While growing up in Richwood, West Virginia, I had always heard local tales of the paranormal. There was a couple of friends of mine who had been visited by a Sasquatch-type creature in the Cranberry backcountry. There was the tale of the nearby Braxton County Green Monster. Ghost stories too many to count were told in every hollow in the hills. Of course, no West Virginia native has gone without hearing a tale or two of the Mothman. However, I never would have expected that I would have my own run-in with any such phenomena.
The first part of my story, which at the time I didn’t even realize was part of any story at all, goes all the way back to high school. It was the fall of 1991. My high school sweetheart and I were parked on top of Fork Mountain, just outside of Richwood, to, um, “watch a meteorite shower.” Yeah, that is what we were doing.
We had found a very secluded location on top of the hill, surely not to be disturbed by anyone. We killed the ignition to my father’s truck and started… “watching the night sky.”
Within minutes, a very eerie feeling came over both of us. I clicked on the head lights, feeling as if something or someone was watching us. There was no one there. I killed the lights and we… “went back to where we had left off.”
Only a moment later that same feeling returned and I clicked on the lights again. This time as well, there was no one there.
“Let’s get out of here,” my girlfriend said.
“Good idea,” I concurred. We headed off of the mountain never to return to that particular spot.
Two years later, while deer hunting in the same location with my father, he wanted to show me something he had found in the woods several months before. I followed him off of the trail, only a few yards into the woods, and could not believe what I saw. There were at least eight unmarked graves.
The earth was sunken in where each grave was located. They were about six feet long and two feet wide. There were triangular shaped stones at both the head and feet of the graves. They were facing east to west, proper burial fashion.
My father, as well as the old man who owned the land, well into his eighties now, if not nineties, had no information on the graves. Who was buried there? How long had they been there? Did anyone know? After years of research, to include talking to many of the local old timers, in their nineties themselves, nothing has turned up.
All these years later, nearly twenty to be exact, the mystery still haunts me. One night on a recent trip to visit my hometown, I decided I would spend the night, camping by the graves. I have always been curious about the paranormal, though, other than that night of parking with my high school sweetheart, I had never had an experience with it.
On this night, I got to the top of the mountain about two hours before dark. An Airborne Infantryman in the Army National Guard, I had packed my rucksack with all that I would need and hiked up the hill, about three miles above my parent’s house. And the hill is straight up!
After reaching the location, I took my time setting up a proper, Army bivouac site. I had taken only a mosquito net instead of a tent (the more you carry, the more it weighs). I had with me as well my Army sleeping bag and enough food and water to last for the night and the next day.
I carefully cut poles from which to hang my net, using my Leathermen Wave multi-tool. I made sure that everything was perfect, right down to my small campfire ring constructed of large sandstones. It was such a picture perfect site, having taken more than an hour to construct, that I pulled out my digital camera and began taking pictures.
While reviewing the pictures of the campsite, I noticed that a couple of them appeared to have orbs in them. Convinced it was nothing more than smoke or ash rising from my small campfire, I thought nothing of it. I then made my way to the graves, thirty yards above me, and began taking pictures as well. One of these pictures also came out with a perfectly formed orb just above one of the graves. There was no smoke from the fire here. As the rest of the picture revealed, there was no rain or other forms of moisture in the air. This made me curious and a bit nervous.
After heating up and eating a can of Chef Boyardee Ravioli just as it was turning dark, I made my way into my mosquito net. I stripped down, got into my sleeping bag and began listening to the sounds of the night. The tree frogs were so loud I wondered if I would ever be able to get to sleep.
Five minutes later, the tree frogs stopped chirping. My fire that had been burning brightly went out. I had thrown a log on it before retreating to my mosquito net that should have burned for a couple of hours. The fire was gone.
I then heard what sounded like a dog whining, coming from the graves. As I listened, I thought that it also resembled the sound of a child crying. I quickly grabbed my flashlight, turned it on, and shined it toward the graves. However, the light did nothing more than reflecting off of my net, blinding me.
As I was trying to see past my light’s glare, something, a rock perhaps, came whizzing in my direction from the site of the graves.
“Screw this!” I said. I began getting dressed. I jumped out of the net and poured the rest of my water on the hot coals where the fire had been and began taking down my net. What took more than an hour to set up, was taken down and packed in my sack in only five minutes.
Just as I zipped the zipper on the small pocket I put my final item in, my camera, another object came flying in my direction from the graves. My fire now burst into brilliant flames. I put my backpack on, stomped out the fire, and began heading off of the mountain, armed only with my flashlight.
At one point, just a little bit down the trail, it felt as if an overhanging limb caught my backpack. I jerked hard, leaning forward, and almost fell down. I looked back at my light and saw that there was no limb or other obstruction there. The trail was completely clear.
I made it home at eleven o’clock, to the laughter of my mother who had left the front door unlocked.
The next day I told my father and several friends about the experience. My father took my nephews hiking up there a couple days later. When they returned, my father told me they had found a séance ring in the woods below where I had camped. It was a flat rock, circled with coins that had obviously been there quite a while. He knew what it was because he had found one a year ago on the mountain behind the Cranberry Wilderness Visitor’s center. That particular ring had been lined with candy, feathers, AND coins. He had reported it to a local Forest Service employee who explained to him what it was. Evidently, they are common in these old, West Virginia hills from where people go out from time to time and try to communicate with spirits.
Thinking my father was trying to play a trick on me, I went back up the next day, leaving in time to be out of the woods before dark, and indeed found the ring myself. It was not a trick. It was obvious that the coins had been there for years. They were so weathered that I could only make out the date on one of them, the fifth coin I attempted, a penny dated 1985. To make this tale even creepier, the site of the ring is where it felt as if something had grabbed me from behind.
I’ve mountain biked and hiked on top of Fork Mountain several times since this most recent event. I’ve listened to the owls at dusk, seen many deer and bear, but I have always made sure to get out of the woods before dark. I have fought terrorists in Iraq, jumped out of planes and been to many places in third world countries were few “white” people go. However, I have never felt fear like I felt that night I attempted to camp by the unmarked graves.