Friday, July 18, 2008

Wheeling Wraiths

Wheeling from Wikipedia

Hey, we figured what the heck, as long as we're on the road, why not head on down to the West Virginia panhandle and see what spooks Wheeling may have to offer. Quite a few, as it ends up.

The Hempfield RR Tunnel, known to the locals as Tunnel Green (it's now a pedestrian tunnel), has murder written all over its walls. One spook has been reported by countless passersbys. It's the spirit of a young immigrant worker who was robbed and killed by an acquaintance.

He floats above the train tracks, seen with his mouth agape in a frozen scream and covering his face with a bloodied hand, still trying to fend off his attacker.

There have been reports of ghosts hanging from the roof of the tunnel, dripping slime, along with shadowy figures in the distance that disappear when approached. There was said to be an old cemetery on top of the hill that the tunnel bored through. The remains of the graves are still above the tunnel, and the spirits can't rest.

Both the Hempfield and Sixteenth Street cemeteries were sold to the RR; we're not sure which one, if either, the tunnel crosses. The bodies were reburied at a handful of other cemeteries, but who can say that all the remains were recovered?

It's also said to be haunted by a man from the early 1900's who was killed by a train in the Tunnel Green.

The Peninsula Cemetery is sometimes referred to as Foundry Cemetery, because it's near an abandoned WW2 armament factory. Visitors at the boneyard report they have seen the spook of a woman wearing a black cape, in the old southwestern part of the city of the dead. She stands guard at her own grave, as if protecting it from some impending danger.

And she may have good reason. The Peninsula Cemetery was first opened on May 2, 1842, and many bodies in the upper part of the graveyard date back to its opening. They were removed from the old Sixteenth Street Cemetery, which had the misfortune of being sold to become a RR right-of-way, and reburied there.

Maybe she just doesn't feel like picking up her old bones and moving yet again.

The tombstone of Richard Moxley, who died at 64 in 1855 and was laid to rest at Penisula, reads thus:

"Stop Stranger as you pass by
As you are now so once was I
As I am now so must you be
Prepare for death and follow me."

Eerie but accurate parting words, no?

In downtown Wheeling, the Main Street Bridge is allegedly haunted by a gent who was trampled to death by his own team of horses, after he spooked them by jumping down from his wagon to repair a loosened hitch. He's been seen on the bridge, asking if anyone has seen his horses. He probably wants to shoot the dang critters!

Another bridge ghost is of a local contractor. While building the bridge in the late 1840's, he was checking out the scaffolding that his workcrew used. He was walking it to make sure it was in good condition. It wasn't.

The structure collapsed, and he was carried away by the powerful currents of the Ohio below. His body was never found, but his spirit is still there for everyone to see.

Then there's the spooky mansion at Elm Hill now called Monument Place because of its prominent twenty foot statue of the Goddess of Liberty, dedicated to Henry Clay.

In 1798, Moses Shepherd built his stone manse on the site of the old Fort Shepherd, which was burned to the ground by Indians. The home was known through the years as the Shepherd Mansion and the Stone House before it became Monument Place.

It's a National Historic Landmark, right on the National Road, which was diverted at quite some bother and expense to pass by the home's front gates by Clay after some politicking by Shepherd and his wife. He also received a lucrative contract to build much of the road and its bridges in the area. It's no wonder they honored Clay on the estate grounds. He helped pay its bills.

It's said the ghost of the previous "lady of the house," perhaps the renowned local character Lydia Boggs Shepherd Cruger, Clay's sweet-talker, is a regular visitor. The spectral lady has been spotted in different rooms by the cleaning staff during the last several years.

They also report hearing music and dancing from the second floor ballroom. No word on who these midnight revelers may be.

None of the early residents of Monument Place roamed far from home. The earthly remains of Moses Shepherd, Louis Cruger and Lydia Shepherd Cruger all lie in the Old Stone Cemetery, once part of the estate, which dates back to the days of Fort Henry.

There are also stories of nighttime hauntings at the Capitol Music Hall. The Hall opened in 1928, and has hosted movies, C&W acts, radio broadcasts, and groups as disparate as the Symphony and the Jamboree. It's closed now, and the City is working on a way to get its' spooks some flesh and blood company before they're razed back to the great beyond.

Almost heaven - and it may be as close as these spooks get to the real thing.

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