Unexplained sightings of ghostly lights date back to the early settlers in what is now West Virginia. These glowing curiosities puzzled the pioneers causing concerns of the supernatural sort. Some settlers viewed these lights as omens of doom while others saw them as magical entities. In medieval times, it was thought they were the fiery breath of dragons. Ghost Lights are not unique to the Mountain State and have been seen worldwide in various locations. They are typically white, blue, orange or yellow in color and are usually seen at night.
Ghost lights have also been called will o’ the wisps, earth lights, and spook lights. The most popular ghost lights in the United States are the Brown Mountain lights in North Carolina – popular enough to spawn a bluegrass song! There are several Ghost Lights in West Virginia. We will cover two this month.
Sandstone Ghost Light of Raleigh County
This Ghost Light sighting dates back to the Civil War era. Samuel Richmond of Raleigh County was a staunch Union man who ran a ferry service across the New River near Laurel Creek. Samuel was shot by a Confederate sympathizer by the name of Jefferson Bennett in September of 1865. Samuel was shot in his canoe crossing the New River but managed to paddle back to shore before his life ended. He died from his gunshot wound near his home on the Raleigh County side of the river. Many people have claimed to see what is called the Sandstone Ghost Light at night over the river. Many speculate the light is the spirit of Samuel Richmond as he makes his night time journey across the river for all eternity.
Cole Mountain Ghost Light of Hardy County
Hardy County West Virginia is no stranger to the unique phenomena of Ghost Lights. Folks who live around Moorefield have whispered of the Ghost Light sightings dating back before the Civil War began. Wealthy land owner and noted hunter Charles Jones lived in the Moorefield area and owned several slaves. When on late night hunts, Charles would often take his most trusted servant with him when coon hunting on Cole Mountain.
On one late night hunt, both master and slave heard the dogs baying as if they had treed a coon. The slave ran ahead of the master to view the dog’s capture and upon his return, found his master gone. The slave searched high and low in the woods to no avail. Search parties in town were formed for Charles Jones. The locals soon gave up but the slave continued his search. Charles was never found but the townspeople would often see the glow of the slave’s yellow lantern light as he went to and fro across Cole Mountain in his search for his master.
The faithful servant continued his night time search till he mysteriously vanished in the woods on the one year anniversary of his master’s disappearance. On occasion, and to this very day, people around Moorefield still report seeing the glowing light on the mountain. Some say it is the light of the slave’s lantern as he continues to search for his owner in the afterlife.
What exactly are Ghost Lights? Scientists offer plausible explanations of swamp gas, ball lightening, and foxfire glow. And then there are those of us who enjoy the old stories and legends handed down through the years. We look across dark rivers and shadowy mountains at night, wondering if we will see something magical!
Sherri Brake lives in Summersville WV . She is an author, paranormal investigator and owns Haunted Heartland Tours rated in the top 10 Best Ghost Tours in America by Haunted America Tours. Visit her website at www.HauntedHistory.net or email her Sherri@HauntedHistory.net
Owner/Haunted Heartland Tours
330-412-6114 cell 304-883-2392 office
Haunted Heartland Tours
PO Box 391
Canal Fulton OH 44614
Haunted Heartland Tours
10 Scenic Highway
Summersville WV 26651
Built on the site of a Civil War camp ravaged by disease, the Ohio State Reformatory first opened in 1896 to reform young offenders but eventually grew to house the most dangerous criminals. By the time the Mansfield institution closed, the prison was hosting one thousand more prisoners than it was designed to hold in "brutalizing and inhumane conditions." Within the dark corridors made famous as the backdrop for The Shawshank Redemption, ghostly presences linger, from the dungeons of solitary confinement to the West Wing showers, where a bent pipe marks the place where a prisoner hanged himself. Venture behind the walls of this notorious prison with ghost tour guide Sherri Brake to discover the history and spirits that forever haunt these halls' if you dare.
About the Author
Sherri Brake is an author, paranormal investigator, lecturer, instructor, Civil War reenactor and tour guide. She has over twenty-five years of experience in the field of the paranormal and is a lover of history and folklore. Her company, Haunted Heartland Tours, has been voted into the nation's top ten best ghost tours for the last five years. She continues to seek out new haunted locations to explore and enjoys sharing those places with others. Sherri is the author of Haunted Stark County, Ohio and writes a monthly column entitled "Fireside Folklore" for Two-Lane Livin'. She is a member of various historical societies and heritage organizations and is the mother of two children, Sage and Mason Recco.