Spooky Scary Tales: Inside Haunted Appalachia

Oct 28, 2016

Appalachia has some of the best settings for scary stories, including dark underground coal mines and remote forests. There are hundreds of remarkably bizarre, mysterious ghost tales that take place here in West Virginia.

In the latest episode of Inside Appalachia, Jessica Lilly and Roxy Todd talk to writers and folklorists who share their favorite West Virginia spooky story. Whether you think of these tales as fact, myth, history or folklore, we say--if there were ever a time of year to suspend your disbelief--it’s Halloween.


Philippi Mummies

Nothing says Halloween quite like wrapping up in toilet paper and dressing as a mummy. But what if we told you that you didn’t have to go to Egypt or South America to see mummies? What if we told you that you needed to just go to Philippi? Alderson Broaddus University student Marcus Hardinger recently visited the Barbour County historical museum to find out the story behind the town's mummies. The museum is open through Halloween. 304-457-4846.

mummy at the Barbour County Historical Museum in Phillipi, West Virginia
Credit Bryan Richards/ Travelin' Appalachian Revue

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In this episode we'll also hear these tales:

  • The Greenbrier Ghost: This is possibly the only story where the description of a ghost sighting was actually documented in a court case. Writer Scott McClanahan tells us this tale. He grew up just a few miles from where the ghost of Zona Heaster supposedly appeared outside the logging town of Rainelle.
  • Wizard Clip: Visitors to the small town of Middleway, West Virginia might see symbols of a pair of scissors and half-moon crescents on various signs, buildings and even homes.
  • Big John’s Ghost: In her book about West Virginia ghost tales,  The Tell-Tale Lilac Bush, the late folklorist Ruth Ann Musick recorded this tale. She wrote, "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."
  • Murder Ballad of Naomi Wise: Most say the murder ballad "Naomie Wise" was based on a murder that took place North Carolina. But some think it was West Virginia.

What's your favorite haunted house or spooky destination in Appalachia?

Here are a few to explore for yourself:

West Virginia 

Inside the Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston, West Virginia.
Credit DANIEL WALKER/ WVPB

  • Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum in Weston. Formerly known as the Weston State Hospital  Open until Nov. 6th. 304-269-5070

  • Halloween train rides on the Cass Scenic Railroad. 2.5 Hour Round Trip Event. Departs Cass Scenic Railroad Depot, 6:00 pm.
  • Second Creek Haunted Trail. This is a haunted trail in Monroe County that benefits the community as well as families in need. 304-645-7450 or 304-645-2696.
  • The Haunted House in Pineville, located in the old Sears building in downtown Pineville. 304-732-6255.
  • Haunted History Tours at the Whipple Company Store in Scarborough.  304 465-0331. 8:30 pm-11:00 pm  $30.00 per person.
  • Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze in Shady Spring, Raleigh County, Okes Family Farm.

    304- 673-3268

Kentucky

  • White Hall State Historic Site "ghost walk". White Hall State Historic Site offers an alternative to the typical haunted house. "Ghosts" will come out of the darkness to tell the incredible stories of the Clay family, but in a theatrical history lesson tour that is very family-friendly. Afterwards, guests are treated to hot apple cider and cookies. Tickets are $10 per person and are by reservation only. Tours run from 7-9:30 p.m. Call the park at 859-623-9178.
  • Waveland Paranormal Investigation. Waveland State Historic Site, Lexington. $20. Sign-up starts at 7 p.m. (859) 272-3611.

North Carolina

  • Pinheads graveyard has a haunted half-mile wooded trail just outside of Asheville for a 25-minute self-guided scary stroll, complete with intricately costumed monsters. 828-670-8228
  • All aboard Tweetsie’s Ghost Train for a nighttime ride with spooky engineer Casey Bones, in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Family friendly Halloween adventure. 800-526-5740

Virginia

  • The June Tolliver House, Big Stone Gap, Virginia. There are reports of moving paintings and figures moving in front of the window. 276-523-4707

Tennessee

We want to hear your favorite place to visit for Halloween. Send us a Tweet.

Music in today’s show was provided by The Soaked Lamb, Nora Keys, Larry Dowling, Ryan Adams, as heard on Mountain Stage.