Wednesday, June 8, 2022

The Murder of John Rose at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane

 

West Virginia State Hospital 
for the Insane-Weston, WV
July 10, 1884
Source: WV History on View





On October 7, 1881, what started as a normal Friday night at the West Virginia Hospital for the Insane at Weston (now known as the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum) would turn deadly for one inmate. Blaine Starry, an inmate from Jefferson County, WV, was in his room for the night---Room No. 6, to be precise. He was alone, but his room was separated from another patient room by means of a mere flimsy partition that didn't even reach the ceiling. In the adjoining room were John Rose and an unnamed roommate. John Rose, described as an inoffensive elderly gentleman, was from Point Pleasant. 

For whatever reason, Starry, in possession of what one newspaper article called a 'club,' climbed over the low partition into Rose's room and beat the man to death. He severely wounded the roommate as well before guards could subdue him. Starry was said to be a powerful man, wielding his weapon with terrific force, so I can imagine how violent and brutal the death of Mr. Rose truly was. And, unfortunately, it would become just one in a string of brutal killings committed by asylum patients against their fellow inmates.  And, like, so many other deaths of this nature, may have been preventable---at least in the eyes of one citizen from Wheeling, WV.

Going by just the name 'W.,' a gentleman wrote several letters to the editor of the local Wheeling Daily Register newspaper about the incident. He states that although the murder was discussed freely around the town of Weston the next morning, the local papers didn't cover it. Even the Wheeling paper failed to mention the rumors of a coroner's jury. Would this tragic death simply be played off as just an unfortunate accident, or would someone be to blame for Rose's demise?

Obviously, if the events took place as described, then Starry would obviously be guilty of the crime, but could the administration and staff at the hospital helped prevent it? It seems likely, as W. goes on to mention the rooms the male patients were in were both too small AND the partitions, being designed for the female patients, were too low. Was there neglect on part of the current superintendent? Perhaps. 

Back in April of that same year, a board had voted to replace Dr. Camden, long time superintendent of the asylum with a new, inexperienced doctor named Dr. W.J. Bland. This decision was apparently upsetting to, well, just about everyone. It is said the patients, upon hearing the news, screamed and cried and carried on. The general public was outraged as well, and sent in letters of support, petitions, and prayers in order to keep Dr. Camden instated. But, on May 15th, 1881, Dr. Camden was out and Dr. Bland was in, without any reason ever being given as to why the switch was made. 

The mysterious W. of the editorial mentions that there's no way that the new superintendent could know what was going on with the patients. Unlike Dr. Camden who made it a point to walk the wards multiple times a day and speak with the patients, Dr. Bland maybe visited the wards once every 2 to 3 WEEKS. He also failed to keep up correspondence with friends and family of the patients, missing out on valuable insight into their behavior and state of mind. Also...just where were all the funds set aside for the improvement of the hospital going exactly?

These are all fair concerns and questions, and so many years later, we'll probably never know the full truth. Unfortunately, I could not find any death certificates or any additional information at all on John Rose.  I was able to finally track down Blaine Starry in the WV Vital Statistics Death Certificates database. It seems as if Mr. Starry passed away from unknown causes at the asylum on February 6, 1891. He was 44 years old, and had been diagnosed with 'insanity' since he was a teenager. He was buried in the hospital cemetery. 

Want MORE tales from the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum? Check out my page:

Sources:

The Weekly Register (:Point Pleasant, WV). 13 April 1881. Page 2

South Branch Intelligencer (Romney, WV). 21 October 1881. Page 4

The Daily Register (Wheeling, WV). 12 October 1881. Page 1

The Daily Register (Wheeling, WV). 19 October 1881. Page 1

The Wheeling Daily Intelligencer. 12 October 1881. Page 4









Saturday, April 30, 2022

April Wrap Up

 


It's April 30th...which means it's the last day of this round of the Ultimate Blog Challenge! I'm super proud to announce that I've completed the challenge...30 days straight of new blog content! 

And that was on top of a pretty busy month. Last night, Spectral Research and Investigations completed our second Investigation of the Glen Ferris Inn in Fayette County. We were joined by Buffy and Kim of MiMi Paranormal and had a wonderful time.

Unfortunately, quite a few more guests meant a little less paranormal activity, but we still had some strange things going on. Something seemed rather interested in setting off the trigger objects brought by MiMi Paranormal. We may have made contact with a lonely (and raunchy!) young man who stayed at the inn when it was used as housing for local workers. And...Brian once again seemed to tap into the spirits using the Estes Method, answering direct questions. 

Keep an eye on the SRI YouTube and social media pages for updates as we go through the process of analyzing the data for potential evidence! 

Friday, April 29, 2022

Early Podcasting: A Friday Funny

I've seen this posted around social media a lot over the past week or so, and there is nothing more Appalachian in my opinion! So much of West Virginia's ghost lore has been passed down from generation to generation through oral storytelling, sometimes over a roaring campfire, sometimes while sitting around the fireplace on a cold, snowy evening, and sometimes...while undertaking those tedious chores like churning butter. 

Whether these tales were passed down as entertainment to drown out the monotony of a hard life in the mountains, or whether they held a more significant message, I really love the comparison to modern day podcasting. I'm grateful that so many wonderful spooky stories of West Virginia's strange and unusual history have been preserved in this manner, and are reaching a new audience through means like  modern podcasts and websites like Theresa's Haunted History!


So let me know in the comments below: What are some of YOUR favorite spooky podcasts featuring ghost stories, cryptid tales, and UFO encounters?

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Paranormal with a Purpose Gets Wild and Weird

Dave, Barry, and Ron
Photo by Angie Breeden

Last month, Brian and I were honored to represent Spectral Research and Investigation as well as Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State as speakers for the first ever Paranormal Discussion Group, created and hosted by the St. Albans On Purpose Project! The group, which started as an idea by Barry, a young man with quite a bit of knowledge and love for the paranormal, is a monthly meeting of paranormal enthusiasts that meets on the last Wednesday of each month.

This month, I attended as one of those paranormal enthusiasts, and sat back and enjoyed a delightful presentation by some of my most respected colleagues in the field. These presenters were none other than Ron Lanham and Dave Roberts from Wild and Weird West Virginia/The West Virginia High Strangeness Collective! But before there was Wild and Weird WV...there was Ghost Watch RIP, the paranormal investigation group that Ron and Dave were members. After giving some heartfelt background into how they came to be involved in paranormal research, Ron and Dave shared quite a bit of information on some of their favorite Ghost Watch investigations, in particular, the old Purity Bread Factory on the western end of Charleston.


The Purity Maid Bread Factory is a location that I've been hearing about for years, so I was excited to hear about some of the paranormal activity that has been witnessed over the years. Several apparitions have been spotted, including a man on the 'bread floor' with glasses, a pot belly, and a blue and white striped uniform, matching a type the workers at one point wore. In addition to actual apparitions, disembodied voices seem to be a recurring event at the factory, some of which were caught on voice recorder. Other voices, not heard by the human ear at time of recording, were also captured, and a number of these EVPs were played for the group. 

Ya'll know I love and appreciate the technical side of paranormal investigation, but my heart really lies within the context of historical research. Dave provided us with a heap of information from the history of the bread factory's years of operation...but I was impressed to see that they took this back even further. Not only did they examine where troop movement and skirmishes were fought during the Civil War's Battle of Charleston, but also took a look at where the old plantations stretched, and what exactly was on that land way before Charleston became the capital city of West Virginia. But they took it back even further, with research into the Native American populations that lived, hunted, and traveled through the area. 


One especially interesting piece of research they shared was a map of West Virginia's magnetic pull, and the area around Charleston, where both the bread factory AND quite a number of burial mounds, was very very dark blue, meaning it had a low (-500) level of magnetism. I'm not sure exactly what that means, but that's the kind of stuff that we need to look at and study further if we want to evolve the field of paranormal research. 

A couple of other locations were discussed, such as my old stomping grounds---The Lakin Industrial School for Colored Boys, located outside of Pt. Pleasant, and plenty of ideas on paranormal theory were shared. Once again, the members of the audience were eager to ask their own questions, which were answered thoughtfully and honestly. As an added bonus, Ron has a wonderful way of making people feel comfortable and heard, and inspired quite a few people to share their own stories and experiences. And as he pointed out, these stories are a hugely important part of what we do as paranormal researchers and investigators. They could provide the missing pieces of the puzzle...we just need to encourage people to document them, share them, and don't let them get lost to history. 

Overall, it was another successful meeting of the Paranormal Discussion Group!  I got to see my friend Ike, who has joined SRI on a few adventures already, and also got to meet Eric and some of the members from WV Unseen Paranormal. St. Albans On Purpose Project's Paranormal Discussion Group is an awesome resource to have here in the Kanawha Valley, and I'm so lucky that I had the opportunity to be a part of it.  I'll continue to come as long as it's in operation, so keep an eye on Theresa's Haunted History as well as On Purpose Project for updates.  Next month's meeting will again be at the St. Albans Historical Society at 6pm on May 25th. Suggested donation is $10. 


Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Collections: Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum


Today's blog post is a result of a request for information. When a friend contacted me about some information regarding the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, WV, I decided the easiest way to share my writings on the subject would just be to compile them all together, in one place. But something odd kinda struck me as I was doing so. You see, although the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum is often credited as being one of the most haunted locations in West Virginia, if not the country, as of today, I have actually written very little about the many documented ghost stories and suspected encounters with the paranormal!

Rather, I've chosen to highlight some of the more forgotten stories from the asylum, from interesting inmate stories, to tragic murders not currently associated with any hauntings. Part of this is because I feel like so much has already been written about the ghosts of the former Weston State Hospital. The Miami Ghost Chronicles is an awesome website that I reference often when it comes to TALA hauntings, and Sherri Brake's massive book, The Haunted History of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, is a wealth of information. So, I feel like that aspect has been covered pretty thoroughly already. What has received far less attention is just the normal, day-to-day glimpses into asylum life, and those who died tragically but have largely been forgotten in time.

I promise that in the future, I will post more stories about the actual ghosts who haunt the halls of the old hospital. But until then, if you find yourself making a visit to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, take a look at some of the stories below. You never know if some of the people mentioned here are still sticking around, waiting for the right person to tell their story to. Happy Haunting! 

1. Reasons for Being Admitted to an 1800's Asylum: This list of reasons why patients were admitted to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum/Weston State Hospital between 1864 and 1899 is pretty scary. Examples such as uterine derangement, novel reading, and time of life make it easy to see how an 'unwanted' woman could easily be committed by her father, her husband, or even a brother and locked away for however long they wanted her gone. I also go into a short explanation of how diagnoses worked at the time, explaining some of the more...interesting...reasons for committal. 

2. The Legend of Lilly: A TALA Ghost Story: Who is Lilly, the first little girl of the Trans-Allegheny to make herself know to staff members? She was first spotted back when the hospital was running a Halloween haunted house attraction and has quickly become a favorite spook of paranormal investigators. Was she the child of a patient, or a patient herself?

3. Suspicious Deaths at the Weston State Hospital (1992): In September of 1992, the Weston State Hospital reported two patient deaths that made the newspaper. George Edward Bodie was murdered by another patient (who was involved in a previous murder at the hospital) and Brian Scott Bee's badly decomposed body was discovered, believed to have been a victim of suicide. 

4. TALA Tales: Sonny's Story: In 1975, William P. Hall, otherwise known as Sonny, was set on fire by another inmate while the two and several other men were locked into an enclosed balcony area. Sonny passed from his injuries and his father was able to successfully sue the hospital. 

5. TALA Tales: The Tragic Case of Ivan Hoover: Ivan Hoover was a troubled young man who had suffered a tragic accident, leaving him mentally delayed. When he decided that his aging parents could no longer care for him, he killed them, and attempted to head South to find a job, but was found by law enforcement and sentenced back to the asylum. He made several escapes, but always found himself back in the institution until later in life when he was presumably released into the care of his brother.

6. Forgotten Murder at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: In 1963, Muriel Creamer was killed by another patient, Wanda Janes. Janes freely admitted to strangling Mrs. Creamer because she had made improper advances against her. 

7. 1877 Murder at the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum: A local newspaper reported in 1877 that a patient at the hospital had been murdered by another patient. The unlucky fellow had been beaten to death with a bed slat. The perpetrator had no history of homicidal tendencies, but claimed that God had told him to do it. 

8. TALA Tales: Annie All Alone: In 1917, the sheriff of Wheeling received a request for help from the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. They were looking for any living friends or relatives of a lady named Annie Bogart, who had been at the asylum for over 35 years and was now gravely ill. No one ever came forward, and Annie died alone, then was buried in the hospital cemetery. 

9. Madness and Mistaken Identity at the Weston State Hospital: In 1931, hospital officials notified Mrs. Amanda Kurl that her brother, George Marzic, had died. He had been admitted two years prior. However, in 1936, a recently lucid patient now claimed that HE was George Marzic...and the family and hospital agreed!

10. 1881 Murder of John Rose: In October of 1881, patient Blaine Starry beat to death an elderly dementia patient by the name of John Rose and severely wounded another man before guards could subdue him. Did neglect from a new superintendent and/or poorly designed room features play a part in the violent attack? 


Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Spirit Trumpets on Summers Street

Harry Houdini and Annie Benninghofen
1926

On August 12, 1920 the Charleston Daily Mail, a local newspaper for the Charleston, WV area, ran a small article announcing the 'considerable attention' a plumbing shop on Summers Street was attracting. It seems as if this plumbing shop had hopped on the Spiritualist bandwagon by displaying a selection of 'spook horns' in it's front window. The article goes on to explain that these spirit horns were used by psychic mediums who spoke in one end while the listener held the other end.

This lil' plumbing shop on Summers Street was somewhat behind the times (as we so often are, still to this day in West Virginia!). Spirit trumpets had been around for over 20 years already, since the late 1800's. They were created to solve a problem---during seances, spirits just seemed to have a really hard time having their voices heard. They spoke in garbled whispers, barely able to be understood by the human ear. So in response, mediums began fashioning amplifying devices to better hear the messages from beyond.

It is believed that the first spirit trumpet was created and named by Nahum, the son of famed Spiritualist medium, Jonathan Koons of Athens County, Ohio. It was certainly Koons who really made the use of the spirit trumpet popular among seance circles.


Charleston Daily Mail
12 August 1920

In the early days, spirit trumpets were generally homemade from metal or even cardboard. However, as they grew in popularity, their designs became more elaborate, with some even featuring glow in the dark rings at the end.  That was so you could actually SEE them floating through the air in the pitch dark of the seance room! Also, different makers began offering them for sale commercially. Everett Atwood Eckel was one of the first to do so, and sold the spirit trumpets in his tin shop, located in Anderson, Indiana. I assume that's the story with our plumbing shop in Charleston, WV. One wouldn't necessarily think to associate a plumbing service with contacting the dead (although maybe today you would, as the Jason and Grant from TAPS/Ghost Hunters were plumbers by day, investigators by night!) but if you think about it, a plumbing shop would be the perfect business to have the materials and skills necessary to fashion out skinny metal cones...whatever their intended purpose might be. But, perhaps there is more of a connection there. Maybe the owner belonged to the Spiritualist Church of Charleston (which I'll be blogging about at a later time). Or maybe they were taking advantage of their close proximity to the Plaza Theater on Summers Street, which regularly hosted performers such as Leona LaMar, The Girl with 1000 Eyes

Whatever the motive behind this plumbing shop featuring 'spook horns' may have been, the fact that they did so and it was documented in the local paper is just another testament to Charleston's spooky past and West Virginia's connection to the Spiritualist movement as a whole.

For more info on spirit trumpets:

How Victorian Mediums Gave Shy Ghosts a Megaphone, by Sabrina Imbler. 23 October 2019. Atlas Obscura.


Monday, April 25, 2022

Theresa's Travels: Williamson, WV and the Coal House


Last month, the Spectral Research and Investigation team made our third trip to Williamson, WV. Our goal was to once again explore the mysteries of the former Williamson Memorial Hospital, now known on the paranormal circuit as The Old Hospital on College Hill! The Old Hospital on College Hill is an awesome location, full of history and hauntings, and I often tell people that it is quickly becoming one of those super-sites when it comes to paranormal destinations! In addition to offering private investigation opportunities for a VERY reasonable fee, the Old Hospital routinely offers a variety of fun and spooky public events throughout the year! Starting as a Halloween haunted house attraction, under its current ownership, the hospital now offers public investigations/tours, horror-themed weddings with actual horror celebrities, spooky holiday dinners, escape rooms, and much, much more! 

The Old Hospital on College Hill is quickly becoming one of MY favorite haunted locations. Each time we've been there it has been an excellent experience all-around. The owners, Tonya and Charlie, are so welcoming and accommodating. They really go out of their way to make sure that you feel comfortable and have everything you need...including a most awesome addition of indoor plumbing! Yes, you heard that right! No more port-a-potties...there are two very clean, well-stocked, and comfortable bathrooms now located on the first floor.  


We've also had plenty of really strange experiences that we cannot debunk, including two of our members seeing a creepy, pinkish-orangish FACE peek around the corner at them. I've personally had sightings of a little shadow figure with white eyes, heard a lady's voice humming, heard a child crying for her daddy, and have had some full-on two-way conversations via various spirit box/Ovilus technology. But...those blogs are for another day. I've already written a little about the Old Hospital on College Hill (The Nurse Who Never Clocked Out and The Haunting of Mose Blackburn) and I'll be writing even MORE about some of the stories and our investigative experiences in the near future...but for today's blog, I wanted to highlight some other areas of my latest trip!

As the Old Hospital on College Hill continues to grow into a premier paranormal destination, more and more people will find themselves making the pilgrimage to the small, southern WV town. And those people will need to eat, fuel up the car, and possibly spend the night off-site. They'll want to see the sights, both those of historic interest as well as additional paranormal hot-spots, and they may even wanna purchase a few locally made crafts and souvenirs! 


On this most recent trip to Williamson, I got to town pretty early---early enough to make a stop at the famed Coal House! Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Coal House is home to the Tug Valley Chamber of Commerce and is an excellent little place to pick up some books or postcards featuring local history, handmade craft items from West Virginia artisans, t-shirts, and much more. It's also a great place to pick up some information on what else there is to see and do around Williamson. Whether you're looking for some outdoor adventures on the Hatfield and McCoy trails, wanting to travel back in time to the historic Matewan Massacre, or simply need some suggestions for where to eat (Starters on E. 2nd Ave is a great place that's open later) and stay while you're in town, the staff at the Coal House can give you a hand! 

The Coal House itself, however, is a tourist destination all on its own. Located right in downtown Williamson, the Coal House is made up of 65 tons of bituminous coal. The idea originated in 1931 when O.W. Evans, manager of the Norfolk & Western Railroad's fuel department conceived the concept of a structure built entirely of coal as a way of symbolizing Williamson's contribution to the coal industry.

The Coal House was constructed in 1933, designed by Welch, WV architect, H.T. Hicks. Construction was supervised by Williamson resident, David M. Goode. For over 2 decades, it stood as the only structure in West Virginia to be made out of coal, and today is still only one of two such buildings. Historical signage and beautiful landscaping frame the exterior of the Coal House, while the inside wood paneling gives the little shop a comfortable, homey feel. It's just a really cool place to see, and its filled with fun things to take home to yourself or give as gifts. Unfortunately, the Coal House's hours tend to be short. According to their website, they are open Tuesday-Friday 10am to 2pm and Saturday 9am to 1pm. When I visited, it was a weekday, and they were closing at 4pm...so just give them a call or check them out on Facebook to make sure they'll be open when you're in town. But, even if they're closed, it's still a cool, easily accessible spot to take some pictures, read the outdoor signs, then walk around the historic downtown Williamson area. Plus, the website offers an on-line shop, so you can still pick out your favorite local goodies! 


I'm really glad I was able to finally see the Coal House for myself after hearing about it for years. I picked up some postcards and a book about Williamson history and had a nice chat with the staff member working that day. It might seem like there's not a WHOLE lot to do around Williamson, but I'm quickly discovering that there may be too much to do. There's a lot of history packed into this southern corner of West Virginia, but it's a place that I never really made plans to visit before The Old Hospital on College Hill came on the scene. Spectral Research and Investigation has now completed three investigations of the OHOCH, and each time we're in town, we try to eat locally, check out area businesses, and of course, take a peek at other sites of haunted and historical interest, including the nearby Dingess Tunnel. The Tug Valley Area CVB has a section of their website dedicated to area hauntings, so definitely check that out, and make a little time to explore Williamson and surrounding areas. 

The Old Hospital on College Hill is a wonderful location, full of activity and very accessible to the serious paranormal investigator, or just someone wanting a fun, spooky night out. It's a great destination all on its own, but it has given me the opportunity to get to know the town better. It has inspired me to check out what else is in the area, and every trip to the old hospital gives me another chance to see something new.