Friday, January 21, 2011

Witch's Grave at Mannington


Located in Marion County, the small community of Mannington hosts one of WV's most popular urban legends:  The Witch's Grave at Highland Cemetery.

Highland Cemetery and its chapel sit off a rural road deep in Marion County.  Abandoned for years, the chapel itself has its own legends.   Locals tell of a Satanic cult that used the chapel for worship.  Visitors and thrill seekers to the chapel noted a stark absence of crosses and Christian iconography throughout the chapel, in addition to a sense of creepiness and unease.  An attendance bulletin board is rumored to read the same number as the number of people in the visiting party, changed with each new group by unseen, and possibly, unhuman hands.

Perhaps the abandoned chapel became a hub of alleged Satanic activity due to a much older urban legend surrounding one of the interred citizens of the cemetery.   Highland Cemetery is reported to be the final resting spot of Fairmont's most famous witch.

The lady in question goes by many variations of name.  Zelda, Sarah Jane,  Serlinda Jane, and simply, the Witch of Highland, are among the many variations.  Her tombstone, however, reads something to the affect of Serilda Jane Whetzel, date of death: May 29th, 1909.

Legend states that Ms. Whetzel's tombstone is upside down, and contains the imagery of a staircase descending down into the fiery mouth of a demon.  Although buried in what was a Christian burial ground, Ms. Whetzel had her tombstone faced away from the rest of the flock in obvious defiance.  The witch herself, along with a gentleman, often referred to as a warlock, have been seen in the vicinty of the grave, and quickly disappear when approached.

Although seemingly unbelievable, there is a grain of truth in these stories.  The tombstone itself  IS quite strange.  Firstly, it DOES face away from the rest of the stones in the cemetery.  However, it is obvious that the tombstone has been knocked down, and replaced in a new position.  According to locals, any attempt to restore the stone to its original position is met with opposition from local vandals, quick to undo the work.

Secondly, there is a staircase motif carved on Ms. Whetzel's tomb.  Generally, staircases in tombstone symbolism represent the passage into Heaven.  These are often accompanied by weeping willow trees in the background, symbolizing mourning.  Due to stone weathering and a slightly off-kilter perspective, it DOES give the illusion that the staircase is not ascending into Heaven, but DESCENDING into something not as pleasant!  Today, services are once again being held in the small chapel, so please be respectful and obey all laws if visiting the cemetery.

The video above comes from YouTube user cemeterytan and shows an excellent collection of images from the cemetery and chapel, including close-ups of the "Witch's Grave".

12 comments:

  1. I have NO clue if you seen this Tomb Stone or NOT. However I HAVE, The stairway is a Stairway UP INTO HEAVEN with the pearly gates at the top of the stairway. There is ALSO a poem on the tombstone which many recite to be: "Here I lay my burden down, I chain the cross to the ground". This CANNOT be further from the truth. The poem goes as quotes: " Here I lay my burden down I change my Cross into a crown". Ms Whetzel was a distant relative of a GREAT family friend and there ARE pictures on the tombstone when first set. It WAS setting facing with ALL the OTHER tombstones, so ALL the myths of the HIGHLAND RIDGE WITCHED are debunked.

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  2. ALSO, This PLACE is NOT abandoned, there are NEW graves as new as 2004 in this cemetery and it is kept cut. The Church that STILL stands I cannot comment on anything inside and NEVER really paid attention to the outside for crosses or religious symbols of ANY sort.

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  3. Hi, russ...thank you for your comments. If you read carefully through the entire entry, I have clearly stated that the location is no longer abandoned, and encourage anyone who seeks the truth to this urban legend to do so with respect and in the confines of state and local laws.

    I have also (I thought) clearly stated that yes...the tombstone WAS set properly, but there is a problem with vandals knocking it down and turning it to the opposite direction.

    Also, thank you for the information on the poem. As I had not touched on that aspect of the legend, it does add another interesting facet that clears up some of the rumors. As this website is devoted to not only sharing and perserving the region's folklore, but also offering a more historically accurate portrayal, I appreciate extra background information that reiterates and strengthens what I am trying to get across. Thanks, and happy reading!

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  5. Hey can some1 give me directions to this cemetary I just found out there mightbe 1 of my relatives buried there. I have searched twice for it & cant find it. So please any help will be great.

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    1. I don't have directions, but if it helps, I found on a respected genealogy site that the cemetery is located at the head of Flat Run, and is located right at the border of Marion and Monongahela Counties (but is on the Marion side). There is a Find-a-Grave entry for this cemetery, but it fails to provide coordinates or directions. I'll update if I find anything further.

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    2. this church is on loveridge mine property . church road to be exact

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    3. Do you know were Mannington is

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  6. no it is not on mine property

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  7. My husbands family donated the property that the church and grave is on and a great amount of his family is buried there.
    There is no witch and warlock. The church has never been abandoned either. It just doesn't have very many members anymore. The church and grounds has had more that its fair share of vandalism too, so that is why there isn't much religious icons and embelishments. Sad really. We love going there.
    What I can say is that there is a different kind of vibe there, from time to time. Sometimes you feel like you are being watched, or your power will suddenly drain from your electronics. We have even caught a few pictures with anomalies in them, but not because we were there to investigate. It is just what adds to the character of the old place. The hills are filled with the rich lore of our ancestors. Most of the graves of the cemetary aren't even in the graveyard, but beyond it, in the woods, with markers of stone or no markers at all.
    Since it is still attached to familly property we still use, I ask that people respect the property and not vandalize.

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  8. You can read more about the highland history at the Mannington museum. The old cabin in the back of the school house was of the Prices and the Prices are the ones who donated the use of the property to the church. The original property drops down the ridge into Mononghalia Co. onto the Price farm that we still own, maitain, and watch the grounds of the cemetery too.

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  9. We toured the Highland Cemetery and some very interesting things happened. Going up the hill to the cemetary my car made a really loud noise underneath then my air conditioning came on full blast.. Also my gas guage dropped to empty. My teenage girls and their friends wanted to go and visit sites of known paranormal activity. We didn't enter the cemetery because I am a firm believer of the paranormal and didn't want to go with a bunch of kids. Later that evening we went back with another adult.. Going back up the hill I kept hearing someone talking and my on ★ star kicked in and wanted to know if I was OK? HECK NO I WASN'T!!!! CREEPY. . . My family were Efaws and their are several graves with EFAW them.. We did visit Serlinda Wetzels grave.. It has orange wax and white wax on it. It did look as if the stairs were descending, but you can also see them as going up. Some one had put yellow roses on the grave but they were quite old.. I seriously love folklore and the stories... We also visited Coffin Hollow and Vinegar Hill..

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