Highland Cemetery image from Buscatube
Located in Marion County, the small community of Mannington is rich in history. But its best known bit of lore doesn't involve Indian battles, the Civil War, or the oil and gas boom: Mannington is the home of one of the state's most enduring urban legends, The Witch's Grave at Highland Cemetery.
Highland Cemetery and its chapel sit off a rural dirt road, high on a hilltop. Abandoned for years (although it's now being used again for services), the chapel was supposedly once the meeting place for satanists.
The chapel reportedly doesn't have a cross in it; in fact, its decor is said to feature ancient Greek woman in a kind of Bacchanal theme. On Halloween, its attendance board is rumored to equal the number of people in the chapel, and is updated with each new or departing visitor by an unseen census taker.
(Don't just bust in to find out, please; the once abandoned church is now used for services again, and the remote graveyard has been vandalized too many times.)
But the main claim to paranormal fame for Highland Cemetery is that the graveyard is reputed to be the final resting spot of West Virginia's most famous witch.
She goes by many first names in lore: Zelda, Sarah Jane, or Serlinda Jane Whetzel. Her tombstone reads "Serilda Jane Whetzel, date of death: May 29th, 1909"; we assume that answers that question.
Whetzel shares the graveyard with an alleged warlock, Tusca Roy Morris ("Born November 11, 1874 Died December 30, 1900.") Both graves face west, toward the setting sun; the cemetery's other markers face east. Both tombstones are in a corner of the graveyard, under a dogwood tree.
As ominously spooky as the headstones' placement may seem, the reason probably lies in Highland Cemetery vandals, who have knocked down the markers several times and replaced them backwards. It's said that whenever the workers set the stones straight, the midnight partiers quickly return and reverse them again.
But the desecration of the stones can't explain away the carvings etched on them so easily. Whetzel's obelisk shows a staircase descending down into the fiery mouth of a demonic dragon.
A staircase ascending into heaven is a common enough depiction on a monument. The question is whether Whetzel's artwork shows a fall into Lucifer's underworld or is a century-old etching that time has eroded just enough to blur and contort the original image.
Tusca's stone shows a face with horns. Again, whether that's just a result of the ravages of time or something more sinister isn't known.
Of course, there's always the inconvenient fact that they were buried in Christian plots; apparently the good reverend back in the day didn't think the pair were Satan's spawns at the time of their deaths if he allowed them to be interred on church grounds.
At any rate, the local tale is that if you visit Highland Cemetery late at night, you'll see glowing in the woods and hear strange noises. The witch and her warlock companion have been reportedly spotted in the vicinity of their graves, quickly disappearing when approached. And on Halloween, a trip to the chapel will include your gang in a netherworld census headcount.
Urban legend or something more...?