Sunday, October 16, 2005

Haunted Pocahontas County

Since I moved to Pocahontas County I've heard quite a few ghost stories. The storytellers have a variety of attitudes about their narratives. Some of them think they're amusing anecdotes about rural superstition, some of them think they are judgements from God Almighty, but most of them are like me. They aren't sure what to make of it. It could be hallucinations, it could be spirits of the dead, it could be some sort of cosmic trick. I have formed no hypothesis, scientific, philosophical, or religious, to explain these phenomena, but I have experienced a couple of ghostly apparitions myself. I remain puzzled, and therefore, I remain interested, hoping, I suppose, to find an answer.

That's how it happens that I keep a collection of local ghost stories. With Halloween coming up, I thought a little series of "Poca-HAUNT-as" County anecdotes might be appropriate. From the Marlinton Gargoyle to the Droop Mountain Battlefield to the Greenbrier Ghost, the stories center around Droop Mountain and the Greenbrier River. I don't know whether this reflects my sampling base of operations (I live on Droop, not far from the river) or whether the Civil War battlefield represents some sort of "psychic epicenter."

Book Cover: Last SleepThe Droop Mountain Battlefield has so many ghost stories associated with it that Terry Lowry, in his 1996 book Last Sleep: The Battle of Droop Mountain November 6, 1863 devotes the final chapter to "The Ghosts of Droop Mountain." He offers this explanation:

While it is fairly common for ghost stories to arise out of Civil War sites, Droop Mountain probably ranks near, or even at the top, of such areas to spawn wild-eyed stories of ghosts, apparitions, headless soldiers, illusions, and the like. Due primarily to its somewhat isolated, rural location, Droop Mountain battlefield has been the scene of many unexplained happenings since the Civil War battle that took place there in 1863. This is not unusual, considering fog "often rolls over the mountain in waves, there one minute, gone the next," creating an eerie atmosphere conducive to tales of ghosts and the supernatural.

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