|Photo by Theresa Racer|
Hawks Nest is home to a popular "Lovers' Leap" cliff, that has a tradition going all the way back to the 1800s. The first pair of lovers to take this suicidal plunge is debatable, however. Some stories tell of an Indian Princess and her lover from an enemy tribe who jump together. Other tales say the Princess jumped on her own because a white man killed her lover.
However, since there is no such thing as an Indian Princess, and these stories have become a quite popular way to romanticize Native American culture...it probably isn't true.
More likely, the first pair of Lover's to take the plunge were a pair of pioneers from Lewisburg...then known as Fort Union...who fled because the girl's parents did not approve of the relationship. It is said the girl became dizzy and fell...and her anguished lover jumped on after her. More info can be found in George Atkinson's History of Kanawha County.
There is still no real evidence for this story either...but what IS verifiable is that the cliffs of Hawks Nest have had a long tradition of attracting suicides. Such suicides include a pregnant school teacher, a woman from Beckley, and an 18 year old boy named Richard Dudley Caldwell from New River State College (now WV Institute of Technology).
The tour guides and park personnel are hesitant to speak of the suicides, but will admit that the park is a favorite spot...with emphasis leaving the original Lover's Leap, and the new cliff of choice being the more secluded Hawk's Nest Overlook.
Hawks Nest is also famous for its Death Tunnel. During the 1930s, a tunnel was constructed, intending to divert water for electricity production. Over 500 men died from silicosis, a disease acquired by inhaling the high amounts of silica found in the rock. A smaller, but still notable tragedy happened on January 30, 1908 when an explosion at the Bachman Mine killed 9 men.
Because of all this tragedy, it is said that the park may be "haunted" by a genius loci...or guardian spirit of a location. (Click here for Genius Loci Information)
Other supernatural tales include a glowing white horse being seen by either a family or a group of campers...or both...that mysteriously ascended into the sky, leaving a glow, after it rampaged through the house/campsite. White horses are seen as a death omen to some cultures.
Also, it is said that if you stand on Lover's Leap, you can hear screams...and the sound of a body falling and landing on the rocks below.
|Lovers' Leap, courtesy of the Fayette Focus|
Silica Mining Disaster