Creating ghost stories rooted in childhood experiences - Beckley, Bluefield & Lewisburg News, Weather, Sports

Creating ghost stories rooted in childhood experiences

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Dolly Withrow Dolly Withrow
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  • Woman suffers minor injuries after car rolls on I-77 in Raleigh County

    Woman suffers minor injuries after car rolls on I-77 in Raleigh County

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 10:13 PM EDT2014-07-31 02:13:55 GMT
    Car rolled multiple times on I-77 North in Raleigh County.Car rolled multiple times on I-77 North in Raleigh County.
    In Raleigh County, a woman is miraculously not seriously injured, after her car rolls over on I-77 around 6:30 Wednesday night.An eyewitness tells us the woman was driving in the left lane on the northbound side. She suddenly veered off the road, over corrected,then slammed into the side of a tractor trailer. The car rolled multiple times before coming to a stop on it's roof.The witness says two small dogs ran out of the car. Moments later, the woman crawled out and ran after one of the dogs....
    In Raleigh County, a woman is miraculously not seriously injured, after her car rolls over on I-77 around 6:30 Wednesday night.An eyewitness tells us the woman was driving in the left lane on the northbound side. She suddenly veered off the road, over corrected,then slammed into the side of a tractor trailer. The car rolled multiple times before coming to a stop on it's roof.The witness says two small dogs ran out of the car. Moments later, the woman crawled out and ran after one of the dogs....
  • EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Woman struck by car on Robert C. Byrd Drive

    EXCLUSIVE VIDEO: Woman struck by car on Robert C. Byrd Drive

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:54 PM EDT2014-08-01 23:54:05 GMT
    A woman was struck by a car in front of Family Coin Laundry on Robert C. Byrd Drive in Beckley Thursday night.This is surveillance video given to us by the business owners. She was not walking on a designated crosswalk. So who is at fault?
    A woman was struck by a car in front of Family Coin Laundry on Robert C. Byrd Drive in Beckley Thursday night.This is surveillance video given to us by the business owners. She was not walking on a designated crosswalk. So who is at fault?
  • Alpha Natural Resources may idle eight mines in the state of West Virginia

    Alpha Natural Resources may idle eight mines in the state of West Virginia

    Friday, August 1 2014 3:58 PM EDT2014-08-01 19:58:48 GMT
    Alpha Natural Resources might lay off over 1,000 minersAlpha Natural Resources might lay off over 1,000 miners
    Just days after coal miners rally in Pittsburgh over new rules on EPA emissions another problem arises for the coal industry.Alpha Natural Resources says because of a weak market and government regulations mine sites might have to be shut down.Eight Alpha affiliated surface mines in West Virginia are expected to be shutdown by mid October. Three of the eight mines are right here in Southern West Virginia.One of the mines that could be idled is the Pioneer Fuel's Ewing Fork number 1 Surface Mi...
    Just days after coal miners rally in Pittsburgh over new rules on EPA emissions another problem arises for the coal industry.Alpha Natural Resources says because of a weak market and government regulations mine sites might have to be shut down.Eight Alpha affiliated surface mines in West Virginia are expected to be shutdown by mid October. Three of the eight mines are right here in Southern West Virginia.One of the mines that could be idled is the Pioneer Fuel's Ewing Fork number 1 Surface Mi...
  • ColumnsMore>>

  • Region’s new economy focuses on technology

    Region’s new economy focuses on technology

    Friday, August 1 2014 1:58 PM EDT2014-08-01 17:58:46 GMT
    North-Central West Virginia has the largest concentration of high tech jobs in West Virginia. The new economy in the Clarksburg-Fairmont-Morgantown corridor is focused upon technology-based economic development.
    North-Central West Virginia has the largest concentration of high tech jobs in West Virginia. The new economy in the Clarksburg-Fairmont-Morgantown corridor is focused upon technology-based economic development.
  • When you think you know everything, check online

    When you think you know everything, check online

    Wednesday, July 30 2014 6:00 AM EDT2014-07-30 10:00:22 GMT
    So, I’m strolling down Capitol Street in Charleston, taking in the joyous FestivALL celebration when I notice a pair of young boys smirking at my T-shirt.
    So, I’m strolling down Capitol Street in Charleston, taking in the joyous FestivALL celebration when I notice a pair of young boys smirking at my T-shirt.
  • Solving those devil-dog, double-word problems

    Solving those devil-dog, double-word problems

    Tuesday, July 29 2014 6:00 AM EDT2014-07-29 10:00:23 GMT
    Let’s play a word game. You will find the answers at the end, but if you cheat when playing Scrabble (as I do), you might cheat now. Of course, then, you would miss the fun of playing.
    Let’s play a word game. You will find the answers at the end, but if you cheat when playing Scrabble (as I do), you might cheat now. Of course, then, you would miss the fun of playing.

Dolly Withrow is a retired English professor and the author of four books. Contact Dolly at ritewood@aol.com.

Standing before a swivel mirror, my mother leaned her tall frame over the darkly varnished dresser as she applied heavy pancake makeup. Leaving circles of white around her brown eyes, she widened her lips with red lipstick. Ocie and Sissy, my aunts, were also painting their faces so as not to be recognized on a night they had long anticipated. The trio wore men's tattered trousers, plaid flannel shirts and old shoes. After all, it was Halloween in America, where during the early '40s adults customarily celebrated the holiday. By the mid-1940s, though, an increased number of children were participating in Halloween while the number of costumed adults was diminishing. In our household, adults in the early '40s still looked forward to being anything they wanted to be on Halloween night.  

After adding the finishing touches to their costumes, my mom and two aunts walked from North Charleston to the West Side. With other adults, they paraded up and down the sidewalks of Washington Street, which they referred to simply as "the street." It was an unplanned parade, but custom ensured its repetition each October. After the parade, the beer joints filled to capacity. There, amid clouds of cigarette smoke and the aroma of beer, many revelers escaped briefly from hardscrabble lives as they ordered Falls City beer in long-necked brown bottles. 

Although costumes could be purchased as early as 1930, in our community people made their own.  Moreover, there were no outside decorations — no ghosts or goblins hanging from the skeletons of bare-boned tree limbs. When I was old enough to participate, my friends and I walked to the North Charleston USO where a costume contest was held. We never won, for our costumes had also been made from anything we could find in our homes. We nonetheless enjoyed looking at all the creative outfits as contestants marched single file around a large room. Afterward, there was a huge bonfire in the nearby field. I can still see bright flames licking skyward and smell the burning scraps of wood. I can still hear the tinkling laughter and the high-pitched squeals of excited children.

Treats were first given in our country when farmers offered them in an effort to thwart tricksters. Farmers had grown weary of finding at first light overturned outhouses.

At some point, a separate night was set aside for trick-or-treat, so, wearing our paper false faces, we children knocked on doors. One year, a woman threatened to pour scalding water on us if we didn't get off her porch. Running quickly away, we were fearfully delighted because we had come face-to-face with a genuine witch during the witches' special night. Using the word "witch" is now offensive (we've become ever so sensitive), but I'm trusting the good witches out there have a terrific sense of humor. 

Many years later, I am lucky enough to continue the ghostly games each fall. Although Halloween has become commercialized, our son, daughter and spouses know how to make costumes and haunt the nearby woods. Each year, they plan a big party, and I write the ghost story. Ghosts, goblins, spiders and snakes creep over a landscape washed golden by an autumn moon. In the eerie forest, pine trees cast long dark shadows. 

My skills at writing ghost stories are rooted in childhood when I sat on the front porch during balmy evenings and listened to family members tell stories of "real" ghosts. Now, before each party as I lean toward the mirror and apply Halloween makeup, I am reminded of a night more than half a century earlier when my mother applied her pancake makeup.