Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Ghost of Mamie Thurman


This is a well-known Appalachian ghost story that is told in a small town called Logan in Southern West Virginia. This story involves a lurid story of sex, secrets and evildoing. It is a tragic tale of murder and a cover up which even today remains a mystery. 

It also involves a magistrate by the name of Hatfield a descendent of Devil Anse Hatfield, from the Hatfield-McCoy feud who lived in Logan. The following is based upon research that has been done in recent years.

It was at the height of the “Roaring Twenties” in America. But in the small remote community of Logan, in Logan County West Virginia most people were peaceful, law abiding, church going folks. The fast and loose lifestyle of the twenties it seemed had not touched this town--at least not on the surface. 

Mamie Thurman and her husband Jack Thurman moved from Louisville, Kentucky  to Logan the heart of the coalfields in 1924. They settled into an apartment over a garage in the backyard of one of Logan’s leading citizens, Harry Robertson.


Roberston worked for the National Bank of Logan and served as a treasurer for the Logan Public Library. His wife Louise was involved in the Logan Women’s Club. He and Louise were very active in their church. 

Mamie’s husband Jack Thurman had been hired by the city of Logan to be a patrolman. He owed a debt of gratitude to Harry Robertson who recommended him for the job. Robertson was also the president of the Logan City Commission.

On the surface Mamie appeared the ideal wife and faithful churchgoer. But her husband Jack didn’t make much money as a deputy and it is said Mamie got bored. 

As it is in most small towns the gossip mill kicked in. People often smirked about Mamie's fast and loose ways. Their whispers included tales of her spending time at the town’s speakeasies, drinking too much, flirting and engaging in sexual relations with various local married businessmen. 

One of these prominent citizens was Harry Robertson who had noticed her because she worked at the Logan National Bank with him.

There have been several reasons put forth as to why a seemingly happy housewife who volunteered in the community * and was involved in her church would also be an avid “party-girl”. 

Some state the cause was how she was raised. Her father was known to be iron willed and very strict and after her mother died, he abused her. Regardless, it seems Mamie had a split personality.

One bright morning in 1932 Garland Davis, a young deaf-mute stumbled upon Mamie Thurman’s lifeless body as he was picking blackberries atop a mountain by the Trace Mountain Road near Holden--today it is known as 22 Mountain Mine Road. Mamie’s body had been dumped alongside this road. 

Mamie had been brutally murdered. She had two gunshots to her head, her throat was slashed open, her neck was broken and her face was badly disfigured.


It was apparent she was not murdered for her possessions for she still wore her diamond and silver wedding rings and money was found in her purse. It was obviously a crime of passion. 

The day after her body was found two men were arrested. Harry Robertson and a black handyman, Clarence Stephenson who worked for him as a sometimes chauffeur. 

Robertson admitted to having an ongoing affair with Mamie and that he continued to see her even though she refused to stop seeing other men. According to him she was keeping company with 16 others.

The Magistrate who served on the case was Elba Hatfield--one descendent from the famous feud. He concluded that all the evidence presented was “circumstantial” but then amazingly he stated it was damaging against both men. 

Both Robertson and Stephenson were held to answer any indictments returned by the Grand Jury. What is most telling about this case are the men who served on this Grand Jury. 

Many of them were directly connected to Robertson or had been one of the “16” involved with Mamie so it is not surprising they didn’t indict Harry Robertson.

They did indict Clarence Stephenson. During his trail for the murder of Mamie Thurman witnesses confirmed “every minute” of his whereabouts but despite this the jury convicted him. 

Soon after, the Logan County branch of the NAACP raised the money needed to appeal his case. Fifty-six churches collected these donations. Many local people felt that Stephenson a mild mannered, soft-spoken man could not have committed such a heinous crime.

More than three thousand people both black and white attended a mass meeting to help gain the appeal but The Supreme Court turned down Clarence Stephenson’s appeal in 1933. He spent ten years in prison for a crime he abated but did not commit. 

He died of stomach cancer in 1942. One resident of Logan County who spent time in prison with Stephenson stated:

“He told me he was hired to take the body to Trace Mountain, and that he didn’t do anything to Mamie Thurman. He never said who killed her, but he said that he didn’t do it. Stephenson told me it was all politics.”

What happened to Mamie Thurman’s body is also very telling. Her death certificate states she was buried in Logan Memorial Park but Harris Funeral Home records indicate that a prominent businessman from Logan paid $1000 to have her body removed to a cemetery in Chauncey. 

Where she is buried was effectively covered up. It seems someone didn’t want evidence found in the future. Her death remains a mystery.


According to local stories many witnesses have seen the ghost of Mamie Thurman. 

Some state her spirit wanders the hills searching for the person who took her life. Others state she is still waiting for justice. 

Many motorists over the years have stated they have seen her ghost while passing by the Holden 22 Mountain Mine Road. Several coal truck drivers have reported picking up a woman wearing outdated clothing only to see her vanish in their cabs moments later.

Local teens for years have used the spot where her body was found for “Legend Tripping”. They are dared to visit this spot late at night. 

A well-known local legend is that if a person puts their car in neutral on 22 Mountain, near the spot where her body was found, it will appear to roll backwards up the hill. ** It is said this is Mamie Thurman pushing them up the hill. Actually this is a very convincing optical illusion.

*  Mamie Thurman was a volunteer in the Logan Women’s Club along with Robertson’s wife Louise. It is stated that these two women were initially good friends--but learning of her husbands’ affair through gossip their friendship understandably soured. Some even speculate that it might have been the “frumpy” Louise who murdered Mamie.

** This is another "gravity hill" legend. I have shared several gravity hill legends in other posts. Including Crybaby Bridge in Illinois and the San Antonio Railroad Ghost Children.

One interesting in-depth account of Mamie's story is located here.

1 comment:

Tonya B said...

I live near this area and have witnessed first hand the fact that your car will be pushed back as if going up the hill. But my husband and his sister and several of our friends had a very frightening experience on 22 Mine Road in November of 2008. It was the night after Thanksgiving and the five of us went up there to see if we could find anything spooky.

We went to the top of the hill and parked along a dirt road and got out to walk this road. We noticed a large deer torn open in the middle of this lonely road and didn't think much of it at first. But a little later, we heard some of the most loudest, crashing footsteps that we've ever heard in our lives! These footsteps were coming right at us, too. There was no sound of any animal and it was no human that made those crashing sounds.

I tore out at a dead run and got back to the van with the rest following me. We jumped into the van and flew out of there before we could see what it was coming around the hill after us. I really think it was a bigfoot. I have read that people have had encounters with them in Logan.

As far as Mamie's ghost, I have heard stories of people who have seen her on the way to work in the early morning hours before dawn. It is said she is in a white dress and glowing as she walks beside the four lane highway.

We still try to go over there and see if we can see her ghost, but so far, no luck. I wonder if a jealous wife killed Mamie? I know that around Halloween they hold haunted hay rides that tell her story and the ride is a good one.

Love your blog.