Sunday, April 15, 2018

Parkersburg's Haunted Castle

According to the WV Division of Culture and History's "On This Day in West Virginia History" series:  On April 15, 1872, Peter Godwin Van Winkle, who represented West Virginia in the United States Senate from 1863 to 1869, died in Parkersburg. 

Photo property of Susan Sheppard,
Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tour
In the Julia-Ann Square Historic District of Parkersburg, WV, there's a lot of history...AND a lot of hauntings! One of the more notable haunted buildings is the Van Winkle-Wix House, also known locally as The Castle. The Castle was built around 1833-1836 and served as the one-time home for Peter G. Van Winkle, a lawyer and renowned politician.

The house standing today (not to be confused with the demolished Peter G. Van Winkle House that was located nearby) is vastly different than the original. Back when the home was built, there was no Ann Street, and thus, the 1209 address of the home didn't exist! Instead, the home faced the Ohio River. Between the period of 1870 and 1899, the Castle underwent some pretty major renovations, giving it an updated Victorian appearance with the added turret and tower, and raised roof. The front door was also moved so that the new main entrance faced Ann Street.

Over the years, the Castle has been a private residence, a girl's school, and an apartment complex. It has also set empty for long stretches of time, adding to its mystery and haunted reputation! However, in October 2013, owner Craig Wix sold the property to Standard Oil. Craig, who had owned the property since 1985, also did some major renovation work and lived in part of the Castle off and on. In fact, it was under Craig Wix's ownership that some of the most fascinating stories of the home's hauntings were born.

In 1990, renovation and construction work was taking place on the home when some really weird stuff started happening. Years later, workers would report to Susan Sheppard of Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours that they were seeing the apparition of a man with curly blond hair and a ruffled shirt, roaming the house. When they gave chase, the man disappeared!  Workers outside the home also saw the apparition. As it was standing in the window, they were able to snap a photograph of it. The photographs can be found in Sheppard's book, Cry of the Banshee. (Theresa's Note: I can't find these photographs, lol. I have two copies of this book...a first edition from 2004 that has no photos at all of the Van-Winkle Wix House and an edition from 2008 that shows two photos of the house taken on tours. One photo shows a ton of 'orbs,' while the other allegedly shows a female figure in the window. I'm guessing these photos made it into the next edition, which I will now have to track down!)

Photo by the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

It is an almost universally accepted theory that renovations tend to stir up paranormal activity and after Standard Oil purchased the home, another round of renovations began. Originally, Standard Oil was going to use the property to house their visiting shareholders and staff, but by 2016, falling profits prompted the company to seek out other sources of revenue. The city allowed them to begin renting out the facility for weddings and other events, but the citizens were resistant to an all out Bed and Breakfast in their residential area.

The Castle can be rented out, and it is open several times a year for public events, making the chances of having a paranormal experience there all the greater (and legal, since you won't have to trespass!). Even if you don't catch a glimpse of the curly-haired gentleman, people have experienced plenty of other types of activity as well. The most common reports are phantom footsteps, but disembodied voices, cold spots, turning doorknobs, and objects that seem to move on their own have all been witnessed.

Sources and Additional Reading:
Historic Home Gets New Lease on Life, by Paul LaPann. Parkersburg News and Sentinel (October 19, 2013)

Delivering the Shivers: Top-Rated Ghost Store Scares Up Some Haunted History, by Julie Robinson. Sunday Gazette-Mail (October 5, 2008)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

HPIR Founder, Melissa's Haunted Travels Blog

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