Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Ghostly Doctor of Denmar

I've been saving this new Haunted Pocahontas County story for Halloween. It's another account from a local employee at Denmar State Prison, the former Denmar State Hospital. Before it was a prison, there were places in the old hospital where local workers were reluctant to go alone. One floor in particular made people uncomfortable, and there are stories of inexplicable voices and footsteps. Evidently this still continues now that the place is a prison.

Early in the morning, workers waiting for the elevator sometimes see the doors open to reveal a short, middle-aged black man wearing a white coat and a stethoscope. He looks up, perhaps in response to a "Good morning, Doctor," and then he disappears. My informant, who supervises in the kitchen, is one of those who has seen the apparition herself. The general consensus at the prison is that the ghost-doctor dates from Denmar's days as West Virginia's Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium.

Deaths at the West Virginia Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium at Denmar. West Virginia History Volume 56 (1997), pp. 88-121.
The West Virginia Legislature created the State Colored Tuberculosis Sanitarium in 1917. The Maryland Lumber Company sold 185 acres of land and numerous buildings in Denmar, Pocahontas County, to the West Virginia Board of Control. According to the 1918 West Virginia Legislative Hand Book, black tuberculosis patients, who were West Virginia residents, were eligible for admission to the sanitarium provided they could pay for their care. The Hand Book noted: "The reasonable expenses of poor persons admitted at the request of the authorities of any municipal corporation or county, shall be paid by such municipal corporation or county." The sanitarium admitted its first patients on January 31, 1919.

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