Friday, July 26, 2013

Personal Experience at Mt. Vernon Baptist

Photo by T. McCallister, 2005
I've always seen weird things and things that no one else around me sees.  I've accepted that fact, made peace with it (even though I still question my sanity daily), and truly, it doesn't really bother me that much.  Still, there are times when something happens that catches me completely off-guard because its so unexpected.  This is one of those times!  Although a very minor experience, I felt that it needed documenting!


I have a really bad habit of occasionally craving a chicken soft taco and nachos late at night.  In order to get my fix,  I'll go through the drive-thru of the Teays Valley Taco Bell.  Sometimes I stop and eat in the adjoining parking lot, but other times I take the short drive down Mt. Vernon Road and sit in the parking lot of Mt. Vernon Baptist Church.  That's what I did on this particular evening.

As I sat in the well-lit parking lot, facing the church, I munched my nachos and gazed up at the older section of the building.  For some reason, I got to thinking about the congregation's first black members, George and Milly, who had to attend services from the hayloft.  When the newer church was built, several seats were set aside in their honor.  As I was contemplating what it would have been like for them during this time before the Civil War, I noticed movement coming from my right side.  I looked over and saw a very dense, black outline of a taller man coming toward my car.  

My first thought was that someone from the church or nearby houses was coming to ask me to move along.  I turned my head to get a closer look, and as the figure came up to my passenger side window, instead of knocking on it like I assumed he would, the figure vanished.  Instinctively, I hit the LOCK button, and then frantically flopped around in my seat, trying to determine where the figure had gone.  I looked all around to see if I had just seen a shadow from a distance of someone walking nearby, but I came up empty.

Although I convinced myself that my eyes were just playing tricks on me, I became very uneasy and compelled to leave...which I did.  And even though this seems like a mild incident that can easily be written off as NOT paranormal in nature, there's something that bothers me about this experience that I can't put my finger on yet.  Oh, and the fact that this isn't the first time I've seen a similar figure on this church's property!

My first experience with a shadowy being that disappeared actually took place in the church's graveyard, located just right across the street from where I was parked.  In that incident, I was geocaching and was approached by a figure walking among the darkness.  To read about THAT experience, and a little history on this location, please see the link below:

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Star-Crossed Lovers of Carter Caves

Vintage Photo of X Cave, courtesy Joel Carter
This week's adventure took Luke, Aaron, my nephew Ryan, and me to Carter Caves in Kentucky!  We had a wonderful time, but I definitely need to go back because I chose quite poorly in picking an actual cave tour...

Due to the issues I've been having with my back (which are getting better, but I'm still leery) I thought from a meager description on a website that Cascade Cave, one of just three caves in the system currently open due to White Nose Syndrome, would be the least physically exerting.  I was wrong.  Although it didn't require the same stooping and tight spaces as X Cave, it was more than twice as long and had almost 4x as many stairs!  And much to my chagrin....wasn't haunted!

So in short, I want to go back and see X Cave, which according to the book More Kentucky Ghost Stories by Michael Paul Henson, is the only cave in the multi-cave system that is allegedly haunted.  Unfortunately, there isn't a whole lot of good information as to its actual paranormal activity.  But, as the story goes:

X Cave is so named because of its shape; four separate entrances meet in the form of an X shape.  It was "discovered" by the white man in the 1700s when that area began to be explored and populated by those of European descent.  The cave remained in private ownership until July 31, 1946 when the Carter Caves State Park opened as a result of several private citizens throughout the area donating land for use as a state park.  One such family that was instrumental in this move was the J.F. Lewis family.

Before white man, however, the area was populated by a Cherokee Indian tribe.  Huraken was a warrior with the tribe who had found a silver vein in the area.  He kept his discovery a secret, and planned on using his newly found treasure to woo the woman of his dreams....the chief's daughter, Manuita.

Then one day, the warriors of the tribe went off to battle, and many did not return.  Huraken was among those who did not return, so fearing the worse, Manuita flung herself off a cliff in mourning for her lover.  However, Huraken was not dead.  Instead, he had stopped at his secret silver vein in order to create gifts for Manuita, which he planned to present to her and the chief while asking for her hand in marriage.

Devastated upon learning of Manuita's death, Huraken gathered up her body, and hid her away in a known as X order to watch over her body.  The Chief, learning of his daughter's death, in turn blamed Huraken and sentenced him to death.  Huraken's last dying wish was to see the body of his beloved one last time, and so he walked into the cave.  He never came out.  It wasn't until years later that the bones of two people were found within the cave, among many silver treasures.

That's the legend....but I have yet to find out any information on HOW these tragic lovers actually manifest themselves paranormally.  Sounds like another good reason to go back to visit the caves once again! Perhaps around Halloween when the park hosts a Halloween Trail might be a good time to go!

Interesting Note:
In 1948, 13 people from a Sunday School class from Huntington's Fifth Avenue Church of God were injured when the suspension bridge to X Cave collapsed right before their tour group entered.  The bridge was never rebuilt.  Here's a newspaper article and photo from the event:   X Cave Accident

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Review for Dry Fork Campfire Tales

Title: Dry Fork Campfire Tales: Hauntings in the Dry Fork Area of WV
Author: Lee Allan Nelson
Published: by CreateSpace (April 2013)
Amazon Purchase Info, also available on Kindle

Most of you have probably heard me brag about my paranormal library and know that I love, love, love books on regional ghost stories.  This short little compendium, written by a local author, is an excellent addition to my collection!

At a mere 54 pages, this book manages to pack in a ton of interesting tales from the Dry Fork area of Tucker and Randolph Counties.  You'll find a few famous locations, such as Graceland and Halliehurst mansions on the campus of Davis and Elkins, at least one classic historic folktale (Darkie's Knob/Darkish Knob), and many others of a more personal nature that you won't find published anywhere else!  There's even a UFO tale if that's more to your interests.

As with other self-published books, there are some editing issues, but for the most part, this is a well-written and entertaining collection pertaining to my favorite subject.  History combines with folklore to produce some really great snippets of West Virginia culture in an area already rich in both history and well as natural beauty.  My personal favorite tales came from the renowned Canaan Valley resort...tales that I've been diligently trying to verify a little more information on before hopefully sharing them here with you!

I definitely recommend picking up your own copy for a quick, spooky read...and keep an eye out for this author's other books!  See below for website:

Halloween Books by Lee Allan Nelson

Monday, July 15, 2013

A Family Ghost Tale From East Beckley

MawMaw, 1940s
I owe a love of all things ghostly to my maternal grandparents, Eugene Gilkerson and Mary Williams Gilkerson.  They truly cultivated an interest in ghosts, history and folklore in me and one way in which they did so was to share their own ghost stories with me!  Like many West Virginians, my family can trace its lineage to a mix of Cherokee and Scot-Irish roots...and with that comes many Appalachian superstitions and a belief in things that go bump in the night.

The following tale is just a start of several family ghost stories that I hope to share with you in the coming weeks.

My grandmother was the second youngest child in a family of over a dozen children.  Her father died when she was two years old (around 1927), and her brother Jack was just a baby.  Several years after that, her older sister Thelma would die of TB, leaving behind her own little girl who was raised as my grandmother's sister.  Originally from the Hinton area, sometime between 1930 and 1940 my great-grandmother moved her  family to Beckley where there was more opportunity for work and education.  The move wasn't an easy one because....

...the only rental house they could afford just happened to be haunted!

MawMaw, from around the time they lived in the house
The home has long since been torn down, but it sat at the end of a cul-de-sac off of Eisenhower Drive in East Beckley.  Piney Creek ran past in the backyard, a large tree graced the front, and a ghost lived in the attic.

Almost immediately after moving in, weird things began happening.  The family had hung a calendar on the wall above the staircase leading to the attic, and each morning, they'd awake to find that the calendar had fallen to the floor.  No amount of nails or other fasteners could keep that calendar bolted to the wall.

In addition to the calendar, which seemed pretty mundane, the family noticed the nightly sounds of weird thumps on the staircase leading to the attic, and on occasion, blood-curdling screams piercing the darkness.  More than one of the younger kids also claimed to have seen a woman in a white night gown in the home.

Unsure of what to do, some of the braver of the children still at home decided to conduct their own investigation and prepared to sit up for a vigil one night in hopes of capturing who or what was making all the noise.

Obviously, nothing happened the night they actually went looking for it!  But, not long after that night, the screaming once again commenced, awaking the household.  Fed up, several of the boys decided the noise had indeed come from the attic, which, as this was a rental property, was locked and they had never received a key.  They broke the door down and found the attic stuffed full of what they presumed was the previous tenants' belongings.  Among the household and personal items, some bedding was found wadded up in a corner.  Among it was a pillow stained with what eerily looked like blood.

The bloody pillow was thrown out and as a testament to the end of the paranormal activity, the calendar above the staircase never moved again.  Later, they would find out from neighbors that apparently a man had murdered his wife in the house while she slept, by shooting her in the head.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Waldomore Mansion in Clarksburg

Waldo P. Goff
Waldomore Mansion is a neo-classical home, built in Clarksburg, WV for Waldo P. Goff and his wife, Harriet Moore.  Born in New York, Goff later moved to the area and served on the Virginia State Senate between 1833 and 1837.  Named for a combination of both his and his wife's names, Waldomore was completed around 1839 and stayed in the family for almost a century.

Then, on August 3, 1930, The Goffs' daughter, May Goff Lowndes, passed away and deeded the family home to the city of Clarksburg for the use of either a library or a museum...and nothing more.  This was the home May was born in on December 25, 1839 and was very specific in how she wanted the home used after her death.

The city complied, and in 1931 the Harrison County Public Library moved in under the direction of librarian Miss S. Scollay Page.  Miss Page managed the library until 1938 when she retired.  She passed away in October the following year.  However, the library remained.  After being established with the help of Mrs. Julia Walker Ruhl in 1907, it had hopped from building to building until it was blessed with its permanent home in the Waldomore Estate.  There it flourished until 1976.

Growing needs of a growing city resulted in the need for more library space, so a modern facility was built on the property, directly beside the Waldomore Mansion.  The mansion, in turn, was converted into meeting space, and the new home the West Virginia history/genealogy collection of the library.  In 1978, the house was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

And...somewhere along its long history, its picked up a ghost!

Susan Carleton writes excellent articles on the paranormal side of Clarksburg for and hers is the first mention of the haunting I've seen online.  According to Carleton, a woman in white is seen gazing out from the upstairs windows of the mansion.  In addition, in two separate incidents, the soft tinkling of several piano notes has come from the Steinway piano housed in the mansion.  When the librarian went to investigate, it was discovered that not only was the quilted cover still firmly in place over the piano, but that the room it was in was locked!

From the Clarksburg-Harrison Public Library

So who could this ghostly woman (and possibly piano player) be?  There's at least four good candidates, just discussed in this short blog!

Could it be Harriet Moore, whom the house was built AND named for?  Or could it be her daughter, May Goff Lowndes, whose dream of seeing the home turned into a library and/or museum has come to fruition and remains so, even after all these years?

Possibly, instead of being connected to the family, our female ghost is connected to the library itself!  Julia Walker Ruhl was instrumental in starting the library and most likely would be overjoyed with the fact that after several decades of "homelessness," the library found a wonderful permanent home.  It may also be Miss S. Scollay Page, a life-long librarian who oversaw the actual move of the library into the mansion.

I strongly suggest that if you are in the area, go check out this wonderfully historic resource.  Oh, and there's also an added bonus that I didn't mention....

As part of the West Virginia collection, the Waldomore Mansion houses the Gray Barker UFO Files!!!  Check out this special collection of hundreds of books, magazines, photos, files, and even props from the famous West Virginia UFO researcher and author.  It is open during normal business hours or by special appointment.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Phantom Lioness at the Cincinnati Zoo

Photo of Leo the Lion from the Ohio State Archives
On Friday, we're taking Luke on his first zoo visit!  Although this time around we've chosen to visit the Columbus Zoo, I wanted to share a haunted tale from another Ohio zoo...the tale of Cincinnati Zoo's Phantom Lioness.

It all began way back in 1872.

Apparently, the city of Cincinnati was under siege by none other than caterpillars!  So that year, Andrew Erkenbrecher and others organized  the Society for the Acclimation of Birds.  The society was responsible for importing initially around 1000 birds from Europe to take care of the caterpillar problem.  But, just as you can imagine, this led to another problem even after the caterpillars were gone:  what to do with the remaining "exotic" birds?  In 1873, the zoological society of Cincinnati was born.

Two years later, on  September 18, 1875, the new zoo opened.  It was the second zoo in the whole country, opening just a mere 14 months after the Philadelphia Zoo.  And, it was a small endeavor, with only  769 animals, over half being birds.

Over its long history, the zoo has struggled financially but today is regarded as a premiere example of education and conservation.  It has picked up a variety of different species but more importantly to the paranormal world, it has picked up at least one ghost!

This ghost isn't a normal ghost.  It isn't the spirit of one of the few human beings that dedicated his/her life to zoo work.  It isn't anyone associated with a horrible park accident, or even having ties to the land on which the zoo was built.  This ghost is a ghost cat....a lioness to be precise.

The book, Haunted Cincinnati and Southwest Ohio, by Jeff and Michael Morris, contains some of the best information available on this spooky tale of a phantom lioness who stalks her prey among the pathways of the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Gardens.  Many witnesses have come forward with shockingly similar stories:  if they are caught walking alone, anywhere in the park and at any time of day, the lioness will stalk them.  Walking alone, one can hear the soft, yet heavy padded footsteps of four large paws following closely behind them.  If they speed up, the phantom pursuer speeds up.  A deep, low growl will come from behind them, and fearing the worse, the prey starts to run.  When they are sure that they are about to be attacked, they turn around and find....NOTHING!

Others, however, turn around and catch a glimpse of two emerald shining eyes glaring at them.  These eyes have also been observed peering at visitors from the ends of dark corridors and through the leafy green vegetation that spots the zoo's landscaping.  Are these the eyes of the phantom lioness?  And why is a lioness haunting the zoo to begin with?

No one really knows which of the park's many lionesses this phantom could belong to...or even why she might be there, as no lions have ever been involved in any particularly tragic circumstances.  Instead, many believe that she is a guardian of the zoo.

Lions have long been associated with not only bravery and courage, but also of nobility and royalty.  And, interestingly enough, the ancient Egyptians especially held lionesses in high regard, not only as fierce warriors and hunters (its the females that do the hunting) but as protectors.  As "queen" of the animal kingdom, the lioness perhaps is protecting her subjects, long after her death.

German Connection:
The zoo was established by a group of German immigrants and in fact, the first guidebooks for the zoo were only available in German!  There is a strong symbolism with the lion and Germanic heraldry, with two prominent Germanic bloodlines featuring a lion symbol on their crests.  Does this perhaps tie in with the phantom lioness?

It is possible to potentially witness the phantom for yourself!  While some sources say that the only time the lioness comes out is at night, others claim she prefers no time of day....just so long as you are alone.  Since the zoo is often quite crowded during the day, its hard to find a place during normal business hours where you're completely alone, which is probably why after dark is heralded as being favorable.  To get around these constraints, I would suggest going in the off-seasons, or visiting during the zoo's holiday festival of lights extended hours!

Vacationing in Cincinnati and looking for another great haunted family fun spot?  Check out the Ghosts of Kings Island!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Man Who Ate Paste

From: Find-a-Grave user, NevadaBob
A lot of my readers are familiar with the small town of Goldfield, Nevada for the simple reason that it boasts an allegedly haunted hotel...and that Zak and the Ghost Adventures Crew investigated there with quite interesting results.  However, I found something even CREEPIER than a haunted hotel...

...I found out what happens when you eat too much paste.

I think as elementary school children, we all knew that one kid who ate the paste.  Maybe curiosity got the better of us, and we too imbibed.  And while it was pretty gross, and probably pretty weird, it wasn't dangerous was it?

It was for one man, an unknown homeless man who found himself starving on the streets of Goldfield Nevada in 1908.  Goldfield was a relatively new town, having just been laid out six years previously after pioneers from nearby Tonopah discovered gold deposits in the area.  Over the next decade or so, the town proved extremely prosperous, but not for the gentleman in question.  Finding himself without a place to stay, or enough money in his pocket for a meal, it is said that this unknown stranger fished a rather large tub of discarded library paste out of the trash, and started to chow down on what he assumed was a simple paste of flour and water.

Unfortunately, at the time, library paste contained another ingredient, "alum," which was a chemical compound made out of sulfates and water designed to enhance the adhesive qualities of the paste.  Although generally harmless, and even used a means of inducing vomiting, apparently alum is toxic if large doses are consumed.  Which makes one wonder...just how big a tub was this guy EATING?

In all fairness, it is noted that this individual had a heart condition, which was simply worsened by the consumption of the alum, but I'm still not sold.  Intestinal blockage might have been a little more believable for me, but not alum poisoning.

In any event, the unknown man died on July 14, and was buried in the Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery.  His final resting spot is a large rock painted white with red lettering.  His identity remains a mystery, but his legend will live on in infamy among thousands of Pinterest subscribers!

Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery

There's actually an interesting bit of history about the cemetery where Mr. Paste Eater lies for eternity. The original cemetery was established in 1905, right in town.  It was the final resting spot of around 70 of Goldfield's earliest pioneers.  However, as the town grew, the idea of a downtown cemetery didn't sit well with the people.  The Las Vegas and Tonopah Railroad Company came through town and decided that it was demoralizing for their passengers to step off their trains and the first thing they see be a cemetery.  Similarly, it was considered bad taste for visitors of the Goldfield Hotel, which opened in 1908, to look out the window and directly into the town's burial ground.

Therefore, a group of men known as "official ghouls" worked under the cover of darkness to move the bodies to a more suitable location, outside of town.  82 additional burials would be added to the original 70 pioneers, including a murder suspect who hanged himself and another man who was shot.

Goldfield Pioneer Cemetery Photos

Goldfield Historical Society