Author Topic: Haunted Parkersburg Means Big $$$  (Read 3246 times)

Devious Viper
  • Guest
Haunted Parkersburg Means Big $$$
« on: August 23, 2006, 01:50:21 PM »
Ghost stories big attraction in area
by Rachel Lane

Click for image:The Van Winkle-Wix house, built in 1836, is said to be haunted. People said they have heard footsteps when there is no one else in the Ann Street house.

PARKERSBURG — People have been showing a greater interest in things that go bump in the night in the Parkersburg area.

The Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tours, the former West Virginia Penitentiary in Moundsville and the Castle in Marietta have all noticed an increase in people visiting for the ghost stories. Some of the people are local. Others live outside the area.

“Every year has gotten better,” said Pat Kleinedler, tour coordinator at the former penitentiary. She has been working at the former penitentiary for about five years. Several years ago, night tours and ghost hunting were started. This year, flashlight tours and ghost hunting classes are being offered.

“I think our day tours have picked up too,” Kleinedler said. Many people are on waiting lists to have night tours. Every weekend is filled from this past April to the closing of the season.

“I think the entertainment is fantastic. You get your own entertainment just by walking through and letting your imagination go,” Kleinedler said. “It’s creepy in the daytime. Most people feel something.”

Parts of the penitentiary housed convicted murderers.

Kleinedler said one of the men returned recently to see where he once lived.

“He’d murdered someone. It was an act of passion, but he still murdered someone,” she said. He visited the cell he had lived in for much of his life, then donated some of his paintings to the former penitentiary.

“We have some of his paintings hanging up” she said. Prints of some of the man’s work can be purchased in the gift shop.

“I think there’s just an increase in interest” in the paranormal, said Susan Sheppard, organizer of the Haunted Parkersburg Ghost Tour and author of “Gallows Tree: A Mothman’s Tale.”

She spoke recently with a group from Ironton, Ohio, about the mothman tale. “They came specifically to hear the story of the mothman,” Sheppard said.

While on the tour, she tells stories about the Banshee of Marrtown, the Ghost of Silver Run and stories about Blennerhassett Island and Blennerhassett Hotel.

“Those are among the favorites,” Sheppard said. “The mothman is one of the favorites.”

The haunted walking tour is popular at a national level.

“I do know the haunted Parkersburg tour is in the top 20 in the nation,” Sheppard said. This is the smallest city to make the list.

“I think it takes people’s minds off the true horrors of life,” she said. “That may explain why it’s so popular now.”

Lynne Shuman, executive director of the Castle in Marietta, said much of the traffic she has seen at the Castle has been people from the region.

“I think people are staying closer to home,” she said. Fewer buses of people have stopped this summer, but the overall number of people who stop is still high because of all the families that go.

“People love ghost tours,” she said.

The haunting of the Castle is talked about only around Halloween, when ghost tours are given.

“We have a story for every room,” she said. “We don’t try to mislead anyone. We don’t say it’s haunted. We say this is what happened, and let them decide.”

There are many strange stories, like misting appearing between one photo and the next.

“How do we explain it? We don’t, but it happened,” Shuman said.

source: Parkersburg News and Sentinel

Devious Viper
  • Guest
Re: Haunted Parkersburg Means Big $$$
« Reply #1 on: August 23, 2006, 01:59:38 PM »
Tourists respond to scare tactics
by Kris Wise August 22, 2006

Ghosts and goblins and things that go bump in the night are becoming big business in West Virginia. Mirroring a nationwide trend, cities and counties are drawing tourists by touting some of West Virginia's weirder attractions, from the Braxton County monster to the ghoulish gal who supposedly haunts a quaint little hotel in Lewisburg.

Ghost tours and haunted trails are becoming one of the more popular pastimes for people to offer in cities trying to get themselves on the map. John Luckton, a 50-year-old advertising executive in Lewisburg, has been turning tour guide by night for the past 13 years. Luckton runs Ghost Tours of West Virginia in Lewisburg and Beckley during the height of the state's tourist season, which runs from about June through November.

Business is especially brisk starting in early September and lasts through late October, when more travelers visit the Mountain State for fall foliage tours and when those with an interest in all things haunted start thinking about Halloween. "Every year beginning probably about 1997, there were constant increases each year," Luckton said. "I'm not saying one or two more people, I'm talking 20 percent more at least each year. Lewisburg is the golden grail," Luckton said.

His tours take guests past top historical spots that supposedly have a hint of a haunted heritage, from the city's Carnegie Hall to the Old Stone Presbyterian Church Yard.

Luckton offers walkers their choice between his 45-minute "Haunted Mansions of Lewisburg" tour and his 90-minute cemetery tour. Most people opt to do both, he said. "Everybody's favorite is the Greenbrier Ghost," Luckton said, invoking the name of one of West Virginia's most famous, or infamous, spirits.

The way Luckton tells the story, a woman named Zona Shue came back from the grave to visit her mother and reveal that she had been murdered by her husband. Her mother told the tale to anyone in town who would listen, and she convinced authorities to exhume her daughter's body. The corpse was found to have had a compound fracture in her neck, and Shue's husband eventually was convicted of her murder.

A plaque in Lewisburg now proclaims the case as the only one in which a person was convicted of first-degree murder based on the testimony of a ghost.

Tales like those keep Luckton's tours on Lewisburg's must-do list.

Luckton's headquarters are at the General Lewis Inn, where the two most requested rooms are the ones that are rumored to get frequent visits from harmless, yet ghostly guests.

Kim Cooper, executive director for the Greenbrier County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Lewisburg, said the haunted tours have been a hit with the type of tourist on which the county depends.

"For us, it's a great attraction, especially during the fall months when they're feeling the need to walk around and see some additional sights," said Cooper, who once helped Luckton run his tour business. "It has been one of the top things people told us they wanted to see added, was a guided walking tour. Certainly, people are still expressing interest in the ghosts and the haunted sites."

Kari Thompson of the Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau said tips she has gathered from attending some of the nation's top tourism conferences have recently centered on how hauntings can help attract travelers. "The things that we're getting, as far as the hot things to see and do, ghost tours keep surfacing," Thompson said. "It's one of the few things that are popular, and that stay popular."

Parkersburg has at least one privately run ghost walk, and it has become a favorite place for the state's own group of self-proclaimed ghosthunters who track and investigate such claims and document their findings on the Internet.

The state Division of Tourism also has begun using the Internet to help market West Virginia to those interested in adding a horror theme to their vacation. The agency features an entire section on its Web site devoted to listing ghost tales of West Virginia and the fairs, festivals and tours that pay homage to the supernatural. Tourism officials from around the state said their cities and towns also have benefited from some recent exposure West Virginia has had on various cable ghost-themed shows over the past couple of years.

The Sci-Fi, Discovery and Travel channels have featured everything from the state's eerie Civil War history to stories about the state's spooky old jails. Mason County, especially, has seen tourism increase since the Mothman became an international movie star.

"We're on every single network right now, and it seems like no matter where you turn there's a Mothman special on some time," said Denny Bellamy, head of the Mason County Tourism Center and economic development director for Point Pleasant. "Right now, economic development is tourism and tourism is the Mothman," Bellamy said. "We've had a camera crew of some sort here pretty much since May, and we have people coming from all over the world to see the Mothman museum and the statue."

Last week, two people visited from Liverpool, England and Sydney, Australia. Both were traveling the United States and had picked Point Pleasant as one of their stops specifically because of the Mothman legend. Point Pleasant's annual Mothman Festival attracted 3,000 people last year, and organizers are expecting at least 5,000 this year.

"It has been doubling every year," Bellamy said. "It's becoming kind of like a convention for all the ghostbusters in the country."

Braxton County had a similar sort of interest in its famed Braxton County monster, so much so the county had to make up a brochure about the legend and decided to start its own Monster Fest just last year. This year, the one-day festival, held in the parking lot of the Flatwoods Outlets, is expected to bring in at least 1,000 people.

"I was surprised by how many calls we get from out of state from people just interested in the monster," said Connie Skidmore, who's been executive director of the Braxton County Visitors Bureau since March. "It's just a good way to get people into the county and show them what else there is to see and do."

source: Charleston daily mail