Thursday, February 24, 2011

Outdoor Investigations

Since warmer weather is (hopefully) upon us, I thought I'd post an article from the archives concerning outdoor investigations!  I originally posted this on the TAPS 18+ Message Board as a response to another member's query--it has been polished up a tad, but if you're wondering why it reads a little more informally, that's why.  Please let me know what you think, and if you have anything to add.



Outdoor locations, such as parks, cemeteries, etc., can be great places for newer investigators to practice their skills and for the testing of new equipment.  Unfortunately, due to the lack of having a controlled setting, outdoor locations have additional problems to overcome.   Here's a brief run-down of some of the issues that commonly arise with outdoor investigations...and some tips on how to overcome them and get the most out of your investigation!


*Obtain permission to be there:
Acquiring proper permission for an outdoor location is often overlooked, but is one of the most important steps. While a place may be void of "No Trespassing" signs, it is still owned by SOMEONE, usually in the case of an historical area or cemetery, the city or county. All efforts must be taken to establish proper ownership and obtaining permission to be there, especially at night when most public locations are technically "closed" (WV Code generally states that public cemeteries close at dark, for example). Should no official owner be found, its always a good idea to inform any neighbors in the area and/or local law enforcement of your presence, to distinguish yourself from vandals.  This has an added benefit in that once in awhile, you'll get some valuable information regarding the history and the folklore of the area from these sources. Lastly, if you ARE stopped and asked to leave, do so immediately without fuss. Also bring a photo ID, just in case.

*Do a thorough daylight walk-through in order to get a feel for the layout, and observe any potential hazards. Make a map of the area, pointing out any dangers and sites of interest. If you will be investigating the area in the dark, glow sticks are awesome for marking off potentially dangerous areas.  Take note of anything else that may cause false positives later in the investigation, such as proximity to neighbors, train tracks, running water, etc.

*Understand the types of wildlife in your area of investigation and the noises and sights associated with them. Certain big cats, and even rabbits emit a scream that sounds like a human woman screaming...and many animals' eyes will glow either green or red. Foxfire, swamp gas, etc. are also things to take into consideration.

* If possible, avoid investigating if there is any precipitation, or if it is overly humid. Both conditions can cause false positives in photographs. Also, be mindful that cold temperatures also produce potential false positives. If you DO investigate in cold weather, hold your breath for a few seconds before taking pictures, and shoot away from anyone else present. Similar to breath, cigarette smoke will also cause false positives, so do not smoke at the investigation site.  Instead, designate a break area away from the investigation area.

*Experiment with how sound carries in the location. Split up into groups and vary your distances apart...talking normally, loudly, coughing, giggling, etc...to see what it sounds like so that you don't pick up someone several hundred yards away and think its an EVP. Windy and hilly areas can have some weird accoustics and carry sound in odd ways.  Most investigators add "voice tags" as well as written notes during recording sessions whenever a naturally ocurring background noise is observed.  There will be LOTS of background noises outside, so its important to identify those to the best of your ability if you choose to implement audio in your investigation. 

*Take notice of any street lights and street signs (street signs will give off a glow in photos), or anything else that may give off a reflection or glow. Take notice of the postion and phase of the moon as well...as the night progresses and clouds roll by, it could cause odd light anomalies.  Take plenty of test shots so that you have a basis for comparison.   Also, try to park in a fashion where you're unlikely to get reflections from the back lights of the vehicles...and carpool as much as possible, as parking in some places is limited.

*Experiment with how traffic sounds and headlights from cars effect the investigation. Any odd shadows or lights need to looked at extremely carefully.

*Dress sensibly and seasonably. Outdoor locations are often muddy, woody, and full of bugs. Wear comfortable shoes that you don't mind getting dirty and that you can hike in...and dress appropriately for the weather. Light layers are practical and can be adjusted for changing temperatures.  I personally recommend keeping an extra set of shoes in the car, just in case!  Bug spray is also a must-have for outdoor locations.  If you'll be in a wooded or brushy area, consider wearing long pants and a long sleeve top for added protection against scrapes and bug bites.

*Travel light--you may need to leave the area in a hurry. Bring the basics, and consider a headlamp over a traditional flashlight...one less thing to carry.  Lots of stores, including Walmart,  have fishing vests that have many pockets for organization, and can make carrying multiple items much easier.

*And on the subject of flashlights...red lights are great for preserving night vision and cutting down on your light pollution. However, they often don't provide ample light for traipsing around outside at night. Consider having a brighter light handy for moving around. Many headlights have both red light, and normal led functions.

*Keep safety a TOP priority. If at any reason the investigation becomes dangerous, leave immediately. (Examples: Another person is observed in the location, lightning is noticed, etc) And...as with any investigation, refrain from horseplay and take a first aid kit along.  A first-aid kit containing a basic snake-bite kit is also a good option.

*Be respectful. Leave the property in the same or in better shape as when you found it. Make sure all trash is picked up, and nothing is disturbed.

*If you DO observe any type of vandalism or property damage, document it, and notify the owners at their and your earliest convenience so that you don't get blamed for it.

*And lastly, just be careful and practice common sense. Don't let anyone wander off alone...and make sure you have walkie talkies, or cell phones, so that the groups can keep in contact with each other. Make sure someone outside the group knows where you'll be, and when you're expected back.  NEVER go alone on an investigation, especially a night-time investigation.

As far as equipment tips....

Make sure you have accurate weather detecting equipment, and get up to date, accurate readings on line for wind speed and direction, moon phase...all that good stuff, and document it. I use a free program called Ghost Weather that gives all that, plus tracks geomagnetic and solar flare info.

Unless you want to run a power cord to your equipment from your car through a converter or some other means (which is usually impractical), make sure you've got plenty of charged up and ready to go batteries for all of your equipment.  Bring more batteries than you think you'll need--at least 2 sets minimum for every piece of equipment you bring.

Also, since you'll probably want to do this when its dark...easier to see an entity if its emitting its own light...make sure whatever video equipment you have  is equipped to work well in the dark.  For the first go around, I would imagine handheld devices would be more practical than setting up stationary cameras. IR boosters for most camcorders are relatively inexpensive and there are plenty of affordable options in regards to both video and still photography night shot capability.  Experiment with your equipment's capabilities, and find out what works best.

If you have nightvision goggles, definitely implement them!  And if you have a hand held GPSr, it may be handy to have around for several reasons.  You can waymark areas where specific activity is witnessed, so you know exactly where to go back to if no other markers exist, and if you venture out away from your vehicle, you can easily find your way back. 

And don't rush this...plan an excursion where your conditions allow for optimal results and if feasible, go back several times under different circumstances...like different seasons, weather, etc...to see if there is any differences.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

S.S. Watertown

In December of 1924, a United States tanker ship owned by The Cities Service Company was transporting a shipment of crude oil between California and New Orleans via the Panama Canal.  The ship was called the S.S. Watertown and due to a freak accident at sea, would be doomed to a life of infamy.

On December 4th, two men were sentenced to "black work," a punishment for crimes that have been lost to time.  These two men were James Courtney and Michael Meehan.  This was the first voyage for both men on the S.S. Watertown, but both had an extensive history on the sea.  Courtney, who was described as a "hulking Irishman," had seven years experience on cargo ships in the Indian Ocean.  Meehan, rumored to be a gypsy, had 12 years experience with various Pacific Ocean trade routes.

This "black work" the men were sentenced to involved them scrubbing and empty cargo tank in the ship's aft hull.  What seemed like a routine task turned deadly, when the men were overcome by fumes, and unable to escape the cargo tank.  The men were found unconscious and unresponsive in the tank.  Meehan was on the floor, and Courtney lay across his body.  It appears as if Meehan passed out first, followed by Courtney, who was attempting to drag Meehan out towards the ladder.  The ship's doctor was unable to revive them, and both men were pronounced dead at 13:07.

Per custom, the men were given a burial at sea off the Mexican Coast.  The very next day, a very agitated crew began being haunted by the disembodied heads of the two men.  Around dusk, it was reported to the First Mate that the disembodied heads of Meehan and Courtney had been spotted among the waves on the side of the ship where the bodies were dumped.  All who witnessed the phenomenon agreed that the heads were definitely belonging to the two men who had just died.

The heads continued to show up over the next several days.  They always appeared about 40 feet away from the ship, and about ten feet apart from each other.  The heads would appear for a period of about ten seconds, then slowly fade away.  The heads were never seen in the Atlantic Ocean leg of the voyages, and they always appeared much larger than a real head would.

When the ship docked in New Orleans, the ship's captain, Keith Tracy, went to the field offices of the Cities Service Company to report the deaths, but also to report the strange occurrences that were connected to the deaths.  Unconvinced, the company suggested that Tracy purchase a camera in order to get proof.  Tracy, who had been with the S.S. Watertown since 1921, was a no-nonsense sort of person, and agreed to try to get proof of the sightings.



Tracy sent his first mate out to purchase a camera while docked in New Orleans.  The camera purchased was the new Kodak Model F Brownie Box.  The original purchase price of this camera, which debuted in 1924, was $2.75.  It featured an aluminum body, meniscus lens, three aperture settings, one fixed speed shutter setting and tripod mounting.  The camera required 120 roll film, which contained 8 frames per roll, and produced 9x6 frames.

On the return trip, the heads continued to plague the crew, and when alerted that there was a sighting, Captain Tracy grabbed his camera and took six shots of the heads, which he also witnessed with his own eyes.  The film was left in the camera, and the camera was locked in the ship's safe until they returned to port.

After docking, Tracy sent the camera and film to his employers at their New York office.  The film was developed by James Patton.  Out of the six photos taken, only one showed the two disembodied heads of what appears to be Meehan on the left, and Courtney on the right.  The Burns Detective Agency was called in to examine the evidence.  After scrutinizing the negative, the film, and the camera, they came to the conclusion that nothing had been tampered with, and that the popular  Burn and Dodge process of film development had not been used in creating the images.

Meanwhile, back on the S.S. Watertown, the heads were appearing with less and less frequency, and by the fourth voyage, a complete crew change had resulted in a total disappearance of the heads.  The matter seemed dropped, except for the occasional rumor, until 1934: ten years AFTER the photo was developed.

The photo was found and published in the shipping journal, The East Coast Journal.  By this time, Captain Tracy and the first mate had died, the original crew was untrackable, and the original photo and negative had been lost.  Still, the Director of the American Psychical Institute, Hereward Carrington, was called in to examine the evidence.  Carrington's conclusion was that the photo was a rare example of a form of psychic photography involving thought forms.  The crew's impression of the two dead men was so strong, that they were able to psychically create the images, both in the waves, and onto the film.  

In recent years, it has been claimed that there is a third, and perhaps even a fourth face in the photo, lending to a modern conclusion that the heads are actually a product of pareidolia, a psychological phenomenon where the brain perceives patterns as easily recognizable objects and stimuli, such as human faces.

Unfortunately, with the original photo and negative lost to time, we may never know for sure just what the true cause is behind the S.S. Watertown incident.

Toys R Us Ghost, Sunnyvale, CA


In 1970, toy store magnate, Toys 'R' Us added a new store to its chain, located about a half hour south of San Francisco.  Soon after the store opened, employees began noticing something just wasn't right.

Management would return to unlock the store each morning and find merchandise scattered over the aisles, and flung around haphazardly on shelves.  Books, roller skates, and skateboards littered the aisles, despite the assurance that all was well the evening before. 

Employees began complaining to their manager that they felt as they were being tapped, and young women with long hair often reported the caressing stroke of an unseen hand on their locks.

In one incident, a metal loading door was lowered, and immediately, staff heard beating on the door, and someone screaming "Let me out!"  The door was opened, and no one was found.  On another night, two male staff members were sent to the rear of the store, and came back shaken because they had heard someone clomping around in heavy boots...despite the fact that no one in the store at the time was wearing such shoes.  One of the creepiest incidents involved a talking doll that wouldn't stop screaming "Momma!" when locked away in a lock box.

Although the majority of incidents happened to staff, visitors to the store would occasionally experience paranormal events as well, especially in the women's restroom.  One female customer complained to management after the faucet kept turning itself back on as she walked away.

By 1978, a reporter from San Francisco had caught wind of the hauntings, and personally set up an investigation with psychic Sylvia Browne.  Browne was joined by photographer Bill Tidwell and several assistants and together, the group attempted to contact the spirit(s) causing all the trouble.  Research on the property had led them to believe that the ghost was most likely John Murphy.  Murphy was a wealthy rancher in southern California, and his ranch had stood on the spot where the building now stood.

Browne did manage to make contact with the spirit, but to everyone's amazement...it wasn't John Murphy. 

Browne saw a young man in his 20s/30s.  He was tall and thin, and wore a short brown jacket.  He had his hands stubbornly crammed into the pockets, and looked forlornly down at the floor.  The entity spoke to Browne in a Swedish accent, telling her that his name was Johnny Johnson, and that she had better move if she didn't want to get her feet wet.

Although the only "evidence" that was gleamed from this investigation was a photo with a bright spot of light, subsequent research was able to back up what Browne had claimed of the entity.

Johnny Johnson had come to California during the Gold Rush from Pennsylvania, but for unforeseen reasons, had been working as a circuit preacher in the area.  Around this time, he had fallen deeply in love with Elizabeth Yuba Murphy (later Tafee), the daughter of John Murphy.  Johnny was devastated when his beloved Beth left the ranch to be married to a prominent, and rich, lawyer.

Johnny never got over losing his love, and shortly after, contracted encephalitis, significantly impairing his mental abilities, and earning him the nickname "Crazy Johnny".  As a result, Murphy kept him on at the ranch as a ranch hand.  Johnny lived to the age of 80, dying in 1884 after he cut his leg chopping wood and bled to death.  The team also found out that a well had once stood approximately where Browne had been standing at the time.

Two years later, the TV show "That's Incredible" decided to run a feature on the Sunnyvale Ghost, hoping that he'd make an on-air appearance.  Sylvia Browne and Bill Tidwell were once again invited to lead to the investigation, which this time, led to some VERY interesting results.

This time, Tidwell brought with him infrared film...and the result is the photo above.  A form of a young man standing, leaning against the shelves was not present to the naked eye.   A photo taken by an assistant at the same time with normal film yielded no results.

The Girl in Blue

 In late April of 1997, urban expansion nearly resulted in a 19th century, 24 room Gothic mansion to be torn down.  Luckily, the Historic Landmarks Foundation of Indiana stepped in. 

On April 29, the beautiful old house was moved from its Indianapolis location at the corner of Mills and Mann Roads, to its new home down hill at the corner of Southport and Mann Roads, merely a few blocks down.

A photographer for the Indianapolis Star , Mike Fender, was on location to document the process of loading the mansion onto a trailer, and its slow descent downhill to its new home.  During a series of shots showing the  the mansion being hoisted up, Fender, for a brief second,thought he saw the image of something strange in one of the upper windows.  He had caught a glimpse of a little blond girl in a blue dress, standing there looking out.  Knowing that the house was empty, he quickly dismissed the thought, and put it out of his head.

That is...until the next day, when the film was developed and the photo printed in the newspaper.  Immediately, the newspaper office was flooded with calls from viewers, asking about the little girl in the window.  

Rumors quickly abounded, as everyone rushed in to give their explanation for the little girl.  The house quickly caught the reputation of being haunted, and it was claimed that the little girl was the ghost of former tenant who had either fallen out of the home's second-story window, was killed by hunters as she played in the nearby woods, or was simply a child buried in a nearby family cemetery who wandered into the home.
Unfortunately, none of these stories have any historical documentation to back them up, and the new owner, Amy Cook, never reported any paranormal activity of any kind in the home. 

So what caused this anomaly?

Since 2001, Mike Fender has been Director of Photography at the Indianapolis Star, and has extensive experience and background in photography.  Over ten years later, he is still "haunted' by this photo, as questions are still asked about what it could be.  Fender says with 90% certainty, he feels it is a natural anomaly caused by a trick of light on the window's screen.  The blue color of her dress is explained by the fact that the room she is standing in is painted blue.

However, when blown up and examined, the outline of the girl does not distort...at any resolution there is still the perfect shape of a little girl standing in the window.

Hoult River Monster of Northern WV

The Ohio and Monongahela Rivers of Northern West Virginia may hold a dark secret.  It is said that this is the home to a 444 pound beast known to the Iroquois as "The Ogua."

Early settlers to the Hoult area (near Fairmont) tell tales of a monstrous beast, bigger than a bear, with a 15 foot long tail.  The monster was said to be amphibious; it would live in the waters of the Ohio and Monongahela by day, and by night, come to land in order to hunt deer.  Lashing at the deer with its massive tail, it would then pull the prey into the water to consume it.

Perhaps the first recorded incident of the monster comes from a letter sent by a young man staying at nearby Fort Hamar.  The letter, which is now housed in WVU's Manuscript Collection, tells of an incident where another man at the fort was out one day and came upon a creature resembling a turtle, but with two heads, attacking a deer.  The man rushed back to the fort, and together with a band of men, rushed back to the spot where the creature was spotted.  The creature was located, and the men clubbed it to death.

A further tale comes from two other early settlers.  The Taylor and Nichols families settled along the Monongahela River around the year 1745.  Both built adjoining cabins on what is a prehistoric stone floor.  On October 22, 1746, the twelve year old son of Nichols was fishing in the river when he was pulled in and dragged off by something described as being bigger than a bear and with the body of a turtle.

The next day, Taylor found a large curved bone wedged between two trees.  This bone was widely believed to be belonging to one of the creatures, who by this time were said to live in mud holes along the river.  Several days after that, the Nichols' teenage daughter was awakened by the sound of something rubbing up against the cabin.  As she peered through the cracks, she saw what she described as a large, hairy creature, bigger than a sow.  Both families packed up and left shortly thereafter.

According to folklore, the tale of the Hoult River Monster was borne from the nightmares of Chief Hiawatha as a way to scare off the white settlers.  However, during the chief's reign, there were very few white settlers in the area, so its believed that the monster is more likely a tale concocted by the local Delaware or Shawnee tribes to serve the same purpose.

Whatever its origins, there are striking similarities between the Ogua and other river monsters of lore.  The Japanese have the Kappa, which as one of its many forms, can show up either hairy, or as a turtle.  The Celts also have a legend of a water monster called a Kelpie, who would drag its human prey below the water and devour it.

Jaboticabal Poltergeist

Death by ghost...is it possible?  Some may argue that if an entity has the power to move an object, it must certainly have the ability to do harm to a living person.  Whatever your theory or belief, this is one case where an alleged entity DID cause the death of a young girl...although perhaps not in a way you expected... 
 
Jaboticabal is a small municipality north of Sao Paulo Brazil.  The name comes from a Tupi language, but the area is overwhelmingly Catholic, being the seat of the local Roman Catholic Diocese.

In 1965, a series of incidents would rock this small community (literally) and secure its place in the annals of ghost research.  That December, 11 year old Maria Jose Ferreira became the victim of one of the worst poltergeist attacks on record.  At first, the entity seemed playful, and Maria would enjoy having it "fetch her things."  Soon, though, it turned malicious, and after several days of bricks coming out of nowhere and being thrown through the house, the family was convinced they were dealing with an evil entity, and called upon the local priest for an exorcism.

An exorcism was performed, but the activity only got worse. In addition to the bricks, now stones, eggs, dishes, furniture, and other miscellany constantly rained down on the family on their home, but Maria continued to feel the full brunt of the attacks.

Maria was constantly under a physical battle with an unseen attacker.  She was bit, slapped, bruised, and even stuck with needles, which suddenly appeared embedded in her skin.  She was even almost set ablaze one day at school while eating lunch.  On March 14, 1966, as she sat there eating, her clothes began to smolder and smoke.

During this time, a neighbor and Spiritualist had taken Maria into his home in an attempt to help cure her of this phenomena.  Joao Volpe and his family kept Maria for about a year, but were never able to fully ease the symptoms.

Maria, the Volpe's, and her family dealt with these attacks for nearly a year before Maria was taken to a local medium, who made an outrageous claim.  Chico Xavier claimed that the spirits had told him that Maria had been a witch in a past life, and she was now being stalked by the ghosts of her victims!  This ghost had dedicated his afterlife into making Maria suffer for her past sins.

Nothing the medium or anyone else did could lessen the attacks on Maria, and at age 13 she returned home to live with her mother. She suffered for five years until one day her body was found, dead of an apparent self-inflicted poisoning by drinking a soft drink laced with pesticide.  It was rumored that she took her own life to end the suffering of the relentless attacks.  After her death, the activity immediately stopped.  Did the ghosts finally have their revenge on Maria?

Osculum Infame...The Kiss of Shame

 The Osculum Infame, otherwise known as the Kiss of Shame


The Osculum Infame is an integral part of the Witches' Sabbats of historical legend.  At each Sabbat, the Devil, who generally appeared as a Goat, would take a roll call of sorts, and record the names of those in attendance into his Red Book.  Following this task, each witch present was expected to then offer homage to her master through what is known as the Osculum Infame.

Seen as the ultimate act of submission and degradation, the witch was expected to either walk or crawl backwards toward the devil (or presiding demon), turn, bow, then kiss him directly on the anus, which was often described as being "cold as ice."

Some witches claimed that they were not actually kissing his anus, but rather, there was a second face in place of the anus.  In any event, the act was seen as the total embodiment of the witch's relationship with the Devil.  This was seen as an unnatural act, and the epitome of all that was unclean and degrading.  However it was seen, this photograph and accompanying description of the ritual has led to plenty of interesting discussion and jokes on various message boards concerning "demon salad tossing," hehehe.

A new witch was not accepted until she performed this act, and the practice was reported in each and every confession that was tortured out of suspected witches during the Inquisition.  Following the ritual, the Sabbat continued with a banquet, dancing, orgies, etc.

McKinley's Death Omen


Shortly after the Civil War, the C&O Rail Road saw a need to build a line from Covington, Virginia, to the small, yet prosperous town of Guyandotte, WV. But, there were a few problems...

The terrain through much of West Virginia was rough and steep.  Although the line followed the river as closely as possible, a lack of bottom land still presented the need to blast the steep cliffs into usable roadbeds.  The blasting was met by opposition by the locals.  Despite the economic advantages of having a rail line, those in the New River region claimed to experience a sinister side of the process.  It is said that after the cliffs were blasted, people would see the silhouettes of loved ones and neighbors etched into the remaining rock.  To see such an image meant that the person was surely to die.

However, the line was continued and finished.  In September of 1901, however, the superstition returned with a vengeance.  Workers for the railroad were working on a four mile long spur line between Thurmond and Minden.  After blasting a section of rock to make a roadbed, the workers were horrified to see the silhouette of President McKinley.

Within an hour, the telegraph office in Thurmond brought the official news--President McKinley had been shot by Leon F. Czolgosz while attending the Pan American Expo in Buffalo, NY.  Within three days, the president had died.

That's not where the coincidences end, though.  There is a definite link to both President McKinley AND Czolgosz to the state of West Virginia.  Czolgosz was an immigrant who lived in Kanawha City, and worked in a wire factory there.  McKinley served as a quartermaster in the 23rd Ohio Regiment, and spent a great deal of time at both nearby Camp Haskell and Camp Tompkins.  In fact, McKinley probably passed by the area of his death omen on several occasions.

Today, the rail line between Thurmond and Minden is gone, but is replaced by the Thurmond-Minden Trail.  While traveling from Thurmond to Minden (never the opposite way), the faint image of McKinley can still be seen through the brush. To be honest, I don't see it. Let me know if you do in the comments below!


Source: WVCyclopedia 

Camden Clark Hospital, Parkersburg



The land that Camden Clark Hospital currently sits atop has a long and full history in the realm of medicine.  During the Civil War, the land was part of the Camden farm, and became the site of a makeshift Civil War Hospital.

In 1895, another establishment opened nearby under the name of City Hospital.  This hospital was known for its nursing program, one of the oldest in the state.  Classes began March 15, 1898 under the direction of Miss Mary Pendergast, who later married W.S. Link.
Pendergast held her position as director until 1903, when she was succeeded by Miss Elizabeth Williams. 

Around this time, the hospital was making some major changes.  One founder, Dr. Andrew Clark, died in 1902, and bequeathed his estate, an estimated $26,000, to the hospital.  In 1918, Anne Camden, widow of Senator Johnson Camden, passed away, and left the Camden family home to the city for hospital use.  The mansion, located at 717 Ann Street was converted into an 104 bed facility, complete with two operating rooms and a laboratory.  The expansion added a west wing on the right side of the mansion, which was completed in 1920.  On April 16th, the new hospital building officially opened and was dedicated under the new name of Camden Clark.

Further expansion took place throughout the 1930s.  In 1936, a new front entrance and three story patient wing was completed with funding from bonds and Public Works.  This new and improved wing was named the East Wing. 

The following year, a new nursing director took over the nursing school.  Her name was Ella Bloomhart.  Bloomhart held the position until 1944, but returned in 1949 and held the position until at LEAST 1957, when my records ended.  Ella's years of dedication seem to have left a lasting imprint on the hospital, as staff and patients alike are convinced she is still there, tending to her nursing duties.

Ella is described as wearing a nursing uniform common throughout the late 1940s/early 1950s.  However, those who recognize the apparition claim that although her uniform is characteristic of her later years in service, she looks much younger than they remember, at least as young as she was during her first tenure as Director.  It is said that if you try to speak to Ella, she'll ignore you, but she won't dissipate or fade away.  She stays focused on her rounds until she disappears by walking through a hospital wall.  She is seen throughout the hospital, including the modern building, but is most often seen on the second and fifth stories and in the old section.

Another ghost is also said to make its home in the hospital.  This entity is only seen in the "old section" of the hospital, or East Wing, which still occasionally houses  patients. Nurses and staff claim that whenever the bed is the "haunted room" is made, ready for a new patient, an indentation appears shortly afterward.  The indentation is said to be the same size and shape as a human's bottom, and appears as if someone is sitting on the edge of the bed.

Former Montgomery City Hall

Today, the former Montgomery City Hall (Fayette County) is torn down and in its place sits a Go-Mart gas station.  However, before this pre-WWI structure met with the wrecking ball, it was rumored to be haunted.

In the late 1970s, the former brick building was used to house both the fire department and the police department along with the town's government offices.  While on duty one evening, two  officers shared an experience that just isn't covered in police academy!  Working the midnight shift, the two men heard footsteps walking across the wooden floorboards of the floor above them.  They distinctly heard the footsteps walk into the kitchen area of that floor, where the footsteps paused.  The men then heard the unmistakable sounds of water running in the kitchen sink, and rushing down the pipes past their floor.  The water turned off, and the footsteps once again were heard, walking back to the other side of the room.

These fairly normal sounds wouldn't necessarily cause a disturbance...however, the two officers knew they were alone in the building.  One officer, who had been with the force the longest, instantly recognized the sounds.  They were the nightly ritual of the former Fireman-in-Charge of the midnight shift, who suffering from indigestion, would have to take a nightly pill, and would walk into the kitchen for a glass of water to wash it down.  The only problem was that the Chief died ten years earlier, and the midnight shift for the fire department was disbanded.

Whether from the power of suggestion, or the  security of knowing that they weren't crazy, other officers working on the night shift reported hearing the phantom sounds of the former Chief.  One such officer attempted to get to the bottom of these manifestations one night.  He personally cleared the offices, making sure no one was up there.  He then inspected the sink, shutting off both faucets,  wiping the sink out,and  then lining the sink with paper towels.  He then locked up, and waited for the ghost to appear.

The officer was not disappointed.  Around three that morning, the footsteps and sounds of running water once again filled the lower level, and the officer jumped up and ran up the stairs.  He found the door still locked, and when he opened it, no one was there.  However, the paper towels he left in the sink were soaking wet.

With the closure of this former building, some believe that perhaps the ghost of the former fire chief might have wandered over to WVU Tech to look after the college students living in one of the dorms.  The apprehension of experiencing an apparition of a fireman walking the darkened halls of your residence has surely influenced at least one student to NOT burn the popcorn!

WVU Tech Phantom Firefighter

*The majority of information for this article came from the Haunted West Virginia book by Walter Gavenda and Michael Shoemaker!*

Captain's House, Parkersburg

The Captain's House, located on Juliana Street in Parkersburg's historic district, was built by George Deming, prior to 1860.  George was born in Connecticut in 1806, and was an accomplished Master Mariner.  Shortly before the Civil War, Deming left New England, and took his young family to Parkersburg, where he built at least two homes.

This home, sometimes referred to as the "Markey House," is the oldest, and is built in a classic New England style, with a small front yard, and narrow halls and a low ceiling, reminiscent of a ship.

Deming passed away in 1861, possibly due to the typhoid epidemic which was sweeping the area.  Deming's young son also passed away sometime during this time period.  Both are buried two blocks from the house in the Riverview Cemetery.  Deming's gravestone has an elaborate ship carving, and along with his birth and death dates bears the claim that he is a direct descendant of Myles Standish.  Unfortunately, the son's stone is too worn to accurately see the dates or name.

It is believed that  since Deming was in his 50s at his time of death, yet he had several young children, his wife was probably much younger.  There are no records of any other Deming's in the cemetery, so it is believed that she moved away shortly after the death of her husband and son, and remarried.

The Captain's Home has since then acquired a reputation for being haunted.  Rumors abound that subsequent owners have been driven mad while living in the home, which has undergone extensive renovations over the years.  While these rumors seem largely unsubstantiated, the home still has paranormal activity associated with it.  Workers restoring the home reported seeing a child's footprints in the dust in the attic, although no children lived in the home at the time. The dust was cleared, and several months later, the footsteps would reappear, although no children had even set foot in the closed off section.

Another strange anomaly seems to be the glow of a fire reflected in the home's windows.  People looking at the window see the reflection of orange flames whipping about, and other weird light anomalies, which are attributed to the Captain's pipe burning.

Oddly enough, the Captain isn't confined to his former home.  Residents have seen his apparition in various parts of town, often walking with his head down, and wearing a black overcoat.  He is seen at times in Riverview Cemetery, and some claim, even in the Blennerhassett Hotel.

Today, the home is a private residence, but is featured on the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours.  Photo from the Haunted Parkersburg website.

Welch Community Hospital

Property of ZDS
Staff have reported that this small, community health center is home to a little ghost boy.  The boy, dubbed "Georgie," is seen throughout the hospital at all times of day, but most often at night.  He is seen most frequently on the  OB floor, but has also been seen running and playing in the cafeteria, especially in the area of the vending machines.  If anyone has any further information on Georgie, or other hauntings associated with the hospital, please send them to me!

History of the Hospital

Bessie Bartlett, Parkersburg

In the 1980s, a family with a couple of young daughters were traveling through Parkersburg, when they spotted an unassuming historic home on Ann Street.  Falling in love with the home at first glance, they were delighted to see a For Sale sign up in the front yard, and immediately stopped to ask for a tour.  Since the home was over 100 years old, it would mean massive renovations for the family, should they decide to purchase it.  The father, camera in tow, decided to take a few snapshots throughout the property while touring, so he could further assess what needed to be done, and if the restorations would be worth it. Nobody would suspect that one fateful photograph taken that day of the home would be internationally known, even nearly 30 years later.

The photo in question is from the basement area of the home.  When developed, the film clearly shows a young girl with her hair parted, standing slightly to the side.  She appears to be wearing a white dress, and has her hands folded in front of her.

The current owners were notified of the photo, but had no idea what it could mean.  Their house had previously had no discernible paranormal activity, especially none involving such a clear apparition of a little girl!  They decided to investigate the history of their home, and what they found shocked them, but at the same time, gave the photo meaning.

The home was built in the 1870s by Dr. Charles Bartlett, and his wife, Margaret.  The Bartletts had several young children, including a daughter named Bessie.  Dr. Bartlett was a successful dentist, and ran his practice out of the family home.  Unfortunately, another typhoid epidemic swept through Parkersburg in 1879, and Bessie, who was around ten at the time, caught the disease.

Dr. Bartlett was at a loss of what to do.  He knew that if anyone found out that Bessie was ill, the home and the family would be quarantined, and his business would be ruined.  He also couldn't bear the thought of sending his daughter away to a hospital, left alone to be cared for by strangers.

In a desperate decision, Dr. Bartlett arranged for the basement of the home to be turned into a hidden sickroom for Bessie.  He had hoped the cool air of the basement would help break her fever, and that her recovery would be much swifter if she were cared for by family members.  However, Bessie DID die alone.  She succumbed to the fever, and was found dead in the basement.  She was buried in the family plot in Odd Fellows Cemetery, off of Murdoch Avenue in Parkersburg.

So why did Bessie decide to show up in the photograph, making herself known for the first time in over 100 years after her death? Could the energy from the two little girls present have sparked her interest, or did she simply finally find an opportunity to make herself known after being hidden away?

After the photograph was discovered, the owners have reported an increase in activity around the home, especially in the basement where lights flicker, and odd balls of light have been witnessed.  Still, the apparition of Bessie has never been seen.  Tour guides on the Haunted Parkersburg Tour, however, often report that when the tour is stopped in front of this home, the porch light will brighten, then flicker down to dim as the tale of Bessie Bartlett is again told.

Note:  I believe that the photo is now the property of Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours and/or Susan Sheppherd. If you have any updated information, feel free to pass it along!

Dunlop Hollow, Charleston

Dunlop Hollow is a small, gravel trail/road off the main road running through Kanawha State Forest, coming from the Loudendale entrance.  To get to this site, follow the signs towards Campsites 3-5 (not Campsite 35 as listed elsewhere), until you see the Dunlop Hollow sign on your right.  Dunlop Hollow itself is gated off to vehicle traffic, and a large creek actually runs through the middle of the road.  However, a small footbridge leads across the creek and into a small camping and picnic area at the mouth of the hollow.

Several years ago, several witnesses were in this area on June 17, when they saw a frightening apparition.   Standing near the large boulder which sits on the side of the road was the apparition of a black woman, wearing all white.  Local legend states that the woman, possibly a former school teacher, was hanged, or more accurately, lynched, at a nearby tree for crimes lost to history.

There are many gnarled old trees in the immediate camp area, so its unclear which is possibly this "Hanging Tree," but its possible the tree in question is the one pictured above on the right.  I visited the site around 5:30pm on July 15, and found the area peaceful, albeit it slightly creepy.  As I pulled into the parking area, I noticed another vehicle already parked there, with no one around.  Presumably, the owner was taking advantage of the lovely nature trails that snake through the Kanawha State Forest.

However, not wanting to "interrupt" someone up to uh...something else, I exercised a bit of caution while exploring the site, and snapping some pictures.  With keys and cellphone handy, I crossed the footbridge to get a better view of the boulder in question.  My phone, which had full service when I got out of the car, dropped to no bars as soon as I crossed the stream.  Standing directly in front of the men's restroom shack, I noticed a VERY pungent odor. I quickly snapped some pics, and got out of there.

I wouldn't recommend anyone going to this site alone, as it is fairly well concealed and private from the main road.  If you do visit, please respect all posted Kanawha State Forest laws, and take advantage of the great hiking trails, picnic areas, and fishing ponds!

Photo property of Theresa Racer

Former Watt Powell Park, Kanawha City

Professional baseball has  had a long, but rocky history in Charleston.  In 1910, the first professional baseball team, the Statesmen, played two seasons at Werhele Park, which was located on the corner of Ruffner and Virginia Streets.  After a two year period of no professional team, the newly formed Senators played another three seasons, also at Werhele Park.

Unfortunately, following this three season run, Charleston was without a professional baseball team for the next 14 years.  However, in an effort to keep interest up in local sports, and to hopefully attract a new pro league, two local citizens joined forces.  In 1917, Charles Beers and Watt Powell funded a new park to replace the aging Werhele Park, and make room for new urban development.  The new wooden park was moved to Kanawha City and aptly named Kanawha Park.  Seating 3500, it would eventually come to be known as Exhibition Park.

By 1931, pro ball was back in Charleston with a return of the Senators, who made their home at the Kanawha Park.  In 1939, a fire at the wooden park destroyed the grandstands, forcing the team to play many of its home games out of town.  This turn of events would be the start of another rocky period.  By 1943, Charleston once again lost its professional league, and the following year, the entire Kanawha Park was consumed totally  by a second fire.  The fire and the effects of World War II would put things on hiatus.
It would be four years later before efforts were once again made to bring professional baseball back to Charleston.  In August of 1948, Watt Powell once again took an active role, and with the help of a $350,000 government bond, financed the building of a new and improved park.  The new ballpark held its opening night on April 28, 1949, and once again, saw the Senators as the home team, now under the Class A Central League.  Sadly, Watt Powell passed away a mere two months before opening night, and the park was dedicated and named in his honor.  The new park seated 4,474 when first built, and was renowned for its picturesque mountain backdrop.

The Senators would play at Watt Powell Park, both under the Class A Central League, and then the AAA American Association until 1960.  In 1961, they were replaced by the Charleston Marlins under the AAA International League, followed by the Charleston Indians of the AAA Eastern League until 1964.

After 1964, Charleston was once again without a professional baseball league, until the franchise was purchased in 1971.  Named the Charleston Charlies after the owner's father, the team played in the AAA International League until 1983.  After another brief hiatus, pro ball once again returned in 1987 with the Charleston Wheelers, later named the Alley Cats, in the Class A South Atlantic League.

As early as 1993, the aging park was rumored to be replaced, and in 2005, the Alley Cats moved out of the old park, changed their name to the Charleston Power, and moved into their new park in downtown Charleston.  By late 2005, the grandstands had already been demolished, and the entire park, save for the stadium lights, was gone by mid-2006.  The land was sold to the University of Charleston, who then sold 2/3 of the property to Charleston Area Medical Center (CAMC).

Before the grandstands were torn down, many visitors to the park were convinced the area was home to a ghost.  Witnesses reported seeing an older man sitting alone in the stands.  When they looked away, and then looked back, the man had vanished.  With the stands gone, the identity of the spectator specter may never be known, but there are plenty of theories.

The most popular explanation is that the man was an elderly citizen who never missed a game.  The man, who passed away in the late 1990s, continued his love of the game, well into his afterlife.  Apparently he has been positively identified by witnesses who knew the man in life.

Another theory is that this is possibly the spirit of Watt Powell himself.  Watt Powell was a dedicated baseball fan, putting his time and money into building a Charleston landmark, which he would never get to see finished.  Has Mr. Powell returned to watch over his beloved park, a task he never got to complete in life? 

One last theory is that this entity is the ghost of someone killed on the bordering CSX train tracks.  The train tracks, which ran right up against the field, were a popular spot for spectators to enjoy the game without purchasing a ticket.  As late as 1995, there was a makeshift memorial set up near the tracks within sight of the baseball diamond.

Today, part of the property formerly housing the park is now home to the University of Charleston's softball team's field.  Perhaps whoever the ghostly visitor to Watt Powell is will be drawn out by the love of the game, and begin attending softball games!

History of WV Pro-Ball

Update March 2012:  Aaron alerted me to this wonderful documentary on Watt Powell Park from 2005.  Produced by Bob Wilkinson, Rounding Third:Watt Powell Once More is an excellent look at Watt Powell's history.


Reese's Run Rd. Lumberport

About four years (2005) ago I was dating a guy who lived in the small town of Lumberport, WV, located just outside of Bridgeport in Harrison County.  One night while out driving, he took me to a local legend tripping spot called Reeses Run Road.  Reeses Run Road is a small back hollow, located closer to the town of Robey, and branches off from the section of Rt. 19 called Crooked Run.

At the time, I didn't realize that this area of country had a sinister reputation, and thus, had become a popular hang out for the younger crowd in search of a good scare.

The story I was told was that a few years prior, a girl was beaten and abused at a Harrison County apartment, and then taken out to a specific spot off this road, assaulted some more, shot in the head, and then left for dead by her boyfriend and possibly at least two other people.  We pulled into a small parking area near a large tree, and I was told this was where her body was found.

The area did give off a creepy vibe, and the entire time we were out there, all I wanted to do was get back to civilization!  It really did feel like someone was out there watching our every move.  A thick blanket of fog didn't help matters.

Busy with other things, and separating from this guy a few months later, I pretty much forgot about Reeses Run and moved on.  Then, I happened to stumble upon a viewer submission of a haunted location on a popular website...and the location just happened to be Reeses Run Road!

My interest again sparked, I did some minor digging into the legend and found out some interesting things.  I found about 5 different versions of the story I had been told, but they all basically followed the same format.  In one legend, the girl was taken here and beaten, and then later murdered in an apartment in the Fairmont area.  Another legend states that the girl was a teenager out on a date with her boyfriend, and was parked near a tree off this road--a popular make out spot in the mid-1990s.  The boyfriend asked her if she wanted to see something cool...so she said yes, and he shot her in the face and dumped her body.  The boyfriend called friends to confess, and then went to an apartment in Shinnston where he committed suicide.

Another common thread I've found in all these stories is that the girl's name seems to be Debbie Buck.  Interestingly, I did manage to find a listing in the Lumberport directory for a Debbie Buck, aged 52.  As of this date, however, I have not been able to find any documentation online about a murder in this area, or if there is a death certificate for another Debbie Buck in the county.

If you have any additional information, please pass it along!

UPDATE:  I have received numerous emails from friends, family, and members of the community who have first hand knowledge of this incident and that it did happen.  I've even received an email from an EMS worker who responded that night.  Thank you, everyone, for your help, and please see my comments on this story, below!

Plum Orchard Lake


Plum Orchard Lake is a man-made lake located in the Plum Orchard Wildlife Management Area of Fayette County.  The 202 acre lake with 6.5 miles of shoreline is nestled between Haystack and Packs Mountains.  The lake has a maximum depth of 40 feet, with an average of only 15 feet.  Created in 1962 by damming Plum Orchard Creek, the lake offers excellent fishing, even being called the best bluegill hole in the Eastern U.S.

However, the Wildlife Management area, established in 1960, offers more than just local flora and fauna...it offers the ghostly apparition of a woman known as "The Beech Bottom Lady."

The Beech Bottom Lady is seen roaming the area around the Beech Bottom campground section of the WMA.  It is believed that this lady, dubbed Isabelle, is searching for her husband who drowned in the lake.  When this story first hit the internet, the date given for the death of the husband was 1936, which didn't mesh with the fact that the lake was not in existence prior to 1962.  However, since there hasn't been any incidents in the lake's 47 year history that support the story, it IS possible that the legend stems from when Plum Orchard Creek was the main body of water in the area.

Ikie/Ike's Tomb, Arvilla

 The tiny town of Arvilla is located in rural Pleasants County...and is home to one of the most bizarre cemetery legends in the state.

In 1896, Emma J. Gorrell and Kenneth Mooring were married, and that year, had a son, whom they named Ikie.  Ikie passed away on March 4, 1904, when he was only seven years old.  Originally, he was buried on property owned by Rollah Mahan, and then was later moved to Mount Welcome Cemetery.  It is said the casket he was buried in on the Mahan Farm was converted into a water trough for the animals.

Ikie was interred in a 10x10 mausoleum, complete with a glass enclosure, and containing a glass door and glass windows.  That much is fact...however, this is where the legends start cropping up.  Ikie's mother apparently buried her son with his tricycle, and plenty of toys and school books to keep him occupied.

It is believed that two other children were buried in the vault, and their bodies preserved in stone jars.  After dogs had busted the door down, and allegedly dragged the bodies out, they were reburied alongside the structure.  Ikie's new, and presumably final, burial spot is clearly marked, but two other graves along side it are NOT of children, but of other members of the Gorrell family.

The legends continue to get even stranger...it is said that the mother would come to the mausoleum daily in order to be with her child.  Eventually, she passed away...many believe she died of exposure as a result of sleeping over at the tomb overnight in inclement weather.  This doesn't seem to be the case, however, as Emma Mooring and her husband later show up listed as living in the Cabell County area, and are actually buried in a cemetery here. It is also said that the mother would often come to the vault to clean it, and as she cleaned, she would hang the bodies of the three children from a nearby tree.

In any event, visitors to the rural cemetery believe that Emma Gorrell Mooring still walks the cemetery at night, visiting her child(ren).

Ike's Tomb was featured in a 2003 issue of GoldenSeal magazine.  Photo from the WV State Archives

Emma at Barboursville Cemetery

Thomas Memorial Hospital, South Charleston

Thomas Memorial Hospital officially opened on Monday, December 9, 1946 after a shortage of hospital space in the area led to the need for a new facility.  At opening, the facility was still short-staffed, especially in regards to nurses, preventing the initial opening of the 2nd Floor North Wing.  D.B. Benedict was elected president of the Board of Trustees, and A.L. Bailey, administrator for the hospital.  The chief of staff was Dr. J. Ross Hunter, and Mrs. Mary B. Whitten was named superintendent of nurses.

Thomas Memorial was named in honor of  Herbert J. Thomas, Jr. Thomas was a Marine killed in action in the Pacific Theater.  He was the first West Virginian to be named a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient (a title he received posthumously) for throwing himself atop a grenade in order to save his fellow soldiers.  Thomas was a native of South Charleston, and is buried in nearby Sunset Memorial Park.

Today, Thomas Memorial has expanded exponentially from the original 35 beds made public in December 1946.  It is a not-for-profit facility, which boasts many firsts, including the first hospital in WV to provide a nursery for premature babies, and the first in the state to allow fathers in the delivery room.

This family-friendly facility may also have a ghost.  Nurses often report that the death of a patient is marked by a mysterious blue orb of light seen bouncing down the hall, and either into, or out of, the patient's room.  And, as in many hospitals, there are also reports of call buttons being pressed in empty rooms, especially those where a patient has just died, and even the occasional report of an apparition of a recently deceased patient.

Are these the products of overworked, over-imaginative hospital staff...or the last goodbyes to them by the patients they so lovingly cared for in their final hours?


Weirton Medical Center, Weirton



The Weirton Medical Center is located in the northern part of the state.  Founded in 1953, the original hospital opened as Weirton General Hospital, and was located just north of town in the Weircrest area.  Although Weirton spans into both Hancock and Brooke Counties, I am told by a former employee that the medical center is actually on the Hancock County side.

By 1978, the need for a new facility was met when the late Michael Starvaggi, President of Starvaggi Industries, donated 20 acres of land along the WV/Ohio border.  Today, the Weirton Medical Center has expanded into a 23 acre campus with 238 beds.  It is a not-for-profit acute care center serving families in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and West Virginia.

It also seems to serve the needs of several ghosts...

The hospital is home to a host of various paranormal activities, including objects moving on their own accord, electronic disturbances, including electronic equipment being turned on by itself, and people reportedly being touched, poked, and slapped by unseen hands.  Witnesses have also reported several apparitions, seen both on security cameras, and with the naked eye.  One such apparition is a younger female wearing a pink gown.  She is most often seen in Operating Rooms 5 and 6, but also in the surgery supply room. 

A second apparition is that of the "Whistling Man."  Seen in work boots, jeans, and a flannel shirt, this whistling apparition haunts the laundry area of the hospital, and is believed to be a former employee of the city dump, which sat on the land now occupied by the hospital.

Perhaps the most disturbing manifestation, however, is not of the apparitions, or even of the physical contact by the alleged entities...perhaps it comes from the EVP evidence collected in the morgue by a former security guard.  Armed with a tape recorder, a guard captured a voice clearly saying "Help."

Info as reported by Rob Denham to WVGhosts

St. Joseph's Hospital, Parkersburg WV

St. Joseph's is West Virginia's second oldest Catholic hospital.  It was established in 1900 by the Sisters of St. Joseph, out of Wheeling, WV.  The sisters were asked to come to Parkersburg to set up the Catholic hospital by Father Hickey and Dr. John H. Kelley, of the St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church.

Five years later, the sisters had set up a nursing school in the hospital, and by 1930, the building had expanded into the facility seen in the photo above.

With its 109 year history, the hospital has picked up a few ghost stories.  The activity seems to concentrate on the 4-South section of the hospital, and usually at night.  Trash cans over turning seem to be the most common activity reported, but the occasional scream coming from an empty room is also reported.
Staff have also witnessed objects being thrown at them in the boiler room, electrical disturbances, and other various types of paranormal activity.

Huntington's Haunted State Industrial School for Colored Girls

 Located directly behind the Route 60 Walmart in Huntington, the State Industrial School for Colored Girls was built in 1924 on property owned by the WV Colored Children's Home.  The facility was the first in the state for African American girls.  Previously, delinquent girls of color were sent to the state industrial school at Salem.  However, this presented a problem, as at the time, white girls and black girls were required to be housed separately and attend classes at different times.  Fannie Cobb Carter, Charleston native, and graduate of Storer College, was the school's first Superintendent.

In 1956, both the WV Colored Children's Home and the Industrial Home for Colored Girls were officially closed as a result of the groundbreaking Brown v. Board of Education court case, and many of the girls were transferred to other facilities in the state.  By 1961, the entire property was sold to Marshall University.  The Colored Children's Home was used as married student housing under the University Heights name, and the industrial school was used off and on for housing and other things.

There are plenty of legends surrounding both buildings, but most of the legends center on the Industrial School, as so little is actually known about its operation and history.   Consequently, it is this building that gets the most haunted reputation.  Locals tell tales of the building being used as a home for pregnant girls, where many abortions took place.  While there were likely some pregnant girls who did attend the school, I have found nothing to verify that abortions were commonplace and conducted on the facility grounds.  In any event, visitors to the now unoccupied building have reported hearing screaming, crying, and paranormal activity of nearly every type.  Many people who believe they are sensitive to the paranormal report that there is an overwhelming sense of evil surrounding the building.

After hearing various reports, and a member of HPIR capturing a weird image on film from the location, we decided to head out to the property and do a mini-investigation of the outside only.  It was uneventful, until a concerned neighbor called the authorities!  However, it was a blessing in disguise, as one of the officers shared plenty of his own experiences with us, and even shared a little something strange that had happened earlier while on a call to a possible break-in at the facility, where a window seemingly shut itself. 



Note: The Industrial School for Colored Boys was located in Lakin, near Pt. Pleasant.  Read about the ghosts of Lakin, also at Theresa's Haunted History!

*This location has been torn down as of March 2010*

John Gamble's Ghost

West Virginia is famous for not one, but TWO court cases involving testimony from beyond the grave.  While most people are well aware of the story of the Greenbrier Ghost, many people are unfamiliar with this case...a case that had a VERY drastically different outcome!

John Gamble was a carpenter from Pennsylvania who came to the Paden City area around 1850, when he was thirty-six years old.  He bought 50.5 acres and settled along the Ohio River.  Being the great entrepreneur that he was, Paden quickly found a niche in the river trading industry, trading wagon parts, livestock, and many other goods.

That year, he sold a wagon to the Whiteman Brothers, who also lived along the Ohio River.  He accepted a $20 IOU as payment, and then later, bought a calf from a Mr. Leb Mercer.  Gamble paid the entire price of the calf, save for $2.

Autumn soon arrived, and it proved to be a great year for apples in that part of West Virginia.  Again, banking on his entrepreneurial skills, Gamble got involved in the cider making business.  Short on barrels one day, he took his skiff to nearby New Martinsville for more.

On his return trip from New Martinsburg, he stopped by the Whiteman farm to collect his IOU.  The Whiteman brothers still could not pay, and at the time, were receiving another visitor---Leb Mercer.  Since IOUs were being discussed, Mercer asked Gamble if he could pay him the $2 HE was owed.  Gamble pulled out a $5 bill, but Mercer did not have any change, and asked Gamble if that was all the money he had.  Gamble foolishly disclosed that he had over $200 cash on him, but no bills smaller than a $5.

Gamble left the farm, and pushed off down the river on his skiff.  It was the last anyone would see him...

...until the following Fall.  John Hindman, a citizen of New Martinsville, was in town attending a corn husking on Point Pleasant Ridge.  When it was time to leave, he and his friends split up.  It was their intent to each take a different route home to see which was the best way to go.  Hindman took the path along the Ohio River, known as Gamble Run.

It was on this path by the light of the moon that Hindman saw a figure of a man step out in front of him.  The man spoke to him, saying, "I am John Gamble.  Leb Mercer killed me.  Take him up and have justice done."  The figure then disappeared, and Hindman ran all the way back into town.  It wasn't until the next day that he told his story.  He described the apparition, and even though he had never known or seen John Gamble while he was alive, was able to accurately describe his clothes, his speech, and other characteristics.

The townsfolk got to talking, and many believed the boy's story.  It was also reported that Leb Mercer was seen "moving towards" Gamble as he left the Whiteman farm.  Therefore, that year, a Wetzel County Grand Jury decided to investigate the case.  It was further discovered that Leb had the missing IOU for the wagon on him.  His own mother even testified that the night John Gamble went missing, her son arrived home at 2am, wet and covered with mud.

Leb Mercer was arrested on first degree murder charges, and the case went to trial in 1854.  The defense attorney, desperate for a course of action, claimed that since the only witness to the crime was John Gamble, and that it was the ghost of John Gamble who pointed the finger at Mercer, then he should be called in to testify.

In a move that baffled everyone, the judge agreed.  The ghost was called in to testify, and when he failed to appear, he was charged in contempt of court, and Leb Mercer was ultimately acquitted.  He later moved to the town of St. Mary's, where he was often seen acting strangely and muttering to himself.

At least....that's the tale folklore has provided over the years, and which is recorded in The History of Wetzel County by John McEldowney.  Unfortunately, the story cannot be verified, nor disproved, as many records, including the court transcripts from this case, were lost or destroyed before 1900.

The ghost of John Gamble has never been seen again.  However, he may still be out there, on Gamble's Run, waiting for a court summons that will never be delivered.

Borland Springs Hotel

The former Borland Springs Hotel was built by John Wilbur (J.W.) Grimm in 1908.  Grimm, who was born in Pennsylvania on September 22, 1866, built the hotel atop a 240 acre property straddling Wood and Pleasants Counties.  When opened, the inn boasted 65 guest rooms, a dining room seating 90, and ample recreational opportunities.  However, it was for the healing benefits of the mineral springs that led to its popularity, and at weekly rates of $12-14, including meals, it was affordable for the majority of the population.  In addition to services as a resort, Borland Springs also sold its healing spring water through mail order and local stores.

Business did well until August 16, 1918.  That year, Grimm's oldest son, Frank Chandis Grimm, shot and killed  20 year old John Maidens in the spring house.  Allegedly the murder was over a love triangle involving a Miss Pearson.  It is said that in the spring house, which often hosted dances and other social events, the blood stain of Mr. Maidens remained for years.

Shortly after the murder, guests began to report strange noises and other odd happenings around the hotel.  Business also took a turn for the worse, and finally, Grimm sold the hotel in 1932 to C.T. Leavitt, a local from Parkersburg.  Leavitt did extensive restorations on the declining hotel, including redoing the blood-stained spring house.  He reopened the resort in 1934, and operated it until 1938.  Hard times required the hotel to temporarily shut down, reopening in 1940-1941, when it was shut down permanently.

By the early 1950s, the former hotel served as a massive chicken coop before burning to the ground in 1967.  Today, the property sits outside of the Mountwood Park campgrounds, and is still rumored to be haunted.  Did the spirit of John Maidens "curse" the once prosperous hotel, now doomed to walk the property for an eternity, or does the spirit of former owner, J.W. Grimm (who died in 1955 at nearby Camden Clark Hospital) show up to express his displeasure at the fate of his former resort?

Monday, February 21, 2011

Happy President's Day!


Happy President's Day to all!  As we celebrate the birthdays of two of America's most well known presidential figures, and forgo mail service for another day, I'm reminded of the fact that Washington and Lincoln are undoubtedly the most influential and well known of our "paranormal presidents" as well!

Abraham Lincoln, long recognized for his Spiritualist leanings, is considered to be the most sighted ghost at the White House, and his apparition has cropped up in many other places throughout the years.  The Lincoln Ghost Train, with its skeletal crew, has always been a favorite story of mine.

George Washington, as well, is said to have his favorite haunts, including Woodlawn and Mt. Vernon, but its where these two presidential phantoms meet up is the purpose of today's post!

Growing up, I had always heard the story that George Washington appeared to Abraham Lincoln in ethereal form to encourage him to keep the country together at any cost.  Of course, Lincoln heeded the warning, and thus, the Civil War broke out.  There are some stories that even claim that Washington had his OWN ethereal visitor in the form of an angel back in 1777 that showed him a prophesy that could only be interpreted as an upcoming Civil War between the United States.  Snopes later dismissed that story as completely false--a fictionalized account published well after the date of the alleged vision.  (Read the link for the full account)

Although it is unlikely that George Washington saw a great vision of the impending War, many do still believe he played an integral part in the Union victory. 

In the summer of 1863, Union troops, tired, low on supplies, and of declining morale, were trying to hold off Confederate troops at the strategic hill of Little Round in Gettysburg, PA.  Wearied and discouraged, the troops claimed to have seen a vision of a man in an American Revolution uniform atop a shining white stallion.  The man, with upraised sword a'flame, called for the men to "fix bayonets!" and "charge!" The men followed the orders, charged down the hill, and forced the Confederates into retreat.

The man, of course, was believed to be President Washington and to this day, every summer Gettysburg visitors and residents claim to see the apparition of Washington and his stallion, riding swiftly through the battlefield.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Terror at the TB Hospital: Denmar's Colored TB Hospital


In February of 1917, the WV Legislature approved the building of a TB sanitarium in Pocahontas County for African Americans. The site was chosen for its high altitude, and thus healthy, fresh air. Several buildings and a tract of land were purchased from the Maryland Lumber Company, and in January of 1919, the hospital admitted its first patients.

However, the hospital only admitted those who could afford to pay for their own care, leaving many to suffer without medical attention. Soon after, though...patients began being sent to the hospital by court order in an effort to control the disease...and even the WV State Penitentiary in Moundsville sent infected prisoners to the Denmar site.

Therefore, by 1937, the population had increased so substantially that the state was forced to add a children's school and dormitories, and fund a new building to alleviate overflow.

As medical science improved, the need for TB sanitariums became less and less, and in 1957 the sanitarium was converted into a home for the chronically ill, with the remaining TB patients being sent to the Hopemont Sanitarium, which had just begun admitting black patients. It too was was shut down 8 years later and also turned into a hospital for the chronically ill.

Denmar formally closed in 1990, and by 1993 was turned into a correctional facility, so access today is prohibited.

According to the WV Ghosts website: Nearly 1000 African-American women and men spent their last days suffering with Tuberculosis at this isolated location in Pocahontas County and nearly 300 of them are permanently laid to rest here. This is a very isolated and active paranormal location. In the mid 1990's the location was renovated and turned into a correctional facility and is not available for the public to visit.


In 2006, another ghost story began making its rounds on the internet.  Workers at the current prison will often see the apparition of a short, African American doctor wearing a white lab coat and stethoscope stepping out of the elevator in the morning.  The doctor looks up, acknowledges the witness, then disappears.

History and Death List