Celebrate Appalachian Storytelling with Tales of a Ghost Train, Wizard Clip & More

Oct 24, 2014

Credit Published by Constructive Publishing (Scanned cover of pulp magazine) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

This week, as we approach All Hallows Eve, we have dedicated the next hour to ghost tales and dark legends. Award winning writer, Scott McClanahan, remembers hearing scary tales while growing up in Greenbrier County, West Virginia.

Marc Harshman, the poet Laureate of West Virginia, will tell the legend of Ghost Train.

Judy Byers tells us about a coal miner’s ghost who supposedly helped trapped miners find safety aboveground.

Suspend your disbelief and travel to a place where imagination and folklore are alive and well.

This is our Halloween Episode where we pay tribute to that fine Appalachian tradition of spooky storytelling.  

The Raven: We hear from Joey Madio and a recent performance in none other than the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia. The building markets itself to folks looking for a good scare and even offers zombie paintball to visitors.  

Wizard Clip: The small town of Middleway, West Virginia in the eastern panhandle is home to just around 450 people. Many of these families have been in this town for generations, dating back as far as the 1770s. Visitors who stop through the town today might see symbols of a pair of scissors and half-moon crescents on various signs, buildings, and even homes. These symbols come from a legend the town holds dear that dates back to the 1790s. It’s the legend of Wizard Clip. To find out more about this story, reporter Liz McCormick asked Peter Fricke, to explain the famous legend. Peter was born in England and moved to West Virginia in 1989. The story begins with a farmer from Pennsylvania looking to start anew…in Middleway.

Big John’s Ghost: For this next story we head to the coal camps in Grant Town, West Virginia, where at one time the Federal Coal and Coke Company operated the largest underground coal mine in the world. Folklorist Ruth Ann Musick said "The dark passageways of the Coal Mines are Likely places for ghosts. By and large they are friendly souls, -neither violent nor malevolent, who come back to see how things are getting along and to lend a helping hand when needed." Although the mine at Grant Town is now closed, and Ruth Ann Musick has since passed away, people still tell the tales that she collected.  In honor of Halloween, reporter Roxy Todd asked folklorist Dr. Judy Byers for her favorite ghost story from Musick’s collection, and she told one called Big John’s Ghost, originally told by Jim C Cliburn.

Panther Tales: A couple of years ago, Roxy Todd with West Virginia Public Radio, was living in Pocahontas County, West Virginia, where many people say they’ve seen panthers. The Department of Natural Resources claims that mountain lions have been extinct in West Virginia for over a hundred years. But the tales continue to be told. Roxy recorded many of these stories, including this one, at the house of her neighbor and friend, Iva Williams.

The Greenbrier Ghost:  It’s Scott McClanahan’s childhood scary story … He’s a fiction writer who grew up in Greenbrier County, West Virginia, listening to the legendary tale about a ghost who actually helped convict her own murderous husband. McClanahan grew up in Rainelle, just a few miles from the place where the murder of Zona Heaster took place.

The Greenbrier Ghost Teaser from Two Dollar Radio on Vimeo.

Naomi Wise: Many musicians out there will recognize the name of Naomi Wise, sometimes called Omie Wise. The tale often catches the interest of musicians that have played the song over the years, but some people say that the song is based on an actual murder. In fact, in Randolph County, North Carolina it’s believed that a real woman named Naomi Wise was killed by her lover, John Lewis. A grave in North Carolina honors her story. But, a West Virginia folklorist Gerry Milnes says that another claim to the tale is also in Randolph County, West Virginia. Reporter Jessie Wright Mendoza with the Traveling 219 Project takes us on this strange journey, to find out if there could be any truth to the claims.

Ghost Train: Now let’s hitch a ride on a ghost train … or at least the story of a spooky locomotive as told by  poet laureate of West Virginia, Marc Harshman from Wheeling. We caught up with him at the West Virginia storytellers guild annual festival at Jackson’s Mill.

This trio of pint-sized Northern Saw-Whet Owls have a cute look that belies their ferociousness.
Credit Photo: Courtesy Luke DeGroote, / Carnegie Museum of Natural History

Owl-oween: Picture … October 31st.  As darkness gathers, little foragers head out in search for tasty treats.  By night’s end, they’ll gorge themselves, growing fat on their bounty. And I’m not even talking about children hunting for Snickers bars. No, on today’s Allegheny Front Bird Files, we learn about another creature in search of goodies on Halloween: the Northern Saw-whet Owl. Possibly named for giving a call that sounds like a saw being sharpened on a whetting stone. Carnegie Museum of Natural History’s Luke DeGroote introduces us to the Northern Saw-whet.

Special music provided by The Soaked Lamb, and  T Sisters.