Ghost Stories Linger In Tyler and Wetzel Counties
Ghost stories abound this time of year when the shadows grow long in places near and far in Tyler and Wetzel Counties.
“These kinds of stories tell us something about the history of the area,” said Susan Doll, a professor of pop culture and film studies at the Ringling College of Art and Design in Sarasota, Fla. Long familiar with the stories and legends of the area, Doll still has family who lives in Tyler County. Her book, “Haunted Tales from the Holler”, is a tale-filled tome that chronicles things go bump in the night within West Virginia.
Doll tells one story about a former Confederate officer who haunts the old Williams Cemetery on the hill in New Martinsville.
“He had such an adventurous life that he can’t let go of this earth,” she said.
The man’s name is Robert McEldowney, who was born and raised in New Martinsville, and educated at Marietta College, Doll said. Though West Virginia would eventually join the Union, McEldowney’s home was a part of Virginia when the Civil War broke out. Like many, McEldowney had a choice to make in a war that split not only the nation, but Virginia; he chose the Confederacy.
McEldowney was a captain in the Shriver Grays, which served with General Stonewall Jackson’s formidable forces.
He fought in major battles in places such as Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, Doll said. McEldowney was wounded three times with his last injury occurring in 1864. That injury, she said, kept him from the fighting in the war’s final days.
McEldowney survived the war, Doll said, and went onto a career with the B&O Railroad and later as a lawyer in New Martinsville. In 1879, McEldowney took charge of the Wetzel Democrat, a forerunner of today’s Wetzel Chronicle. He was an active civic leader who served in the state legislature.
“Despite serving in the Confederacy, McEldowney still did a lot of good things for the state,” Doll said.
More than 35 years or so after the Civil War ended, McEldowney died in 1900 at the ripe old age of 63. Doll said people have reported seeing his ghost in the old cemetery for years. He wears period clothing, not his Confederate uniform.
“It is like he is lingering there – like he doesn’t want to go,” Doll said.
Tyler County is no stranger to tales from beyond the grave.
Maybe like the Mothman of Point Pleasant fame, there is a supernatural creature that is known to haunt the woods around Friendly. Doll said the animal has a coal-black coat of fur, huge pointy ears and head topped off with spikes or quills.
As the story goes, two teenagers were babysitting in the years after World War II when they saw the creature, Doll said. When the animal crawled through the home’s window, the teens took the kids and ran away.
“No one believed the teens,” Doll said. “Some people thought they made up the tale so they wouldn’t have to babysit anymore. But, other people reported seeing the creature too.”
Doll said no one caught the beast or ever found it, so it may still be lurking in the woods. She said the legend traces its origins to black dog stories from the British Isles – stories that have been shared for hundreds of years.
If a supernatural beast doesn’t put the hair on someone’s neck on end, then there is the story of the Adena Indians – known for the grave mounds and relics.
Doll said in the area around Little Sancho in the 1940s, there were some kids doing what kids used to do, which is search for indian artifacts, arrowheads and more. During their search, the boys came across a shadowy area when they felt a cold breeze. A mist that was as tall a person formed in front of the boys. The mist was drifting up and down, she said.
“The boys were shocked at first, so they decided to leave,” Doll said. “Maybe it was a manifestation that wanted to prevent them taking artifacts from an indian burial ground – a warning spirit.”
After countless hours of research into ghosts and supernatural stories, Doll has come to believe that though we are not alone, there is such a thing as a tall tale.
“I believe there is something beyond the physical world, though I recognize that some of the stories have been enhanced over the years,” she said.