Double, double toil and
trouble, Fire burn and cauldron bubble.
Cool it with a baboon’s
blood, Then the charm is firm and good.
O, well done, I commend
your pains. And now about the cauldron
sing Like elves and fairies in a ring.
By the pricking of my
Something wicked this way comes.
From “MacBeth” by William
Not all fairy tales have happy endings.
Not all fairies bring goodness and light.
Among the Irish and Scottish people there
is a supernatural creature they call “the
The Banshee is an attendant death fairy,
one that brings an omen of doom to Irish
or Scottish clans. It is the Banshee that
announces the death of a family member,
usually over bodies of water with her
keening or caoine, a shrill crying for
But the Banshee doesn’t just stay
near bodies of water washing out the grave
clothes of her dead as it is told. She
also travels to the homes of those about
to die, sometimes mounted on a pale steed
or riding a black funeral coach with two,
pale headless horses leading the way.
There are various descriptions of the
Banshee. The Irish Banshee is called Bean
Sidhe in an older tongue. Depending upon
what source you use, “Bean”
means woman and “Sidhe” (shee)
means fairy. But other sources say that
Bean Sidhe is translated as “woman
of the hills.” Some ancient lore
says the Banshee can even be the ghost
of a young woman who has died in childbirth,
especially if she was not given the last
rites of confession.
The Irish Banshee is said to materialize
as a beautiful young woman with streaming
auburn hair. She wears a green woolen
dress with gray cloak clasped about her
shoulders. The Irish Banshee hangs out
at rivers and waterfalls. The only hint
that this beautiful Banshee is a messenger
of doom comes from the fact that her eyes
are blood red from crying for her Irish
The Scottish Banshee, the “Bean
Nighe,” is more menacing. The Scottish
Banshee dresses in moldering grave clothes,
her face covered by a tattered veil. Often,
she rides a prancing white steed. Her
age and features are difficult to make
out but she appears to be a decrepit crone.
And yet, the Banshee’s movements
are lithe and she rides her pale horse
sometimes with a black hearse following
behind her. Rarely, the shroud of the
Scottish Banshee is crimson, reddened
by the gore of blood.
The Mid-Ohio Valley as well as West Virginia
was settled predominantly of people of
Irish and Scottish ancestry. Along with
the Welsh and French, they shard ancient
Celtic ties and are descended from clans.
The Celts believed in unique forms of
mysticism, such as sorcerers, witches,
leprechauns and fairies, and not the least
of them — the Banshee.
Stories of Banshee spirits went underground
as Irish and Scottish immigrants moved
into the verdant hills of the Ohio Valley
and West Virginia. But the legend of the
Banshee is not entirely forgotten, as
you will see by reading the following
Let us travel back to the shores of Scotland
on a blustery winter day in the year
1590. A group of women, known later as
the Berwick Witches, summoned their
powers at the ocean’s edge. Over
the icy waters of the North Sea, King
James VI and
his new bride Anne of Denmark made their
way back to Scotland when their boat
nearly capsized. Later, rumors circulated
that King James was in great danger from
a plot or a curse put upon him by the
witches of North Berwick.
This quickly caught King James’s
attention, since he had always been fascinated
by witchcraft. It wasn’t long until
the supposed witches were captured and
put on trial.
One young woman, called Gilly Duncan,
confessed under torture that she and other
witches cursed the King, and was intent
upon murdering him by chanting spells
and evil curses. She also claimed that
she and other witches were in cahoots
with the Earl of Boswell, first in line
to the throne after King James’s
death, and they wished him dead.
King James’s morbid fascination
with witchcraft only fed his paranoid
delusions about the mysterious powers
of woman. It was during James’s
translation of the King James Bible that
he changed the Hebrew word for “poisoner”
into the English word for “witch,”
two terms that are hardly interchangeable.
The word stuck however, and the rest is
sad history of the murder of many innocent
people, mostly women.
King James had earlier written a treatise
against witchcraft. Wild claims about
the Devil being intent upon murdering
King James were made and rumors flew.
It was reported back to King James that
a group of Scottish witches had gathered
at night near a castle in Edinburgh where
they fashioned a waxen image, or witch’s
poppet (a European version of a voodoo
doll) of the King. In front of a raging
bonfire, the witches passed the wax doll
amongst themselves, chanting in unison:
“This is King James the VI, ordained
to be consumed at the instance of a nobleman,
Francis Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.”
The witches’ poppet was tossed into
the flames where it melted away instantly.
Were such dubious claims likely? It is
highly doubtful. Most of the women charged
with witchcraft identified themselves
as devout Christians, and would not likely
talk ill against such a powerful and paranoid
But the story fit in perfectly with what
the King already believed, making him
even more determined to hunt down the
“witches” who were “persecuting”
him. More “witches” were brought
forth and the King himself interrogated
them. It was alleged that 200 witches
met at a Church in North Berwick on All
Hallows Eve to curse King James again.
It was then told that the Devil himself
presided over the meeting wearing a black
mask, preaching obedience to him and bringing
great evil against the King. Unable to
stay quiet a moment longer, King James
interjected and called the witches present
For some inexplicable reason, one of the
witches gestured for the King to come
closer. She whispered words King James
had spoken to his wife on their wedding
night. No one knew why the woman would
do such a thing. It sealed their doom.
The witches were later executed at Edinburgh’s
Castle Hill. But it did not end there.
In later years, Scottish witches were
“brought to justice” at MacBeth’s
Hill near the town of Nairn. Witchcraft
had a strong hold in Scotland. Scottish
rule executed 4,400 alleged witches. Only
a handful of witches were executed in
England and Ireland. Next to Germany,
Scotland murdered more people during their
witch trials than any other country.
In light of our tale, if the names of
“Duncan” and “MacBeth”
sound familiar, there is a reason for
it. It has long been thought that King
James held great influence over William
Shakespeare and was even responsible for
Shakespeare’s unflattering portrayal
of Scottish witches in his play “Macbeth.”
James supported the works of Shakespeare,
whose famous plays came about later.
King James was certainly one of the most
literate of all British Kings and Shakespeare’s
Macbeth was written only seventeen years
after initial royal paranoia about the
Berwick witches, a long enough time for
the imagination to fodder and take certain
liberties with the actual story.
Most of the scenes for MacBeth took place
at Glamis Castle, allegedly the most haunted
castle in Scotland. This was even acknowledged
in the day of Shakespeare. But Scotland’s
influence on public thought having to
do with witches and witchcraft did not
end there. Many trials and executions
were to follow later.
And yet the powers of witchcraft still
lurked in Scotland’s remote forests,
its lonely crashing shores and mystic
mountains of gloom.
North of Aberdeen, there is a haunted
place called the “Forest of Marr.”
It is believed this is the area where
some of the Scottish witches escaped.
As they went underground, the women’s
occult powers grew. It was conjectured
that the ghosts of the executed witches
eventually became Banshee spirits and
continued to roam the countryside bringing
death to the Scottish Clans who backed
King James or were responsible for their
From that area of Scotland to Wood County,
came a family named “Marr.”
Some have said that their lives were marred
by the earlier witches’ tragedies.
And now we begin our first tale moving
from the dark reaches of Scotland into
the even darker reaches of West Virginia...
The Banshee of Marrtown
On certain lonely, moonless nights in
the Mid-Ohio Valley, under a sky littered
with stars, riding over the hills of Marrtown,
there appears a shrouded figure on a white
horse— one that is known as “the
Banshee of Marrtown.”
Marrtown was once a small farming community
southeast of the city of Parkersburg.
The family of Scottish immigrant Thomas
Marr settled Marrtown in 1836. Thomas
later married a local woman named Mary
Disosche whose family owned a local brewery.
The Marr family brought to America many
of the ancient beliefs and superstitions
from their native land of Scotland, where
a belief in banshees, witches and ghosts
remained strong. The daughter of a widow,
Mary Marr was an autumn bride, considered
to be an ill omen by the Scottish people.
In years to come, Mary would lose six
of the eight children that she bore. Only
two would carry on the Marr name. Times
were hard for Thomas and Mary Marr but
they did not lose their dream of a better
life, pouring their energies into a simple
tract of land that is now Marrtown. Soon,
a picturesque white farmhouse stood against
shadowy woods thick with sumac, milkweed
and blackberry brambles, framed by a sweeping
green valley. To the west of the Marr
homestead was a steep hill that ran directly
into the Ohio River. To the north was
Fort Boreman Hill, where Union troops
camped during the Civil War, and where
a Pest House housed locals and soldiers
who had contracted typhoid fever, small
pox and other diseases.
The years of the Civil War, as for most,
were not happy ones for the Marr Family.
They lost two of their children to typhoid
fever. From their front window Thomas
and Mary witnessed small clashes that
turned into bloody battles between Yankee
and Confederate soldiers. There were public
hangings on nearby Fort Boreman Hill.
As the Civil War drew to a close, marauding
soldiers from both sides stole freely
from the Marr family, making off with
what food and stock the family had put
away for themselves.
Shortly after the Civil War, the Marr
family’s Scottish brew of bad luck
appeared to come to an end. Thomas landed
a job as night watchman at the toll bridge
that crossed over the Little Kanawha River
from lower Parkersburg to the road leading
into Marrtown. Mary would stay home to
tend the farm and children. Still, there
were ominous hints of what was about to
On several occasions as Thomas traveled
to and from his work, he mentioned to
Mary about seeing a robed figure riding
a white horse. Thomas said that he came
upon this rider nearly every night in
the identical spot not far from his farmhouse.
Mr. Marr said he was not able to determine
the gender of the person on the horse
but it was as if their paths were fated
to meet. Some sense told Thomas that the
person was a woman but he couldn’t
be sure. The face remained covered by
a ragged hood. Whenever Thomas tried to
approach the shrouded figure, the white
mare reared. Horse and rider then disappeared
into the mists of morning. On a cold February
night in the year 1876, Mary sat by the
front window awaiting Thomas to come home
from his job. Earlier, Mary had awakened
suddenly and was eager to see her husband.
The middle-aged woman heard footsteps
coming up the road. She stood up to peer
out the window. But instead of Thomas,
a white horse loped up to the front gate
of the house and then stopped. Sitting
atop the horse was a rider whose face
was covered by a tattered veil. It looked
to be a woman. Alarmed, Mary moved from
her chair and walked outside into the
frigid night air. The rider, dressed in
the threadbare clothing of a beggar, remained
As bitter winds gusted, Mary pulled her
woolen shawl close. Mary asked the rider
what she wanted. There was no answer.
Plumes of icy air billowed from the nostrils
of the white horse. As Mary repeated her
question, rider and horse inched closer.
The aged woman sat stiffly in her saddle.
Underneath the gauzy veil, Mary saw that
the woman’s eyes radiated an eerie
After a few moments, the woman on the
horse spoke. “I am here to tell
you, Mary Marr that Thomas Marr has just
died. Say your prayers, Lady. I bid you
well.” Rider and horse turned abruptly
and galloped away.
Mary collapsed onto the front stoop.
Through tears, she watched the shrouded
woman and her horse vanish entirely just
as they reached the bend in the road.
Within the hour, a man who worked with
Thomas came to deliver the dreaded news.
No one knows for sure what happened to
Thomas Marr that fated winter evening.
Some say that while working at the toll
bridge Thomas was shot by an assailant’s
bullet then fell and drowned in the Little
Kanawha River. Others claim that it was
the cry of the Banshee that startled Thomas
into meeting his end in the river below.
Other reports have Thomas Marr found dead
along the B&O railroad tracks only
a few yards away from the turbulent waters.
After all, it is known that the keening
of the Banshee is most often heard over
bodies of water. The truth is, Thomas
Marr did die on February 5th, 1878 when
the Marrtown Banshee was to have made
her visit, and she had to cross water
to do so.
In years to come, the Banshee did not
abandon her Marr clan just yet. The ghostly
rider continued to make other visits to
the family. Mary Marr lived to be ninety
years old. Such advanced years were an
exception for the time. As Mary lay as
a corpse in the parlor of her home many
years after her husband’s death,
family members heard the rattling of chains
in the attic. Others claimed to hear the
shrieks of a wild cat near the house around
the same time.
A few years after Mary died, one of the
Marr descendents had his arm cut off in
a tragic accident. As family members sat
up with the boy, they heard snarling and
growling sounds on the porch. When the
women went outside to see what is was,
the stoop where Mary met her Banshee was
covered with blood as if a terrible struggle
had taken place.
What has become of the Banshee of Marrtown?
It is said she still rides, giving dreaded
omens to those of Scottish Blood. Not
Scottish or Irish, you say? You would
still be wise to avoid Marrtown on certain
still, dark and moonless nights...
The Banshee of Center
Banshees aside, if you have ever had
the opportunity to fly over West Virginia
and the Mid-Ohio Valley in a small plane,
you may have noticed the foliage below
appears as dense and electric-green as
that of a rainforest, an excellent place
for harboring fugitives but terrible for
In a time where most of the wilderness
in the U.S. is vanishing, West Virginia
is still “wild and wonderful,”
as the slogan says. But what kind of “wildness”
may mean something other than what the
travel ads claim. Native American tribes
were afraid of these lands. The Shawnee
Indians were especially spooked by the
lands east of the Ohio River and avoided
it as much as possible. The Native Americans
did not make a habit of settling into
what is now West Virginia believing cursed
by ghosts and strange beasts.
There is a community in a remote part
of Doddridge County called Center Point,
a place that is now a virtual ghost town.
Center Point is typical of small mountain
communities reclaimed by the woods. The
village used to have a post office and
the Ross Country Store, but that is all
but gone. A craggy, brown creek courses
through lush foliage with leaves as big
as mud flaps. Modest white houses cling
to the sides of hills with sloping yards
made muddy by children at play.
In Center Point, there isn’t much
for children to do other than chase each
other with sticks or head for the creek
in search of the little brown clots with
pinchers known so familiar to West Virginians
Unless you’re crazy about pleasant
green scenery, country areas, like Center
Point weren’t exactly a hullabaloo.
Nothing that good had happened there.
But nothing that bad happened either.
That is, until the summer of 1918, when
the Black Flu hit. That was the year when
the people of Center Point thought the
entire world was coming to an end. The
rest of the world did, too. Millions had
And…Unless you were a seven-year-old
girl named Pearl White who loved to play
in the woods, one who dreamed of flapping
her arms and flying away like a bird,
a place like Center Point could be pretty
dull. But there was plenty for Pearl to
do. She had drive and imagination. She
wasn’t worried about the Black Flu.
Sickness happened to people older than
she was and Pearl was invincible. Why,
she almost knew how to fly already!
It was near dusk in late summer. Pearl
was staying with her Grandmother at Center
Point on the farm while relatives traveled
to Pennsboro to help those already stricken
by Black Flu. Like so many of the flu
victims, Pearl’s young, unmarried
uncle had taken sick but appeared to be
doing fine. His flu didn’t seem
to be much worse than a chest cold. It
was odd how the Black Flu preyed upon
those in the full bloom of life. Many
victims that succumbed to the Black Flu
were young, only in their twenties and
thirties. But Pearls’ uncle was
in good spirits, sitting up and talking
as the day wore on.
One late August evening drew in a bit
more somberly than before. The indigo
of twilight was soon upon them. The night
was clear. There was not one cloud among
the stars. Flickering lights studded the
evening sky. Pearl counted them as the
Big Dipper, the belt of Orion, the North
Star and dreamed of flying to all of them.
Center Point was small, but the world
was still hers.
Pearl’s grandmother was in the
process of taking her granddaughter to
the outhouse one more time for the night
before retiring to bed. As darkness enclosed,
the clip-clop sound of horses’ hooves
sounded up the road. The trot was slow
and measured. Whoever it was didn’t
seem to be in a hurry. They looked around
to see a rider on a horse. Grandmother
thought, perhaps it was the mailman paying
a late visit. After all, the Black Flu
had taken its toll on Center Point. Many
people had died. Mail could arrive at
just about anytime of day or evening.
Pearl and her grandmother paused to watch
the rider and horse make their way toward
the farmhouse. Crickets sang in the shadows.
It seemed strange how the figure sat
erect on the horse and was enshrouded
in pale, fluttering rags almost like a
mummy. The horse itself was also pale
like a ghost. The gender of the rider
could not be made out either although
something told them it was a woman.
Pearl felt an urge to draw near the figure.
She was curious and ran toward the front
porch, where the horse and rider seemed
to be intent upon stopping. Her grandmother
followed Pearl. Now they could see that
the rider looked more like an old woman
and still, the little girl was not sure.
The rider’s face was covered by
what was a torn, ragged veil Garnet red
eyes glittered beneath the gauzy fabric.
The hands looked old and waxen, too, like
those that had been sealed within a coffin.
Pearl’s grandmother recoiled but
still the little girl ran to meet the
figure on the horse anyway. They sauntered
up the front walk. The sun was entirely
gone, the world left in shadows. The rider
tugged on the bridle and the horse stopped.
In later years, Pearl would say that she
was so close to that Banshee’s horse
that she could feel its hot breath on
Yes, those of Celtic blood called this
creature a Banshee. Pearl and her relatives
were of Scottish descent and this is a
classic way that the Scottish Banshee
appears, always as a shrouded figure.
And yet, on that fated night in Center
Point the Banshee spirit issued a warning.
She pointed a bony finger at Pearl’s
Grandmother and proclaimed in a rasping
voice, “One of yours is to die this
very night!” A keening cry split
the evening’s stillness. Banshee
and horse instantly vanished.
Shaken and left in shadows, Pearl and
her grandmother hugged each other. But
there was no time to think about the terrible
thing that had just happened. Already
sounds were coming from the house, sounds
of someone struggling for air.
It was Pearl’s uncle. The two ran
inside just in time to realize that the
young man’s lungs filled with fluid.
Blood foamed from his nose and mouth.
This was the usual way people died when
they had the Black Flu. Grandmother knew
it. There was no saving him. Within moments,
Pearl’s uncle had drowned in his
own blood. After the death rattle, all
became still, except for the sound of
horses’ hooves galloping away. It
was then something squalled like a wildcat
in the distance.
Despite the evening when she witnessed
her uncle’s terrible death from
the Black Flu, Pearl White grew up and
she did learn to fly. She became a pioneer
in the field of aviation and was the first
woman to parachute out of a plane. Pearl
was a member of the famous “Barnstormers,”
a name given to pilots who performed dangerous
stunts. Pearl performed her stunts all
the way from the Pennsboro Fair in 1935
to the movies in Hollywood, California.
In her life, Pearl White feared very
little. In fact, as a young woman she
was attracted to danger. When she was
just at the age of sixteen, men would
strap Pearl’s body to the belly
of a plane, go up and then swoop down
so she could pick up small objects off
the ground. She broke her back one time,
and that was at Ravenswood, West Virginia
in 1935 and yet she came back.
It was strange how in later years, Pearl
was often afraid to sit outside on her
front porch at her modest home on upper
Juliana Street in Parkersburg. There was
something that disturbed her... the oncoming
Pearl was not afraid to be strapped
to a plane and fly through the air. She
was not afraid to jump out of one as a
teenager. After meeting up with the Center
Point Banshee as a small child the only
thing Pearl White was ever afraid of —
was the dark.
The Coach-A-Bower-Of-Mineral Wells
The Banshee has a power that she shares
with witches, and that is the power of
glamoury. Glamoury is a Gaelic word that
simply means to ‘shape shift’
to alter ones self at will. It is also
the Scottish derivative of the Old French
“gramaire,” where also our
word “grammar” came from which
meant to “recite a spell!”
To some, glamoury is an illusion. To
others glamoury is real. Witches are said
to master glamoury by turning into birds,
animals or even a more attractive or younger
person. But in Ireland, Scotland and West
Virginia the Banshee sometimes takes on
another form, one that is neither animal
Along Route 14, between the small communities
of Mineral Wells and Elizabeth, the Banshee
assumes the disquieting form of a death
omen. In Gaelic it is called the Coiste-Bodhar,
or the ‘Coach-A-Bower,’ a
black hearse with a coffin strapped to
the top and lead by two white headless
horses. In Ireland and Scotland, the Coach-A-Bower
often precedes the visit of the Banshee.
And since the Banshee appears at households
to announce a death, you would best do
well not to open the door when you hear
the rumbling of a carriage outside for
it is then the darker side of the Banshee’s
fairy powers of the Coach-A-Bower become
evident. Those who are unwise enough to
open the door are met with a basin of
blood tossed into their faces.
However, even in the quiet meadows and
mossy woods of West Virginia, the Coach-A-Bower
is updated. It is a phantom black hearse
that winds its way along Route 14 between
Mineral Wells and Elizabeth. And yet,
the hearse is not entirely modern. It
appears to be one from the time of the
1950s, perhaps even earlier.
A spiritualist group meets in Mineral
Wells once a month upon every Full Moon.
They have done so for a few years, and
many evenings are spent
communicating with spirits from other
realms. No one had given a thought to
the idea of a Banshee appearing!
In the spring of 1998, one séance
lasted well past midnight. As one of the
participants got into her car to go home,
she noticed that the air had grown quite
chilly and the full moon, that now looked
to be the size of a pearl, had slipped
behind veils of black clouds. As the woman
proceeded with her drive on Route 14 toward
Parkersburg from Mineral Wells, she soon
noticed that she was trailing a black
As the hearse ambled through the hills,
it looked shiny but dangerous, like a
loaded gun. In the mist and fog, its’
taillights blinked like a pulse. The woman
thought that it was odd that a hearse
would be out at such a late hour. What
was stranger was the fact that the hearse,
with pulled velvet curtains, appeared
to be from a different era like a relic
put in antique car shows, or those dusted
off for community parades as curiosities
from the past.
The woman followed closely, it would
seem rude or disrespectful to pass a hearse.
Within moments the hearse had vanished.
Curious, the woman sped up a bit to see
if she could catch another glimpse of
the black, snaking vehicle. By the time
she got to the interchange that would
take her back to Parkersburg there was
no sign of the hearse.
But seeing the old-fashioned hearse was
so unusual the woman did not forget it
and later asked the others if they had
seen the hearse on the way home? No one
Within the month, one of the members of
the spiritual group experienced a wrenching
family tragedy so terrible that it would
be sacrilege to reveal in a format like
this that is meant to entertain. The woman
often talked of visiting Scotland and
was proud of having Scottish blood. She
dreamed of a time when she could see first-hand
ancient Scotland where a belief in psychic
powers and omens remained strong. Was
it the Banshee’s Coach-A-Bower or
just a strange mix of circumstances that
foreshadowed the tragic event?
As with many mysteries, we will never
And yet, it is important to remember that
every Scottish and Irish clan has its’
own Banshee. According to the Irish poet
Yeats, important people often have an
entire chorus of Banshees to sing upon
Luckily, I’ve not met my Banshee
Let us hope you won’t meet yours
any time too soon.
Last year, Susan Sheppard author and
founder of Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours
was featured on the ABC Family Channel’s
popular show “Scariest Places on
Earth” as a psychic medium at the
Shawnee Amusement Park in Bluefield, West
Virginia. She has previously taught “Be
Your Own Psychic” classes at the
Self-Health & Awareness Center and
continues appear before audiences and
live television as a psychic medium.
She is the author of The Phoenix Cards:
Reading and Interpreting Past-Life Influences
with the Phoenix Deck, Cry Of The Banshee
by Richard Southall and Susan Sheppard,
The Gallows Tree: A Mothman's Tale, The
Astrological Guide to the Seduction and
Romance, A Witch's Runes: How to Make
and Use Your Own Magick Stone, The Astrological
Guide To Seduction And Romance: How to
Love Libra, Turn on a Taurus, and Seduce
Not only is Susan an exceptional psychic,
she is knowledgeable in the field of the
unknown. She remains up-to-date on the
latest developments in research concerning
The Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours,
located in Parkersburg, WV, USA, (Voted
To Haunted America
Tours Top Ten List for 2007 - 2008)
hosts regular ghost tours in season, from
Mid-September throughout October 31st,
private ghost tours go on throughout the
year. Tour meets in the haunted and historic
Blennerhassett Hotel at 7:30 p.m. in the
lobby. The ghost tour features many unusual
paranormal and ghost tales such as the
Banshee of Marrtown, Civil War Ghosts,
the local appearance of the alien Indrid
Cold, the West Virginia Mothman, haunted
railroads, haunted graveyards, the East
End Ghoul, Ghostly hands,Women-in-White
spirit appearances and haunted islands.
The ghost tour is led by paranormal experts,
published authors and noted psychic mediums.
Web Site www.hauntedparkersburg.com