Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Floating Coffin of Monongah, WV

The original purpose of Theresa's Haunted History was to provide factual documentation and resources for haunted locations throughout WV and the tri-state area. I wanted to focus on places that could be visited, but more so, I wanted to focus on places that were verifiable---places where you easily pinpoint, find documentation for details such as the people involved, and hopefully, could still experience something paranormal for yourself. Over the years, however, my focus has changed slightly, and I've realized the importance of sharing personal experiences, vintage stories, and events that are probably more folklore than fact.

This story probably falls into that last category. I found it in the West Virginia Folklore Journal, Volume 19, Number 1. It was published in July of 1977. Floating Coffin was included in a section of ghost stories, and it is noted that it was submitted by the late Thomas M. Leeper of Monongah, WV. I've copied the text below exactly how it appears in the journal, but  this tale can also be found in Ruth Ann Musick's The Telltale Lilac Bush, which was published in 1965. In fact, you can listen to an audio version presented by the WV Network on YouTube! Please enjoy this wonderful old tale and let me know if there are any other stories you'd like to see featured here!

WV Folklore Journal Illustration by Don Mangone. I love this picture.
While I mean no disrespect to the wonderful artist, I can't help but think that it looks like the ghost is flipping the bird to those ladies.

About the close of the Civil War, "Hatter" Sam Cooper lived at Monongah.  During the winter he set traps for small fur-bearing animals, such as fox, coon, skunk, mink, muskrat, and opposum.  One day while going over his trap line on Booth's Creek near the cornfield where Captain James Booth was killed by Shawnee Indians, he found a very fine fur hat sticking in the crack of some rocks.  It was new and had a small bullet-hole through the rim, through the side of the hat and sweat band, but there was no hole to show that it had come out on the other side.

He took the hat home and reported what he had found so the owner could come and get it, but one one ever claimed it. It was rumored around that a Pennsylvania drawer had been murdered there for his money.

A short time after Cooper found the hat, Mrs. Hess Bender, who lived near Bobtown, was going home and stopped for a drink of water at the Smiths, who lived about half a mile below where the hat was found.  Mrs. Smith met her and it was not until supper was about ready, and asked her to come in and have supper with them, which she did, and then started on home.

She was gone about half an hour when she came back to the Smiths.  Said she had forgotten her bonnet and could not do without it.  Then she told them that as she was going along, about the middle of the stretch of road that lays along the edge of the woods on top of the creek's bank, she saw a coffin with a man sitting on it, rise up from the upper side of the road. She could not see anything or anybody floating near it. She said that it came up about as high as her head, went quartering across the road and disappeared over the creek bank.  She said she was scared and had come  back to stay all night.

It was said that Isaac Koon, an old farmer living a short distance away saw the same thing, and he said it went over the creek bank, about where the hat had been found.  Then two women who lived near Bobtown saw the coffin and man.  Several others reported that they had seen it and it always came up from the same place on the upper side of the road, crossed the road, and went over the creek bank at the same place, and was always seen about the same time in the evening.

About 1874 or 1875 on a Saturday, several boys from Monongah and Rhea Chapel were at Boothsville playing baseball.  A new road had been made up the creek but the old road was still open.  In the evening Tom Rhea, Barney Whaling, and Will Barnes were coming from the ball game on horseback and took the old road for it was shorter to their homes.  Tom was a few steps in front of Barney and Will. 

Barney called to Tom and said, "Say, Tom, right along here some place is where that dead man lives."

"Yes," said Tom.  "I wish I could see him.  I would whistle for him to dance."

Just then the coffin and man came up from the side of the road.  Tom's horse saw it, reared, and whirled to run.  Tom was a good rider or he would have been thrown.  Barney and Will watched the coffin and man cross the road and disappear over the creek bank.  Whaling lived at Rhea's and Barnes went there to stay all night.  They got to talking about how far the horse Tom was riding jumped.

The next morning, being Sunday, they went back to see.  The horse tracks were plainly visible. They measured the tracks and all claimed that the horse had jumped 19 feet.  That was the only time that I ever heard of a horse seeing a ghost.

All of the old people living around there have passed on and I have not heard a word about the man and coffin for more than fifty years.

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