Monday, October 6, 2014

Moundsville's Infamous Prisoner #45512: Red Snyder

The West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville is often credited as being one of the most haunted locations in the United States...and possibly the world.  With well over 100 years worth of the most violent criminals in the state passing through its stone walls, the prison has picked up a well-deserved reputation for being inhabited by those still serving out their sentences.

One of the most well known prisoners and one of Moundsville's most encountered spirits is William "Red" Snyder.  There are a lot of different stories concerning the mythos built up around this notorious murderer, many of which are not exactly true.  While it would be nearly impossible to do a thorough (and 100% accurate) portrayal of Red's history, I wanted to share a few pieces of documented history I was able to find out, as well as share some of his spirit's interactions with the living!

William Andrew "Red" Snyder was born 26 December 1946 to Emory and Laura Snyder of Lewis County, WV.  He was one of 12 children, some of which were older, some of which were younger than Red, who was often called "Billy" by his family.  Citing an obituary I found for his older sister, the children were: Betty Rae, David, Junior, Daisy, Zelma, Dora, Linda, Tommy, Bobby, Molly, and Jenitta.  Unfortunately, Red's mom, Laura, passed away at the early age of 43.  She died 22 July 1961 from complications due to breast cancer.

I haven't found out much about Red's early years, but a later newspaper article cites him as serving 32 months out of a 2-20 year sentence in Lewis County for arson, starting around April of 1965.  He served the time at the West Virginia State Penitentiary at Moundsville and was released on December 21, 1967. It was probably in prison where the nickname 'Red' took hold, thanks to his red hair.  He was also described as being 5'8'' with a stocky build and having hazel eyes.

It wasn't long after Red was released from prison that he'd find himself in trouble again...BIG trouble. Upon his release, he had found out that his 15 year old sister was dating a neighbor boy, a member of the Grogg family.  On Friday, January 5, 1968, Red planned on exacting his revenge on this boy.  Brandishing a high power rifle, he went into his father's bedroom in their home in the Dry Fork community and declared that he was going to "get that Grogg boy."  When his father tried to stop him, Red shot him in the head and fled the house, heading a mile up the road to the Frank Grogg residence.  Meanwhile, one of Red's younger siblings called the police.




Arriving at the Grogg residence, Red found that the parents, Frank and his wife, were not home.  They returned shortly after to find that Red had their 8 children, aged 3-22 years, held hostage at gunpoint. Grogg attempted to wrestle the gun away and was fatally shot in the chest.  City, state, and county police officers began arriving on scene and Red ran out of the house shooting at officers.  State Police Sergeant Andrick fired back, striking Red in the leg.  As he fell, other officers jumped on him and seized the gun.  He was found guilty of the murders of both Frank Grogg and his own father, Emory Snyder.  He'd never leave the state penitentiary again.

Prison life seemed to suit Red just fine, however, and he became a respected, yet highly feared prisoner and a leader in the Aryan Brotherhood, although he was somewhat of a loner.  Described as always wearing a toboggan hat, Snyder was a straight shooter with the guards and other prisoners.  If you didn't bother him, he didn't bother you, but if he wanted you dead, you better make your peace---and soon.  Snyder played a vital role in the 1986 prison riot, where three inmates were killed and 16 hostages were taken.  Several informants came forward and accused Red of having the inmates killed.  As a result of his involvement, as well as his suspected involvement in several other inmate deaths including a stabbing death in 1971, destruction of property, and tampering with locks, Red and his good friend, Rusty Lassiter were both assigned to North Hall, where the most violent offenders were housed.

According to an article in the Charleston Gazette, inmates housed in North Hall were usually given their recreation period alone and late at night.  However, Red and Lassiter were often allowed to take their recreation period at the same time as guards thought the friendship was good for both of them, psychologically.  It was during a Sunday evening, when the cell doors opened for the men.  Red was just coming out of his cell, number 20 (the very last cell on the ground level of B side in North Hall, marked with the words Aryan Brotherhood scribbled on the wall) when Rusty Lassiter ran up from his cell 10 feet away and attacked Red.  Lassiter had taken a metal part from his bed and filed it down into a shank, which he used to stab Red at least 15 times, but as many as 37 times by most accounts.  Red died in the early morning hours of November 16, 1992 after choking to death on his own blood.  According to former guard, Maggie Gray, Lassiter had been ordered to attack Red on order of Elijah Sutton, who wanted to take over leadership of the Aryan Brotherhood.  Gone was the feared and revered man who enjoyed watching Days of Our Lives, who was never without a chew of tobacco in, and who was distinguished by his raspy voice and unique laugh.

Red was supposed to be buried in the prison's cemetery on Tom's Run, known as White Gate Cemetery.  However, so respected and feared, even in death, by the other prisoners, they took up a collection to have his body taken to Riverview Cemetery, much to the outrage of local citizens.  After a brief fight, Red's body was allowed to be interred at Riverview, but no stone marks his final resting place.

Red's body may have finally made it out of the prison, but in the minds of many, his spirit never did.  One of the first people to encounter  Red's ghost was Maggie, who is now a tour guide for historical tours of the prison.  One morning before tours opened up, Maggie was doing her usual walk-through when she went passed Red's former cell and heard his distinct voice say, "Morning, Mag."  Intrigued, she sought the help of paranormal investigator, Polly Gear, and together they caught an EVP late one night.  Maggie was alone in Red's old cell and was telling him that his killer had recently been released.  When the recording was played back, Red seemed to answer back that he already knew.  As far as I can tell, Red doesn't necessarily like to be seen, but multiple investigators who have visited his former cell have claimed to have obtained EVP evidence, sometimes in not-so-nice language, and other communication in the form of EMF meter hits, ghost box sessions, etc.

Red was one of the prison's most notorious prisoners in life.  He has kept up that reputation in the afterlife, just waiting for the right person to come into his cell and have a chat.  Are you up for it?

Sources:
Laura Snyder's Death Certificate
The Herald-Advertiser 7 January 1968
Charleston Gazette 17 November 1992
The Haunted History of the West Virginia Penitentiary by Sherri Brake
Travel Channel's Ghost Story-Moundsville episode
Various resources from Ancestry.com

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.