corner German and King Streets), one of the grandest buildings on the university campus. McMurran is where Shepherd College was founded in 1871 and its clock tower is featured in the university logo. This grand, Greek Revival building was constructed as the town hall by Rezin Shepherd, the great-grandson of Thomas Shepherd, the town’s founder. Construction began on the eve of the Civil War and building stood incomplete when the wounded from the Battle of Antietam (17 September 1862)—considered one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil—began arriving in Shepherdstown. Public and private buildings were commandeered for use as hospitals including the unfinished town hall. Perhaps it is the spirit of one of these men who passed in this building that’s seen peering from the clock tower at night.
At the other end of the block, where German Street intersects Princess Street, the corner is graced with the lovely, old ENTLER HOTEL (129 East German Street), also called Rumsey Hall and now home to the Historic Shepherdstown Museum. The first building on this property was a home for the Entler family which was destroyed by fire in 1912. The subsequent buildings constructed here remain and these housed the Entler Hotel.
Shepherdstown’s location along a main road from Baltimore to the interior of the southeast, brought a great deal of traffic through the area in the early 19th century. This hotel was opened primarily to serve the wealthier travelers, though the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places notes that there was gambling and other gaming taking place in the inn’s yard. Continuing, it notes that one businessman, having lost his money in a card game, shot himself at the back of the hotel.
This was not the only tragedy here, in 1809 after a duel just across the Potomac River, Peyton Smith was brought here. The duel was held following a card game between Smith and Joseph Holmes, both members of noted Virginia families. The wounded Smith was placed in Room 1 and cried out for his mother before he passed. His mother arrived from Winchester after her son’s passing. People in the building continue to hear Smith’s pathetic cries.
Walking south down Princess Street, visitors will find an old carriage repair shop that formerly housed the CARRIAGE HOUSE CAFE (107 South Princess Street). This building has housed a variety of businesses and the spirit of a former owner is said to remain on the property.
A bit further down East German Street, another corner is graced by a grand building in this case it is the Beaux-Arts style, the old 1906 Jefferson Security Bank. The bank was converted to a restaurant some years ago and now houses the YELLOW BRICK BANK RESTAURANT (201 East German Street). Table 25 was the scene of some activity in the 1990s when a patron reported to the restaurant’s manager that she couldn’t sit at the table because of the ghost. The bartender also reported that he had glasses fall from the glass rack and break.
Of course, for Shepherdstown, I think these hauntings are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more reports from this lovely little town.
- Engle, Georgia Lee. “Restless spirit roams campus, haunts High Street Cottage.” Shepherd College Picket. 28 October 1954.
- Lehman, Mary Corcoran. “Entler Hotel.” Historic Shepherdstown and Museum. Accessed 2 October 2014.
- McGee, Ted. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for Rumsey Hall (Entler Hotel). 6 October 1972.
- Molenda, Rachel. “Town serves as home to ghosts from past.” The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 28 October 2011.
- Racer, Theresa. “Shepherdtown’s Historic Carriage House Café.” Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State blog. 16 July 2011.
- “Shepherd receives restoration grant.” The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 5 August 2011.
- Shepherd University. “Historic Tour—Yellow House.” Accessed 2 October 2011.
- Shepherd University. “Legend of the Yellow House.” Accessed 2 October 2011.
- Shepherd University. “Historic Tour—McMurran Hall.” Accessed 2 October 2011.
- Whipple, Jim. “The Carriage House to celebrate liquor license.” The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 19 November 2010.