Thursday, February 28, 2013

This Day in Haunted History-February

The year 2013 is a very special year for us here in West Virginia!  On June 20th, we'll be celebrating 150 years of statehood!  As a tribute to our Sesquicentennial year, I've decided to do something a little fun on the Theresa's Haunted History Facebook fan page:  I've been taking the daily This Day in History facts from the WV Division of Culture and History and sharing any "haunted" history that may be related.  These posts accompany a link to a location on my blog that discusses the topic at hand.  Not all days will be represented...just the ones where I can justify a haunted history event!  Unfortunately, I didn't have a ton to work with this month, but there were a few good ones!  Oh, and as I found out while doing these, there are some dates that have a haunted history connection...but I have yet to fully research and post them, so those will be omitted for right now.

Since Facebook has decided that I have to PAY in order to ensure that all my fans see my posts, I've decided to do monthly re-caps of the This Day in Haunted History Feature...just in case you've missed any.  The original text from the Division of Culture and History will be in italics, with my own commentary in normal font.  Please join in helping me celebrate the awesome (haunted) history of the Mountain State!

 (WV Division of Culture and History "On This Day in WV History" master list)

February 10
On February 10, 1949, a bill favoring the electric chair over hanging was introduced in the House of Delegates. The legislation was approved on March 12. Since there is SO much out there already on WV State Penitentiary (where these executions took place for our state) I thought I'd share the story of one of Huntington's own victims of the fact, he was Cabell County's first man to die by this method. Rotary Park

February 16
The West Virginia Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium was established on February 16, 1917. The West Virginia Board of Control purchased 185 acres of land and several buildings at Denmar in Pocahontas County, and the facility opened in January 1919. A doctor, wearing a white coat and stethoscope is seen exiting an elevator and disappearing. Terror at the TB Hospital

February 22
On February 22, 1911, the legislature passed an act establishing the West Virginia Colored Orphans' Home near Huntington. While there have been scant reports about this building (now torn down) being haunted, MOST of the stories have actually come from another building that was once part of this campus, the Industrial School for Colored Girls. People have heard screams and crying coming from the building and even the Marshall police force (which were summoned by a concerned neighbor, lol) had some ghost stories about the building to share with us! Industrial School for Colored Girls

February 28
On this day in 1872, the legislature passed an act to establish a state normal school at Concord.  That school would later evolve into Concord College, where female students staying in the Wilson dormitory have had a long history with terrible nightmares and even apparitions.  Concord College

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book Review-Fireside Folklore, Volume I

Title: Fireside Folklore, Volume I
Author: Sherri Brake
Published: 2012 by Raven Rock
Amazon Info: Fireside Folklore

Anyone who knows me or reads this blog knows that I love, love, love collecting paranormal books, especially ones pertaining to West Virginia, and this book offered me another chance to add to my growing library!  I picked it up at History Day last Thursday and finished it within a day or so.

This is a slender volume, but its packed with plenty of West Virginia ghostlore, including plenty of popular haunts, some lesser known haunts and personal experiences of the author, and even some interesting folklore.  There are 24 chapters, each covering a different story...but each one of these chapters is simply a re-print of the author's column in Two-Lane Livin' Magazine, and more often than not are stories that anyone familiar with the popular early ghost books of WV has probably already heard.

That's not to say I dis-liked the book; I actually quite enjoyed it.  However, after reading the author's book on the WV State Penitentiary, I was expecting something with a little more research.  Either way, this is a great introductory book into some of West Virginia's finest legends.  There are some annoying editing errors, but if you can overlook them, you're in for a real treat...a quick, light read on my personal favorite subject!  I'm looking forward to the next volume!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Spring Mills Phantom

Photo from Sotterly Plantation's Website
Imagine it's late at night and you're driving down an unfamiliar country road, trying to get back to the highway.  As the fog creeps in, so thick you can't see 10 feet in front of you, you pull over at a crossroads and try to get your bearings.  Suddenly, the fog takes on a greenish hue, and time seems to stop.

Movement from the woods to your right catches your eye, and as you sit, paralyzed in fear, a figure slowly emerges, staggering through the fog and headed right towards you.  The figure is that of a man, dressed in Confederate Gray.  He's clutching his lower back with both hands, a pained look spreading across his face.  With his last remaining strength, he flings himself, hands first, across the hood of your car. 

You jump out of your vehicle to assist the man who is obviously terribly wounded.  However, by the time you race out your door around to your hood, the man has vanished.  All that remains are two bloody hand prints, which will slowly fade away before you make it back to civilization, erasing with it any proof of your phantom encounter.

It sounds like a cute little piece of fiction, but to many traveling in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle, its an experience that is all too real.  For years, motorist have been having encounters with what is known as the Spring Mills Phantom.

Back when I was in elementary school, my step-father was the athletic director for a local high school.  When that school's football team made it to the state championship finals, being held nearby, we turned the trip into a family vacation...and no family vacation with my mom and me is complete without a little haunted history hunting!  Our local newspaper had recently run a series of articles on famous haunts in WV, and this story made the cut, so we added it to the itinerary. 

We pulled up to the crossroads mentioned in the article, shut off the engine and waited.  And waited.  And waited.  After what seemed like forever, sitting in the dark and the fog, we started to see movement coming from the woods.  At first sign there might be ANYTHING coming out of those woods, my now-former step-father turned the engine on and stomped on the gas, lol.  I will never know whether or not I missed my opportunity to meet a Civil War veteran in real life.

Anyway, this gentleman hasn't been seen to my knowledge for many years, but if you find yourself on the Hammonds Mill Road section of  Route 901 in Berkeley County, keep an eye open at the might get the opportunity I missed!

I am not 100% sure where this location is.  It's been over 20 years since I was there last, and my mom doesn't remember exactly, either.  I do know that a crossroads played a vital role in this story, and that the road we were on was very rural.  From what I've found, I would GUESS that the crossroads is actually where Route 901, which stretches between Hedgesville and Falling Waters, connecting WV9 and US Rt. 11, meets with a road called Harlan Run or Harlan Springs Run.  It is near the very haunted Hammond Mansion and Grist Mill.

More information can be found at the Southern Spirit Guide!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Kansas' Brown Mansion

The Brown Mansion in Coffeyville was designed by Edward Wilder and Thomas Wight for W.P. Brown and his wife, Nancy.  The house was completed in 1904 and was specially designed to accommodate Nancy's petite, 4'11'' frame.  The opulent mansion was the result of W.P.'s good business fortune.  Moving to the area in 1890 to work in the lumber industry, W.P. Brown shortly got into the natural gas business after finding one of the area's largest natural gas wells.

However, the Browns would never really experience the same good fortune in child rearing as they did in business.  They had a total of five children, but only one lived to adulthood.  Two sons died at birth.  Son William died at the age of 4 from pneumonia and son Donald died while living at the home at the age of 11 from complications due to diabetes.  Only daughter Violet survived to adulthood, but even her family life would never be promising, either.

Violet married her first husband at the age of 19, but divorced shortly after their only child died at birth.  She did remarry, but that marriage ended in divorce too.  That's when Violet decided to go to college, and become a librarian, a vocation she held until she moved back to Coffeyville in the 1930s to take care of her ailing parents.  When Violet wasn't actively taking care of them, she could be found dancing alone in the third floor ballroom.

After W.P. and Nancy both passed away, Violet inherited the house.  She lived there until 1970 when she sold it to the Coffeyville Historical Society for use as a museum.  She also left to them most of the original furnishings, taking only what she needed to the nursing home where she spent her remaining days.  Violet died in 1973, but her spirit remains as one of five ghosts that are said to haunt the Brown Mansion.

Although the current museum director has never seen any evidence of a haunting, many other visitors over the years have reported seeing, hearing, and even smelling the five ghosts.

Violet is often seen in the third floor ballroom, dancing just as she did in life.

Violet's younger brother Donald was the only sibling to live at the mansion and due to his health problems associated with diabetes, he was homeschooled on the third floor.  When he died in 1911, Nancy sealed his room up, just as he left it and it wasn't opened until after her death in 1937.  Donald is seen playing on the third floor and appears to be happy and carefree, sometimes whistling a favorite tune.

Donald's death hit Nancy very hard.  Her ghost is rarely seen, but is often heard outside his bedroom crying.

W.P. is both seen and smelled.  He loved to smoke a pipe, and is seen doing so in the first floor dining room and in the library.  Sometimes the smell of tobacco accompanies the apparition, and sometimes it is observed on its own in these same areas.

Charlie was a servant who was like a member of the family.  He is seen sitting in his basement bedroom and also standing by the front door, as if awaiting visitors.

Photo from the Brown Mansion Homepage

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Book Review-Chasing Graveyard Ghosts

Title: Chasing Graveyard Ghosts: Investigations of Haunted and 
 Hallowed Ground

Author:  Melba Goodwyn

Published: 2011 by Llewellyn Publications

Amazon Order Info: Chasing Graveyard Ghosts (Also available for Kindle)

I've always been fascinated with the history and the folklore associated with cemeteries.  I can't pass an old, ornate cemetery without stopping to check it out, and have spent many a happy hour wandering amongst the tombs, old and new.  Although I rarely go out seeking ghosts in these hallowed grounds, for a variety of reasons, I still get giddy when I hear a great legend or haunting associated with such....and of course, I love to read anything I can about ghosts!  This book was a perfect fit for me, and it was well-written to boot!

Over the course of 16 chapters, the author goes over plenty of cemetery mysteries, legends and hauntings...including her personal experiences with such.  There's also plenty of information to help you conduct your own cemetery research, and a helpful directory so that you can find the cemeteries that were discussed.

This book is not strictly scientific in its approach and there are some theories that are presented that are rather head-scratchers, but there is plenty of good information in here to assist anyone who has an interest in cemetery investigation.  At the very least, its a really fun read, with stories dealing with such things as phantom clowns, a possible extraterrestrial burial, statues that move on their own, and rather revealing epitaphs!

I've already gleamed inspiration for this blog from the book, choosing to write and share my own experiences on Graveyard Guardians!  Go check it out!

*Follow Theresa on FaceBook to see what else she's reading!*

Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Suicide Stain at History Day 2013

Once again, HPIR was present at History Day at the State Capitol, promoting our Haunted and Historic Ghost Tours and chatting up the many politicians and other local historical groups throughout our great state.  This year, we also got an opportunity for a really interesting photo op...

This photo can be found in the West Wing of the main capitol building, very close to Room W201, which happens to be the office of state attorney, Patrick Morrissey.  The stain, affecting at least six pieces of the expensive terrazzo tile is oddly human shaped when looked at from the right angle.  A head, along with two arms, and a lower body curled into the fetal position can easily be made out from the image, which is slightly raised.  On a facetious level, I think the stain, when viewed at this angle, looks like the little stick man found on wet floor signs took a nasty spill!

Anyway, according to a tip I received on my blog about the Haunted History of the WV State Capitol, it is believed that this stain is the result of a suicide that took place in the building when a state employee was found to be embezzling state funds, possibly during the 1930s.  This tip came straight from an anonymous capitol employee, so of course, I was intrigued!  Unfortunately, intrigue has only taken me so far in solving this mystery.

I have heard rumors of deaths at the state capitol, including at least one suicide, but verifiable information is hard to come by.  We do know that other reported ghost sightings have included a former maintenance worker, a lady in red, and a shadowy, human figure seen in an office near the Senate side of the second floor.  Without yet taking the time to systematically go through all the death records available for Kanawha County since the West Wing was constructed in 1924-5 to find someone who may be listed as dying at the capitol, I don't have a lot to report.  However, I was able to uncover some information about State Auditor John C. Bond.  Bond, who was born in Pendleton County in 1880 became the state auditor in 1920, and again in 1924.  In 1926, he was accused of embezzling funds from the state by way of writing checks to friends, family, and even people who didn't exist.  His employees would cash these checks for him, and Bond would pocket the money.  In 1927 he did officially resign, but would brought up on embezzlement and forgery charges shortly after.  While awaiting trial, it is said Bond had to be committed to Huntington State Hospital.  He was later found guilty and sentenced to six years at Moundsville State Penitentiary.  He didn't off himself though---he died in a Charleston hospital in 1943.  Obviously, that rules him out as the suicide victim, but I can't help but wonder maybe if one of his employees who was assisting him in these illegal activities might be our suspect?

The stain and the mystery behind it were definitely the highlights of the trip, but I was also able to get a photo of my uncle Paul's name engraved on the war monument, which honors those who died serving their country.  If you read Theresa's Haunted History, this is the same Paul discussed in Paul's Story, who disappeared on Normandy only to leave a puzzling mystery back here at home.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Graveyard Guardians

This week I finished reading a new book, Melba Goodwyn's Chasing Graveyard Ghosts.  Although my personal beliefs don't always mesh with what is discussed in the book, it really is a very interesting and important read for anyone wishing to know more about cemeteries and cemetery investigation.  One section in particular that really caught my attention was the subject of graveyard guardians.

According to the author, nearly all cemeteries have a graveyard guardian, or soul, whose only purpose is protecting the cemetery and those who lie therein from not just human visitors, but possibly, inhuman and spiritual ones as well.  The legend largely comes from England, where it was believed that these graveyard guardians were given special powers to protect the dead in their care from the Devil and other evil forces. Throughout most of Europe, the name Ankou is given to describe these guardians.

This tradition carried over into the New World where these cemetery guardians are real people, and they are denoted by being the very first burial in a cemetery.  Luckily, there is generally no shortage of deaths in a community to act as the graveyard guardian, but there have been cases where legend states that a person was interred ALIVE in a rural cemetery to act as its guardian.

On a similar note, graveyard guardians don't necessarily have to be human beings.  Throughout my own research, I had become familiar with the concept of sightings of black dogs in cemeteries.  These dogs were generally associated with southern cemeteries, and were described by witnesses in much the same way as the Black Shuck-type stories:  the dogs were HUGE, with red eyes, and seeing one was a sure portent of doom.  Therefore, it didn't surprise me to read in Chasing Graveyard Ghosts that black dogs were sometimes buried alive in cemeteries to act as a guardian.

Whether human or canine, the graveyard guardian will stop at nothing to protect those in its care, and many people have been scared away by sinister disembodied voices telling them to get out, fleeting and shadowy apparitions, sentient orbs and plasma lights, and even sonic booms!  When seen in orb form, these guardians will manifest in colorful ways, showing up as yellow, green, blue, and most often, red.
HPIR conducts an exaggerated plasma light experiment.  

HPIR doesn't do a ton of cemetery investigations for reasons that will be discussed in a later blog, but we have done a few in our early days that have provided some such examples of possible graveyard guardian encounters.  And of course, research for the haunted places featured on this blog have also provided plenty of examples!

Black Dogs
*Back in 2007, HPIR explored a medium-sized cemetery, which I believe was largely Catholic.  During our time there, we broke into several small groups and each group began seeing a black shadowy form flitting about the cemetery, yet it was always too dark and just out of sight to make a positive ID...until the shadowy form actually ran up to one group of investigators and began licking them.  Turns out it was a jet black Labrador puppy.  He stayed for a few minutes, possibly seeing that we were of no threat, then disappeared back to wherever he came from.

Plasma Lights and Orbs
*Kelly Cemetery near Ironton was brought to our attention by a citizen who shared some pictures of plasma lights with us and while we didn't catch any ourselves, we did have some strange experiences over our several visits.  Plasma lights are sometimes referred to as supercharged orbs that show up on camera as swirls of neon light.  It's important to note that plasma lights are very, very, very easily faked with any type of light source, and many times simply just misinterpreted false positives of street lights, car lights, etc.  A quick check of your photo's EXIF data will show if your shutter speed was long enough to have produced such a picture.

Disembodied Voices, Etc.
*Elmwood Cemetery in Wayne County, WV is believed by locals to be haunted by Milton Ferguson, the first person buried at the cemetery, which began as the Ferguson family plot.  However, Milton seems to "welcome" visitors to his family's section, as opposed to scaring them away!  There is another, undisclosed cemetery in Wayne County.  HPIR was called into this cemetery because a frightening, headless apparition was scaring staff away at night.  Was this a graveyard guardian?

*Woodlawn Cemetery in Mercer County is notorious for a disembodied voice telling visitors to the oldest section of the burial ground to "leave."

*Very rarely will a graveyard guardian appear as a living, flesh and blood human being.  A mysterious man who disappears has been seen at least twice (once by me) at the Greenbottom Cemetery in Cabell County.

This is just a VERY small sampling and Theresa's Haunted History of the Tri-State has many additional cemeteries listed.  In many cases, I've added the name of the first person said to be buried within.  Keep that in mind if you run into any potential "graveyard guardians" during your own research!

Some great false positive photos, several showing "plasma lights," by HPIR founder Melissa Stanley can be found HERE!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Mothman Through the Peep Hole

Late last November, the popular blog, Who Forted?, among others, broke a quite interesting story that has ties to here in the Mountain State.  It seems that even after the 1966-67 flap of Mothman sightings in Point Pleasant ended, the man-beast with the glowing eyes, wings, and muscular legs, has once again returned to terrorize citizens. 

And while Mothman has been sighted many times over the intervening years, it seems that is target in November, 2012 was a woman named Sharon Davis.  Although none of the articles available online states where Davis is from, what IS known is that she called into the Ground Zero radio show out of Portland, Oregon and sought advice from host Clyde Lewis concerning a beastly creature that seemed to be stalking her.  Clyde suggested that she attempt to take a photograph of this creature, which is seen below.

According to Davis, this photo, which allegedly shows "Mothman" standing beside her car, was shot on a friend's cell phone through her apartment door's peep hole.  Her reasoning behind this odd "angle" is simply because she was too terrified to go outside, or even look outside her window.  This is what she had to say about the photo:

"The being is boldly and directly looking at me and is not intimidated by me in the least. It was there all night, it orginally was standing at the back bumper of my car and I did take several pictures which shows that it did not stay stationary but did move to the mid section of the car and half in half out."

Obviously, due to the poor quality of the photo combined with the way it was taken and the subject matter, this photo has been ridiculed by many, both in the paranormal community and out.  Personally, I'd like to play Devil's Advocate for a minute...

Let's assume that this is some type of paranormal entity.  In the 1960s, one of the original Mothman witnesses in Pt. Pleasant did say that Mothman seemed to "stalk" her---she would often see him standing outside of her home.  Others reported similar behavior.  Therefore, it isn't totally off-behavior for this being (if it IS Mothman) to just simply be hanging out.  And, as we've seen over the past 40+ years, Mothman has allegedly been seen outside the tri-state area, lol.

However, one thing really stands out at me.  ALL Mothman witnesses report the being to have red, glowing eyes.  Even with a cheap cell phone camera, the eyes (and uh, WINGS) should be visible, right?

What do you think?  Is it Mothman...or perhaps some other paranormal entity?  Is it a hoax, or a mis-identification of  a real, live stalker? 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Charles Bonnet Syndrome

Charles Bonnet
As a paranormal investigator, one of my main goals within this field is to find the truth, no matter what that truth may be.  One "device" that many scientifically based researchers and investigators use in helping determine fact from fiction is the widely quoted Occam's Razor.  While the proper definition of Occam's Razor is worded a little differently, in its most basic form, it basically states that the most simplest of explanations is often the correct one.               

But what happens when the "correct" explanation is more complex than just blaming the phenomena on paranormal activity?

In comes Charles Bonnet Syndrome (CBS), a disorder that for the most part, is still unknown to much of the paranormal community.  However, when you really start to read about this mysterious condition, you can easily see how anyone experiencing it could easily mistake it ghostly, or even demonic, manifestations.

Charles Bonnet Syndrome was first studied in 1760 when the Swiss naturalist, Charles Bonnet, discovered that his 89 year old grandfather, Charles Lullin, was experiencing strange visual hallucinations that only he could see.  The elderly man not only knew very well that the people, animals and carriages he was seeing were all in his head, but he didn't show ANY other signs of mental illness or dementia.  Bonnet classified these experiences, and over the following decades, more and more information became available concerning this disorder.

What is CBS?
As stated, CBS is a disorder in which the patient is plagued with visual hallucinations.  However, it is VERY important to note that these hallucinations have nothing to do with mental illness---they are not psychiatric in nature whatsoever.  Rather, these hallucinations are found in people with failing eyesight.  Macular degeneration, glaucoma, and cataracts are the most common culprits, but in very rare cases, the visual hallucinations can show up in people with little to no sight loss.  The hallucinations are usually only seen during the early stages of an acute loss of vision, and tend occur fairly regularly over a period of 12 to 18 months before disappearing completely.  There is no real hard data whether or not men or women are more susceptible, but research does show that people who live alone and/or who have very little social interaction are more susceptible.  With the fear of a mental illness stigma, many people simply never report these symptoms to their doctor, which skews the research a tad.

Causes of CBS?
No one is hundred percent sure what causes CBS, but the accepted explanation basically states that when the eyes begin to stop sending signals to the brain, the brain tries to fill in the blanks, so to speak, by creating its own images, or visual hallucinations.

The Hallucinations
CBS affects each patient differently, and the hallucinations which have been classified have definitely run the gamut.  However, there do tend to be some shocking consistencies which strengthen the perception that what is being seen is actually a paranormal manifestation.

Hallucinations can be fairly benign.  They can be nothing more than what appears to be bricks or lattice work in the field of vision.  However, they can often be a lot more detailed...and scary.  Just about anything that can be imagined can be visualized.  The hallucinations can include crazy things that never existed in nature, but often are normal, everyday images, such as people and animals.

Hallucinations can be of any size...many times the hallucinations seem to be the "right" size to their environment, but people have also reported people and objects that are shrunken down...or even enlarged.  What's really creepy is that many of these hallucinations actually interact with the objects in real life that can still be barely seen by those with failing eyesight.  For example, an hallucination of a man might actually sit down on a real-life chair.

What's even CREEPIER is simply the hallucinations of people in general.  Disembodied faces of a grotesque appearance can pop up just about anywhere, but more often than not, the patient hallucinates the vision of normal, everyday people...people they have never seen in real life.  These "people" will often smile pleasantly at the "observer," but are described as making (and keeping) eye contact for as long as the hallucination lasts, which can last from a few seconds to a few hours.  The same images can reoccur over the course of the CBS, which takes the perception of a ghost sighting to the perception of a full-blown haunting.

How is CBS Treated?
There isn't a whole lot people suffering from CBS can do, besides ride it out.  There are medications that may decrease disturbing imagery, but they don't always work for everyone.  Others have learned through trial and error that changing up their environment is enough to "break" the vision.  For example, if the hallucinations come on when they are sitting down, they can stand up and break it.  If the light is on, they can turn it off.  Again, it doesn't work for everyone, but luckily its rare that the syndrome lasts beyond 18

 The website, Damn Interesting, has a wonderful article on Charles Bonnet Syndrome that should be required reading for anyone who researches, studies, or investigates the paranormal, especially those working with clients in the general public.  The article goes into a lot more detail and provides examples of the different types of hallucinations, many of which can easily be mistaken for paranormal activity.

And while CBS is a fairly off-beat and little-discussed issue, I hope it inspires all the investigators out there to really encourage their clients to get a full medical check-up, disclosing ALL symptoms to their doctors without worrying about stigmas.  Its only when we get full disclosure and look at EVERY possible explanation, can we really get to the truth.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Haunted Halls of Hofstra

Serendipity--a "happy accident" or "a pleasant surprise."  That's what I got early this afternoon!

I wasn't planning on doing a Friday Night Funny for today, but when my Facebook feed started blowing up with today's picture, I thought I'd better look into things, lol.

This sign was found in a stairwell at the Hofstra University Law School, in New York.  According to school officials via their FaceBook page, the sign is a student prank.  I, for one, am disappointed, lol.

Above the Law has a nice write-up with more info!

Historic Warner Theater

Today, Morgantown's historic Warner Theater is closed for business, and facing an uncertain future.  This is a far cry from the grand days of the theater's early days at 147 High Street.

The Warner Theater was built on the site of the former residence of prominent local physician Dr. David Hall Courtney and his wife, Lizzie.  Dr. Hall had passed away on May 27, 1929 at this location, due to "generalized arteriosclerosis."   In any event, the house was razed, and the property purchased by the Warner Brothers of film fame who hired architect John Eberson to design a grand theater.  The theater officially opened on June 12, 1931 at a cost of $400,000 and was of a classic art deco style.

The first movie that was shown at The Warner was The Millionaire, run by projectionist Constant (Con) DeFere.  Con, who was originally from Belgium and trained in glassworks, quickly found a penchant for film, and helped to actually install the sound and projection equipment in the new Warner Theater.  Con died in December of 1975 and spent much of his life, at LEAST until 1958 (as seen in a local newspaper article), as projectionist for the theater.

In the 1970s, the single screen theater was partitioned out into a tri-plex; the bottom floor was divided into two, with two separate screens.  The balcony became the third auditorium, and was serviced by the original projection booth.  It is this area of the theater that is said to haunted.  Unfortunately, that's about the extent of the information I have on the haunting.  Several websites mention that the balcony is haunted, including one site which includes an informal interview with a former manager of the theater, who stated that many believe that its haunted, but that its probably not.  Other websites claim that an apparition has been seen here and that there are rumors that a body was found in the theater years ago.

If the theater IS haunted, my guess, based solely on what little research I have been able to uncover online, is that there are at least two good suspects.  The first suspect is obviously Dr. Courtney or a member of the Courtney family who lived and died on the land before the theater was even thought of.  The second is Con DeFere, who devoted his life to a somewhat dangerous profession, spending much of his career at the Warner Theater.  Since the haunted area is said to be the balcony area, which holds the original projection booth, this theory makes sense to me.

Another sort of interesting fact that may or may not contribute to a haunting is the construction of the building itself.  In order to maximize acoustics, the walls were plastered with an "absorptive plaster."  This material is filled with tiny holes and is meant to reduce echo and reverberation.  It is said to contain such natural ingredients that its actually edible!  We've all heard the hypotheses that limestone and other materials can "trap" and replay spirit energy...could this edible plaster with its tiny holes actually be trapping and storing energy as well?
Hotel Morgan--Is that the Courtney Home on the right?

Unfortunately, we may not ever get the chance to fully study this location, as it shut down in September 2010.  It had been purchased in 2004 by the Round Table Corporation, who was intent on saving and restoring the theater, while at the same time offering a mix of indie/cult films and newer showings at reduced prices.  Too much competition from bigger area theaters combined with the money and headaches of keeping up an aging structure proved too much, however.  There were issues with the sound and projection equipment (especially in the balcony), the heating and cooling systems, and even the curtains over the screens.  In an ironic twist of fate, the final film shown that last day of operation was Dinner For Schmucks...a far cry from The Millionaire, a film shown when the Warner was truly THE place to be in Morgantown society.

Fun Facts!

*Don Knotts worked at the theater while in college at WVU.  In 1964, the Warner hosted the national premiere of Don Knotts' film, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.

*Albert "Al" Fusco was the manager from 1961-76.  He passed away in 2007.

*The Warner Theater is located adjacent to the (haunted?) Clarion Hotel Morgan.

*The front of the theater still houses several businesses, including a hot dog restaurant.

*The original ticket price for a daytime showing was 15 cents.

Please see THIS ARTICLE for more information, stories, and recollections!

THIS ARTICLE talks about the hauntings on the balcony

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Brooke Cemetery, Wellsburg

Without consciously meaning to, I've been doing a lot of research lately on supposedly haunted cemeteries throughout the great state of West Virginia.  When I thought about it, the reasons behind this little journey have been two-fold.  On one hand, I'm preparing an in-depth article debating whether or not investigators should look to haunted cemeteries for field investigation sites and looking into the state's cemeteries has definitely provided more insight.  On the other hand, my motives are a little more selfish:  I'm trying to expand my list of haunted locations in WV in order to make it not only the most accurate, but the most comprehensive list of haunted places in the Mountain State.  Other websites tend to list a lot of cemeteries, so its imperative that I include them for posterity.

Today's blog is another example of the many, many one-liners that are listed on a variety of websites, including Shadowlands and WVGhosts.  According to the WVGhosts site, this location is also referred to (erroneously) as the Wellsburg Cemetery.

Photo from Wikipedia
In any event, the Brooke Cemetery IS in Wellsburg, and is actually the THIRD cemetery in that town.  The first burial ground was laid out in 1791, but was replaced by a new cemetery in 1814, located along Main Street and 12th St.  By 1855, this cemetery was becoming crowded and falling into disrepair.  As a result, a new cemetery was commissioned along Pleasant Avenue in northern Wellsburg.

This new cemetery was built on land purchased from George Cox and David Fleming, and originally was about 12 acres.  It was built in the popular style of a garden or park cemetery, which was norm for the Victorian era.  John Chislett designed and built the cemetery which was officially dedicated 16 October 1857.  However, the first burial in the new cemetery actually took place on July 10th of that year, when Eleanor George, wife of cemetery board of trustees member Samuel George passed away.

Shortly after the cemetery was dedicated, people began moving their loved ones' remains from the town's earlier cemeteries to the new, fashionable Brooke Cemetery.  However, it wouldn't be until 1876 when there was a "mass migration."  That year, the 12th Street cemetery officially closed and a contract was awarded to E. Gaver & Co. to move the remaining bodies from this, and several smaller cemeteries...a feat that was accomplished by the first of December.

Today, Brooke Cemetery is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is the final resting place to many interesting characters from the history of West Virginia.  Veterans from the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, and the War of 1812 can be found among its burials, as well as Patrick Gass who was part of the Lewis and Clark expedition, and Rev. Doctor Joseph Doddridge who was the first minister of the episcopal church in Ohio and western Va.

With the wide range of personalities interred within the cemetery, dating back to the earliest days of Brooke County's history, it is any guess who or what is responsible for the hauntings therein.  What is known is that it was reported to WVGhosts that visitors to the cemetery have experienced apparitions and mists that collect into curious shapes.

 More Information at:
National Register of Historic Places
Survey of Cemeteries
Brooke Cemetery

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Spook Messages

While doing research at the library, I found this article in a March 29, 1911 edition of the Huntington Advertiser.  It's not REALLY paranormal, but shows that the influence of the Spiritualism movement was still alive and well into the 20th century!  It also shows that charlatans have been preying on the vulnerable for years, using grief and faux messages from deceased love ones. 


Washington, March 29---Spooks with a penchant for high finance have made Mrs. Laura Cramer, a government employee, the defendant in a suit instituted by the son of Fenton J. Hurd, a wealthy octogenarian to whom she claims to have been betrothed and from whom she received $36,000.

The son asserts that spooks wrote letters to his father advising him to "take good care of Mrs. Cramer and give her money."  He is now trying to get the money back.

Mrs. Cramer admits having indicted a few bright thoughts from over the Styx to her aged lover, but says she did so because he "was just crazy to get some message from his dead wife."  She declares Hurd gave her the money "just because he loved her."

I found a follow-up to this story in a May 5, 1913 newspaper called the Reading Eagle.  Basically, it states that Mrs. Laura Cramer milked this elderly gentleman out of a sum closer to $40,000...and was being forced to return it to his estate.  Mr. Hurd was a Connecticut millionaire, but had been declared incompetent by the state of Connecticut.  Originally, Mrs. Cramer had been awarded the money, but Hurd's son had appealed, and a higher court demanded the money returned.

The message to take away from today's post:  If the spirits are telling you to give exorbitant sums of money to your MUCH younger better make sure they actually are from the other side!

Monday, February 11, 2013

Zombies in Michigan? Montana?

People watching television this evening in Michigan's Upper Peninsula were in for a shock.  Around 8:45pm, a message came over the Emergency Alert System alerting viewers that the bodies of the dead were rising from their graves and attacking the living!

TV6 was one of the stations reporting on this issue, and according to their Facebook page, this alert was the work of hackers, hacking into the EAS. At 4:30pm, another local station, ABC 10, made similar claims.  Also according to their Facebook page, the Michigan Association of Broadcasters and the police are looking into this matter.

However, Michigan wasn't the only state to receive these zombie warnings today.  A similar event happened in Montana as well.  I'll continue to bring you updates as this story develops...but I want to hear YOUR opinion!

Are there any conspiracy theorists out there thinking that this may be the "real deal" that is quickly being hushed up and covered up?  Luckily, I found the Facebook page of a group called the
Upper Michigan (UP) Zombie Survival and Eradication Task Force,  "a community organization dedicated to the preparedness, survival, and elimination of all zombies in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and all throughout the Midwest.  Perhaps they are already on the case!

Anyway, it's the opinion of most people I've seen that this hoax is quite entertaining...but a good point was brought up:  If hackers can take over our emergency alert system (which many are saying happened, as opposed to just the stations being hacked), surely a terrorist with more malicious intentions could do the same?

Montana Article

Check out this YouTube Video to hear the message yourself!

Woodlawn Cemetery, Mercer County

Woodlawn Cemetery is located along Route 52 in Bluewell, Mercer County.  This is another one of those locations that have long been passed around the net as being haunted.  Honestly, I didn't have high hopes for finding anything of substance for this location, but a little bit of research quickly made me re-think my position on that...

Photo by Flyp Hylton
Woodlawn Cemetery was established in the early 1930s.  Over the years, the site has expanded to nearly 30 developed acres including at least 23 "garden sections" including a miners' section and a veterans' section, as well as several mausoleums.  The Waterfall Mausoleum was built in the 1960s, and there is also a newer Chapel Mausoleum, featuring three chapels.  In addition, there are several "estate" plots, including one for the Bowen family of the Bramwell Millionaires fame.  And as an interesting side note, Justus Collins, founder of the very haunted Whipple Company Store that HPIR investigated last year, is also among the cemetery's 16,000+ internments.

Photo from Bramwellwv
According to the listings on such places as and, Woodlawn Cemetery's older section is said to be haunted.  It is said that visitors to this section will hear disembodied voices telling them to "leave."  However, a little further digging (and with the help of a Topix thread on the subject) I was able to find out that this section may not necessarily be the most haunted place in the cemetery!

Several contributors to the Topix thread stated that they've had eerie experiences with the mausoleum, but didn't describe which one.  As an educated guess, I'm going to say its the Waterfall Mausoleum that is the main focus of these hauntings.  One person saw an apparition of what appeared to be a living person.  Another heard pecking noises coming from the mausoleum late at night.  Several others claimed that the mausoleum was plagued with a terrible, unidentifiable smell. 

More interestingly, several people claimed to have gotten locked inside the mausoleum for some unknown reason.  The first person to share the story was bringing flowers to a loved one's crypt and became locked inside for no apparent reason.  Luckily, a cell phone call placed to a brother alerted the office staff at the cemetery that someone was locked in...a fact that this same office staff claimed had never happened before.  Except, according to had.  One person was trapped in the mausoleum for over three hours in a time before cell phones were a staple for everyone.

And while it probably has nothing to do with the hauntings, just last year a very strange incident occurred at the cemetery that should be noted.  On Sunday, January 29th, 2012 police got a call that a man was in the cemetery with a gun.  The gentleman was a 34 year old man from Colorado named Jackie Spalding, Jr.  Spalding was described as mentally unstable, and when police arrived around 6:15pm, he fled.  He was found shortly thereafter in a vehicle parked on the service road running behind the mausoleum.  State troopers fired a fatal shot at Spalding when it was claimed that he raised his rifle at them.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Curse of the Superdome

It's Super Bowl Sunday!  Admittedly, I got bored shortly after the mediocre half-time show and changed the channel...but before I did so, I caught the weird power outage suffered at the stadium.  What in the world caused a power surge that would darken the stadium?  Of course, the logical explanation is not of a paranormal was probably related to the halftime show's power usage.  But, as an investigator and paranormal enthusiast, I have to ask----what if?

Super Bowl 47, between the San Francisco '49ers and the Baltimore Ravens, as we speak, is being played at the New Orleans' Superdome, a structure that has LONG had rumors surrounding it regarding curses, hauntings, and untimely death.

It all began in 1822....

That year, the Girod Street Cemetery was opened as the city's first Protestant (non-Catholic) burying ground.  Over the years, this above-ground cemetery was used as the final resting spot for many of New Orleans' most wealthy and prominent citizens.  It was also the resting spot of those far beneath that status.  Then, on January 4, 1957, the grounds were de-consecrated, and over the course of the next few months, the bodies were disinterred and moved to other cemeteries; the white citizens were moved to the Hope Mausoleum and the black citizens were moved to Providence Memorial Park.

However, not all the bodies were moved it seems.  Trying to find living relatives and space for over 30,000 bodies packed into Girod proved difficult, and it looks like some unlucky corpses were left behind.  This fact was discovered in 1971 when ground was broken for the Superdome.  Jim McClain, project manager for the construction company involved, stated that almost immediately, the backhoe began digging up human bones.  Frightened that they uncovered a murder scene, the coroner and police were alerted...and that's when they learned that where they were digging was actually part of the old Girod Cemetery.  As construction continued, caskets of all makes and time periods began surfacing as well...and were dumped along with the earth that was dug up.

Some will point out that the actual Superdome is NOT built directly over the Girod Cemetery.  Rather, the southeast parking garage, as well as the New Orleans Centre shopping mall, take up most of the area as seen on early maps of the cemetery.  The Superdome itself is actually believed to be built directly atop the old terminal and roundhouse for the Illinois Central Railroad.

Still, the treatment of the remaining bodies of the Girod Cemetery has led to the idea that the Superdome, or more importantly, the Saints, are the subject of a voodoo curse.  After several strings of bad luck, there have been several voodoo priests/priestesses called in to bless the team and their stadium.

And then Hurricane Katrina came in 2005...and the rumors of the Superdome being cursed re-surfaced all over again.

During the aftermath of the storm, many who could not be evacuated from the city were housed in the Superdome, and it quickly became a place of drug use, death, rape, suffering, and filth.  At one point over 100 deaths were said to have taken place at the Superdome.  Drug use ran rampant, as did violence, especially rape.  Human excrement began to accumulate, and many were suffering from lack of clean water, heat exhaustion, etc.  When all was said and done, there were only six official deaths reported at the Superdome.  Four of these were said to be of natural causes, one was a drug overdose, and the other, a suicide.  Several additional deaths were reported in the vicinity of the stadium, including the alleged beating death of a serial rapist.

Today, the Superdome is the result of a multi-million dollar restoration, but some say that the suffering of those forced to seek shelter, only to find tragedy and pain instead, has been ingrained into the structure and the ground itself.  Since then, the structure has been blessed again, by both a Catholic nun, and several other voodoo priests/priestesses.

Was today's strange power outage simply a fluke...or was it just another sign that the curse of the Superdome is still alive and well?

Update:  About two hours after the Super Bowl ended, an official statement that the sensing equipment detected an "abnormality" and shut down as designed was issued.  Read more about what happened HERE.

Update 2: Sources (Twitter, hehe) are saying that Anonymous is responsible for the blackout.  

The Curse of the Superdome
Girod Street Cemetery
Superdome and Katrina
Power Outage

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Wade School

Recent Photo from the Wade Center
Today's blog is more of a fright bite--I haven't yet found all the information I want, but I still want to share this wonderful location with you all.  Perhaps someone out there will have more answers!

Anyway, the Wade School in Bluefield is one of those locations that keeps popping up on sites listing Haunted Places in West Virginia, so I decided to look into the legends for myself.  What I found is that the Wade School in Bluefield was built in 1921.  It was designed and built by William Thomas Owen, Jr., who had arrived in Bluefield with his family in 1909 and is responsible for building several opulent homes and other structures in town, including the Peery Building.  Owen passed away a mere three years after the completion of the school (on Halloween!), and is buried in a local cemetery.

The Wade School was originally built to house the junior high students, and featured a popular football field out front where many local games were played.  In 1957, the school switched from housing the junior high students to the elementary students.  It remained in operation as a school until June 2000 when the county began a massive school consolidation project.

Wade School's fate was uncertain at this point.  Bluefield State College was not interested in the building as it was originally thought they would it sat empty for several years until 2005 when a non-profit organization was developed in order to convert the former school into a community resource center. 

Today, the Wade School is now the Wade Center, an outreach ministry that caters to the needs of at-risk children in the community.  The former classrooms were turned into computer labs, tutoring rooms, and places to teach art classes.  Recently, the Wade Center went through another round of renovations, and reopened in December of 2012.  There's no word yet as to whether anyone associated with the Wade Center has experienced these ghostly manifestations, but we in the paranormal community know that renovations tend to stir up any latent energies that might be present.  Combine that with the energy of many school-aged children, and you've got a recipe for a haunting....

Ghost stories that are being quoted online are very short and nondescript, and presumably come from a time when the school was operating as a school.  It seems as if the sounds of children running up and down the halls when no one is around are observed, as well as the apparitions of these ethereal children.  It is also included in these entries that a female teacher of the school was decapitated...and that three students apparently fell over dead for no reason.

And that's where I need YOU readers!  I've started pouring over the Mercer County death certificates for 1921 until 1969 (when online records cease).  I haven't gotten very far yet, as its a slow and tedious process.  If you have a name or date that one of these deaths may have occurred...or if you've had your own ghostly experience at the Wade School, I'd love to hear from you!  Feel free to comment below, or reach me by email at  Interestingly, I found an African American teacher who died, but not by decapitation...and several junior high aged students who died...but apparently not at the school.  One girl was shot, and the other's cause of death was listed as diabetes.  I'll keep looking and update if I find anything!

Like this entry?  You might also like:
     *Mercer County Airport
     *Bluefield State College

Friday, February 1, 2013

Not Haunted

Its Friday, which means its time for another edition of Theresa's Haunted History's Friday Night Funnies!  If you are friends with or fans of ANY paranormal investigation team or interest group on Facebook, I'm betting you've seen a version of today's photo, laughed, and wondered...what's up with that?

This photo, which has gone viral in the paranormal community, is actually an ingenious marketing ploy by Jake Palmer, a ReMax agent from New Brunswick, Canada.

In the real estate business, the section of the sign that states "not haunted" is called a "rider," and usually gives such information as "Open House" or "Reduced Price."  However, when a three-bedroom brick home in St. John, New Brunswick wasn't selling as fast as the owners would like, Palmer got creative in an effort to make THIS listing stand out among others.

At first, the rider proudly announced that the home was equipped with "Indoor Plumbing."  This humorous rider was such a hit, that after discussing it with the homeowners, a new "Not Haunted" sign was put up.

Jake Palmer had this to say about the signs:  "When a house has been on the market for a while you've already told everyone every feature the house has so you start highlighting some of them people might not typically think of."

Personally, I would be seeking out the signs with "Haunted," but that's just me!

Interview with Jake Palmer 

*Looking for more laughs?  Check out the Top 10 Paranormal Facts-Chuck Norris edition!*