Monday, November 28, 2005

Sarah Louisa "Sis" Linn

It is common knowledge in the community of Glenville that there is a ghost on the campus of Glenville State College. As far as known, it has never been seen but has been heard on numerous occasions by certain students, faculty members, and building caretakers. The ghost used to travel from an old dormitory known as Verona Maple Hall and through Clark Hall presumably on the way to the cemetery adjoining the campus. Verona Maple Hall was demolished in January 1979. I know our resident ghost misses the ambience of Verona Maple but seems to be satisfied in making Clark Hall as her resident preference. So far, it appears to be a kind of pleasant ghost, and the only criticism heard about it is that is seems to be unusually awkward and clumsy as it moves about.

That the ghost is there has been the subject of some speculation. Some believe there may be some connection between the ghost's appearance and the unresolved murder of a local resident many years ago. In the fall of 1918, a lady by the name of Sarah Louisa "Sis" Linn lived in a house where Verona Maple Hall once stood. The location is now a parking lot beside Clark Hall and the Physical Education Building. “Sis” Linn in that year was bludgeoned to death and her assailant was never apprehended. The local lore is that the murderer was the son of a prominent Gilmer county family and was never apprehended due to political pressure in the county. Therefore, some believe this is Miss Linn's ghost searching for the murderer in the corridors of the buildings on the upper campus.

Through the years, her gravesite has been the site of a multitude of séances and paranormal events. It seems many want to communicate with this spirit- especially during the Halloween holiday. I remember that “Sis” Linn had a direct impact on our youngest daughter, Sarah. During the late 1980’s, a group of my daughter’s friends were planning on Halloween a candlelight vigil at the grave of “Sis” Lynn. She and her boyfriend thought it would be great fun to dress up as a ghost and arrive at the grave unannounced. Our gal dressed in white and covered her face with ghoulish makeup. She climbed through the woods and into the cemetery toward her friends who were busy trying to communicate with the dead. Sarah slipped and fell upon a broken glass!

The wife and I returned home from a college event and were met at the door by the boyfriend who said, “Don’t worry, Sarah is OK!” What a greeting for the parents! We went into her bedroom to find Sarah with a huge gash in her gluteus maximus (butt for you non technical types!). She was trying to stop the bleeding. As we arrived at the emergency room, the doctor quickly assessed the situation and immediately began to clean the wound and start the stitches. Sarah never did confide to the doctor that this wound was the result of being near the spirit of Sarah Louisa "Sis" Linn.

Monday, November 21, 2005

Thomas Marcellus Marshall

A person who I have always heard about is Marcellus Marshall. He served as principal of Glenville State Normal School (now Glenville State College) between 1875 and 1881. His long, white beard was a thing to behold. (As you can see from the photo) He was an unconventional man who lived a long and interesting life. Among other things, he loved to travel, and he usually found ways to visit foreign countries at little personal expense.

Mr. Marshall was born in Stouts Mill, located on Route 5 between Glenville and Burnsville. He was in the first graduating class at Marshall College in 1870. Marshall is said to have hauled coal, cleaned the building, and whatever else was necessary for a time while the Glenville Normal School was without state funding.

I have always wanted to visit his gravesite. I had heard that his large monument stands along the Littler Kanawha riverbank in Stouts Mill to commemorate his death in November 1926. For years a local fraternity would keep the cemetery clean and remove the weeds. After many decades in Glenville, it was only a few years ago that I ventured down into the historic Stout’s Cemetery. It is within walking distance of Route 5 and is tucked down the hill by the waters of the Little Kanawha River. It is said that Marshall wanted to be buried here so he could be close to the riverboats traveling the river. Oh, would he be surprised to find that the river can hardly be transversed by a canoe these days due to silting.

Wow! The monument is certainly impressive. It was reportedly imported from Europe and is a very tall marble obelisk As you can see from my photos, it is worth an afternoon’s hike to see Marcellus Marshall’s unique grave marker.

Saturday, November 19, 2005

The Mystery Hole

We have had a life full of adventures! Even though we have traveled extensively, some of our favorite memories are not of exotic sites, but local attractions made even more special by the local folks. Such is the case of The Mystery Hole. One spring in the mid 1990’s, my wife and I and our special friend, Bea Brown, presented an animal demonstration for the 4-H camp in Fayette County. We showed a wide variety of living reptiles to the campers. Snakes (including rattlesnakes and copperheads), lizards, turtles, and even an alligator was transported in our van. On our way home we passed The Mystery Hole, which is located on Route 60 about two minutes from Hawks Nest State Park in Anstead, WV.

The tiny Mystery Hole roadside gift shop covered with signs encouraging you to come in has a gorilla mounted on top and an original VW bug smashed into its side. Don Wilson, the owner, immediately greeted us and gave us the “official tour”. (For an admission of one dollar each – what a bargain!) On the side of the gift shop, stairs led down into The Mystery Hole. We entered a narrow hallway and were greeting by a series of manikins that represented the annual Miss New River winners of the past.

Mr. Wilson’s humor was great- a combination of Appalachian lore and definitely “hillbilly” taste. The tour led us through hallways lined with fun house mirrors, weird posters and finally the main attraction. We entered a tilted gravity room that made one believe that berserk gravity tricks in this room were indeed real. Bea loved it! Balls rolled uphill and, as we sat on what appeared to be a normal bench, we soon discovered that we could not get up without help! How fun! The tour ended, of course, in the gift shop area. The gift shop was what we could easily describe as ultimate trashy. We bided Mr. Wilson goodbye and knew in our hearts that we has indeed a special adventure.

Our friends gave us a print of The Mystery Hole for Christmas one year. It is now framed and graces our entrance room. This is a copy of an original painting by West Virginia artist David Riffle. Here is a shot of our proud possession.

Postscript - The Mystery Hole was first opened in 1972 by Donald Wilson and was a popular tourist attraction in the Mountain State until Mr. Wilson's untimely and mysterious death in the late 1990s. The hole was promptly closed, its fate seemingly sealed along with its original proprietor. Then at the turn of the Millennium, a couple purchased and upgraded The Mystery Hole. Since then business has increasingly become better since the Hole's previous heyday in the 1970s and '80s. The link to the The Mystery Hole’s web site is

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

(Green Bank Telescope or as we like to call it – The Great Big Telescope)

A few weeks ago we had a great time in the mountains with our closest friends. We stayed in their cabin along the Greenbrier River in Pocahontas County and had the
opportunity on Saturday to travel and do the “tourist thing”.

One stop was at the National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank. I have so many great memories of this facility. I worked at Watoga State Park in the late 1960s as Park Naturalist. Green Bank was one of the nature tour destinations that the park provided its guests. This was a time when the largest telescope at Green Bank was a large radio telescope affectionately known as “The Big Ear”. The Big Ear was Green Bank's 300-Foot telescope, that almost 100-meter dish, operated for over 25 years. Sadly the Big Ear collapsed in November of 1988 in a mass of rubble. Before it was destroyed, it was the largest telescope on the site. The radio dish, however, was not fully steerable and incapable of access to the entire sky. Through the years I have been on many great field trips to NRAO with students and teachers.

Now to the present and an even more impressive telescope. The GBT was completed in August of 2000 at a cost of $74.5 million and is the world's largest fully steerable radio telescope. It’s dimensions and complexity are astounding! The GBT is a 100-meter telescope, but the actual dimensions of the surface are 100 by 110 meters. The main dish is so large that it could house a football game. A system of lasers can fine-tune the pointing accuracy of the telescope with an accuracy of 1 arc-second. That is equal to the width of a human hair seen 6 feet (1.8 meters) away.

Wind, heat and cold, as well as gravity, can play havoc on the shape of the radio telescope dish. To counter this, small pistons adjust the exact position of the 2004 metal panels that comprise the dish. The shape of the huge dish is monitored continually by a network of laser beams trained at various spots on the dish's surface.The overall structure of the GBT is a wheel-and-track design that allows the telescope to view the entire sky above 5 degrees elevation. The track, 64 m (210 ft) in diameter, is level to within a few thousandths of an inch in order to provide precise pointing of the st
ructure while bearing 7300 metric tons (16 million pounds – the same as 19 Boeing 747’s) of moving weight. The telescope weighs over 30 times more than the Statue of Liberty. The GBT is taller than the Statue of Liberty and about as tall as the Washington Monument. It is a truly amazing scientific instrument!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

The High Falls of Cheat

Actually the falls are correctly known as “The High Falls of the Shavers Fork of the Cheat”. The falls are located on a remote section of Shaver Fork between Cheat Bridge and Bemis. The falls are really not high. The Shaver’s Fork River takes an 18-foot plunge over the rocks at this location. The waterfalls extend 159 feet across the river. It is, however, a most picturesque spot.

The Cheat Mountain Salamander has opened this area to many would have never been able to see this unique attraction. Before the train service, the only way into this area was hiking and most folks traveled along the river from Bemis. These photos were taken in the fall when the water level was extremely low.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Cheat Mountain Salamander

One of the most unique rail excursions in the world is the Cheat Mountain Salamander, which is headquartered on lofty Cheat Mountain at Cheat Bridge, West Virginia - 30 miles south of Elkins, WV. A couple of years ago we traveled aboard this unique replica of a 1922 Edwards Railway Motor Car, which was built new in 2000 for this rugged mountain service on the West Virginia Central Railroad. The Salamander never leaves its wilderness home even though it covers nearly 80 miles on its two routes.

Named in honor of the endangered species that lives exclusively along its route, the Cheat Mountain Salamander takes you through the most beautiful WV mountain wilderness. Wildlife is frequently seen during the course of the excursions, which include black bears, turkeys, bald eagles and whitetail deer.

That day we opted for the three-hour northerly trip that took us 22 miles down the Shavers Fork River valley from Cheat Bridge. We passed through remote forested areas in the Monongahela National Forest and saw numerous roc
k walls, including the imposing "Coal Rock”. During this trip we traveled around the two sharpest mainline RR curves still in active use in the United States. The excursion stops at the beautiful "High Falls of Cheat" at an elevation 3,000 feet.