By David Corcoran, Sr.
Halloween brings many ghost stories to mind, or maybe even some spooky experiences that you've had during your lifetime.
I've noted that on my vacation flights to Texas and New Mexico last week, the airlines had magazines with many stories of the evil and good spirits in them (mostly liquid "spirits," that is).
Yes, there are several cities across the world that really cash in on their Halloween Festivals, which feature mega haunted houses, parades, parties, etc. Reading about them in the airplane almost makes you want to fly over to those eerie places" to enjoy the festivities. And, I suspect that many people will take the airline's suggestions seriously and travel afar to see these haunting events.
The local ghost scene
Our Halloween fests in Gilmer County are a little more sedate Ñ the door to door "Trick or Treating" for the kids and some special larger events by the communities and their organizations. In addition this year, the Gilmer County Recreation Center planned a new and novel children's event to please them and to involve community groups, as well. In the main, though, the only spooks you residents will see are those little tots who come by our homes dressed up as ghosts, goblins, hobos, princesses, etc.
If you ask some local residents, however, there's more spooks out there than those cute little kids in colorful costumes. In fact, Halloween is the night when the ghosts grow restless. For instance, in Glenville, we're perhaps a little more watchful for the ghost of Sis Linn, who has been spotted many times up at Glenville State College and/or the Old Glenville Cemeteries, than we usually would. I'm certain that other areas of the county have also experienced these paranormal appearances, but have been reluctant, or possibly too frightened, to report them.
Droop Mountain's ghost
I've noticed that ever since moving to West Virginia that people have confided in me the ghost stories of their counties. The one that I'm about to scribe is from Pocahontas County's Droop Mountain, where the largest Civil War battle in this state was fought.
In about 1900, a young girl, living on Droop Mountain, found a musket buried on the battlefield. Elated with the find, she took it home, a place called the Young House" near the long ago combat area. Her parents, who were farmers, also delighted with the rare find, so they hid it away in the house, where no one could find it and steal it from them.
After a couple of days, though, strange occurrences started to happen in their home. The dining room table and chairs would elevate off the floor, before they'd sit down to eat. Then, after the meal and going into the parlor to relax, the rugs would likewise rise off the floor and acted like they'd fly away. Finally, the rocks from the hillside would bounce through the home without destroying it. To get some help to solve this problem, Mr. Young, who was a religious man, called in his minister to seek relief.
At the appointed time, the very holy pastor came to the Young family's home, sat down in the parlor and, to his surprise, witnessed the same type of paranormal activities that were driving the family members mad. He recommended that they drive nails, side by side, into the flooring of their front porch's entry way. Also, he urged them to take the old war rifle out of the home and to bury it where it was found. Apparently, the soldier who was carrying it was killed in action, but his gun remained unattended for four decades, when it was found by the local Young girl. His spirit was apparently angry about it being taken from the place where he had died.
Now later on, the minister, who was a pillar of the Droop community, verified this story to the local people who hadn't believed the Young family's tale.
Hill Family Reunions
In addition, this story of this ghostly happening was told to me by a venerable old Droop Mountain resident and farmer, the late Johnny Hill, whose Hill family holds one of the largest family reunions in the state every summer at Droop Mountain Battlefield State Park. Generally, there are about 300-500 relatives who attend it annually.
One minor addition: Johnny told me that he'd like me to be the main speaker at this large gathering one summer, but warned me that nobody would listen to my speech. Why? Well, they'd all, of course, be socializing among themselves, catching up on each other's exploits, accomplishments, and those of their children. To make his point, the affable Johnny recalled, with a bit of embarrassment, that after speaking for five minutes at the affair one year, the then Secretary of State Jay Rockefeller, who wasn't getting any response from the talking family crowd, just threw up his hands and quit speaking, asserting to the emcee, This just isn't my sort of crowd."
Now, if Jay Rockefeller couldn't hold the Hill Family Reunion crowd's attention, how could I?
Oddly, and being the first executive director and curator of the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace Museum at the time, a couple of local sisters, who lived together in a 19th century farm house, came up to me in Hillsboro to ask if their father's business log book in the attic would be of use to me. It was kind of spooky crawling into that dark attic and rummaging around up there for those ledger books, and it wasn't even Halloween.
Their father was the late Asbury Smith, who was the Hillsboro area's carpenter from about 1870 until his death in the 1930s. As a carpenter, he, beside building homes, crafted together coffins and was the local undertaker. In his log, I noted that he did several important jobs for Pearl Buck's family, but also many members of the Hill family. In fact, he made all of their coffins. Also, he did likewise for all of the other prominent families in the area, such as the McNeels, Beards, Stultings (Pearl Buck's maternal ancestors), etc. Their names were penned down, along with the funerals' costs. Hence, I chose to talk to the Hill Family Reunion on How the Hills stood up against other local families when burying their deceased."
When the day came, I, of course, was a little nervous, not knowing how they'd take my talk, if they, indeed, were interested at all. As I got up to speak at that family reunion, it was just like Johnny had predicted Ð no one was listening to the emcee or the preliminary family speakers. But, when I Ñ the main speaker Ñ started by saying, Did you Hills do a good job in burying your dead?," a silence started engulfing that large picnic area where the families were chatting away, leading each one of the small groupings to
start looking at me, to be quiet and to pay attention.
The main point I made after noting the costs of the Hillsboro area's family funerals from about 1870 to 1930 was that the Hills laid their relatives to rest with about medium priced funerals, those averaging about "$28.00 per funeral."
Yes, the crowd was startled and, my, haven't things changed over the years, especially in burying our dearly departed.
On that note of history, Happy Halloween, kind folks and good readers, and I hope that neither the spooks nor undertakers will get you over this holiday and this weekend.
Postscript, No. 1
Business After 5, Nov. 7
As I noted a couple of weeks ago, the next Gilmer County Business After 5 PM Social Hour will take place at 5 p.m. on next Thurs., Nov. 7. It will be worth attending for all area business, civic organizational and community people, because it will be your first opportunity to look inside of the new, large and impressive WACO Center on Mineral Road across from the Pioneer Village.
Glenville State College's eminent Land Resources & Surveying Dept. will be our kind hosts for that social, thereby providing some light refreshments, along with a short program and tour of their completed wing.
Later additions will be a large gym/special events center and a 24/7 emergency medical center.
Hence, this Business After 5 could be a valuable introduction to a great asset to this community and county.
Postscript, No. 2
Breast Cancer Awareness
On this Sat., Nov. 2, the WV Cervical & Breast Cancer Regional Agency will be sponsoring a fund-raiser at the Hays City intersection. Try to be generous to this good cause.
Postscript, No. 3
Historical Society: Mrs. Radabaugh's Program
Don't forget that the Gilmer County Historical Society has the good fortune of having Mrs. Mary Ann Radabaugh, our county's poet-historian, to speak on "Local Education Before, During and After the Civil War."
This covered dish luncheon and program will take place today at noon (this Thurs., Oct. 31). You can dress up for Halloween or bring your favorite spooky story to the meal and meeting. Everyone's welcome.
Postscript, No. 4
Formal Ball, Nov. 9
On Sat. evening, Nov. 9, the 2nd Annual Veterans & Military Ball and Banquet will take place in GSC's Mollohan Campus Community Center. Last year, this was one of the major social affairs of the year. For further information, call Jim Spears, V-P for External Affairs & Morris Criminal Justice Professor, at the GSC Foundation, 304-462-4125.