Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Ghostly and the Ghastly: A Passel of WV Folk Tales

Like many paranormal enthusiasts in the Mountain State, part of my earliest exposure to West Virginia ghost stories came from the collected works of folklorist, Ruth Ann Musick!  I've read The Tell-Tale Lilac Bush and Coffin Hollow cover to cover multiple times, and both books are still a staple in my personal paranormal library.

Ruth Ann Musick taught mathematics and English at Fairmont State from 1946 until 1967 and during her time there, she started a folk literature class, helped revive the West Virginia Folklore Society, and founded the West Virginia Folklore Journal.  She also collected hundreds of ghost stories from around West Virginia, not all of which ever made it into publication!

Luckily, a handful of these forgotten tales has recently been brought to life by the students and staff of Fairmont State's theater department!  On Saturday, my husband and I attended a showing of The Ghostly and the Ghastly: A Passel of WV Folktales at Wallman Hall Theater.

The play takes a look at ten ghost stories through the eyes of a bored, chatty, and unprepared college folklore class. Their lecture on the preternatural takes on a spooky twist as their professor and fellow students share spooky stories such as Ida Crawford, The Witch and the Onion, and the Fate of Frank Collins.  Together, they learn the importance of folklore and oral tradition, and a little about the history of how their ancestors migrated to this area, bringing with them their own beliefs and culture, which helped to shape Appalachian culture (and ghost lore!) as a whole.

Overall, the play was really good.  Any date night with my hubby is special, but it is extra special when when I can share my love of West Virginia history and ghost stories with him!  The entire cast and crew did a wonderful job in recreating each story and although they were given a more modern context, you could absolutely still just FEEL that same vibe you get when reading one of Ruth Ann Musick's books.  Lighting and music combined with the acting to evoke a spooky Appalachian atmosphere---perfect for a 'passel of WV folktales!' It was apparent that the cast and crew really had fun with this project, and although the atmosphere was a ghostly one, there was plenty of humor thrown in to break up the tension.  I think Ms. Musick would have been pleased at how her (mostly) unpublished stories were portrayed.  According to a recent post by the theater department, over 677 people got to experience this portrayal for themselves through the public performances.

Unfortunately, Sunday was the last day of the play's four-day run, so if you missed it, you may be out of luck.  However, you can always follow me on Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State Facebook and Twitter---I try to share all the wonderful paranormal events held throughout the tri-state that I think my readers would have an interest in.  You can also follow the School of Fine Arts' Facebook page for articles, behind-the scenes photos, and more about this play and others!  Maybe if there is enough interest, we could see an encore of The Ghostly and the Ghastly or similar such works in the future!

Any chance you get, please come out and support events such as this that highlight West Virginia's paranormal history and heritage!

Friday, February 21, 2020

Spirit Box Funnies

Have you had any really amazing successes with a spirit box?  Let me know down in the comments, or head over to Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State Facebook page to share your story! 

Thursday, February 20, 2020

The 'Ghost' of McMillion Church

Photo by Find-a-Grave user, Old Hokie

This story was found in the Fall 1997 edition of Goldenseal. In a special Halloween article, author Ruth Zicafoose tells the tale of a long forgotten ghost encounter at McMillion Church on Friar's Hill.  The church was built around 1889 and is located in Greenbrier County, about 6 miles from the town of Renick/Falling Spring. 

Ghost in the Church
By Ruth Zicafoose

This is a true story of an event that happened long ago in our community.

Near Renick, there is an area known as Friar's Hill.  In this vicinity there was, and still is, a place of worship known as the McMillion Church.

The area around there was sparsely settled with several miles between families, although not considered far apart according to the way we think of distances today.  There was a family of Knights who lived not too far from the church and several families of McMillions, from whom the church got its name.

It was in the summer time when a young gentleman of the community was courting a girl who lived three or four miles away.  In those days folks either walked, rode horseback, or drove a horse and buggy.  This young fellow had a fine saddle horse which he used for transportation in all of his romantic endeavors.

On this particular Sunday he was spending the afternoon with the object of his affections when about 4 o'clock the sky suddenly turned dark, signifying that a severe thunderstorm with heavy rain was fast approaching.  Desiring to reach his home before the rain started, he bid his beloved adieu, hurriedly mounted his horse, and galloped away.

By the time he reached the McMillion Church, which was right beside the road to his home, the rain was increasing rapidly.  Rather than risk ruining his Sunday-best clothes he decided to dismount and seek shelter inside the church.

The church doors were never locked and it was only one step from the ground over the threshold of the church door and into the shelter of the building.  He stepped far enough inside to escape the rain, but not too far so that he could hold his horse's bridle reins, leaving the horse standing outside in the terrible storm.

It was really pouring rain by this time and the sky had turned so black that one would have needed a lantern to see his way around the inside of the dark church.  Occasionally, when the lightning flashed, the inside of the church would be bright as day, just for an instant, then even harder to see than it had been, or as we used to say, dark as pitch.

After standing there and listening to the rain for a bit, he happened to be looking toward the pulpit when the lightning flashed another time.  He saw something that made the hair on the back of his neck start to crawl!  He caught a glimpse of a figure, dressed in white, rising from behind the lectern.  Then it was all dark again.  His eyes were riveted in the direction of the front of the church and he could not move!  

At the next lightning flash he could see it had not been his imagination playing tricks on him---it really was a tall human-like figure with long black hair.  The apparition, if that is what it was, had moved over from behind the lectern and had taken a step down from the pulpit.

At the next flash the figure had taken a few steps down the aisle toward the front door--it was coming toward him! He was frozen to the spot and scared speechless.  In another minute there was a big clap of thunder followed by an unusually bright flash of lightning.  The tall white figure was moving slowly, but surely, in his direction.  Each time there was a flash of lightning the figure was a little nearer.  If ever a heart was tested for failure that was the time.

The tall white figure seemingly floated past the middle of the church, then an arm on the side of the figure started rising.  In one of the flashes the young man could see a hand outstretched as though it would grab him!  He tried too run but he could not move.  Then he felt the hand on his shoulder!  It is a wonder he didn't collapse in a dead faint.

Then he heard his name, "Willis!" His heart seemed to stop!  He thought his feet had been nailed to the floor.  Then he recognized the figure.  It was a lady in the community who had lost her mind.  In her long white nightgown she had slipped from her bed and out of the house the night before, without any of her family knowing about it.  Her folks had searched all day Sunday and had not found her.

Since there were worship services only once a month at the church in those days, the lady had had the church all to herself.  

I do not know if the young man married the girl he had been courting that day, but I do know that he never forgot the time when he thought a ghost had captured him for sure!  All the rest of his life he would repeat the story for anyone who would listen.
Happy Halloween from GOLDENSEAL!

Theresa's Note:  Some of the spookiest ghost stories aren't really ghost stories at all!  This tale is another example of how things aren't always what they important thing to keep in mind when researching and investigating hauntings for yourself.  Having said that, I think I would MUCH rather run into a real ghost than a mentally unstable woman hanging out in the local church during a thunderstorm!  The description of her in her white nightgown and long, black hair, moving slowly up the church aisle, closer with every flash, is straight up out of a modern day horror movie! I hope she was taken back to her family and compassionately cared for...and I hope Willis wasn't too emotionally scarred after the whole ordeal! 

Renick, WV ca 1910 from WV History on View

Friday, February 14, 2020

Happy Valentine's Day 2020!

Happy Valentine's Day from Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State...and the Krampus!  Yes, our favorite winter holiday demon has also enjoyed a legacy of love with images like the one above.  I hope this Valentine's Day is spent with a partner who looks at you the same way Krampus is looking at this lovely lady!  Also, join me over on Facebook for plenty of ghost stories of ill-fated lovers and unrequited love, perfect for your spooky Valentine's Day reading! 

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Book Review: West Virginia Ghost Stories, Legends, Haunts, and Folklore

Title: West Virginia Ghost Stories, Legends, Haunts, and Folklore
Author: Janette Quackenbush
Published: 2018 by 21 Crows Dusk to Dawn Publishing, 21 Crows, LLC
Amazon Purchase Information
Author's Website

I don't mean to go all fan-girl, but I've been following Jannette Quackenbush's awesome Facebook page, Haunted West Virginia for quite some time and I try to share her wonderfully researched stories of West Virginia ghosts and haunted locations whenever I can. 

Therefore, I was ecstatic when I finally got to meet her in person during the Beckley Oddities Fair last October!  In addition to having a wonderful chat where she deeply inspired me to get off my butt and finish up my own book, I was able to purchase a signed copy of West Virginia Ghost Stories, Legends, Haunts, and Folklore, which includes the Legend of Seneca Rocks.  Jannette had several books for sale (which can also be purchased through Amazon and through her website), and I kind of chose this particular title somewhat at random.  I chose wisely!

Ya'll know I LOVE collecting books on West Virginia hauntings, ghost stories, cryptozoology, UFOlogy, and just anything weird pertaining to the Mountain State, and so I've amassed quite a few volumes over the years.  And I have to say, this one is definitely one of my favorites!  What really stands out to me is that not only are each of the stories that perfect mix of history and legend, but that Jannette and her family actually VISITED each and every location listed!

By actually visiting the locations discussed in the book, the author is able to share updated photographs of the area, personal paranormal experiences, interviews and information from locals, and first-hand knowledge (complete with GPS coordinates) of where exactly to find these places so you can visit for yourself.  The stories are arranged according to geographical location, making it even easier to find specific stories for a specific area.

There's also a great mix of classic, well-known stories from West Virginia ghost lore that most people will be familiar with AND stuff that is a little more obscure.  Historic haunts are plucked from newspaper archives and more recent hauntings are told by those who have experienced them. West Virginia's strong connections with both the Civil War and the history of the railroad industry are prominently featured and explored through their ghostly heritage, making this an especially interesting read for me personally from a historic viewpoint. Overall, it's just a really well-written, super entertaining read.  It's packed FULL of stories coming in at 300+ pages, but its a quick read as each location ranges from a few sentences to a few pages in length, and generally comes with lots of historical and current photos.

Obviously, I highly recommend making West Virginia Ghost Stories, Legends, Haunts, and Folklore (and the author's other books) a part of your own paranormal library!  You can purchase them online, or meet Jannette at upcoming events, including the Morgantown ParaCon on March 14th 2020  and at Wild and Weird Con on April 4th 2020!