Friday, June 29, 2018

Theresa's Travels: West Virginia's First Renaissance Festival

This coming weekend is your last chance of the season to experience the WV Renaissance Festival, located near Lewisburg, WV.  And if you're able to attend...I cannot recommend it enough!

The weekend before last, my family, plus my son's friend, piled in the car to make the easy trip down the WV Turnpike to see for ourselves the first ever WV Renaissance Festival.  The kids and I have never been to a Renaissance Festival, but my boyfriend had previously attended a fairly well-known event in Ohio many years ago.  While my only experience with what to expect was stuff I'd seen on television and online over the years, both we newbies and our veteran RenFaire family member were all completely blown away by how awesome this event was.

Huzzah for the Earl of Essex!
Located on the Hollow Hills farm, the setting for the festival was idyllic. I mean, it was absolutely stunning. Before you even left the parking area, you were transported back to the middle ages.  The vehicles and other modern necessities were carefully concealed from view. Chickens roamed freely.  Every where you went, you were greeted by beautifully dressed staff members who never broke character and who went out of their way to give you an interactive experience. The games, performance areas, vendors, and other activities were carefully spread over the rolling hillside and even incorporated the nearby woods.

It was one of these wooded areas in which we had our experience that makes this blog post skirt the edges of the paranormal!  No, we didn't see any ghosts or Bigfoot roaming the farm...but my son and his friend walked away with a belief in the fae!

Walking along the path, we were met by a well-dressed courtesan who prompted us to join him and his crew in the forest maze in search of the fae's hidden treasure.  He was speaking with a thick accent, so I'm not entirely sure what word he was using (and to my untrained ears, there are so many similar words in the fairly realm) but I BELIEVE he was referring to a group of fae known as the Seelie Court.  According to Carol Rose's book, Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns and Goblins:

"In British folklore there is a subdivision of the fairies according to their character, and these groups are known as the Seelie Court and the Unseelie Court.  The Seelie Court are those Trooping Fairies who are generally engaged in their own society with royalty, nobility, and a community existing relatively peacefully within the human world.  They enjoy feasting, hunting, and dancing in the earth's rural idyll.  They comprise such groups as the elves and the Sidhe."

Aaron and I sat in the shade while we sent the kids off in search of fairy treasure, joking with them that we hoped the fairies wouldn't replace them with changelings.  And, when the kids hadn't returned 15 minutes later, we started to worry that maybe they HAD been taken by the fairies!  Aaron went off in search of them, and while he was gone, the kids made their way back.  However, during the time where I was alone at the beginning of the maze, I was joined by two young ladies who were also seeking shade from the blistering sun.  While the kids and I waited for Aaron to find HIS way back, I asked them if they had seen any fairies or had found any fairy treasure.  We had a nice little chat about the tricky nature of the fae, and both kids decided that this all had to have been made up and that fairies weren't real.  As these words left my son's mouth, one of the young ladies sitting in front of us turned to him, and with a wink, told him that he needed to be careful what he said, especially in the woods, because he never knew who was listening.  She then handed him and his friend some gold coins.

I will never forget the look on those kids' faces! Aaron finally made his way out of the maze, and as we
They also met a Fire Fairy who gifted them with joy.
left to go on to our next adventure, they couldn't shut up about how fairies were really real and that they had met one.  It was a magical experience, one that I don't think my son will soon forget.

Overall, each of us had a wonderful time, despite the sweltering heat.  The kids got to throw knives/throwing stars, and Aaron and I got to throw axes.  We watched some hilarious nuns make fart and boob jokes, and cheered on our favorite jouster. The kids also got to dig for gemstones in a 'mine,' ride an elephant, meet a mermaid, and of course, get lost in the woods with a fairy.  And that's not even half of it! 

The Hanlon-Lees Action Theater did an outstanding job with this festival, especially considering it was the first ever such event in West Virginia.  Unfortunately, the event is only being held throughout June, and tomorrow/Sunday is your last chance to visit this year!  Again, if you get the chance to go, GO! And if you do, I hope you have an equally magical experience as two kids from Hurricane did.

WV Renaissance Festival Facebook Page
WV Renaissance Festival Website

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Throwback Thursday: The Lady From Jerusalem Reads Palms at the Fair

Beginning August 9th and lasting through August 18th, a patch of land near Lewisburg, West Virginia will once again be home to State Fair of West Virginia! Beginning in 1854 (before West Virginia even became a state) as an annual fair hosted by the Greenbrier Agricultural Society, the event would officially be designated the State Fair of West Virginia in 1941.

The fair, which draws visitors from all over the state and beyond, is still dedicated to the Mountain State's agricultural heritage, but today's guests can also enjoy concerts, carnival rides, car shows, and all the concessions they can handle. And in 1938, they could have enjoyed having their palms read by the beautiful and mystical Lady from Jerusalem!

Palmistry: the art or practice of supposedly interpreting a person's character or predicting their future by examining the lines and other features of the hand.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to uncover any information about The Lady from Jerusalem, but her memory will live on forever, thanks to photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt.  This photo is just one of many Eisenstaedt took of what was then known as the Greenbrier Valley Fair. The photos were published in the September 26, 1938 edition of LIFE Magazine.

The 1930's were a golden age for the traveling sideshow, and more than likely, The Lady from Jerusalem and her palmistry tent were part of what was known as the 'working acts' section of the sideshow.  When most people think of sideshow performers from this era, they think of the Bearded Lady, the Lobster Boy, and other acts dependent on some sort of physical deformity that is displayed. Working acts, on the other hand, were performers that didn't have an obvious physical trait to put on display, and thus, they had to perform in some other such manner.  Sword swallowers, fire eaters, and even psychics/palm readers all fell under this category.

During Eisenstaedt's time at the fair, he concentrated on photos of sideshow performers and visitors to the fair.  Dangerous Minds has a fabulous collection of these photos, and its fascinating to see what rural West Virginians were seeing, many for the first time, way back before the Second World War. Even today, southern West Virginia is a pretty religious, no-nonsense place; it makes me wonder just how many people snuck off to the Lady From Jerusalem's tent to have their fortunes read through the lines on their hands...and if they did, how much faith did they put into it?   I'm guessing there were quite a few young ladies who received a verbal scolding for wasting their dimes on trying to find out who their future husbands would be!


Friday, June 22, 2018

The Exorcist Staircase

Horror fans come in all forms...

On June 3 2018, Kimberly Suiters, a reporter with WJLA (an ABC News affiliate in D.C.) snapped this photo of two young priests recreating a famous scene from The Exorcist.  The Exorcist is a staple in demon-related pop culture, which makes this hilarious photo the perfect Friday Funny addition to Demon Week!  And, if you find yourself in the Georgetown area, feel free to visit the staircase for  yourself.  You're sure to get some cool photos---but probably not as cool as this one!  

See the ORIGINAL POST here.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

The Suicide of Judas: Demonic Art

Welcome to another day of Demon Week here at Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State! I love to incorporate weird, supernatural art into my posts, so when I stumbled upon this image, I knew instantly that I wanted to included it into this week's theme.The oil painting, called The Suicide of Judas, was completed around 1491 by Italian artist, Giovanni Canavesio.

It depicts the suicide of Judas Iscariot following his betrayal of Jesus Christ in a rather...stylized?...way.  Apparently, when sinners die, the soul (which is a tiny, well-groomed, naked version of our outer body) is plucked from our chest cavity by a hairy little demon, not much bigger than our naked soul baby.

This is a pretty horrifying image today; I cannot imagine how much of an impact it must have had in the 15th century.  While the demon/devil isn't necessarily depicted as too ghastly, its still a disturbing enough image to make me rethink sinning!

The Suicide of Judas can found in the Chapel of Notre-Dame des Fontaines, near La Brigue, along with Canavesio's other religious works.  And just a quick note:  Obviously this is a historical piece chosen for its demon imagery, but it is in no way intended to make light of the very serious suicide problem we are facing today.  Depression affects people from every walk of life, and suicide touches our young, our celebrities, our veterans, our marginalized communities, and everyone in between---many whom you would never know by simply looking at them.  Be good to each other and reach out to those who might be struggling.  Stay spooky---and catch me over at Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page for more demonic posts throughout the week!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Just Another Friday Night in Ohio

I'm not sure what went down recently in Ironton, Ohio....but it looks like it was a helluva Friday night!  In two separate entries in the local paper's police blotter, 'invisible guests' were not welcome at a home in the 400 block of Railroad Street.  Fortunately for the property owner, in the next entry, a woman ghost was removed from (presumably) the same residence. 

Who ya gonna call? Well, I guess if you're in Ironton, Ohio the local police do a satisfactory job in the removal of paranormal entities! I hope the issues were resolved with compassion and that the residents of Railroad Street have no more run-ins with unwelcome guests.

This clipping was brought to my attention by my good friend, former Ironton citizen, and fellow paranormal enthusiast, Carrie, after another Ironton citizen shared it on Facebook. 

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

On The Road to Dixie: Chasing Down a WV Cemetery Legend

Lambert/Spry Cemetery
About a week ago, my family and I decided on a spur of the moment country drive which led us to the Lincoln/Logan County line near Harts, WV in search of a local cemetery legend.  We were trying to track down the final resting place of Dixie V. Counts and her son, Charlie.

The legend of Dixie V. Counts and her child is a sad one.  I first learned of the legend several years ago from the popular website, The Shadowlands.  In this particular entry, it is reported that Charlie was born stillborn and that he and his mother died while she was giving birth to him.  Every full moon, Dixie and Charlie can be seen wearing white and appearing to glow in the moonlight. Dixie rocks her small son in her arms, as they both weep mournfully.  The date of death on their tombstones also seems to glow with the same intensity as the pair on the anniversary of their tragic deaths. 

Like many good cemetery legends, this one has some roots based in fact.  Dixie DID give birth to a premature baby, a girl named Nora, back in 1932.  Charlie, however, was born in good health in December of 1938.  Unfortunately, he would not live to see adulthood.  On September 26, 1939, Dixie passed away from tuberculosis.  Little Charlie also had the dreaded consumption, but would hang on another three months, passing away in December of that year.

Dixie's Grave. Some say the date of death glows under the full moon.

I've posted about the Dixie V. Counts legend here on Theresa's Haunted History before, but I had never actually visited the tombstones for myself.  Therefore, when we couldn't find the Lambert Cemetery (where Dixie is buried) on our first attempt, I was pretty disappointed. We were going in the middle of the afternoon, so I wasn't betting on having a paranormal experience, but I at least wanted to say I had been there because....

...Dixie will be featured in my upcoming book on West Virginia cemetery legends!

Luckily, a couple of days later, my in-laws took my son out fishing, giving me a whole day to try again.  This time I was prepared. In our impromptu trip, I didn't count on the fact that I got absolutely no internet/phone service AT ALL. And, since the trip was unplanned, I didn't look up the information I needed to get us to the right cemetery beforehand.  That trip wasn't a complete waste, as we did get to visit another area cemetery, The Brumfield Cemetery, which was packed with history, but it wasn't the same.  So, I studied the maps carefully, and felt pretty confident as I set out on my own to find Lambert Cemetery.

Charlie Counts
The cemetery is noted as being in Ranger, WV...and that's true, although somewhat confusing, since the road its on (Dry Branch) is actually a good ways past the 'official' road signs for the town of Ranger.  However, the road was fairly easy to find.  As soon as I pulled off the main road onto it, though, I instantly thought I had made a terrible mistake.

I drive a 2008 Nissan Sentra and Dry Branch Rd. is not exactly the type of road for a low vehicle. It wasn't a bad drive, but the road, which was dirt/gravel/grass throughout most of the trip was very narrow and reminded me more of a private driveway than an actual route. Added to that, there was road work going on when I visited! Well, there were several Asplundh trucks in the area, working on the trees.

I searched for the actual cemetery, but didn't see it at first.  After just a short trip, the road did dead end, just in someone's driveway.  I was a little apprehensive, especially since their dog was out, but I made the turn-around with no problems.  Coming back out towards the main road, I got a slightly different view of the surrounding hillside...and managed to see the cemetery!  Thankfully, there was a house below it on the back side, so the vegetation was trimmed back.  Now, I just had to find the road to reach it...and again, I cannot stress enough how much the road really wasn't a road, lol.  I did find the path, which was a well-maintained, yet still kinda scary dirt/gravel road uphill. 

At this point, I had a huge decision to make.  I had driven over an hour to get here.  The cemetery was IN SIGHT, and the road didn't look too bad.  However, I was completely alone with no cell service and a tiny, low-sitting car with a loose muffler.  I figured that since there were plenty of Asplundh employees within walking distance, if I did get stuck, someone would be around to help me get unstuck or call for help, so I went for it.
Nora Counts

My car did scrape the ground near the top of the path, but it wasn't too bad and after I stopped swearing, I found myself at the entrance to the small,  yet nicely maintained Lambert Cemetery.  The graves of Dixie and her two children were easy to spot, and I quickly managed to get in a few photographs.  I had a long drive back, so I didn't stay nearly as long as I should have, but I paid my respects to Dixie and the others and headed back.  On the drive home, I mulled the whole haunted tombstone legend over in my head.  How in the world did this legend get started in the first place??

Due to the location of the cemetery, my guess would be that the original submitter of this story was either a member of Lambert/Spry family, lived on Dry Branch, or was somehow otherwise connected to the cemetery. I felt that way for two reasons.  Firstly, there were some elements of truth to this tale.  Dixie did have a stillborn infant, but it was Nora, not Charlie.  Charlie and Dixie DID die in the same year...although Charlie was nearly a year old and their actual dates of death were 3 months apart. That information, which is based in fact but not accurate, sounds like information that has been passed down by oral tradition and story telling.  Secondly, this cemetery just didn't seem like the type that one stumbles upon. I didn't have any negative experiences, but I just kinda felt like this was private property (the cemetery AND the whole Dry Branch Rd) and that I was an intruder.  It didn't seem like it would be a popular place for even local kids to go legend tripping.  It just seemed like a serene, little spot of land where members of the Spry and Lambert families were laid to rest. 

L to R: Charlie, Dixie, Nora

As you can see from the photos of the tombstones, they are fairly new and in good shape.  New flowers had recently been placed upon the graves.  Someone was doing a good job of keeping the grass cut, and a burial as recent as earlier this year had taken place.

Maybe one day I'll go back up there on a full moon and see if I can see Dixie and her baby, or their glowing tombstones.  But for now, I'm content to have visited the site and shared Dixie's story---both the legends AND the history.  I hope she and her little ones have found peace. And I hope that you have enjoyed this trip with me in search of a West Virginia cemetery legend.  More information on Dixie's story will be available in my upcoming book, so keep an eye on Theresa's Haunted History Facebook for more updates!  Stay spooky, ya'll.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Kentucky Ghosts: The Ghosts of Portal 31

Coal mines. They've been a huge part of West Virginia and tri-state history since our earliest years...and have provided quite a few ghost stories and legends that persist well after the mines have shut down.  The Portal 31 Mine, located in Harlan County, Kentucky is one such mine where history and mystery intertwine.


Lynch, Kentucky, where the mine is located, was built as a coal mining town. Owned by the U.S. Coal and Coke Company, this particular section of mine opened between 1917 and 1920. The coal that was pulled out of the mine was exclusively for use by U.S. Steel.  During the first half of the 20th century, the community of Lynch was considered a model coal camp town, complete with company health care, schools, churches, etc.  However, Lynch was not immune to the problems facing other coal communities.  Early coal mining practices were inherently dangerous and there were accidents, especially in the earliest mined areas of Portal 31.Of the approximate 250 coal related deaths in Lynch, it is estimated that 150 of those deaths happened at Portal 31. 

Also, the community was no stranger to violence as coal officials did everything in their power to prevent unionization.  Clashes between miners and mine officials earned the area the nickname of Bloody Harlan.  It's interesting to note that the mine history states that at least 38 nationalities were represented among the miners of Portal 31. While doing background research for my team's Whipple Company Store investigation (in Fayette County, WV) I came across information stating that mine owners encouraged great diversity among the miners, not for the noble reason of being all-inclusive of immigrants...but because of the fact that if you had a group of people who spoke different languages and had different backgrounds, religion, and culture, they were less likely to communicate and form bonds; thus, they were less likely to try to unionize.


By 1963, the mine had ceased normal production, but did stay open for awhile in various capacities. Talk eventually turned to the idea of opening the mine to the public as an exhibition coal mine.  It took several years, but the mine opened around 2007-2008 as a tourist attraction.  Visitors to the mine can board a rail car and travel through the depths of Portal 31.  Animatronic miners tell the story of the mine and showcase a history of mining equipment and techniques.

Visitors and staff of Portal 31 aren't just treated to a fun and educational experience when they enter the mine---many are treated to a brush with the other side! 

I recently stumbled upon a great video on Amazon Prime called Ghosts of Portal 31.  The film documents the history of the mine, interviews with staff concerning paranormal experiences, and then features an actual investigation of the paranormal claims by The Crypto Crew.  Activity reported includes a sense of being watched or not being alone and movement in one's peripheral vision.  Moving lights have been reported that seem to evoke a feeling of a miner carrying a lantern or wearing a head lamp walking down the path.  Some of the most common activity, though, seems to be unexplained noises, notably the sounds of a group of men talking/working, machinery running, and a hammer ping on metal.  

I really enjoyed the film.  I think the crew did a good job at sharing the history of the mine and the stories of those who have experienced recent paranormal activity.  I also really enjoyed seeing the investigation portion of the film. The crew did a pretty thorough job, adequately explained the equipment they were using, and even had a few things happen to them that aren't easily explainable.  During the multi-day investigation, at least two investigators felt a tug on their camera straps, and many witnessed a small red light that had no apparent earthly origin. 

If you have an Amazon Prime membership, I'd definitely recommend checking Ghosts of Portal 31 out (it's also available on DVD)...but if you're in the Harlan County, Kentucky area or plan to be, I'd definitely recommend checking out the actual ghosts of Portal 31, lol.  Even if you don't have your own haunted encounter, you'll have hopefully learned some history and experienced a little of what a miner's life was like, deep underground.

The Crypto Crew
Portal 31 Homepage (Tour Information and History)

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Theresa's Travels: Brumfield Cemetery

Late Sunday afternoon, we decided to get out of the house for a little bit, and found ourselves deep in Lincoln and Logan counties, legend tripping! Since this trip was a spur of the moment thing, I did not plan well, lol. With no internet connection for most of the trip, we were unable to find the original 'haunted' cemetery we were looking for, but that story is for another day!

However, the day wasn't a complete bust as we did manage to stumble upon a tiny little historic cemetery located on the grounds of Harts PK-8 School, located in Harts, WV---right near the Lincoln County/Logan border.  We got out to take a few pictures and soak in some local history, which was actually quite fascinating!

There's no way I can even start to do the story of the Brumfield-McCoy-Adams-Hall Feud justice in a simple blog post. The story is a convoluted one, lasting over a decade, involving multiple families, and resulting in the deaths of at least 4 people.  The late 1800s were a turbulent time in the timber-rich area of the Guyandotte River and by the time the fighting over land, business, and personal matters had come to a close, a permanent mark had been left on the county.

The Brumfield Cemetery, or Paris Brumfield Cemetery, contains only a handful of graves. With the exception of two, including that of Paris Brumfield, veteran of the Civil War, the final resting spots for many members of the Brumfield family are marked with a simple white rock. Local historian, author, and family descendant, Brandon Ray Kirk, has added white crosses to some of the graves and keeps the grass trimmed.

Brandon has also spent years researching the feud and family histories. His work can be found in the book, Blood in West Virginia: Brumfield vs. McCoy, a popular non-fiction account of the Brumfield Feud.

You can also follow his work on the book's Facebook page, where he posts a wealth of information, photographs, and documents related to the feud, its participants, and local history.  Further local history, provided by Mr. Kirk, can be found on his blog. Below, I've also included an embedded video from the WV State Archives of a 2015 discussion given by Mr. Kirk at the Cultural Center in Charleston concerning the feud.

So there ya go! If you're thirsty to know more about this underrepresented piece of West Virginia history, there are some great resources out, provided by a local historian with the passion to keep the memory of his ancestors alive.  I, for one, really enjoyed learning about the impact of the Brumfield family on the area, and I can always appreciate a visit to a cemetery!  My 8 year old son, Luke, also seemed to really get a lot out of our trip.  It's moments like the one I captured here of him intently reading the historical sign, that as a lover of history myself, warms my heart, lol.  He immediately wanted to know more about who these people were who were buried within the fenced-in plot of land and what they were fighting about.

If you're not too far away, I recommend making the drive out to Harts, West Virginia. There's some beautiful scenery out that way, and some fairly interesting scenery as well.  There are also plenty of other stops close by in Logan and Chapmanville of historical interest.  We hit a few of those places as well---but again, that's for another blog! 

This quick little spur of the moment trip is just the start of a summer filled with exploring West Virginia's history, often from a paranormal perspective. I'll be sure to update you on all my family's spooky adventures over the next couple of months.  You can follow me on Theresa's Haunted History Facebook for updates, and if you'd like to share your own ghostly travels, I'd love to hear them!

Have a safe and happy summer, and I'll catch ya back here soon with some new blogs on the various specters of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, the WV State Penitentiary, and a few state parks---all wonderful places to visit on your own summer travels through the Mountain State.  Stay spooky, ya'll!

(Here's the link to the YouTube channel, if the embedded video won't play: )

Monday, June 4, 2018

Book Review: Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast

Title: Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast
Author: Brooks Newton Preik
Published by Banks Channel Books (1995)
Amazon Purchase Information

Summer has officially started here at my house! My son is finishing up his last day of school, he had his last baseball game of the season, and we've already sketched out a rough itinerary of fun trips and activities to keep us busy for the next couple of months.

In early August, we'll be taking our official vacation to Carolina Beach, located on North Carolina's Cape Fear.  With a name like Cape Fear, the area just SOUNDS like it should be running over with ghost stories. And, from what I've seen so far, it is!

I mentioned on Facebook last week that my boyfriend got me a stack of books to add to my Haunted North Carolina shelf, including a really great selection by Brooks Newton Preik called Haunted Wilmington and the Cape Fear Coast. 

Over the course of about 140 pages, Brooks Newton Preik takes the reader all over the Wilmington area, sharing stories of the coast's most beloved ghosts.  I really enjoyed this book because it reminded me of a good old-school collection of regional ghost stories. For each location, there's some history involved, but just enough to put the story in context without focusing too much on extraneous details.  When available, experiences are told by those who had run-ins with the other side. The emphasis is placed on the folklore and the stories themselves, with very little, if any, critical analysis. As an added bonus, hand-drawn illustrations from a variety of artists complement the tales, and each chapter begins with a spooky quote, usually from a famous person or famous work of art.

The book is well-written, well-organized, and overall is a fun and easy read.  There's a good mixture of more 'personal' stories from private locations and stories from locations that we will be able to visit on our trip. I've already added a few must-see spots for our week down south, including, but not limited to, Maco Station (although the Maco Station light has unfortunately not been seen since 1977); Thalian Hall, which is said to be haunted by two Edwardian-dressed ghosts; and Oakdale Cemetery.  We already had plans to visit the ghost of Bald Head Island, who is also featured in Haunted Wilmington, and perhaps we can also hit some of the historic district's spookiest homes and businesses. 

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading a good ghost story, no matter what his/her geographical location may be. These stories are fun and interesting, and have definitely got me even MORE excited for our upcoming trip!

Be sure to follow me on Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State Facebook  for updates on my Wilmington trip and all of our other crazy paranormal-themed summer fun!  And if you're interested in more Book Reviews, please see the link below.  Have a great summer and stay spooky, ya'll.

Friday, June 1, 2018

Unfinished Business

I can certainly empathize with this little ghost---I'm a huge procrastinator.  I'm pretty sure that particular character trait is going to contribute to me becoming a ghost after death.  The amount of 'unfinished business' I'll be leaving behind will be staggering!