Monday, September 29, 2014

The Ghostly Ballerina of Woodland Cemetery

Peters Monument, 2014 Ghost Walk 
This past Saturday, several members of HPIR including myself enjoyed visiting the annual Woodland Cemetery Historical Ghost Walk in Ironton.  The yearly event is organized by Debbie Rogers and hosted by the Lawrence County Historical Society.  Approximately 75 actors were stationed at various graves throughout the cemetery, ready to tell the tales, from a first-person perspective, of Ironton's most prominent and influential citizens.

The Woodland Cemetery Historical Ghost walk is a wonderful way to connect with the history of Lawrence County, Ohio and to gain a perspective of just how much of an impact that those who call this cemetery their final resting place had on the history of our country as a whole.  It is a FREE event, held only ONE night a year.  The 2015 date has already been set for Saturday, September 26th.

Anyway, sprinkled among the historical anecdotes are several stories of a more spooky nature.  Woodland Cemetery is no stranger to ghost stories, so obviously those presentations were my personal favorites...especially the sad tale of the Russian Ballerina.

Antoinette "Teenie" Sherpetosky was born on May 7th, 1894 to Stephen and Barbara Sherpetosky.  Originally from Russian controlled Lithuania, the family moved to the United States apparently some time after Antoinette's birth--according to census records, she was living in Chicago in 1910.

It was in Chicago that the young girl met and married her husband, James Francis Peters.  They married on February 12, 1916; she was 21 years old and the groom was 31.  James was originally an industrialist from Ironton, Ohio and came from a wealthy, prominent family.  He came to the Chicago area to work with the Inland Steel Mill.  Together the two would live in the Chicago area for many years.

During this time, Antoinette refined her skills as a ballerina.  She danced with the Imperial Ballet of Moscow, Russia and was trained in the Pavley-Oukrainsky school of dance, a 1922 off-shoot of the Chicago Ballet.  Her figure was said to be perfect, winning her a medal for physical fitness in the early 1920s, as well a cover photo on the publication, Physical Culture.

Aug. 20, 1923
Eventually James would retire, and he convinced Antoinette to spend their golden years in his hometown of Ironton, Ohio.  However, spending the majority of her life traveling the world and living in one of the country's biggest cities left life in Ironton a little boring for Antoinette, and she longed to return to where the action was.  So, in 1963, the couple was on an extended stay in Chicago.  Some sources say that they were there visiting a relative, when Antoinette and James were involved in a terrible automobile accident.

Antoinette did not survive her injuries and passed away on November 13, 1963.  Her body was returned to Ohio and laid to rest in a private mausoleum in Woodland Cemetery.  Unfortunately, she would not rest in peace.  Shortly after the funeral, vandals broke into the mausoleum.  They broke off the corner of her glass-topped coffin in order to rob her body of the jewelry she had on.  Stolen were a brooch supposedly given to Antoinette by the czar of Russia, and several rings.  In order to get the rings off, the grave robbers ended up breaking off two of her fingers.

She was temporarily moved while her mausoleum was repaired, but that wouldn't be the end of the vandalism.  At one time, two porcelain tile portraits graced the outer wall of the mausoleum, but had to be removed after local kids riddled them with BB shots.

But despite all the hardships, the ballerina danced on...and is still dancing to this day.  It is said that every night at midnight, especially when the moon is full, visitors to Woodland Cemetery can catch a glimpse of Antoinette twirling and dancing around the grave, scaring off any potential vandals and reliving her glory years as only she knows how.  Peter would join her in the grave ten years later...however, he has yet to make an appearance!

*For a quick overview of Woodland Cemetery's other resident ghosts, please see my original blog post:  Woodland Cemetery*

*Disclaimer---The gates at Woodland Cemetery are promptly locked each evening at dark.  Please seek proper permission before trying to catch a glimpse of the ghost of Antoinette Peters.  Theresa's Haunted History does not condone trespassing.*

Sources for this blog post include:

Cooke Co. Illinois Death Index, 1908-1988 (Via Ancestry.com)
1910 United States Census (Via Ancestry.com)
Indianapolis Star, 20 August 1923 (Via Ancestry.com)
Briggs Library Bio

Friday, September 26, 2014

The Haunted Merry-Go-Round of Pawhuska

Original as submitted to GhostStudy.com

This rather creepy photo was allegedly taken with a cell phone camera on September 18, 2008 at Williams Park in Pawhuska, OK.  It was submitted to the Ghost Study website by Kimberly Pradmore, and subsequently featured on the Coast to Coast A.M. website.  Immediately, photography experts and skeptics began their analysis...and found that, well...this one just didn't really live up to its claims of being proof of the afterlife.

In fact, by December of 2008, a forum member on the Ghost Place message boards by the name of Celt1114 had pretty well debunked this one completely in my eyes.  There had already been sufficient evidence from a host of different experts that this image was digitally manipulated by combining a photo of real, live people with a night time shot of a creepy, rusty merry-go-round, but it was Celt1114 who was the first person that I've seen to have actually provided the image that was used.

  
Image Used to Create the"Ghost" Kids    

Look at this image closely---without a doubt, it matches up with the ghost kids perfectly.  Of particular note is the boy in the middle wearing the billed cap, as well as the taller child standing up.  But, if you look closely, each child in the above photo is represented perfectly in the "ghost" photo.  Anyway, I looked to see if this particular location had a history of ghost sightings, especially at the merry-go-round and unfortunately, didn't find anything to support the tale.  In fact, the only mentions of a haunt at the park were specifically about this fraudulent photo.

Anyway, I wanted to drop a special thank you to all the photography debunkers out there, especially Celt1114, who worked on bringing the truth to light about this fraudulent photo.  As a paranormal investigator, there is nothing more frustrating than having to deal with obvious hoaxes.  This blog post wasn't intended to take credit where credit was not due, or to steal the thunder of anyone out there...but with many of these types of photos, I wanted to have one place to compile all my information so that it is easily shared.  I just saw an all-out brawl go down on a particular FaceBook group over the authenticity of this photo, so its handy to be able to refer anyone willing to listen to one link where they can get more information.

With Halloween fast approaching, I have a feeling we'll be seeing this photo, as well as many like it, many more times!


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Book Review for "Is your House Haunted?"

Title: Is Your House Haunted? Poltergeists, Ghosts or Bad Wiring

Author: Debi Chestnut

Published: 2011 Llewellyn Publications

Amazon Order Info: Also available on Kindle

Debi Chestnut is no stranger to the paranormal world. Growing up with psychic abilities, she's been actively involved in paranormal investigation and research for 25+ years. Is Your House Haunted is just one of several books on the subject of ghosts and hauntings.

As a paranormal investigator myself, I'm always reading and of course, always looking for additions to my ever-growing paranormal library. I was intrigued by this title's somewhat skeptical connotations--I thought it would be a great resource to share with clients, showing them that not every little bump in the night is necessarily paranormal.

I can't say that I'm disappointed in the book. There were a few times where I felt the author's claimed psychic abilities were discussed a little too much for a book of this nature and there were one or two times where the author presented seemingly contradictory viewpoints, but overall it was a nice little introduction. Amazon reviewer, Sheri Newton, summed up my feelings on this book exactly with her quote: 

"It doesn't go too much in depth on any certain subject, but that is okay because it wasn't meant to do that."

Anyway, the intended audience of this book really is the layperson experiencing possible paranormal activity; even a novice investigator will probably find this book a little simple for their liking. However, the author does a wonderful job of sprinkling in some interesting anecdotes and personal experiences among the much drier, mundane information. Therefore, it is pretty readable and even though there are a few times where it gets repetitive, chapters tend to be short, and to the point.  I would definitely recommend adding this one to your own shelf, if only for the purpose of having a tangible reminder to look at ALL possible explanations to gift to a client who is experiencing unexplained phenomena.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Baby Monster

Saar Pioneer Cemetery is located in King County, Washington and is home to a rather unique tombstone that has gripped the Pinterest world in its clutches.  It is the tombstone of Baby Monster.

Baby Monster was born on October 23, 1888 and passed away on February 3, 1889, not long after his/her third month of life. One does not normally expect to see such a tombstone with the words BABY MONSTER spelled out so clearly, especially in such a quaint, older cemetery.  This is something creepy...this is something Halloweeny...this has to be a joke, right?

No, its nothing like that.  It's simply a sad reminder that death does not discriminate and at one point in our nation's history, the infant mortality rate was through the roof.  Frankenstein Jr. does not rest in the cemetery, nor does this stone mark the grave of a deformed or handicapped child.  The word, 'Monster,' is simply a surname.  This "shocking" revelation can be backed up by the fact that Baby Monster was buried with a man named John C. Monster.  The elder Monster was born in 1851 and died in 1890.  More than likely John C. is the baby's father as they share the same stone...in fact, his name is listed directly above the baby's...a clue that is conveniently cropped from most of the photos of the Baby Monster tombstone.

According to Find-a-Grave researchers, John C.'s wife was Anna Marie Nelson Monster.  Anna was born in 1861 and died in 1920.  She is apparently buried in the same cemetery, but in an unmarked grave.  However, she is memorialized on a public tombstone honoring others buried in the cemetery without markers.  Sadly, there are two more members of the Monster Family buried in unmarked graves.  One is a female born in January of 1912 without a death date listed.  The other is a male born 9 months later in October of 1912 who died at the age of 2 days old. 
Photo  by Find-a-Grave contributor, Billie Sorrels

Anna would have been in her 50s when these children were born (if the data I found was correct) and John was already deceased so its unlikely these are her biological children.  However, Anna and John DID have a daughter named Christina who was born in 1880.  She married a man named Charles Mallory, yet tragically passed at the age of 22 in 1903. 

It's an extremely sad circumstance and one is left wondering why Baby Monster wasn't given a proper name on his/her tombstone, even after three months of life.  It's possible that this tombstone was erected or carved well after the two people it memorializes had passed away...and the person simply didn't have a record of the name of the baby.  Or, it could have possibly been because the child had never been baptized, and thus, never had a Christian name given to it.  Either way, if you find yourself roaming around Saar Pioneer Cemetery, stop by the Monster grave, not to gawk, but to pay your respects to a life taken so soon...and if you see anyone on social media freaking out about it, feel free to send 'em the link to this blog post! 

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Pirate's Mansion of Ohio

Photo from Touring Ohio

Argh, matey!  T'day be Talk Like a Pirate Day!  Obviously, tales of pirate treasure and ghost sightings often go hand and hand and states all along the eastern coast of the United States are filled with colorful tales of those denizens of the sea still protecting their booty.  However, one does NOT often associate these pirate legends and their resulting ghost stories with the mid-western state of Ohio!

Yep, that's right.  Our very own Ohio, right here in the tri-state, is home to one of the strangest pirate legends I've read in a long time.  Keep in mind however, that the emphasis is heavy on the "legend" part--to date, there's not a lot of really strong historical evidence to back this tale up.  But, enjoy it for what it is and a special thank-you to The Ghosts of Ohio for providing the information for today's blog!

Around 1825, a group of trappers arrived in Delaware County, Ohio apparently coming from the north, via Lake Erie.  One of the men, who went by the name of John Robinson, stood out from the rest.  Although most of the trappers were carrying light loads, Robinson was loaded down with heavy parcels.  And...it wouldn't be long until Robinson distanced himself from the rest of the trappers to explore the area on his own.

Shortly after his arrival, Robinson acquired a piece of land overlooking the Scioto River in what is today near Concord Twp in the southern part of the county.  Quickly, Robinson built a castle-like mansion on his bluff and filled it with expensive European furnishings. All of it was paid for with gold coins.

The townspeople were anxious to be invited to this opulent new residence, but Robinson was somewhat of a recluse, and did not welcome visitors to his massive estate, which included its own mausoleum.  The only news of what went on inside the mansion came from the few select craftsmen who were allowed in to do repairs and other work to the home.  The gossip brought forth from this visits did not disappoint!

Tales of the beautiful and expensive furnishings took second stage to the tales of the impressive paintings that decorated the home and of which Robinson claimed to have painted himself.  The one that stuck out most in the minds of the few visitors was a rather large painting of a pirate ship filled with pirates.  Visitors all made the connection that the ship's captain, displayed prominently aboard, bore more than a passing resemblance to Robinson!  Thus, the townspeople put two and two together, and became convinced that Robinson had been a pirate. It wouldn't be long before that rumor expanded to include the idea that he had hidden even more gold coins somewhere on the property.

But...if that weren't strange enough, the weirdness surrounding John Robinson didn't stop there.  Shortly after the completion of his home, another strange personage came to town.  A beautiful woman, with an olive complexion, decked out in brightly colored ruffled gowns was seen sitting outside the mansion with Robinson.  She was also seen rather frequently walking slowly along the banks of the Scioto River.

Over time, she was seen less and less, and finally she wasn't seen at all.  Was she one of Robinson's models for his paintings?  Was she a relative?  Some believed her to be a member of the Spanish royalty.  Whoever she was, the townspeople would never find out.  Sightings of her walking along the river were replaced by the sounds of screaming coming from the area of the mansion and surrounding woods.

The men of the town finally got together to investigate, but when they arrived at the mansion, they found that it was empty...and had been for quite some time.  A small, bloodied hand print and signs of a struggle suggested foul play, but it would be the painting that would forever scar the men and secure The Pirate's Mansion's place in haunted history.

Above the bloodied hand print hung a portrait of the mysterious woman, and as the men gazed at its beauty, the lips began to move.  Before it could say anything, the men ran out, and the home quickly gained a reputation for being haunted.

Pirate's Mansion is long gone now, but its still a favorite story with treasure hunters even in the modern age, some of who still believe that Robinson's gold is still waiting to be found.  It's also a favorite tale in ghost lore as not even the modern buildings that have sprung up in the area have dissuaded the young woman from continuing to take her evening strolls along the banks of the Scioto River.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Haunted Hamburger-Jerome, Arizona

Photo from The Haunted Hamburger website

Happy National Cheeseburger Day!  After I saw mention of this holiday pop up in my Facebook newsfeed a couple of times, I decided I needed a cute little graphic of a ghost eating a hamburger or some nonsense for my page.  Well, you can't find EVERYTHING you want on the interwebs...but sometimes you find something even better!

The Haunted Hamburger is a restaurant in the small town of Jerome, Arizona.  At the turn of the last century, it was a boarding house for members of the United Verde Mining Company.  Private apartments, owned by a lawyer from Prescott, could be found on the 4th floor under the name of Wykoff Apartments.  By the 1940s, the building was a private residence, and in the 70s, it became a restaurant known as the Jerome Palace.

While its still known to many as the Jerome Palace, The Haunted Hamburger name comes from owners Michelle and Eric Jurisin.  When they purchased the building around 1994 and began renovations, they learned rather quickly that they were not alone.  Like we see in many hauntings, the renovations tended to stir things up, and the resident ghost or ghosts had a passion for stealing tools---namely, hammers--from the work site.  No less than three hammers mysteriously disappeared, only to be returned in strange spots after a former owner asked the Jurisin's if they had met their hammer-stealing ghost yet.

But hammer stealing, even in the afterlife, gets old fast, and the resident specters like to make themselves known in other ways as well.  Eric had a door slam shut in his face, a chef was pushed into a shelf, cans fly off of shelves, and the hot water turns on by itself.  Some guests have seen a little girl wearing a dress.  Other guests have taken photographs that show an anomaly much like the form of an adult female.  Dubbed Claire, this ghost is said to prefer the upstairs dining area.

In 2007, The Arizona Paranormal Society looked into the claims of this haunting.  They got some pictures they believe may be paranormal, but unfortunately didn't get any audio evidence.  You can find out more about their investigation at the link provided below.  Anyway, this sounds like a really unique place to enjoy a meal!  Obviously, they specialize in hamburgers, with the Haunted Burger, the Double-Haunted Burger, and the Ghostly Burger being favorites...but if you're not a meat-eater, there's a selection of no-meat options as well.

Sources:

The Haunted Hamburger Homepage

The Arizona Paranormal Society Investigation Page

Fodor's Travel Review

Friday, September 12, 2014

Friday Night Funny: From Cute to Creepy

There's been a lot of sloth talk in my life lately, which sparked the memory of a hilarious article I read months ago about one of nature's strangest creatures--the sloth.  Arguably, sloths are NOT paranormal, but they are SO  hilariously creepy that they make a perfect addition to the Friday Night Funny archive. Anyway...

Baby sloths are seriously the cutest things on the planet.  You can't help but fall in love with their adorable little faces, and their slow, unsteady movements. LOOK at this little guy!  I just want to give him a big hug.



But, as sloths get older their cuteness takes on a somewhat disturbing new countenance.  That inherent slothy innocence becomes twisted into a disturbing, freaky ball of awkward.  I can only imagine what depraved, evil thoughts are running through their little minds...and I'm not the only one.  What is known as the Rape Sloth meme has taken the internet by storm with its ironic mix of horrific hilarity.  I won't post any examples here, but just look at this next lil' guy.


WHAT is running through his mind?  Is he planning to murder me and my whole family or knock over a liquor store?  Those penetrating, beady eyes look like they're staring into my very soul...wait, can he STEAL my soul???  Well, maybe not, but he is pretty creepy. However, there are still visible remnants of that cute little baby hiding under the 40 year old man-boy bowl cut and bangs.  You could probably argue that he's so ugly he's cute...but only approachable with extreme caution.

Unfortunately, the evolution of the sloth's demise into horror does not stop there.  Every living thing eventually has to die and return to dust. THIS is what is left when a sloth meets its maker:



AAAAHHH!!!  What level of Dante's Hell did that thing crawl out of? It's teeny head and its long, razor-like claws (a friend described them as something Freddy Krueger would be proud of) are straight out of a nightmare.  This particular photo doesn't do it any favors, either. Can you see this thing crawling toward you in that slow, hypnotic sloth gait, reaching out with those talons and scraping them down your tender flesh? I've seen representations of demons that weren't so terror-inducing!

Well, I've succeeded in freaking myself out and I hope I've done the same for you.  Sweet dreams, tonight!




Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Theresa Travels to the WV State Penitentiary at Moundsville

It's time for Part 2 of Theresa's Saturday travel journey!  If you read yesterday's blog, you'll remember that we had planned a day trip to Benwood, WV to see the country's only museum of its kind, Castle Halloween Museum.  When we originally planned the trip, I only had the vaguest of ideas where Benwood was and had associated it with being near Wheeling.  Therefore, the itinerary was to visit the museum, and then possibly get lunch and browse around some of the historic sites in downtown Wheeling.

Well, the museum IS close to Wheeling, but we ended up with slightly different plans that didn't involve Wheeling at all.  We didn't truly make the connection until we were almost at the museum that we were only about 5-10 minutes away from Moundsville...and we all know what's at Moundsville, right!?

Leaving the museum, we decided that we just HAD to drive past the prison and check it out.  We easily found the massive stone structure, and pulled into the parking lot at 10:54 am.  Daily historical tours of the prison are given each hour on the hour, beginning at 11 am, so marveling at our luck, we ran inside, purchased tickets, and eagerly awaited what was in store.

The daily historical tours (closed Mondays) run seasonally April through November 11 am to 4 pm and at $12 for an adult ticket, it is a wonderful bargain.  The tour lasts about 90 minutes and covers actually just a fairly small part of the first floor of the prison, but you still get to see some fascinating sites and hear a wealth of information.  I remember reading somewhere that all the historical guides were once employees of the prison, and that was definitely true in our case.  At 11 am, Maggie, a former prison guard who worked for ten years at Moundsville before it closed in 1995, took us into the non-contact visiting room to brief us on our 'stay' and to give an overview of the history of the prison.

I know most people reading this blog will already know quite a bit about the prison's history, and there is absolutely no way I can provide a comprehensive historical profile in this small space, but briefly, construction began on the prison in 1866 and it was built by inmate labor.  It was finally forced to shut down in 1995 as overcrowding and numerous complaints of inhumane conditions called for a new facility, Mount Olive, to be built in Fayette County.  WV State Penitentiary was built primarily from inmate labor, and between 1929 and the early 1955s, a south wing was added to help alleviate overcrowding.

Approximately 1000 people died while imprisoned within Moundsville's walls and over the years, this maximum security facility gained the reputation of being the country's most violent prison.  Over 200 escapes or escape attempts and two major riots are also a part of the prison's history.



In addition to being known as the country's most violent prison, many also believe it to be the most haunted as well.  Numerous television shows have featured the hauntings, and the prison and its permanent inmates have been featured in countless books and articles.  However, our historical tour really focused on the HISTORY, and shied away from the hauntings for the most part...saving that information for specialized ghost hunts and tours, also offered by the prison!


While we didn't get to go on the ghost tour THIS time around (we are planning on going in November) I'm not disappointed.  In order to really understand why a place might be haunted and to maximize your investigation opportunity, its vital to understand the conditions and what went on at a location.  I strongly encourage anyone planning an investigation of Moundsville, whether public or private, to first go on the historical tour and gain that additional insight and perspective.  We were even given the opportunity to be locked into one of the tiny 5 by 7 cells, that sometimes housed up to THREE inmates!

Our tour guide, Maggie, was wonderful at fulfilling those requirements.  By actually being there, she was able to recount to us first-hand perspective on what it was like in the prison, both for guards and for inmates.  She was blunt, and told it like it was, holding nothing back. There are a lot of misconceptions about life in the lock-up, and there is also a human element that sometimes gets lost in the sea of violence and the prison's haunted reputation.  It's all part of the history of our state, and our social history as well and I think its wonderful that it's being preserved and taught to new generations.  I'm really looking forward to our return!

Some things to take into consideration if touring:

*WV Pen Tours is the official website for all tours/hunts/events. Check out their site for a wide variety of different tours, tour prices, and availability.  In addition to the history tours, they offer private and public ghost hunts, night tours, photo tours, and a special Halloween haunted house attraction.

*Dress seasonably and wear comfy shoes.  Like the Halloween museum, it was fairly hot inside the prison during our late summer visit.  Bottled water was stationed at two different locations, available free to anyone who needed it.  There are some uneven spots in the floor, and some minor steps, but nothing too severe.  The actual walking was kept to a minimum with plenty of breaks and even a few places to sit while on the tour.

*Moundsville has a wonderful gift shop, and items are very fairly priced.  It is free to browse the gift shop and the small displays in the lobby, including a wide selection of shanks and Ol' Sparky the electric chair!

*Need a quick snack or ice cream break before or after your tour?  Across from the main entrance is an awesome little ice cream diner called Johnny Shar's Big Dipper Ice Cream Parlor and Circus Carnival Museum.  Food choices are limited, but it has the biggest selection of ice cream flavors I've seen under one roof!  As an added bonus, for $3, you can take a tour of the upstairs circus and carnival museum.  But, there's plenty of awesome memorabilia to see for free downstairs, as well!


Monday, September 8, 2014

Theresa Travels to the Castle Halloween Museum

Photo by Stephen David Entertainment, via Location Library
Castle Halloween Museum
Address: 1595 Boggs Run Rd. Benwood, WV 

Contact: 304-233-1031

Hours: Open by appointment only

Price: $8 admission

Gift Shop/Antique Boutique on-site



Over this past weekend, a very small planned trip north morphed into an unexpected adventure beyond what we ever thought we'd be doing in a whole year, let alone the span of a half a day!  In this first installment of a 3-part blog, join me on the first leg of our journey and how we came to get there in the first place!

Theresa Discovers The Castle Halloween Museum

For the past several years, members of HPIR have promoted our Haunted and Historic Guyandotte Tours at the yearly History Day at the Legislature, held each February at the State Capitol.  It's a day where historical interest groups from all over the state can come together...and its a great resource for finding unique tourism opportunities!  

At least, that's what happened several years ago when I picked up a newsletter being passed out by the West Virginia Association of Museums.  Sitting at our info table, I started reading through the newsletter during a lull in the action and was pleasantly surprised to see an article about a unique museum in our Northern Panhandle devoted entirely to the social history of Halloween.  I filed that information away, with an understanding that one day, I would take the time to make the trip.  For me, Halloween isn't just a one-day event; it's a lifestyle.  

As it is, life got in the way and the museum, while not forgotten, lost priority until my boyfriend came home one day and excitedly asked me if I had ever heard of a Halloween museum near Wheeling.  He then proceeded to show me a video on Youtube he found featuring an in-depth overview of all the wonders the museum has to offer.  We decided unanimously to up the priority level and make sure we crossed this one off our bucket list.  It took almost a year, but finally, we called and set everything up!  Early Saturday morning, the car was packed and we were off.

Planning The Trip

Boggs Run School: Undated photo from Marshall Co. GenWeb
The Castle Halloween Museum is open by appointment only and you'll need to call a few days in advance---even though the museum is a short drive off US 250, communications are spotty and it might be a day or so before the owners can return your call.  You can reach them through an email form provided on the website, www.castlehalloween.com, or you can call.  The phone number is 304-233-1031 and it totally went over my head until writing this down that last four digits of the phone number are 10/31, as in, October 31st---Halloween!

The museum itself is housed in the old  Boggs Run School, located on Boggs Run Road in Benwood.  A short drive directly off U.S. Route 250, the museum is just a few minutes away from both Wheeling, WV and Moundsville, WV...which, we'll discuss a little later on!  Anyway, Boggs Run, which wasn't incorporated into the town of Benwood until 1944 (and named after James Boggs who settled in the area in the late 1700s) is prone to flooding, so keep that in mind if the rains have been especially heavy.


The Tour

Our tour was scheduled for 9 am Saturday morning and we arrived a few minutes early after our nearly 3 hour drive from Charleston, WV.  Pulling into the parking lot, we were delighted to see the old school building adorned with gargoyles.  We entered through the "cemetery gates" and into the lower level of the building where immediately we were seized with hundreds of vintage boxed costumes, a collection of children's books, and other fun stuff.  We met our tour guide and owner, Pamela Apkarian-Russell, and her delightful husband, Chris, and began the guided portion of the tour.

Pamela is know as the Halloween Queen, and for good reason.  Not only has she amassed and curated a 35,000+ collection of Halloween and related memorabilia, she's also authored an impressive collection of books about Halloween-themed antiques and collectibles, as well as collections of ghost stories and history.

The guided part of the tour lasts around 90 minutes and Pamela is extremely knowledgeable about the history and the social and cultural significance of each piece in the massive collection.  Vintage costumes including Dennison crepe paper examples dating all the way back to the early 20th century,  Halloween-themed Fenton glass, mourning jewelry and other memento mori, board games, pottery, original paintings, folk art, voodoo memorabilia, decorations, advertising...this is just a minuscule example of what is available to see.  Plenty of antiques from early times up through modern vintage definitely evoke a feeling of nostalgia...and exhibits featuring newer examples of pop culture, such as Harry Potter and The Nightmare Before Christmas will interest the younger visitors.   If you're looking for a gory, horrifying house of terror, you're in the wrong place.  However, if you're looking for an excellent slice of America's favorite holiday from a cultural and historical perspective, you'll be in heaven.

Halloween Queen Pamela, and husband Chris.  Courtesy of castlehalloween.com

After the guided portion of the tour, you're free to roam about on your own to take a closer look.  There is so much to see that it is quite overwhelming!  You could spend a month in there and not see everything, which gives us plenty of reason to plan another trip!  We did spend a few minutes taking in some of what we missed the first time around, but found ourselves enjoying plenty of off-topic conversation with our gracious hosts.  We learned that they had moved the museum to WV about ten years ago, after living in New England.  Shoddy construction crews had destroyed the roof, and as a result, a corner of the main exhibit showroom was heavily damaged by rainwater.  We also learned that even though people have come from all over the world to this little corner of West Virginia to visit the Halloween museum, it is not well-received by the locals.  

For that reason, I strongly encourage each and every one of you out there reading this to visit this museum as soon as possible and bring your friends and family along!  This is a wonderful resource for anyone interested in history, or anything even remotely related to Halloween.  It is truly a unique experience and you'll never seen anything quite like it anywhere else.  We need to spread the word!  Make a donation or buy one of Pamela's books, available online if you cannot make the trip.  Certain instances have left a poor impression of West Virginia and her people on this couple, and I'd like to show them that this is NOT representative of all of us, or even the majority of us.  So, please support this awesome destination and help make it an integral part of Northern Panhandle tourism.

Extra Stuff to Consider:

*Are you visiting Moundsville Penitentiary for a tour or ghost hunt?  The Castle Halloween Museum is a very short and easy drive from the prison; it took us seriously only about 5-10 minutes to get there.  If you're coming from out of town, plan out a few extra hours before or after your penitentiary experience to tour the Halloween Museum.  You will NOT be disappointed!

*Bringing children?  Children are welcome on the tour, which can be customized within reason to fit their age level and interests.  However, in my opinion, this is a tour that will be most enjoyed by those ages 10 and up.  

*Mobility issues?  There are some very tight spaces, and a few stairs leading up to the front door and down to the main level of the museum.  However, if you require a wheelchair, please give them a call and let them know the situation.  I believe I read online somewhere that special accommodations can be made.  The good thing is, there really isn't much walking involved.  Still, wear a pair of comfy shoes, and dress seasonably.  Fans were placed liberally throughout the museum, offering a chance to cool down and keep the air moving, but it was still quite hot inside during our visit.

*Photography is allowed and encouraged!

*Bring cash for your $8 admission fee!

In Conclusion

I could spend hours just talking about all the cool things we saw and how much fun we had at West Virginia's best kept little secret.  In fact, our original itinerary was just to visit the museum, maybe walk around downtown Wheeling for a bit, have lunch, and then head back home.  Plans quickly changed after we realized how freaking close we were to Moundsville!  Check back tomorrow for part two of this blog series...and find out what was going on at one of the most haunted locations in the world!