Saturday, September 29, 2012

Elk Lake Dam, Wisconsin

With Halloween fast approaching, this week I've concentrated on filling out my Haunted America page with interesting, little known tales of intrigue from around our great country, and last night, I stumbled upon this tale from Wisconsin.  It is a sad tale, but another example of how paranormal investigators often find themselves giving a voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves.

The year was 1974.  On February 15, 25 year old Mary K. Schlais, an artist and recent graduate of the University of Minnesota, was found dead in a ditch on 408th Avenue, a half mile away from the Elk Lake Dam.  She was found stabbed to death after a man in the neighborhood (Denny Anderson) reported seeing a man driving an orange or gold compact car, possibly a Vega, dumping the body.  When Dunn County Sheriff Daryl Spagnoletti arrived on scene, the body was still warm.  Her coat and personal belongings were gone.  In all, Mary had received at least 12 stab wounds, not including the defensive injuries on her hands and arms where she fought her attacker.  It was theorized that Mary was hitchhiking to an art show in Chicago.  She had been known to hitchhike before, and her body was found a mere three hours after she had last been seen leaving her apartment.

Mary had been a suma cud laude graduate, and was about to apply to graduate school when she passed away.  In May of 1974, a new student art gallery at the University of Minnesota was dedicated in her honor.

Unfortunately, Mary's killer was never brought to justice, and even when her body was exhumed in 2009 from the Champlin Cemetery in Minnesota for DNA testing, the case remains a cold case, with many believing the killer was a local resident of Dunn County, Wisconsin.  In one lead, a photograph of a man was found at Mary's apartment, who slightly resembles the police sketch taken after the witness saw the man dumping the body.  No one has ever been able to identify the man in the photo, and Mary's brother, Don, theorizes that he may have simply been someone posing for one of Mary's art projects.

Over the years, there have been many ghost sightings from local citizens in and around the lake area that many believe are attributed to Mary.  Chad Lewis and Terry Fisk have researched the case and compiled these reports in their Unexplained Research website, as well as a book, the Wisconsin Road Guide to Haunted Locations.  Most of these sightings involve seeing a young girl along the side of the road, near the bridge.  Some have seen the full apparition, while others only report a shadowy figure that darts out of sight.  In one incident, two fishermen on the bank of the lake reported seeing the glowing apparition of a young woman behind them.  In another incident, a local elderly woman claimed to have daily conversations with a young woman who frequently showed up in her garden.  This young woman appeared every day, in the same outfit (a pink sweater and capris), and identified herself simply as Mary.  This incident happened in 1994, 20 years after Mary's death.  The woman's daughter thought her mother was experiencing dementia until she attended a lecture and learned of the murder that occurred in the neighborhood.  This elderly lady passed away in 1995, and its important to note that the clothes she saw Mary in were NOT the clothes she was found wearing when she passed away.

As this murder is still an open case, if you have any information that could help track down a killer and bring justice to Mary K. Schlais, please contact the Dunn County Sheriff's Office.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Nevada's Haunted Dake House

The Dake House is located in Genoa, Nevada, a town established in 1851 and often laying claim to being Nevada's first permanent settlement.  This Victorian style home was built in 1872 by Genoa's local undertaker, C.W. Dake, and was later sold to a T.P. Hawkins, former Pony Express Rider.  Over the years, the home served, among other things, as a justice of the peace office, and a post office.  Today, it is home to Antiques Plus, a large antique store owned by Mrs. Martha Williams.

In 1962, 14 year old Martha moved with her family from California and settled in the Dake Home, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1980, she opened the first antique store in the home's carriage house, which slowly over the years came to encompass the entire home.

As Martha collected antiques to showcase in her beautiful home turned store, she also allegedly picked up a ghost or two.  The house itself had a long reputation in the community as being haunted, but Martha didn't really have any paranormal experiences until much later when she tried repeatedly to sell a turn of the century oil painting.  The oil painting, featuring a vase of beautiful pink roses, was said to have been either a copy of, or the original painting by a spiritualist medium during a seance in San Francisco.  According to some sources, this painting belonged to Martha's mother, Bernice.

While its sketchy as to who owned the painting, or exactly where it came from, what is known is that Martha tried to sell the painting at least three times.  Each time it was put up for sale, it would violently plunge off the wall, but in a manner as to not damage the painting, the nail, or the picture wire from which in hung.  The first time it happened, the force from which it fell was enough to hit a plug below and dislodge it from its socket, resulting in a shower of sparks.  The painting has since been taken off the market.

It took a painting being flung off the wall multiple times for Mrs. Williams to admit she might have a ghost, but other visitors to the Dake House needed even less convincing.  The apparition of a woman has been seen on the first floor, and a sweet smelling perfume has been observed in the parlor area.  Objects will disappear, only to reappear hours later in obvious locations and footsteps are heard coming from the upstairs bedrooms when no one is present on that floor.  In one particularly alarming incident, a customer was upstairs in a former bedroom when he was slapped on the head.  He made a hasty retreat.

Theories abound as to who the resident ghost or ghosts may be, but a visit to the antique store by ghost researcher Richard Senate, and his psychic wife, Debbie, may have shed some light.  Debbie felt a distinct presence of an older woman occupying the second floor of the store, and felt strongly that this woman had a connection with the owner of the building.  Mrs. Williams' mother Bernice, did live in the home before her death, but due to health problems, never spent any considerable time beyond the first floor.  Mrs. Williams, DID, however, note that it would not be out of character for her mother to slap the gentleman visitor if she felt he deserved it!

The house is still open as an antique store, and in 2010, celebrated its 30th anniversary.  It is an integral part of several different history and cultural events held in Genoa, and is a popular stop on the Genoa Historic Ghost Tours.  It is also open throughout the week.  The address is 2242 Main Street.

Photo of Dake House property of Thin Veil Investigators
Photo of Martha Williams and the "haunted painting" property of Jonni Hill of the Record-Courier

Paranormal Investigators (Funny)

It's officially Friday here, and I haven't posted a Friday Night Funny in a LONG time!  So here goes.  Today's submission is one of my favorite "I Do" posters, concerning we investigators, lol.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Oklahoma's Purple Church

On the outskirts of Spencer, Oklahoma there is a location so scary that the alleged paranormal activity that is said to take place there is the LEAST horrifying aspect of its history!

That location is the Purple Church.  This location isn't exactly a church...and it isn't exactly purple either.  Located off of rural Douglas Avenue, the Purple Church is actually a concrete foundation, with steps leading into an "underground" cellar type area.  There is speculation as to what this structure was originally used as, with the general consensus being that this was the cellar to either an old clapboard church or a private home, which was destroyed many years ago.  The "purple" comes from the many occult and "Satanic" symbols that are spray painted inside and out of the small structure.

Over the past 20 years or so, this structure has become one of Oklahoma's most infamous legend tripping locations, as scores of teens and young adults flock there in order for a good scare...and just about anyone who has visited for this purpose has not been disappointed.

The Purple Church has a long history of alleged Satanic cult rituals, and there are many sources online saying that Sean Sellers, the 16 year old alleged Satanist convicted of killing both his parents and a convenience store clerk, was instrumental in first using the property for these purposes.  One of the most prevalent beliefs is that when a full moon falls on a Saturday, cult members meet at the Purple Church to engage in a virgin sacrifice.  Similar tales involve mothers sacrificing newborn babies here.

Source: Professor Caleb Lack-Youtube

While there is little to no evidence that human sacrifices are, or have ever been, conducted at the Purple Church, there are plenty of eyewitness accounts that say that animal sacrifices are routinely conducted.  Dead and mutilated animals, as well as animal bones, have been found hanging from the trees, on make-shift altars, and along the path leading to the Purple Church.  In one tale, a witness claimed to have found a tub full of animal body parts.

As far as the paranormal stories go, there is actually very little information on that, although the Purple Church has a widespread reputation as a "haunted location."  Strange floating lights in the woods, disembodied voices, and a smell of death are the most widely reported incidents.  However, as I said....the paranormal aspects are the least of anyone's worries when visiting this site.

Again, many visitors to this site, including those in law enforcement, the military, and other stations in life we'd consider more "credible" when it comes to reporting, have had similar horrifying incidents with the living.  People claim to be chased out of the area by men in robes.  They've had shotguns pulled on them, or have otherwise been threatened.  Some witnesses claim that nails are regularly thrown into the road in order to damage tires, and possibly strand people in the area.  Others were chased down the road by someone in a large truck, usually with its headlights turned off.

The property is currently owned by the Chesapeake Energy Company and is private property.  In 2006, there were rumors spread  that the structure had been filled in, in order to cull the amount of thrill seekers, but subsequent investigations into the property have proved this to be false.  However, neighbors who live across the street from the turn off have been known to monitor the property and confront trespassers.  Please seek proper permission before exploring this legend for yourself!  Plus, there are ample YouTube videos where one can vicariously check out the location from the safety of behind the computer screen.

The video I've posted above is from a documentary made by Katherine Jones, a student at the University of Central Oklahoma, for a Science vs. Pseudoscience class.

More info from Only in Your State

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

HPIR and Team Toni!

This past weekend, HPIR once again was honored to help out with the Team Toni charity, this time in the form of an annual Poker Run!

For those who aren't familiar with Team Toni, this is a group of volunteers who have come together to help fight the dreaded "C-word."  Named in honor of Toni Black, an inspirational young lady who became a symbol of hope and strength to all in her own battle, Team Toni is responsible for fundraising, providing services to those battling cancer and their families, and spreading the message that together, we CAN make a difference.

Kelly, one of HPIR's investigators, has been instrumental in the Team Toni campaign since the beginning, being a close friend of Toni's and her family.  We've always been super proud of Kelly's devotion and dedication to this cause, and have helped out whenever we were able.  HPIR's involvement with Team Toni became even more personal when Kelly's mother, Diane, also an investigator with HPIR, was diagnosed with a malignant spot on her pancreas.

Last weekend's Poker Run raised funds to support Diane and her treatment, so HPIR was happy to pull together and do whatever we could do to help!  We also had a blast, as we tend to do whenever we get together!  I had never been to such an event, and it was overwhelming to see so many bikes and jeeps coming out to support this great cause. 

If you would like to become involved with Team Toni, whether its participating in one of the many diverse fundraisers, or as a volunteer for one of the many great services they offer, you can find more information at the link provided below.  And while HPIR is proud to support and partner with Team Toni, there are many other great ways the paranormal community is kicking cancer in the butt!

On a local level, this past spring The Original WV Paranormal hosted a conference in Nitro to raise funds for a local woman who fought her own battle.  On October 16th, another group out of Huntington, the Ohio River Believers Society (ORBS) will be hosting another event to benefit the American Cancer Society.

On a more national level, this year, September 15th was set aside as Paranormal Kicks Cancer Day, where groups from several different states held their own fundraising events to benefit the American Cancer Society.  Cancer is an issue that affects every single one of us in some way or another, and I urge all my colleagues out there in the paranormal community to step up and do something about it!

Team Toni

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Mothman 2012 Re-Cap

I'm a little late in posting, but this year's Mothman Festival went really well!  For the first time in 2 years, HPIR returned to Vendor's Row and set up an information table for the group, as well as the tours.  We talked to a TON of people, including some from the Huntington area, and made some great contacts.  We also heard plenty of interesting, and sometimes horrifying, paranormal tales experienced by those who came to talk to us.  One of my personal highlights was learning the sign for "ghost" from a hearing impaired lady who we had a delightful chat with.

We also sold a lot of cool stuff!  Thanks to the awesomeness of ThinkTwice Buttons, are HPIR logo buttons came in early, and made a perfect promotional item.  Melissa, HPIR Founder/President, made the coolest chocolate Mothman suckers you've EVER seen, which sold like crazy...and also made a great snack for those of us working the table, lol!  I even managed to sell some Mothman candles I had made, and two remaining Haunted Huntington Preview books I found in my trunk.

The weather was beautiful, the crowds were plentiful, and as always, Jeff Wamsley was right on top of things, helpful and as kind as always.  Still, it felt like something was missing.  This is WV's biggest paranormal event of the year!  We talked to people who literally come in from every corner of the continental United States to attend this festival, yet the representation from the WV paranormal community was few and far between.  Also, as much as I LOVE the speakers that attend, I don't feel bad about not getting to go listen to them while working the table because they are the same speakers year after year, lol.  I've already heard all of them, and some even use the same basic presentation year after year, mixing things up only slightly.

Still...if you love anything that has to do with history, mysterious, WV, or the paranormal, this is THE event to attend.  The tours of downtown Pt. Pleasant and the TNT area are chocked full of exciting information.  There are great bands and great food to enjoy, and plenty of shopping for books, movies, jewelry, art, and the most outrageous Mothman souvenirs you can imagine.  The Lowe Hotel opens up for haunted history tours, and the speakers, while tedious to some of us, are extremely knowledgeable and cover a vast array of interesting information.  FREE movie screenings of Mothman related movies and documentaries shown at the historic (and haunted) State Theater cannot be missed.  Also cannot be missed:  a photo op with the Mothman statue...or the BACK of the Mothman statue, which features a well-formed, muscular metal buttocks, which was much to the delight of two pre-teen boys whose mother was busy at our table!

Next year, I'd LOVE to see the West Virginia paranormal community come out a little stronger and really let the world see the diversity and scope of  what we have to offer.  In a sense, this is OUR event, too, and it is a great opportunity to talk to a lot of interesting people.

Special shout-out to Bryna Butler of the Gallipolis area!  Bryna sat across from us at the festival, and is the author of a wonderful YA paranormal romance series.  The Midnight Guardian Series, set in Southern Ohio, looks REALLY awesome from what I've seen so far, and I'll be ordering my copy of the first book from Amazon shortly!  Thanks, Bryna, for your hospitality and for wearing our HPIR button!  Good luck with your book series!

Purchase Info for the Midnight Guardian Series

(Photos property of Melissa Stanley)

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Book Review for Really Mysterious Pennsylvania

Title:  Really Mysterious Pennsylvania:  UFOs, Bigfoot, and Other Weird Encounters Casebook One

Author:  Stan Gordon

Copyright 2010

Author's Website 

Every year at the Mothman Festival, I try to pick up at least one non-fiction book from an author or speaker attending the event.  This year, that book was Stan Gordon's Really Mysterious Pennsylvania.  I was drawn to this book for several reasons...

Firstly, my boyfriend and I had just recently watched a documentary on the Kecksburg, PA UFO incident, and I recognized Mr. Gordon as one of the experts that worked on the film.  Secondly, I'm STILL feebly attempting my goal of becoming more informed on the topic of UFOs and thought this book, which deals with such, was a good fit.  Lastly, my collection of paranormal literature from the Pennsylvania region was lacking, lol.

Luckily, this book held up to my high expectations.  It's a fun look at not only UFO case files from Gordon's own work as a researcher, but it also delves into Bigfoot sightings, sightings of black panthers (sometimes referred to as alien big cats or ABCs in this field) and even things such as mysterious ice falls over the region.  It was well-organized and a very quick, interesting read.  While reading through it, I couldn't help but notice the dates of the reported UFO sightings, and began formulating a hypothesis about how February and August are the best months to view a UFO.  Unfortunately, a quick google search did not confirm this, but its something that, due to this book, I'm going to look into further and compile some data!

Overall, this was a really nicely laid out book featuring years of Pennsylvania sightings.  The only thing I would change is the fact that I'd like to see some of these entries fleshed out a little more.  As it stands, each entry is just a brief overview of the events.  I'd like to see more follow-up and more data collected from the cases that were investigated by Gordon and his colleagues.  But for a quick intro into the field of Pennyslvania Ufology/Cryptozoology, this is a great place to start!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Ravenswood's Washington Motel

I'm on a Ravenswood kick this week!  Anyway, this tale was originally submitted by a woman named Linda to the WVGhosts website.  Linda's family formerly owned the Washington Motel, so she and her siblings grew up in this once-thriving, haunted establishment.  You can read her story in her own words HERE, or look below for a summary of events!

The Washington Motel, located in Ravenswood, WV, was once a thriving Jackson County business.  The family who owned the establishment spent much time there, and their three children, including Linda, grew up playing, and even sleeping over quite often, in the office's upstairs apartment.  During this time, the family was already aware of paranormal activity in this section of the motel.  The sound of ghostly music coming from the walls and the sounds of doors being slammed were commonplace.  However, it wouldn't be until the late 1980s that a ghost named George became an even bigger part of the family!

In 1988, business in much of Jackson County was waning, and the motel was also affected.  That year, the upstairs apartment over the office was fully renovated to better suit Linda's sister, Julie, and Julie's new husband.  Perhaps those renovations were enough to put George over the top because the new couple soon began having all sorts of activity, including objects flying off walls, doorknobs rattling, and the sound of doors slamming. It was Julie and Linda who at this time named the resident specter George in honor of the "Washington" Motel.  Anyway, in one incident, a new heating/cooling unit broke due to someone...or something...inexplicably stuffing a blanket into it.  However, the most unnerving event may have occurred when both Julie and her husband heard someone call her name.

The apartment had two entrances--a private entrance from outside, and also a staircase that led down into the first floor of the office complex.  One evening Julie's husband heard her mom calling her up the stairs from down in the office.  When she went to check it out, it was discovered no one was there.  A phone call confirmed that Julie's mother had locked up and left for the evening, and was now at the family home across town. 

In 1996, Julie and her husband had already left, and Linda and a boyfriend stopped by the motel after a late-night concert.  The boyfriend heard walking coming from the now-empty apartment overhead, and scoffed at the idea of a ghost...that's until the phantom footsteps were heard walking down the stairs and across the linoleum!  Later, when Linda and this young man married, they had a similar incident as her sister had.  One morning, they heard her mother call her from down in the office, only to find out that no one was there.

The family sold the establishment in 2005 and today it is being maintained as a low-income efficiency apartment complex, as opposed to motel.  It has a rough reputation, but there have been no additional publicized accounts of a haunting as far as I could decipher. 

The photo above is from Google Maps and is from 2007 before the place fell into a state of disrepair. 

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Former Ravenswood Theater

This tale is summarized from two different books on WV ghost-lore, Ruth Ann Musick's Coffin Hollow, and A Guide to Haunted West Virginia by Walter Gavenda and Michael Shoemaker:

A young man who worked at the former Ravenswood Theater as a projectionist shared a very eerie tale which happened to him while working at the theater one night.  After the last movie had ended, and the last guest had left, the boy was sweeping up, and getting ready to lock up for the evening.  That's when he saw what he described as something passing behind the screen, carrying what appeared to be a lantern.  Knowing that no one else was in the theater, the boy panicked and called the police, who found the door locked and no evidence of anyone having been there.

The owner of the theater, an older lady, was also alerted, but told the boy he didn't need to worry about someone being there who shouldn't because for the past 30 years, this same person walked the theater on a regular basis...and he was not of this world.  She went on to explain that at one point, there was a lodge for a local fraternal organization located adjacent to the theater, and at one point, there were actually passages between the buildings.  The type of lodge this was has been lost to folklore, but many believe the second floor was used in questionable initiation rites, which were shrouded in secrecy.  One night, a fire broke out in the lodge, gutting the building.  There was allegedly one tragedy--a man believed to have been in the attic at the time was never found, and presumed dead.

The owner believed it was this man who haunted the theater, as she herself had seen the phantom many times.  The boy verified this story with his father, who provided one more fascinating detail:  the man who died in the fire was the HUSBAND of the theater owner.

During the 1960's the theater ceased operations, and would later house Almeda's Clothing Store.  Today, its home to a physical therapy office.  As an interesting side note:  As I was sitting here typing this entry, I had the Guide to Haunted West Virginia book sitting open beside me on the desk to refer to.  I checked a fact, looked away, then looked immediately back at the book to verify what I had just read.  In that split second I looked away, a ladybug took up residence right on the page.  Ladybugs are considered almost universally as a good luck sign!

*There's been a ton of visitors to this post today, and I want to thank you all for stopping by!  If you'd like to hear of another Ravenswood area haunt featured on Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State, please feel free to check out the Washington Motel! *

Hurricane's Rappold House is Haunted!

I have this weird knack of coming across really weird information in a variety of sources.  For example, earlier this week I posted a blog about a haunted house in St. Albans that I had learned about not from any paranormal site or book...but from a tour pamphlet published by the local historical society.  Today, while waiting to use the library's ONE working Microfilm reader, I stumbled upon a book on the history of Hurricane, WV.  And I was pleasantly surprised to see a house that I actually have some history with noted, along with its ghost stories, for posterity!  That house is the Oxley-Rappold-Jarvis House.

Here's a transcript of the article as it appears in the 1994 edition of the History of Hurricane. This was written by Phyllis Jarvis, former owner of the home.  I'm leaving this piece in transcript form until I can take the time to properly research this location:


The large house at 2707 Main Street was purchased by Phyllis Williams Jarvis in October, 1971.  For many years, it had been known as the "Rappold House."  E.F. Rappold purchased the house in 1925, known at that time as the "Oxley House."  He used the porch for his barber shop one summer.

During the years the Oxleys were owners, it is said that Mr. Oxley built the upstairs sun parlor for his son who was ill.

The land where the house stands was originally owned by Collis P. Huntington, the famous railroad tycoon.  The property was sold to the Central Land Company around 1888, but was purchased by M.L. Dunfee in 1903 and sold to John J. Henderson in 1910.  The property sold again around 1911 to Virginia and Robert Robert and then to Leonard Oxley in 1912.

The house has been preserved as near to the original design as possible.  The old fireplaces and mantels are still in the home, and in most cases, the high ceilings and chandeliers still exist.

The original house has had several additions, one win and the sun porch.  There are no records of any deaths within the house when one owner died, her coffin was brought in through a window because the staircase bannister prevented large objects from being brought in through the front door.

Several boards were removed during renovations and revealed a lady's high-top laced shoe, a whiskey bottle, and a small broken amber vase, in need of repair.

AND, the house has GHOSTS!  Strange sounds have been witnessed and sightings of two live-in ghosts, a young woman in white and a small boy.  The small boy has been seen in the children's bedrooms touching various toys.  The presence of these ghosts appear to be more in the second story of the house.  A few strange encounters have included objects thrown down the stairs and a room being locked from the inside with old-fashioned hook locks.  There appears to be no real danger so all live happily ever after.

Joseph and Sarah Jarvis purchased the house in August, 1991.

Long-time readers to Theresa's Haunted History may know that my boyfriend, Aaron, grew up in Hurricane...and just happens to be very good friends with this family!  Several years ago, thanks to these connections, we were invited over to the home and given the full haunted history tour, details of which coincide with those mentioned in the article!  Words cannot describe how truly beautiful this house is on the inside, and unfortunately, the only picture I have doesn't do the outside justice, either.

I've already begun preliminary research onto the former owners of this house, and will update when appropriate.  For those updates, remember you can follow Theresa's Haunted History on Face Book!  

Friday, September 7, 2012

Upcoming Events

With the dawning of the month of September, we at HPIR are entering our busiest time of the year!  Not only is this the season where EVERYONE wants an investigation, its also a season full of wonderful paranormal festivals and events...including our two most popular tours of the year.  Here's a preview of what's to come.  Please join us!

September 15-16
Mothman Festival--Join HPIR in Pt. Pleasant for a weekend full of fun, featuring WV's most famous creature!  We'll have a table set up on Main Street, so amidst the festivities, be sure to drop by and say hi.  There's a great list of speakers and vendors at this year's program, so be sure to check out the website for a full itinerary.

September 22
Memorial Team Toni Poker Run--You don't need a motorcycle or Jeep to join us at this event and have a good time!  This year's run, filled with food, prizes, raffles, etc. is actually going to benefit one of HPIR's own, a wonderful woman in the paranormal field and her family, making this event even more special.  Kickoff in Chesapeake!

September 28-30
Scare Fest--The awesome festival held in Lexington each year will continue in 2012, but unfortunately I won't be there, lol.  However, if YOU are in the area, this is an event not to miss.  Full of speakers, vendors, and tons and tons of celebrities.  Several years ago, Aaron was lucky enough to be in the restroom with TWO big in the horror film industry, and the other in the paranormal field.  So lots of opportunities to get up close and personal with your favorite personalities, lol. 

September 29
ShockaCon--WV's first horror and sci-fi convention will have a myriad of activities in downtown South Charleston.  Seriously, there is something here for everyone!  After being asked by several independent parties about setting up an info table, we mulled it over and decided that with our investigation and personal schedules during this busy time, we are simply going to come as patrons.  But...look for us!  We'll still be available to hand out literature or discuss your paranormal concerns.  In addition to all the awesome guests and speakers at this event, we're looking forward to seeing our colleagues at The Original WV Paranormal, and also hanging out with our buddies from the Cemetery Knights Hearse Club!

October 16
A Night To Remember...with the Ohio River Believers Society--Local group ORBS will be hosting this cancer benefit with lots of great activities.  Proceeds go to benefit the American Cancer Society.

October 26-27
Halloween Tours!  Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours will be bringing you FREE ghost tours of downtown Guyandotte.  Our Ghostly Encounters Tour is one of our most popular tours of the season, PACKED with history, stories, and plenty of opportunities for you to experience the paranormal first hand.  Join us as we guide you through the history and the haunts of Huntington's oldest neighborhood.  Please see our website for more information.

November 2-3
Guyandotte's Civil War Haunted History Tours!  This is our other most popular tour of the season, and is held in conjunction with Guyandotte Civil War Days, an event commemorating the raid and burning of this former Union Recruitment Camp site.  These tours are also FREE and will cover the many pre-Civil War era homes in the area, most of which are said to be especially haunted during this time of the year.  Please see our website for more information!

There's a ton of other great stuff going on throughout the tri-state during September and October, so if you have an event you'd like to add here, please drop me a line!  Also, be sure to follow Theresa's Haunted History on FaceBook for updates on these and other great events!

Photo above is Aaron and me at ScareFest a few years ago!

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

A Fire Under the Bridge, St. Albans

As a child, I was terrified of the bridge between Nitro and St. Albans, WV.  This narrow, rickety span over the Kanawha River was destined to be the death of me, I thought!  Whenever we had to cross this bridge, for some reason, I felt I would be safe if I sat in the middle of the backseat and locked both the back doors.

Therefore, it didn't shock me too much when the bridge later developed a haunted reputation.  Various websites featuring listings of haunted locations in WV started sharing a small blurb about a homeless man who died in a fire under the bridge in 2001.  As the story goes, this event happened in January of that year, and resulted in the man's spirit being seen around the area of the bridge to this day.

This story struck a chord with me.  Although I didn't remember this event happening, I knew it was something that if true, could be verified....which as a researcher is gold.  But it also struck a chord on a more personal level because in 2002 I had an experience in that area that I couldn't explain--but more on that later.

Not much about this story was easily found online, but luckily, I had recently subscribed to a newspaper archive service.  I scoured records for an event happening in 2001, but came up empty-handed for that year.  What I DID find, however, were references to an incident that happened two years before.

On March 4, 1999 police were summoned to an incident occurring under the bridge, on the St. Albans side of the river.  That previous night had been a cold one, and it appears that two homeless men were sharing a plywood and cardboard shelter, and had built a fire to stay warm.  The fire got out of hand, killing the two men, and injuring a third.  One body was found at the base of the bridge, but the other was found midway between the street and the river, indicating that one man had tried to crawl for help before succumbing.

In early spring of 2002, I was going through very rough patch in my life, and was severely depressed.  I had skipped class one day, and sought my own refuge at the roadside park in St. Albans, located not far from the site of the bridge.  As I sat at the picnic area, alone, reading a book, I felt the urge to look up.  Sitting VERY close by, on a bench, was a young man.  From his tattered appearance, I felt pretty sure he was homeless.  It wasn't unusual for the homeless to frequent this park, especially during times when it was scarcely being used in colder months.  It struck me that this man did look so young, not like many of the homeless in the area.  His clothes were all black...or what used to be black before fading and dirtying.

I was horrified that I had been so oblivious.  I had not noticed this guy come up and here he was, super close to me.  He could have stabbed or robbed me before I knew what was happening.  I kinda freaked out at that point, and gathered my things to head back to my car and leave.  At that moment, the young man looked up at me, and I remember him just looking so sad and distraught that I was temporarily disoriented.  I looked down to gather my things, looked back up, and he was gone.

Needless to say, I made a swift retreat!  To this day, I cannot rule out that he was simply a very quick, shady drug dealer who managed not only to sneak up on me, but to sneak away undetected, but a part of me at least WANTS to believe that perhaps he was a spirit, whether of one of the men who passed away nearby or otherwise, and that I needed to see him during that time of my life.

For a little on the history of the bridge itself:   The Richard J. "Dick" Henderson Memorial Bridge was built in 1934 by a crew out of Pennsylvania.  Dick Henderson was a legislator who settled in the St. Albans area in 1964.  He died in 1998.

More Bridge History

*Update*  On Friday, March 1, 2013 the bridge itself was finally demolished.  A new bridge will be built atop the original supports.*

Bluefield State College

Bluefield State College is located in Mercer County, WV and has quite the interesting history!  In 1895, there was a huge need for higher education of WV's African-American population, which made up a large number of the coal company work force in Southern WV.  That year, Senator William Mahood passed legislation creating the school, which opened later that year under the name of Bluefield Colored Institute.  The original campus was a mere 4 acres in size, and the site was chosen because it was centrally located--within 100 miles of 70% of the state's black population.

That first year, Hamilton Hatter served as principal of the school, overseeing 40 pupils and the construction of the first three buildings on campus, one being an administration building known as Mahood Hall, named after Sen. Mahood.  Hatter held this position until 1906, when he was seceded by his assistant, Robert Sims.

During Sims' tenure as principal or president, the school became a "normal" school, or teacher's college in 1909.  However, it wasn't until 1931 that a name change to Bluefield State Teachers' College, cemented this change.  By 1943, the school underwent another name change, this time to Bluefield State College, and less than four years later, received its full accreditation.

Throughout this time, the school was still a predominately African American institution.  However, after 1954, partly due to the Brown vs. BOE landmark case, the school started its transition and desegregation began in earnest.  This was also a time when many of the local coal mines were being shut down, creating an even greater need for higher education for white students, as well as black.  Throughout the next decade, the change became more conspicuous as African-American presidents of the college were being replaced with white presidents, and it was rumored that more qualified black professors were being fired in favor of less qualified white professors meant to appeal to white students.

These tensions over race, combined with tensions over the Vietnam War led to the November 21, 1968 bombing of the physical education building on campus.  Although no one was seriously hurt or killed, massive property damage resulted, and as a result, the president of the college shut down all residence halls, furthering the transition of Bluefield from a residential black school, to a commuter-only mainly white school.

And, like many institutes of higher learning, throughout all of this history, the campus has picked up a ghost story or two.

The stories seem to concentrate on one of the campus' oldest buildings, Mahood Hall.  Although originally housing administration offices, the hall later served as dormitory space before housing the school's Business Department.  At one point, there was talk of turning the building BACK into specialized apartment housing, but the plan was ultimately scrapped, despite several major renovations.

It is unknown who she is, or how she got there, but students and staff alike have reported seeing a little girl in the hallways and in the basement of Mahood Hall.  To those who have been lucky (or unlucky) enough to have stayed there during its time as a dormitory, it is said that upon dozing off, many would suddenly awake and find themselves face to face with this little girl.  Since the college has not had any on-campus housing since the 1968 bombing, and the story of waking up to a little girl is so prevalent on several websites and print publications on WV haunted history, it makes one wonder....are these witnesses simply being punished for dozing off IN CLASS, or is this a simple detail that has been exaggerated or even made up?

We may never know, but at least one paranormal investigation group has been granted access to investigate Mahood Hall, and they walked away with some interesting results.  In 2010, Black Diamond Paranormal Society investigated the claims of the little ghost girl, but also another claim of another apparition seen.  It was reported that around 3am, the figure of a girl studying on the first floor was spotted, but then disappeared without a trace.  Along with several EVPs, the team also caught a video in which they believe the figure of a girl steps out of a first floor doorway.  Please see below for a link to this video!

Ghost Girl Video, BDPS

Photo property of THIS SITE

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

WVU Tech's Phantom Fire Fighter

On the campus of WVU Tech sits Ratliff Hall, a coed dormitory.  This dormitory was constructed in 1963 and named for Dr. Lavada Ratliff, former head of the Education Department at the university.  The dorm, which consists of two separate wings, was meant to be a coed facility, but up until 2006, primarily served as housing for women only.  Today, the west wing is reserved for females, while the east houses men.

It is presumably the west wing that has picked up a reputation for being haunted, especially the second floor.  On this floor, numerous paranormal experiences are reported by female residents, including disembodied footsteps in the corridors, doors that slam on their own, and curtains that billow out without the aid of an open window or A/C.

Perhaps the most interesting experience reported from this second-floor ghost haven is the sighting of an actual apparition.  Due to a power failure, the lights in the dormitory temporarily flickered out.  While in the dark, one young lady saw what appeared to be the figure of a fire fighter in the hall.  This figure disappeared a moment later when the lights flickered back on.  Many believe that this firefighter has a connection to a small fire that took place on the second floor of the dorm in 2000, although no one was hurt or injured in this blaze.

However, it is interesting to note that very close to campus is where the former Montgomery City Hall and fire department was housed, which was also noted to be haunted by a phantom fireman.  Could it be that when this structure was torn down to make room for a gas station, the spirit of the fireman made his way into the dormitory?

Photo from the WVU Tech Housing Website

Lewisburg's Fort Savannah Inn

In the mid 1700's, the area we know as Lewisburg was known as the Savannah.  Around 1770, although some say as early as 1755, a fort was constructed known as Fort Savannah.  It was Fort Savannah where Andrew Lewis compiled and lead troops on a 160 mile march to engage the Indians in the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.

Today, the fort is memorialized by a motel called the Fort Savannah Inn, located just across the street from where the fort originally stood.  The Fort Savannah Inn, or "The Fort" as deemed by the locals, consists of a log cabin structure made from the reclaimed wood of historic structures which houses the offices, check-in desk, and a restaurant/pub.  Other buildings include  a manager's cottage and two separate motel buildings housing a total of 66 rooms.

According to the book, Ghosts of Greenbrier County, by Nancy Richmond,  this hotel is also home to a ghost or two, which is most often observed by overnight clerks, which leads me to believe that the majority of activity is undoubtedly noticed in the log cabin section of the complex.  According to Richmond, night clerks have observed things such as hearing doors in the basement open and shut, and seeing lights go on and off in unoccupied rooms.  The kitchen refrigerator has been known to open by itself, and one clerk reported an ice bucket flying 15 feet into the air and rolling across the floor.

Unfortunately, chances to experience these phenomena for oneself may be impossible in some cases, and in others, simply not worth the effort.  When doing research for this location, I came across scores of reviews from guests to the hotel...and not one of them was positive.  The main issues were filthy rooms, broken bathroom fixtures, and an extremely rude staff with a manager who price gouged room rates whenever area events made rooms in town scarce.  The hotel was put up for sale in 2010, but apparently is still operational as of July 2012, with little to no marked improvement, and rumors that one building housing motel rooms is actually shut down because its sinking into an underground cavern. 

Photo property of Rebecca Gaujot

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hereford House, St. Albans

This evening, I stumbled upon a completely new-to-me local haunt...this time in St. Albans.  Lemme explain:

Today, Aaron and I, along with my sister and Luke, attended a wedding reception/celebration for some mutual friends.  The event was held in the historic Beeches homestead.  The Beeches, built around 1874 by Collis P. Huntington for his nephew Henry during the construction of the C & O line through the area, is now home to the St. Albans Women's Club.  I was pleasantly surprised, as I had no idea where this event was taking place.  After a delicious meal, Aaron and I took Luke to explore the house a little bit, and I even had the foresight to put fresh batteries in my EMF meter!

I knew I had seen this house mentioned before, so when we got home, I pulled out my St. Albans Walking Tour pamphlet, which is put out by the local historical society, and found some information on the house. However, what I would go on to read further down in the pamphlet was even a bigger surprise!

The tour pamphlet contains information on 26 different places in St. Albans of historical significance.  I have several copies of the pamphlet that I've picked up at History Days at the state capitol, and other history functions and tourist stops.  I've skimmed through it plenty of times, but realized I had never taken the time to really READ it.  I took that time today, and I'm so glad I did, because I stumbled upon the entry for the Hereford/Burdette House!

The Hereford/Burdette House was built around 1918 by a man named C.D. Hereford and his wife, Annie May.  C.D. was originally from Putnam County, in an area that was known as Red House Shoals, which is right where the town of Eleanor is located.  In fact, according to another publication by the St. Albans Historical Society, C.D. grew up on the Ruffner property, and was the son of Dr. Syenham and Laminia S. Hereford.

C.D. and his wife, who was originally from Missouri, came to St. Albans in 1872 aboard the steamer Victor.  Shortly thereafter, C.D. opened up a general merchandise store on Main Street.  The store miraculously survived two major fires that wiped out most of the downtown district in 1909, and today, his building, located at 68 Old Main Plaza, is home to Chandler Floor and Wall Coverings.

In 1918, C.D. Hereford built his palatial, Italianate home on the corner of what is now 3rd St. and Kanawha Terrace.  Unfortunately, C.D. was never really destined to enjoy this home, as he died November 18, 1918 from Bright's Disease.  He was 72 years old.  His widow, Annie May, lived in the home until her own death on June 3, 1937.  From her death certificate, it appears as if she died in the home from peritonitis caused by a gall bladder infection.  She was 81 at the time of her death, and many believe she never left her beautiful home.

According to the pamphlet itself, strange noises heard at night in the Hereford/Burdette House are attributed to Mrs. Hereford's ghost.  No other information on these hauntings is available at this time, so I'd LOVE if you have any stories about this ghost or the paranormal goings-on at this historic home!

The Infamous St. Albans Walking Tour Pamphlet

Photo courtesy of Google Streetview, which apparently had a smeary lens when this shot was taken...or perhaps its simply the ghost of Mrs. Hereford trying to find out who is taking pictures of her lovely home!