Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales

Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales

Ruth Ann Musick
With a foreword by William Hugh Jansen
Illustrations by Archie L. Musick
Copyright Date: 1977
Pages: 216
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  • Book Info
    Coffin Hollow and Other Ghost Tales
    Book Description:

    Mysterious vanishing hitchhikers, travelers beset by headless dogs, and long-dead moonshiners come alive in this collection of ninety-six Appalachian folktales. Set in coal mines and remote farm cabins, in hidden hollows and on mountain tops, some of these stories look back to the days when West Virginia was first settled; others reflect the rancor and brutality of the Civil War. But most of these tales guide us through the recent past of the uncommonly rich folk heritage of West Virginia. This ghostly collection, with source information and bold illustrations, will thrill longtime lovers of supernatural lore.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4585-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xvi)

    Great quantities of enthusiasm, of selfless interest in the projects of others, of unflagging dedication to students whose virtues she always discovered with no difficulty whatsoever — all tightly compressed into a quite small, feminine, intense compass: that was the late Ruth Ann Musick, most recent in the line of fine but lonely scholars who have personified West Virginia folklore both within and beyond the boundaries of that state. During her many years in the English department of Fairmont State College, she was practically a public relations agent for folklore within West Virginia. She made radio broadcasts; she wrote newspaper...

    (pp. xvii-xx)
  5. Tales
    • 1: A Strange Illusion
      (pp. 3-7)

      It was a cold night. And with the chilly air came lightning and thunder. Soon the rain began to come down in torrents. No one was out except for one man — a young traveler who, because his horse had gone lame, was forced to go on by foot.

      Of course he had to seek shelter some place, and that is why he stopped at the first house he came to — a large old mansion. His knock went unanswered, so he called out, “Is anybody home?”

      There was no response. Lightning and thunder echoed over the hills, and the...

    • 2: The Jailer’s Dog
      (pp. 7-9)

      Many years ago in the town of Brownsville, Pennsylvania, there was a small jail run by a very friendly and just sheriff. Sheriff Davis and his big dog were usually the sole occupants of the jail, but on one particular night a boy was brought in who had got drunk and destroyed property at one of the local bars.

      Sheriff Davis locked him up in a cell and proceeded to doze off in his bed. His faithful dog Rusty lay at his feet, as usual.

      In the middle of the night the sheriff was awakened by the barking of his...

    • 3: Coffin Hollow
      (pp. 9-11)

      On a point of land just below my home is a very old cemetery. This cemetery contains the graves of some Civil War soldiers who died during the Jones’s raid. It is said that one of these soldiers was killed after being captured by the Yanks. This gallant Confederate soldier fought long and hard before being shot in the leg by some unidentified traitor. He was then taken prisoner, loaded on a wagon, and started on his way to prison.

      Now a certain Yankee captain had seen his brother shot down by this soldier and hated him for it. He...

    • 4: Earl Booth’s Pot of Gold
      (pp. 11-13)

      In the late 1880s Earl Booth was considered a wealthy man. He owned a large farm in Barbour County on which he raised cattle and operated a saw mill. He was also known for his unusual trading ability.

      Through his enterprises he accumulated a small fortune, but instead of putting his money in the local bank, he buried it at several locations on his farm. It was well known in the community that Booth did not trust banks and would not deposit any of his earnings with them.

      Two strangers were traveling through the community, and when they stopped at...

    • 5: Revenge of an Oil Worker
      (pp. 13-14)

      In the early 1900s, the oil fields around Smithfield were booming and men of all types gathered there to work at the oil wells.

      While pitching hay one day, the son of a farmer fell on his pitchfork and was killed. A worker from one of the oil derricks came upon the boy, pulled the pitchfork out of his chest, and was standing over him with the pitchfork in his hand when four men came along and saw him.

      Not knowing what had happened, they accused the oil worker of murdering the boy. They had had a few drinks, and...

    • 6: The Shue Mystery
      (pp. 15-19)

      Edward S. Shue was convicted in the Greenbrier County Circuit Court at Lewisburg, West Virginia, in June 1897, for the slaying of his young wife. The evidence was entirely circumstantial and was dreamed by Mrs. Shue’s elderly mother, who was sleeping in her home fourteen miles away from the scene of the killing, on the other side of Sewell Mountain.

      In four separate dreams Mrs. Heaster’s daughter rose from the grave and described how her husband had murdered her. The aged woman set about trying to get enough people to believe her story so that her daughter’s husband could be...

    • 7: The Peddler’s Story
      (pp. 19-20)

      The house appeared to me to be just an old place that nobody thought good enough to live in, though it seemed sturdy and sound. I wondered why nobody was living in it since there weren’t enough houses in the area.

      My mother told me about the only family that had ever lived there. She couldn’t remember their names, but they had come to this particular farm as one of the earliest families and settled near what is now the town of Harman, West Virginia. The man and his boys were very rough in their language and in their actions,...

    • 8: The Black Dog Ghost
      (pp. 21-22)

      During the American Revolution, near Connellsville, Pennsylvania, a spy and his dog were captured by the British and taken back to headquarters to stand trial. That very night the spy was sentenced to death and was taken out in the yard to be shot. When he was outside, he tried to escape and was cut to shreds by a soldier with a sword. When the dog saw this, it leaped at the swordsman with a fierce growl, but the soldier turned in time to stab the large black hound with his sword. As the dog lay on the ground dying,...

    • 9: The Barn Ghost
      (pp. 22-24)

      Many, many years ago an old farmer was preparing to start to town to buy his supplies for the month. It was not unusual for farmers to go to town once a month to buy supplies for themselves and their families. This day, however, was to be unusual. The farmer, whom we shall call Jed Smith although his first name is not definitely known, was to have a strange experience.

      Jed left home at about seven o’clock that morning in order to get into town before the stores opened. It was about five miles and would take every bit of...

    • 10: The Miner’s Wife
      (pp. 24-25)

      One night a miner became ill and left work early to go home. When he arrived, he walked straight to the bedroom to arouse his wife to fix something for his illness. As he entered the room he found his wife there with another man.

      The enraged miner grabbed the man and gave him a thorough beating. After throwing him out of the house, he returned to his wife for an explanation. An argument followed and the wife, laughing at him, said she wanted a divorce. Shame mounted upon shame, and the miner returned to work, forgetting his illness.


    • 11: Yankee Thrift
      (pp. 25-28)

      My grandfather, who was an engineer and demanded reason and fact for everything that happened, often made the statement that those who believed in ghosts were fools. When he spoke of the old house on Eighth Avenue in Huntington, West Virginia, however, his attitude changed.

      Soon after he returned from the Spanish-American War, he learned of a beautiful, two-story house that was for sale at a very low price — so low, in fact, that he thought the price had been misquoted. Since he was a thrifty Yankee, he was afraid of missing the opportunity of a lifetime; therefore, he...

    • 12: The Mysterious Music
      (pp. 29-30)

      Several years ago near the small town of Cottageville an elderly engineer died. The old man had lived in a small house approximately two miles down the track from the town, and it was fairly well concealed by the heavy woods.

      It was said that the old engineer had been very fond of the Christmas season and was always singing carols and buying the smaller children candy. It was also said that he had one possession of which he was really proud — an old phonograph with some old-time records, mostly of Christmas carols.

      In the summer of 1968 the...

    • 13: The Last Lodge of Ravenswood
      (pp. 30-33)

      During my last year in high school I worked part-time in the local movie theater. I ran the projector and swept the place out at night. I had not worked there quite three months when I witnessed a most frightening sight. I was alone in the theater and had finished my work. I was about to walk down the aisle and check the fire exit to make sure it was locked, when something passed behind the screen, carrying what seemed to be a lantern. I stopped dead still and watched the figure walk across the stage and disappear on the...

    • 14: The Farmhouse Ghost
      (pp. 34-35)

      My aunt went to visit some of her relatives in Saint Claire, Ohio, arriving there from West Virginia in the evening at about seven o’clock. After having a late supper and chat with the family, she decided to go to bed, because she was very tired. This happened at the turn of the century, and traveling such a distance at that time was more tiring than it would be today.

      She had been asleep for about five hours when she was suddenly awakened by a strange noise. She opened her eyes and looked around. The image of a man grasping...

    • 15: The Wealthy Widower
      (pp. 35-37)

      In the small community of Glenfalls, a huge white mansion surrounded by pine trees stands on a lonely hill. A legend accompanies this strange but stately dwelling, which is now empty and weather-beaten.

      The land around the house was once owned by a wealthy widower and his son. Being a very miserly and conservative fellow, the widower lived in a small log cabin where the present mansion is situated. He was obsessed by the lust for money, and he kept all his treasures in a locked box under his bed. Money became so important to him that he found it...

    • 16: The Ghost of Hangman’s Hollow
      (pp. 37-39)

      In the 1920s, there was a vicious moonshiner in the area of Gilman, West Virginia, near Elkins, who had declared war on government agents or “revenooers.” Every time one would come around any of his stills, he would barbarously murder him and then dismember the body and cremate the remains in a furnace used to make charcoal for the stills.

      This went on for several years, but finally the murderer was caught by a group of federal men, who had combined their forces to avenge all the agents who had been murdered while doing their duty.

      Since it was almost...

    • 17: The Haunted Field
      (pp. 39-41)

      My grandfather tells a strange story about a piece of land he had received from his father and later had given in turn to my uncle. One day grandfather and I were crossing Uncle Roy’s meadow, which had been grown up in weeds for as long as I could remember. As I walked through the tall grass, I stumbled on a rock; I examined it more closely and saw it was a rough, handmade tombstone.

      “Yes,” grandfather answered my questioning look, “this meadow’s full of them; that’s why we don’t plow it, although one person — my father — tried.”...

    • 18: The Misty Ghost
      (pp. 41-42)

      Many years ago, a young woman from Rowlesburg was working in the city of Pittsburgh as a domestic. While there, she happened to meet a young man from Manheim, a small community across the river from Rowlesburg.

      They both were lonely, and before long they became good friends. They spent many a long evening talking of their families and their mutual friends. This relationship blossomed into love — at least on the girl’s part. But in spite of his avowed sentiments the young man refused to marry her. All too soon she lost her position, and there was nothing left...

    • 19: The Murdered Girl
      (pp. 43-44)

      Many years ago a wealthy Connecticut man had a brother who lived on Point Mountain in Webster County, West Virginia. The wealthy man’s daughter was stricken by that dreaded disease called consumption, and he wrote his brother asking if she could come to the West Virginia farm to spend a month or two, for the doctor had said that a change of climate might cure her.

      The brother agreed to take her, and preparations for the visit were made. When the girl arrived, she paid $1,500 in advance for her board, room, and expenses. Later her father sent her $2,000...

    • 20: The Hitchhiking Ghost of Buttermilk Hill
      (pp. 44-45)

      In the early 1900s an old-time peddler traveled from Fairmont to Fairview, with his heavy pack of goods on his back. Everyone liked him and seemed happy to have him come — not only to display his wares but also to report any news.

      The peddler was such a good, kind, and interesting man that people missed him when he stopped coming. It seemed as if he had disappeared. No one had heard or seen anything of him until finally his body was found stuck in a barrel which had been rolled into the valley below Buttermilk Hill.

      On dark,...

    • 21: Midnight Whippoorwill
      (pp. 45-47)

      During Prohibition many stills and moonshiners were to be found in West Virginia. One particular still was located in Smith Hollow. The owner was Charley Smut, a very eccentric man. Charley was a bachelor and had only one good friend — Jim Hayward. The two lived together in an old weather-beaten shack at the head of Smith Hollow.

      Jim was the only person who knew about Charley’s still. Charley would only go to the still at midnight, while Jim stood watch. They had an understanding that if Jim saw someone coming, he would whistle like a whippoorwill. On several occasions...

    • 22: Galloping Horses
      (pp. 47-50)

      During the Civil War, when West Virginia was often overrun by both Confederate and Union troops, a father and his two sons went off to fight in the army, leaving the wife and daughter at home alone. Before leaving, the three men took all of the money and buried it, never telling the rest of the family where, for fear the women might be forced by enemy soldiers to surrender it. The men, of course, believed that at least one of them would get back alive.

      It so happened that all three men died in the war and none were...

    • 23: A Confederate Soldier
      (pp. 51-53)

      One of the best-known ghost tales of Tucker County was told by Lewis Kittle, who lived on the Indian Fork of Clover Run. His reputation among his neighbors and acquaintances was above reproach, and the following story is an account of the facts as he knew and understood them. Mr. Kittle was not a superstitious man and was not a believer in spiritualism.

      In 1867 Lewis Kittle, with several others, was mining coal near the ground on which the battle of Rich Mountain was fought. He and a cousin named Daniel Court-right boarded with a Mr. Hart, whose house was...

    • 24: Return from Death
      (pp. 53-54)

      When the war started in 1861, the only son in a family that lived near my great-grandparents went off to fight in the Confederate army. The mother and three daughters were left to manage the farm, as the father had been killed in an accident the year before.

      They were at home one afternoon when a Union soldier galloped up to the house and knocked. Without opening the door, Mrs. Adams asked what he wanted. He demanded entrance into the house, saying that he would shoot through the windows if she didn’t open up. There was nothing to do except...

    • 25: A Face in the Window
      (pp. 55-56)

      During Civil War days, Charles Perry, a soldier in the Union army, was often sent out to get supplies for the hospitals — butter, eggs, milk, chickens, and so on — and had many interesting experiences. One morning when he started out to gather supplies, he came to a farmhouse situated near a small creek.

      He rode up to the place, hitched his horse to the post, and knocked on the door. After a few minutes he decided no one was home, but as he was going down the steps, he saw someone peering out the second-floor window.

      Charles went...

    • 26: A Ghostly Avenger
      (pp. 57-58)

      In the southern part of West Virginia there is a gravestone with the following inscription: “SACRED TO THE MEMORY OF JIM BROWN.” There is no date, no epitaph, because Jim Brown was hanged. This is the story.

      At the close of the Civil War, a company of Federal soldiers was stationed in Marion County. Charles Murphy was a lieutenant in this company. His brother, who was an officer quartered in a neighboring county, was sent one day to receive funds for the payment of some men. After he had received the money, he set out again, planning to return to...

    • 27: Darkish Knob
      (pp. 58-60)

      Near the town of Parsons, West Virginia, there is a tall, steep hill covered almost entirely with loose rock. Only one path leads over this hill, and it is almost impassable. The hill is called Darkish Knob.

      During the Civil War the underground railroad was bringing as many Negro slaves as possible to the North where they would be free. These slaves had to travel by night so they wouldn’t be seen, and they would hide at different houses during the day. They could not travel the same routes many times because the authorities would wait there to capture them....

    • 28: A Slave Boy’s Revenge
      (pp. 61-62)

      It was very late at night as young Curt, a slave boy, slipped through the fence surrounding the small, dirt-floored shack he was forced to call his home. After a very hard day in the fields, he decided he could stand it no longer. He was willing to risk death itself rather than continue life under these wretched conditions. He made his break through the open fields and into the woods unseen.

      His break was not discovered until the next morning. Upon learning of the boy’s escape, the master immediately went for his bloodhounds, which quickly picked up the trail...

    • 29: Frist House
      (pp. 62-63)

      During the Civil War, Hardy County was one of the few counties in West Virginia to go Confederate. The reason Hardy turned rebel was that several well-to-do farmers in the county used slave labor. The only important person opposed to the Confederacy was John Frist, an influential man who lived in a large house outside of Moorefield. Because of John’s resistance, a group of hotheaded rebels went to his house one night and murdered him, his wife, and their three children.

      After this, John Frist’s home was used as a prison for runaway slaves who were caught. The slaves would...

    • 30: The Murdered Prisoner’s Ghost
      (pp. 64-65)

      About 1900, the Hall family lived near a so-called haunted hollow on a farm in Pendleton County. Their house was on one side of a dirt road, and on the other side stood two hills with a hollow between them. About halfway up the hollow stood an old log cabin.

      The story was told that the log cabin in the hollow was used as a jail during the Civil War. One day an inmate dressed in white (probably his underwear) tried to escape. He ran as far as one of the hills, but was shot. Blood poured out of his...

    • 31: The Cole Mountain Light
      (pp. 65-67)

      Outside of Moorefleld, West Virginia, stands Cole Mountain. This area was the scene of a strange happening, back in the mid-1800s.

      Charles Jones, a large landowner, took one of his most faithful slaves and went coon hunting one night. The slave was carrying a lantern that provided the two with some light while they were following the voices of the dogs. Suddenly the dogs began barking more fiercely. Since this meant they probably had treed a coon, Charles and the slave both took off running in the direction of the barking. The slave was younger and stronger than his master,...

    • 32: The Crying Baby of Holly
      (pp. 68-70)

      During the Depression a young girl of the neighborhood around Holly River, below Diana in Webster County, gave birth to an illegitimate child. Faced with shame and the task of supporting the child, the girl decided to destroy it. She took the infant and threw it into a hogsty to be gobbled up alive by the vicious hogs, but as it crawled in the mud the hogs paid it no mind whatsoever.

      Then the despairing mother took the baby down to the logging mill by the river and thrust it into the deepest water, which was behind the dam and...

    • 33: A Strange Fire
      (pp. 70-71)

      In a small town in Doddridge County, West Virginia, lived a widow and her daughter. The woman had lost her husband immediately after the birth of their only child. Because there was no one to help raise the child, the widow considered her daughter a loathsome burden.

      As the years passed, the child grew to be a beautiful young girl. All the young ladies of the community were envious of her popularity. But because her mother had given her no moral instruction, she knew nothing about the perils of such popularity except what other girls had told her.

      One day...

    • 34: Jones’s Hollow
      (pp. 72-73)

      There is a small settlement near Belington called Union. It is situated on top of a hill that towers over the Tygart Valley River. There are valleys and hollows between the many hills of the region, and each hollow has its own name.

      Jones’s Hollow has not only a name but also a legend.

      Almost seventy-five years ago, a very rough man named Abraham Jones bought some land in this area. He drank heavily and gambled with some of the lowest class of people at that time.

      There was another family in the community named Johnson. Hubert Johnson was almost...

    • 35: Who Was Guilty?
      (pp. 73-75)

      Children in the nineteenth century were more often seen than heard. After a hard day’s work in the cornfield under the hot summer sun, they were usually ready to retire as soon as the evening meal was over. Millard, my great-grandfather, was no exception.

      Early one spring evening, as the yellow moon crept over the mountain tops, he was awakened by the rumbling of a horse-drawn wagon as it thumped over the dirt road in front of his house. He peered out the window and was astonished to see a Negro man being dragged behind an old cart. Inquisitiveness filled...

    • 36: The Cooke Family
      (pp. 76-76)

      Paul and Bill Harris were riding home from church in their buggy [surrey?] and began talking of the legend of the Cooke family.

      The Cookes had been pioneers and the entire family had been massacred on top of Cherry Hill on their way home from prayer meeting in 1865. It was said that the Cookes had tried again and again to reach their home over Cherry Hill.

      As the Harrises were driving along, the boys noticed a man, a woman, and some children walking along the road in front of the buggy. Overtaking the family, Paul offered them a ride....

    • 37: The Ghosts of the Mine Horses
      (pp. 77-80)

      In the coal mines of fifty or sixty years ago, horses did much of the hauling that is now done by machinery. Each morning many horses were taken down the slope entrance into the mine, there to stand and wait until the men filled some cars with coal in the rooms. The horses would then pull the cars out of the rooms and on to the main heading. At quitting time the horses would be unharnessed and taken back out the slope and from there to the big barn that the coal company maintained. Often they would just be let...

    • 38: The Ghost of Old Ben
      (pp. 80-81)

      Years ago seven brothers moved to Grant Town to live and earn money in the coal mines. The oldest brother was called Ben.

      Ben and his brothers were very healthy, strong, and happy. They usually sat around the house after they finished working — where they ate, drank, and talked of the old country.

      Ben, being the oldest, more or less took care of the younger ones. These brothers were very close to each other. They even worked in the same section together — Section Eight Main. As time passed, most of them married and had children, but they were...

    • 39: Friends to the End
      (pp. 82-82)

      John Boyer and Ted Klara had grown up next door to each other. Two closer friends couldn’t be found. They walked to school together every morning and home together every afternoon. When someone picked on one, he was sure to hear from the other. They were also hired together in the coal mines the same day and worked side by side. Three years later Ted got married.

      John felt that their life-long togetherness would be broken now that Ted was married, but it wasn’t so. Nearly every night of the week, he would be over at Ted’s place playing cards...

    • 40: The Invisible Friend
      (pp. 83-83)

      Charles Peterman had worked for ten years in the mines and had never had an accident. During his early mining days, he had worked with Joseph Stonsin for nine weeks and in that time they had become good friends.

      One day while Charles and Joseph were working deep in the mines, they heard a cracking sound, as if the timbers were breaking. Then the place started to fall in on the workers. In a quick decision, Joseph grabbed the nearest timber and held onto it to keep it from falling. In doing this he enabled Charles to escape. Two days...

    • 41: Eighty Feet Deep
      (pp. 84-85)

      In the days when mining first began, a man would have to work fourteen hours a day in order to feed his family. After a week of such long hard labor, on Saturday nights most of the single men would go to town to visit the local saloon.

      Fred Vincent went to town one Saturday night not to go to the saloon but to get groceries for the following week. He had had an argument over a saloon girl that day with a fellow worker, and to keep out of trouble, he felt he should get his shopping done as...

    • 42: The Swinging Lantern
      (pp. 86-87)

      During the early 1850s when the railroads were coming into North Carolina, a strange event occurred which has never been fully explained. A conductor on a Southern Railroad express train was signaling for the engineer to start the train, when, as it began to move, he slipped and fell to the tracks. He was killed instantly, of course.

      The next day the conductor’s body was buried without his head, for it had been cut off by the train wheels and could not be found. The head wasneverfound, and the incident was finally forgotten.

      Months later, the ghost of...

    • 43: Van Meter’s Plight
      (pp. 87-88)

      George Van Meter’s small farm was in Dorcas Hollow, just five miles south of the present site of Petersburg, West Virginia. George was a carpenter from Germany. He had settled with his family at Dorcas when there were only fifteen families in the whole county. At that time the Huron Indians were rampaging throughout the whole valley. Some of the early settlers had already been killed in Indian raids. George was one of the many isolated farmers whose cabins were a good way from the settlement.

      On the morning of July 4, while most of the settlement was preparing for...

    • 44: The Old Man’s Reward
      (pp. 89-89)

      One night an old man went to a farmer’s house and asked to stay there overnight. He was told he could sleep there, provided he would go out to the little haunted house in the backyard. The farmer promised to give him a bag of money if he would stay in the little house until morning.

      The stranger went to the house and got ready for bed, but before retiring he sat on the floor and began reading his Bible. He heard something rolling and went out to investigate, but found nothing. He began reading again and heard something skating....

    • 45: The Headless Man
      (pp. 90-90)

      Many years ago the people of a certain town had to pass a cemetery on their way to a little church up on the hill. Several people told of seeing a headless man who appeared in the distance before them. No one had had the courage to speak to the man — to ask him why he was there or what he wanted.

      At dusk one evening a young man was passing the cemetery and suddenly the headless man appeared in front of him. Although he was startled by the appearance of such a thing, the young man got up...

    • 46: Dog Rock
      (pp. 91-91)

      Clem Robinson lived at the head of Robinson Hollow, which was named after him. He was a man with a very violent temper. It is said that when he became angry at something, he would beat it to death or tear it apart, no matter what it might be. So it was with one of his foxhounds.

      One night Clem was fox hunting in Robinson Hollow, and one of his hounds scented a rabbit’s trail and began to follow it. As the dog chased the rabbit, Clem became very angry. He tried to call the dog back, but it paid...

    • 47: The Headless Dog of Tug Fork
      (pp. 92-93)

      A schoolhouse used to stand on a little rise near the road leading from Mill Creek to Tug Fork. The house had been gone for many years when people living in the settlement near there began to speak of seeing the headless dog that came out of the heap of stones on the site of the old chimney.

      The cause of the ghost dog’s appearance there has never been explained. Some people hint that long ago when the country was thinly settled and people were not very inquisitive concerning one another’s doings, a traveler and his dog were killed by...

    • 48: The Legend of the Haunted House
      (pp. 94-96)

      On a hill in Harrison County stands an old abandoned house. It is a pretty, white house, with a large yard, and in the summer it is surrounded by many kinds of flowers. This house has been empty for a little over a year. It is not a spooky-looking place that everyone would be afraid of, but for some reason none of the families who have bought it have lived there more than a month, in spite of its beautiful location. Some people believe the house is haunted.

      This legend was probably strengthened one rainy night when Lee Harris, a...

    • 49: The Man on the Railroad
      (pp. 97-99)

      It was a cool summer night. As my great-grandfather sat on his back porch overlooking the railroad tracks, little did he know he was about to see the town ghost — the man on the railroad.

      My great-grandfather had moved to Colliers, West Virginia, just two weeks before. As he sat on the back porch of his new home this particular night, he noticed an old man walking on the railroad tracks. He did not think this was strange, since hobos often waited to jump the train. But this man tonight was different.

      As grandfather observed him, the hobo kept...

    • 50: The Girl in the Green Coat
      (pp. 100-100)

      Driving home one afternoon, a man saw a little girl suddenly appear in front of his car. He slammed on his brakes and turned the steering wheel, trying to miss the child, but it was too late. He could feel a thump against the car as it hit her body.

      The frightened man ran to a nearby house. After he had knocked several times, a woman finally appeared. He told her that he had just hit a little girl and asked if he could use her telephone to call an ambulance.

      The woman asked him if the girl was wearing...

    • 51: The Blue Gown
      (pp. 101-101)

      Many years ago, in the vicinity of Clarksburg, a young lad of twelve had to run an errand late at night. The family lived in a large two-story house on top of a hill that sloped down to a gully leading to the river, which was about half a mile away.

      As the boy was hurrying home that cold November evening, something caught his eye. There, in the freezing temperature, a woman went walking by him. She was dressed in a blue evening gown of flowing chiffon, and she didn’t seem to notice either the boy or the cold.


    • 52: Returning Suicide
      (pp. 102-103)

      In the 1920s there was an old white house near Monongah that was said to be haunted. It was a large house, and a woman in white was supposed to have jumped to her death from a window of one of the upstairs bedrooms.

      Faith Harris was a young woman when her family bought the house and moved in against the warnings of the people who lived nearby. They said no one had been able to live in the house any length of time since the woman’s death, and the last family who lived there had moved out after only...

    • 53: The Old Gray Mare Conquers the Unknown
      (pp. 103-104)

      Block Stanley was as sturdy a man as his name implied. He built his life on the motto that all work and no play was the only way to build a good farm. His one weakness was the love of coon hunting. His greatest pleasure was to take his mare Old Nellie and his dogs out at night to tree a coon. No one else would take a horse on a coon hunt, but Block was by no means an ordinary man.

      One night in the late fall, when the bare trees lifted their black branches toward the yellow moon,...

    • 54: The Haunted House of Shell Creek
      (pp. 105-106)

      In Maryland, near Shell Creek, there is a very mysterious house. This old yellow-brick structure is supposed to have been a slave jail at one time; in the cellar there are cells, some of which still enclose the remains of former inhabitants. People living nearby have heard mournful cries, and some have claimed to have heard chains rattling and to have seen lights in the house at various times. But these unusual happenings are not the only haunts of the house. There is one more.

      During the 1800s a very wealthy southern gentleman bought the house. He had a lovely...

    • 55: The Light in Mother’s Room
      (pp. 106-107)

      On the bank of Little Buffalo Creek near Rowlesburg was a small farm belonging to a widow named Sanders. She had four grown sons who had land and families of their own.

      Old Mrs. Sanders died in 1927, and according to some of the neighbors, her will provided that her goods should be divided equally among her four sons. But her sons could not agree on the exact division of the property.

      One night when the argument was especially violent, the youngest, Dave, noticed a strange light coming from the upper hall. He immediately went upstairs to investigate. Upon entering...

    • 56: The Lynchers
      (pp. 108-109)

      Many years ago, around the turn of the century, there lived in the easternmost part of Taylor County a bachelor who operated what was then considered a very large orchard. (Evidently it wasn’t the size of orchards we know today, for he was the sole worker.) The townsfolk were all leery of the old gentleman and would never venture near his farm. All the apples he sold were carted into town — by him.

      One fall a new family moved into the area and bought a farm adjoining the old bachelor’s property. There was a little boy in the family,...

    • 57: The Cline House
      (pp. 110-111)

      The Cline house was an old farmhouse on Lost River, about two miles outside of Mathias, West Virginia. A peddler was killed in one of the upstairs bedrooms of the place, and people were afraid to move in afterwards because the peddler had said with his dying breath that he would come back and kill anyone who lived there.

      The house had long been labeled a haunted house when John and Mary Smith moved into it on the first day of summer. One morning, about a week after the Smiths had moved into the house, Mary was sitting on the...

    • 58: The Seated Lady
      (pp. 112-112)

      A favorite tale of the old people in Jane Lew, West Virginia, had its setting in a long-forgotten cemetery in the area. Among the gravestones there had been a remarkable one of marble — a statue of a seated lady with outstretched hands. The woman for whom the statue had been erected had died of a broken heart when her fiancé married another woman.

      Years later, the young people of the community started a club. As new members joined the organization, an initiation was required. Each new member had to spend one night sitting in the statue’s lap.

      All went...

    • 59: The Power of Love
      (pp. 113-114)

      Darkness was setting in early, for winter was just around the corner. The huge oak trees surrounding the old graveyard were starting to lose their leaves and the late autumn wind had a crisp tingle in it. The full moon was bright yellow as old J. W. Collins looked through the hazy mist into the dark sky. He puffed on his short, briar pipe and slowly made his nightly rounds of the cemetery as he had done for several years. Just as he was returning from checking the lock on the north gate he noticed two moving shadows, which gradually...

    • 60: Death of a Minister’s Wife
      (pp. 115-117)

      The room was very dark and quiet. Four tiny candles spread a soft glow over the face of the figure in the bed. If one looked closely, he could see that the features were those of a woman. She was rather heavily built, but she had carried her weight with grace and beauty. Her face was not wrinkled, except for small raylike lines at the outer corners of her mouth and eyes.

      This lady was my great-grandmother. She was in terrible pain, and the doctor was expected to arrive at any moment. Her husband, John, was a Methodist minister and...

    • 61: Lamented Love
      (pp. 117-119)

      Early in the nineteenth century in Wayne County, West Virginia, there was a young boy, Josh, and a young girl, Holly, who were very much in love. However, their families were bitter enemies. In order to escape the wrath and disapproval of their parents, they met in a wooded area that was parklike in appearance. Beautiful flowers appeared from nowhere in this remote place, and holly grew in abundance. It was as if God had created it especially for these two young lovers.

      During their courtship, the young girl became heavy with child. It was not long before her father...

    • 62: The Rosebush
      (pp. 119-120)

      Many, many years ago, on the outskirts of Grafton, there lived a very rich family for those times by the name of Allts. There were only three of them — Mr. and Mrs. Jim Allts and their daughter, Anna. They seemed to be blessed with everything except health for the daughter. Mr. and Mrs. Allts took her to every doctor, far and near, but no cure could be found for her illness.

      One cold, wintry night in early December, the girl seemed to make a sudden recovery. She even got up out of bed and walked that night, and this...

    • 63: The Dead Girl Revived
      (pp. 120-122)

      Jane Reynolds was in her teens when her health began to fail. As time passed she grew worse, and, over a period of years, she weakened until she was completely bedfast. Her family took her to doctors all over the country, but nothing seemed to help. Finally she became so weak that she could not even feed herself.

      Through it all, she remained kind and gentle, with a cheerful disposition, even though she realized she had only a short time to live. One day a very close friend came to see her and sat with her a while. Although Jane...

    • 64: Twice Twins
      (pp. 122-124)

      Mrs. Adams sat by the fireside dreaming in a lonely way about the wonderful times of the past with her beloved husband, Edwin. She had been so terribly lonely since his death that she spent many sleepless nights before the fireplace hopelessly longing for his return. Her melancholy world was based solely on his memory. She sadly regretted that she had been the only one at his quiet funeral. Even his only brother, his twin, Ronald, had died shortly before Edwin had his unexpected heart attack.

      Although it was apparent that Ronald had been inferior and a discredit to the...

    • 65: The Dog That Came Back
      (pp. 124-128)

      The area was known as Porcupine’s Back, because the scrubby growth on the hill behind it reminded everyone of a porcupine. It wasn’t a bad sort of farm, but it stood somewhat isolated among the pine woods at the turn of the road. The big, ancient farmhouse was squat and square as a fortress.

      James Morris, the owner of the farm, was rumored to have a lot of money buried on the place somewhere. He was the most unsociable person in the area. Once in a great while he and his Australian sheep dog — a splendid, blue-white creature that...

    • 66: Eloise
      (pp. 128-129)

      My grandmother told me that her sister Kate had a cat named Eloise that had lived with her for about ten years and was becoming rather set in her ways. She was accustomed to irregular happenings in the household, and they no longer upset her. She was even learning when to keep out from underfoot. She never struck my grandmother’s sister as being particularly clever or attached to her. Eloise was just neutral and content.

      But after Aunt Kate died, Eloise began to act strangely. Every evening after dinner she’d curl up and cry until my grandmother gave her milk...

    • 67: Forewarned
      (pp. 130-131)

      Several years ago in Taylor County, there lived an elderly couple. One night as they slept, the woman was suddenly awakened by a noise in the room. When she sat up in bed she noticed a strange, white figure at her husband’s closet. The figure appeared to be searching for something. Finally it disappeared out the door and down the steps.

      The next morning the woman told her husband of this strange happening. He consoled her, as she appeared to be quite upset, and assured her that she had had a bad dream and that everything would be all right....

    • 68: A Forecasted Death
      (pp. 131-134)

      Charley Hardesty and his wife had made a habit of stopping by my grandparents’ house for coffee and gossip after church. One afternoon Charley told grandfather that some strange things had been happening to him all week and that he knew he was going to die very soon.

      Grandfather asked him if he were ill, or what made him think that he was about to die. Charley said that he had never felt better (and indeed, he looked to be in the best of health) but while he was working in the fields or doing chores around the house, he...

    • 69: The Fortune-Teller’s Prophecy
      (pp. 134-135)

      A young man and his wife who had come to West Virginia from Italy were expecting their first child, and as was the custom in the old country, they consulted a fortune-teller about the sex and future of their child. The Italians believed that Gypsy women possessed the powers of black magic, so it was with awe and fear that the young couple approached the fortune-teller’s hut.

      After they had “crossed her palm with silver,” the woman told them that they would have a son. But she soon dispelled their joy with the announcement that their son would be born...

    • 70: The Warning Light
      (pp. 135-137)

      On August 12, 1919, something happened to me that I have never forgotten and never will forget as long as I live.

      I had been dating a good-looking young man who lived in the community. The only way I was able to see him at first was to sneak out behind my mother’s back, because she objected to this young man. She told me that he was not a good man and would bring much sorrow to my life, but I did not listen. I went on seeing him in secret places, without her knowing it.

      My mother died the...

    • 71: Vision in the Snow
      (pp. 137-139)

      One day in the 1930s my father hailed the cab driven by his friend Karl. The big robust man with the heavy crop of reddish brown hair was strangely silent. Gone was the smile that usually spread from ear to ear. In the depths of the Depression, the cab company had put him on probation for picking up passengers who could not afford to pay their fares.

      One cold December night not long after this, the office received a call for a cab to be sent to Cross Roads. The company sent Karl, but when he arrived at the designated...

    • 72: The Sweater
      (pp. 140-141)

      World War I was just over and celebrations were being held by almost every town in the United States. In Shinnston the postwar celebration consisted of a big dance. My Uncle Joe had just returned from Europe and was in great spirits. He attended the dance with a few friends and neighbors.

      While he was standing in the hall watching the others dance, he noticed a very beautiful young lady standing by herself. He had never seen her before, but he walked up and asked her for the next dance. She accepted, and as they danced, he found that her...

    • 73: The Breviary
      (pp. 141-142)

      Late one rainy evening, while driving home from a visit with a parishioner, the good Father Ireland came upon two old ladies walking along a lonely roadside. He took pity upon the two poor souls and offered them a lift. The ladies gratefully accepted the ride, directing him to a large Victorian house several miles down the road.

      When the small party arrived, the two women invited the priest to share some hot tea and cake before he continued home. The evening was so cold and dismal that Father Ireland welcomed the invitation. The living room, with its old-fashioned furnishings,...

    • 74: The Plaid Blanket
      (pp. 143-144)

      In the early 1960s a young man named Francis was driving along a lonely highway outside Paris, France, one evening at about ten o’clock. Although the highway was deserted, a very hard rain made it difficult for him to drive. As he crept along, he saw a beautiful young girl in a long white evening gown standing by the side of the road. Since she was not carrying an umbrella and he felt sorry for her, he pulled off the road and opened the door.

      The girl got in and told him her name was Julie Jouvet. She gave him...

    • 75: The Lost Couple
      (pp. 145-146)

      In the late 1920s a girl and her boyfriend were on their way home from a date. As they drove along the narrow old road in the pouring rain, the wheels hit a rut and the car fell over the steep bank below. Both families were worried when the young people didn’t get home that night, but they thought that perhaps the two had run away to get married, as they had so often spoken of doing.

      Several weeks went by and still there was no word. Every rainy night it was reported that as people drove along the road...

    • 76: The Living Corpse
      (pp. 147-147)

      A young man riding home on horseback was delayed so that he had to travel at night. On his way he had to pass a cemetery. Since he was traveling by himself, he was somewhat uneasy and frightened.

      All at once he came upon a young woman sitting beside the road crying. He stopped and asked if he could help. She told him that she had been walking all night, trying to get to town. She was so tired and weak that she could not go on.

      He told her he would be glad to help her. He lifted her...

    • 77: The Unhappy Bride
      (pp. 148-149)

      One night a group of boys were riding around in a car when they saw a lady in a white gown standing at an intersection. She motioned for them to stop, and when they did so she got into the car. They spoke to her, but she didn’t answer. As they came near a cemetery, she motioned for them to stop. Since it was raining they were going slowly, and she jumped out of the car while it was still moving.

      The boys were amazed, because they didn’t see any homes near the cemetery. They went on down the road...

    • 78: The Vanishing Lady in Black
      (pp. 149-151)

      Alex Jennings worked as a chauffeur for the wealthy Mrs. James P. Leonard in Detroit, Michigan. On this special occasion, he was working late. Mrs. Leonard was attending a dinner at the Masonic Temple and Alex decided he would go to a little restaurant a few blocks away to eat and while away the time until he should return for his employer. Finding a parking place had always been a problem around the popular little restaurant, and Alex was forced to park the car quite a distance away, but he decided the delicious food was worth the extra steps.


    • 79: The Phantom Lady
      (pp. 151-152)

      The only person I have ever known who has taken a ghost for a ride is my great-uncle. He used to travel around the neighboring counties, doing upholstering for various people. His two sons usually accompanied him on his longer trips. Most of these trips were dull, but one was quite extraordinary.

      On this particular night there was a heavy thunderstorm. My uncle and his sons stopped at the railway station in a little town called Vienna to get something to eat. When they started out again the storm was worse than ever, for the wind had picked up, driving...

    • 80: Hitchhiker at Follansbee
      (pp. 153-154)

      Some years ago, a few minutes before midnight, Tom Smarila was wearily driving from Follansbee, West Virginia to Paris, Pennsylvania. As he drove along, he noticed a hitchhiker wearing a black dress with a black veil and apparently crying. He stopped and asked the young woman if he could take her anywhere, and she got in.

      Once she was in the car, she didn’t say a word. All she did was sit in the front seat and weep. After about ten minutes of this constant crying, Tom offered her his handkerchief. She took it, and proceeded to dry her eyes...

    • 81: The Restless Soul
      (pp. 154-155)

      Years ago a teamster stopped at a farmhouse and asked to spend the night. The farmer didn’t have enough room for him, but suggested his brother’s house down the road. The brother had died five years ago and the house was haunted, but the teamster could stay there if he could stand it.

      The teamster was tired and didn’t believe in ghosts anyway, so he said, “I’ll take the chance and stay.”

      He drove down, put the horses in the barn, and went into the house. It was clean-looking, as though someone was living there. He built a fire and...

    • 82: The Muddy Gown
      (pp. 155-157)

      When Maria was born, Doris was very proud to stand as her godmother. However, as she later found, her godchild was to bring her sadness, for eighteen years later Maria died in a car wreck. Doris tried not to think too much about the girl’s death, but on All Souls’ Night, she had a very strange dream.

      She dreamed that Maria came to her and asked if she had a gown she could lend her to wear to the procession to be held on All Souls’ Night. The girl explained that when she had died they hadn’t put any in...

    • 83: The Roadside Stranger
      (pp. 157-158)

      In the early 1930s, a salesman who had a rural route through the central part of West Virginia had a strange experience. It was during the spring, when flash floods are quite prevalent.

      As he was driving along in his car near Muddlety, he noticed a young woman waving to him from the side of the road. He stopped and offered her a ride. She got into the car, told him her name, and said he would have to take a detour because the bridge had been washed out just ahead. After showing him the way around the washout, she...

    • 84: A Boy and His Dog
      (pp. 158-159)

      A boy and his dog had been missing for two days, and no one could find them. People searched everywhere, thinking that they were lost in the woods. They were eventually found in a very mysterious way.

      One dark night as two railroad policemen were patrolling the tracks, they saw a strange dog about three hundred yards away. The dog seemed to glow in the dark. Holding their clubs in their hands, the policemen began to run toward the dog, but just before they reached the spot where he was standing, he disappeared before their eyes.

      As the sun began...

    • 85: The Phantom Bridesmaid
      (pp. 159-161)

      Joe Elsey’s best friend was being married in Glade Run, across Glade Pond from Joe’s home. Joe planned to skate across the frozen lake to the wedding. Unfortunately business had delayed him, and he was compelled to make his journey at night.

      Joe was in love with one of the bridesmaids in the wedding and this was one reason he was so anxious to attend. But Janet’s father had lots of money, and Janet lived in a fine house and wore expensive clothing. This made it almost impossible for Joe to think of marrying her. He decided, however, to tell...

    • 86: Friendship Never Dies
      (pp. 161-163)

      Paul Simon and David Young grew up in the same small town in northern Kansas. They were neighbors, and as children they were inseparable. Their friendship grew as they did, and since they were the same age, it was easier for them to stick together.

      When they had completed high school they joined the marines on the “buddy plan” and received basic training together. Afterwards, both were sent to Vietnam. They were not placed in the same company upon their arrival, but they saw each other often.

      Paul was the first of the two to enter an actual combat zone....

    • 87: The Night of the Stranger
      (pp. 164-165)

      The night was very bad as Janet started on her way home. She had been to a party at a friend’s house and had not realized how bad the weather had become. As she started to leave, Debbie called out to her and suggested that she stay all night, but Janet, realizing that her father would need the car and that her family would be worried, decided to go on.

      After she started the car and turned down the lane, she realized how hazardous the road was and wondered if she should have stayed after all. To take her mind...

    • 88: How?
      (pp. 166-167)

      Dewayne Poling drove to work every morning past a succession of landmarks — downtown Vienna, a small suspension bridge, and a graveyard. He returned at night by the same route.

      One night it was fairly late when he was returning from his job at the power company, and night had already fallen. As he passed the little cemetery on the hill, he glanced over at it as usual. Suddenly a young man jumped out in front of the car and Dewayne couldn’t stop in time — not until he had hit him. He hurriedly got out of the car and...

    • 89: Old Dork
      (pp. 167-169)

      Old Dork was getting old and would soon be taken out of the mines and replaced by a younger mule. Ever since the animal had been brought into the mines, Dan McKain had worked with him. Dan had grown to love Old Dork, and when the time came for the mule to be released from the mine, he gained permission to take him out to the farm where he lived. He wanted to see the poor aging mule spend the rest of his days in comfort,

      After a time, the miners went on strike, and Dan got behind on his...

    • 90: Dead Man’s Curve
      (pp. 169-170)

      It all started at a New Year’s Eve celebration. The clock had just struck twelve, and it was January 1, 1952. Like millions of others everywhere, Greg Hardy, his wife Joan, and their friends Sam and Doris were in a festive mood. They all had been drinking a little, but Greg said he would take them for a short ride anyway.

      Greg began speeding, as his wife was afraid he would do. Then seemingly out of nowhere another car appeared, coming straight down the middle of the road. It seemed sure to hit Greg’s car head on, but just in...

    • 91: The Doctor’s Warning
      (pp. 171-172)

      Carol Ann Charles felt sure that her coughing spells were nothing more than a nervous reaction.

      Her husband had died two weeks before, and although she had been feeling ill for the past several weeks, she had said nothing about it. She told herself that the cough would surely leave.

      Half an hour past midnight on June 12, 1910, she awoke with a start. Someone was in the room.

      Her husband, who practiced medicine for thirty years, had been an amateur parapsychologist and had told her many times there was nothing to fear from noises in the night.

      With that...

    • 92: The Storm
      (pp. 172-174)

      Since her husband’s death Sarah Dilger and her son Daniel had lived alone on their small farm about ten miles from Bergoo. Although they were secluded, Sarah was hesitant about moving into town because the farm had meant so much to her husband. However, a narrow escape from tragedy changed her mind.

      The rivers were swollen from the torrential rains that had been pounding the earth for two days. This particular evening was chilly, and the wind was howling through the trees like a banshee. Firewood was running out, so Sarah asked Dan to bring more into the house. She...

    • 93: Ghost Father to the Rescue
      (pp. 174-175)

      In the late 1800s the families around Smithfield were spread out and always kept to themselves. Of course, when there was help needed, one could count on any of his neighbors to lend a hand. Otherwise, everyone kept his business to himself.

      One family that lived about a mile from their nearest neighbor never seemed to come out among other people. This was a very poor family of five. They farmed for most of their food and scraped for what few necessities they had to buy.

      One day while the father was out in the fields plowing for the next...

    • 94: A Timely Warning
      (pp. 175-176)

      A deep autumn haze hung low over the wooded area of Smokehole. The brisk wind rustled the leaves on the ground. This was the first day of the hunting season.

      As the sun rose, bright and promising, the hunters were already in the woods trying to shoot their quota of squirrels for the day, The squirrels sensed the danger and did not venture out of their soft hiding places. As a result, not many hunters were successful, so they decided to try their luck the next morning.

      Frank Genson and his son Bob did not return to the lodge. They...

    • 95: The Ghost of the Rails
      (pp. 177-179)

      A neighbor of ours tells this story of his youth. He had been a wild, headstrong young man and had wanted to see all of our beautiful country before he settled down. So at seventeen he had packed a few things, left a note for his folks, and hopped a freight train to a new, exciting life. Mr. Lantz is an old man now and his wanderlust is cured, but he says that on stormy nights he always remembers the strange events of a trip from Cleveland to his home town of Rowlesburg, West Virginia.

      It was during the winter...

    • 96: The Lady in White
      (pp. 179-180)

      It was late in the afternoon, many years ago, when my grandfather and his brother were riding back from town. When they were just a few miles from the farm, they noticed another rider a little way in front of them. Since it was dusk, they could not make out who it was. All they could tell was that the person was dressed in white and was riding a white horse. They knew all the people who lived around them and all of their stock, but they did not recognize the horse or the rider.

      Since it was getting dark,...

  6. NOTES
    (pp. 181-192)
    (pp. 193-196)