Wednesday, October 31, 2012

McArthur House's Ghostly Child

I love detective work, but I usually find myself more frustrated than I am gratified, lol.  Here's another tale that makes for a great ghost story, but I'm having trouble verifying the details!  According to Haunted Houses of Harpers Ferry by Stephen D. Brown (1976):

In the town of Bolivar, adjacent to Harpers Ferry, there is a large old home that has been converted into an antique shop. 

A woman was touring the house with the owner one day.

"Who is that child," asked the visitor upon entering a room on the first floor.  The lady was gazing intently at a small antique bed located in one corner of the room.

"What child?  There is no child here."

The woman continued to gaze at the bed.  She saw a small child, apparently very ill.  Moments later the image began to fade, then disappeared altogether.  She described at once everything she had seen, and the owner immediately went over to the bed, which seemed to him as usual, empty and undisturbed.

Several days later the owner met two elderly women who knew the house and of its former occupants, the McArthur family.  The ladies remarked that Mrs. McArthur, a century ago, was the first woman offered a pension by the federal government for her service in the military.

Intrigued with the history of the house, he asked the ladies to continue.

They told him that Mr. McArthur, the local undertaker, operated his business in the two towns ravaged by war.  He had a daughter who also lived there with her baby.  But the child became ill and eventually died.

"Can you tell me which room the child died in?" he asked.

They named the location.  It was the same room where the visitor two days earlier had seen the phantom child.  He decided to move the bed to another area, and the child has not been seen again.

Historic research is rarely easy, especially on locations that I'm not familiar with...and don't live close enough to really access certain key documents that can make or break a story.  I hate to publish anything until I thoroughly examine all facets of research, but I do love this story...and I did find SOME background information on it!

There WAS a John McArthur and his wife, Mary (Polly), who lived in Bolivar...on Washington Street, in fact, according to the 1900 census.  And, according to this census, John McArthur did serve as a funeral director.  At this time, also living with the couple was a servant woman named Martha, and a 9 year old colored child named John A. Welcome.

John McArthur was born in Scotland around 1837, and married in New York around the year 1857.  In 1880, the family was still living in Pennsylvania, and it appears that the McArthurs did have one daughter, Emeline.  It is unclear whether or not Emeline made the move to WV with her parents, as records for her seem to disappear.  However, after John's death in 1919, the 1920 census does have an Emma Ketzner and husband living with Mary in Bolivar.

Based on this information, it is possible that Emeline DID have a child who passed away, but the question as to where this house actually stands is another mystery.

I was able to track down some information from a life-long Bolivar resident who remembers a Ms. McCormick having an antique store in a big yellow building in town.  The obituary for Mrs. Edith McCormick does mention her running an antique store in Bolivar...on Washington Street, the same street where the McArthur's lived!  Today, there is another antique store on Washington Street--Jason's Antiques.  That's a pretty big coincidence!

Spring Grove Cemetery, Parkersburg

When one thinks of an historic and haunted cemetery in Parkersburg, WV, the mind tends to go straight to the ever-popular Riverview Cemetery.  With over 200 years of West Virginia history packed into its gates, complete with a myriad of legends and ghost tales to go along with it, Riverview Cemetery is rightfully and understandably a first priority for ghost seekers.

However, one cannot discount OTHER local cemeteries that have a history and story unique in their own way.  One such cemetery is the Spring Grove Cemetery, located on Sayre Avenue.  In some publications, this cemetery is simply referred to as the Sayre Avenue Colored Cemetery.

Spring Grove was originally part of a 17.5 acre parcel owned by D.R. Neal.  Neal sold the land in 1892 to Peter Brock and the Pond Run Cemetery Company for a price of $900.  This cemetery is the only in Parkersburg denoted as a Black only cemetery, and is still in use today under the operation of the Spring Grove Cemetery Association.  It is the final resting place of many of the area's prominent black citizens, including Civil War veterans, veterans of several foreign wars, and interestingly enough...descendents of slaves owned by Thomas Jefferson.

The cemetery may also be home to a ghost.  According to an entry on WVGhosts Haunted Places, this cemetery is known for an apparition of a large black man.  It is said that this man appears to and comes to the aid of ladies in distress.  No other details on this haunting have been uncovered, so if you have any information on these hauntings, please contact me at  Thanks!

Cemetery Transcription and additional information available from
Photo property of Find-a-Grave contributor, crystal.

Another Journey to Nowhere...Frist House

Nothing frustrates me more than having a great ghost story, complete with alleged names and the likelihood of verifiable details...but then not finding anything in the historic archives to actually back that story up.

This is the case with one popular tale from the Moorefield, Hardy County, area.  The tale I refer to is that of the John Frist House and its run-in with a guerrilla warfare group by the name of McNeill's Rangers.  This story originally appeared on page 62 of the iconic Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales, written by Ruth Ann Musick, and published in 1977.  According to the notes in the back, this story was submitted in 1966 by Robert Fertig of Hardy County.  Here is that tale in its entirety--as it appears in Coffin Hollow:

During the Civil War, Hardy County was one of the few counties in West Virginia to go Confederate.  The reason Hardy turned rebel was that several well-to-do farmers in the county used slave labor.  The only important person opposed to the Confederacy was John Frist, an influential man who lived in a large house outside of Moorefield.  Because of John's resistance, a group of hotheaded rebels went to his house one night and murdered him, his wife, and their three children.

After this, John Frist's home was used as a prison for runaway slaves who were caught.  The slaves would be taken into the basement of the house, chained to the wall, and left for dead.  Those who performed these acts of insanity were called the McNeil Rangers, and they operated out of Moorefield.

After the South's surrender the slaves in Hardy County were released--all except the ones who had died in the cellar of their prison.  A group of townspeople went to the Frist house and cleared out the bones and decaying bodies.

This house is still standing and is in very good condition.  Several families have owned or rented it since the end of the Civil War but none of them has remained in it for more than a year.  I know of five families--all from other places--that have owned it in my lifetime.  The families that have lived there claim that once a year, on the anniversary of the Frist family's murder, blood appears on the floor and walls of the room in which they were killed.  It slowly wears off during the year, but it can't be painted over or sanded out.  Also strange screams and the sounds of chains rattling come from the cellar.

All my life I have heard that this house is haunted; I hope it does not carry a curse, because my parents rented it for a few months, about a year after they were married, and I was born there.

In 2004, popular chronicler of ghost tales, Troy Taylor, submitted an updated piece on this story, including some additional background (and correct spelling) of the McNeill's Rangers, the group allegedly responsible for this horrendous acts, to the WVGhosts website.  However, no additional details on John Frist and his family were explored...and perhaps, for very good reason.  While this tale is a favorite among West Virginia Civil War ghost-lore, and the hauntings are well seems that the actual history is NOT.

After many hours of searching the WV State Archives,, and other genealogy/history sites around the web, I have found no evidence of a John Frist family near Moorehead at the time of the Civil War.  I have found no historic homes listed on the National Register that mention a Frist family (or any similar name) or even list a history comparable to that discussed in this tale.  More importantly, I found no evidence that McNeill's Rangers ever took part in such a horrific event.  I do realize there are plenty of untold, undocumented horrors of a war that placed brother against brother, neighbor against neighbor, but for being such an important man, no easily obtainable record of Mr. Frist exists.  At least, I haven't found it, and neither has several other independent researchers, historians, and Hardy County newspaper contributors. I've explored the possibility that there was a mistake in the name, but aside from a John French family who doesn't fit the scenario, I couldn't find any other possible matches, and the time period in which this would have occurred is conveniently missing from the State Archives online database.

Another aspect of the story to think about is the fact that when you start to really examine the logistics of this tale, it doesn't make good fiscal sense---captured slaves wouldn't have been left to rot.  Even if the McNeill Rangers DID capture runaway slaves during their down time from raiding railroads, it would have been much more likely that such slaves would have been returned to their owners for a bounty or re-sold for profit.

The WV State Archives has a nice history of McNeill's Rangers, led by John Hanson "Hanse" McNeill, who did live in Missouri during the outbreak of the war.  When he was killed in 1864, his son Jesse took over leadership of the group.  It is debatable as to the extent of the elder McNeill's temper, but most agree he wasn't the monster described in this tale.  However, his son was said to be more hot-tempered and since records of the group's activities aren't as strong during this time (and some members left), I would wager that if any part of this story is true, then it was under Jesse's leadership or perhaps carried out by rogue members calling themselves McNeill's Rangers.

If you have ANY information at all on the Frist Family, or the Frist House, or any other detail that would give credibility to the history of this haunting, please contact me at: 

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Theresa's Movie Challenge-Week 3

I must be fooling myself to think that I'm EVER going to break this streak of three movies per week...

Anyway, here's what I managed to watch on Week 3 of the annual Halloween horror film cram!

1. Monster Ark (2008).  This was a SyFy Original Movie, and therefore, doesn't require much commentary, lol.  It wasn't the worst thing I've seen, but it was far from the best, which was disappointing as the concept was interesting.  Apparently, Noah had ANOTHER mission, conveniently left out of the Bible stories that most of us grew up with!

2. Don't Be Afraid of the Dark.  This was a Guillermo del Toro film, so I had high hopes for it, and I did enjoy it.  Even though the "monsters" were kinda silly, their silliness WORKED for them.  However, I did find myself during much of the movie not being scared of the little buggers, but devising ways of how I would eradicate them in horribly painful ways if it were ME they were messing with. many of del Toro's works, I was left at the end wondering if I missed something important...I just didn't quite GET the end of this one.

3. Sinister!  Aaron took me out on a much needed date night, and this is the movie I chose.  I really liked it, but I will agree with Aaron on one thing...while this was a supernatural movie dealing with a supernatural being, the actual content bordered on the "torture porn" genre.  Also, it was really, really predictable and I'm guessing some critical scenes were edited out before it hit the theater, as there were some aspects that felt incomplete.  There were some pretty good jump-scares, though, and the overall concept was darn creepy!

Bonus Holiday Movie:
Luke and I stayed in Saturday night, snuggled on the couch, fixed some popcorn and watched Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet the Wolfman.  Too cute!  I loved Alvin and the Chipmunks when I was little, plus...I love Halloween and scary movies.  This was the perfect bit of nostalgia that I got to share with my little boy, who also loved it.

Rome's First Recorded Ghost Story

The following tale is a translation by William Melmoth.  Originally recorded and recounted in Latin by Pliny the Younger around 100 A.D., this classic ghost story is often reported to be the first of written record, and it certainly contains many of the motifs and imagery that have so long been associated with denizens of the otherworld.

There was in Athens a house, large and spacious, which had a bad reputation as though it was filled with pestilence. In the dead of night, a noise was frequently heard resembling the clashing of iron which, if you listened carefully, sounded like the rattling of chains. The noise would seem to be a distance away, but it would start coming closer… and closer… and closer. Immediately after this, a specter would appear in the form of an old man, emaciated and squalid, with bristling hair and a long beard, and rattling the chains on his hands and feet as he moved.

The unfortunate inhabitants of the house went sleepless at night due to unimaginable and dismal terrors. Without sleep, as it had happened to others, their health was ruined and they were struck with some kind of madness – as the horrors in their minds increased, they were led on a path toward death. Eventually even during the daytime, when the ghost did not appear, the memory of their nightmares was so strong that it still passed before their eyes, every waking moment. Their terror was constant, even when the source of fear was gone.

Because of this, the house was eventually deserted and damned as uninhabitable, abandoned entirely to the ghost. In hope that some tenant might eventually be found who was ignorant of the house’s malevolence, a bill was still posted for its sale. As it happened, a philosopher by the name of Athenodorus came to Athens at that time. Reading the bill for the house, he easily discovered the price – and being an intelligent man, he was suspicious at its extremely low cost. Someone did tell him the whole story, and yet he wasn’t dissuaded, but was instead eager to make the purchase. Thus, he did.

When evening drew near, Athenodorus asked for couch to be readied for him at the front of the house. He asked for his writing materials and a lamp, and then asked his retainers to retire for the night. In order to ensure that his mind stayed focused and away from distractions of stories about imaginary noises and apparitions, he poured all his energy into his writing.

For awhile, the night was silent. Then the rattling of fetters began. Athenodorus would not lift his eyes or set down his pen. Instead, he concentrated on his writing and thereby closed his ears. But the noise wouldn’t stop, and it only increased and drew closer until it seemed to be at the door and then standing in his very chamber! Finally, Athenodorus looked away from his work… and saw the ghost standing just as it had been described. It stood there, waiting, beckoning him with one finger.

Athenodorus held up his palm as though the visitor should wait a moment, and once again bent over his work. The ghost, impatient, shook his chains over the philosopher’s head, beckoning again. This time, Athenodorus picked up his lamp and followed the ghost as it moved slowly, as though it was held back by its chains. Upon reaching the courtyard, the ghost suddenly vanished.

Now on his own, Athenodorus carefully marked the spot where the ghost vanished with a handful of leaves and grass. The following day, he asked the magistrate to have that spot dug up, and in that spot was found – intertwined with chains – the skeleton of a man. The body had lain in the ground a long time and had left the bones bare and corroded by the fetters. The bones were then collected and given a proper burial at public expense – and since the ghost’s tortured soul had been finally laid to rest, the house in Athens was haunted no more.

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Saturday, October 20, 2012

The Cave Ghost

In 1812, Samuel Tanner and his wife, Sudna Carpenter Tanner, became Spencer's first permanent white settlers.  They made their first home under the cliffs where Spencer Middle School now stands, and that is allegedly where their daughter, Elizabeth, was born.  Elizabeth is credited with being the first white baby born in the area.

The Tanners weren't the only settlers to make use of this convenient natural phenomena, and many white and Indian families used the cliffs and caves throughout the area as either camping grounds, or temporary shelter until more permanent homes could be constructed.  This unique style of living would eventually lead to one of the area's most prolific ghost legends.

According to a story told to WVGhosts by Edward Hensley, one such cave-dwelling family lived in an area known as Steel Hollow Road.  A man, along with his wife and three children, made a cave there their home in the early days of Roane County's settlement.  As winter approached, the man left out on a hunting trip to ensure the family had enough food to last the winter.  While he was gone, the wife and the three children came down with a fever.  With the mother too ill to properly care for the sick children, the three wailed non-stop.  Finally, the mother, in her fever-induced state, gathered the strength to smother the children to death, one by one, in order to stop the constant crying.  The father came home from his hunting trip and found the mother, rocking her dead children, telling him to "Be quiet.  The children are sleeping."  Local legend dictates that due to this traumatic play of events, visitors to the area could hear the sounds of ghostly children crying in the area of the caves well into the 20th century.

The gentleman reporting this incident decided to see for himself whether the legends were true or not, and upon investigating the cave in question, DID witness the pitiful sounds of a crying baby at midnight.

But who WAS this family?  Public records aren't the greatest for this time period, and if the children's deaths WERE reported and recorded at all, its very likely that the cause of death was simply listed as "fever."  The WV State Archives available online only go back to 1856 in Roane County, and during that time and the years following, there are literally tons of deaths attributed to scarlet fever, typhoid fever, or simply...fever.  This ailment would sometimes take out entire families, including young sibling groups.  One can only speculate the gravity of a similar situation in a much earlier time, when doctors were scarce, and "cave-dwelling" was the way of life for so many.

Photo and much more information on Spencer's earliest "cave-dwelling" citizens can be found at the Living Appalachia website.

Berkeley County's Edgewood Manor

Today, Edgewood Manor is an attractive bed and breakfast owned by Barbara Bell, located along Rt. 11 in Berkley County.  It is a popular stop on Civil War History tours, but it also has a unique distinction:  In March of 2003 the WV Society of Ghost Hunters certified it as a haunted manor house.

Edgewood, also known as the John Boyd House, was built by General Elisha Boyd for his son, John.  It served as the manor home for a vast plantation, but the house truly gained its notoriety during the years of the Civil War.  One important event is that of Gen. J. Johnston Pettigrew's death.  In July of 1862, Pettigrew was shot by Union Cavalry near Falling Waters, and brought to the home.  He died in an upstairs bedroom on July 17th.  A massive monument to Pettigrew marks the entrance road to the home today.

Another interesting Civil War story involves John Boyd, Jr., who was serving the Confederacy in the South.  On a visit home, one of the Boyd family's slaves alerted Union troops that Boyd was at the house.  The troops raided the home, and found Boyd hiding in a closet upstairs.  He was taken prisoner, and ordered to be executed, but his life was spared at the last moment.

Details are sketchy as to just WHAT type of hauntings are said to occur in the old home, but other websites have noted that apparitions and strange noises are commonplace.  Perhaps Gen. Pettigrew still walks the upstairs bedroom where he took his last breath, refusing to give in to the Union.  Perhaps the emotion of John Boyd, Jr.'s capture left a lasting imprint of both sound and sight...waiting to be played again for those open to it?

National Register Application
Contact Info for B&B 

*Elisha Boyd, who built this home for his son, John, ALSO has a haunted home, still standing in the area!  Read about Boydville Mansion at Theresa's Haunted History!*

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Pence Springs Grand Hotel

Andrew Pence came to this area of Summers County around 1872, and in 1893 bought land from Jesse Beard that would be the future home of his grand hotel.  The original Pence Springs Hotel, built around 1897, made use of a nearby spring to draw in visitors all over the country.  However, it wasn't until a bottle of water from the spring won an award for best spring water at the 1904 World's Fair that business really took off.  Unfortunately, the original hotel burned down sometime between 1914 and 1916.

However, a new, bigger hotel was built and completed around 1918.  It was considered the most expensive place to stay in the state, catering to the rich who were in search of the healing waters of the springs.  The money didn't last long, though, and the Great Depression was enough to shut the grand hotel down.  Eleanor Roosevelt tried to turn the property into a finishing school for young ladies, but that venture didn't last long, either, and in 1944 the estate was finally purchased by the Hugh and Hall Adams Corporation of Huntington and by 1946, the plans were drawn and finalized, turning the hotel into the West Virginia State Prison for Women.

West Virginia's female inmates were housed in the former hotel until the early 1980s.  Ashby Berkley, the son of a former prison employee, began buying the property a few pieces at a time, and by 1986 had reopened the structure as a hotel.  Subsequent owners John and Wendy Lincoln continued to operate the inn.

Today, history has come full circle and Eleanor Roosevelt's plans have somewhat come to fruition.  The Greenbrier Academy for Girls, an all-female boarding school, now occupies the turn of the century hotel.

The hotel is also occupied by a few ghosts....

Before the hotel was converted into a boarding school, visitors to the historic inn claimed to hear voices coming from the sun porch and the music room.  Apparitions dressed in formal wear of the early 20th century have also been spotted, leading many to believe that those who spent many a happy hour partying and relaxing at the hotel are still there in spirit.  There is also paranormal activity stemming from the time when the building housed West Virginia's female inmates.

At the time, the solitary confinement cells were located on the third floor, and remnants of their existence remain today.  It was said that between 2 and 3 am every morning, the cell doors on this floor were heard slamming shut.  Other activity includes lights going on and off on their own accord, and the dining room furniture being rearranged by unseen hands.  Further information on the alleged paranormal activity can be found in the book, Haunted Inns of America.

National Register Application

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Monday, October 15, 2012

Boydville's Otherworldly Inhabitants

Boydville Manor in Martinsburg, WV has a history going back to 1812, when General Elisha Boyd bought the property from Adam Stephen for $290 and built his Georgian style mansion.  Elisha lived in the home until his death in 1841, and willed the estate to his daughter, Mary.  Mary married into the Charles Faulkner family, another prominent family in the Martinsburg area, and over the years, hosted many notable historical personalities in the home.

Mary is also credited with saving the home during the Civil War when Captain F.O. Martindale arrived to burn the estate in retaliation for the Confederate burning of Governor Bradley's home in Maryland.  Mary and her daughters were given one hour to leave the home, with only their clothing, but somehow they got a message to President Lincoln, who ordered the house be spared.

The home stayed in the Faulkner family until 1958 when Roderick and May Cheeseman purchased the property.  During their tenure, the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  In 1987, the Cheesemans turned the property over to LaRue Frye.

Until just recently, it seems that the home operated as a bed and breakfast, known as Boydville, The Inn at Martinsburg, but there is no indication on the home's website or elsewhere that the it is currently being used at such.  Still, the home is being enjoyed in the community as a historic destination where many historic events take place throughout the year.

All of these history-themed events at the home may be enough to make the resident ghosts feel right at home...and there are no less than four such beings that are believed to roam the estate.  The first ghost is heard, rather than seen.  Visitors to the home often hear a woman humming or singing what sounds like a lullabye in the former nursery.

The second ghost is the protective spirit of a former slave named Henry.  Henry is most often seen in the hallway, and he shows up quite often--around once a month.  Another ghost that is seen is that of a doctor who was said to have visited the home in order to treat his own grandson.  The grandson unfortunately could not be saved, and passed away in one of the bedrooms.  Filled with grief over not being able to save his young grandson, the grandfather also passed away in the same room, just a few weeks later.

One last ghost is said to be that of a Civil War soldier.  At various times during the Civil War, both Union and Confederate troops camped nearby, and several buildings on the property were used as medical facilities to treat the injured and ill soldiers.  The apparition of the soldier is seen walking the grounds at night out in front of the manor house, carrying a lantern. Perhaps he is one of the soldiers who died on the property in one of the makeshift medical facilities?

*Theresa's Note:  The information on the resident ghosts of Boydville came from the book, Haunted Inns of America, by Terry L. Smith and Mark Jean. In addition to these ghost stories, the entry for Boydville notes that the home was also famous for Belle Boyd, Confederate spy, shooting a Union soldier on the stairs.  The book also states that Belle was the daughter of Elisha Boyd.  In reality, Belle Boyd was born 4 years after Elisha died, and her father was Ben Reed Boyd, who at one point, DID work for Gen. Elisha Boyd.  The home where Belle killed a Union soldier was located along Race Street.* 

*Elisha Boyd also built a home in 1839 named Edgewood, for his son, John Boyd.  That home is also haunted, and information can be found on Theresa's Haunted History!*

More info on Boydville:
National Register Application

Photo from Wikipedia

Theresa's Movie Challenge-Week 2

Another disappointing update...with my busy schedule, I only managed another meager THREE scary movies, but honestly, I had some better selections this week!

The first movie I watched was the original 1973 version of The Legend of Hell House.  Movies like this really make me think I was born in the wrong decade, as I love these old parapsychology based investigation movies, lol. This was a typical old-school week long investigation of a horrifically haunted house, implementing both science and psychics.  Quite interesting theories discussed, and honestly, I was quite amused to see that this movie does mention EMF as a by-product of a paranormal manifestation, lol.

My second selection was by accident...after I watched The Legend of Hell House, Netflix suggested I watch another 70s era film, Burnt Offerings.  While this film seemed to go on and on and on, it was really good...a house takes on a certain sentience as it rejuvenates itself with the help of a family on summer vacation.  A certain level of suspension of disbelief is needed, but that's normal for ANY horror film.

Lastly...I caught a movie that I had previously only seen bits and pieces of on SyFy.  It was Book of Blood.  It was actually quite an interesting concept, about souls of the dead entering our world at intersections, and was another movie that featured an in-depth paranormal investigation of an alleged haunted property.  One of the main themes of the movie was that the dead want their stories told, which fit right in with the theme of a blog I posted earlier in the month!  This was a little gross for my tastes, though, but I did chuckle a bit at the end.

Bonus Movies:  Aaron and I were in a Halloween mood the other day, and watched a few Halloween cartoons with Luke.  We watched the iconic It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!  and Disney's The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.  Luke loved them both, and really got into watching them.  Needless to say, I was quite pleased!

I'm hoping that this week will be more productive.  We've even planned a "date night" to go see one of the new movies coming out in theaters.  I'm leaning towards Sinister, but I still can't shake the urge to see Paranormal Activity 4.

Anyway...challenge total so far:  6

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Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Prayer

I'm working on the research for several upcoming blog entries on haunted locations, but I wanted to take a second and share a quick anecdote about when I was a child...and faced with a perplexing dilemma!  I always find this tale amusing, and hope you do, too.

Growing up, my family wasn't really the religious type.  If I had to classify us, we were of the Christian faith with a belief in God, but it never was a big part of our lives.  I have very little memories of going to any type of church service or activity, and prayer wasn't something we really discussed or did as a family.  It wasn't that we rejected religion or anything, but it always seemed like it was something that we just never discussed.

Years later, when I was ten years old, we moved from Hurricane to Winfield, WV...and right into a haunted house.  Already at this point, I had an interest in paranormal research, and read any book I could find on the subject, which included several books on WV folklore and ghost tales.  A common theme in many of these stories was the power of prayer.  It seemed as if any time something paranormal happened that scared the crud out of you, all you had to do was say the Lord's Prayer and it would go away.

That little fact was heavy in my mind during one particularly frightening time period of activity in my house.  Whatever energies or entities that were there when we moved in were NOT friendly, and were quick to make their displeasure known to the living inhabitants of the home, especially me and my sister.  One night, I lay awake in bed, terrified at the sounds of boot steps clomping down my hall, accompanied by a horrifying sense of dread permeating the room.  Shadows seemed to dart around the room in an unnatural manner, and I was terrified, even more than usual.

I knew that the Lord's Prayer was supposed to alleviate these feelings of horror, which were quickly escalating, but there was a HUGE problem.  At ten years old, and with VERY little exposure to church or the Bible, I didn't know the words!

There was a children's Bible on my bookshelf, which I leaped out of bed and grabbed, but whether or not because it was dark, or it wasn't in there, or I was simply too frightened to think correctly, I couldn't find the Lord's Prayer anywhere in it.  In my semi-panic, the words to another prayer DID pop into my head:

Thank God for dirty dishes
They have a tale to tell
While others may go hungry, we're eating very well
With home, health and happiness, I shouldn't make a fuss.
By the stack of evidence, God's been very good to us!

This interesting choice of words to battle the paranormal came from a decorative plaque that my grandma had hanging in her kitchen--a place where I spent many happy days as a child.  I closed my eyes and repeated the poem over and over again, and within a few minutes, the foot steps in the hall quieted, the shadows receded, and the heavy feeling of fear in the room disappeared completely.

Even at that young age, I realized that it wasn't necessarily the WORDS that held the power, but the intent and the focus.  I probably could have sang Yankee Doodle and have it be just as long as I was focusing my energy and thoughts toward my intended outcome.  This realization carries over today in my work as a paranormal investigator when I'm asked about the effectiveness of blessings and cleansing rituals.  My answer always is along the same lines--whatever you do won't work unless you BELIEVE it is going to work.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Are you a Touch-Know?

Over a year ago, I started a very small paranormal dictionary, which I named the Paranormal ABC's, as it was not intended to be a comprehensive lexicon of paranormal terms.  For reasons unbeknownst to me, I abandoned that list before it was even halfway finished.  With Halloween coming up, and traffic to my blog steadily increasing, I felt inspired to give this another shot.  Most of these entries will NOT be fully researched articles, but offer just enough info and resources for further study to give you a good idea of some of this field's vocabulary.  I hope you enjoy!

Pam obtains information from touching Rose Red's front door.
She calls herself a "touch-know."

Among the many, many ways that psychic abilities can manifest, one of my personal favorites is the theory of psychometry.  In short, psychometry is the ability of a person to read an object's history through touch.  By touching the object, the psychometrist is able to psychically pick up impressions through visions, smells, sounds, etc.

The actual term psychometry was coined in 1842 by Joseph R. Buchanan and comes from the Greek psyche, meaning "soul" and metron, meaning "measure."  Occasionally, the phenomena is called psychoscopy in order to distinguish it from the field of study in psychology dealing with psychological testing and measurement, also called psychometry or psychometrics.  Fans of the Stephen King work Rose Red may know this ability by another name...the much more descriptive term of "touch-know."

In any event, this definition is great if you are an animist, and throughout the 1800s, WAS a widely accepted theory of paranormal phenomena.  It was even tested in the scientific community as geologist William Denton experimented with psychometric abilities of his sister, Ann Cridge.  In 1854, William wrapped up various samples from his work, and had Ann 'touch' the samples to her forehead.  Ann was able to correctly identify the samples in this manner, based on the visual psychic impressions she received.

In the early 1920s a German doctor by the name of Gustav Pagenstecher studied one of his patients who also seemed to have this unique ability.  He formed his own theory involving the idea that all matter gives off vibrations.  This "vibrations theory,"  which does have scientific research to back it up, is largely the accepted theory of today's psychometrists who are able to pick up these slight vibrations and interpret them.

Those will this ability often find that metal objects will retain the most residual energies, especially those exposed to a high degree of emotion.  That is why, even though I LOVE antique jewelry, I would NEVER wear someone else's wedding or engagement ring, lol.  Way too much emotion there to even risk trying one of the many "cleansing" rituals that are recommended, including simply running water over the object or bathing it in sea salts.  It would constantly be running through my mind whether or not the person who wore this had a happy marriage or not, and whether or not that would affect my own.  Granted, I DO watch too much paranormal themed TV/movies and psychometry, whether they mention it by name or not, is a popular theme, offering a great plot device for characters to obtain information.

I personally have also wondered about the impressions received from such objects, especially those with a LONG history of various owners.  It is my understanding that only the strongest of the recorded emotions come to the surface, so to speak.  To me, that's a little depressing, because maybe someone else's story will not get told because its not as tragic as someone else's who had the object.

I'm linking to a wonderful Paranormal article on the subject, and also encourage those interested to check out the book Haunted Objects by Chris Balzano.  The book, which discusses a variety of haunted objects and theories about how they got that way, covers the haunting of objects through spirit attachments and also discusses psychometry to a degree.  However, there really is no clear distinction as to where, and if, these lines cross or the psychometrist actually picking up energies from the object itself, or is he/she being influenced by an intelligent entity wanting the story of a beloved object told?  

Let me know what YOU think!  


*Are you a fan of Rose Red?  Find out about the TRUE hauntings of the home where the exterior shots of this movie were filmed!  Thornewood Castle information from Theresa's Haunted History*

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Seat J-47 (Hibbing High Phantom)

Hibbing High School in Minnesota is a HUGE fortess of a school, currently serving grades 7-12.  It was originally built between 1920 and 1922 by the Oliver Mining Company, shortly after the mine moved the town to a new location in order to expand the steel mine. It was built at a cost of $3.9 million and was designed by Jacobson  Brothers Construction.   As part of this monolithic giant of education, a vast auditorium, seating 1800, was built...modeled after New York City's former Capitol Theater.

The photo above was taken by Chuck Perry, stage manager of the opulent theater.  It features seat J-47 being occupied by something not of this world.  Or does it?

The story that is being passed around the web, and in Jeff Belanger's The World's Most Haunted Places, is that this phantom is none other than the school's first stage manager, Bill Ratican.  Supposedly, Bill came to Minnesota from New York in order to take over the position of stage manager for the auditorium that also hosted many forms of entertainment for the community as well.  The legends vary greatly, but the general story goes that the auditorium is haunted...and that its main ghost is that of Bill Ratican.  It all started shortly after Chuck Perry started the job in 1979...a visiting psychic, there to see the school where Bob Dylan made is first public performance, stated energy around seat J-47.

Indeed, there had been other legends around this seat, as many claim that this seat is often in the down position, as if someone is sitting there, despite the surrounding seats being in the "up" position.  So, Chuck Perry, now a professional photographer, snagged a prop camera from the prop room (a Polaroid), set it up on a tri-pod, and began snapping.  Allegedly, six photos out of the roll contained anomalies, including the most famous, featured aboved.

It was Chuck Perry who researched the history of the auditorium and concluded that the ghost in question was none other than Ratican, although it is confirmed that a physically disabled student did actually pass away in the auditorium.  Some legends state that Ratican was killed by a falling chandelier while sitting in the infamous seat, but the general consensus seems to be that he died of an ordinary heart attack.  The date given for this event generally tends to be in the early 1940s, with at least one source, an interview with Mike Finco, principal, narrows it down to 1942.

Unfortunately, while this is a great story, it doesn't add up with the known facts.  After going through tons and tons death certificates, I found no indication of a Bill Ratican dying in 1942, or anything close to that data.  I did, however, find on a listing for a William Ratican who died in April of 1967, which does coincide with ONE online account I found on this subject.  Luckily, this information was further reinforced by an article I found from a 1961 paper talking about a play at the auditorium, and giving credit to William Ratican, stage manager.  If this is the same Mr. Ratican, which I expect it is, he was actually a lawyer by day, and originally from Minnesota, NOT NYC.

It has been theorized by many, and even explicity stated in that same interview with Mike Finco, that the mystery of this photo, and the others in the series, has been solved.  It seems that the photos were staged as a way to scare the students and play up the "true" paranormal events that plagued the auditorium.  The model for the ghost was long-time head custodian, Bob Kearney, who raided the theater's costume department for old-timey clothes.  Bob Kearney has a long history with the auditorium as well, giving both Bob Dylan and "ghost tours."  The video below features some of the other shots from this roll of film that shown anomalies, and also interviews both Perry and Kearney.  I invite you to watch it and see if it helps you decide...FACT OR FAKED?

Want MORE ghost photos?
Check out the Paranormal Photos Page!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Theresa's Movie Challenge Week 1

I'm one week into my annual challenge of seeing how many horror movies I can cram into the month of October...just one way I personally stretch out the Halloween holiday for all its worth! I have plans of seeing some awesome new films coming out in the theater, like Paranormal Activity 4 and Sinister, but until then, I'm making do with what I can find on Netflix. Unfortunately, I'm not doing that great, lol.  Here's the list of all THREE horror films that I managed to shove into my schedule:

1. My first film selection was 11:11:11 The Prophecy.  I'm a sucker for a good end of days flick, and I thought this one would live up to my expectations, especially with its combined strong biblical references AND pop culture phenomena of the 11:11 theory.  I became acquainted with the "eleveners" several years ago through my association with the different paranormal message boards I frequent.  The movie was loosely based on this, taking the symbolism much further in order to create the story line...which was awesome until the last 20 minutes or so.  What was a serious movie quickly turned into a carnival as these 11:11 beings emerged for their various cinematic close-ups.  It was silly and sophomoric, and had a not-so-suprising twist at the end.  Still, I'd give it 2.5 outta 5 stars.

2. The second film I watched was actually MEANT to be silly...I Sell The Dead.  This movie chronicles the life and times of a body snatcher, who, after an interesting experience one evening, finds himself and his partner is a very specialized line of work.  Being the macabre person I am, I always did enjoy the tales of body snatching, and sometimes murder, that was common practice in order to provide fresh cadavers for Victorian medical research...and the paranormal twists were delightfully absurd.  While I enjoyed this movie, I have absolutely no idea who the intended audience was too gruesome for the younger crowd, yet too silly for the usual horror buff.

3. My latest film was The Inn Keepers.  I liked this one a lot because it was about history and two favorite things.  Two employees are spending their last weekend at a haunted hotel before it closes, and are taking advantage of the opportunity in order to obtain evidence of its resident ghost, a scorned bride who killed herself on her wedding day.  Things end badly, and the ending just seemed unfinished, and tried too hard to be poingnant and thought-provoking, lol.  Also, the plot really didn't come together, and there were a lot of unanswered questions and confusion as to just what the heck was going on.  When a movie provides a cool backstory, I expect that backstory to come together in a neat, tidy little package, but this one fell short.

Well, there you have it.  You have my selections for Week 1 of my challenge.  I want to hear from YOU, though!  What scary movies do you recommend I see, and what have you been watching recently?  I'm pretty easy to please when it comes to cinematic entertainment, but I do prefer my horror to be in the supernatural/ghost genre, and contain little to no gore.  So give me suggestions, please!  Oh, and its a total plus if these suggestions can be found on Netflix, lol!

Feel free to leave suggestions in the comments section, or on Theresa's Haunted History FaceBook!

Sunday, October 7, 2012

University of Charleston

The current University of Charleston sits along the south bank of the Kanawha River...but the well known institution of higher learning actually has its roots in Barboursville, WV.  Originally known as the Barboursville Seminary, the school was opened in 1888 by a group of Southern Methodists.  By 1901, the college had taken on the name of Morris Harvey College, in honor of a very wealthy donor to the school. 

In 1935, Morris Harvey College relocated its campus to downtown Charleston.  Between 1935 and 1947, it would undergo many more additional changes, include dropping its affiliation with the Southern Methodist Church in 1942, and merging with Kanawha Junior College.  The need for increased enrollment and increased affiliations resulted in the the building of a new campus, across the river from the downtown area.

Building of the new campus began in 1947.  The third building to become a part of the future University of Charleston campus was Riggleman Hall.  Construction began on Riggleman Hall in 1950, and ended in 1951.  It was actually supposed to be the east wing of a much larger building that was never built.  Instead, it became the heart of the new campus...and also, the heart of its ghost stories.

Riggleman Hall was named after Morris Harvey President Leonard Riggleman.  Riggleman took office in 1931, and oversaw the many changes the college went through concerning its move from Barboursville to Charleston, and from downtown Charleston to its new location.  Leonard Riggleman continued his presidency until 1964 and passed away on May 18, 1983.  He is buried in Huntington's Woodmere Cemetery.  And although his earthly remains are interred two counties away, many believe that Leonard Riggleman still roams the halls of the campus's main spirit.

Faculty working late in the evenings have heard doors slam when no one else was in the building.  Students and staff alike have heard both unexplained noises and disembodied voices echoing throughout empty halls.  These phantom sounds are largely attributed to the building's namesake, but others claim that the ghostly goings-on are to be blamed on ANOTHER ghost...that of a young female student who committed suicide upon learning that she was pregnant.  To my knowledge, there is no hard evidence to back this theory up, so if you have first-hand, verifiable information on the subject, please let me know!

Anyway, there are other buildings on the campus that are also said to be haunted.  One such building is the Geary Student Union, which houses, among other things, the school's art gallery, auditorium, and newly renovated coffee shop.  The details of the paranormal activity going on in this location are scant...most websites that discuss this location simply state that there are feelings of not being alone, shadows, and strange sounds.

The former Dickinson Hall dormitory has a nearly word for word description of ITS hauntings floating around the web, but a former residence did write in to the WVGhosts website with a personal experience.  It seems that this student would often feel a male presence in the dorm.  This witness also discusses some other personal experiences involving that building's lounge and basement.  You can read those stories for yourself at the link provided.

Unfortunately, Dickinson Hall was torn down in the early 2000s, so any trace of a haunting is lost to history...or is it?  In 2010, a new dorm, the East Apartments, was built upon the former site of Dickinson Hall.  According to a Parthenon news article from 2011, current students were also beginning to experience eerie things in the new building, a fact which they attributed to the former Dickinson Hall.

*The name University of Charleston was implemented by the Board of Trustees on December 13, 1978*

Photo above property of the Council of Independent Colleges: Historic Campus Architecture Project

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Friday, October 5, 2012

Buckley Family Murder

This is the Buckley Family. The children’s names were Susan & John. As a Halloween joke, the kids in the neighborhood were going to get a dummy & pretend to chop its head off. The Buckley children thought it would be hilarious to actually kill their mum, so when the kids walked up the door they got an axe and slaughtered her. Once everyone figured out what they had done, they called the police, but the kids were long gone by then. The only picture of them was this photo, taken by a trick or treater. The mother's body was found half eaten.

Well, not exactly.  The above narrative is the one that is accompanying this photograph and floating around the web in force.  It is a popular Halloween subject, yet it is leaving behind a trail of confused individuals who want to know if this image is real or not.  The truth is...its KINDA real, lol. 

This image is the artwork of Eddie Allen, who creates changing portraits for the Haunted Memories site.  You've probably seen similar works on the shelves lately...portraits of old-timey subjects that take on a horrifying twist when looked at from a slightly different angle.  This particular image is titled Midwestern Matricide, and the inspiration behind the creepy image can be found at the link provided below.  As for the actual story...I'm not sure if its the brainchild of the artist himself, or simply someone trying to create their
own viral internet sensation!

Unaltered Photo

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Paranormal Musings and Coincidences

As I'm sure most of my readers already know, for the past six years I have been a member of Huntington Paranormal Investigations and Research, serving as Historic Research Manager.  Because of this position, I've been blessed to have the opportunity to really dig into the past of so many Huntington and tri-state citizens that have been "forgotten" over the years. 

HPIR's motto is "Telling Huntington's History...One Ghost Story at a Time," and denotes our strong reverence for history and historic preservation, but I often wonder if there is a deeper calling for me in that simple phrase.  I'll try to explain as best I can, without going too philisophically new age-y ...

Like many in this field, I got into paranormal investigation as a way to not only find my own answers, but to help others along the way.  Taking my own experiences and combining them with years of researching natural causes that mimic paranormal activity, I thought that I could really help those who needed help in understanding their own paranormal issues.  I am proud to say that I do believe I have helped fill this niche, whether it has been giving someone the support, tools or education to live at peace with whatever paranormal issue they have in their life...or by simply showing them, through hard science, that what is plaguing them is NOT paranormal.

However, the deeper I get into this study, strange things and odd coincidences pop up that make me wonder if there isn't a whole other class of citizens that I'm REALLY meant to help.  By those citizens, I mean those who are no longer with us in body, but, quite spirit.

Throughout my time as Research Manager, I've had small bits of what I would call simple good luck.  When researching a case, even the more frustrating ones, many times things would fall into textbook perfection, or I would stumble upon a vital piece of information in the weirdest of locations...or through the weirdest of coincidences.  In one such case, I was working on a very popular, nationally known case here in the tri-state.  There was one aspect to the legend involving a drowning death of a baby girl, and I was trying to verify that death for a television production team.  I had manually searched hundreds of death certificates, going on a hunch and VERY little second hand information to no avail.  That's when I closed my eyes, asked whatever power was out there for help, and clicked right on the death certificate I needed, which gave enough information to also pull a wonderful newspaper article on the subject.

Speaking of newspapers, I also tend to stumble upon much needed newspaper articles on a regular basis, lol.  Many a hour has been spent on the microfilm reader at the Cabell County Library, and often when I'm pulling an obituary or an article for another case, I'll just happen to "land" on an article pertaining to another haunted location that I need information on!

I know these are just silly little coincidences that can easily be dismissed, but at times, I do feel like it is my calling to tell these stories of people who would have otherwise been lost to history.  These feelings intensified this past weekend with our latest investigation, and an odd coincidence that happened later that night.

We investigated an old farm house where a man recently passed away, alone and under sad circumstances.  There was just something that didn't feel right with the case, and both myself and the member of the team who arranged the investigation felt like there was definitely something this man was trying to tell us.  I often find myself absorbed fully in researching a case, almost to the point of it being an obsession, and was shocked to feel like this lady too, had similar feelings when it came to this house.  Even though it was an uneventful night, I went home feeling a strong connection to the man who had lived such a mysterious life in this old house.

The investigation was relatively short, and I was home by midnight and still wide awake.  So, I decided to finish a book I had started reading earlier.  That book was Brad Meltzer's Book of Lies.  In an unexpected twist at the end, the reader learns that the key to living forever, and possibly, the greatest gift from God we can get, is having our story told and passed down.  At 3am, and after just talking about the subject earlier, this revelation felt quite profound, lol.  Astoundingly, it still feels impactful a week later.

I don't know why I was chosen to devote so much of my life to the field of paranormal research, but I do feel that this is exactly what I should be doing.  Along with the rest of HPIR, I am doing my part to give a voice to those who can no longer speak for themselves.  Will you listen?

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