Saturday, April 16, 2011

Piney Bottom's Headless Hitch Hiker

from Scary Halloween Costumes

Piney Bottom is near Harts, in Lincoln county, West Virginia, a little south of Huntington and located at the mouth of Big Harts Creek.

According to Wikipedia, the town was named for Stephen Hart (Heart), an Indian fighter and early settler who lived at the mouth of the creek. Originally, the town was named "Heart's Creek," then later "Hart" and more recently "Harts."

The Big Harts Creek runs along the Guyandotte River; there's also Little Harts Creek nearby and at least one sizable offshoot, the West Fork. The quiet hollow these streams flow through is known locally as Piney Bottom. And it's home to one of the state's eerier legends.

In the 1800s, there were several sightings of a headless man dressed in black walking the area, especially by the first creek flowing through the bottoms. Another version claims that a ghostly carriage manned by the headless ghost would give people rides.

H&H tends to discount that tale; you have to be awfully tired of traveling via the shoe leather express to jump aboard a spook wagon being driven by a headless apparition.

While a scary sight, the headless dude was harmless. But there's a more chilling second act to the lore.

Folk riding their horses through the hollow reported that a headless black beast, part man, part critter, would jump on the back of their steed to hitch a ride. The monstrosity would wrap its arms around the rider in a death grip (what else?), scaring him and the poor horse witless, hanging on from the first creek to the ford of the next stream.

Now no one knows who or what the creature is, although some suspect that it's just another form of the ghost in black - after all, it's headless, and hops aboard at the same spot that the spirit man haunts. But that link has never been proven.

And it probably never will. With the advent of the auto, the ghost in black reports have dwindled to nothing; maybe cars scare him. But if you're curious, strap a saddle on a horse and take a slow trot through Piney Bottom. Let H&H know how the ride went.

The story is told in "Haunted West Virginia: Ghosts & Strange Phenomena of the Mountain State" by Patty A. Wilson, a noted regional paranormal writer.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Oak Hill Cottage

Oak Hill Cottage from Mansfield Tourism

Oak Hill was built by John Robinson in 1847 on a hill overlooking the town of Mansfield, Ohio, close by the railroad he had helped to build. Robinson and his family lived at Oak Hill until 1861, and five of his twelve children were born there.

Dr. Johannes Aten Jones bought the Gothic Revival home in 1864 at the urging of his bride, Frances. Author Louis Bromfield played at Oak Hill Cottage as a child and wrote about the house in his 1924 novel "The Green Bay Tree," calling it "Shane’s Castle."

The property was divided and sold in 1923 after the eldest Jones daughter, Ida, died. Leile, another of the Jones' daughters, moved back into the house in 1947, and sold the cottage and its contents to the Richland County Historical Society in 1965.

Now it's a museum, open for tours and sightseeing - and there are more things in Oak Hill Cottage than meet the eye.

First, there are the usual sensory phenomena. Visitors claim to feel a stifling presence of someone watching them, some even suffering panic attacks, and other oddities, such as the lights on the chandelier flickering on and off. And that's just the starting point.

One ghost reported is that of an elderly female, wearing period clothing, most often seen on the main stairway. If you spot her, never fear - she's said to be friendly and seems happy to see visitors admiring her home; she may even welcome you. It's supposed that she's Frances Jones, who truly loved the cottage.

She's also been seen fluffing the pillows and dusting in the cottage rooms, still a neat housekeeper after all these years (some say it's an old maid still doing her duty, but we prefer to agree with those who think it's Frances, keeping her pride and joy homestead up to snuff).

Other spooks are more site specific.

A back stairway leads a small landing, one which is reportedly frequented by the spirit of a young boy dressed in white stockings and knee pants. He's thought to be the shadow of one of the Robinson's sons who died in the home and spent his days playing on the landing.

In the basement, the apparition of an old man haunts the furnace area, and he has a bad vibe. No one can quite identify him, but it's no wonder he's ornery, being stuck in the cellar for all eternity.

Stop in if you get the chance. The house has a great history, and you may get to take in more than the furniture and art. You may be lucky enough to meet an old inhabitant or two.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

U at Albany Haunts

University at Albany - Normal College Days

Hey, when your looking for ghosties, colleges are always a good place to start. Most have a long history and a tradition of both long-time employees who can't seem to leave their schools and students who have met a messy end. New York's University at Albany is no exception.

It dates back to 1844, and since has grown to a major research center with 18,000 students scattered over several city campuses, with a tradition of gently spooked buildings. Its alleged haunts include:

-- The Humanities Building mostly reports, via the evening work staff, eerie night noises - things dropping to the floor, slamming doors, bodiless footsteps and other assorted sounds. There are also unsubstantiated reports of a ghostly nun sighted in the hall.

-- Mahican Hall (located at the Indian Quad, how appropriate!) is said to be spooked by the apparition of girl that walks the corridors late at night. She's a relatively recent addition to Albany's lore, first being reported in the mid-nineties.

-- The Performing Arts Center features the shadow of an electrician who died in the building when some wires he was working on shorted. He's more of a presence than actual spook, and his sense has been reported by actors, especially during rehearsals.

-- Pierce Hall, part of downtown Albany's Alumni Quad, was built in 1935 as a women's dorm and basically unchanged since then, also hosts a specter girl that endlessly paces the building.

The U may not exactly be a hotbed of howling ghouls, but hey - get off campus and take a trip through Albany; you'll find a who's who of spookdom in the state capitol.

The Education Building sports the spirit of a workman who was buried alive in concrete in the basement, called the Dungeon; Sage College's Fine Arts Building is home to a collection of specters; and the Capitol Building tour includes the ghost of a custodian who died in a fire; there are several other tales of the unexplained floating all around the town.

Detractors may mockingly call the upstate city smAlbany (everyplace can't be the Big Apple), but it's big-time when it comes to spooky lore.