Tuesday, February 22, 2011

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!

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