Thursday, January 31, 2013

Stevens Clinic/Correctional Facility

Stevens Clinic Hospital-Circa 1940s
When I sat down to do some internet research this evening, I had a very clear goal:  I wanted to find out more about a very interesting "ghost" story that I had heard several years ago and add it to my growing list of Haunted Places in West Virginia.

That story was a tale from Panther, McDowell County in which witnesses were seeing a phantom fire engine, often described as having no driver, but always described as being an older engine, possibly from the 1950s.   Locals feared seeing this engine drive by because within the next three days, a house nearby would inevitably burn down.  At one point, this vehicle was being spotted so often that a local news channel, TV6, picked up the story.  I had heard about it because our local WSAZ channel also picked up the story.

There are a few mentions of this tale online, but not a lot of details that I didn't already know from memory.  And, surprisingly, the BEST information came from a McDowell County TOPIX post on haunted locations throughout that county.  It was this TOPIX thread where I found an overwhelming amount of stories from another location:   Stevens Clinic.

The Stevens Clinic opened up in Welch in 1930 under the direction of the Bluefield Sanitarium.  It was named for Dr. W.B. Stevens, who along with Dr. Harry Camper worked with two other Bluefield doctors to get the hospital up and running as a 100 bed facility.  The hospital closed to patients in 1987.  However, it already had a reputation for being haunted.

According to the TOPIX thread, both staff and patients alike had reports of paranormal activity...and many of the personal stories that dotted the conversation were eerily similar.

One of the most prolific experiences involved a tragic death of a four year old girl who was the victim of a fire.  Sounds of a baby or small child were often heard throughout the building and one nurse who was working at the hospital at the time of the girl's death reported that immediately afterwards, you could hear the child actually crying out to make the fire stop and that you could catch whiffs of a fire smell run past you in the halls.

The apparition of an unknown woman could be experienced in the former OB ward and the third floor was home not only to an unearthly moaning sound, but a man who would leave one room, only to walk into another and disappear.  The second floor is also active, with lights flickering on and off on their own and sink faucets that would turn themselves to full blast.

Stevens Correctional Center-Present Day
In 2001, the property was bought by the county's Economic Development Authority.  In 2006, after renovations, the former Stevens Clinic reopened as the Stevens Correctional Center, a medium security prison with 322 beds.  There is no word whether or not the inmates or staff are experiencing paranormal activity!




*Looking for more McDowell County haunted places?  Check out Welch Community Hospital!*

Ashmore Estates Hit by Severe Weather


Ashmore Estates is located in Illinois.  It was built in 1916 on the grounds of the county's Poor House Farm, and housed those down on their luck until 1956.  That year, it was converted into a home for the mentally disabled, operating until 1987.

Since 2006, Scott Kelley has taken care of the property, running a haunted attraction, and allowing public ghost hunts for those interested in the REAL hauntings of the building.  Ashmore Estates has been investigated by Ghost Adventurers, TAPS, and the Booth Brothers for their film, Children of the Grave II.  Now, Scott and Ashmore Estates need YOUR help!

On January 29th, strong winds that ripped through parts of Illinois caused significant damage to Ashmore Estates, ripping off the new roof, destroying several buildings on the property, and knocking down trees.  Luckily, no one was hurt, but immediate action needs to take place in order to further prevent any damage and help the Kelley family raise funds to protect the property.  Reaching out through friends due to their own loss of electricity, the Kelley family had this to say about how you can help:

Here is what they requested: 1. repost that we are selling all the props, costumes, and other haunt paraphernalia asap. 2. Come over any time today, and bring your gloves, mud boots and muscles. We need to move a lot of things very quickly. 3. Bring us cardboard cartons and boxes. “Our grief and shock over these losses is eased by how you, our community of friends and loves ones, are reaching out to us,” they said.

If you are reading this and are able to help or are interested in purchasing props and other items, please reach out to the owners at 217-512-9499 or spookmeister@ashmoreestates.net

Also, a PayPal account is being set up for those too far away to donate any muscle power.  As soon as I can find a link to it that works, I'll update.

Ashmore Homepage

Article on the Damage

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

This Day in Haunted History-January

The year 2013 is a very special year for us here in West Virginia!  On June 20th, we'll be celebrating 150 of statehood!  As a tribute to our Sesquicentennial year, I've decided to do something a little fun on the Theresa's Haunted History Facebook fan page:  I've been taking the daily This Day in History facts from the WV Division of Culture and History and sharing any "haunted" history that may be related.  These posts accompany a link to a location on my blog that discusses the topic at hand.  Not all days will be represented...just the ones where I can justify a haunted history event!  Oh, and as I found out while doing these, there are some dates that have a haunted history connection...but I have yet to fully research and post them, so those will be omitted for right now.

Since Facebook has decided that I have to PAY in order to ensure that all my fans see my posts, I've decided to do monthly re-caps of the This Day in Haunted History Feature...just in case you've missed any.  The original text from the Division of Culture and History will be in italics, with my own commentary in normal font.  Please enjoy!

(WV Division of Culture and History "On This Day in WV History" master list)

January 3
On January 3, 1921, the State Capitol in Charleston was destroyed by fire.  Luckily, we got a beautiful, and haunted replacement!  WV's State Capitol Building

January 4
On January 4, 1808, Harman Blennerhassett was released from prison after being found "not guilty" of treason for his role in the Aaron Burr conspiracy.  However, he'd lose his beautiful island home, which would fall into a state of disrepair.  His wife, Margaret, is still seen wandering the grounds of her former home, possibly guarding over the unmarked grave of her young child who was buried on the island.  Blennerhassett Island

January 5
The Cabell County community of Guyandotte was established on January 5, 1810. I actually have quite a few haunted locations listed for Guyandotte, but I think the cemetery is a good representation.  It was there at the founding of Guyandotte, holds many of its early citizens, and has some crazy haunted legends!  It's also a favorite stop on our tours!  Guyandotte Cemetery

January 14
On January 14, 1873, Glenville Normal School opened with T. Marcellus Marshall as acting principal. It later became Glenville State College. In 1919 "Sis" Linn was murdered, leaving a legacy of ghost stories at the college.  Glenville State

January 15
This one wasn't on the Division of Culture and History page, but I thought it was still relevant!  The Wells Inn turns 118 today, opening its doors for business on January 15th, 1895. The original proprietor, Ephraim Wells, is said to haunt the still prosperous inn, moving objects, messing with the elevator and slamming doors.  Wells Inn

January 18
 On January 18, 1842, the Virginia General Assembly created Wayne County from part of Cabell County.  Today, the county is home to at least TWO haunted cemeteries, one of which was so bad that HPIR was called in to investigate!  Wayne County Cemeteries

January 21
Confederate General John McCausland of Mason County died on January 21, 1927. He was the second to last surviving Confederate General and left a quite unique, and quite haunted home, located on old Rt. 35 between Winfield and Pt. Pleasant. Visitors have reported footsteps and feelings of not being alone. Some attribute it to the old house with its unshielded wiring and EMF. Others claim that it is the spirit of McCausland protecting his home as he did in life, from the threat of those who didn't take too kindly to the fact that he never signed an oath of allegiance to the Union!  McCausland Manor
 
January 28
On January 28, 1861, at a mass meeting held at the Greenbrier County Courthouse, Samuel Price was elected delegate to the Richmond Convention. This same courthouse is still standing, and is considered by locals to be haunted. Check out the terrifying experience by two young kids!  Greenbrier Courthouse

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Guest Blog--Places to Investigate!

Hey everyone!  Sorry for the late posting of today's blog, but I've been feeling a tad under the weather.  Luckily, today we have a first ever Guest Blogger joining us at Theresa's Haunted History!  This blog comes from Joey Racer, a local paranormal investigator who has worked with several area teams...and who also just happens to be my cousin!  Joey has shared with us some area locations that are ideal locations for investigators, and I've added a few comments below.  Please enjoy!

weston hospital would be good place to try the obanden tracks in weston is good place to try i been there once ive been to alum creek cemetary is good place to try i been there 2 or 3 times capital plaza theater would be good try i think ive been to spring hill cematary in charleston it would be good try again and theres a place in harts about a woman named mary thurman

Theresa's Commentary:

The Weston State Hospital, or Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum as the new owners are calling it (as an homage to one of its earlier monikers) is an excellent place for new investigators, and those who are not necessarily working with a team.  This location is what we call a Pay-to-Play, meaning simply...you pay for a night of investigation.  I personally have not investigated this location, but I have been on a history tour of the place, and had visited the grounds several times before the new owners took over.  I am convinced that this place is the real deal in hauntings...but just make sure you do your own historic research first!  Please see the TALA Website for more information on how to book your own investigation at this Civil War era hospital!

Nearby, is the Flinderation Tunnel, also the Brandy Gap Tunnel #2 and its an excellent location that is very accessible to the public...for FREE.  For those traveling a long distance to investigate TALA, the Flinderation Tunnel is a great two-for-one investigation opportunity while in the area.  I've written extensively about this location on my blog.

Alum Creek Cemetery is another great place where most teams have gotten some type of evidence or had some type of experience.  I've also written about this location on the blog, linked to above.  Please be mindful, however, that proper permission should be sought if visiting after dark.  WV Code calls that all cemeteries are actually "closed" from dusk until dawn, and this is located on the property of an active church.

Unfortunately, Capital Plaza Theater in downtown Charleston may be a little harder to investigate.  I looked into the opportunity myself awhile back when I was taking an Historic Preservation class with Billy Joe Peyton, which was held in the building.  Even with his help and influence, we were told that the director over that campus had a strict policy of NO paranormal investigations whatsoever.  But...there is hope!  When the former WVSCU President was essentially overthrown, much of the administrative staff was also replaced, and a new person is now in charge of the building!  For more info on the history and hauntings, however, see the link above.

Spring Hill Cemetery in Charleston is known for its beautiful sculpture and being the final resting place to many of Charleston's most prominent early families.  The most paranormally active spot tends to be the old Pauper's Cemetery section, but I've heard people have experiences throughout, especially in the oldest sections.  

Lastly, the tale of Mamie Thurman is a classic in West Virginia ghostlore.  Mamie was a young woman who was murdered under mysterious circumstances, and her killer was never brought to justice.  Her apparition has been seen many times along 22 Mine Road, just outside of Logan (near Holden), where her body was found.  In addition to her apparition being spotted, 22 Mine Road is a popular legend tripping spot, and on any warm evening, chances are, there are several cars parked along the road in order to test out an old urban legend.  It is said that if you park on this road, Mamie (or sometimes, in other stories, a miner) will pull your car uphill!  Many have parked and felt the unmistakeable pull of their vehicle uphill.  A friend said that when she went, there was a kid on a skateboard also testing this out.   Of course, this is just an illusion known as a gravity hill...or is it?

Thanks again to Joey for taking care of the blogging today!  It really worked out since I was sick today and did NOT feel like doing anything constructive, lol.  However, I've got a very special treat for my readers in the Ashland-Ironton area planned for tomorrow!   Sweet dreams!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Paul's Story

Today's blog relates an old family legend and the mystery that has surrounded the death of a young soldier.  This story may seem familiar---it was posted on the old Freewebs version of Theresa's Haunted History, but was somehow lost when I made the transition to the Blogger site.  Here is a retelling of one of my personal favorite tales, updated with a little more historical background (courtesy of Ancestry.com) and the best photo that I have access to.  Please enjoy Paul's Story!

For as long as I could remember, a creepy framed photograph hanged in my grandparents' Beckley home, just inside the front door.  The photo was of a young soldier in uniform, and even though it was taken shortly after the outbreak of the second World War by a professional photographer, there always seemed to be something that made the photo look much older.  It was a black and white head shot, but it had been artificially color-enhanced in some areas of the face.  The cheeks and lips had been tinted pink and the eyes the palest of blue.  The whole photo had a wash-out appearance, like the film had been exposed for too long.  Honestly, as a child, this photo terrified me, and I wasn't the only one.  It was a long-running "joke" in the family that no one cared for that picture because those pale, pale eyes seemed to follow you around, wherever you'd go in the room.  It was relegated to the living room because everyone refused to sleep in a room where that photograph hung, but my grandmother refused to take it down.  That's because, the photo in question was of her beloved brother.

Paul Lovell Williams was born July 25, 1922 and was only one of three boys in a family that had 13 kids.  My grandmother, Mary Williams Gilkerson, was born three years later and constantly looked up to her big brother.  With no siblings in between them, they were as close as a brother and sister could be. 

Paul was called into service shortly after America joined World War II.  He entered the service on November 21, 1942 and eventually rising to the rank of U.S. Army Corporal.  Less than two years later, his life, as well as my grandmother's would change forever.

As troops stormed the beaches of Normandy, France, Paul was among the ground troops.  However, when the brutal fighting was finally over, Paul was missing.  He has been declared MIA since June 6, 1944.  His mother, Mary Alice Boone Williams received his purple heart and a small pension.  His father, Lewis Williams, had died when Paul was just five years old.

Having lost a loved one to war is tragic enough, but what happened years later is a mystery that has never been solved, and probably never will.  It has been a source of family legend for years.

Sometime well after Paul's death, my great-grandmother, Mary Alice, received a letter postmarked from a small village in France.  Inside, written in broken English, was a letter from a French woman.  This woman claimed that she and Paul had been married for several years.  All had seemed fine, but then he had become distant and agitated, like something was bothering him.  Then one day he left and never came home.  Going through the personal belongings he left behind, this woman had found my great-grandmother's address and believed that he may have been headed back home to the United States.  In this letter, the French woman pleaded for my great-grandma to write back to her, letting her know where Paul was.

The exact contents of the letter have been lost to time and circumstance.  My grandmother only read the letter once before my great-grandmother snatched it and threw it into the fireplace.  Paul never did make it back home to Beckley, WV.   Until the day she died, my great-grandmother refused to mention the letter or the French woman ever again.  However, AFTER she died, rumors abounded as to just what really happened to Paul.

As I see it, there could be a few scenarios.  My grandmother had spoken with a friend of his, also in the service, who claims that he did see Paul land at Normandy, but in the chaos, lost sight of him.  It is very possible that this French woman may have stumbled upon Paul's deceased body, took his dog tags, and then waited an "appropriate" amount of time before contacting his family with the bogus wife story in an attempt to get money from my family.

In another scenario, Paul DID survive the attack on Normandy, but went AWOL to escape the horrors he had seen.  He would go on to marry a local girl under an assumed identity.  In a similar, but much more romantic story, Paul survived the attack, but was left wounded and dying (perhaps with a case of amnesia) when a French nurse found him near death and nursed him back to health.  The two fell in love, got married, and lived happily ever after...until his disappearance.

If Paul DID survive Normandy, only to marry a French woman....why did he leave her?  Where the heck was he going, and why did he never come home?  He had a younger sister and a younger brother, plus a niece and a near-invalid mother at home who counted on his support.  Did he TRY to make it home and met with an untimely fate, or did he simply willingly disappear, only to start his life over anew?

The general consensus among family members is that the letter was nothing more than a hoax from some woman trying to get money, but there are questions that will never go answered.  Because the letter was destroyed and all parties who had even a fleeting glimpse are now dead, there are very little details to research.  However, the photo in question remains as a testament to Paul's (short?) life and the eerily blue eyes and half grin show a face that is harboring a secret or two...in life OR in death.

*Unfortunately, I do not have access to the original photo.  After my grandmother passed away, neither my mother or her brother wanted it in their home, so it was boxed up and shipped to Paul's only remaining sibling in Michigan.  The photo posted here is that same official photo as found in the book, Young American Patriots-World War II-West Virginia, Volume II.  It is a compendium of West Virginia natives who died or who were listed as MIA during World War II and was inscribed and presented to my great-grandmother.  The book is now in my possession.*

UPDATE: February 2013--HPIR visited the state capitol for History Day, and before we left, we made a stop at the war memorial, where I found Paul's name.




Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Poltergeist Activity at the Kingwood Library

The Kingwood Public Library is located on Main Street in Kingwood, Preston County, WV.  It is a fairly modern and low-key building built around 1966, not unlike many other public libraries built around that time.  However, it has something that sets it apart from most other libraries...a ghost!

According to data provided by Assistant Librarian Debra Titchenell to the WVGhosts website, staff has witnessed a wide array of paranormal activity.  Strange noises are heard, including footsteps walking up and down the concrete stairs to the basement.  Objects move around on their own accord, and doors open and close without any living hands assisting.  Most interesting are the stories of books actually jumping off the library shelves!

Objects moving by themselves, especially books that seem to fly off shelves, is often indicative of what we'd call poltergeist activity, which loosely translates to "noisy ghost."  And while many believe that a poltergeist is actually a spirit, others give it the explanation of recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis (RSPK), which is short means that the activity is actually telekinesis caused by a living "agent," generally a pubescent female, but can include anyone going through high energy changes, hormonal fluctuations, etc.  Since libraries often are filled with children and young adults, it might seem like this is a plausible explanation.  However, Titchenell proposes an even better explanation, involving the history of the building itself.

Although the library was built in the mid 1960s for use AS a library and has not housed anything else, the land it sits on has a long history with the town of Kingwood.  In April of 1871, the site on which the library now stands, saw the construction of a new jail.  This new jail, which replaced two previous ones located adjacent to the courthouse, was built by McAfferty and Menear, using locally produced bricks. It served the needs of Kingwood and Preston County until ground was broken on a new jail located nearby in 1924.

The new jail was completed and opened to inmates by 1925, leaving the previous jail empty.  That year, however, the property was bought by the American Legion, and the building used as their meeting space.  It remained in possession of the American Legion until 1966 when the Kingwood Volunteer Fire Department purchased it, and had the building torn down to make room for the new library.

So although the building is gone, the land is the same...and as many researchers will attest, the land itself can be just as haunted as any buildings.  In this case, it is believed that the land, and thus, the new building atop it, are haunted by the spirit of a former inmate who hanged himself.  The type of activity experienced does seem to fit well with the type of behavior one would expect from someone who died violently at their own hands while sitting in captivity.  Is he trying to make his presence known, or is he simply letting off a little raging steam?

Also, who is this gentleman?

I've done some preliminary research into trying to track down any suicides that occurred during the period between 1871 and 1925, but there isn't a lot of information available online.  Compounding the confusion is another eerie fact.  In 2005, the jail that replaced the one located on this site, was slated to close as WV was transferring into a regional jail system.  However, during the last days of the jail, in late July into early August, THREE separate inmates killed themselves by hanging within a span of 2.5 weeks.  In fact, two of the deaths occurred within a day or so of each other.  Today, that jail is used to house the sheriff's department and I can't help wondering whether or not it could be haunted as well....or perhaps, even cursed by the gentleman who hanged himself at the "old" jail.

Library Homepage
Preston County Journal article

Monday, January 21, 2013

Thomas, the Winged Cat of West Virginia

It sounds like something out of a fairy tale or a little girl's dreams:  a cat with wings, flying merrily about and having enchanted adventures in far away lands.  (To others, it may sound more like a nightmare, hehe)  But either way, a winged cat cannot possibly exist in nature, right?  Well, not exactly....

Although there is no such thing as a flying cat, nature has produced us several examples of cats, who it appeared, had wings.  There are actually three different scenarios that produce these winged cats, and as a result, winged cats have been reported all over the globe and throughout recorded history.  The first scenario is the most common, and that is, the wings are simply matted fur.  The matted fur explanation is most often seen in long-haired cat varieties as fur tends to become matted, and even starts to become "felted," resulting in what looks like wings that flap when the cat runs or walks.  This is also not uncommon for shorter-haired breeds, as they shed their winter coats in mid to late spring.  However, it might be more alarming to novice cat owners and mistaken as wings.  In any event, these clumps of matted fur are uncomfortable to the cat, and can harbor dirt, feces, and parasites, so they should be clipped off by a veterinarian.

The second explanation for the winged cat phenomena is a skin condition called Feline Cutaneous Asthenia (FCA), in which the wings are actually extra flaps of skin found on the cat's shoulders, haunches, or back.  What is really quite interesting with FCA is that many cats with this condition can actually move these flaps at will, showing that the wings do have muscular tissue and tendons.  Obviously, you would NOT want to cut these wings off.

Lastly, and the most rare of the conditions, is simply, extra appendages.  We've all seen the photos of the calf, and the sheep, and the chicken with extra legs and the same applies to these cats.  These extra appendages are usually fur covered, and at times, can be controlled by the animal, giving them the appearance of flapping wings.

West Virginia is lucky enough to have its own winged-cat celebrity, a white Persian named "Thomas."

In May of 1959, 15 year old Douglas Shelton of Pineville (Wyoming County) was out in the woods when his dog treed something.  The boy looked, and saw it was a cat, so he climbed the tree and brought it home.  However, Shelton would quickly see that this was not an ordinary cat--it had two wing-like appendages coming off its back!  As word spread of his unique discovery, Shelton began charging a dime for visitors to take a look at his new pet who he christened "Thomas."

A reporter for a Beckley newspaper, Fern Miniacs, came and examined the cat, which she discovered was actually a female.  It also appeared to be a Persian cat who she concluded, had wings that had no bones, but definitely gristle.  The wings were soft and fluffy towards the ends and slightly gritty towards the body.  An anonymous out-of-state veterinarian also concluded that the wings were of unknown origin, but a local conservation officer maintained the opinion that the cat was simply shedding its coat.  His opinion was largely ignored by the growing number of Thomas fans.

Thomas' popularity grew so much that she even landed a spot on the Today Show.  Thomas and Douglas Shelton took the train into New York, and appeared on the show live on June 8, 1959.  However, the show would have negative consequences.  Watching that day was another Pineville local, Mrs. Charles Hicks.  Hicks claimed that the cat was HERS, and that her name was Mitzi.  Mitzi had run away as a result of being given some ear drops, four days before Shelton found her.  Hicks claimed that Mitzi was a gift that had been purchased by a friend in California.  Friends and family had all seen her wings, and could verify that she was indeed property of Mrs. Hicks.  She demanded the cat be returned, but Douglas Shelton refused.  As a result, Mrs. Hicks took the matter to court.

The case was tried on October 5, 1959 and everyone in the courtroom was shocked to see Douglas Shelton carry in a wingless cat, and a shoebox containing two clumps of matted fur.  Shelton admitted that Thomas had shed her wings back in July.  Mrs. Hicks nastily replied that the cat in question was NOT her Mitzi.  She was rewarded $1 in damages, and the Shelton family was awarded full custody of Thomas, the now wingless cat.

But that's not where the weirdness ends, folks....

In 1966, the famous Fortean researcher John Keel was traveling through southern West Virginia and attempted to locate the formerly famous Thomas and her owners.  Although unsuccessful in tracking them down, Keel was in West Virginia, as opposed to his home base in New York, when he received word that a carload of kids in Pt. Pleasant, West Virginia had been terrorized by a large man-like flying beast with glowing red eyes.  Because he was so close, Keel was one of the first Fortean researchers to arrive on-scene in the sleepy little Mason County town, and thus, began his long journey with the Mothman phenomena.

*The photo above is NOT of Thomas, since I can't find a really good one online or in print to scan in.  If you know of a photo of Thomas and have permission to use it, please let me know.  Thanks!*


Sunday, January 20, 2013

NC's Dana Auditorium Has a Ghost...or Two

I don't really like posting TWO haunted locations not in the tri-state in a row, but as part of my 2013 resolutions for this site, I am determined to finally finish Round One of my Haunted America series!  I'm also determined to post more frequently, possibly once a day, and I admittedly don't have all my research together this morning for any of the the blogs I have planned out.  So, I grabbed my copy of Triad Hauntings by Burt Calloway and Jennifer Fitzsimons and picked the first location that looked interesting.  Luckily, I was able to find enough supporting evidence online to whip out today's entry:  The Ghosts of Dana Auditorium.

Dana Auditorium was built in 1961 on the campus of Guilford College in Greensboro, North Carolina.  It was named for Charles Dana, a local philanthropist who donated $250,000 to the college for the completion of the project, which was built on the former site of an 1891 YMCA building.  However, the land on which the Dana Auditorium stands actually has a history going back even further than the creation of Guilford or its predecessor, the New Garden Boarding School.  It has ties that go all the way back to the Revolutionary War.

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was fought March 15, 1781 in which British troops defeated the Americans, leaving over 172 total casualties, and over 600 total wounded soldiers.  In order to assist the many wounded and dying, a field hospital sprang up nearby...directly on the site where the Dana Auditorium would be built.

Shortly after its completion, the Dana Auditorium obtained its haunted reputation.  Many believe the resident ghost is a man who they have dubbed Lucas, and who was a soldier who died at the field hospital from injuries sustained in battle.  Lucas almost always seems to make himself known at the same time each night:  2am, leaving a wake of security guards and the occasional late-night music student his prime targets.  Lucas, while seen and felt throughout the building, tends to favor only two rooms---the Moon Room and the Choir Room.  He especially enjoys playing one of the many pianos located in the Choir Room, and also messing with the locks.

In 1973, Lucas gave two security guards quite a fright, as they entered into the main auditorium to find one of the heavy chandeliers swaying on its own accord.  As they watched, the chandelier fell and crashed, leaving them both pretty shook up.

From time to time, Lucas is actually spotted.  A security guard turning a corner in the hall encountered a weathered looking man directly in front of him.  When questioned, the man said nothing, but turned and walked into the Moon Room.  Lucas has also been seen in the auditorium's balcony, along with another possible apparition. 

In more recent years, the ghost of a little dark haired girl wearing a white dress has been seen, and many say she's mischievous, and possibly, a little malicious.  One student staying late to rehearse on the piano noticed the little girl watching him in the Choir Room.  Creeped out, he immediately left.

As to the identity of this little girl, no one online has really brought forth any theories, however, it is interesting to note that Shadowlands actually has a listing for the Mary Hobbs Hall, a campus dormitory, being haunted by a little girl named Mary.  According to the legend, Mary had a slumber party with several friends in the attic of the home.  Some local boys, wishing to scare the girls, started throwing rocks through their window.  Somehow, a fire started, and Mary didn't make it out alive, and thus, now haunts the dormitory.

However, according to the college, Hobbs Hall was never this private residence as listed.  Rather, it was built in 1907 as a female dormitory and named after the wife of Guilford President, Lewis Lyndon Hobbs.  Mary Hobbs wished to improve educational opportunities for women with financial difficulties, and thus, set up Hobbs Hall as a co-op type facility where girls could live, and share the chores of cooking, cleaning, etc. as a way to support themselves.  By the 1940s, the attic of the building did house up to 12 seniors, which was considered a privileged location. 

There WAS a fire that broke out in the attic on November 29, 1976, caused by a curtain coming in contact with a curling iron. The impact of that fire, as seen in the blackened, charred remains of the attic, is still visible today, and is probably the basis of this legend.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Witch of the Joshua Ward House

Photo by Jim McAllister
The Salem Witch Trials of 1692 were a dark time in our nation's history, yet its a story that fascinates us still to this day.  Not only does the tragic tale remain alive in books, movies and throughout the town's museums and gift shops, but it remains alive and well in the many ghost stories and associated paranormal events connected to the untimely deaths of those unlucky citizens.

One such ghostly tale involves the present-day Joshua Ward House.  The Joshua Ward House was built long after the last of the accused was buried, but it still has some very deep roots involving key players involved in the witch trials.  Built in 1784 for a local merchant, Joshua Ward, the home lies directly atop the foundation of another home...that of George Corwin, High Sheriff of Essex County, Massachusetts.

Sheriff Corwin signed the warrants that led to the arrests and deaths of those accused in Salem of witchcraft.  Corwin's last victim was Giles Corey, who, accused of witchcraft, refused to admit to any guilt.  In order to illicit a confession, Corwin had him crushed under the weight of heavy stones.  Still refusing to admit to any wrong-doing, Corey used his last breath to utter a curse on Corwin and all the following sheriffs of Essex County.

Whether or not attributed to the curse, Corwin DID pass away from heart trouble in 1696 at the age of 30, which was still relatively young for that period.  He was originally buried in the basement of his own home, a decision sparked by several reasons.  Firstly, there was actually a lien on his body, brought on by a man named Phillip English who had been accused of witchcraft and had his property seized by Corwin.  Until he was reimbursed, Corwin was not legally allowed to be buried.  Further, Corwin's widow was afraid that due to the resentment harbored by many still in the village against her husband, Corwin's body would be disinterred and vandalized should he be buried in the church cemetery.  Therefore, Corwin's body would remain in his own basement until eventually he would be buried in a proper burial ground.

Because of Corwin's early demise and improper burial, it was originally believed that the paranormal activity at the Joshua Ward House was largely the result of his ghost.  Others believed that Giles Corey, his final victim, also haunted the house, seeking his revenge.  It wasn't until Carleson Realty took over the home in 1981 that yet ANOTHER ghost was believed to be the culprit of all the spooky happenings.

Richard Carlson had bought the home in 1981 and used it as offices for his realty business, and almost immediately, strange things started happening.  The burglar alarm would constantly go off at night, getting Richard or another employee out of bed to attend to it.  Doors would shut on their own and lights would go on and off, activated by unseen hands.  In one particularly interesting incident, an employee had two candlesticks on the fireplace mantle in her office.  As she unlocked her office one morning, she noticed that the candlesticks were turned upside down on the mantle, and the candles themselves were actually on the floor, one bent in an 'S' shape, and the other into a 'boomerang' shape, as if they had been melted and manipulated.  Another odd incident happened to Richard Carlson when a land graph that he was asked for floated out of its storage closet and landed softly on the ground in front of him and another witness.

Yet the most well-known ghostly manifestation at the house is the Witch Photo.

Photo as it appeared in the Haunted Happenings book by Robert Cahill


Dale Lewinski, and employee of Carlson Realty was taking Polaroid photographs of all the employees.  The photographs, which were simple head and shoulder shots against a white door frame, were to be displayed on a holiday door wreath in the office.  All the photos came out fairly normal....until Lewinski got to Julie Tremblay.

In her photo, Tremblay is clearly not visible anywhere.  Instead, there appears to be an image of a skinny woman in a long, dark dress and dark, frazzled hair.  To those who see it, it appears to be archetypal image of what we'd call a "witch."

This photo first appeared in Robert Ellis Cahill's book, New England's Ghostly Haunts, published in 1983.  The original photo was brought to his attention by another employee, Lorraine St. Pierre, who had had her own run-ins with the alleged paranormal activity.  According to the book, Julie herself handed over the the photo in question, along with a comparison shot of herself taken later in the home.  While Julie is quite attractive and many see the "witch" as just the opposite, I can actually see where this photo may or may not actually be Julie herself.  Julie has shoulder length dark hair, a roundish face, and a prominent grin.  If she were standing in front of a Christmas wreath on the door wearing a black dress, it could appear that it was part of her "hair."  It may be just my imagination, but I can actually see some similarities between Julie and the figure.  Please see the photo of Julie below for comparison:


Photo of Julie Tremblay.  Scanned from my copy of New England's Ghostly Haunts.


However, in Cahill's 1993 book, Haunted Happenings, the story and photo are revisited...with some slightly different information.  This book states that the photo was allegedly of Lorraine and turned over to him by Lorraine herself, who seemed genuinely embarrassed and frightened, noted Cahill.  The photograph is rather interesting, because before it was taken, there was another eyewitness account of this phantom.  A woman looking for an apartment was in the office, and while her realtor was on the phone, she happened to glance down the hall and into another open office.  Seated in a chair was a woman with dark hair, wearing a long grey dress.  Others around seemingly didn't notice this woman, and when the witness looked back, the woman was gone.

Was this image that of one of the many women tried and hanged over charges of witchcraft from the evil sheriff?  Or, was the photo simply a hoax?  Perhaps it was just a bad photo combined with the perception of an already haunted house.  Whatever the cause behind this photo, I'll be sure to update if any new information becomes available.

Today, the home is used for a publishing company, and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  It is still reported to be haunted.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Friday Night Funny-Orb Style

TGIF, right?  It's been a crazy week, so to bring a little humor to your Friday morning, I'm posting a Friday Night Funny...a few hours early.

This photo comes from Nelson Kennedy of St. Louis Ghost Hunters Society and shows a photograph typical of what one may find while investigating a dank, dusty environment.  The added commentary is also, unfortunately, quite common for many "ghost hunters" and those with an armchair interest and a camera.  Not only are there so many photos of bugs, dust, moisture, other airborne particles, etc. being passed off as evidence of the paranormal, but many of those photos are being "explained" some bewildering process where each splotch is confidently given an identity without any scientific or historical background to support the claim.

I'm posting this photo as a light-hearted satire; it is NOT meant to start a huge debate or insult anyone whose belief system includes orbs as indisputable proof of the paranormal.  However, it IS a call for everyone, especially those who are investigators and researchers, to educate yourselves and take into consideration the few scientific facts we DO have in this field.  If you're going to post an opinion under the guise of fact, be prepared to back up your own arguments.  If you can't, please don't throw a temper tantrum when someone questions you.  Having said that, please enjoy today's photo!!

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Two Years of Haunted History

Yesterday, on Wednesday, January 16th, Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State blog celebrated its 2nd birthday!  (I meant to post this yesterday, but got busy!)

Actually, Theresa's Haunted History goes back to 2006 when I joined what would soon become Huntington Paranormal Investigations and Research.  Shortly after joining the team, I was promoted to head up the historic research department.  I had always been interested in historic research, and had already done quite a bit of looking into the local legends on my own, even before I joined the group.  What I kept finding was that there was a LOT of misinformation out there.  There were really only 1-2 sites that reported information on West Virginia haunted places, and those stories generally came from young people and/or people who were not very well versed in either local history or paranormal research.  Then, other sites would pick up these erroneous personal accounts, and copy them word for word.

Therefore, Theresa's Haunted History was born!  I wanted one localized site where investigators, researchers, and the general public could access the most accurate information about haunted locations throughout the state.  And, since HPIR was located right at the borders, I decided that I had to include the entire tri-state region of Kentucky, Ohio and West Virginia.

The first Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State started as a Freewebs website since I didn't have the time, patience, knowledge or CASH to work with a real website, and for awhile, it was a perfect match!  I featured profiles of allegedly haunted hot spots throughout West Virginia, sprinkling in some from Ohio and Kentucky, and then expanding into photos, cemeteries, book reviews, and other things.  And then I started getting a LOT of traffic.  That, added to a LOT of pictures that I posted led to regular bandwidth exceedings, making it impossible to add more content, and sometimes, even having the website unavailable to the public.  I still couldn't afford (or understand how to make) a real website, so I struggled for awhile, but then decided that enough was enough.  I needed a new home for Theresa's Haunted History.

I chose to do this blog style because...basically it was free and easy, lol.  Oh, and there were no bandwidth limits to fight with.  I liked to have the ability to still have "pages" but also have all new entries easily available and seen.

My first entry was a profile for the Apollo Theater in Martinsburg, WV.  It was a brand new entry, not found on the previous site.  However, I quickly started the painstakingly mundane task of moving everything from the Freewebs site over to the blog...which is why there are a LOT more entries that first year.  It's taken nearly two years to move everything and sort out the formatting and photo issues that accompany such a move, all the while adding tons of new content on a fairly regular basis.

Today, this blog has grown more than I ever thought it would!  On the paranormal off-season, I'm averaging over 500 visitors a day.  I've been contacted by numerous television shows and publications, and have been plagiarized more than I can count, lol.  Still, I wouldn't trade it for anything.  I have a lot of fun researching and writing for this blog, and I couldn't do it without you many loyal readers.  Thank you so much for your continuing support through the new year.  I've got a lot of new features I'm working out for 2013, and even challenging myself to up the post count to at least once every other day!  Help be a part of the haunted history of the tri-state by bookmarking this site, following me on Twitter, or giving me a LIKE on FaceBook for the latest news on this site and all my other paranormal pursuits.  And, as always, if you have a question, comment, or know a location that needs to be included on this blog, feel free to email me at theresarhps@yahoo.com or leave a comment.  Thanks again!

-Theresa

(Photos are some early promotional images I made)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Chesapeake Community Center

For the past several years, the Chesapeake Community Center has caused quite a lot of buzz in the local paranormal community.  With the help of Quest Paranormal out of Ironton, the former school has been the subject of television appearances, newspaper articles, and regular ghost hunts open to the public.  And to those who have visited the building, their personal experiences and other examples of paranormal evidence have definitely justified the hype!

It all began in the 1920s...

Prior to 1921, there was no actual high school in the town of Chesapeake.  So while grades 1-8 were housed in several small 1-2 room schools, including a 2 room building on Rockwood Avenue, upper grades were sent elsewhere, including Central Jr. High School in Huntington, WV.  That Fall, nine Chesapeake resident students attending Central were sent home due to overcrowding.  As a result, the parents of the community met with the local Board of Education and demanded a solution.

A temporary compromise was reached.  For the 1921-22 school year, the school board rented out a large room on the second floor of the Fraternal Hall Building.  In addition to lodge meetings, church services, and the operation of a grocery store, the building now was home to 28 freshmen and sophomores from Chesapeake.  These students included the original nine students from Central Jr. High, as well as sophomores who had spent THEIR freshman term the year prior at Proctorville High School.  Presiding over the group was only one teacher, Mr. Willard McDaniel.

The following year, classes were moved to the first floor of the Fraternal Hall Building, where the "school" then occupied TWO rooms with added equipment and a second teacher, Mr. John Dillon.  In 1923 the high school moved out of the Fraternal Hall Building when it "switched places" with the upper elementary school students while arrangements were made for a more permanent solution.

That solution came in the form of the new high school building.  Construction started in 1924, and by the fall of 1925 the new Chesapeak East School was ready for enrollment.  This new building is the one that today, houses the Chesapeake Community Center.

During the 1948-49 session, a large addition was made to the school.  When school started back in the fall of 1949, grades 1-8 moved into this new edition, eliminating the need of at least two of the local, outdated 1-2 room school houses.  This set-up lasted until 1956 when a new high school was built.  The upper grades of Chesapeake East moved into this new high school, leaving the building entirely for the elementary grades.  This move left the school district with three schools:  1. The new high school 2. Chesapeake West Elementary, and now, 3. Chesapeake East Elementary.

Changes were made again when a modern high school was built in 1989, and no longer needed, Chesapeake East Elementary was left to eventually be re-born into Chesapeake Community Center.  Today, the Chesapeake Community Center has been in operation over 21 years and has offered many services to the community, including workout facilities.  In 1998, the local EMS also operated out of the "new addition."

With such a history, this school, like so many others, quickly obtained a reputation of being haunted, but these tales have only just recently really begun to make themselves public.  The current director of the facility relates that one of the first sightings came from a Marshall University student who was using the gym.  This young man claimed to see a little girl in a blue dress with long, blonde hair.  Shortly after that, a little girl who was visiting the facility with her father reported seeing the image of the same little girl in a mirror.

This little girl is one of the most sighted apparitions to walk the halls of the Chesapeake Community Center, and many believe she was a former student of the school.  Some who have seen her describe her as being around 12 years old with her long blonde hair done in curls.  One legend as to this little ghost girl's existence states that the girl WAS a student at the school who was made to commit suicide with her grandmother by jumping off the nearby Symmes Creek Bridge.  This story allegedly comes from the turn-of-the-century, before the school was built, so its possible the girl wandered in, attracted to the energy of years of students crammed into the building...or perhaps originally went to one of the little school houses located very near the East School.

Whatever her story may be, the little girl isn't the ONLY ghostly manifestation in the building.  Others have seen or sensed the presence of an adult male, and some believe he was a former janitor...because just about every "haunted school" has a tale about a ghostly janitor, lol.  But what is most un-nerving is the presence of something much more sinister.

With an influx of people visiting the building for the purpose of paranormal research, a previous "un-reported" entity has overshadowed all the rest.  The basement area is the women's locker room.  Countless investigators and visitors have reported that something in that room has been known to leave a nasty set of scratch marks on unsuspecting persons' flesh.  The reason for or identity of this suspected entity is simply speculation at this point, and history becomes slightly muddled.

Other sources have reported that this building IS the Fraternal Hall Building, and that it was built by a local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan.  There is also a rumor of a tunnel running under Route 7 and it is believed that slaves were held in the basement area.  While a mixture of KKK and slavery certainly does seem like a textbook explanation for such an angry, hostile manifestation, I haven't personally been able to verify these stories.  The building that is there now is definitely NOT the old Fraternal Hall Building.  It was built in 1924 for the purpose of a school.

However, I haven't been able to locate where this Fraternal Hall actually sat and until more information becomes available, I guess it IS possible that the foundation of the school actually sits atop a former building, perhaps even the Fraternal Hall, although I'm not sold on it yet.  If that building, or any building that sat on that property was built prior to the Civil War, its also possible that slaves could have sought refuge there.  Ohio was a free state, and there is plenty of literature out there about Lawrence County's involvement with the Underground Railroad. 

Whatever the history may turn out to be, the building is still widely considered as haunted, and public ghost hunting is allowed so you can experience for yourself (for a nominal fee) the many ghosts of these former hallowed halls.



*Information for this blog post came from a variety of sourches including:
The Lawrence Register
The Ironton Tribune
History of Lawrence County (1990)

*Historic Photo from the Herald-Dispatch.  Present-Day photo from Theresa.*

Friday, January 4, 2013

The Pink Pachyderm of Barboursville

Welcome to 2013 everyone!  It's been a wild ride, but we made it through another year at Theresa's Haunted History.  After the celebrations of the holiday season, I thought today's post would be a perfect way to start the new year.  Pink elephants.  If you've seen one, you might have partied a little too hearty over New Year's.  Or...you live in the tri-state area and have driven past Barboursville's most iconic art piece, wondering just what in the heck is the deal with it?

The Pink Elephant of Barboursville has many legends surrounding its existence.  A legendary tall tale allegedly passed around city hall is that President Ronald Reagan purchased the beast at a Washington, D.C. area flea market.  After sneaking it back under the cover of darkeness, it made its home on the White House lawns until it showed up on eBay during the Clinton administration, and bid upon by an anonymous West Virginia buyer. I remember the elephant being there WAY before the Clinton administration, as do most citizens, so I'm guessing this tale is a silly story told to newbies to the area.

Another, more believeable, tale has the elephant simply being a present (or memorial) to a little girl from her grandparents.  This theory is evidenced by the fact that in the concrete holding the massive giant in place there are a pair of tiny footprints and the name "Nikki."

Nikki's Foot Prints?


In reality, the Pink Elephant of Barboursville is simply a marketing device.  It was probably constructed and sold by the company "Sculptured Advertising," based in Sparta, WI who installed its first pink elephant in 1963 at an Iowa restaurant called the Pink Elephant Supper Club.  Similar pink elephants can be found throughout the United States, most notably at a Tennesse car dealership and a mini golf course in NY.

Our elephant was purchased in Michigan by local businessman David L. Taylor and installed in front of his gift shop in the summer of 1970.  The 15-20ft. fiberglass pachyderm had the facetious additional advantage of helping the local drunks find their way home...but probably also giving some psychedelic drug users quite the scare over the years, as well!

Now home to L.L. Roe Insurance


David Taylor's wife, Hazel, has stated that the elephant immediately became a success upon its installation, and a community icon.  It was said that David loved the publicity of the elephant, and before his death in 1986, would decorate the statue seasonally, even celebrating the Christmas holidays by donning a Santa suit, climbing aboard the pink pachyderm, and waving to the children.

After David's death, Taylor Gift Shop was rented out to other businesses, and Hazel toyed with the idea of moving the imposing statue to her backyard and painting it gray.  The public rallied against the move, and even the business housed in the Taylor Building threatened to move out if the elephant wasn't part of the deal.  Since that time, the elephant's popularity and mystique has continued to grow.

Many local citizens use the elephant as a landmark when giving directions.  Republican groups have flocked from all over to have their photo taken with the statue.  In 2005, when the elephant was vandalized by college kids who thought it looked better painted Marshall green, the community fought for it to be returned to its pink color.

Today, the Taylor Building houses the L.L. Roe Insurance Agency, and the elephant is still there, front and center, with a fresh coat of pink paint.  But who is the Nikki mentioned above?  That, I'm not sure about.  I thought that researching David Taylor's obituary, I'd find the answer...that Nikki was simply the Taylors' grand-daughter.  Unfortunately, the obituary only lists two daughters, Tootie St. Clair of Atlanta and Susan Sheets of Barboursville.  It's possible that Nikki is the daughter of one of these ladies, but I haven't found her yet...Nikki, are you out there????

Update June 2013:  About a month or so ago, we took my three year old son, Luke, to the Barboursville Dollar Tree, taking Route 60 from Hurricane.  I hadn't realized it, but we had NEVER driven him past the pink elephant!  He noticed it immediately and started yelling from the backseat, "Mom, mom!  Me see PINK elephant!  Did you see it?  See it, Mom??"  I am so happy that he is now experiencing the same excitement and wonder that I, and many others, have experienced!

Update July 2015:  I found Nicole (Nikki) and she's written an article about this iconic piece of Cabell County History! You Are Here Stories