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Folklore part of life in Mid-Ohio Valley

October 10, 2013
By MICHAEL ERB ( , Parkersburg News and Sentinel

MARIETTA -From ghost stories to hidden creatures to unexplained lights in the night sky, the Mid-Ohio Valley has it all.

Legends, folklore and spooky stories are a part of any community. Unexplained events or outright bizarre occurrences can lead to wild speculation and storytelling, and many tales are passed down from generation to generation.

Lynne Sturtevant, an author and owner of Hidden Marietta, a tour company in Marietta that specializes in ghost stories and folklore, said many of the people who came to settle the Mid-Ohio Valley brought with them a rich heritage of storytelling.

"We have a lot of folks that their cultural heritage is from Scotland and Ireland," she said. "We have a cultural tradition that makes us more expecting of these kinds of stories. And in this part of the country, Appalachia, we love our ghost stories."

Sturtevant said most folklore falls into one of three categories: Urban legend, classic ghost story or paranormal/unexplained.

"Many of your classic ghost stories are more like reports of odd activity," she said, like a shadow seen in an empty room, a voice or sound heard at a distance.

Urban legends tend to be a mix of paranormal and storytelling.

"Those are always suspect," she said. "Those are generally a story someone has made up or written."

Unexplained things can be lights in the sky, a shadowy form in the woods or a face at the window. Sometimes these are singular events, and sometimes multiple people can witness the same thing but still have no clear explanation.

Sturtevant said the most compelling stories contain a mix of elements. She points to the Anchorage in Marietta as an example.

The house was built in 1859 in Harmar Village and has seen many uses of the years, including as a private residence and as a nursing home.

"The whole story revolves around Eliza Putnam," the wife of Douglas Putnam who built the home, Sturtevant said. "That was her house, it was built for her. It was their dream home."

But the story of Eliza Putnam was a tragic one.

"She died shortly after the house was completed. Since then people have seen ghosts in there have had paranormal experiences," Sturtevant said. "So many people have been in that house over the years and many have reported strange experiences."

Sturtevant said coupling the age of the house with the story of Eliza Putnam, along with the passed-down first person accounts of strangeness within the home over the years, has made the Anchorage a repository of ghost stories.

"That is what keeps the ghost stories going," she said. "It's something people talk about."

Sturtevant said over the years the popularity of ghost stories and folklore ebbs and flows, but right now is at a high point in our culture.

"I think a lot of that is driven by the kinds of ghost-hunting shows we see on television," she said. "That definitely has pushed interest in these things."

Technology also has made ghost hunting and the pursuit of ghost stories easier. People can easily find their interests and like-minded people online, and digital recording and photography equipment makes it cheap and easy to search for the paranormal.

"Now everyone has a camera on them at all times," she said. "And it's digital. You can take as many pictures or recordings as you'd like. Back in the day you would never have thought to take a dozen photos of the same area searching for little balls of light, because you'd have to go get that film developed and that would cost you a lot of money."

At it's heart, a ghost story is a chance to reach out and briefly touch something both frightening and fascinating.

"I think it's a desire to understand the unknown," Sturtevant said. "Plus, people like to get scared. It's fun."



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