Sunday, August 21, 2011

Davis & Elkins College

Elkins in Randolph County, West Virginia is a scenic Appalachian retreat and home to Davis & Elkins College. The liberal arts college owns the former summer estates and social gathering places of early 20th century senators Henry Davis and Stephen Elkins. The mansions offer a magnificent vista of the mountains, located high atop "Haunted Hill."

Graceland was built by railroader Henry Gassaway Davis and his wife, and was completed in 1893. Originally called Mingo Moor, Davis switched gears and named the house in honor of his beloved youngest daughter, Grace.

The home was bought by the West Virginia Presbyterian Education Fund in 1941 and presented to the college. Graceland was used as a men's residence hall until 1970 and then was closed until the early 1990's. It became the on-campus Graceland Inn, which opened its doors in 1996.

It's a popular lodge, restaurant and meeting center. But hey, watch who you're talking to - not all the guests are newly registered.

Graceland is thought to house the spirit of Grace (who else?). She's said to be the source of the unidentified sounds and sense of presence that fills the estate; some have even claimed to have caught a glimpse of her. Her supernatural aura was said to be strong enough to stop a prom being held in the building.

In 2008, paranormal investigator Chris Fleming led a troop of students on a ghost hunting expedition of Graceland. He got an alleged EVP from Henry Davis, saying hello, identifying himself, and then asking the group to leave. The gang even got a fuzzy photo of the good senator's shadow. Fleming also ran across Katie, apparently an old servant, who instructed the group to move on to the kitchen. When they got there, the gas burners turned on by themselves.

But the mansion's star spook is a former servant who, as the tale goes, was beaten to death for some transgression and buried under the dirt floor of Graceland's basement. People have reported seeing his face looking out the top window of the building.

Halliehurst, built in 1891 by Senator Stephen Elkins, was donated to the college in 1924 by the senator's wife and the mansion's namesake, Hallie Davis Elkins. When the College first opened, Halliehurst was a female dorm and has since been an administrative center for the school. Apparently, it's still Hallie's home, too.

Hallie's ghost has been seen looking out the window of her bedroom on the second floor, which is now the Admissions Office. Some say they've spotted her running up and down the stairs. Others claim that they felt a shove when they were on the steps or balcony.

Others say that they've seen and heard a small knot of children laughing and playing on the porch and even seen a giggling girl standing on the stairway and then disappearing.

Fleming visited Halliehurst the same night he toured Graceland. He said he made contact with children on the second floor, whose laughter was caught on EVP. In the servants wing of the mansion, Fleming said he felt the presence of a ghost and tried to make contact with no luck. But there is supposedly a photo that depicts the ghostly face of a young woman in a kitchen window of Halliehurst.

While the locals are of divided opinion regarding the going-ons at the houses on Haunted Hill, they don't exactly shush the rumors away; some are even supported by staff reports. And both mansions are the sites of Haunted Halloween parties, ghost tours and other spookily themed events, reminders yet of the century old Davis-Elkin legacy. It's kinda nice that the old bones still have an interest in the College named for their families after all these years.

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