PARKERSBURG -The Mid-Ohio Valley is home to many local legends and tales of ghosts. One of the more popular stories is the Marrtown Banshee.
In mythology a banshee is a female spirit seen by the living as an omen of death.
According to local legend, Thomas Marr, A Wood County resident and founder of Marrtown, saw the Marrtown Banshee riding a white horse as he went to work. Marr was never able to make out the figure's face, as it was covered by a tattered hood. When he approached the rider, it would disappear into the mist.
One evening, the story goes, Marr's wife Mary was waiting for her husband to return from work when the banshee appeared at the gate in front of the house. Mary Marr went out to greet the rider, who promptly turned and galloped away. Soon after one of her husband's friends came to the house to deliver news of Thomas Marr's death.
Grisly stories on the nature of Marr's death have been circulating for years. Newspaper reports from the 1950s, and a typed History of Marrtown all tell of the alleged murder of Thomas Marr. Some even claim his body was discovered by one of his sons.
Storytellers say Marr was shot by an unknown assailant, fell into the Little Kanawha River and drowned.
Others claim the wail of the banshee startled Marr and he fell into the river.
According to records and newspaper accounts uncovered by Cynthia Buskirk, much of the story is untrue. Buskirk and Fred Lambert, descendants of Thomas Marr, say documents detailing his death conflict with the local lore.
Buskirk and Lambert want to set the record straight regarding Thomas Marr's death. For years, she said accounts of Marr's death have been embellished and tied to the legend of the Marrtown Banshee.
"This story would have gone on if I hadn't found the microfilm of newspapers from the 1870s," Buskirk said.
According to the research, Marr was found dead, in February, 1874. He wasn't shot. And he didn't drown.
According to newspaper accounts, in the State Journal and the Parkersburg Examiner, Marr, who was close to 60 years old, was found dead near the platform of the freight depot where he worked. It is believed he had fallen after climbing atop the station box to clean out a stovepipe. He fell approximately 10 feet and died of a broken neck.
Buskirk said she stumbled across accounts of Marr's death about 30 years ago and has been piecing things together ever since.
After his death, Thomas Marr was buried in the Bethel Baptist Church cemetery in Lubeck.
Mary Marr was intermed beside him in 1904, when she died at age 90. She didn't get a headstone to mark her grave until the early 1990s.