Thursday, November 29, 2018

Stop Shooting at Spirits: A Vintage Ghost Story from Pt. Pleasant

Mr. Devaux-Source
Back on July 26, 2018 a young man from Connecticut named Christain Devaux was charged for firing his gun at what he told law enforcement officers was a ghost.  He claimed to be a paranormal investigator, and originally stated that he had fired the shots at what he thought was an intruder breaking into his home.  After he changed his story (and put two bullet holes through his own wall) he was charged with several infractions resulting from his 'lying' to the police.  When this news broke, we in the paranormal community had mixed emotions.  Some thought it was funny.  Others thought it was sad---this guy was obviously mentally ill.  ALL agreed, though, that it made the paranormal investigation community as a whole look bad.

However, Devaux was NOT the first person claiming to be a ghost hunter to actually fire a weapon at a ghost.  In fact, since the mid 1800's, that trope pops up quite a bit in ghost lore, including being a staple in plenty of stories from around the tri-state area.  I'm not sure why, but for nearly 200 years people have thought that a bullet could stop a ghost.  And so, they continuing firing at them...just like another young man from Point Pleasant, WV did back in 1886.

In an article from the Weekly Register, dated 24 November 1886, the story of Richard Edwards versus his neighbor and a bag of flour is told.

Apparently, Richard Edwards was living with his father David on what was then known as Front Street. (From census records, it appears Richard would have been in his early 20s at the time.) The family was living in the historic Roseberry Estate, a home built by Thomas Lewis, Jr. in 1815 and which is still standing today. Also living in another section of the home was a family by the name of Anguish.

Roseberry Plantation.  Source: Pt. Pleasant Register

As the story goes, Richard was out one Friday evening watching for ghosts.  It was said he believed that the nearby property of the late Dr. Samuel G. Shaw was haunted and apparently he needed his revolver to help prove it.  Unfortunately, as Richard was making his vigil, Old Man Anguish was coming home from town carrying a sack of flour.  As he crossed the street and approached the side gate to gain entry to his side of the home, Richard shot him in the abdomen.  The bullet didn't make direct contact, but instead left a painful, albeit non-deadly wound.  Richard claimed that the white flour sack resembled a ghost coming up the dark street, and that's why he fired.  Mr. Anguish claimed that when he realized the boy had a gun, he called out to him not to shoot him, and then actually grappled with him after he was shot.  When Mr. Anguish asked Richard why he had shot him, the boy stuck to his assertion that he was a ghost.

Unfortunately, I couldn't find any follow-up articles for this story.  Was Richard ever arrested...or perhaps even committed?  He does show up in later genealogical records and appears he died fairly young, never having been married.  And what of Old Man Anguish?  Did he fully recover from his wounds?  But what I REALLY want to know is...why was the Dr. Shaw property thought to be haunted?  Was this a locally accepted fact, or simply all in the head of a mentally unstable young man?  Dr. Shaw, who had died the previous year, was a highly respected early citizen and medical doctor of the Pt. Pleasant area.  Did his ghost (or that of someone else) haunt the old property back in 1886, and if so, could the area still be haunted??

This article can be read in full from the free newspaper archive site, Chronicling America.

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