I'm always looking for new haunted locations to include here at Theresa's Haunted History, but also for HPIR investigations, and I've been reading up on good ways to find non-reported or under-reported locations that have a lot of potential. After coming across a story about a brutal murder that happened in the park in the 1950s, I decided that this place was definitely worth looking into...at least from a historical viewpoint!
Rotary Park first opened in 1921 when the City Civic Community, spearheaded by the local Rotary and Kiwanis clubs pushed for a public park project in Huntington. Public parks were viewed as an asset to public social and physical health, so together, these organizations raised money to buy up land for use in the project. Over 60 acres were purchased from John Hite, and would become the basis of Rotary Park, located just off Rt. 60 today.
When it opened, the park was nothing like it is today. The site, chosen for its outstanding panoramic views, was not accessible by automobile traffic. Rather, it was a place for hiking and rustic outdoors activities. In 1925, the park expanded its acreage and control was given over to the Huntington Board of Park Commissioners (an organization which later became the Greater Huntington Parks and Recreation District.
It wasn't until 1929 when the park became more accessible to the citizens of Huntington. Roads were built throughout the park, including a historic stone bridge, now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Picnic areas were also built, making the park more open to the everyday citizen...but still offered a secluded, wooded natural sanctuary.
However, that same seclusion would be used for nefarious purposes as well as tranquil ones. In particular, one of Huntington's most brutal murders took place in the park on January 4, 1958. Mrs. Inez Booth was at home reading one evening, waiting for her husband, Melvin, to return from his Guyandotte grocery store business. Mrs. Booth was forced at knife point from her Collis Avenue home, into a car, and driven to an especially secluded area of the park where she was raped and stabbed, suffering a slit throat, abdomen, and leg.
Mrs. Booth did not die right away. In temperatures reaching lows of around 7 degrees, she laid in a pool of her own blood down in an embankment where she was thrown and left for dead. With her last remaining strength, she managed to crawl towards a residence on Glendale Avenue, one of the housing developments located below the park. It was in the Withrow's backyard that a police officer found her around 11:30. She was taken to St. Mary's Hospital, where she died that morning at 2:30am. She was 51 years old.
Before Mrs. Booth passed away, she was able to name her attacker, 25 year old Larry Paul Fudge. Fudge was a family friend who had grown up with the Booth family's children. Fudge, a former honor student at Huntington East High School, had just recently visited the family's home and it was even a known fact that Melvin Booth had signed a bond agreement for Fudge for an incident 5 years earlier, where Booth was convicted of extortion of a 17 year old girl.
Fudge was arrested for the murder of Mrs. Booth less than an hour after she was found. He was picked up at his parents' home in Altizer and confessed to the crime. After a short trial, he was found guilty and sentenced to the death penalty. On Tuesday, July 1, 1958 at 9pm, Fudge met his end at the WV State Penitentiary in the arms of Ol' Sparky. He was the first man from Cabell County to be sentenced to electrocution. His remains were brought home, and he was buried in Barboursville's Ridgelawn Memorial Park.
Today, that same tranquil seclusion of the park that is enjoyed by so many nature lovers is still one of its most dangerous aspects. Despite the addition of modern baseball fields, and a top-notch disc golf course, much of the park is still wooded, and its developed quite a seedy reputation. It is known locally as an excellent place (all times, day AND night) to go "cruising." Drug deals and thefts are also fairly common. Because of all the criminal and adult activity, as intrigued as I am about investigating this location, it doesn't seem to be a good idea, lol.
I do urge, however, that anyone who DOES wish to check out claims of paranormal activity take precautions. Do not go alone, let someone know where you'll be and when you'll be back, and consider a daytime only investigation of the better trafficked areas, keeping a cell phone handy.
I'd also love to know if anyone has heard any actual stories of this location being haunted, or if anyone has had any paranormal experiences here. If you have any information, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. Thanks!
Links of Interest:
Historic Bridge National Register application
Death Certificate for Inez Booth
Death Certificate for Larry Fudge
Article on the murder of Inez Booth
Feel free to email me for more information on this location! I've got a ton more that just doesn't "fit" with the blog, lol.