Strange and STUPENDOUS STORIES WITH STAYING POWER.
Monsters, ghosts, and legends populate every reach of our peculiarly shaped state. But wherever they came from to start with, it’s the telling that keeps them alive. The stories we hear and get inspired to pass along, probably with a little adornment of our own—those tales live among us in the West Virginia landscape of our minds.
If this sampling of Mountain State stories that have one leg in reality, one in invention, and one that might have gotten pulled along the way says anything about us, we’re a people with a healthy respect for our dark woods and hollers and a twinkle in our eyes.
Ghosts: Almost Heaven, Full of Spirits
We love our Mountain State. And it seems even the dead sometimes find it hard to leave these hills and hollows behind.
At Oakwood Cemetery in Sistersville, stop to admire the gentle Stocking Lady who watches over the Stocking family monument—but don’t touch. The person who broke her arms, it is said, later lost one of his own in an accident, and the one who vandalized her face went blind. Best to keep your distance.
Not at Rest
In 1932, Mrs. Mamie Thurman, clad in a polka dot dress, was discovered on 22 Mine Road outside her hometown of Logan, gruesomely murdered. She’d been in an affair with her landlord, a prominent member of the community, and, it was said, with other influential men as well. The jury quickly found the landlord’s handyman guilty, but many believed he was only hired to dispose of her body. Thurman may be looking still for the real killer: Drivers tell of a woman who walks 22 Mine Road, now Trace Mountain Road, wearing a polka dot dress.
In 1794, Adam Livingston of Middleway, Virginia—now in the Eastern Panhandle—took in a passing stranger. The man fell ill and asked for a Catholic priest, but Livingston, a Lutheran, denied him. When he died, the family had no peace. Pottery was smashed. The barn burned down. Then, the clipping: uncanny sounds of shears, and fabrics cut with crescent moons, so persistently that the town became known as Wizard Clip. Desperate, Livingston sought out a Catholic priest. The disturbances abated, but the story has two postscripts: Livingston converted and deeded property to the Catholic church that became today’s Priest Field Pastoral Center near Middleway. And even now, historical homes in the village display triangle plaques bearing scissors and crescents.
In 1897, 20-year-old Zona Heaster Shue died of natural causes, according to the doctor after the brief exam her husband, Edward, would allow. But when Shue’s spirit appeared to her mother to accuse Edward of murdering her, authorities exhumed her body. Her neck was broken—and her husband, it turned out, had a questionable history. Edward was convicted and sentenced to life, making our Greenbrier Ghost the only spirit to send a killer to prison.
At least three of the 10 tunnels along the North Bend Rail Trail between Clarksburg and Parkersburg—originally part of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad—have ghostly reputations. In Flinderation Tunnel, the voices of the dead buried in the cemetery overhead can be heard. At the Silver Run Tunnel, engineers braked routinely for a woman in white on the tracks, who could never be found when they stopped—until one refused to brake, only to learn in Parkersburg that stations along the way had telegraphed ahead about a spectral woman on the cowcatcher. And the 1963 Eaton Tunnel is a replacement for a tunnel where more than a dozen died in rock falls and other incidents over its century of service. It was sealed after a collapse that trapped one worker, Buck Nichols, irretrievably. People passing through the replacement tunnel have reported the apparition of a man thought to be Mr. Nichols.