CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – From haunted universities and hotels to Civil War battles and phantom vehicles, there are many spooky, bone-chilling tales of the paranormal in West Virginia.
After sharing 10 ghost tales from around the Mountain State, and then 10 more spooky tales, we’re continuing with a third installment featuring another 10 haunted stories from across West Virginia where the ghosts of days gone by continue to roam among the living:
Phantom Wagon of US-19 – Braxton County
Braxton County is famous for the legendary Flatwoods Monster, but there’s another chilling tale haunting the roads of the Flatwoods area.
For decades, locals have reported sightings of a phantom wagon along US-19. According to “A Guide to Haunted West Virginia,” by Walter Gavenda and Mike Shoemaker, the legend states that a wagon pulled by four white horses can sometimes be seen in the area. Witnesses claim a young man drives the wagon and a blonde woman in white sits at his side.
The book states that another author, Nancy Roberts, recorded the story in “Appalachian Ghosts” featuring a truck driver’s tale of his own encounter with the spooky wagon. The driver crested a hill when he saw the wagon, and even in low gear and hitting the brakes, he realized he was going to hit the wagon. Just before he should have made impact, the wagon vanished, and where there should have been a wreck in his rearview, there was nothing.
The authors say the man stopped at a truck stop and told his tale to a local who told the trucker that his grandfather had told him the tale, stating a young couple on their way to settle in Flatwoods had allegedly been murdered by Native Americans. Another version of the legend is less gruesome, but just as tragic. According to the “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories,” by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, the young couple was driving the wagon home during a thunderstorm when it overturned and killed them.
Bethany College – Brooke County
As the oldest institution of higher education in West Virginia, Bethany College has a long history. However, some of this history features tales of the paranormal.
Two of the ghosts said to haunt the campus have tragic stories. The first is an unnamed female student reported to have jumped from the school’s clock tower when feeling homesick. The story says her ghost can be seen at the top of the clock tower at when the clock strikes the time of her death, according to the “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories.”
The second story is that of another young woman, dubbed “Sarah,” who is said to haunt Phillips Hall. According to Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, Sarah is believed to be the spirit of a student who hanged herself in the attic of the building. She has been known to move objects and play with radios. However, Sarah may not be the only ghost in Phillips Hall. There have also been reported sightings of a sailor climbing the building’s drain pipe.
Another supposedly haunted area of the campus is the Irvin Gymnasium and Grace Phillips Johnson Memorial Visual Arts Center. Multiple sources say the ghost of Grace, an alumna and donor of the college, is believed to roam the building. A portrait of Grace hangs in the building, and people have reported its eyes following them around the room.
While not on the campus itself, the ghost of Bethany College Founder Alexander Campbell and one of his sons are reported to haunt his mansion located just outside of town. Some of his relatives may be the source of the sounds and mist at the nearby God’s Acre Cemetery where he and most of his family are buried.
The Glen Ferris Inn – Fayette County
The Glen Ferris Inn has been standing along the Kanawha River and the Kanawha Falls in Fayette County for more than 180 years. The Inn’s website says while it was first known to start serving guests in 1839, the building itself may be over 200 years old. However, there may be some guests that have never checked out.
According to the inn’s website, the building is a “go-to for supernatural lovers” given the unexplained happenings that occur at night. According to “A Guide to Haunted West Virginia,” the most well-known spirit to roam the Glen Ferris in appears as a Confederate soldier dubbed “the Colonel” by the staff. The inn served as a refuge for soldiers on both sides of the Civil War as both Union and Confederate troops had units stationed in the area.
However, the Colonel may not be a Confederate soldier. Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State says that Aaron Stockton, the man who first turned the building into an inn, was a War of 1812 veteran, and while he didn’t earn the title in the military, he was often called by the nickname “Colonel” in life. The man and ghost also sported similar beards, and though he did not serve in the Civil War, Stockton was known to be a Confederate sympathizer.
Regardless of who the Colonel truly is, he’s known to be rather harmless. Seen by guests and staff alike, the Colonel is normally polite, but sulky, and sometimes playful. Multiple sources state that a cook carrying a load of items from a walk-in cooler was not able to shut the door behind her, but heard the heavy door close on its own when it shouldn’t have been able to. She assumed the Colonel had lent her a ghostly hand and thanked him.
Along with the Colonel, staff have reported hearing the voice of a young girl and the sounds of children playing when no children are around.
Glenville State University – Gilmer County
Midterms and final exams aren’t the only things spooking the students and staff at Glenville State University. Multiple professors, students and security alike have claimed to see and hear unexplained shadows and bumps in the night.
Some of the hauntings are believed to be connected to the unsolved murder of the woman who owned the property before the university came to be. The woman, Sarah Louisa “Sis” Linn, was killed in her home in February 1919, according to the Glenville State’s website. The 66-year-old divorcee was a local teacher, and after having not been heard from for several days, a group of friends and family went to her home to check on her. Once they arrived, they found Sis beaten to death and her home ransacked. The university says a bloody club was found nearby, but no valuables appeared to be missing.
Approximately five years after her death, the West Virginia State Normal School, where she had taught, bought the property, demolished the home and built a women’s dormitory. Her ghost has often been seen over the years haunting the buildings on her property, including Clark Hall. One time of the year she’s often allegedly active is around midnight on Halloween night.
Other reports at the university include doors opening and shutting, lights turning on and off and unexplained banging sounds. According to “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories,” a provost from the 1990s, Dr. Kathy Butler, had some of her own spooky experiences, once even hearing her own name whispered by a disembodied voice.
A student also had a chilling experience on campus. After hearing strange noises while working late in one of the buildings, he went to investigate as he thought he was the only person inside. When he reached the upstairs floor, the lights went off and he saw a large, shadowy figure in the light of the exit sign, according to the “A Guide to Haunted West Virginia.” When the light came back on, again by itself, the figure was gone.
The “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories” says two other phantoms have also been seen on campus – a young girl holding a doll and a young boy holding a bag of marbles. Neither child’s identity is known, but the boy is believed to have lived and died on the property sometime before the university was built.
‘Big Red’ of Panther – McDowell County
In 1979, the volunteer fire department in the town of Panther, West Virginia, purchased a used fire engine from Westerville, Ohio. What they weren’t expecting is they may have gotten a free ghost with the deal.
The Westerville VFD bought a fire engine, nicknamed “Big Red,” in 1961, and the fire truck became a local staple of the community. But one would-be firefighter wasn’t a fan. According to Teresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, a man who failed the department’s test to become a firefighter vowed to haunt Big Red after his death.
Many in the Westerville community were opposed to the sale of Big Red, and the fire chief at the time tried to prevent it. However, the sale went through and the fire truck moved to its new home of Panther, West Virginia.
But the truck spelled trouble for the volunteer fire department. The first two years Big Red resided in Panther went smoothly, but then, the old apparatus’ brakes and other mechanical parts began to fail, and Big Red was soon taken out of service.
Even though Big Red was out of service, locals still claimed to see the old fire truck out on the roads around Panther and Gilbert late at night. People would try to follow only for it to vanish at the top of the hill or around the next curve. The fire chief, Edward Prince, even saw it himself once in 1981, and drove to the station to see if Big Red was still there. Surely enough, the truck was at the station and too stripped down to be driven.
To make the tale even more eerie, often after a sighting of Big Red, a fire would break out nearby. In some of those cases, the buildings were completely destroyed, and some of those fires were even fatal.
According to Teresa’s Haunted History, the would-be firefighter is a main candidate for the haunting phenomenon of Big Red, but there is another possibility. Records show that the Westerville fire chief who tried to stop the sale of Big Red actually died right around the time the phantom sightings began.
Berkeley Castle – Morgan County
While known for being a testament of a man’s love for his wife, Berkeley Castle in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia, is also said to be the site of some paranormal phenomena.
Colonel Samuel Taylor Suit had earned a fortune through politics, investments and a distillery, but his fate changed in 1876 when his mansion in Washington D.C. burned down. He also had to file for bankruptcy, followed by a divorce, according to the castle’s website.
At 46-years-old, Suit found himself in an unrequited love story after falling for then-17-year-old Rosa Pelham. The daughter of Alabama Congressman Charles Pelham declined his marriage proposal due to their age difference. However, five years later, and recovered from his financial setbacks, Suit and Rosa Pelham crossed paths again in Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. He proposed again promising her a castle if she agreed. The two were married three days later.
Originally called the Samuel Taylor Suit Cottage, Samuel himself never lived to see it complete as he passed away from a brief illness in 1888. However, in order to claim an inheritance from him, Suit’s will required Rosa to finish the castle. It was completed in 1891.
Rosa became known for throwing lavish parties and unrestrained spending to the point where creditors forced her out. The castle was sold to a bank in 1916.
Over the years, visitors to the castle, which is now privately owned, have reported strange happenings, such as loud crashes, power failures, dragging trunks and footsteps. According to Teresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, one spooky instance happened in front of multiple witnesses when a quill in the second floor office/drawing room raised off the desk and spun around.
The big question is, who are these ghosts?
Some claim that one spirit could be that of Samuel Taylor Suit himself. While never proven, even shortly after his death, there were rumors that Rosa may have had an alleged hand in his illness and passing for his wealth. Two of her later lovers also passed mysteriously on the property, according to the legend, however, there is no official record of either death. One of the men either fell, or was pushed, off a second story balcony during an altercation with a rival. Witnesses say a white figure has been seen falling from same spot over the years.
The other lover’s mysterious death allegedly happened during an argument with Rosa herself. The “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories” says she was jabbing her umbrella, which had a sharp point, at him when he allegedly slipped, fell and was impaled through the heart by the umbrella point. During a 1990s renovation, an umbrella with the point broken off was found in a third-story wall, but there were no blood stains on it as there would have been if the man had been impaled.
Powell’s Mountain – Nicholas County
A Confederate soldier shot and killed on Powell Mountain, and originally buried near the spot where he took his last breath is still said to dwell on the mountain.
The soldier has been identified as Henry Young who was originally from the Powell Mountain area of what was then Virginia. There are many versions as to how he died. Multiple sources state one story is that he and four others were sent to scout out how many soldiers were in a Union troop coming to the area. However, the group was found out and Young stepped out from behind a tree, sacrificing himself to give the others a chance to run.
A second version states that Young fought the troops that attacked him and was shot to death when he refused to surrender. A third version of Young’s story says he was murdered by a “home guard,” a civilian group that fought against enemy soldiers.
Regardless of which tale is true, an excavation of Young’s grave determined he was, in fact, shot in the head. The date of his death is listed as Sept. 8, 1861. According to the “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories,” it was several days before his family went to collect and bury his body due to the presence of the Union soldiers in the area. His grave was excavated in 1963 and moved to Young Monument Road where a public monument stands at his new grave.
According to the local lore, Young’s spirit can be seen as with clanking chains riding a phantom horse though the area where he was killed. But is this truly Young, or some other restless soul? The spirit is seen carrying its head in its hands, however, Young was never decapitated.
Droop Mountain Battlefield – Pocahontas County
The Battle of Droop Mountain during the Civil War was an infamous and bloody mark on the history of a newly formed state. When West Virginia became a state on June 20, 1863, the Civil War was still raging. This meant that even though it was no longer part of Virginia, Confederate troops were still stationed in the now-West Virginia hills. The Battle of Droop Mountain would become known as one of the largest and bloodiest Civil War battle that was fought in West Virginia.
On Nov. 6, 1863, Brigadier General William W. Averell led a troop of nearly 5,000 Union soldiers to the Droop Mountain area to drive out the outnumbered 1,700 Confederate troops who were under the command of Brigadier General John Echols. The goal of the attack was to drive the Confederate troops out of the area, leaving the the Virginia and Tennessee Railroad line unguarded for Union troops to gain control of.
Following the battle, totals of 119 Union soldiers and 275 Confederate soldiers were wounded, killed or reported missing, according to the West Virginia Archives and History. Some reports say many of the soldiers were buried on the mountain, and some of their spirits may still roam the old battlefield.
Many sources site a haunting tale from a logger named Edgar Walton who had a ghostly encounter at the battlefield in 1920. He and a friend had stopped for the night to sleep not far from the Confederate cemetery, according to West Virginia Haunts and Legends. During the night, Walton heard a rustling sound and looked to find a headless Confederate soldier floating near by.
Some visitors to Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park report smelling gunpowder, hearing galloping horses or even seeing the spirit of a headless Confederate soldier and another soldier sleeping against a tree.
According to “A Guide to Haunted West Virginia,” the hauntings around the battlefield began not long after the battle itself. The legend states that in 1865, two young girls named Nancy and Betty Snedegar, who lived nearby had gone to the mountain to pick berries. While at the site, they found two muskets likely lost during the battle and picked them up. As they made their way home, rocks began flying at them from seemingly nowhere. The pelting continued even after they reached their home with rocks even coming down the chimney. The legend says the activity ceased after the girls returned the guns where they were found.
Soldiers Memorial Theater – Raleigh County
The Soldiers Memorial Theater in Beckley, West Virginia, was built in 1931 and 1932 to honor those who fought in World War I. It has gone through many changes over the years, also serving as a temporary courthouse, the YMCA and most recently a church. Though just over 90 years old, the building’s history, started out on a frightening note and has since been a site for paranormal tales.
When the first cornerstone was laid for the building on Nov. 15, 1931, the community gathered for a celebration. According to Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, a group of event goers climbed on top of a temporary floor holding construction materials for a better view. However, right before the invocation, the floor gave out, sending the group and construction stones crashing down to the basement.
Though six people were injured in the accident, all of them survived. The Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories says however, a tuba player named Bob who sustained a neck injury in the incident was later given lodging in the theater. He continued to live there until his death. Some people who have heard knocks, whispers and tapping in the basement say they believe they have seen his ghost. The book also says a paranormal investigation team once asked Bob to walk across the stage, and heard audible footsteps after.
Multiple sources say the most common spirit seen around the building is a man in 1930s-style clothing who appears to be in his 60s. There is no word if he and Bob are the same ghost.
Some witnesses say some of the unexplained voices, knockings, tappings, etc. heard in the theater could also be due to the nearby Civil War cemetery.
As part of their research for “A Guide to Haunted West Virginia,” Walter Gavenda and Mike Shoemaker visited the theater in 1999, and went inside the open door. They spoke with a woman painting sets, then looked around. They said during their visit, they did hear some unexplained voices, but found no one there.
The authors said before they left, they spoke to the woman again. She asked them how they got into the building, and when they told her the door had been unlocked, she was surprised. They said she told them she had locked it behind her and no one else was around who could have unlocked it.
Wells Inn – Tyler County
Ephraim Wells opened the Wells Inn Hotel in 1895, just as Sistersville, West Virginia, was growing into a booming oil town. However, Ephraim, grandson of the town’s founder Charles Wells, may never have left the building.
According to Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, the hotel was designed to cater to the upper class and the oil entrepreneurs traveling to the area. In the mid-90s, the hotel was almost torn down due to damage it sustained in during the harsh winter. The hotel was saved by the Boyd family who restored and reopened it. Coincidentally, one of the Boyds is also said to bear a striking resemblance to Ephraim himself.
Guests and employees alike have said they have heard odd noises and footsteps during the hotel. In some cases, people say they have heard the sound of writing coming from Ephraim’s office when no one was around.
Multiple reports say a maid tried to enter Room 324, but the door suctioned itself shut. It took her four tries before the door opened as it should. While writing “A Guide to Haunted West Virginia,” Walter Gavenda and Mike Shoemaker said they went to the inn and tried out the door for themselves and were unable to recreate the phenomenon the maid experienced.
Despite the hotel’s ups and downs over the years – closing, changing ownership and reopening – the spooky tales of unexplained noises and floating orbs remain. Some guests have even heard the sound of a child running in the hall in the middle of the night at times when no children were present in the hotel.