Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Coal Camp History Comes to Life at the Whipple Company Store

Last February, I contacted the owners of the Whipple Company Store in Fayette County, WV about setting up a possible investigation of the 100+ year old coal company store.  I cannot pinpoint just how or when I became aware of this structure, but I've had in the back of my mind for over a year, hoping to find more information on the alleged hauntings.  The website mentioned that they held a haunted history tour each fall, but details were scant about just exactly WHAT those tales involved.  There also wasn't a lot of information online about actual investigations that took place there...

I soon found out why!  Despite multiple investigation requests a month, in order to preserve the integrity of the location as a historic landmark (and not simply a haunted fun house) no more than four teams are allowed in per year.  Fortunately, HPIR's strong commitment to and reverence of historic preservation landed us the opportunity to be one of the few lucky enough to investigate the location in an official capacity.

There is no possible way that I could do the history of this location justice within the confines of a simple blog post, but I would like to briefly go over some of the major points of interest.  The company store was built between 1890 and 1893 by the P.M. Snyder Construction Co. for Justus Collins.  Collins, who ran several mines, built four identical stores, but the store at Whipple is the only one standing today.

During its tenure as a coal company store, the building was the life blood of the community.  All shopping was done at the store, through the use of company scrip, and most of the socializing occurred there as well.  Like most other company stores, this one contained a doctor's office, a post office, and even an upstairs ballroom for the prominent company owners and their families. What should have been a location of much happiness and community unity, unfortunately also had a prominent dark side..  In addition to the many miners who lost their lives in the mines, including the 16 taken in the 1907 explosion, there are plenty of deaths associated directly with the company store property itself, some by illness and some by more violent means.

The Whipple mine closed in the mid-1950s and a year later, the building was bought and ran as a trading post by a lady named Madge.  During Madge's time at the building is when the ghost stories began to circulate.  In fact, Madge was so spooked by sounds of children in the upstairs ballroom, that the entire floor was shut off until after her death in 1988.  By 1992, a man from Charleston took ownership of the building, turning it into a restaurant and community theater.  Unfortunately, restoration efforts would prove to be too much for him, and he sought a buyer for the aging former company store.

Luckily, a wonderful couple took ownership of the building, turning it into a hands-on museum experience.  Joy and Chuck have worked tirelessly in order to preserve the wonderful history of this location.  They ensure that the stories of those associated with the company store are not lost to history.  There IS happiness associated with this building...but there is also a darker side of history that cannot be forgotten.  This darker side of the museum's history is discussed in detail during the haunted history tours, but not for pure entertainment value.  Rather, these tales are shared as a way to remember those who have passed and to help us learn and understand our own history, lest we be doomed to repeat it.

There is much more about the history of this location that we've chosen not to disclose online, so we STRONGLY encourage interested parties to visit the museum and take a tour.  Links to more information will be provided below.

As for HPIR's investigation of this location, I don't believe there was a single person with us that night that did not walk way without SOME type of experience.  Shadows seen in the same areas as other groups had reported them were seen before our equipment was even set up!  Odd K-II hits and other personal experiences were experienced in the vault area by several different members, strange shadows were reported in an upstairs corner by those manning the command station, but the most fascinating area was a back hallway where many deaths were said to have occurred.

We are still going over evidence, but preliminary analysis has already found an extremely interesting photo taken outside that seems to match reported activity, and the most hilarious (yet offensive) EVP I have ever heard.  Please check with the HPIR investigation page for those items to be posted!

Unfortunately, the scrip I brought for a trigger object was not touched...but it WAS from the Scarbro store, so maybe that's why, lol....but all in all the whole day was a success.  Before the investigation, we got there early to explore the ghost town of Thurmond, and have a nice picnic by the river.  Oddly enough, the very next day we heard on the news that a body was found in the river right near where we were.  We also visited the Catholic Cemetery, where many of the Italian miners in the area were buried, but the gate was locked.  Later on, I was able to confirm that my grandfather, who worked for the Greenbrier Dairy, had this particular company store on his route.  Unfortunately, he's passed, and unable to share any stories HE may have had about this wonderfully historic location.

Once again, I'd like to take the opportunity to strongly encourage anyone in the area to visit the company store museum, and take a tour.  You can also keep tabs on updates and events by "LIKING" the Whipple Company Store Face Book page, and as always, if you'd like more information on the history, please feel free to email me!

*Update August 2013:  On a recent trip to Hawks Nest and the Mystery Hole, I picked up a wonderful book compiled and edited by Wess Harris, entitled Dead Ringers:  Why Miners March.  The first chapter, written by Michael Kline, features interviews with Joy and Chuck and talks about some of the harder to hear history of the Whipple Company Store and the coal mining industry.  I HIGHLY recommend this book for anyone wanting a deeper understanding of how coal camp life REALLY was.  It's a must-read for anyone who is investigating this location!*

LINKS
Whipple Company Store Home Page
Whipple Company Store Face Book
HPIR's Investigation Page

Photo above courtesy of the Whipple Face Book page

Monday, May 14, 2012

WVU Haunts around Campus

Since its graduation season, I thought now would be a good time to share some of the many, many stories that have come out of one of West Virginia's premier institutions of higher learning.  Ghost stories can be found on just about any campus, but there seems to be more than a fair share coming from West Virginia University in Morgantown, WV.  This is just a short sampling of some of the many haunted locations found on campus.  Please check back for further updates!


  The Ghost Cow of Woodburn Hall

 This first story is one of my favorites, although it is quite tragic and sad, lol.  Anyway, when WVU first opened its doors in 1867, it wasn't called West Virginia University.  Instead, it was known as the Agricultural College of West Virginia.  During these early years, the college used a building that was formerly home of the Woodburn Female Seminary as their main residence hall.  When that building burned in 1876, a new building was erected over the site, known as New Hall.  In 1878, expansions were made, and New Hall was renamed University Building.  It wasn't until the early 20th century that a north wing was added to the structure, and the building was christened Woodburn Hall, the iconic building that we often associate with the campus and school itself!

One of Woodburn Hall's outstanding features is its impressive Seth Thomas clock and clock tower.  It is this clock tower that is the home to our legend.  Apparently, it is a widely known legend that during the university's tenure as an agricultural college, several students pulled a prank that would go horribly wrong.  Hearing the old saying that you can lead a cow up the stairs, but can't lead it back down again, that's exactly what this group did.  They stole a cow from a school-owned farm and marched it up the bell tower where it mooed and bellowed like crazy. Of course, the students found out that the saying was TRUE!  They could not get the cow to come back down, and thus it had to be killed on site, and chopped into smaller pieces for removal.

Visitors today still claim to hear the ghostly, ethereal moos emanating from the clock tower, a grisly reminder of a "harmless" prank gone wrong.

Downtown Campus Library

WVU's downtown campus library was built in 1931, and like many college libraries, quickly has gained the reputation for being haunted.  A wide variety of events happen at this center for knowledge, including the sounds of writing coming from empty desks, apparitions sighted among the shelves, and a feeling of being watched that permeates a section of the 10th floor, now used only as a storage area.

One of the most prolific ghost stories to come from this library is the story of an employee who met his death by falling down the elevator shaft during maintenance.  His apparition is commonly seen getting onto the elevator, or exiting on various floors.  He disappears if anyone tries to come near him.

Elizabeth Moore Hall

E. Moore Hall was built between 1926 and 1928 and serves as a women's physical education building.  It was named for the principal of the Woodburn Female Seminary Institution from 1865 to 1866.  Elizabeth Moore is also said to be the resident ghost, who likes to make her presence known in the basement pool area.

MountainLair

The MountainLair is WVU's student union building.  Its a perfect place to socialize, get something to eat...and apparently to spot a ghost!  Janitors working the building late at night have often reported seeing a little girl wearing a yellow party dress.  It is believed that the little girl was buried in a cemetery where Stewart Hall now stands.

Book Review: Dark Force

Title:  Dark Force-The Terrifying and Tragic Story of the Bean Family
Author:  William "Bill" Bean, Jr.
Website:  http://www.billbean.net/

I kind of had it in my head that for the sake of brevity, I was only going to publish reviews here that specifically dealt with tri-state area paranormal lore.  However, I've chosen to include this story, as I was able to meet the author recently...and it happened in Maryland, which is close enough! LOL

This past April, I blogged about how myself and several other members of HPIR were in attendance at The Original WV Paranormal's Conference for the Cure.  Bill Bean was the keynote speaker for the event, and was there to tell his story.

The Bean Family saga largely reached the public thanks to being featured on the show, A Haunting.  The show chronicled one family's personal hell as their dream home turned against them...and turned them against each other before a young Bill Bean finally confronted the entities that were so obviously in control.

Dark Force is a written account of those events.  I've read several views that comment on the juvenile-style of writing and the lack of details.  While I cannot dispute these claims, I do think such a presentation works in this book's favor.  This is not a sensationalized account of a haunting--it doesn't hold the same Hollywood drama that was played up in the episode of A Haunting.  Rather, it is written as a factual, straight-forward account of events by someone who lived them first-hand.  While I would have loved some additional facts and details to gain a better insight, I think this story NEEDED to be told this way.  It shows how anyone can find him/herself in a similar situation.  More importantly, it shows how these events really became such a part of these people's lives to the point where despite a lasting tragic residue, it was something that simply...WAS.

Having said that, it doesn't make the Bean story any less horrifying.  Although written so matter-of-factly, one can still easily get a sense of the horror the family went through, its emotional toll on them, and a true look at the human psyche, as the family struggles to make sense out of what is going on, and defy all odds by staying in the home as long as they did.

I won't go into any plot details, because I don't want to ruin the story, but I highly recommend picking up a copy of this book.  A word of caution, however:  I'd go through the author's website:  it is listed there for $20, while it is going for $48 and up on Amazon.  I was lucky enough to receive my signed copy and chat a bit with the author at the Conference for the Cure. He is an extremely kind and considerate man, and has used his life events to reach out to others.  This book is just one way he is doing so.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Getting to Know HPIR, Volume III

Welcome to the third installment of the Getting to Know HPIR series!  In this volume, I've interviewed HPIR's "founding father," Dustin Stanley.  I've purposefully tried to really pick Dustin's brain on this subject, and ask some questions that aren't normally asked in these types of interviews. I would like to thank him for answering my questions thoughtfully and honestly!  Please enjoy!

As the husband of the HPIR president and founder (Melissa Stanley), what was your first reaction when she told you her plans of starting a paranormal group?
When she first told me about wanting to join another group in the Huntington area, I was interested in the whole “ghost hunting” aspect. After searching for a group to join, we decided to start our own.
   
Describe your official title and describe your role within the group.
Co-founder, lead investigator, tech department

What special skills/education do you believe you bring to the field?
I like to find solutions to situations or problems. I have a safety technology BS degree at Marshall and within a year I will also have a BS in Civil Engineering. So I think outside the box to prove or replicate fake evidence in order to find real definitive answers to the existence of paranormal activity.

You have the reputation of being the group's most skeptical member. Have you ever had an experience, on or off an investigation that you couldn't explain or that made you question your beliefs?
Honestly no, not that I know of. One time in my life I thought that there was a shadow person in my house, but it could have been shadows off of the television or lights from the busy road that I grew up on.

What is your proudest "debunking" moment?
Replicating a certain piece of evidence numerous times in order to prove that it is not paranormal, just an uneven surface.

What is it like being one of only a few men on the team?
It is interesting at times. A lot of conversations that I do not really what to know about. But all in all its like one big happy family.

Do you feel like the paranormal field as a whole is dominated by women, or headed in that direction?
I believe that there are good men and women in this field. It will never be totally dominated by one sex or the other.

What is your favorite piece of equipment currently being used in the field?
My favorite piece of evidence would have to be a thermal camera.

What do you think needs to happen in order for the paranormal field to advance? How can investigation groups, such as HPIR, contribute in a significant way?
In order for paranormal field to advance it will have to start with the paranormal groups. If you really are interested in this field, then quit trying to be famous and quit trying to be on TV. I have heard so many groups say that they want to be the next TAPS or Paranormal State, or even the next Ghost Adventurers. If you want to be on TV or have your own show then you are in the wrong field. HPIR does not want their own show; we only want to find the truth. That is why I believe that we have a fantastic group of investigators and that is also why we have lasted as long as we have. I believe that HPIR can contribute to the paranormal field by setting the bar, not just evidence but with research as well.

To learn more about Dustin, please see his HPIR Profile!

Photo property of Melissa Stanley

Friday, May 11, 2012

Best FREE Kindle Downloads

Paranormal research can get expensive!  Therefore, I thought it might be a good idea to list some of my favorite paranormal non-fiction titles that are consistently available for free download through Amazon.  I was resistant at first to eBooks, but after receiving a Kindle for Christmas and finding plenty of gems among the garbage, I've become a convert.  Please enjoy this short list I've put together of some of my personal favorite ebooks that are available absolutely FREE!  I'm starting off small, but will add more later on.  This is a pretty broad sampling to start off, so hopefully there will be something of interest to all!

1. Historic Ghosts and Ghost Hunters is a look at some early paranormal cases that are still discussed today.  Originally written in 1908, this book actually takes on a surprisingly skeptical point of view and is a great source of information from the 19th century and before.

2. The Flying Saucers are Real by Donald Keyhoe is an early look at the UFO phenomenon from quite the reputable source.  I've often seen this work quoted or cited in recent works on ufology, so this is a great place to being a study into the subject.

3. The Book of Werewolves is a collection of werewolf lore and legend.  It's actually quite interesting and well written, despite some minor typos in this particular translation.

4. The Book of the Damned--Charles Fort was a collector of strange stories, what we now would call Fortean phenomena!  This is just one of his works, now available for FREE!

5. Ghost Hunting Diary Volume I tells the story of how one woman got involved in the paranormal world.  There are other volumes available for a small price, but this first volume is completely free.

On another note, the Kindle skin pictured above comes in blue or black.  I REALLY, REALLY want this!

Theresa R.: UFO Huntress

At the beginning of each year, I generally lay out 3-5 New Year's Resolutions that relate specifically to how I'm going to further my education of the paranormal field.  This year, I was bitten by the UFO bug.  Honestly, I had never been that interested in UFOlogy; I always sided on the ghosts/hauntings side of paranormal investigation.  Still, it was something that had sort of been on my mind for awhile.  You can't be this involved in paranormal research (especially here in Mothman Country) and NOT help but to skirt the UFO angle.  I was further inspired by a rash of sightings by my boyfriend and my father of a strange light that would appear in the skies near my new house.

My plan involved an intense study of ufology over the next year through classes, books, documentaries, and anything else that I could find, such as conferences and speakers.  I would also attempt to gather some more field-specific equipment and network with local UFOlogists.  By the end of the year, I would hopefully be prepared enough to join the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON) and begin study under a "professional."

It is now close to the halfway mark of the calendar year, and I haven't made much progress, lol.

As part of my study, I signed up for a UFO Studies 101 class through my annual subscription to Universal Class.  I had taken this professor several times before, and enjoyed his classes.  This would be an exception, lol.  It isn't the professor's fault; I'm just cannot get enthusiastic about the subject, and what would normally take me a month or two tops to finish a class has become what is shaping up to be a year-long pursuit as my coursework seems more of a chore than a pleasurable pursuit of knowledge.

To supplement my original plan of taking this class, I have also been reading one UFO-related book a month, also a bomb.  Here's my list so far:

January--West Virginia UFOs, by Bob Teets.  This one wasn't BAD, but it wasn't good, either, lol.  It was a collection of previously non-reported sightings from around the mountain state, and while each case was unique, they all seemed to follow the same pattern:  apparently West Virginian's believe that UFOs and/or aliens are angels.  I've previously read and own several other WV ufo books by another journalist, Kyle Lovern, which are a little more my speed.

February--UFOs Examined, by Milo Monzetta.  This was a FREE Kindle download, and now I know exactly why it was free! Self-publishing has been such a mixed blessing in the field of paranormal research, but this is one of those works that were just awful, lol.  It was poorly written, jumping from topic to topic with no discernible flow.  It seemed like every third word was either spelled incorrectly or contained a grammatical error.  I'm not entirely sure what popular theories are out there in the UFO realm, but the theories in this work, combined with the poorly written format, read like the ramblings of a schizophrenic.

March--The Flying Saucers are Real, by Donald Keyhoe.  This was another free Kindle download, but unlike most free works I run across, this one was very well written and researched.  It is a VERY early work on UFOs by a legitimate journalist.  I learned a lot, and got through the entire book without my eyes bleeding once!

April--I'm actually still working on April's book, despite it being well into May.  It's a biography on Barney and Betty Hill, and it isn't bad.  Aaron bought it several years ago from the second annual Braxton County Monster Festival.

My plans from this point are to finish this UFO course, and perhaps take another through another online institution, lol.  I'm also going to attempt to muddle through the rest of the year's reading, relying heavily on what is already on my shelf and what I can obtain for free for Kindle.  The exception will be a Gray Barker book that I've had my eye on for awhile, and a book on the Braxton County Monster that I never got around to actually purchasing.

As for actually seeking out MUFON accreditation...that may take a little more soul searching.  Although the passion just isn't there, I do feel that this is an aspect of paranormal research that I'm not as comfortable with as I should be.  I want to be able to add a working knowledge of such to the resume in order to better serve our clients, and also to further distinguish HPIR as a unique institution dedicated to providing the best possible resources to our community as possible. 

At the end of the year, I'll post an update as to whether or not I've actually reached any of my goals, lol.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Getting to Know HPIR, Volume II

Several months ago, I started a series of interviews with HPIR members, attempting to ask thought provoking, off the wall questions about their involvement in the field of paranormal research.  While I'm waiting for the next member to send in his answers, I thought I'd take a moment to "interview" myself!  This entry is less of an interview, however, in that I won't be asking and answering specific questions.  Rather, this will be of a more biographical, stream of consciousness piece on how I got involved in the field, and what it means to me. 

I cannot say with any certainty that if conditions had been different, I would have found myself on a different path, but it truly does seem like this was a field that I was literally born into.  As a very young child, I had a habit of seeing things that no one else could see.  My maternal grandparents, both coming from a strong, superstitious and spiritually open Appalachian heritage, embraced my "gift."  They always let me know that they believed me.  They also were my earliest resource for paranormal study, teaching me that what I saw was not going to hurt me, and even how to turn it off if I needed to.

Further, my grandfather in particular, loved to tell me ghost stories.  He and my grandmother both had many stories from their youth that I would beg for them to tell me at any chance.  When I would spend the night with them, I'd get the stories about the three bears and all that...but then I'd also get the stories about the bloody pillow found in my grandma's attic that belonged to a murdered woman who still walked the stairs in her home. 

My grandfather was well versed in local ghost legends, and while out driving around, he'd point out the houses where ghosts were said to roam.  I don't think he ever actively went ghost hunting, but always told me that as soon as I was old enough, he was going to take ME ghost hunting with him.  Around this time, I was also starting to read chapter books.  While most little girls my age were reading The Babysitter's Club, I was devouring Hans Holzer's works, as well as a volume by Arthur Myers that my grandparents owned.  Also of great interest to me were the folkloric ghost stories collected by authors such as Ruth Musick and James Gay Jones.  I had a whole collection, which would be the seed to my massive paranormal library of today, lol.

Television was another great source of information for me, as the late 80s into the 90s had plenty to offer.  Of course, Scooby Doo was one of my favorite cartoons, but I also religiously watched Unsolved Mysteries, and a host of other paranormal shows that were popular.  I knew before my 8th birthday that I wanted to be a parapsychologist...which was a more common term than ghost hunter or paranormal investigator at the time. 

When I was ten years old, we moved from Hurricane to Winfield...and right into a haunted house.  The level of activity goes through massive shifts, but when we first moved in, it was at its peak, and there was a definite feeling of malice involved.  I won't get into those hauntings, but I will say that I was so terrified in the house, that I was well into high school before I would even stay there alone.  It was so bad, that I couldn't get up at night even to go to the restroom because of the heaviness in our hallway.  Friends would spend the night once, and never come back, saying that they had seen something in the night.  Even my long-term boyfriend just refused to step foot into my house any longer after a series of what he perceived were attacks.

It was during the period between my 10th and 15th birthdays that I REALLY hit the interest in the paranormal hard.  I knew something was happening to me that I could not explain.  I figured not everything that was going on was paranormal, but was not happy with the blanket, skeptical explanations that I was given, and sought out my own.  I learned a LOT about natural explanations that can mimic paranormal activity, but I also learned a lot about paranormal activity in general.  I read anything I could get my hands on, which was made much easier when we finally got a computer with internet access in 1997.

I knew that I had to use my experience, but also my research, to one day help others who were going through something similar.  I started out doing free-lance "investigations" of cemeteries and other public places, using nothing more than a film camera and a micro-cassette recorder borrowed from my mom's work.  Any chance I got, I visited historic places that were said to have a haunted reputation.  My friends and I took ghost tours, explored cemeteries, and just researched the hell out of how to do paranormal investigations in anticipation of the day I turned 18 and could apply for a REAL group.  One of these "investigations" that my friends and I did early on was an outdoor exploration of the Ridges in Athens, Ohio.  It was that trip that may have been my first brush with being touched by an entity.

Eighteen came and went with a big disappointment, lol.  At the time, there were only two well known groups based here in West Virginia.  One, which I would later learn was led by someone with some severe legal troubles, took my $20 membership fee and I never heard anything back.  This was more of a club that organized ghost hunts.  The other was what I thought a legitimate group.  It took months of trying to contact them before someone rudely replied that they were not interested in hearing my plea.  THAT really jaded me for awhile, but I still feel a sense of vindication when I was able to successfully debunk a photo they had posted on their website.  Anyway, I took that hurt I felt at their rejection, and put it into researching how to become the best investigator I could be, and vowed to never treat anyone serious about paranormal investigation like that.  Over the years, I have upheld that promise, acting as a researcher and consultant for groups all over the country, many of which who have gone onto great things in this field.  I also started hitting the free-lance investigations hard.  One of my favorite places to investigate during this time was the old Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys, outside of Pt. Pleasant, where I have many fond memories, lol.

It wasn't until 2005 that I was able to meet up with a group of people who shared my interests and were willing to take me on as a member.  In the interim, I started collecting more "high-tech" equipment, still researching anything I could find, and really started hitting the historical aspect of hauntings hard, trying to find factual information to combat a lot of the misconceptions that were being posted online about local haunts and legends.  I still have folders full of ghost hunting tips and historical research with a date stamp of pre-2005 (some as early as 1997) on them, lol.

Anyway, I became involved in this group, and hit if off really well with all the members.  I was able to attend a handful of investigations with them, but when the investigations became fewer and further between, I just happened to stumble upon a newly formed group in the Huntington area.  I immediately sent them an email, and shortly thereafter, was invited to attend an investigation with them.  That happened in September of 2006.  As of that date, I have proudly served as an investigator with Huntington Paranormal Investigations and Research.  In early 2007, I was made Research Manager, where I really got to put my love of historical research to good use.  I had obtained a paralegal degree along the way, so I was well versed in different types of research, especially how to do title searches at the local courthouse, and it was a good fit for me.

I take my role as research manager for HPIR very seriously, because I firmly believe that historic research is a HUGE part of what makes an investigation successful.  Giving someone documentation to back up what they experience, or what evidence collected is a huge step in giving credibility to a field that is still considered a fringe science at best.  It's also fulfilling on a personal level, as every case presents certain challenges and roadblocks.  Getting past those results in a feeling of accomplishment, and of course, can totally alter the outcome of an investigation.

Even though I'm going on my sixth year with HPIR, I have not yet lost my passion for the paranormal.  There is not a day that goes by that I am NOT doing something paranormal related, whether it be researching an upcoming case or entry for my blog, watching something on TV, or reading a book on whatever paranormal subject catches my attention at the moment.  At times, my daily involvement may simply be to visit and post on my favorite paranormal message board, TAPS 18+.  Although I was never a huge fan of the show, there are a lot of great investigators on this site, and I've learned a lot.  I've also made some great friends and contacts over the years, which allowed me to be interviewed on several different radio shows, guest investigate at places such as Prospect Place, and simply, to share ideas with those coming from a wide range of backgrounds and expertise.

I am so grateful that I had that chance meeting with HPIR founder Melissa, and that the team allowed me to join them.  I have grown a lot with HPIR, and feel like this is exactly where I should be, and what I should be doing with my life. I did not get into this field for fame and fortune.  I got into this field because of a desire to help others, and a desire to find the truth, no matter what that truth may be.

Currently, I am finishing up several books on local hauntings, and afterward, hope to put to pen and paper some of the many folkloric and historic ghost stories that were passed down to me from my grandparents.  I am also serving as a tour guide for HPIR's Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours, and raising my son, who hopefully follows in my footsteps!  My goal is to continue my work as historic research manager with HPIR, and continue to grow my personal research library, in hopes of one day turning it into a working lending-library for those researching the paranormal and/or WV history.

The photo above is of me, visiting the gravesite of the Greenbrier Ghost.  I was VERY pregnant at the time!

Friday, May 4, 2012

The Former Victor Hose Company #2

Today's post is a little different than what I normally post.  Instead of just a simple haunted history profile, I'm going to walk you through the typical research process I go through when featuring a location on the site.  Research for places that are physically investigated generally get top priority and are a little more in depth, but there's something about this case that makes me want to pursue it further, despite the likelihood of investigating it any time soon is fairly low .  It is a work in progress, but I would love to go ahead and share it in hopes that someone reading this blog will have some additional information.  Please enjoy!

Several years ago, Prestera's Renaissance Center in Huntington began showing up on different lists of haunted places in West Virginia.  It looks like the first report of activity from this fire station-turned-drug rehab center was actually made by an employee to the WVGhosts site.

In that entry (linked below), it was noted that the center, which formerly was a fire station, was haunted by the ghosts of several fallen firemen.  Allegedly, there had been a deadly blaze, and several firemen were injured.  They were taken back to the station to be treated, but ultimately succumbed in an upstairs room.  They make their presence known by repeatedly setting off an alarm, and by a foreboding feeling that permeates the room in question.

After having this location in my mind for awhile, I decided the time was right to start looking into the legend.  I was grossly fooling myself when I thought that it would be easy to find supporting evidence for this story. I thought surely several firemen dying in a blaze was pretty important information and I could find plenty of sources online without ever having to change out of my pajamas.  I would soon find confirmation of the fact that NOTHING in the world of historic research is ever that black and white, lol.

My first stop was the West Virginia Archives website.  West Virginia's capitol complex has a memorial to firefighters who died in the line of duty, and the names and dates of their deaths are transcribed online through the archives website.  I thought I had hit pay dirt when I found three gentlemen from the HFD who all died in 1948.  Those men were listed as Emmett Wheeler, Leon Hartz, and William Booth.  For confirmation, I went to the WV State Archives vital statistics page to pull their death certificates and that's where things got a little complicated....

I already had reservations because in 1948, it seemed odd to me that injured firefighters would go back to their station, as opposed to one of the area hospitals, but perhaps they were suffering from smoke inhalation, internal injuries or some other ailment that didn't seem as serious in the field as it did when they got back and were examined. But then, the death certificates just didn't make any sense.  Emmett Wheeler, while occupation was stated as city fireman, was listed as having died in 1952 of natural causes.  When I typed in Leon Hartz, I got a gentleman who died in 1930!  Luckily, I changed search parameters slightly and found out that Lieutenant Hartz was actually listed as Leonard.  Still, it was a shock to the morale when the first try came up empty handed.  I did have success with William Booth, though, lol...got him right on the first try.

So after I found the correct Leon(ard) Hartz, it was confirmed that he and William Booth, both firemen, died on the same day and in the same manner!  Pay-dirt, right?  No.  The original story specifically mentions a BLAZE.  Lieutenant Hartz and Fireman Booth both drowned in the Ohio River.

To be on the safe side, I pulled the death certificates for all seven firemen from the HFD who were listed as dying in the line of duty, between 1901 and 1971, and confirmed those names listed on the WV Archives site with the actual Huntington Memorial--which listed Wheeler as dying AFTER the 1948 group.One gentleman was involved in a vehicle accident, but there were several other causes of death that seemed to be possible matches.

At this point, I realized that even though the death certificates listed a cause of death and address where the accident occurred, none of those addresses actually matched that of the fire station in question.  Further, I had no idea what station number I was dealing with, or any other identification as to what station these men would have served at.  I started trying to pull some obituaries, hoping for more information.  Out of seven, only ONE obituary was easily found online, but it did start me in the right direction!  The fireman who died was listed as serving at the Canda Hose Company.  When I did an online search for that company, I didn't find much information, but did come across the 1910 Huntington Business directory, which listed not only the Canda Hose Company and its address...but listed among the stations at the time the VICTOR HOSE COMPANY No. 2, which had the SAME address as today's Prestera Renaissance building!  Thank goodness for small victories, lol.  Since the one man who had his obituary online had his company listed, I thought I could easily pinpoint ALL the firemen's home stations through their obituaries.  Since this discovery came late at night, I had to wait awhile before I could get to the library and start going through old newspaper archives.

In the interim, I tried to find out some more information.  There was a tiny blurb about the two firemen who drowned, so I knew there had to be a larger story about that one, and made a mental note of it.  The City of Huntington Fire Department, where I found the memorial information, has an excellent history section, where I was able to learn exactly when the city of Huntington first developed a fire department, but more importantly, that the building in question was most likely built between 1900 and 1926 (probably close to 1903 when the Central City station, a very similar building, was built), and probably closed during the massive budget cuts and recon-structuring of the 1980s.  I also found a short blurb that in 1907, the Victor Hose Company received a horse-drawn truck, lol. As of May 2012, I stumbled across an article from May of 1907 that this location was just now being looked at for a fire station...so I guess 1907 is the year?

The information on when the building was probably built came in handy, because when I tried to access the county assessor's website to pull up a summary and get the deed information to take to the courthouse, I could NOT find this property listed, lol.  I searched for both the physical address, AND as using Prestera as the owner.  I found that Prestera owns a lot of historic buildings in Cabell County, but out of all of them, not ONE matching Renaissance was found, so that was frustrating.  Without that information, I would actually have to ASK for help at the court house when I went to do the title search, which would normally not be a problem, but honestly, I just didn't feel like it at the time, lol.

Anyway, at the first chance I got, I headed into Huntington to spend an afternoon at the library, poring over microfiche in order to pull the remaining obituaries for the fallen firemen, and also to print out any news stories that mentioned their deaths.  I got some good information, including two major articles featuring the two firemen who drowned in the Ohio River, as well as a fire in 1901 who took the life of Fireman John Wright, and injured two others.  I found information for every firefighter EXCEPT Jesse Hensley, who died in 1945.  As of July 2012, I have found some additional information on Jesse Hensley, who died on April 8, 1945 from burns and suffocation as a result of a building fire at the former Arena Gardens when the roof collapsed on him.  And, as a complete bewilderment to me, I still did not see information for all firemen concerning which station they served, including Jesse Hensley.

Due to clues, I was able to rule out most...and thought that maybe the two men who drowned could have possibly been from Victor Hose based on the station's proximity to the the site of the accident.  However, the main problem was that they DROWNED...and the story specifically mentioned a blaze.  John Wright, who died in 1901 had a story that seemed to fit the description, since there were two men who were also injured, yet survived.  Unfortunately for this story, the newspaper article stated the two stations that were on the scene, and neither one was the Victor Hose, or anywhere near that part of town.  Jesse Hensley remains a candidate until information can be discovered to rule him out.

Obviously, this is another case that is extremely frustrating! More recent employees of the center have come forward with their own tales, so I do believe that there is something going on here.  Anecdotal evidence strongly suggests that fire stations can be pretty haunted places.  You're dealing with a lot of high emotions, and high energies that can become trapped and replay themselves over and over.  You're also dealing with men and women who routinely put their lives on the line in dedication to serving the public through their fire stations.  That dedication has been known to be carried over even after the physical body is gone.

More recent stories from the center do take a little pressure off, though, lol.  It seems that the entity is still believed to be a former fireman, but not necessarily more than one, lol.  It is also believed that this fireman is a little more, antique, coming from the turn of the century as opposed to possibly being Jesse Hensley who died in 1945.  Older is better, because it would support the idea that the injured was taken to the fire station as opposed to directly to the hospital, like we would assume would occur in more modern times.  Therefore, it IS plausible that the building is older than I suspect, and perhaps, a fire man DID die, but for whatever reason, records were lost and he was not included on the memorial.  It is also entirely plausible that this man did not technically die in the line of duty, and therefore, was not included in the memorial.

What I personally believe is that there is some death associated with a fireman at this location.  With at least 70 years as a fire station, there are going to be deaths.  I do believe that a dedicated fireman is still on duty, yet over the years, the story submitted to the WVGhosts website has been evolving with each retelling, as people try to fill in missing details and desperately try to make sense out of something that by its very nature shouldn't make sense.

I have a couple of leads that I will be following up on, but ask that anyone who has relevant information please contact me, as I would love to hear your stories and try to give a name to this man.  If only one good thing comes from this research, it is that I definitely learned a LOT about Huntington's fire department history, and as our motto goes...we're telling Huntington's history, one ghost story at a time!

This post is dedicated to all the brave men and women who have served the Huntington Fire Department, past, present and future, but especially to the seven men who died in the line of duty.

Articles transcribed by Theresa:

John Wright

Hartz/Booth Drowning

More info on this location has been uncovered can be found in Theresa's Haunted Huntington, Volume I book!  Check back later for details!

The photo above was taken with Google Street View if you couldn't tell by the the arrow, lol.

Theresa's Statement

Last night, I posted a HUGE blog about yesterday's incident where someone called me a nasty name on my own blog...and my commentary on the TRUE events that transpired that I believe led up to this behavior.  After some sleep, I decided that it wasn't worth it.  The blog was extremely polite and empathetic, but stated the FACTS in a case where there is a lot of misinformation being passed around that whether or not is directed at me, does affect me.

People are going to believe what they want to believe...and they're going to take out anger and frustrations on those who are most convenient.  Plus, anyone willing to stoop as low as to use such sophomoric language on a family friendly site does NOT have my respect, and isn't going to listen to what I have to say anyway.  I'm not entirely sure how I got caught up in this mess other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time and actually trying to help.  However it happened, I refuse to get caught up in this mess for something that I had no part of, and if it makes someone feel better, or feel like they are sabotaging me and turning others against me by harassing me on my website and other places...well, if that's what makes you sleep better at night.  I do ask one thing though, and that is to leave my team out of any personal beef that may be had with ME.  Oh, and remember that this website is read by many who do not need to be subjected to this petty behavior.

I'm not sure what is expected of me, but this field is one I have literally been involved with since birth, lol.  No matter how many hypocrites scream one thing and whisper another, I will continue to be a part of this field, not for the fame or fortune, but for the sheer love of helping those who seek answers.  I will strive for quality, education, and professionalism in everything I do, and will continue to implement my experience to further this field and uncover the truth.

For anyone who wants to discuss this matter, I am not a monster.  I have never acted maliciously towards anyone, nor have I ever stepped over someone to claw my way to this proverbial top.  I have nothing to lose or gain in this situation, but am deeply hurt on a personal level to think that someone may think that of my character.  I am willing to talk to anyone who comes to me in a respectful manner and I am keeping a copy of the incident in my own words which can be shared upon request through private channels to those who are open to hearing the TRUTH. 

Thank you

-Theresa

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Amityville Demon Boy Photograph

I need a break from local research, and since I hadn't posted a famous ghost photo in awhile, thought this one would be perfect!  It's been sitting in my file of stuff to cover, but a recent revitalization of a message board thread covering the piece, found on the TAPS 18+ board, inspired me to bring it to my site.

The Amityville Horror case, which traumatized the Lutz family and captivated a nation for generations, will ALWAYS be one of the most controversial cases in popular ghost lore.  While there is plenty of evidence that more than suggests a great deal of inaccuracy in what was reported, there are still those die-hard believers who cannot believe such a tragic event as the DeFeo murders could NOT produce a terrible psychic imprint on the location, and even signal...a demonic influence.

Just as controversial as the case itself is one of the most well-known photographs taken from an investigation of the home in 1976, after the Lutz family had fled.  This investigation was conducted by the well-known demonologist team of Ed and Lorraine Warren, which raises many red flags to much of the paranormal community.  The idea of this post is not to invalidate this case, this photo, or even the Warrens, but to provide readers with some alternative explanations and information on this widely distributed photo.

As stated, the photo in question was a product of a 1976 investigation of the house, led by the Warrens.  It was actually taken by a professional photographer that accompanied the investigation team, a man by the name of Gene Campbell.  According to research, the camera was set up on the second floor landing, and was designed to take various photos over a set period of time, using black and white infrared film.  From all the sources I have read, the camera was left in this position after the team had packed up for the night.

For whatever reason, this photograph was not publicized until a 1979, when it appeared on the Merv Griffin Show.  I've heard varying accounts that the photographer had either been asked to provide a photo of the
Amityville investigation for a book, or even for the Merv Griffin show itself.  Whether for book or for television, the rest of the story remains the same.  A secretary was given the task of choosing a photo to include.  There were literally tons of shots to choose from recorded by this specific camera, but this one stood out to the secretary.  She was 8 months pregnant at this time, and reported that every time she picked up the photo that appears to contain a little boy, her baby would kick violently. 

As stated, there were literally tons of shots from this camera, but only one seemed to contain any type of anomaly, especially one so shocking as what appears to be a young child peering over the banister.  So why did it take so long to become public?

Many believe that the photographer knew that the photograph wasn't paranormal, and to my knowledge, he has never stated anything to the contrary.  However, when the photo WAS brought to public attention, the amount of theories and publicity surrounding it gave it a life of its own.  The creepiness of the little boy with glowing eyes is exactly the kind of thing that would help support this story.

Popular theories were all over the map concerning what exactly this anomaly was.  Some believed it was demonic in nature, no doubt due to the high level of creepiness and feelings this image provokes.  The violence of the DeFeo incident and the horror that the Lutz's claimed to have experienced also supported something of a demonic nature.

Still, others thought the image, though still paranormal in nature, had a more benign explanation.  They pointed out the startling visual similarities of the ghost boy in the photo to those of John Matthew DeFeo, the nine year old brother and youngest murder victim.  Side by side photo comparisons do show some similarities, leading this to be a widely accepted explanation.

I'm personally in the camp of those who believe that the photo is NOT paranormal in nature.  One plausible argument that often comes up is the fact that the camera was left unguarded for a significant amount of time, leaving a hoaxer ample opportunity to sneak in and be caught on camera.  The eerie glow of the eyes is explained by the nature of the infrared camera.  On the other hand, researchers have discovered ANOTHER explanation that for many, has rendered this photo a closed case.

On the night of the investigation, the Warrens were assisted by an investigator named Paul Bartz.  Photographs of Bartz from that night show him wearing a plaid shirt, similar to the pattern seen around the "ghost boy."  Bartz, of course, was of age during the investigation, and by no means the size of a child barely tall enough to peek over a banister.  However, the image is still believed to be that of Paul Bartz who happened to be caught on camera as he was kneeling on the floor, taking some measurements.

According to another blog who provided some excellent information on this story, a reader had claimed to have contacted who he believed to be Paul Bartz himself.  When asked about the photo, Bartz neither confirmed nor denied that it was him in the photograph, but did admit to being on site that night, and stating in his own words: 

“I am the same Paul Bartz that took part in the séance in the Amityville home some 32 years ago.

The image in the photo you mention does resemble me and I know that Ed (now deceased) and Lorraine went on record (including national tv) stating it was a ghost. Because I have great respect and admiration for them, I will say no more on the issue, allowing the legend of the most haunted house in America, to continue.”

From looking at the uncropped version of the photograph, it is easy to start to see what appears to be a man kneeling in the doorway of the room across the hall, peering out.  Forced perspective and creative cropping turned this fairly obvious image into what looks like a young boy peering directly over the banister.  In my honest opinion, I think this photograph has been debunked!

Special thanks to News from the Spirit World for the information and comparison photos for this piece!  Be sure to clink on the link for the cropped and uncropped ghost boy photo, side by sides of the "ghost" and John Matthew DeFeo, and of course, Paul Bartz wearing a plaid shirt the night of the investigation!

Paul Bartz


Want more ghost photos?  Please see my Paranormal Photos Page for information you won't find on any other ghost site!

Theresa's Top Links for May!

 I've been slow to post for awhile...been working on some big projects and some investigation and tour stuff.  However, I wanted to get something up and running on here to test out this first link in May's Links of the Month post!  As an added bonus, instead of the traditional Top Five links, we're gonna shoot for Top TEN!

1. Before its News--this site is sort of a compilation/RSS feed type deal for different types of, well, news, lol.  It features a lot of blogs and other small online publication sources, and is complete with a section devoted entirely to the Unexplained.  A couple of weeks ago I received an email from a gentleman representing the site asking if I would give permission to allow Theresa's Haunted History to be added.  It doesn't look like I have to actually DO anything besides simply post to my blog as normal, so I said yes!  It does look like a pretty cool site, though, and I appreciate being considered for inclusion.  With this new post, I should "go live," so to speak!

2. The IR Shadow--I previously posted this information piece on my FaceBook page, but its worth a second mention here.  This educational piece about this common photographic anomaly is written by Sparks Spirit Hunters.  It is so simply stated, that even a less-than-techie person such as myself can not only understand it, but explain it to others, lol.  There's also a great diagram.  Scroll down a little ways to read the section concerning the IR Shadow.

3. Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours--Shameless self-plug here, but we're kicking off this Saturday with a special spring tour season.  Join us for a FREE walking tour of Huntington's oldest neighborhood as we guide you through a full-moon themed journey of history and hauntings!  A LOT of work goes into making these tours fun and different each year, so we really appreciate our loyal fans who join us year after year, and spread the word.

4. The Original West Virginia Paranormal--I wanted to give a special shout-out to this team for hosting last month's Conference for the Cure!  It was a lot of fun, and was for a great cause.  Thanks for letting us be a part of it, guys!

5. Your Ghost Stories--This website features tons of visitor submissions, but also has directories for both paranormal investigation groups and ghost tours.  I've posted my TNT area experience here, and of course, added entries into both directories! 

6. Bruce Chapel--Bruce Chapel, a historic church in Mason County long rumored to be haunted, now has its own FaceBook!  Come give them a LIKE, and set up an investigation today!  May is National Historic Preservation Month, and your modest investigation donation will go a long way to help restore and preserve this location.

7. Mothman Museum--Pt. Pleasant features the ONLY Mothman Museum in the world!  Videos, documents, and even movie memorabilia can be found in this wonderful little gem, located right in downtown Point. Pleasant.  They also offer Mothman Bus Tours, featuring many sites of interest between downtown and the TNT area.  While cleaning out my closet in preparation for my neighborhood's annual yard sale, I stumbled upon a manila envelope containing my certificate for the tour, and all the tour-related swag that comes with it...so that's why this location came to mind, lol.  On an unrelated note, since finding that envelope, I am now craving a Mothman Burger from Harris'.  I might be throwing Luke in the car for an impromptu drive tomorrow.

8. KM EVP Classifications--this article discusses a new type of classification system for EVPs.  As investigators, many of us are familiar with the ABC classifications that center around sound quality.  This system goes in a different direction, by classifying EVPs based on the meaning of the EVP, for example, if it is a voice or other noise, and if it IS a voice, is interactive or passive.  I really like this type of system, because often, the sound quality of EVPs is fiercely debated, lol.  Some people just simply don't hear what others hear, and some times, an EVP is enhanced to the point where it is just not viable as evidence in my opinion. 

9. FATE Magazine--I have always loved FATE Magazine, but like many print publications, they've been feeling a financial crunch in a digital world.  Editions have become smaller, and more cheaply printed...and currently, the new bi-monthly format is several months behind schedule.  I received a subscription for Christmas, and my first issue, dated September/October, just reached me in April.  I admire FATE's commitment to continue catering to the large readership who wants a hard copy, myself included.  However, I'd love to see some fresh readership and some fresh finances being pumped into this publication.  Many of its long-time readers are growing elderly, but that doesn't mean this time honored publication should come to a halt.  Please help support FATE Magazine with a subscription today!

10. Religious Tolerance--This website is not how I remember it, but I guess the basic premise is still there.  Anyway, we often try to leave religion out of the paranormal field, relying less on faith, and more on tangible proof and scientific method.  However, to the chagrin of some, religion and paranormal investigation will always go hand-in-hand.  We work with a multitude of different clientele who come from many different backgrounds.  It is essential to have a working knowledge of how a client's religious beliefs may cause them to perceive the paranormal in order to tailor an investigation or provide assistance that is in that client's best interest.  This site has some good articles on basic tenets of different religions, and sources for more information.  It's a decent starting place, although I'm not entirely sure this is the same site I've used in the past, lol.