Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Buried Alive in Hampshire County, WV

Before the practice of embalming was widespread, the fear of being buried alive was a very real one for many.  This story comes from a February 12, 1885 edition of a newspaper out of St. Louis, Missouri, although the event in question takes place in Hampshire County, West Virginia.  I found it shared on the West Virginia Heritage, History and Memories Facebook page and it appears to have been originally shared on the Hampshire History Facebook page.  It was noted there that the young woman did survive, but other newspaper articles stated that it was believed she'd be a 'lunatic' for life.  


ALIVE IN HER COFFIN
A Dreadful Occurrence in a West Virginia Village--Morphia
Special dispatch to the Globe-Democrat

SPRINGFIELD, W.Va., February 12--A terrible affair has just come to light on the levels near Okonoko.  Mary Cox, a well-known and popular young lady, residing near the mouth of the Little Capon River, was taken violently ill.  The physician diagnosed the case as one of neuralgia of the stomach and prescribed morphia. A dose was administered at once, and another was left, with instructions to give it in twenty-four hours.  For some as yet unexplained reason the second dose was given in a very short time. In an hour or two after, the death of Miss Cox was announced and neighbors prepared the body for burial, and two days later the deceased was interred.  At the funeral one lady insisted that Miss Cox was not dead and begged that a physician be sent for.  That night the dogs of a man living near the graveyard stationed themselves near the tomb and kept up a persistent howling.  The neighbors talked, and the next day the grave was opened, when to the horror of all, it was found that the girl had been buried alive.  The coffin presented a terrible sight.  The lining was torn from the sides of the casket, the pillow was in shreds, and the poor girl had literally stripped the clothing from her body.  Her hands and arms were torn and bloody, the lips were bitten through, and handfuls of hair lay about.  The girl had come to, and evidently a frightful struggle to escape followed.  The affair fills the community with horror.

Theresa's Note: I found this story, word for word, in several other publications, including this one from the Rock Island (Illinois) Argus. I also did a little searching to see if I could find any evidence that Mary did go insane (and who could blame her after that ordeal?), but didn't find anything substantial.  I did find several articles mentioning a Mary Cox from Harrison County who was deemed 'insane' and died at the Weston State Hospital, but the age range doesn't match up.  Either way, its a frightening story that I'm sure left an entire community, not to mention a young lady, shaken to the bone. 

Monday, October 14, 2019

Chilton House's Demon-Possessed Mirror

For years it has been a fancy restaurant, located on the banks of St. Albans' Coal River. But, is there a darker past hidden behind the brick and gables of Angela's On the River, formerly known as the Chilton House?  Maybe...

The historic Chilton House was built around 1857 by businessman Allen Smith, who had purchased the property a year earlier.  It was originally built about 200 yards away from its current location (right about where the post office sits now) and was right in the hub of the St. Albans business district.  It's a beautiful brick home,  built in the Gothic Revival style and sporting seven steep gables.  It wasn't until 1883, well after the Civil War, that the illustrious Chilton Family took ownership of the house.  Mrs. Mary Elizabeth Wilson Chilton, wife of William Chilton, Sr. bought the home from Smith's daughter and son in law.  It's noted that the house was expanded in 1883 when the Chilton's moved in, but you could hardly tell because the bricklayer was able to match up the original bricks so well!

Mary and William apparently needed the extra space because they had two daughters and five sons, all who became prominent citizens in St. Albans and throughout the Kanawha Valley.  One son, Samuel Blackwell, was a physician who died of typhoid fever in the home in March, 1893. Another son, William E. Chilton, II would go on to be a prominent lawyer and politician, serving as a WV Senator for several years.  The youngest son, John Savary, took over ownership of the home in 1915, but would go on to sell the property outside the family later on.

By the mid-1970's, the historic home was in danger of demolition as the 'Loop' was being built in St. Albans.  Local citizens were able to get the process started to get the home listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and by the end of 1974, the process of moving the home to its current location was underway.  It wouldn't become a permanent fixture until a cinder block foundation was finished in 1976, and would finally be formally added to the NRHP by 1977.  

It would later become the Chilton House Restaurant, and is still to this day a restaurant.  Angela Samples opened Angela's on the River in 2010 and its under this current ownership where a strange story unfolds.  This story came to my attention during the 2019 St. Albans' History and Mystery Tour, in which a costumed interpreter, portraying a member of the Chilton family, told the history of the home.  When asked about the 'ghosts' mentioned on the tour flyer, the interpreter mentioned that the restaurant was once home to a demon in a mirror!  

Wait, what?!?  A demoniacally possessed mirror?  I had to know more.  Luckily, a gentleman nearby was able to fill in some of the details with first-hand knowledge.  Here's the story as it was told to me:

As part of the period furnishings in the restaurant, there was included a large, antique mirror.  Being an antique mirror, its appearance was understandably a lil' spotty and grubby looking.  However, no matter how much effort Angela or her staff put into trying to clean the mirror, it would never come clean.  But the mirror wasn't just dusty and spotted with the normal gunk and grime acquired over the years...people would actually SEE something, something potentially evil, reflected in the mirror!  It was decided that it would be in everyone's best interest if the mirror was just removed and disposed of as quickly as possible.  So, it was taken out to the dumpster.

Chilton House 1950's

However, it was quickly brought to Angela's attention by someone familiar with what was going on that if that mirror happened to break, surely the demonic entity trapped therein would be set free and be unleashed into the community!  So, the mirror was quickly dug out of the trash and gently sat nearby, apparently in full view of travelers driving down St. Albans' Loop. I say 'apparently in full view' because the mirror wasn't out of the trash for more than a few minutes when someone drove by and saw it being discarded.  This person asked if they were offering it for free.  The staff in charge of disposing the mirror replied that yes, it was in fact free...but there was a demon in it!

The person didn't stick around for clarification and pealed out without saying a word.  The mirror would soon find a new home, however, when another driver stopped by shortly after and loaded it up.  

It would be interesting to know whatever happened to that mirror and if the new owners experienced anything spooky associated with it.  So, if you live in the St. Albans area and know what happened to the mirror...perhaps its hanging in YOUR dining room?...please let me know!  I'd love to check it out and bring some closure to this story.  And...if you're wanting to get rid of it, I'm guessing there's a guy out in Las Vegas by the name of Zak who'd be willing to give you a fair price! 

Bonus Fright:  I heard another rumor from a tour patron that there were still slave shackles visible  in the basement, left over from the home's pre-Civil War days.  I don't *think* this would be true, at least not at the modern location, because when the house was moved in the 1970's, it was put on a cinder block foundation.  Any old basement/cellar/etc. would not have been included...right? 

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Chasing Ghosts at the St. Albans History and Mystery Tour 2019!

C&O Depot
I was pretty bummed about not being able to attend the WV CASE Paranormal Expo this year...but since I was in (my) town for the weekend, I decided to go and do something fun and spooky, anyway.  So, I went to the St. Albans History and Mystery Tour, hosted by the St. Albans Historical Society!

Adult tickets were $10 each, and while they were sold at the door, we ordered ours in advance through EventBrite, just so we'd have them ready!  We checked in, ran into some old friends, and got ready to tour through the city of St. Albans, WV to hear its history...and maybe a few ghost stories to go with it.  The way the tour was set up was similar to what Ironton, OH does with its cemetery ghost walk, although on a much grander scale.  Upon checking in, you're given a sheet of paper with the addresses and a brief description of each spot on the tour.  A presentation was given at each spot every 15 minutes starting at 5 pm and running until 8:45 pm.  It was up to you go at your own pace and either walk or drive to each destination.  

Since we got there before 5 pm, we had PLENTY of time to get through each stop without feeling rushed, which I could really appreciate it.  In theory, I love the idea of running it this way, but we found out along the way that presentations didn't always start on their given times.  This led to a few times where I think we missed some information.  But, since we had plenty of time, we could stay through another presentation and there were even a couple of stops that we just revisited completely at the end of the evening. 

Overall, I had an excellent time!  I know a little about the basic history of St. Albans, so it was cool to hear some additional stories told through re-enactors portraying historical figures from the area's past.  Here are the locations featured on this tour, and a little about each one!

1. St. Albans Historical Society--At this stop we saw an awesome lil' skit about who exactly were the first settlers and who technically 'founded' the city known today as St. Albans.  It was really cute, and the re-enactors did a wonderful job.  There was also cider and snacks available for FREE at this location!
Lantz Lumber

2. C&O Depot--Right next door to the Historical Society building is the old C&O Depot where we learned a little about the railway industry in St. Albans, and Collis P. Huntington's role in its development.  This is also where we heard our first spooky ghost story.  Years ago when the station was in operation, a passenger missed his train and had to sleep overnight at the station.  He awoke sometime later with the sounds of what he assumed was a train coming...not just through the station, but THROUGH the building at him!  He then heard the sounds of people talking, and hustling about, almost as if he was witnessing the phantom procession of passengers disembarking through a big-city depot.

3. Lantz Lumber Company--At the Lantz Lumber Company, we met the Weimer family and learned of their role in the lumber industry and in St. Albans' overall history.  We had another spooky tale as we learned that footsteps could be heard in this large, brick building used for storage---but when investigated, no REAL footsteps can be found in the dust.

4. Johnson/Smith House--The Johnson/Smith House was one of my favorite stops on the tour.  We got to go inside this beautiful, early 20th century home to 'have tea' with Mrs. Johnson and other local society women.  Mrs. Johnson would tell us about herself, stopping only to listen in to the 'gossip' of the society ladies, who had their own spin on these stories.  The house was beautifully decorated, both inside and out, for Halloween and refreshments were available.
Johnson/Smith House

5. Flowers on Olde Main--This gorgeous flower shop has been in business for 50+ years, but the building in which its located has an absolutely wild history.  Here we met African-American architect, John C. Norman, who told us how he built the building. Upstairs was used a one of the few pool halls that allowed African-Americans, and during Prohibition, the building was home to a speakeasy, complete with 'hidden' elevator that ran bootleg whisky up from the lower floors.  The ladies who worked and lived in the building were present to share their experiences with hearing phantom footsteps on the main floor of the shop when no one else is around.

6. Angela's On the River--Now a popular restaurant, this former home to the Chilton family was almost razed when the Loop was being built in St. Albans.  Luckily, the pre-Civil War era home was saved, moved a short distance away.  Although the flyer for the tour states that we'd be hearing about 'the spooky things that have happened here,' when asked, we only received a short quip about a demon in a mirror.  Luckily, I found someone who had a little more information to give on that story....so look for THAT in another blog!

7. Bangor Cemetery--I have driven by this cemetery hundreds of times and never once noticed it.  It is a small burial ground dating back to the early 1800s and unfortunately many of the tombstones have been knocked over.  It's a neat little location with ties to George Washington's family and I hope to see a group come in one day and help restore the damaged stones.  As a further interesting side note...this cemetery does contain a 'slave section.'  But, apparently the slave section of the cemetery has houses built over it now!  I wonder if any of those homes are experiencing paranormal activity?
Angela's on the River

8. Morgan's Kitchen--Morgan's Kitchen was another great lil' stop on our tour.  Roasted marshmallows over the fire, live music, and a dedicated re-enactor talking about early pioneer life in the St. Albans area made for an awesome presentation.  At this stop we learned quite a bit about the old Fort Tackett, including a more mysterious side to its history.  The fort had been attacked by natives at one point and continuing YEARS after the event, people living in the area of where the fort once stood would report hearing the residual sounds of that attack, including yelling and whooping, and women screaming.  

I had a really fun time seeing this side of St. Albans under a bright and beautiful (almost) full moon. I thought the re-enactors did a wonderful job telling the history of the town and it was nice to see so many people interested. I would have loved to have a little more of the 'mystery' side thrown in, but I'm a weirdo, lol.  Overall, it was a great night and I'm so glad that we got to experience this tour.  I look forward to future events put on by the historical society, and if I get the chance to attend, I'll be sure to share my experiences with you!  Happy Haunting!

Looking for MORE ghostly goodness from St. Albans?  Check out these articles:



Flowers on Main

Morgan's Kitchen

Bangor Cemetery

Friday, October 11, 2019

The Cemetery Shortcut: A Friday Funny




So...this is totally going to be ME in the afterlife.  I understand that 'Theresa' with an 'H' isn't the more popular spelling, but its so perplexing to receive messages intended for 'Teresa' or 'Tresa' when my properly spelled name is printed right there for anyone to see, lol! I had to order a new college diploma because my name was misspelled on it...so I guess if I want to avoid this guy's fate, I need to pre-order and proofread my stone well before I actually need it!

Have a fun, safe and spooky weekend, ya'll!  There are numerous activities going on this weekend including the premier of Ghost Nation and a ghost tour in Ripley, WV by Granny Sue Holstein tonight (ghost tour also offered Saturday).  Tomorrow is the Moonville Tunnel Festival in Ohio, The Nitro Festival of Fright in Nitro, WV, a ghost tour of St. Albans, WV and the WV CASE Paranormal Expo in Morgantown, WV!  There are also plenty of other haunted house attractions and ghost tours going on throughout the tri-state.  Let me know what YOUR weekend plans are! 

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Theresa and JR Visit The Flatwoods Monster Museum!

If you follow Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State regularly, you probably saw where, once again, I signed up for the Ultimate Blog Challenge!  And, once again, I failed miserably before I really even got started.  I had full intentions of bringing you a NEW, exciting paranormal blog EVERY DAY for the month of October, along with daily topics on Facebook.  Unfortunately, life got in the way.  My mother-in-law had a medical emergency and has been hospitalized for the last week.  So, we've been dealing with that, and I've been away from my laptop quite a bit.

Things are starting to settle back down a little bit, so I'm trying to get back on track, and filling in with a few 'bonus blogs' to make up for the days I missed.  And today's bonus blog is another installment of Theresa's Travels!

Now, I've been married since March.  My husband grew up in a very religious family and just never cultivated an interest in the paranormal.  Luckily, he loves me and generally tries to show an interest in my passions.  But, despite the fact that he lives in Grafton and we travel past the area frequently, he had NEVER been to the Flatwoods Monster Museum in Braxton County!

So, on Tuesday we were making the drive back up I-79 after visiting my mom in Winfield and I made an impromptu decision.  TODAY was gonna be the day that shared this really cool piece of West Virginia's strange history with the man I love.  He was a little hesitant at first, but that quickly changed!

After having a nice little chat with Andrew Smith who runs the museum, JR and I perused the collection.  I think he was able to walk away with a better understanding of the Flatwoods Monster story, and asked me plenty of questions afterward.  My heart melted to see him take a bunch of photos, which he promptly shared on Reddit, lol.  I think he was most pleased with his shiny new Mothman/Flatwoods Monster pressed penny that I made for him! 

It was a really brief trip, as we had to get back to the hospital to see his mom, but it was the perfect little stop.  I love the Flatwoods Monster Museum and have been multiple times over the past couple of years, but it was really special to share that with my husband.  I think the Flatwoods Monster kind of holds a special place in our relationship since I inadvertently ended up wearing a Flatwoods Monster t-shirt to my own wedding! But, the Flatwoods Monster is also special in that it is such a fascinating example of West Virginia's weird history.  Andrew does such an awesome job running the museum and promoting the Flatwoods Monster that this once-obscure little story has really turned into an entity known all over the world.  If you find yourself cruising up Interstate 79, take a quick detour and see this unique tourist spot...admission to the museum is free, a variety of affordable souvenirs are available, and the place is chock full of photos, documents, memorabilia, and much more related to one of West Virginia's favorite monsters! 

Follow the Flatwoods Monster Museum on Facebook to stay up to date on information concerning the monster and upcoming events at the museum!  Author Sherri Brake will be on-site October 26th!


Wednesday, October 9, 2019

The Sistersville Stocking Lady

Photo by Find-a-Grave contributor, Kathy Cook

I absolutely LOVE stories of haunted cemeteries and cursed tombstones.  There's just something about these particular legends that I think appeal to the thrill-seeker and adrenaline junkie in all of us!  Recently, I learned of another such legend here in the Mountain State:  The Stocking Lady of Sistersville. Like many of West Virginia's tombstone legends, this particular grave marker should be respected and admired....from far, far away!

Although we'd probably not consider Sistersville a booming city today, at one time the area was filled with wealthy citizens who made their fortunes in the oil and gas boom of the 1800s.  Many of those once-prominent citizens now call Oakwood Cemetery home, including the family of Philo Stocking.

Philo Stocking migrated from New York to the Wheeling area, and finally settled down river in Sistersville around 1841.  Local history has Philo Stocking as being one of the first people to attempt to drill oil in the area, but unfortunately it didn't quite work out.  However, Philo was a smart man.  He was sure that there was oil under his property, so he retained the oil and mineral rights to his property for him and his heirs.  Meanwhile, Stocking and his wife, Nancy, opened up a flour mill in 1852, which is still standing today under the name of Riverside Mills.  His son eventually took over the business and the family experienced financial success in the latter half of the 19th century and early 20th century.

Philo passed away in 1882 and his wife Nancy followed in 1901. Both were buried in the beautiful Oakwood Cemetery. A large granite monument with the elaborate figure of a woman cradling the grave was erected, overlooking the Stocking plots.  At one time, it must have been an impressive piece of funerary art.  Unfortunately, vandals have turned the once opulent statue into a desecrated mess of broken stone.

Close-up from Granny Sue's Blog

The Stocking Lady still stands guard over the graves of the Stocking family, but her arms have been broken off.  If you look closely at her face, you'll find it scratched and gouged, her eyes which were supposed to watch over the family in their eternal slumber now indistinguishable.  Because of the disrespect shown to her, local residents feel that the Stocking Lady is out for revenge!

The Stocking Lady is one of the tales collected and told by Appalachian story-teller, Granny Sue.  In a recent appearance at the WV Book Festival, she told the story of the Stocking Lady, and how at one local event, quite a few audience members came forward with personal knowledge of the statue's wrath!  It seems as if the gentleman responsible for breaking off the arms of the Stocking Lady soon after suffered a horrific accident in which he lost an arm.  The man accused of vandalizing the statue's face went blind.  In fact, it seems that if anyone just simply TOUCHES the statue, they will suffer bad luck, most likely in the form of health problems occurring in the part of their own body corresponding to what part of the statue's body they touched.

The cemetery is also alleged to be haunted by phantom moaning and white, wispy apparitions floating about.  Is this further evidence of the Stocking Lady or members of the Stocking family showing their displeasure for how their grave site was treated...or do the mysteries of Oakwood Cemetery extend even further?  If you find yourself in the Sistersville area, possibly staying at the historic and haunted Wells Inn, make sure you take a moment to stop at the cemetery and pay your respects to the Stocking family and the Stocking Lady.  Just...don't get too close!!

(This story can also be found in Rosemary E. Guiley's book, The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories.  I've seen the cemetery in question be listed as both Greenwood AND Oakwood, but according to Find-a-Grave, the grave is officially listed in Oakwood.  If you have any clarification or corrections, please let me know!)

Happy Haunting, ya'll! 

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Appalachian Ghost Stories with Granny Sue!

I've always loved the work of Susanna 'Granny Sue' Holstein, the Appalachian story-teller and singer of traditional ballads!  Although I've followed her work online for quite some time, I'd never had the chance to see her in person...until last Saturday!

As part of the annual WV Book Festival in Charleston, Granny Sue presented a wonderful talk about some popular West Virginia ghost stories, some lesser-known spooky tales from our mountain hollers, and plenty of history and tradition.  She even sang several ballads to set the mood of an old-timey gathering.  Further, the stage was complete with some mood-setting chairs, tables, and some creepy old items that would later play a part in one of the stories told.

Among the many stories included in this particular program was the story of the Stocking Woman, a desecrated tombstone located in a Sistersville cemetery which is said to bring bad luck to all her touch her.  She relayed the story of Zona Heaster Shue, otherwise known as the Greenbrier Ghost.  She shared the saga of WV's last public hanging in Ripley. And, she told a couple of personal (and sometimes hilarious) 'ghost' stories, as well, which had me (and much of the audience) rolling.

Despite it being 9 am on a Saturday, and despite some of the controversy concerning a headlining guest of the festival, quite a few people made the trek out to the far end of the WV Coliseum and Convention Center to be a part of Granny Sue's audience.  Events like this warm my heart.  I absolutely love seeing so many people from so many different age groups and walks of life come together to appreciate a little dose of Appalachian culture.  Story-telling, especially the telling of ghost stories, is such an ingrained part of West Virginia's history and it is wonderful to not only see someone like Granny Sue working so hard to keep these traditions and folklore alive, but to see just how many people out there really appreciate this dying art form.  Over at Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page, I recently posted an article from the UK Telegraph about how social media is causing folklore to die out.  As long as there are people like Granny Sue out there, telling the stories, I think we'll be okay!

Anyway, after her presentation, Granny Sue went back to her table on the main festival floor, where she sold CD's of her work.  I took a detour and took advantage of the HUGE used book sale going on, and bought a couple of books of ghost stories and one about some local history.

I had an awesome time, and am so glad that I decided to get up early and drive into Charleston to see Granny Sue.  This was a FREE event and I hope in the future, the organizers of the WV Book Festival will continue to incorporate folklore, particularly ghost lore, in its programming!  And, although the event has now passed, you still have a couple of more opportunities this month to see Granny Sue:

She will be giving ghost tours in the Ripley area this coming weekend, October 11th and 12th as part of the city's Shocktober.  The cost is $10 and tours leave from the Jackson County Courthouse at 8 pm.  You can call 304-514-2609 to register.

You can also catch Granny Sue at Taylor Books in Charleston at 6 pm on Friday, October 25th.  She will be giving a presentation called These Haunted Hills: West Virginia Ghost Stories and Ballads. This event is FREE and open to the public!