Haunted Headquarters

Driving on US Route 340 from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, as soon as you cross the Potomac River and enter Maryland, at the first exit after the bridge, there is a sign for the John Brown Raid Headquarters. Also known as the Kennedy Farmhouse, this restored and preserved log cabin—about five miles from Harpers Ferry—is where John Brown planned his daring raid on the federal arsenal housed in (at the time) Harpers Ferry, Virginia.

Brown arrived in Maryland in 1859 and rented the property for about three months under the name of Isaac Smith. He and his raiding party stayed at the home and slept in the attic.

The Kennedy Farmhouse, also known the John Brown Raid Headquarters. Photo taken by author.

The cabin is haunted; people have heard footsteps pacing the floor in the cabin. There are also reports of groups of people walking up the steps; sounds of talking, snoring, and breathing have also been reported. Most likely, the strange activity is probably some form of “residual haunting.” To be clear, I do not consider myself to be any type of authority on ghosts or hauntings. But, with that being said, I believe I understand the phenomenon—at least to a degree. I would define a residual haunting as an event that continues to repeat itself, almost like a movie playing over and over or a song on a loop. Residual hauntings can be unsettling; witnesses often hear footsteps, voices, and observe doors closing on their own. Unlike “intelligent hauntings,” though, the phenomenon involved in residual hauntings does not interact with the living; instead, it “sticks to the script,” so to speak. It almost reminds me of an actor performing right on cue.

Imagine having around 20 people crammed into the tiny house for months; they were unable to leave during daylight hours to avoid suspicion; all of this while planning a violent attack on the federal government—a plan considered suicide by Frederick Douglas, who Brown tried to recruit—perhaps all of the energy concentrated in the cabin preparing for the raid left some sort of signature still active to this day. Who knows? What is known, though, is that John Brown left an impression in the history books and in the very fabric of the tristate area.

50 Years Ago—Tragedy on the Ohio River

On this day, 50 years ago, 46 people plunged to their deaths in the icy waters of the Ohio River when the Silver Bridge collapsed. The bridge, which connected Point Pleasant, West Virginia, and Gallipolis, Ohio, collapsed during evening rush-hour.

Marysville Journal-Tribune (Marysville, OH), 18 Dec 1967
Marysville Journal-Tribune (Marysville, OH), 18 Dec 1967

The event was preceded by a 13-month period of strange sightings of a winged humanoid dubbed the Mothman.

The Stanley

In late September I had the pleasure of visiting the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado. You may remember the hotel from films such as The Shining and Dumb and Dumber.

The hotel is rich in history and it would be hard to find a more picturesque location. It sits on a hill overlooking the town of Estes Park with the Rocky Mountains in the background.

What really interests me, though, is the paranormal history of the hotel. Quite a few Ghost Hunting television shows have filmed investigations there and several documentaries have been filmed as well.

While waiting for my ghost tour, I enjoyed a delicious Shining Ale no. 217

The hotel offers both historical and paranormal tours—both of which are definitely worth your time and they are also worth the money. When I visited in September, I took a paranormal tour with my wife and we enjoyed it very much. Our guide was outstanding and the ghosts participated to a degree—although we failed to capture any pictures.  Another family that visited the hotel in September did capture some strange imagery with their camera.

The blend of the history, the stunning location, the film history, and the paranormal activity makes the Stanley Hotel a must see.

A flag donated to the hotel in which under the correct conditions a ghostly image can be seen in the upper right corner.
The ballroom where unexplainable music is heard at times; the smell of Mrs. Stanley’s perfume fills the air unexpectedly; and a number of other weird occurrences take place.
The billiard room.
The basement where the mountain has been tunneled into. Hotspot for strange activity.

A Haunted and Abandoned Amusement Park

Although Halloween is over, I still can’t help but think of haunted locations that I have visited over the years. One of the most creepy is the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. The following is an excerpt from my book Wild & Wonderful (and Paranormal) West Virginia:


The Lake Shawnee Amusement Park

Driving northeast a little less than an hour and a half from my birthplace in southwestern Virginia, you will come upon the Lake Shawnee Amusement Park. Located in Mercer County, and abandoned in 1966, this is not your average amusement park—this place has a dark history and may even sit on cursed land.

The park closed its doors in 1966 after the deaths of two young people. The park, built in the 1920s, had an unthinkable number of tragedies while in operation. A least six people died on the park’s rides; a young boy also drowned in the swimming pool.

The bloody history of the land dates back much further. The park was built on top of a mass grave—a Native American burial ground. You read that correctly; an amusement park was actually built on top of a Native American burial ground. What could go wrong? Additionally, several murders also took place on the property. Mitchell Clay and his family, among the earliest white people to move into the area, settled on the land in 1783 setting a violent confrontation in motion. While Clay was out hunting, a band of Shawnee killed his son and daughter. His eldest son was kidnapped and taken to Ohio where he was burned alive. Seeking revenge, Clay, with the help of other area settlers, killed several Shawnee in retaliation.

Today, people claim to see the swings in the park move on their own. A little girl wearing a bloody dress has also been seen. Featured on several television programs, Lake Shawnee Amusement Park is certainly one of the creepiest places in the country.


Further Reading

Carol Kuruvilla, “Abandoned West Virginia Amusement Park has a Bloody History,” NY Daily News, October 26, 2013, accessed February 04, 2017, http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/abandoned-west- virginia-amusement-park-bloody-history-article-1.1497567.

Ella Morton, “An Abandoned Amusement Park With a History of Death,” Slate Magazine, May 13, 2014, accessed February 04, 2017, http://www.slate.com/blogs/atlas_obscura/2014/05/13/lake_shawnee_in_w est_virginia_is_an_abandoned_amusement_park_with_a_history.html.

A Haunted Asylum

Although the Halloween season has passed, I thought I’d do another blog post on a haunted location that I have visited in the recent past. This location, the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, is mentioned in my latest book. The following is an excerpt from  Wild & Wonderful (and Paranormal) West Virginia:


The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum

Maybe my favorite haunted place is the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston. No one needs to tell you it is haunted; when you first spot the towering, sprawling, gothic complex, it looks like something from a horror film—it just looks haunted! And it feels haunted too; I don’t know how to explain it, but the place just has a “feel” that leaves you a little uneasy.

Those who are ghost hunting enthusiasts have probably heard of the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. Several ghost hunting-themed television shows have visited the site and filmed their investigations. There is no debate—something, probably something supernatural, is present in the abandoned hospital.

There is a long—and dark—history surrounding the asylum which closed its doors in 1994. The hospital was constructed from 1858–1881, with the first patients being admitted in 1864. The facility was designed to be self-sufficient with a farm, dairy, waterworks, and cemetery on the grounds. At its peak, the asylum sat on 666 acres. You read that right; you can’t make this up. Originally designed to accommodate 250 patients, the asylum quickly became overcrowded. By 1880, over 700 patients were housed in the facility. The numbers steady grew; at its peak in the 1950s, the facility housed over 2400 residents. One can only imagine the living conditions for the patients in such a crowded environment. For a meager staff, properly managing such a large population would have been next to impossible.

Though living conditions were deplorable for the mentally ill residents, a portion of the hospital was rather luxurious as depicted in the photographs below:

 

Today, the way the mentally ill are treated often leaves much to be desired. But mere decades ago, the treatment bordered on barbaric—a century or more ago, the mentally ill were treated inhumanely at best. Decades of forced lobotomies, electric shock treatments, beatings, isolation, and whatever else you can imagine has taken its toll and scarred the premises.

The criminally insane were also housed at the asylum. One has to wonder what type of “spiritual baggage” could be left behind from decades of criminally insane residents.

For many reasons, it seems that disembodied spirits, or something, have been left behind to dwell in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. These entities haunt the rooms and hallways of the massive complex. Apparition sightings, unexplainable voices and sounds, and things moving on their own commonly take place. I have spoken to a number of people who claim to have been “grabbed” by something. I have been told of people who have actually been knocked down or pushed. I have heard of one instance where someone was scratched.

 

On a visit to the asylum with my wife, a couple of things happened that defy explanation. However, the totality of the experience was not realized until we were back home going through our pictures.

I’m sure there’s a logical explanation, but I don’t care—I’ll never buy it. We were going through our pictures and found one with an entity in the frame! My wife took the picture and there was no one and nothing around that could have left that image (which we did not see until we were home looking at pictures). My wife was getting a photograph of the fencing along the stairwell and a creepy image popped into the picture!

Like I said, I’m sure there is a logical explanation, but I will never believe it. My wife took a picture of a ghost. Period. Many other odd things happened when we visited which further strengthens my belief.

If you are into ghosts and the paranormal, I highly recommend a visit to the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum. You will have a memorable experience!

 

 

A Haunted Prison

The Halloween season has me thinking of places I’ve been that are said to be haunted. One such place, which I visited again just a couple of weeks ago, is the West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville.

The sprawling, gothic complex is an intimidating site to behold. As you might imagine, there is a long and bloody history behind its walls.

The prison is directly across the street from the Grave Creek Mound—an Adena burial mound that is the largest in West Virginia. Construction on the site began in the late-1860s and the prison was in operation from 1876 to 1995.

During its time, the prison saw 94 executions. The bulk of the elections were carried out by hanging. Nine men were put to death in an electric chair (designed and built by an inmate) aptly nicknamed “Old Sparky.”

In addition the the high number of executions that took place, there were 998 documented murders and suicides. When I visited, the tour guide claimed that there could be as many as 200–300 additional murders that took place. It is said that during construction phases, inmates would “disappear” into the wet concrete—often, at the hands of the warden.

As time went on, conditions at the prison became deplorable. In fact, the 5′ x 7′ cells were deemed “cruel and unusual punishment” by the West Virginia Supreme Court in 1986.

Today, the prison is recognized as Registered Historic Place. Tours, including paranormal tours, are offered April 1–November 30.

The Haunted Paw Paw Tunnel

The Chesapeake and Ohio Canal, better known as the C&O Canal, operated from 1831 until 1924 along the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., to Cumberland, Maryland. The canal was primarily used to transport coal from the Allegheny Mountains.

Building the 184-mile canal was a huge undertaking at the time; the lands to the west were remote and mountainous. A section of the canal, in Allegany County, Maryland, just across the river from present-day Paw Paw, West Virginia had to be bored through a mountain in order to bypass the Paw Paw bends, a 6-mile section of the Potomac with several horseshoe bends.

Work on the tunnel began in 1836 and was completed in 1850. However, the tunnel was initially estimated to be complete in 1838. The work was slow-going and hazardous; using only hand tools and dynamite, works were only able to tunnel about 12 feet per day. Cave-ins were commonplace, as were injuries and even deaths from work related accidents. Laborers also suffered through outbreaks of diseases such as cholera.

To construct the tunnel, immigrants were hired from Germany, England, and Ireland. The workers were hired on for near slave wages. The low pay, and in many instances no pay due to company financial difficulties, wretched working conditions, and ethnic tensions turned the primitive work camps into a powder keg. Ethnic strife ensued; tensions boiled over and resulted in a series of bloody riots.

Once the tunnel was finally completed and in operation, the violence did not end. The tunnel was too narrow for two boats to pass at the same time. Boat captains routinely ignored the right-of-way rules that had been put in place and many fights resulted.

In 1890, the lock keeper near the end of the tunnel was murdered. His skull had been smashed in and his cabin, along with his body, were burned. The lock keeper was well-liked and a collector of rare coins. His murderer was discovered after buying drinks in a local saloon with the lock keeper’s coins that were recognized by canal workers. The man was arrested by the Allegany County sheriff; he was later tried, convicted, and hanged.

The Tunnel Today

Today, there are many who believe the Paw Paw Tunnel is haunted. Strange shadows and weird noises are often reported in the tunnel. Some have even claimed to see a headless apparition.

On a recent visit to the tunnel, I picked up a large spike on my EMF meter toward the downstream end of the tunnel. On the other end, a loud noise that I could not explain also occurred. Somewhere in the middle, I took a picture that appeared to have some sort of orb in it. Other than that, I did not detect any anomalous activity. With that being said, the ¾-mile walk through the dark and cold tunnel is certainly creepy!