Monday, May 23, 2011

Watoga State Park: Not Your Average Ghost Story

I love it when our state's spooky side goes mainstream! As it becomes more accepted to talk about and show an interest in the strange and unknown, paranormal tourism is booming! West Virginia has a ton of great locations for the paranormal tourist to check out. Places such as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum and the WV State Penitentiary at Moundsville, and events such as the annual Mothman Festival, attract thousands upon thousands of people from all over the country!

But we can't forget the more traditional tourist attractions, either. Even our 'normal' locations can be spooky! We have plenty of museums, hotels, and state parks that don't specifically cater to the ghost crowd, but are, nonetheless, home to some eerie stories. One such location is Watoga State Park, located in Marlington, WV. 

Watoga State Park was originally NOT going to be a state park, but a state forest. Land for the project was acquired in January of 1925, but by 1934, plans to transition the area into a state park were underway. The Civilian Conservation Corps were instrumental in building cabins and other buildings, improving the roads, and generally making the project possible. On July 1, 1937 the new Watoga State Park opened to the public. The term 'Watoga,' is said to come from the Cherokee word for 'starry waters.'

Improvements continued on the park, but were temporarily suspended during the WWII years. However, work resumed and by 1953, the park's first camping area was completed. Three years later, eight deluxe cabins were available for the public to rent. 

And, by 1992, the park had picked up one of the weirdest ghost sightings I have EVER heard about.

This interesting little tidbit is taken straight from the WV Tourism Board, and reprinted here in Weekend Adventures Magazine:

Visitors to nearby Watoga State Park report seeing an exceptionally tall bald-headed man suddenly spring up along the fence row next to a cornfield. The tall, glowing figure appears on especially foggy nights about midnight and stares intensely, moving only his head and not his body as cars pass.

The man doesn’t stand up, as one would from a lying position, but rather springs straight up, without bending his knees in a perfect arch. The figure is at least 6-1/2 feet tall, bald and has an eerie halo-like glow around his entire body that almost illuminates the fog.

The Droop Mountain area near Seebert was home to the state’s largest Civil War battle, so it is possible this ghost is related to the violent events there. Or is it something else?

Undoubtedly, this little story comes from a reader submission to the WVGhosts Website dating from July 14, 2004. The story, as told by Matt Turner, takes place in July of 1992 and happened along the Seebert Road area of the park. The author and a friend were driving along the road, heading towards the park entrance, around midnight. It was foggy, and as they passed a field with a fence row, they noticed the strange anomaly. The glowing apparition arose like Dracula out of his coffin, very stiff and with no noticeable movements generally associated with a real person rising up.

*Bonus Fright Bite*
According to an article on TripAdvisor, the entrance area of the park isn't the only area in which one can spot a phantom! On Crowser Hollow/Highway 39,  before sunrise, one can spot the ghostly form of a young man wearing a sport coat. 

Sources and Further Reading:
WV Ghosts Website

*Updated 28 January 2018*

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