Thursday, April 19, 2018

The Stinky Streak

Don't let the silly title of today's blog post fool you! This vintage West Virginia ghost? creature? oddity? story was reported in Cooper's Clarksburg Register on Wednesday, August 8, 1853 and sounds pretty horrifying! It appears that the original tale appeared in the Buckhannon Observer, so I would imagine that the strange events took place in that area.  However, I'm not EXACTLY sure what those strange events were!

While out riding, a group of men noticed movement in the distance. It streaked past them at remarkable speed, sounding like a buggy. It was dark brown in color, and smelled strongly of tar. The horses were spooked and a couple of men were even knocked to the ground. Upon returning to town, the men found that the THING, whatever it was, had passed through there as well, much to the puzzlement of the local citizenry. It was headed west, leading the people to surmise that this thing would show up in Weston and Parkersburg as well.

This is definitely one of the weirder articles I've come across, and much like the citizens of Buckhannon back in 1853, I couldn't even fathom a guess as to what it was that was experienced by such a large number of people. It certainly doesn't sound like a classic ghost story. Could it have been a Bigfoot? Were the sable garments actually dark brown fur? Bigfoot experiences are often reported as being accompanied by a foul odor.  However, I've never known such a creature to move that fast, nor sound like buggy. Perhaps it was some sort of demonic or other non-human entity.

I hope you enjoyed today's Throwback Thursday post as much as I did!  Join me over on Theresa's Haunted History Facebook and let me know YOUR theories!

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

White Gate Cemetery

Photo by Beth--Grave Addiction

Travelers driving down Tom's Run Road in Moundsville, WV will notice a quaint, white gate with no fence, just on the other side of a small creek. Above the gate is a sign reading "White Gate Cemetery."  Beyond that gate are rows and rows of small metal signs, each marking the final resting place of a former inmate of the West Virginia State Penitentiary. 

The West Virginia Penitentiary, located in Moundsville, officially opened in 1876. Deceased prisoners whose bodies were not claimed by friends or family were first buried along a narrow strip of land on the south side of the penitentiary wall. However, drainage issues resulted in the need to remove the bodies and place them in a 5 acre area just outside the prison set aside for a cemetery.  This arrangement lasted until 1897. Around that time, Moundsville citizens had started complaining about convicts being buried within cemetery limits.  Therefore, during the 1897 Legislative Session, House of Delegates member John J. Leach proposed House Bill 255. The bill was "to prohibit the burial in the cemetery at Moundsville of the bodies of convicts who may die in the penitentiary." The bill passed, spurring the prison on a search for a proper burial site outside of city limits.

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer February 9, 1897

In November of that year, they would find a suitable location. Prison officials purchased 10 acres of land from David Levi along Tom's Run Road.  The location chosen was about 3-4 miles from the prison, fell outside of city limits, and cost the state $600. 

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer November 24, 1897

For half a century, the cemetery didn't really have a name. On death certificates, it was usually listed as 'prison cemetery' or Tom's Run. It wasn't until the 1950s that it came to be called White Gate Cemetery when the wife of a warden (I haven't confirmed it, but I think its Rilla Skeen, wife of Orel J. Skeen, 1947-1955) took interest in improving the cemetery and had the gate and sign installed. 

There are close to 300 known burials at White Gate, most of which are marked with a simple metal sign made at the prison. The majority of burials are the result of natural causes and many come from the era of the Great Depression when families simply didn't have the money to have their convict kin shipped home and buried.  

Photo by Beth--Grave Addiction

Unfortunately for many of those buried on this little plot of land, their stories are lost to history. In some cases, their names are lost to history---a blank sign being the only tangible proof of their existence. Others buried at White Gate are a little more notorious...

It is said that Edward Trout Shue, the infamous "Man Who Wanted Seven Wives" is buried at the prison cemetery. You might know him better as the man who took the life of Zona Heaster Shue, the Greenbrier Ghost. Also among the burials are Herman Drenth, better known as Harry F. Powers. Powers is responsible for at LEAST 5 murders in the Quiet Dell area of WV. This "Bluebeard of Quiet Dell" is believed to be West Virginia's first serial killer.  He was executed by hanging on March 18, 1932. Then, there's William Holly Griffith, the "Bestial Murderer" who kept escaping! He died July 10, 1971 from prostrate cancer. 

In the paranormal world, there's a debate as to whether or not cemeteries are likely to be haunted. The theory is that a ghost would more likely haunt the place where he/she died, or where he/she had spent the most time while living, as opposed to just the location where the earthly body lies.  I'll save that debate for another blog, but I wanted to touch upon the haunted history of the White Gate Cemetery.  Surprisingly, there really isn't much of one! Those who have investigated the cemetery haven't really collected any data to show that it might be haunted, and there really aren't any stories about its ghosts, either, that I could find.  I did find one thing, though. Visitors to the cemetery don't find the little spit of wooded land peaceful. Rather, the whole area seems to give off a very heavy, even negative feeling. 

Last January, my friend Bree and I set up a vendor's table at the Grave City Haunted Relic Expo, held at the old Sanford School. We arrived in town a little early to explore and the number one spot we wanted to see was White Gate Cemetery. We found it easily enough. It's just a short drive from the prison and my GPS took us right to it.  The problem was, we couldn't get to it! There had been recent snowstorms throughout West Virginia earlier that week, and Tom's Run Road wasn't entirely free from snow and ice just yet. The parking area was covered in snow, and since I wasn't sure what was under it (I was thinking lots and lots of mud), and didn't want to get my car stuck, we chose not to stop.  That wasn't the only issue though; even if we had parked, there was NO bridge over the creek to the cemetery. And, since the snow was starting to melt, the creek was running pretty high. You can watch the video I took of me panicking about where to stop below, but it begs the question: why is this cemetery so isolated?

A really sweet lady named Tammylynn whom we met at the Expo shared some insight.  She said the cemetery was built across the water to keep negative energies at bay! It is a popular belief in folklore that a ghost cannot cross running water (for example, the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow), so it makes sense. And, if that negative energy is all trapped in that small, little space, that could explain why so many people can pick up on it so strongly.  She also let us know that the cemetery grounds aren't regularly mowed, and there's an issue with snakes, so be careful if you plan on visiting! 

If you have any additional information on this cemetery, or have had your own personal paranormal experience there, I'd love to hear from you! Feel free to comment below, join me at Theresa's Haunted History Facebook, or email me at  Stay spooky, ya'll!

For a list of burials, check out Find-a-Grave
For more photos and info, visit Grave Addiction
You can find a little bit of info on early burials at the WV Pen on its National Register application

Here's the video of me panicking, trying to figure out how to get over to the cemetery without A. Getting my car stuck, and B. Drowning while trying to cross the creek on foot. We will be returning in the Spring! You can also watch it on YouTube

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tax Season is Ghost Hunting Season

Happy Tax Day! Today is the last day to file your taxes, although the date seems a little later than usual this year.  The reason that Tax Day isn't April 15th this year is because the 15th falls on a Sunday and the following Monday is Emancipation Day, a recognized holiday in D.C. So, today is your last chance to turn over all your paperwork to the IRS and hope for the best!

Hopefully, this year you'll have (or have already received) a hefty tax return to spend on what else: new ghost hunting gadgets! The last leftover remnants of winter seem to be finally leaving the tri-state area and many paranormal investigators and ghost enthusiasts are experiencing a renewed interest in some hands-on field work!

While it may be fun to start a new season of ghost hunting/paranormal investigation with a few new high-tech goodies, remember that quality over quantity is key when it comes to equipment. Much of what is marketed towards the paranormal community is not based on good science, and is often downright useless, especially if you're not using it correctly. Do your research, make good choices, and of course, have fun! Get out there and collect some data. 

Let me know if YOU plan on spending your tax return on anything ghost related! Feel free to post down in the comments, or join us over on Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State Facebook with your ideas!

Monday, April 16, 2018

Watch Your Language! Speaking to the Dead in Their Native Tongue

It's been awhile since I've posted a Monday Meme, but I saw this one and knew I had to share it. It's hilarious---it definitely made me chuckle, because it is something that I've seen more than once. And every time I see it, I think, "What are they thinking?"

While it is funny, it actually is pretty thought-provoking as well. In today's paranormal investigation/ghost hunting culture, EVP (electronic voice phenomena) work is an integral part of the process. Personally, I feel that some of our strongest data and potential evidence comes from our audio. Therefore, its crucial to do everything possible in order to maximize EVP results. Way back in 2012, I blogged about some EVP Tips and Tricks, but I didn't really go in depth about language.

I understand that not all of us are as lucky as the TAPS team is above. Most of us will probably never conduct an investigation in a foreign country where the official language is not that of our own. That doesn't mean that we should just ignore the whole topic of ghosts that speak a different language, however.

This is where a little historic research comes in. Just because you and everyone around you speaks the same language, doesn't necessarily mean that was always the case!  The town of Gallipolis, Ohio was once a French Colony! However, you'd be hard-pressed to find someone living there today that speaks fluid French as a first language, on a regular basis.  In Northern West Virginia, many Italian, Hungarian, and other immigrants worked the coal mines and many never learned much, if any, English at all. You might live in an area that was once home to a large Native American population.

Italian Miners in WV
Photo from Marcia Green Hilton
If you suspect that you might have a ghost that speaks a certain language other than your own, familiarize yourself with a few key phrases that you might want to ask/say during your EVP session. It doesn't have to be anything fancy; a simple "Hello, my name is....What's yours?" is a good start. If an entity can understand you and thinks you can understand it, they may be more likely to attempt communication.

Similarly, you might get an EVP that sounds like speech---but it sounds like its in another language. If you are familiar with some different languages that were spoken in that area or may have been spoken by the people associated with the location, you can more easily and quickly get it translated.

One last thing to consider is it all necessary? I've seen instances where investigators go into a location in a foreign country, speak their own language, and then get an EVP response IN THEIR OWN LANGUAGE!  If we use the posted meme for an example, why would a 500 year old German ghost respond to a question in English?  If I could answer that, I'd be a hero in the EVP world. Alas, I am not...but there are a few theories floating around out there:

1. Spirits vs. Ghosts---While the terms are often used interchangeably, its pretty widely accepted that there is a difference between spirits and ghosts. Spirits are entities that are 'higher up,' so to speak. They are the souls of people who have passed and crossed over...but have returned for whatever reason. They may also be entities that were never human, such as nature spirits. Ghosts, on the other hand, are usually described as the souls of deceased persons who are earthbound---they've never crossed over. If you're contacting a spirit, who is a higher being, perhaps things such as language and other earthly constructs are not a problem. They can understand and communicate in any language.

2. You're not really getting a response from any spirit, ghost, or other paranormal entity. Instead, you're picking up radio waves, your own thoughts telekinetically imprinted on the recorder, or tapping into free-floating voices and sounds that are just out there, floating around. I know, it gets a little strange...but that's why we love it right? Part of the joy of paranormal investigation is trying to make the unknown known, to unravel the mysteries that have been eluding us since the beginning of time. Keep searching for answers, and have a wonderfully spooky Monday!

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Parkersburg's Haunted Castle

According to the WV Division of Culture and History's "On This Day in West Virginia History" series:  On April 15, 1872, Peter Godwin Van Winkle, who represented West Virginia in the United States Senate from 1863 to 1869, died in Parkersburg. 

Photo property of Susan Sheppard,
Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tour
In the Julia-Ann Square Historic District of Parkersburg, WV, there's a lot of history...AND a lot of hauntings! One of the more notable haunted buildings is the Van Winkle-Wix House, also known locally as The Castle. The Castle was built around 1833-1836 and served as the one-time home for Peter G. Van Winkle, a lawyer and renowned politician.

The house standing today (not to be confused with the demolished Peter G. Van Winkle House that was located nearby) is vastly different than the original. Back when the home was built, there was no Ann Street, and thus, the 1209 address of the home didn't exist! Instead, the home faced the Ohio River. Between the period of 1870 and 1899, the Castle underwent some pretty major renovations, giving it an updated Victorian appearance with the added turret and tower, and raised roof. The front door was also moved so that the new main entrance faced Ann Street.

Over the years, the Castle has been a private residence, a girl's school, and an apartment complex. It has also set empty for long stretches of time, adding to its mystery and haunted reputation! However, in October 2013, owner Craig Wix sold the property to Standard Oil. Craig, who had owned the property since 1985, also did some major renovation work and lived in part of the Castle off and on. In fact, it was under Craig Wix's ownership that some of the most fascinating stories of the home's hauntings were born.

In 1990, renovation and construction work was taking place on the home when some really weird stuff started happening. Years later, workers would report to Susan Sheppard of Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours that they were seeing the apparition of a man with curly blond hair and a ruffled shirt, roaming the house. When they gave chase, the man disappeared!  Workers outside the home also saw the apparition. As it was standing in the window, they were able to snap a photograph of it. The photographs can be found in Sheppard's book, Cry of the Banshee. (Theresa's Note: I can't find these photographs, lol. I have two copies of this book...a first edition from 2004 that has no photos at all of the Van-Winkle Wix House and an edition from 2008 that shows two photos of the house taken on tours. One photo shows a ton of 'orbs,' while the other allegedly shows a female figure in the window. I'm guessing these photos made it into the next edition, which I will now have to track down!)

Photo by the Parkersburg News and Sentinel

It is an almost universally accepted theory that renovations tend to stir up paranormal activity and after Standard Oil purchased the home, another round of renovations began. Originally, Standard Oil was going to use the property to house their visiting shareholders and staff, but by 2016, falling profits prompted the company to seek out other sources of revenue. The city allowed them to begin renting out the facility for weddings and other events, but the citizens were resistant to an all out Bed and Breakfast in their residential area.

The Castle can be rented out, and it is open several times a year for public events, making the chances of having a paranormal experience there all the greater (and legal, since you won't have to trespass!). Even if you don't catch a glimpse of the curly-haired gentleman, people have experienced plenty of other types of activity as well. The most common reports are phantom footsteps, but disembodied voices, cold spots, turning doorknobs, and objects that seem to move on their own have all been witnessed.

Sources and Additional Reading:
Historic Home Gets New Lease on Life, by Paul LaPann. Parkersburg News and Sentinel (October 19, 2013)

Delivering the Shivers: Top-Rated Ghost Store Scares Up Some Haunted History, by Julie Robinson. Sunday Gazette-Mail (October 5, 2008)

National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form

HPIR Founder, Melissa's Haunted Travels Blog

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Paranormal Activity at the Titanic Museum in Branson

Branson, Missouri is a great family vacation destination. Amid such attractions as the theme park Silver Dollar City, Dolly Parton's Dixie Stampede Dinner Theater, and plenty of live music, there sits a unique museum along 76 Country BLVD.

From Wikipedia

The Titanic Museum is any history buff's dream location. Opening in 2006, the museum itself is a smaller version of the actual ship. The inside is packed with over 400 artifacts, some belonging to survivors of the Titanic sinking in 1912, and some actually from the Titanic shipwreck debris field.  The Museum is owned by John Joslyn, who led a 1987 expedition of the Titanic wreckage, and is one of two of his Titanic Museums, the other being located in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

However, it is the Branson location that has really obtained a reputation for being haunted! In 2009, the Wichita Paranormal Research Society, led by Shane Elliot, conducted a paranormal investigation of the museum after staff and visitors alike began having experiences.

Museum character actor Jamie Terrell, said in a November 8, 2009 interview with Ozarks First that many people have reported the smell of cigar smoke around the area of the First Class elevators and that staff members routinely hear their names being called by phantom voices in the area of the Third Class corridor.  She also goes on to say that she has personally witnessed the apparition of a man in a black suit.

These claims of activity, including full-bodied apparitions, drew the attention of Zak and his gang, and the museum became the focus of Episode 12, Season 15 of Ghost Adventures.

During the pre-investigation walk-through, Zak met with Jamie Terrell in the Grand Staircase, built based on actual blueprints of the original Titanic Grand Staircase.  Jamie once again tells of seeing a man's apparition.  He is seen near the top of the Grand Staircase, near the private quarters of First Class passenger, John Jacob Astor. She believes the apparition to be the wealthy businessman, who perished in the sinking.

Jaime also mentions to Zak that visitors to the museum are often overcome with emotion, some to the point of uncontrollable sobbing, stating that they can actually hear the screams recorded in time of that fateful night and early morning in April of 1912  when the Unsinkable Ship struck an iceberg and began to go down.

After Zak's interview with Jamie, he meets in the Musician's Gallery with another Tour Guide/Character Actor named Alexis. Before Alexis can even tell HER story to Zak, Zak starts freaking out and asking everyone if they "can feel that?" Zak, Alexis, and even Jamie all confirm that they do feel something that can only be described as a child-sized pocket of ice cold energy. Alexis then shares that her story for this room is that she has actually experienced a child's ghost here.

The child ghost(s) has also been experienced in other parts of the boat. Alexis leads Zak to the Captain's Bridge and Promenade Deck where the child has also been known to frequent. While showing the area to him, Zak notices that there are child's hand prints on the class---a common occurrence witnessed in this area. Alexis confirms that the glass was cleaned just prior to the Ghost Adventures crew coming  aboard, and it even seems as if some of the hand prints seem to materialize right then and there!

The Ghost Adventures crew returns the next night for the actual investigation, and they are not disappointed by the level of activity. Things start off sort of mundanely, with a simple light anomaly being observed over the piano keys of the Musician's Gallery's piano.  However, the child ghosts of the museum quickly show up, possibly lured by candy, cookies, and several toys. While in the Captain's Bridge area, a child-sized figure shows up twice on the structured light sensor (SLS) camera before the figure can be seen jumping THROUGH the glass window. When the window is inspected, tiny hand prints can be seen.

Back in the Musician's Gallery, the Ovilus is giving information that the ghost is possibly a 6 year old female who likes to eat cookies!  But, the fun isn't over yet.  Later on, Zak claims to see the apparition of a chubby-cheeked boy with dirty blonde hair and a life preserver standing in a doorway. The doorway happens to be the entryway to where the memorial for the children lost on the Titanic is located. Soon after, what appears to be a non-heat producing figure of a child is seen on the Thermal Imaging Camera, peeking around a corner.

With so many actual artifacts that were on the Titanic being on display here, combined with the fact that both the outside and the inside of the museum are built to closely resemble the real deal, it is theorized that all ghosts on site are directly related to (as in being passengers on) the Titanic disaster. Has their energy somehow imprinted itself on these objects, only to replay their final night, over and over...or are these sentient beings attached to their last possessions? It would seem that at least some of the ghosts of the Titanic Museum are intelligent hauntings.

Well, I didn't mean for this blog to be a re-cap of Ghost Adventures! However, much of the information about the Branson, Missouri Titanic Museum that I was able to find came from this episode! If you've had an experience here and want to share, I'd love to hear your stories! Let me know down below in the comments how you were affected by the ghosts of the Titanic Museum!

Friday, April 13, 2018

Thirteen Club Comes to Morgantown

I absolutely LOVE this photo! I first shared it a couple of years ago on my Theresa's Haunted History Facebook page, and then shared it again last October. I felt, however, that it needed a more permanent spot here on the blog!

The photo comes from one of my favorite websites, WV History on View. It is labeled: "Friday the Thirteenth Group Dinner, Morgantown, W. Va". However, I THINK we can take it a step further and assume that this is an example of a local 13 Club! 

In the 1880s, the Thirteen Club was created to debunk the superstition of "13 at a table" being unlucky. This belief states that when 13 people are seated together at a table, one will die within a year, usually the first one to get up and leave. They met on the 13th of the month for a dinner served to 13 people at each table.

Now, I don't like to think of myself as a superstitious person, but if I were invited to one of these dinners, I'm going to be taking my good, sweet time in finishing it! 

For more information on 13 Clubs, check out this article in the Paris Review