Monday, December 2, 2013

The Mystery of Ol' Thump...Solved?

R.D. Bailey Dam

For generations, residents along the Guyandotte River in Codger Town heard the sounds of a phantom horse and buggy.  Did workers building the R.D. Bailey Dam in 1967 finally solved the mystery, nicknamed Ol' Thump, once and for all?

At the turn of the century, a young boy from the small Mingo County community of Codger Town (near Justice) was out playing by the Guyandotte River when he heard the most peculiar sound.  O.M. Perry heard the distinct sounds of what he could only describe as a horse-drawn wagon, making its way up towards the bridge over the river, near where he was.  He moved out of the way and waited for the wagon to pass...but it never did.  At least, it never VISUALLY passed the dumbfounded youth.  Instead, Perry claimed to hear the wagon roll past him, and the sounds disappeared mid-river as the phantom horses and their load crossed a small bridge.

It was quickly theorized by residents that these ghostly sounds, which were dubbed "Ol' Thump," must have been the result of an early pioneer family who was either killed by Indians, or who died when they tried to ford the river with their wagon.  No one was REALLY sure, however, what was causing the strange sounds, but witnesses kept coming forth with identical tales.

One of these witnesses was none other than Perry's own son, Michael!  In 1956, Michael was playing at a neighbor's house.  This neighbor lived along the river and while the boys were out in between the house and the bridge, they heard the unmistakable sounds of Ol' Thump.  Just as his father had witnessed when he himself was a boy, Michael too witnessed the sounds of a horse-drawn carriage disappear.  Thinking it was a certain neighbor in his truck, the boys waited for the man to appear, but never did.  What they did experience was the sounds suddenly stop in the vicinity of the middle of the river.

Ol' Thump continued to make "appearances" well into the 1960s and there are many old-timers still in the area who are willing to share their own experiences with the phantom horse-drawn wagon.  However, the year 1967 saw the decline of the Ol' Thump legend...and many believe that a scientific explanation has finally been put forth to dispel the ghostly goings-on once and for all.

In June of that year, construction began on the R.D. Bailey Dam.  Originally named Justice Dam, but later changed in honor of a Wyoming County judge and state senator, R.D. Bailey Dam wasn't completed until 1980.  However, workers for the Army Corps of Engineers soon found out early on in the construction that there was a prehistoric underground river flowing directly below the riverbed of the Guyandotte River in the area!  It is now widely accepted that Ol' Thump was actually the result of rocks and debris moving and shifting below the Guyandotte River, causing an auditory illusion of a phantom wagon that disappeared in the middle of the river.

Today, the area which was once the community of Codger Town is part of the R.D. Bailey Lake Wildlife Management Area.  Encounters with Ol' Thump have nearly come to a complete halt, but if you're in the area, keep your ears open...you never know what you're gonna hear!

More information on this location can be found in the book, A Guide to Haunted West Virginia, by Walter Gavenda and Michael Shoemaker.

*Looking for MORE haunted locations in Mingo County?  Read about the haunted Dingess Tunnel at Theresa's Haunted History!*

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