Showing posts with label West Virginia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label West Virginia. Show all posts

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Moundsville Penitentiary

Moundsville Penitentiary
This old prison still stands in West Virginia. It operated for 119 years. During the years it was run it was considered one of America’s most violent correctional facilities.

"Old Sparky"
Close to 1,000 men that entered its doors died while incarcerated. Some died by hanging or later by electric chair. Others were murdered by fellow inmates or took their own lives.

Moundsville was notorious for violent riots that were caused most often by overcrowding. In the 1950s the prison was filled beyond capacity—each 5X7 foot cell housed three prisoners. This was later deemed inhumane.

Moundsville was closed down in 1995 but tours are offered today. Recent staff and visitors have reported seeing shadows and hearing strange noises in the old prison.

One of the first sightings was of one inmate who was brutally murdered by fellow prisoners. The room he haunts is the reception area of the prison. It was dubbed, “The Sugar Shack” by the inmates because of the fights, rapes and murders that often occurred in this room.

The Sugar Shack
The murdered inmate, R. D. Wall met his fate here. He was cut and stabbed to the point that his body was found later in many pieces. His ghost is spotted lurking in the dark corners in the Sugar Shack.

Shadow figure photographed
by Polly Gear
A dark shadow has been seen and photographed in this area as well. Other restless spirits have also been seen in other parts of this prison. Some speculate these are the men who were executed.

To add to this activity is the fact that the town of Moundsville, West Virginia is named after many Native American –Adena-- burial mounds located in the area. It is said these spirits have been seen by many.

With all this mysterious activity would you dare to take one of the night tours offered at Moundsville?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Good Reason

Ghosts often return to resolve unfinished business. The following account I read several years ago in an old newspaper article. It told the story of a deceased coal miner who returned as a ghost for a good reason.

This story took place in the 1920s. A coal mine located on the West Virginia border experienced an explosion. Several men were killed, a few lucky ones survived.

All the bodies of the dead were recovered except one. This body belonged to a miner by the name of Frank Cooper.

Most mine company's at that time had an unfair policy. If the body of a miner was not found they stated they were under no obligation to compensate that miner’s family for their loss.

In this instance, it meant extra hardship for Frank Cooper’s wife and his six children. The owners of the mine went as far as to state that there was no proof Cooper had been in the mine at the time of the explosion—even though the survivors knew he had been.

To guarantee they would not have to pay anything to his wife the owners stated that Cooper had apparently just abandoned his family.

Explosions at mines were a
common occurrence.
After the explosion, management asked for volunteers to go down into section five where the explosion occurred to clear debris and shore up the ceiling with new beams. No one wanted to do this dangerous job but finally one miner named Louis stepped forward.

Once Louie reached the deepest part of this section of the mine and began to work he heard strange noises. He turned around to see a dark figure directly behind him.

At first he thought with relief that this was another miner who had a change of heart and had come to help him. Louie noted the other man had an unusual appearance. He was gaunt and extremely pale. Where his eyes should be Louie could only make out two sunken holes.

As Louie turned back to digging away some loose debris the other man commanded he stop. “No, not there. Over here!” Louie now confused complied anyway. He took his shovel and began working in the spot the other man had indicated.

It wasn’t long before he spotted a foot sticking out of the slag, then a whole body. He turned around to show the other miner what he discovered only to find he had vanished.

That night Louis was awakened by a knock on his door. When he answered it he saw the same mysterious man from the mine standing there. Before he could say anything the strange fellow said, “Thank you. Now I can rest and my family will be cared for.”

The figure then faded away right in front of Louie.

The next morning back at work Louie was told that the body he had found the day before was Frank Cooper.

Friday, August 21, 2015

The Silver Run Tunnel

The Silver Run 1,376-foot tunnel is a former Baltimore & Ohio Railway tunnel that lies between Clarksburg and Parkersburg located in Ritchie County in West Virginia. 

Over the years many witnesses have seen the specter of a young woman appear out of nowhere near its entrance.

Train engineers for almost a century reported seeing this ghost at night. They described her as wearing a long flowing white dress.

An early report about one engineer’s experience in the 19th century described what he encountered on his midnight run.

“ . . . as he was coming around a bend approaching tunnel #19 he saw a girl suddenly appear on the tracks. She had pitch-black hair and bloodless skin. She was wearing a light colored gown, standing at the entrance to the tunnel.”

This engineer first thought she must be “sleepwalking” so he slammed on his brakes frantically to avoid hitting her. The figure appeared to be unaware of the train that was barreling down on her.

At the last minute, when the train was about to hit her,

“She screamed and jumped straight up into the air.”

When the train stopped he got out to look for a body but there was no evidence a person had been struck.

When this engineer reached Parkersburg he told about his encounter with this strange girl, the stationmaster reassured him not to worry several others had reported the same sight.

Other engineers continued to report seeing this ghost at the Silver Run Tunnel. One engineer reported his encounters so often the railroad officials felt he was “cracking up.”

They replaced him with a new engineer by the name of O’Flannery. This Irishman proclaimed that no ghost was going to get the best of him.

On his first run he put his train at full throttle and stated he was not going to stop regardless of what happened. At dusk he reached the tunnel. It was foggy and there was a full moon.

He spotted the woman in white but he kept going. The ghost screamed and shot straight up.

When he reached the station at Parkersburg he noticed a crowd waiting for his arrival. When he asked what was going on he was told as his train passed each station they telegraphed to say there was a girl riding on the front of the train—her arms outstretched and screaming.

The fog had lifted by the time he arrived and when he inspected his engine nothing was there.

He requested a transfer after this.

The story behind this haunting is vague. It is believed a young woman was traveling from Grafton to Parkersburg to get married.

“Something happened to her along the way.” One version states a jealous former lover followed her, stabbed her and then threw her off the train. Another version states this young women jumped off the train committing suicide.

Years later, the legend states when part of the tunnel was being dismantled the workers found a skeleton behind one wall. It was wearing the remnants of a white wedding dress.

Today the tunnel is a part of the recreational North Bend Rail Trail so it is mostly bikers and hikers that encounter the ghost at Silver Run. Two recent witnesses were a man and a woman hiking through the area.

As they walked into the tunnel they spotted this female ghost standing directly in front of their flashlight beams. They left the tunnel quickly. They did not know the tunnel was considered haunted until after their encounter.

One ghost hunting couple also encountered the Lady in White as they investigated the tunnel. She made an appearance and these two have not returned since.

The following video shows what this abandoned train tunnel looks like today.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Fortune-Teller’s Warning

This tale was shared in West Virginia for over a century. I like the version Ruth Ann Musick  * collected because it is a good example of how people used story-telling to entertain each other before today’s modern distractions took over.

A young couple moved from Italy to West Virginia to begin a new life. The wife was expecting their first child. Following an old custom from Italy they sought out a gypsy fortune-teller to ask what their child would be--a girl or a boy. They also quizzed her about the future of their child.

After they “crossed her palm with silver” this gypsy told them they would have a son. They were overjoyed at the news but the gypsy’s next statement quickly took their dampened their joy.

She told them that their son would be born with a knife in his hand and that in the future he would slay them both. Terrified by what she said they hurried away.

As the months passed the couple managed to forget the gypsy’s warning. They eagerly awaited the birth of their child. But when their son was born he clasped a strange pointed object in his fist.

They now remembered what the gypsy had told them. Heartbroken they decided it would be best if he did not live with them. They gave him into the care of the wife’s first cousin who lived in another state.

Believing the gypsy’s prophecy they decided to never see him again.

The son grew up and moved to West Virginia with his new bride. Curious, he discovered who his real parents were.

His wife wanting to surprise him sent them a letter asking they come and visit. When she didn’t hear back she sent them another--pleading with them to come.

The old couple lived just forty miles away and walked to the small mining community where their son lived.

Their daughter-in-law seeing they were exhausted encouraged them to lie down on the bed so they could rest. She then went to tell her husband who was at work.

She did not know the foreman had let the men off early from work that day. So the son reached his home just a few minutes after his wife had left.

Entering his small dark bedroom he saw two figures in the bed. Thinking his wife had taken a lover he silently backed out of the room.

He returned from the kitchen with a butcher knife in his hand.

Later his wife found him sitting on the edge of the bed holding a bloody knife. He was looking down at the faces of his parents that he never knew with bewilderment and grief.

Thus the fortune-teller’s prophecy was fulfilled.

* More information about Ruth Ann Musick and another story she collected is  located here.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Thirteen Days

Here is a 1900s ghost folktale from the West Virginia oil fields.

The son of a young farmer was pitching hay one day when he fell on his pitchfork and was killed. A worker from a nearby oil derrick discovered the body.

He had just pulled the pitchfork out of the young man’s chest and was standing over him when four farmers came along and saw him.

These men were tipsy for they had stopped after work to drink. They became angry because they knew the boy’s father. They accused the oil worker of murdering the young farmer.

Irrationally, they decided to dispense justice immediately. One of the men got a rope and threw it over a limb of a tree while the other three dragged the protesting oil worker over to the tree.

They slipped the rope around his neck and asked him if he had any last words. He spit in their faces and announced that he would see all of them in hell. He stated they would all die in a similar manner within thirteen days.

They hanged him and then assigned one man in the group to bury the body. This man remained behind to place the body in a wagon.

He started for the woods. He drove his wagon along a road that was above a steep embankment.

His horses became spooked and the wagon turned over flipping him out. He fell twenty feet where his neck landed between two branches killing him instantly.

When his body was discovered it was deemed an accident. The body of the oil worker was not found.

At the scene witnesses stated they saw a dark figure standing in the woods near the accident.

Three days later the body of the second of the four men was found hanging from a hay mow in his barn. It appeared he had slipped on the clean floor and had fallen onto a rope used to haul things up to the loft.

Again witnesses stated that they saw a dark form standing near the barn.

The two remaining men started to suspect the oil worker’s prediction was coming true--they wondered who would be next.

Nine days later the third man was found hanging by the neck between two steel crosspieces on an oil derrick.

Several oil workers saw a strange dark figure in the woods near the derrick after his body was found.

The next night, which was the thirteenth day, the fourth man was found hanging from a rafter in his kitchen--from an apparent suicide.

The man’s wife saw a dark form lurking around their farm for several days after her husband took his own life. He then stopped appearing.

Did the ghost of the innocent oil worker help his prediction come true?