Friday, May 7, 2021

Mothman is Inform You About Your Car's Extended Warranty


Happy Friday! I hope your weekend is full of spooky fun, and your phone is free from calls regarding your car's extended warranty. But, if you do get a call from an unknown number, maybe go ahead and answer it ...unless of course you WANT to be chased down the highway by West Virginia's favorite flying humanoid. 

Heehee, on a separate note, I've seen this artwork many times before the hilarious caption was added, but I never really took the time to look closely. I love the license plate (which hopefully I'm correctly interpreting as meaning 'Fortean') and the fact that the steering wheel is on the opposite side of what you'd see in Pt. Pleasant, WV, leading me to believe the artist may be European?

If you or someone you know is responsible for the original artwork, or for adding the bit about the extended warranty (which is cracking people up all over social media) let me know so I can give credit where credit is due. Stay spooky, ya'll. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Remembering Susan: Susan Sheppard Passes Away

This past Monday (April 19, 2021), the paranormal and art communities were faced with a heart-breaking tragedy. Susan Sheppard --author, poet, astrologer, artist, and creator of the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours-- had passed away.

Susan Sheppard has been one of my biggest paranormal influences since I became familiar with her work in high school. My first interaction with her was while working on a school project.  The topic was West Virginia Tourism, and like the weirdo I was, I chose to do something with ghost tours. Unfortunately, at that time, there wasn't a ton of paranormal tourism and ghost tours going on in West Virginia, lol. I reached out to Susan about her Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours, and without hesitation, she sent me pamphlets, information, and a nice little note wishing me luck on the project. What I wouldn't give to have kept that note...

As my own interest and involvement in the paranormal field grew, my respect for Susan grew as well. I was lucky enough to be able to take her ghost tour several times and was so impressed! There's a reason it was voted as one of the best ghost tours in the country. Susan was so knowledgeable about both paranormal phenomena and local history and shared that information in a way only an artist could. Her love for the topic really shined through, and made even the most skeptical tour guest leave with something to ponder. 

Obviously, her most iconic paranormal work, Cry of the Banshee, is a beloved piece of my library, and I have multiple editions of it. I've probably scoured through that book hundreds of times, using it as a resource for blogs such as The Parkersburg Ghost Cat and Haunted Van Winkle House. In fact, I'm pretty sure that most, if not ALL of my blogs dealing with locations in Parkersburg were inspired by Susan's work!

 I also never missed an opportunity to see Susan speak at the annual Mothman Festival. She was a staple at this iconic gathering of paranormal enthusiasts, and always had an interesting topic to discuss. I especially loved her lectures on Indrid Cold and the Woody Derenberger Tapes. It was such a treat to listen to her speak, then go have a chat with her and Rosemary E. Guiley at their side by side booth. Susan was the epitome of class and knowledge, and no matter how busy she was, could always spare the time to answer questions and greet her fans. And, she had plenty of those! She was featured on one of my favorite shows growing up, Scariest Places on Earth (she talked about Lake Shawnee), as well as numerous other paranormal shows and documentaries. She was definitely well known, not only by the West Virginia community, but far beyond. 

Her work in astrology was also known world-wide. She appeared regularly on various television and radio shows as their in-house astrologer, wrote the horoscopes for Seventeen Magazine for a time, and created a beautiful deck of tarot cards that  are still widely used today. 

It wasn't until we became Facebook friends that I was really able to see and appreciate the many facets of Susan Sheppard's life. She was an award-winning poet who constantly supported other authors and poets. She created beautiful pieces of art in a variety of mediums, and enjoyed the work of Frida Kahlo. She was so proud of her daughter, actress Scarlet Sheppard. It was a beautiful glimpse into the life of a beautiful soul. Unfortunately, being connected on social media also allowed me to witness the quick and devastating decline of Susan's health, as she battled an aggressive cancer. Hearing of her passing still came as a shock, however.  

West Virginia's paranormal community has really suffered a loss, but so has the art and poetry communities, as well as the many, many friends, family members, and others who were positively impacted by Susan over the years. I hope she's at peace and that those who loved her can heal from this devastating loss. 

For anyone interested, on Sunday April 25th, starting at 3pm, a New Orleans-style memorial parade will be held in Susan's honor. The walk will start at Bicentennial Park and end at Riverview Cemetery. More information on this event can be found at the links below. 

Susan Sheppard's Obituary

Candice Black's article on Susan's passing in the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Ralph Jarrett: West Virginia Ufologist

Mr. J. Ralph Jarrett. Source

James Ralph Jarrett was born on September 11, 1923. In December of 1966, 43 year old Ralph was working as a mechanical engineer for Union Carbide and living at 2523 Winter St., which was located in the River Lake Estates subdivision of St. Albans, WV. That December would be one that would change the course of his entire life. 

At around 1:50 p.m. on Saturday, December 3, Mr. Jarrett and his brother were working on the north side of his Winter St. home. The day was cold, but it was calm, and the sun was very bright. The brother, Hugh Jarrett, was the first to see the unidentified object and alerted Ralph. The two men observed what they described as a wobbling piece of aluminum foil 200 feet above the Coal River. The object was gaining altitude, but Ralph managed to grab his binoculars within 40 seconds of the initial sighting, and further watched the object. He couldn't make out much detail as it was fairly far away, but could tell that it was disc-shaped, and that it reflected the sun. It made no noise and emitted no exhaust.

On Saturday, January 14, 1967, Ralph and his father, Hugh Jarrett Sr., spotted ANOTHER unidentified object. It was another clear day, but the temperatures were much milder on this day. At about 5:50 pm, as dusk was setting and a bright red sun was on the horizon, the two men stepped out into the backyard of Ralph's home. Ralph looked straight up and saw what he described as a brilliant star, brighter than anything else in the sky, moving south very quickly. But, once again Ralph was quicker. This time, instead of running to grab his binoculars, he ran next door and grabbed his neighbor, Donald Reitz, and Reitz's son, Karl, to witness the strange event before the object disappeared over the horizon.

A third sighting took place on Monday, January 23rd. It was a mild, clear night about 7:10 pm and Ralph was walking east in front of his home when he saw a weird light effect in the trees atop a steep cliff, due north behind his home. He thought it may have been a car's abnormally bright taillight, but then he realized he could see both the white light AND the orange-red light at the same time, and further, a car couldn't reach that point on the cliff. 

Jarrett shows a map of recent UFO sightings.
January 29, 1967 edition of Gazette-Mail. 

Around this time, local newspapers reported three additional sightings from the nearby area. On January 19th, Tad Jones had his infamous close encounter with a spherical craft on Interstate 64 near Dunbar. On Tuesday, January 24th, two boys in Nitro's River Dell Acres saw a ball of light on the mountain. And finally, on Wednesday, January 25th at about 6:20 am, Mrs. Robert Drake of Sun Valley Drive, St. Albans saw an oval-shaped, glowing, pulsating object just below the moon and near the crest of a hill about a quarter of a mile away (believed to be the same hill/cliff where Jarrett saw the object). 

Jarrett reached out to all the witnesses, and compiled data about each sighting, plotting all the information on a map, which he sent to the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP) in Washington, D.C. He was convinced that if this wasn't the same object, these sightings within such close proximity of each other must be related in some other way. His interest in UFO research would only grow from there.

By February 1967, he had built a simple device to detect magnetic mass, and thus, hopefully detect UFOs. Jarrett stated his theory behind the device in a February 5 article in the Sunday Gazette-Mail. He believed  that such an object to move without noise and exhaust and in such as manner must be utilizing magnetic field, and thus, "a permanent magnet when suspended from its midpoint will align itself with the earth's magnetic field. If extraneous electrical fields are brought within the limits of the magnet, it immediately re-aligns with the fields and will experience movement." 

Jarrett's UFO detection machine. 
February 5, 1967 edition of Sunday Gazette-Mail

Ralph continued to read articles, interview UFO witnesses around the area, and speculate as to what so many people, including himself were seeing in the skies. His interest led him to become president of UFO Investigators, a coalition of UFO researchers and investigators. This group not only investigated UFO sightings, but was instrumental in bringing UFO education to the Kanawha Valley.

The group sponsored a presentation by the infamous UFO researcher from Clarksburg, Gray Barker in April of 1968, and set up a PO Box that people could write to to share their experiences or request further information. One of the more significant events held by the group was the 6th Annual Convention of The Congress of Scientific Ufologists. Ralph, along with Gray Barker, put in a bid to have the convention held in Charleston, WV because, as Ralph states, West Virginia was a 'ufo capital' because the state had more sightings per capita and of a greater variety than any other state in the union. 

The convention was held June 20th and June 21st, 1969. The first night was a closed session, open only to members of the Congress of Scientific Ufologists, and held at the Daniel Boone Hotel in Charleston. The next evening, the event was open to the public, and offered both a 'flea market' where attendees could purchase books, magazines and other UFO-related materials as well as a line-up of various speakers. It was held in the Little Theater section of the Charleston Civic Center and admission cost $1.50. 

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find much more about Ralph Jarrett's involvement in the UFO community past the 1960's. He passed away on August 2, 2007. I'm so glad I recently stumbled upon his name while researching the Tad Jones sighting. Although I've lived within 15 minutes of St. Albans my entire life and have had an interest in paranormal phenomena as long as I can remember, I had never heard of him and his close involvement with West Virginia's UFO history! 

I believe this is the property where Jarrett's three UFO sightings happened.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

Madam Bess: Lewisburg's Clairvoyant

Mildred Carter Bess-Clairvoyant. Seated on the right. Source

Recently, I've been really interested in exploring a different side of West Virginia's paranormal history: the Spiritualism movement in the Mountain State, and, as an off-shoot of that topic---well known psychic mediums in our area. However, I was researching a completely different topic when I found a newspaper advertisement for 'Mildred Carter Bess--Clairvoyant' from Lewisburg, WV. On a whim, I did a quick Google search for Mrs. Bess, got a few hits, and felt compelled to share what little of her story I could piece together. 

Mildred Carter Bess was a prominent African-American citizen from Lewisburg, West Virginia. She was the daughter of Ed and Willie Carter, and although there are quite a few different birth dates given for her, it seems that she was born sometime between 1895 and 1900. Mildred was the wife of Forest Carter, and I actually found TWO marriage licenses for the couple on the WV Archives website. The first marriage certificate dates from September of 1920, when a 22 year old Mildred married 22 year old Forest (Forst) Bess in Lewisburg. The word 'void' is written in the top left corner of the document, then crossed out. The second marriage certificate is for the 1936 union of Forest Bess and Mildred Carter Bess, both 37 years old, in Greenbrier County. As the 1930 census lists a 26 year old DIVORCED Mildred Carter Bess living with her parents, Ed and Willie Carter, it would seem that the couple broke up, only to be remarried years later. Maybe that's why I felt an immediate draw to Mildred---my husband and I were together in our early 20's, separated, and then got married at 36. 

02 August 1937 edition of Raleigh Register

Anyway, the 1930 census also gives Mildred's occupation as medium/fortune teller, so it would seem that not only did Mildred discover her gift to contact the other side early in life, she made a career out of it fairly early in her life as well. Throughout the 1930's, her newspaper ad for a clairvoyant ran fairly regularly in The Raleigh Register, a newspaper from nearby Beckley, WV. She also ran ads in other newspapers around West Virginia and surrounding states offering readings by mail. All the client needed to do was send her their date of birth and $1. 

She was known to the local college girls, as 'Madam Bess,' and undoubtedly, she probably did plenty of business helping young ladies get a glimpse of their future husbands and/or career prospects. She was aided in her work by her crystal ball, which she kept covered when not in use. But 'Madam Bess' was much more to her community than just the local fortune teller.

Mildred Carter Bess was devout member of the John Wesley Methodist Church in Lewisburg, even donating at least one picture that hung on either side of the altar. She spent many years presenting a gold medal to the top-performing student at Bolling High School's graduation ceremony. She and her family are also strongly tied to one of Lewisburg's most historic businesses. 

25 January 1930 edition of Pittsburg Courier

In 1897, Mildred's father, Ed, purchased a building on what is now Washington Street. It is believed the building was built by slave labor, and could have been built as early as 1834. It served several purposes, including a post office, until 1891 when an African-American man named Frank Perkins purchased it and turned it into a barber shop. Ed Carter also ran a barber shop in the location until 1934. Although Carter remained owner of the building, he leased the barber shop to Jesse Lawrence McCoy and left the management of the property up to Mildred. 

Mildred had living quarters above and behind the barber shop, and up until 1934, she would have to enter through the shop itself. But, after it was leased to Mr. McCoy, she had a separate entrance put in. McCoy leased the barber up until shortly before his death in 1970, and over the decades, Mildred became close to the family. In 1991 McCoy's daughter, Mary A. Summerline published an article about her memories of growing up in her daddy's barber shop, and discusses her friendship with Mildred. As Mildred was a superstitious person who believed it meant good luck for a man to be the first visitor to one's home in the new year, each New Year's Day, Mr. McCoy would be sure to stop in early to pay her visit. 

Mary enjoyed visiting Mildred and would do so alone, or accompanied by her mother and/or sister. She notes that Mildred had an impressive piano (her mother had used it to give piano lessons) and they often bonded over piano music, after which Mildred often served juice and cookies. 

The barber shop is the blue building in the middle. Source

Forest passed away in 1951, and Mildred joined him in 1985. They are both buried in the Lewisburg-Bolling Cemetery. It doesn't appear that the couple had any children. However, Mildred's legacy lives on in the contributions she made to Lewisburg's African American community, and community of Lewisburg as a whole. And to me, her legacy lives on through a simple ad in a local newspaper offering the services of a clairvoyant.

As for the barber shop, it is now known as Flanagan's Barber Shop, owned by the Gene Flanagan family. Gene started working under Mr. McCoy in 1962 and took over the shop later on. The shop is still open today and is considered one of the oldest continually operated businesses in Lewisburg, and possibly the longest continually operated barber shop in the state. 

Additional Sources and Reading:

Daddy's Barbershop, by Mary A. Summerline. The Mountain Laurel, March 1991.

African American Genealogy-WV. Mildred P. Carter Bess. June 21, 2006. 

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Tad Jones' UFO

Tad Jones, with sketch. Charleston Daily Mail 20 January 1967
Photo by Ray Wheeler

January 19, 1967 started off as a typical Thursday morning for Tad Jones, an appliance store owner from Dunbar, West Virginia. He was traveling on Interstate 64 in his truck, headed to work. He was in the westbound lanes about six miles west from Charleston, and about one mile east of the Institute exit when something caught his eye. Although it was 9:05 am, there were no other cars on the fairly new interstate road. So, when he saw a light up ahead, he assumed it was some sort of road crew vehicle. 

As he got closer, he realized that what he was seeing was definitely not part of the WV DOH fleet. In fact, it wasn't even of this earth!

Right in the middle of the interstate, completely blocking the westbound lanes, was an aluminum-colored spherical craft. The craft was about 20 feet in diameter, and was hovering about 3-4 feet in the air. Some accounts claim that Jones got out of his truck and approached the craft, while others say that Jones stayed in his vehicle. Either way, he observed the object for about a minute. During that time, he noticed there was a single 'window,' but did not see any creatures or movement through it.A 'seam' down the center of the craft seemed to suggest that it was made of more than one piece of aluminum, perhaps, welded together. Two antennae stuck out of the top.  He noted that the craft was attached to four legs that had caster-like wheels at their ends, and that there was a propeller-like apparatus sticking out of the bottom of the sphere.  This propeller made no noise, and gave off no exhaust. At first, it was spinning slowly, then continued to increase in speed until the craft rose straight up, again with no noise or exhaust. Jones watched it ascend into the sky for another 60-90 seconds before it completely disappeared from view. 

Jones then traveled on to work, but would report what he had seen to nearby Guthrie Air Force Station. It would only be a matter of time before the local newspapers picked up the story and ran with it. 

But, Jones' strange close encounter would attract the attention of more than just local media. J. (James) Ralph Jarrett, a local UFO research working at nearby Union Carbide, reached out to Jones because he had had a similar UFO sighting a week or so before. The case would also attract the attention of researcher John Keel, who was in the area investigating the Mothman sightings and accompanying UFO flap in Pt. Pleasant, about an hour away. 

In fact, some interesting details about the Jones case that were left out of initial newspaper reports were discussed in John Keel's book, The Mothman Prophesies. 

Not long after Jones reported the sighting, he'd receive two notes. The first handwritten note was slipped under the door of his home sometime in the early morning hours. It read, "We know what you have seen and we know that you have talked. You better keep your mouth shut."  Later, a second note would show up in a similar manner. This one was written on a piece of torn cardboard with burned edges. It read, "There won't be another warning."

The Cumberland News, 20 January 1967

Despite being rightfully concerned about these threatening letters, Jones continued to work with both Jarrett and Keel. Jarrett found out that there was a major gas line running right under where the craft was spotted. Whether that is a significant detail or not is up for speculation. The same goes for another somewhat strange detail. About a week after he had spotted the craft, Jones was taking the same route to work at about the same time as his initial sighting. When he came to the area where he had seen the UFO, he saw a man on the side of the road. Thinking he needed help, Jones, pulled off and asked the man if he needed anything. The man was silent, and responded only with a wave of the hand. Jones saw him again the very next day in the same spot. He said the man was holding a box with some kind of dial on it and a wire coming out of it, that led to the man's other hand. He was wearing a blue coat and a blue cap with a visor, that was described as looking like a 'uniform.' The man was either flushed, or had a very tan complexion. Jones said he just seemed unsettling and 'off.' When John Keel investigated, he called several utility companies and road construction crews and found out that no one was working in that area on those days, nor did anyone on staff wear that kind of uniform. (Theresa's Note: Personally, I'm kind of wondering if this man wasn't some amateur ufologist who had heard about sighting and was out there doing some of his own readings. It would have been a huge missed opportunity if he had waved Jones off, not realizing that he was the one who had actually had the sighting!).

But, the weirdness doesn't stop there. Apparently, John Keel did come to the area to investigate in person. When he examined the area around the sighting, he found what appeared to be two different kinds of tracks. There were what looked like HUGE dog tracks, estimated to come from a dog weighing 200 pounds!  Keel notes that he consulted with other researchers who noted that finding huge canine tracks near locations of UFO/paranormal activity was actually pretty common. In addition to the canine tracks, one single BARE human footprint was found. 

Tad Jones' UFO encounter is just one of many strange, out-of-this-world stories from West Virginia's rich, paranormal history! The Mountain State is full of strange creatures, ghosts and haunted places, and of course, some of the weirdest tales of UFOs I've ever heard. And, Theresa's Haunted History is a great place to read about all of these wonderfully weird subjects! 

Jarrett tries to make sense of the recent UFO sightings. 
Sunday Gazette Mail 29 January 1967

Friday, March 5, 2021

Celibate Sasquatch


You better think twice before getting yo' freak on within the confines of one of the United States' National Parks! 

Have you ever visited a National Park and felt the overwhelming urge to make love, right then and there? Fortunately, Celibate Sasquatch is watching...ready to remind you that it is illegal to do so, and that you should probably go rent a room, somewhere else. 

According to a blog post by Zack Rock, so many hippies were running around getting busy in national parks that it became threat to the environment and of course, common decency.  Therefore, in 1967 his ad firm partnered with the United States Parks Authority to create the Celibate Sasquatch campaign. Unfortunately, Celibate Sasquatch failed to become as big an icon as Smokey Bear, and was largely forgotten about, aside from the slang phrase 'sasquatching the celibate,' meaning to smoke tree bark. 

But, like most things you'll find here at Theresa's Haunted History, there's more to the story than meets the eye! I know I certainly wanted this ad campaign to be real, but it's not.

Zack Rock IS the creator of this wonderfully fun poster and character of Celibate Sasquatch.  However, instead of being created for a 1967 National Parks campaign, the poster was created in 2009 for a vintage-inspired ad contest on the Sugar Frosted Goodness blog. In fact, Zack was named one of three winners in the contest for his work on Celibate Sasquatch! 

I can only hope that if the parks system ever does find that overzealous lovemaking becomes an issue in the parks, they convince Zack to let them use Celibate Sasquatch! 

Monday, February 22, 2021

Nazy Never Left

Last month our dog, Nazy, finally crossed the Rainbow Bridge after months of slowly deteriorating, both in physical health and cognitive ability. Nazy was almost 16 years old, and although we had given her a good life, she came from tragic beginnings.

When my nephew was in 4th grade, he and I went to the animal shelter to pick out a pet dog for him. As we were led into the back kennels of the shelter, so many dogs were barking at top volume, going crazy.  All except one---a little black and white dog who sat calmly in her cage. We asked to take a closer look at her, and when my nephew walked in, she jumped up and put her paws on his shoulders and her head on his chest, still not making a sound. We both knew right then that this was our dog.

Her name had been given as Nazy, which we decided to keep because we weren't sure exactly how old she was and we didn't want to confuse her by giving her a new name. When we brought her home, Nazy had no hair around her neck, on her ears, or on her hindquarters. We were told that she had been seized from her owner for abuse/neglect. She was terribly allergic to fly bites, which had caused the hair loss around her ears and back, and the missing hair around her neck was from a too-tight collar that had actually embedded itself in her neck and had been cut out. 

It didn't take long to figure out there was more wrong with Nazy than we thought. For the first several years we had her, she would have occasional seizures, possibly stemming from the abuse she endured. Her eyes always had a milky look to them, so we figured she probably didn't have the greatest eyesight either. You couldn't touch her hip area without her yelping in pain and snapping at you. Again, we figured this area had been injured during her abusive start to life. She hated having her nails trimmed and even bit a vet tech who decided she could handle her without a muzzle. 

Nazy wasn't exactly a GOOD dog. She had severe aggression towards other animals, and it took so long to get her to not attack our yellow lab. She would run away any chance she got, and did NOT listen. If you corrected her, or even raised your voice to her, she'd get mad and immediately go tear something up or poop in the house. She was the only dog I ever knew that was actually spiteful. 

Still, we loved her and spoiled her up until it was her time to go. I think it hit my mom really hard, because my mom had basically turned her life upside down to care for Nazy during her final months, as she needed so much care. But, I don't think Nazy ever really left...

I was the first to hear her. The day after we put her down, I was about to walk out the front door when I heard Nazy's signature bark. Nazy never was a normal, barking dog. If she was outside wanting in, she'd let out one sort of high-pitched, yip/woof noise to let us know she was at the door. It's a very distinct sound, and that's exactly what I heard. But, the dogs next door started barking right after that, so I figured that I was just missing Nazy and thus, misinterpreted another dog for her. So, I didn't say anything.

Recently, however, my mom told me that she hears Nazy EVERY night. Nazy was a creature of habit, and when SHE was ready to go to bed, she thought everyone else must go to bed as well, so she'd make that yip/woof noise to let my mom know that it light's out. 

Then, just last night my husband heard Nazy for the first time. He was standing in the kitchen, cooking dinner, while my mom and I were in the adjoining family room. He stopped what he was doing, looked out the kitchen window, then walked over to the patio doors and looked out. He was like, 'you're not going to believe this, but I just heard Nazy.' He described the same high-pitched yip as mom and I had heard, coming from the back porch.

Nazy isn't the only pet we've seen or heard in my mom's house, well after their bodily death. I just hope if she is sticking around, she's not terrorizing Ambrosis, my ghost cat, too much!