WEST VIRGINIA (WOWK) – From headless horseman and haunted tunnels to supposedly cursed theme parks and ghostly women in white, the Mountain State is filled with haunting tales of the paranormal.
After sharing 10 ghost tales from around the Mountain State, we’re continuing with 10 more haunted stories from across West Virginia where the ghosts of days gone by continue to roam among the living:
Booger Hole Murders – Clay County
West Virginia has many towns with strange names, and one of those towns, Booger Hole, comes with a series of mysterious murders and restless souls.
According to legend, the town of Booger Hole in Clay County started experiencing what West Virginia Ghosts and Legends called “a mismatched series of murders” between 1883 through 1917. The bodies of some of those killed were never found.
Among the roughly a dozen dead include a stonemason who vanished on his way to the town, a traveling watchmaker who disappeared while staying in the schoolhouse for a night, an elderly woman who was living in the schoolhouse a few years later and accused of witchcraft by her neighbors, and a young newcomer to town who was died when his cabin burned down.
While suspects were named in some of the deaths, there was only one guilty verdict, according to AmericaIsWeird.com. 21-year-old Howard Sampson and his 57-year-old father were arrested and charged in the death of the young newcomer, 23-year-old Preston Tanner. With Howard’s sister testifying against them and another man testifying that Howard had taken an interest in Tanner’s wife, Howard was eventually found guilty in the murder. While sentenced to life in prison, he was pardoned in 1925. According to AmericaIsWeird’s website, Howard was accused of allegedly killing his wife in 1953 before taking his own life.
The lack of justice for the dead leading the townsfolk to create the “Clay County Mob” which used handbills tacked up on trees to threaten six people, including the Sampson father and son, to leave the town or be killed.
The legend states that while the murders ended, West Virginia Ghosts and Legends says that some restless souls still lingered. There were reports from townsfolk of hearing people riding horses along the road with no one around as well as an apparition of a black-haired woman in white walking along the town, wailing and sobbing.
Flinderation Tunnel – Harrison County
Once a railroad tunnel in Harrison County, the abandoned Flinderation Tunnel is one of the North Bend Rail Trail’s haunted tunnels. The tunnel’s official name is the “Brandy Gap Tunnel” but gets its Flinderation moniker from the nearby roadway.
Many people have reported witnessing haunting phenomena at the tunnel, according to Only in Your State. The graveyard above the tunnel only adds to the paranormal tales.
Some of the stories surrounding the tunnel include ghostly train lights and whistles and the laughter of children that sounds like they are playing inside. According to Only in Your State and Teresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State, there are reports of a railroad worker who was making repairs inside the tunnel when a train came through unexpectedly. The reports say the man was not able to get out of the way in time and was killed inside the tunnel by the train.
Another dark rumor surrounding the tunnel is that it is believed to have been used as a by the Ku Klux Klan as a location for lynchings. While there are no official records attesting to the allegations, Teresa’s Haunted History says groups of African American paranormal investigators have gone into the tunnel and recorded energies and phenomenon leading them to believe these allegations are true.
The Coffin Rider – Marion County
The legend of the Coffin Rider of Monongah gets its roots from the Civil War. According to the legend, a Confederate soldier was taken prisoner by Union troops during a raid in April 1863 led by Confederate generals William E. Jones and John D. Imboden. The man had been shot in the leg during the raid.
According to the “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories,” by Rosemary Ellen Guiley, a Union captain recognized the ill-fated soldier as the man who had shot and killed his brother. Upon recognition, he took revenge by shooting the man in the head. The soldier was buried in the local cemetery.
The Union captain later moved to the Monongah community. One evening while riding past the cemetery to visit the woman he was courting in Watson, he heard a strange noise followed by a blood-curdling cry of the Confederate “Rebel yell.” When he turned around, Guiley says, the captain saw the man he had killed riding his coffin right at him. Some sources say the Coffin Rider was the Confederate soldier’s ghost, while others claim it was his skeleton.
The chase continued until the captain reached the mouth of the hollow, which would become known as Coffin Hollow due to the tale, and the Coffin Rider stopped. The legend says that for months, this happened each time the captain went through the hollow.
From there, the tale gets stranger. According to multiple sources, the captain was found dead in the hollow. The West Virginia Press Association says the captain had been shot in the head by an old, previously used bullet.
Having heard the tale of the vengeful Coffin Rider from their now-dead friend, those who found him went to the cemetery and dug up the soldier. When they opened the coffin, they found the Confederate soldier’s skeleton with no bullet hole in the skull from the fatal gunshot as there should have been. But, they did allegedly find a revolver in the skeleton’s hand, and it was still smoking.
Guiley says the vengeance stopped after the captain’s death. However, residents over the years who enter Coffin Hollow have reported seeing the soldier still riding his floating coffin through the area.
Lake Shawnee Abandoned Amusement Park – Mercer County
Even the locals say the once grassy field that became Lake Shawnee Amusement Park should never have been turned into a carnival, according to the Mercer County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The park sits on what was once a burial ground, and has misfortunes both as a settler’s homestead and as the amusement park.
The park has become infamous for its hauntings, being featured on several television programs over the years with the Travel Channel naming it one of the “Most Terrifying Places in America” and ABC naming it one of the “10 Most Haunted Places in the World.”
The land where the park sits was once settled by the family of Mitchell Clay. According to the Park’s website, Clay and his wife Phoebe, were the first English settlers to Mercer County. In 1783, two of their sons and a daughter were brutally murdered by members of the Shawnee tribe.
The visitor’s bureau says Clay and other settlers retaliated, killing several Native Americans. The three children were buried on the land, and a tombstone for them is still standing on the property, according to the park website.
The amusement park was built after entrepreneur Conley Snidow purchased the land in the 1920s. The park was abandoned in 1966. While the park was in operation, a total of six visitors died, including a little girl who died on the swings and a boy who drowned in the pond.
The use of the land was used for burials long before the Clay family and other settlers came to the region. In the 1980s, a man named Gaylord White considered the land for constructing new neighborhoods, however, when crews started digging, they found bones and Native American artifacts. The visitors bureau says many of the skeletons found in the burial ground belonged to children.
Visitors to the abandoned park have reported hearing disembodied voices and the chants of Native Americans. Along with sightings of Native Americans’ spirits, the ghost of the young girl who died on the swing is also said to have been seen roaming the park. Gaylord White and his father have both claimed to witness paranormal activity, with the elder Mr. White even leaving his tractor after hearing the young girl’s voice say she wanted it. It is still parked where he left it.
Seneca Caverns and Seneca Rocks – Pendleton County
According to “Big Book of West Virginia Ghost Stories,” the rocks and the caverns are both named for the Seneca tribe who once lived in the area. Many of the hauntings in the caverns are believed to be linked to the tribe. Guests and employees have often heard phantom voices and footsteps and claim to have seen floating lights, often close to the Council Room where the tribe held meetings and rituals. Some of the electrical lights used for tours have also been known to unexplainably flicker.
Teresa’s Haunted History states that some people have also heard the presence of a “phantom tour” that sounds like a tour group coming through the caverns that never arrives. Some believe this could be caused by acoustics, but staff have heard the phenomenon even on days when tours are not scheduled.
While the hauntings in the caverns are considered fairly benign, the strange happenings at the rocks are a bit more unsettling. Near the Seneca Rocks, there have been reports of “time and dimension slips” according to Guiley.
One such story involves a truck driver named Laken Eubank, Jr., who was making a three-hour journey from when twice as he got close to Seneca Rocks, he ended up on unknown roadways with no knowledge of how he got off course. To make things stranger, he was the only vehicle on the unknown road. According to Guiley, Eubank called it a “Twilight Zone” like experience, and the journey that should have only taken three hours took a total of six.
He tried to recreate the strange trip, but could not find those mystery roads. Eubank later told a friend, who also worked as a trucker, about the phenomenon, only to learn the friend had also had a strange experience of being 15 minutes away from Seneca Rocks and then being there in what felt like an instant, Guiley says in the book. The incident gave Eubank’s friend quite a scare and when he went into a store to calm down, he found his watch was 15 minutes slower than the clock on the wall.
Bowyer House and the Headless Horseman – Putnam County
This next tale gained national attention when it earned a visit from the SyFy Channel’s “Haunted Collector” John Zaffis.
The History of the Bowyer House seems unassuming at first. According to Teresa’s Haunted History, Captain John Bowyer had the house built in 1841, calling it “Shady Dell.” His son, Jerome (J.T.), was born that same year, and later inherited the house from his father. After J.T.’s death in 1910, the house sat empty for decades as he had no heirs of his own, but it did remain in his relatives’ possession.
Through the course of its ownership, there had been some spooky sightings, such as a headless horseman. The phantom, believed to be a Union soldier from the Civil War, was allegedly seen riding across the property by both the grandfather and great grandfather of current owner, Bill Woodrum.
At the time the “Haunted Collector” was called in to investigate, Woodrum had been preparing for some big renovations to turn the building into a bed and breakfast, but he and some other people began experiencing some unexplainable phenomenon. Such as the eyes of a painting of “Aunt Nonie” following people as they move across the room.
During the “Haunted Collector” episode, two of the investigators saddled up and took a horseback ride along the same path as the headless horseman, ending up at the cemetery where JT and two siblings are buried in a mausoleum. In the meantime, other team members recorded an electronic voice phenomenon that said “Rosie” along with strong electronic reading on a shoulder board.
When they took the shoulder board to a specialist at the West Virginia State Museum, they learned it would have belonged to an officer during the Civil War. There, they learned a General William Starke Rosecrans, aka “Old Rosie,” had owned coal mines in the area after the war, and while serving, had been in Tennessee when his friend, Julius Garesché, was decapitated by a cannonball at the Battle of Stones River.
Believing Rosecrans may have carried the shoulder board to remember his friend, it was suspected the object was the source of the hauntings. Woodrum gave Zaffis permission to take the object to his museum and the hauntings stopped.
As it has been just over a decade since the “Haunted Collector” episode aired on March 29, 2013, WOWK 13 News reached out to Woodrum to see if any hauntings have resumed at the house since the episode premiered. Woodrum told us that since Zaffis took the shoulder board from the land during the filming, they have not experienced any more paranormal activity on the property. However, the Bowyer House took a lot of damage during strong storms and ice storms around five to six years ago, leaving it in a state of disrepair. Woodrum says the house is now boarded up.
Silver Run Tunnel – Ritchie County
While not the same as the Tim Burton classic, West Virginia has its own story of a Corpse Bride.
Before the Civil War, a railroad ran through the Silver Run Tunnel near Cairo in Ritchie County, West Virginia. According to legend, the tunnel, which is part of the North Bend Rail Trail, is haunted by the ghost of a young bride.
The young woman is believed to have been riding the train with her new groom when she fell off the train and died. Whether she fell or was pushed remains a mystery.
The phantom bride was often seen along the tunnel by engineers. According to one report, an engineer tried to stop his train fearing he may hit her when she allegedly flew through the air at the last moment. Some engineers who feared they had hit her would even stop the train and get out to look for the body as they thought she was a living woman.
Our sister station, Nexstar’s WBOY, spoke with West Virginia Storyteller Jason Burns on the tale in 2020. He told them that one engineer saw a group of people following his train “yelling and waving crazily.” He stopped in the town of Proper and the group asked him where the woman in the white dress was. When he said “you mean the ghost back in the tunnel?” members of the group told him, “No, the ghost that was riding your cowcatcher for the past two and a half miles,” who was allegedly waving at the people as the train passed by.
Spencer State Hospital – Roane County
The Spencer State Hospital, also known as the Second Hospital for the Insane, was built in July 1893 due to overcrowding in the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, according to the West Virginia Archives and History.
It began with housing 54 patients, and would grow to house 696 over the course of the next decade. According to the WV Archives, thousands of patients passed through the doors, with the facility holding 1,200 patients in 1950. These patients were under the care of three doctors and 150 psychiatric aids.
The hospital went through numerous expansions throughout its 96 years in operation, closing in 1989. It was torn down in 2005.
According to Teresa’s Haunted History, the like many insane asylums, the Spencer State Hospital has a dark past. The facility is one of many the doctor known as “the father of frontal lobotomies,” Dr. James Freeman, visited to perform his procedures.
The property is also home to several graveyards that date back to at least 1902. Between the cemeteries there are approximately 107 marked graves and 750 unmarked graves.
Before the facility was torn down, people reported several strange events such as rattling chains, disembodied moans and apparitions. Teresa’s Haunted History states that according to legend, not all of the patients made it to the graveyards and some were buried under dirt floors in the facility. People reported breathing on their necks when they walked into the rooms where those rumored burials took place.
Pence Springs Grand Hotel – Summers County
Once a grand hotel and later a boarding school, the Pence Springs Grand Hotel has its fair share of bumps in the night.
The original hotel was built around 1897 and stood in the town of Pence Springs in Summers County before burning down in the 1910s. According to Teresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State the new hotel built to replace it in 1918 was much larger and was once the priciest hotel in the state before it took a financial hit during the Great Depression and was closed down.
While First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt had an interest in turning the building into a finishing school, the building was purchased and turned into the West Virginia State Prison for Women until the early 1980s. It was then turned back into a hotel in 1986.
Approximately 15 years ago, the building was turned into the Greenbrier Academy for Girls. Reports of alleged controversy surrounding the facility’s founder, as well as some allegations involving the school, caused it to close its doors in March 2023.
During the Pence Springs Grand Hotel’s second run as a hotel, visitors began to report claims of disembodied voices and sightings of apparitions in early 1900s attire. Along with these alleged residual hauntings from former hotel visitors, there have also been some hauntings tied to the hotel’s time as a prison with doors slamming in the area the cells were once located and alleged rearranged furniture.
Ghost of Gamble Run – Wetzel County
Nearly half a century before the Greenbrier Ghost helped convict her murderer, a man from Wetzel County tried his luck at convicting his murderer from beyond the grave, but ultimately failed. An account of the incident remembered by D.W. Gamble was recorded in 1901 from John C. McEldownry. D.W. Gamble was only around 10-years-old at the time
On Nov. 12, 1850, John Gamble left his farm by skiff on his 36th birthday, heading to New Martinsville to buy barrels for apple cider. The Beaver, Pennsylvania, native was a carpenter who also bought items such as tanbark, staves and wagon spokes locally, and then took them down the Ohio River by flatboat to sell in Cincinnati.
On the way to New Martinsville, Gamble sold a wagon to the Whiteman Brothers for a $20 note, and on the way home, asked them to cash their note. They said at the time they could not, and he put the note back in his pocket. Another man named Leb Mercer also happened to be at the Whitemans’ home at that time to whom Gamble owed $2 for a calf.
According to the account McEldowney recorded, Gamble allegedly asked Mercer if he had the change for $5. Allegedly, Mercer said he did not and asked Gamble if the $5 was all he had. Gamble then answered honestly that he had around $200, but did not have the change to give Mercer $2.
As it began to get dark, Gamble left the Whitemans’ house for his own home, allegedly telling Mercer to visit within a couple of days to collect the $2 Gamble owed him. That was the last time Gamble was seen alive.
The account from D.W. Gamble states reports claim Mercer watched John Gamble leave before walking toward him. Mercer allegedly arrived at his home around 2 a.m. muddy and wet. Despite Mercer allegedly having the $20 note the Whiteman Brothers gave Gamble, no “hard evidence” could be proven, and the case went unsolved.
A year later, a man returning home to New Martinsville along Gamble’s usual route claimed that he saw Gamble’s ghost, who claimed Mercer had killed him. Unlike the case of Zona Shue, the testimony of Gamble’s ghost did not stand up in court. However, the community did believe Mercer to be guilty, and he ended up moving away to St. Marys, West Virginia, allegedly acting strange and murmuring to himself for the rest of his life.
There have been no reported sightings of Gamble’s ghost since that night.