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Valley no stranger to otherworldly

Ghost stories abound in area

October 10, 2013
By PAMELA BRUST ( , Parkersburg News and Sentinel

PARKERSBURG - The Mid-Ohio Valley apparently is home to many otherworldly beings.

They include supernatural creatures believed to be the forebears of doom, orbs, restless ghosts searching for lost loved ones, floating candlesticks, phantom footprints and the cries and moans from the apparitions of long-suffering Civil War soldiers.

Brian Kesteron, local author, Civil War historian and re-enactor and a member of the Fort Boreman Hill Park advisory board, said ghostly apparitions have made appearances for years on Fort Boreman.

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Residents have reported hearing cries, moans, seen apparitions in Civil War period clothing, had mysterious light orbs show up in photos, and reported other unusual sights and sounds.

Quincy Hill was another hot spot for such sitings, he said.

"The whole area has its ghost stories. Whether you believe in them or think someone is crazy, there just seems to be a lot of unexplained occurrences in the Mid-Ohio Valley," Kesterson said.

Kesterson said he's heard numerous ghost siting reports from individuals he considers credible and he's seen some strange images on Fort Boreman Hill himself.

Quincy Hill also served as a lookout for Union troops, and was set up as a tent-city Civil War hospital. War-wounded soldiers as well as those suffering diseases that later swept through the camps and town were housed there. Visitors and some residents in the Quincy Hill area have reported hearing cries, moans, seen apparitions in Civil War period clothing, had mysterious light orbs show up in photos, and reported other unusual sights and sounds.

At least one site in Little Hocking, Ohio, which was used as an Underground Railroad station, has been the subject of several ghostly encounters as well.

According to an account in "Cry of The Banshee," by local author and founder of the Haunted Parkersburg Tours, Susan Sheppard, former residents of the Sawyer-Curtis home, built by Nathaniel Sawyer in 1798, reported seeing a woman sitting at the foot of a bed, playing a music box. Others said they heard their names called, windows slamming shut and candlesticks flying through the air. Sawyer was a friend and contemporary of the Blennerhassett family.

Blennerhassett Island itself has its share of reported close encounters.

There have been numerous reports of island visitors seeing images of Margaret Blennerhassett, former Blennerhassett slaves and Native Americans wandering the island from time to time.

Margaret's ghost has reportedly appeared clad in a white dress and her appearance is often accompanied by a floral scent. Some stories have her standing on the island looking out at the river as though waiting for someone.

A reporter from a Pittsburgh magazine who camped out on the island in 1988 for a story reported seeing a woman in a white flowing dress. When he attempted to approach her, she disappeared. The reporter later found books that had been stored inside his bag stacked neatly by his campfire, the story is recounted in "Cry of the Banshee."

There were also reports of visitors seeing the image of one of the former slaves of the Blennerhassetts riding the perimeter around the mansion.

Sheppard said some of the stories in her book were passed down, many were investigated on her own and she also included some tales she remembered from her own childhood.

"We actually get a number of stories on the ghost tour when we stop at spots and tour goers add their own stories," she said.

Sheppard said many of the stories are folk tales.

"We have stories of ongoing paranormal happenings mixed with folktales where something may have happened but the stories have evolved over the years and have been made different than the original reports. None of this, of course, matters to the ghosts. They seem to enjoy the attention and make themselves known during the tours in various ways, such as in tour goers photographs and experiences," Sheppard said.

Another phenomena reported was of a prospective buyer of one Parkersburg residence which revealed a ghostly site.

Apparently visitors to a local home reported seeing the ghostly image of a young girl who apparently died in the basement of her home during an 1870s Typhoid epidemic, according to one of the stories in Sheppard's book.

The former TransAllegheny bookstore, housed in the old Carnegie Library on Green Street, has been the home of a number of reported apparition sitings and otherwordly noises over the years. Apparitions reportedly have been seen browsing the shelves, turning on lights and floating around. There were sitings of a small girl in a white bonnet who sometimes sits on the stairway, and a dapper man in a brown jacket browsing on the second floor.

The Markey or "Captain's House" on Juliana Street was constructed by a New England master mariner. According to stories in Sheppard's book: "Witnesses claim to see the vision of a man in a black coat leaning over his 150-year-old headstone (in nearby Riverview Cemetery) that has the carving of a ship on it. The spirit is seen as often by the light of day as he is at night."

"Orange-colored embers from the Captain's pipe are still seen glowing in the bay window that faces Juliana Street," according to the story.

An account in "Cry of the Banshee" notes during 1990s renovations at the residence workers found child-size footprints in dust in the attic. The footprints were brushed away, but came back as soon as the dust settled.

Parkersburg had typhoid fever epidemics that swept though the area in the 1860s and 1870s, which is around the time of the dates on the tombstones of the captain and a child buried in the Riverview Cemetery.

Riverview Cemetery itself is home to several "hauntings," including an otherworldly black dog digging. A black dog in British Isle folklore, is a nocturnal apparition often associated with the underworld. Its appearance was regarded as a foretell of death/tragedy. It is generally described as being larger than a normal dog often with large, glowing eyes. Reports of its appearance are usually at crossroads, places of execution, ancient pathways, gavesites.

In 2009, a travel site touted local historic landmark Blennerhassett Hotel as one of the 10 haunted hotels in America.

Bing Travel had an online photo feature of the 4th and Market streets hotel. One story, related in Sheppard's book notes in the summer of 2003 while the hotel was undergoing renovations, a hotel guest reported he saw an older man sitting at the foot of the bed in his room.

'The gentleman then turned to the guest and bitterly complained I was here first," The apparation then disappeared.

Visitors have also reported the smell of cigar smoke in the hotel when no one is around.

Another ghostly tale comes from the Walker area where there have been reported sitings of a floating woman crying for help.

There are other tales of hauntings in the Walker area. Very near the old railroad tracks a Union soldier was sighted leaning on his musket. Others reported seeing the apparition of a woman in Civil War period dress with a small child, according to Sheppard's book.

Sitings of a young woman with black hair and a long white gown have been seen near the old B & O Railroad.

According to a tale related in Sheppard's book, in 1880 a young woman with raven black hair boarded the train to come to Parkersburg to be married, but she never arrived. Throughout the years, train conductors have seen a beautiful woman with raven hair and a long white gown, standing in the middle of the tracks at the far end of the tunnel.



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