Thursday, October 30, 2008

Don't Forget To Grease Your Corners

Back when I was growing up on the mountain, there was a great fear of witches getting into people's barns at Halloween. If a witch got in your barn, they could injure your livestock or otherwise vex the animals. This may include killing an animal outright, or it could mean giving the livestock a disease or infecting a wound. There were reports of witched milk cows giving spoiled or bloody milk for weeks afterward. Pretty much anything was fair game for witches when it came to inflict misery on livestock. Aside from Hex signs and rotas-sator squares, many farmers took to providing added protection against this witchery.

The only way to remove a hex from livestock was to get a good witch to counter the spell, but this may include destroying the animal. I remember my Grandmaw Mary telling of a story about a milk cow that had been witched, and gave bloody milk. She said that the hex also was spread to other livestock, and the farmer was forced to consult a good witch about the problem. This good witches last name was Moats and he lived over around Franklin. Anyway, the first animal that was hexed was identified, and Mr. Moats instructed the cow to be destroyed by fire, and Granny said that he said a few "witch words" while the cow was being killed. The carcass was then burned, and Mr. Moats said whoever witched this animal would be known to the community because he or she would have burns all over their body, because he had put the spell back on them. Sure enough, a few days later, a man was seen in the community who was covered with burns all over his body. The man tried to say that his stove blew up on him, but everyone after that knew that he was an evil witch.

So you can see the importance of protecting your home, barn, livestock and family from the evil influences of witchery. To ward off this trouble, a ladder was placed against the barn's wall on the day of Halloween. This ladder was used to reach the highest reaches of a barn and a coarse brush would be used to liberally apply grease to every inch of every corner in the barn. This was because folklore dictated that a witch could only enter a barn by way of a corner. By greasing every corner of a barn, it was believed that when a witch would come flying in on a broomstick, they would be deflected when they would hit this grease, and thus would not be able to enter the barn to vex the animals.

So, if anyone out there has a barn, be sure to grease your corners to protect your livestock. You never can be too careful when it comes to witches bent on doing you harm.

For added protection at your home, lay a broom on the floor across every door to your home. A witch cannot cross a broom that is laid down, and if someone picks it up and tries to enter, you will immediately be able to identify the witch. Also, you could place a rotas-sator square in the highest point of your home for added protection.

And remember, not all witches are bad!!!!

As an afterthought, perhaps some of you don't know what a rotas-sator square is, well here is a link to wikipedia with information and a photo of a rotas-sator square:

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

A Strange Animal

The Grant County Press
28 January 1932
Front page story

A Strange Animal

Joe Foley, Jr., Ralph Tate and Otto Kessel, while hunting coon near Lahmansville one night last week, treed what they first thought was a coon. One of the boys climbed the tree to shake it out and found a new species of animal for this country. They got a gun and shot it.

Will Veach, who has been handling furs for years says he never before saw anything like it, nor have any of our old hunters. It was about the size of a gray fox. Its mouth had no teeth other than two tusks above and two below. The outer fur was a dark mahogany and near the flesh it was white. The fur, of fine quality, was about one inch long. It has a foot something like a fox, but has only four claws. It also has a head resembling a fox. It can be seen at Joe Foley’s home.


Growing up on the mountain, superstitions played an important role in how we were raised. Some or most of these superstitions have been handed down for generations from my ancestors who came from the old country. I know some of them are from my German ancestors, but probably some of them came from my ancestors from Scotland as well. I remember us kids listened intently as we were told this and that, and how we’d better do these things or else some sort of misfortune would befall us. My grandmaw Mary was adamant in her belief in these old superstitions. In keeping with the season, here is a short list of superstitions that I remember about ghosts and death.

When two people of the same name live in a house, ghosts will stay away.

Never carry an axe or hoe into a house, it means death.

Ghosts hate new things. If you have a persistent ghost, hang something new over your door.

A baby born at midnight will have the power to see and talk to ghosts.

If a rooster crows after dark, it is a sure sign that death is in the neighborhood.

Death always travels in three’s—if a person dies in your community, there will soon be two more to follow.

A ghost will beat on the wall of a house if someone therein is about to die.

Ghosts enjoy hearing people sing and will gather from afar to listen.

Christmas Eve is a favorite time for ghosts to walk the Earth.

Wind chimes will call up the dead.

Horses and Pigs can see death and ghosts.

If a bird comes inside your house, it is a sign that death will soon befall the household.

If someone see’s a ghost, look over their left shoulder and you will be able to see that ghost too.

Never let a swing stop on its own. Stop it yourself or someone you care about will die.

After someone dies, their pictures begin to fade.

If a dog howls while looking at the ground, he senses death is very near.

If three people look in the same mirror at the same time, the youngest of the three will soon die.

Graveyards at night are peaceful places to visit at night if you are quiet. But if you talk, you will be haunted for a week.

Don’t walk on someone’s grave or else you will be haunted by their ghost.

Don’t pick up a broom that is laid over a doorway. If you do, it is a sign that you are a witch or that you have been witched.

Bury your hair after you cut it, if you don’t and the birds pick it up, you will have headaches for months afterward. You can also be witched if your hair falls into the wrong hands.

A Star Quilt on your bed will protect you from evil spirits.

Clocks in a house will stop at the exact moment of death of someone in that household. If clocks do not stop, you must stop them or else the spirit will remain in that house.

I’m sure there are many more of these superstitions that I am just not thinking of at the moment. Do any of you all out there know of any other superstitions? I’d love to hear them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Snallygaster

Below is an essay written by my brother, Jason Burns, about the Snallygaster. I assisted Jason in researching this topic. I kept finding mention of the Snollygaster/Snallygaster/Snoligaster whenever I looked through old local news items in The Pendleton Times newspaper. Growing up, I'd always heard about the Snollygaster but never did pay much attention to it, so I kept telling Jason about these stories I was finding in the old newspapers. He took it upon himself to do alot of research and then he wrote the following essay on The Snallygaster.

My brother, Jason, is a member of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild who specializes in ghost stories, monsters and supernatural legends of West Virginia & Appalachia. He has collected & documented a ghost story from every county in WV, and has several dozen monsters from around the state as well. If anyone is interested, Jason is now booking speaking engagements/parties for 2009. In 2008, he was a finalist for the "Governor's Arts Award for Appalachian Folklore", given annually by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History. You can find out more about him on his website, West Virginia Spectral Heritage.

The Snallygaster by R. Jason Burns

The Snallygaster is a monstrous beast whose rampages were recorded in Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia starting in 1735. The reports of a bloodsucking dragon-like beast with wings, claws, tentacles, fur, horns, and a long reptilian tail continued into the mid 1970s. In addition, the Snallygaster had only one eye in the middle of its head and had a horrible sulfuric smell. A group of lumberjacks also claimed to have come upon the Snallygaster’s nest, which was perched on a high cliff and contained an egg “big enough to hatch a horse”. Often accompanied by its signature bloodcurdling roar, the beast attacked people, pets, and livestock in the aforementioned states. The Snallygaster’s rampage was so prolific and terrifying that it attracted the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt, who allegedly planned to kill and mount the beast for display in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

The beast got its name from German immigrants who settled in the region. “Snallygaster” is a corruption of the German word “schnellgeiste” which means “quick spirit”. The Snallygaster evidently had many frightening attributes, which included its dragon wings, poison breath, toothy beak, tentacles, and its penchant for sucking blood. The monster is said to have been one of the reasons behind the “seven pointed stars” and hex signs that were painted on barns and houses in the area. Apparently these worked as magical charms that kept the Snallygaster away.

In Pendleton County, WV, the beast’s rampage lasted from 1935 to 1941. Its first appearance was reported in the Hopewell section of the Pendleton Times newspaper in March of 1935. Hopewell is a tiny community near the Bland Hills in the North Fork area of the Germany Valley, near a holler named Monkeytown. According to the newspaper article, the Snallygaster was terrorizing the family of Kennie Bland on March 1, 1935. Bland was “left high in the air” by the monster, presumably referring to Bland being treed by the beast.

Two months later the Snallygaster was again noticed in Hopewell. This time the beast reportedly roared and “snarled” on May 10, 1935. That day being Sunday, the locals stated that the beast was attempting to prey upon those who were less than pious. The Snallygaster also allegedly spewed forth a “poison vapor” wherever it went. However, it did not attack anyone that night, because all those who witnessed it stayed inside their homes until it departed.

Following these two occurrences, the Snallygaster was not seen in Hopewell for nearly six years. Presumably it had moved into another area of the country, probably terrorizing people in Maryland or Pennsylvania. However, the beast returned to the Hopewell community on St. Valentine’s Day, 1941. Apparently the beast had been spotted in the area prior to that report. “Old Dog Blue”, a hound that had been paralyzed through a previous battle with the Snallygaster, first noticed the beast in the area and set up a howling chorus to warn the neighborhood of its approach. The people of the town escaped to the safety of their homes, but not before they witnessed the Snallygaster’s large “fiery” eyes, large tail, and monstrous-sized teeth.

The beast’s last recorded appearance in the Hopewell community was recorded on July 11, 1941. Apparently it came upon the town rather quickly, surprising the populous and causing them to run for any safety they could find. The people were able to find shelter in homes and other places, and all of them survived except for Old Dog Blue, who was last seen trying to evade the Snallygaster.

The Snoligaster was not reported until June the next year. On June 29, 1945, the Pendleton Times reported “the howl of the dreadful Snoligaster” was heard in the Hopewell community again. The dogs of the area, hearing its scream, hid from the beast in any place they could. One dog was deaf, however, and was killed by the Snoligaster because he did not hear it. Some local women hid in their attic to get away from the Snoligaster, but one lady was so scared that she fell into the slop barrel. She was rescued by her husband and they sought safety together. Then suddenly the Snoligaster tale took a turn. It seemed to be breeding.

In April, 1946, a coon hunter in Doddridge County found what was thought to be a Snoligaster cub. The hunter dug it out of a hole in the ground after seeing his dog retreat from it. The animal, still living, was examined by a group that included two Salem College professors and a representative from the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. The Snallygaster cub was about the size of a half-grown rat, and it was colored light blue with a light yellow face. Its eyes were close together and near the end of the nose, its ears were attached low on its head near the jaw line, and it had cat-like claws. In addition, it was covered in a fine-textured fur. The group decided to raise the cub to see what it turned out to be, but whether or not they succeeded is unknown. Later that same month, the Pendleton Times reported that the towns of Hopewell and Monkeytown were in the process of installing electric lights, and when that occurred the Snoligaster would probably “wind his way into darker corners” in order to prey upon the area’s population. Whether it was the electric lights or not, the Snoligaster was not reported in the area news again.

Events related to the life of the Snallygaster continued, however. In the 1960s, the Pepsi Company paid tribute to the beast when it introduced a drink named “The Snallygaster”, which was composed of Mountain Dew and vanilla ice cream. The last event in the long, frightening history of the Snallygaster was in 1976, when the Washington Post funded an expedition to find the beast. Nothing was ever found – no eggs, tracks, or any other evidence. Despite this, the state of Maryland placed the Snallygaster on the Endangered Species list in 1982.


Wikipedia Online. 2006 Edition.

The Pendleton Times, Franklin, WV. March 1, 1935; May 10, 1935; February 14, 1941; July 11, 1941; and April 5 & 12, 1946.

Timothy L. Cannon and Nancy F. Whitmore, Ghosts and Legends of Frederick County. Sept 1979.

Hooper, Anne B. (1974). Braddock Heights: A Glance Backward. Great Southern Printing Co. p. 71-72.

The Valley Register, Middletown, MD. February 12—March 5, 1909

Monday, October 27, 2008

An Award

Today, this blog received a Fabulous Fall Decor Award given by Marie, the Tile Lady over at the "A Colorful World" blog. I'm just tickled pink that someone likes this blog enough to think of it when they are giving out awards. That means a lot to me.

When I first started this blog a few months ago, I had the hope that folks out there would find my stories of interest. I really didn't know what to expect, I had never written anything before, but everyone I talked to kept saying they loved my stories. Finally, one day after reading the Granny Sue's News & Reviews blog, I was inspired to start my own blog. Since that time, I've met many good people out there in cyberland, and I treasure each and every one of you. I especially appreciate those of you who make regular stops by this blog to sit a spell and to chew the fat with me. I've learned a lot about myself too, while blogging with y'all. I've discovered that I like poetry...reading it, writing it...I never would have guessed it.

I always like to see how different folks react to my stories, your comments and feedback really give me a reason to continue this blog. Like a conversation with an old friend, you never know what may come up in conversation. Countless are the times a comment of left on here has triggered another story that was buried in the recesses of my mind.

If I were to choose a few blogs that I'd like to receive this award (as I'm told is the custom when you receive this award), I'd be hard to narrow it down. So many of y'all out there are just so darn good at this blogging thing. I reckon if I had to here's who & why I would give this award:

1- Granny Sue's News & Reviews--This blog started it all for me. The Granny always has something cookin' over at The Review. You just gotta love the Granny.

2-Chickens in the Road--I just find this blog hilarious. Read about how Clover the Goat seems to stay aloof of the petty squabbles (most of which are caused by Clover) on Suzanne's farmstead. It get's pretty funny, especially when Clover is forced to wear a bonnet.

3-The Blind Pig & The Acorn--This absolutely fantastic blog is complete with mountain music, life and family and it is a daily destination for me. Stop by and become one of Tipper's acorns.

4-Writing In The Blackberry Patch--Even the name of this blog conjures up visions of a summer afternoon in the berry patch. Janet always has something interesting on this blog. Also a daily favorite of mine.

5-From the Mind of Jason--Kind of obligated with this one, it is my brother's blog. Can you sense the sibling rivalry? (laughs). Seriously though, Jason does a really good job with this blog, and I like seeing his take on many of the same memories that I have. Jason just bought a house so he's been occupied elsewhere recently, but there are many stories on his blog that you all may like.

So Thank You, The Tile Lady, for giving me this award. I'll do my best to keep this blog new and fresh, and to conjure up unique visions of lifestyles in Appalachia.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

UFO's Over Pendleton County

The Pendleton Times,
Thursday, February 16, 1967

Are They Flying Saucers?
Unidentified Flying Objects Sighted Over Pendleton

Two unidentified flying objects were observed in the sky over the Reeds Creek area of Pendleton County approximately 12 miles north of Franklin Monday afternoon.

The two objects were observed by Mr. and Mrs. Carson Waggy of Reeds Creek for several minutes, and one of the objects was sighted by Mrs. Reed Waggy, also of Reeds Creek, just before it disappeared from sight.

Mr. and Mrs. Waggy described one of the objects as having a conical shape similar to an ice cream cone or a dunce’s cap. It was circular and tapered up to a point and was flat on the bottom. The other object was shaped like a dinner plate with a section broken out of it. It was circular around about three-quarters of its circumference with an indention in one side of it.

The objects were described as having an aluminum color and being very bright in the sunshine. They made no noise.

Carson Waggy said he sighted the objects when he looked up into an apple tree on his Reeds Creek farm which he had just finished pruning to make sure he had not overlooked any limbs that needed trimming. It was about 4:15 p.m.

He called to his wife who was at a nearby barn milking a cow and directed her attention to the objects. She glanced up and sighting the objects, she said, “Why are they hanging over our alfalfa field?”

Mr. Waggy said the conically shaped object appeared to be hovering in pretty much the same position. He said the odd-shaped object was spinning around and it would move away from the other object and then return to it. He said it did this three or four times while he and his wife watched them.

[Illegible due to sticker]

Mrs. Waggy said that when the conically shaped object would turn over on its side they could see that it tapered up to a point. She said it reminded her somewhat of a gourd with an elongated stem.

Mr. and Mrs. Waggy watched the objects for several minutes and then Mr. Waggy jumped into his pickup truck and drove down the road to his brother’s house a half-mile away to inform him of the strange craft. Upon informing his sister-in-law, Mrs. Reed Waggy, of the objects, she ran into the house to get a pair of binoculars. She returned just in time to get a glimpse of the conically shaped object as it disappeared over the mountain.

Mr. Waggy said one of the most amazing things about the objects was the speed at which they left. He said they hovered around in a relatively fixed position for several minutes, and then they left in a terrific burst of speed in an easterly direction.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Spook House Demon

Today I’m going to share a true story with you. It is very scary, and you may want to skip over it. I’ll tell you this before I start the story, I am still more than a little spooked over this, and I knocked around the idea of even sharing it with you all. I still have enough of the Scots-Irish superstitious beliefs in me to know that to tell a story like this could give “power” to the subject of this story. I’m not going to include any pictures or photo’s in this story, so there won’t be any way to associate this thing with anyone or any place.
Let me add that I don’t know what this thing in the story is, but I feel it important to tell you that even the Native Americans who travelled through this area would avoid it at all possible, they referred to this place as “the valley of the demons”.

To counter giving this thing power, I am going to start and finish this story with The Lord’s Prayer. Yes, I know I’m being paranoid, but you’ve not seen the things that I have seen, in regards to this, and I don't think I can be too careful. These things happened to my family over the past few years.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

It all started in about 1990, a few years after my Grandmaw Mary died. People always said that Grandmaw was so good, that she probably kept this thing at bay, but without her influence, there was nothing to stand in its way. All this occurs in my grandparent’s old house, which is about 100 feet from my parents house. A few months after Grandmaw’s death, people would get strange feelings when they were close to the old house, feelings like someone was watching you, or just a feeling or fear that’d make the hair stand up on your arms and on the back of your neck. The first time this thing was seen was in about 1993. Since the old house had a well, my aunts did their laundry in an old wringer washer that sat on the back porch of the old house, it was a lot easier than hauling the water up the hill to their house from the spring. One day, my Aunt Donna was there doing laundry with my little cousin Bub, who was then about 4 years old. As Donna was doing laundry, Bub would play around in the wash tub, and just do the things kids do when they are that age. All of a sudden, Bub stopped playing, and gasped out loud. Aunt Donna heard him and asked him what was the matter…why did he all of a sudden stop playing? He looked at her, and looked through the open back door of the house, and asked her, “What is that?” Aunt Donna looked but didn’t see anything, and she asked him what he was talking about, he replied, “That big black thing with the red eyes that is looking at me.” Well, Aunt Donna then got more than a little afraid, it was clear that Bub wasn’t making this stuff up, he wouldn’t resume playing or anything, he just stood in the yard and looked in the house. He kept saying, “Let’s Go”. Well Aunt Donna got afraid and they left, and later came back with my Granddad, who helped her wring out the clothes and finish up there. After that, Aunt Donna refused to go back over there to do laundry and they moved the old wringer washer up to their house where they had to carry water for it.

A few months later, my Uncle Tom needed a place to live so he moved into the old house. He lived there for a about six months, until one evening he came in from work, and walked in the door and started through the doorway that separates the living room and the kitchen. All of a sudden, he said this big black mass came out of nowhere, and grabbed him by the throat, picked him up off the floor and threw him against the wall. My Uncle Tom is a big man too, he’s 6 feet 4 inches tall and at that time weighed about 200 pounds. Getting slammed against the wall knocked the air out of Uncle Tom and as he laid against the wall, this thing grabbed him up again and just said two words, “Leave Here”. Well, that thoroughly scared Uncle Tom and he moved out the same evening. He said he didn’t care if he had to sleep in his truck, he would never stay there again.

About a year later, my Uncle Dan went through a divorce and he needed a place to live. He knew the story of what happened to his brother, Tom, but he said he really needed a place to live, and you know how mountain men are…really hesitant to believe something like this. Well, Uncle Dan talked his Uncle Wood to live there with him, so they’d be company for each other. They lived there about a year, but soon Uncle Dan started having really bad dreams. Every night it was the same. He was wrestling a black mass with red eyes that kept trying to kill him. Uncle Dan started sleeping with a Bible under his pillow, as a local preacher suggested, but every morning when Uncle Dan would wake up, the Bible would be moved from under the bed pillow to a shelf on the other side of the bedroom. During this time, Uncle Wood slept peacefully and said nothing was bothering him. Well, these nightmares continued for Uncle Dan for a few months, and eventually they got so bad that he started to dreaming that this thing was killing him…night after night, it would kill him in his dreams. Always before, he’d get away from it before it could kill him. Needless to say, every morning, Uncle Dan was visibly shaken. Well, after having one of these nightmares one night, Uncle Dan awoke to find an unsheathed hunting knife, with the blade against his throat and with him trying to pull it away. He said there was a force of some kind that was pushing the knife closer to his throat. After awaking to this, Uncle Dan moved out of the spook house to a little shack nearby. This left Uncle Wood there alone. Uncle Wood stayed there a few months after this, but eventually, even he admitted that he was starting to have bad nightmares, much like those that Uncle Dan had, and one morning Uncle Wood got up out of bed and left the house with nothing but the clothes that he had on his back. The covers on the bed are still in the same position as they were the morning that Uncle Wood folded them back and got out of bed. Uncle Wood then moved in with his son who lives in Randolph County, where he remains to this day. He, to this day, won’t talk about what went on during his last night in the spook house.

By this time, everyone in the community took to calling the old house, “the spook house” and everyone avoided it. Electricity was turned off to it, and the lines were even taken off the house, though the electrical appliances still remained in it. It became pretty common when you were walking by the house to hear a television start playing or hear a radio cut on. You could also hear doors slamming in the house, and then someone pointed out, there are no inside doors in the house, just little privacy curtains in the doorways. There is only a back door and a front door.

I used to mow grass near the spook house; I had just finished mowing one evening and started walking back toward my parent’s house. I heard what sounded like something running in the house, it was heavy running, nearly rocking the house. After hearing this, I wasn’t letting any grass grow under my feet if you know what I mean, and the running sounded like it was keeping pace with me, only on the inside of the house. When I got past the end of the house, there was a loud smack like someone beating the side of the house where the house ended. I told Dad about it, and he said, “Yeah, it’s that thing again”. He said it happened to him nearly every time he mowed over there. Needless to say, that was my last time of mowing near there.

Another few years passed and it became clear to us the thing seemed to be the most active when it was extremely hot, or extremely cold, or especially following a thunderstorm. This continued along the same lines until my mother got down sick with a muscle illness. This coincided with her starting into the Change of Life. Then we started to get little hints that the thing had started to come into our house as well. I remember lying in bed at night, and hearing a door slam in the spook house. You could almost count the steps between that house and ours. And all of a sudden a feeling that you were not alone would happen, then it would get really cold in my bedroom (which was the closest room to the spook house). This happened in the dead of the summer when nights hovered near 80 degrees and there was no air conditioning at our house. It would then get so cold you couldn’t hardly stand it. I took to sleeping with a Bible on my headboard, and when I felt the presence of something in my room, I would say “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, I command you to leave me alone”. This always worked, but this became a nearly nightly event. My brother, whose room was directly across the hallway from mine, and parents told of similar happenings.

It got worse after Jason and I started college, and it was just Mom and Dad at home. One time, Mom got a real clear sign that it had come into our house. My Dad always leaves for work at 5:30 every morning. One day, about 6 am, Mom heard the front door close and she heard Dad walked back to the bedroom. She asked him, “What’s wrong? Aren’t you going to work today?” He said, “No, I just want to be with you today, Linda.” Well, this struck Mom as odd since Dad never calls Mom by her name, but rather by Honey, or Sweetie. Mom then looked at Dad, who was standing by the bed, and noticed that he had on a different coat than the one Dad wore all the time. Then it dawned on her and she said, “You’re not Jake, You’re not my husband”. The figure that looked like Dad just let out a laugh and disappeared right before Mom’s eye’s. Mom swears she was awake during this, that is wasn’t a dream. Nearly every morning after that, something along the same lines would happen, and Mom, who I mentioned earlier was suffering from a muscle condition, started getting weaker and weaker. Mom had a diagnosis for her muscle condition, but her symptoms were too severe to be explained by the diagnosis. She saw several specialists who could come up with no reason why she kept getting weaker and weaker. Mom and Dad noticed that when they stayed overnight in Morgantown, where Mom was seeing the specialists, she would begin to feel better and regain some of her strength, but as soon as they returned home, she would take another turn for the worse. This, compounded with Mom’s complaints of being bothered by the thing from next door, led me and my brother to consult with several sources online that dealt with the supernatural to see if they could offer some advice.

One source said to sprinkle a ring of salt all the way around our house, and to mark every door, window, or entry point (including where water and gas lines come in the house) with a cross. We did this, everywhere you looked at our house, there was either a figure of a cross, a paper cut-out of a cross, or a permanent marker drawing of a cross. This did help quite a bit, but then every morning, and sometimes throughout the day, Mom would be awakened or alarmed by a sound coming from our yard. She’d look out the window and see a thing in the yard that would be moaning as if in agony and looking in the window at her. It never would cross the ring of salt though. Mom described the thing as having a body of a large cat about 10 feet long and 3 feet across. She said it had eyes that looked like rectangles that kept radiating inward. She said it was kind of purplish in color and it glistened, and it had huge ears. She said its claws looked to be about 6 inches long and curved inward, much like a cat. This kind of reminded people of a description of the Wampus Cat, but Mom suspected that the thing from next door was just taking the form of what we’d always heard that a Wampus Cat looked like. Mom said it would cut an awful shine out there in the yard, and dig at the dirt and throw dirt in the air. When Dad would get home from work later that evening, she’d tell him about it and he could see places in the yard that were dug up by what looked like claws. Mom would try her best to ignore this, and after a few months she was starting to regain some of her strength. About this time, my little cousin, Mernie, was just coming into womanhood, and the thing started getting stronger again, especially when Mernie would visit. Mom wouldn’t let Mernie out in the yard without someone with her. Everyone was really afraid. It got so bad that Mom and Dad even considered moving away, but after much discussion, they figured that if that thing was drawn to Mom, it’d probably just follow them wherever they moved to.

It was also around this time that something started going on with the water at Mom and Dad’s house. They got their water from a well that was beside of the spook house. The water had something in it that looked and felt like little pieces of black felt. We thought for a while that it could be coal, but it was smooth like felt and was some type of cloth. This substance clogged up the faucets and the drains, and Dad had to remove the little filter screen from the faucets because this felt-like substance was stopping up the water lines. Someone suggested that it could be the water line itself, that it was peeling away from the inside, so Dad dug up and replaced every piece of water line that ran from the well to our house. The problem continued. Then, something else happened with the water, it started leaving a film on you. Mom and Dad didn’t notice because they bathed in it all the time, but everyone else could that didn’t live there all the time but just visited. The film would settle on your skin and you couldn’t wash it off. It was an invisible film but you could still feel it on you. Shirley, Jason and I always felt fortunate to return back to Morgantown, where we lived, so we could wash this film off of us. Then, someone suggested that the thing next door might be trying to get in the house through the water line, so they put a cross on each faucet and on the water lines as the came in the house and at the water heater. Almost at once, the black felt-like substance stopped, but the film persisted.

After this went on for several months, I talked to a fellow who deals with the supernatural, and I explained everything to him, and he suggested that this was a very young entity (or demon, for lack of a better word), that was mischievous and was probably disturbed by a change in the natural surroundings, he added that there may be a otherworldly portal near there. He further suggested that this change might be a number of things and could I think of anything that was changed about the time this thing started becoming active. I thought on it a few days, and remembered about the time that Grandmaw Mary passed away, there was a big thunderstorm that came and blew over the giant old willow tree that stood between our house and the spook house. I mentioned this to the fellow, and he suggested to replant a willow tree in the exact spot of the old one that blew over, and to say a prayer over it as soon as it was planted. We were desperate, and Dad planted a young willow tree in the same spot, and he and Mom said a prayer over it when it was planted. Immediately, Mom was no longer bothered by anything, all the feelings and film in the water stopped. It was almost instantaneously. Since that time, every once in a while you can still get feelings of someone is watching you when you are near the old spook house, but nothing like before. It doesn’t bother us anymore and we don’t bother it. But we do make sure that willow tree stays alive.

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Remembering Droop

A cabin on the Droop Mountain Battlefield, it serves as the park museum, 18 Oct 2008

The Ghosts of Droop Mountain
by T.C. Leonard

In the misty Blue Ridge Mountains
Where Lee and Stonewall held command
There rides a headless greycoat soldier
Who leads his vengeful rebel band
His charge stopped by a Union cannon
Which knocked him from the horse's back
The rebels turned and ran for cover
While the yankees sounded the attack
Now he leads his troop, all branded cowards
Up Droop Mountain bugles blow
To win back the lost position
They gave up seven score ago
The locals say there is a legend
Sometimes a cannon shot rings out
In the fog atop Droop Mountain
The rebel soldiers turn about
Unlucky passers-by have seen them
But their leader once again did fall
Atop an unmarked rebel gravesite
Near a yankee cannonball.

Confederate Cemetery on Droop Mountain, 18 Oct 2008.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


This past weekend, Shirley and I were in Roanoke, Virginia, where she spoke at the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ) Conference. We had a pretty good time there, enjoyed exploring a new city, and we really enjoyed discovering The Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory in the Valley View Mall (Yes, I finally found that elusive frozen cheesecake on a stick). But after being in the city, and hob-nobbing with journalists and reporters from around the world, I was ready for a little nature/reality so we decided to go leaf peeping in the high country of West Virginia. We went sightseeing throughout Greenbrier, Pocahontas, Webster & Nicholas Counties. In the higher elevations, the leaves were mostly gone, but in some parts they were just a little past peak. We had the best time at Beartown State Park which sits on top of Droop Mountain in Pocahontas County. I hadn't been there in years and it was even better than I remembered.

At Beartown, there are huge gulches and steep cliffs, so you are required to stay on the boardwalk at all times. The best thing about the boardwalk, it was built with the land so you may have tree's growing up through parts of it, and it may squeeze through the narrowest of passages among the cliffs. It doesn't take an imagination to know why it is called Beartown. A bear would be in heaven here, but I know for a fact that the name Bear Heaven was already taken. Bear Heaven is in Randolph County, but that is another story for another day.

At one point during our walk, Shirley and I looked at each other inquisitively. We could both sense something was different but couldn't exactly put our finger on it. Then it dawned on us. Silence. Complete and total silence was all around us. It was a very spiritual moment. We just stood there for a few minutes and looked around at the surrounding forest in amazement.

We saw a few people there, but not that many, probably no more than 6 at the most. Beartown State Park truly is one of West Virginia's best kept secrets. Beartown is one of those places where you don't just view the wilderness, for a few minutes, you actually become part of the wilderness.

Earlier, I mentioned that parts of the high country were well past peak leaf season. Well, this was one of those places. The whole area just exuded a sense of waiting...waiting for snow, waiting for cold weather, waiting for the emergence of Spring. It was cold here too, it was 40 degree's when we were there, and all I had on was a short-sleeved shirt.

There was also something about the craggy cliffs of Beartown that reminded you of your own mortality. You couldn't help but be impressed with the huge moss and lichen covered boulders. They brand upon your psyche, "I was here long before you were born, and I'll be here long after you are dust." I don't know about you, but I find that reassuring. I may be odd, but I like to see places that lend a sense of permanency in this world of craziness we live in.

I was happy that we got to share a few moments at Beartown, to reconnect, to ponder, to renew. It reaffirmed to me that God is in the details.

As we we're leaving, I couldn't help but hear Beartown whispering goodbye to us. I could have sworn that it told me, "Come here and give me a hug you big ole lump o' sugar". So I did.

Monday, October 20, 2008

The Haunted Hills of Halloween

In the autumn of my 10th year, my family got the idea to have a big old-timey Halloween Party. We planned for weeks to make this a night that everyone would remember. Each of us kids had something to do, whether it was cutting wood for the huge bonfire, getting hay bales for the hay wagon, or right down to the smallest detail of picking apples for the apple-bobbing tub. My job was decorations and invitations. I had hand wrote several invitations and cut out decorations. Luckily, my brother helped me out, for he was far better at such things than I. Otherwise, we’d have had decorations of mutilated paper pumpkins and perhaps a paper chain, which remains to this day pretty much my extent of decoration making.

Home in Pendleton County.

When Halloween finally arrived, the whole family was abuzz, so much that you could feel the excitement in the air. On the day of Halloween my uncle Fudgy went squirrel hunting and killed several squirrels, which he also brought back home to skin out. Well, this gave me some added inspiration for decorating, so I tied the squirrel tails to some sticks and stuck the sticks into the top of some pumpkins. I created Pumpkins with lovely little squirrel tail hats. I’m sure it looked better to me than anyone else since the squirrel tails were inevitably matted with blood, but to me they were a masterpiece.

At about 4 o’clock, the older family members lit the bonfire. It was a huge fire with flames licking up above the tops of the trees, and as it started getting darker it illuminated the whole yard. At about the same time that the bonfire was lit, we loaded up on an old hay wagon that my mother had borrowed from a neighbor, and commenced on an old-fashioned hay ride. My cousin Buck pulled the wagon with his tractor. We had all of the family and many friends and relatives piled onto the wagon. We went down the holler a-whoopin and a-hollerin like a pack of banshees. It was Halloween, and we were all going to have a great time.

Scene's like this just breed "spookiness".

The wagon went out on the main road for a couple of miles and then down Roots Run, a narrow little dirt road that went almost all the way into Riverton. Upon getting to the end of Roots Run, we turned up Horse Ridge that would take us through the Bland Hills and then home. The excitement heightened as the hayride proceeded on the winding and narrow roads of Bland Hills. With the old oak trees hanging over the road and passing the old abandoned houses, it really added a spookiness to that Halloween. Someone started telling ghost stories. There was one about a headless horseman who frequented these parts and whom you could still hear some nights as he followed people going from one house to the other. They said you could hear the horses hooves on the road when he followed you. They told of the time that Oren Bent was coming out of the Lane and was chased by the headless horseman, he said it started chasing him just after passing the old Bennett cemetery and chased him all the way home. He said the rider was carrying his head in his left hand and that sparks was flying off the horses hooves as the horseshoes hit rocks in the road. Just then we passed a couple of horses along the road, which added to it. I was getting scared.

A farm nestled along the route of the hayride.

As we passed one house, a black dog came out and chased the haywagon for a few hundred feet, which gave the inspiration for yet another ghost story about a black dog. This dog would brush up against your leg as you were walking in the dark, but when you would shoo him away, there’d be nothing there. My granddad then told us of his experience with the black ghost dog one night after returning home from work. He was walking up our holler and felt a dog brush against his leg and heard a dog panting, thinking it was one of our dogs he hollered at it to get, but when it didn’t, he dropped down his dinner bucket to hit the dog. His dinner bucket clanged against the rocks of the holler road and my granddad knew immediately what he was dealing with. In all the stories about the ghost dog, it always started following you at the old stone cow barn in the holler and would leave you at the apple tree near the top of the hill.

As we were nearing the end of Bland Hills, my grandfather pointed out a nearby hill and said that was where a Civil War battle was fought, he said that when he was a kid, he and his siblings sat on a nearby hill and seen the whole battle being fought before their eyes…and this was 70 years after the War. Many strange happenings still occur on this hill. Many local people tell of seeing wounded soldiers wandering around and my brother even saw a man carrying his head under his arm…and the man was wearing Confederate butternut-gray. With all these scary tales, coupled with the surrounding landscape that just breeds a sense of mystery, I was getting thoroughly scared by the time we got back home.

An old family cemetery, a common site throughout Germany Valley.

At the end of Bland Hills, we got off the hay wagon and parked it where our neighbor instructed us. We walked the little piece up the main road and then up our holler. It was fairly well dark by this time, and we could see the glow from the bonfire by the time we made it halfway up the holler. My great-grandmaw Mary met us at the little footbridge and had some apple cider which she handed to me to carry for her as she continued on up the hill to the party with the rest of us.

The old cemetery where the Civil War battle was fought, it is on this hill that people still see visions of the past.

When we got back the most memorable thing was the huge, blazing bonfire. The older kids were roasting hotdogs, and hamburgers in foil were cooked in the hot coals. My mother told everyone to tear into the multitude of cakes and pies that she had been baking throughout the day. On the front porch there were hay bales to sit on and a huge metal tub full of water with apples floating in it. Bobbing for apples was but one of the games that evening, as well as taffy pulling. However, those two activities were cut short due to our ne’er-do-well cousin, Dank, showing up. Dank buried his head down into the tub of apples and came up with a big red apple in his snaggled teeth. My uncle Wood said that it was no wonder that Dank could get an apple every time he dunked his head in the tub for one, since Dank could practically stab them with his “snags”. So bucked were Dank’s teeth that it had long been said that he could eat corn off the cob through a woven wire fence. Nobody else would take a turn bobbing for apples after Dank because he was not the cleanest person in the world and nobody wanted to stick their head in a tub of water after Dank’s head had been in there “slarshing” around. The same thing happened at the taffy pull. Nobody would eat the taffy after Dank handled it, and we couldn’t very well tell Dank that he couldn't join in the fun. Luckily, Dank left early on in the evening, so we all dumped out the water and washed the washtub. We then filled it back up with water from the spring, and placed more apples in’s that didn’t have Dank’s “fang” marks in them. We all had a great time after that because everyone joined in the festivities.

A foreboding feeling sits upon the mountain.

After we all had eaten our fill of various autumn themed delights, we all sat around the huge warm fire and listened to more ghost stories. There is nothing like listening to local ghost stories on Halloween night while sitting outdoors. We all thought that the various shadows and sounds outside of the illuminated circle was, of course, spirits coming to get us. Someone told a story of Alice Veach, who was known to be a local witch. They told of how she could make pins stand up in the middle of a frying pan just by saying some words over them, and how she could make people sick, or kill livestock, just by looking at them a certain way.

After the ghost stories, stories were told about wild animals that roamed these woods, often killing unwary persons. They told of large mountain lions that chased people and of unearthly creatures such as Old Fon, the goat man, who was said to live up on North Mountain Rocks. It was said that Old Fon could lure children up to the rocks by humming a song of enchantment. When the children got up to the steepest cliffs, he shove them off. My grandmaw Mary said the only way to get away from Old Fon was to call him by his name and tell him to his face, “Leave me alone, Old Fon.” Upon hearing that, he would run into a cave in the rocks and leave you alone. There were also tales of the snallygaster, who walked these hills and hollers looking for mischief, killing dogs, burning barns, and sucking the life out of livestock.

"The Snallygaster",based on handed-down descriptions, drawn by my brother, Jason Burns.

Also, tales of the wampus cat were told. It was said that the wampus cat could make you paralyzed with fear, and he preyed especially on women who were going through the change or on girls who were just coming into womanhood. It was said that once the wampus cat mesmerized you, he would thereafter continue to appear in your dreams, until it would eventually drive you insane.

My childhood home in Germany Valley.

As the ghost stories were told and the tales of the supernatural were winding down, so was I and I fell asleep on my Daddy’s arm. When I woke the next morning, there were the remnants of a party and the memories of a Halloween Party on the mountain that would last me a lifetime.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blogging from the Blackberry Patch

By now, most of you know that our recent contest was won by Janet. What you may not know that Janet also has a blog, and a very good one at that. On her blog, "Writing In The Blackberry Patch", she covers a plethora of customs, events and topics. Everything from Sunflowers to Pawpaws, from Maple Leaf quilts to Great Blue Herons, from arrowheads to the best German Chocolate Cake Icing this side of the Ohio River(and the bigger part of the other side, too).

You are sure to find something that will interest you as Janet describes for you her life from her own little piece of Heaven in Jackson County, WV.

It was on Janet's blog that I first discovered the Stone Carved Mountain of Jackson County, and it quickly raced to the top of my list of places to see in West Virginia. So, take a few minutes and reward yourself, stop by Janet's blog, Writing from the Blackberry Patch.

You won't be disappointed.

Riddle Me This Contest Results

The Results are in and we have a Winner for our Contest titled "Riddle Me This". I thank everyone for joining in the fun, it was good to see how different folks minds work, and how they come up with different answers. To me you all are winners, but I guess that'd be a cop-out, especially since you all are competing for such an illustrious prize. So, thanks to all who played. The winner will be announced at the end of this post.

1) What goes through a creek with six legs and gets only four of them wet? The correct answer is “A man on a horse”. He very well could be headless, especially after reading the "Haunted Horseman" post. I reckon the “blue jay on a pig’s back” technically works as well, but then again, every pig I’ve ever seen cross a creek either takes off swimming or else wallows around in the water.

2) What passes in front of the sun without casting a shadow? The correct answer is “The wind”. Obviously, I’ll accept air as well.

3) What stands on one leg and has its heart in its head? The answer I was looking for was “A Cabbage”. Also, an artichoke fits the bill, too. I’m guessing not to many Germans eat artichokes though.

4) What is it? The more you eat, the more you have? The answer given in the book is “Walnut shells”. Of course, peanuts/peanut hulls also works here. But you know what, I think “Fat” is the better answer. For all of you who have eaten real German food, I'm sure you noticed that Fat isn't an issue. Fat=Flavor!

5) What is it? He who makes it does not reveal it; he who takes it does not recognize it, and he who recognizes it does not want it? The correct answer is “Counterfeit Money”.

6) How much dirt is there in a hole that is a foot square and a foot deep? Most of you got the correct answer “there is no dirt in the hole.” The most original answer was “the amount that fell back in the hole”. This answer obviously comes from someone who has experience digging holes.

7) Your mother had a child, which is neither your brother nor your sister. Who was it? This would be you.

8) Where did Noah hit the first nail? The obvious answer is on the head. Some of you must have wanted to see Noah in pain since you had the poor fellow hitting his thumbnail.

9) What kind of stones are found in the river? The answer I was looking for was “wet stones”, but a few of you took it one step further and came up with “Whetstones”. Very clever.

10) What is blacker than a crow? Why, his feathers are blacker!

11) What has more feathers than a goose? Remember I told you that many of these old German riddles had obvious answers, well this answer to this one is “two geese”.

12) Why does a miller wear a white hat? The same reason anyone wears a hat, “to cover his head”.

By my reckoning and calculations, the scores are as follows:

Janet-10 correct

Granny Sue-9 correct

Nance-9 correct

Byron Chesney-5 +2 bonus for being so funny=7 correct

Lucky13- 5 correct+2 bonus for the angus cow answer. I love cows.=7 correct

TheTileLady=7 correct

Tipper-Honorable Mention for leaving a comment. She must have thought this was an entry for The Publishers Clearinghouse Sweepstakes. She figured the odds of winning and the prizes are about the same here as there.

So, drum roll please………drum roll…………………………………and the winner of the October 2008 Grand Prize of a Nickel’s Worth of Five Dollar Bills is………………………………………….Janet!!!

Congratulations Janet. I’d ask for your address to send the Grand Prize but I can’t figure out the exact change!! So I’ll just mention you on a blog post.


I’ve always liked cattle. Throughout my childhood, cattle were an integral part of my life. My earliest memory is of eating the heavy cream that settled on top of the milk that mom got from our milk cow, Babe. Babe was a Jersey cow and she produced 2 gallons of rich milk every day, which was more than enough for our family. Mom would regularly treat me and my brother, Jason, to homemade gingerbread with real whipped cream on top. It is no wonder we were fatter than little pigs. Mom said when we’d spit-up, it’d be little globs of butter. We were raised in a culture that believed that a fat baby was a healthy baby. My Grandmaw Mary said she just loved little fat babies, and she petted on us something fierce.

Then there were the fun times we had in the old cow barn that sat halfway down Burns Holler. It was the cow barn for my Grandmaw Mary, who in her later years, sold her milk cow so the old stone barn became a favorite play spot for the young kids. We had chairs in there, and even an old television that didn’t have a face in it. Some of the braver kids would get behind the faceless TV set and give us the news. They thought they were a regular Dan Rather, but whenever they’d say something we didn’t like, we’d throw empty pop bottles at them (and in those days, bottles were made of glass). I don’t know how old the cow barn was, but it was so neat, it just exuded a sense of permanency, the rocks were laid neaty, and some were cut to fit. Moss grew on the insides of the damp cow barn and the roof was made of thatch. It looked like it’d be a snaky place, but I don’t ever remember seeing any snakes in there. It was great loss to the family when the cow barn was destroyed in the Great Flood of 1985 that completely washed away Burns Holler.

Later when we moved on the farm, we had cows everywhere. As many of you will recall from a previous post, one of my favorite childhood memories involved a big, red bull named Ole Doan.

In my later childhood, I remember one time we bought an old cow at the Stock Sale in Moorefield for $1. The cow appeared sick and nobody wanted to buy it. Well, figuring it was only $1, we bought it. When we got it home, Grandmaw Mary said to give it a cow tonic. She told us to get a gallon bucket and mix together 2 cups of molasses, a quart of oats, a quart of applesauce, a couple of handfuls of torn up milkweed leaves, and top it off with spring water to where it made a thin soup. Then force the cow to eat it. Well, that was an ordeal, if you’ve ever tried to make a cow eat something it didn’t want to eat, then you can sympathize. I remember it took quite a while but eventually got the tonic into the cow…one cup at a time. Well, we didn’t know what to expect the next morning when we went to check on “Ole Dollar” as we nicknamed her, but we were completely surprised to see her up eating and wanting out of the stall. As we got closer, we found that the tonic had really cleaned her out, there was runny cowshit all over her and the stall, and there were massive amounts of green cow vomit. I never knew a cow to vomit but that’s what we took it to be. After that, Ole Dollar was just fine. Grandmaw Mary said she was probably locked up, meaning that “Ole Dollar” couldn’t poop. She said that tonic loosened her up. Granny said that will happen to cows if they aren’t given any greens or grain. She said probably whoever had her probably only fed her very poor quality hay, and probably that was molded. Granny said that it was poisoning her system. Anyway, the tonic worked and “Ole Dollar” made a 100% recovery. About a month later, we turned around and sold “Ole Dollar” at the same stock sale for $500! Not a bad return for a $1 investment.

So these days, I can’t help but think of these memories whenever I see cows. There’s just something about a cow that just breeds a longing for the rural life.

Do any of you all out there have any cow stories to tell?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

You Caint do Nuthin' 'bout the Weather

Whenever I think of the weather, I am reminded of an old joke I heard years ago about an old hill woman and her grandson, who was doing homework on the correct usage of prepositions. After doing his homework, the boy was expected to go out and hoe up the garden. Just as the pupil thought he had finally grasped the concept, he closed his book, but not wanting to go hoe the garden he looked at his grandmother and said, “I wisht it would rain cats and dogs.” Not knowing (or caring) about the grammatical rules for the uses of prepositions, she responded to her grandson, “Why would you call weather that you’ve got to come in out of up for?” Hearing this, the boy opened his textbook again in bewilderment. I don’t know why, but that has always stuck with me, and I still find it humorous.

I thought of this again today when I was planning a new post about forecasting the weather. I grew up with many ways to foretell the weather by watching the animals. My Grandmaw Mary always said to pay attention to the animals, they will tell you things. That is true enough.

We all know about the wooly worm, and I’m sure you’ve even heard about Granny Clampett’s weather beetle. Even I have included some other time honored folk methods to making an accurate weather forecast in a previous post. Laugh all you want but you’d probably be shocked at just how accurate some of these methods tend to be. Included below are a few of the lesser known folk methods of forecasting weather by watching animals.

When bears store food in autumn, it is going to be a bad winter.

The chattering of squirrels in midwinter indicates an early spring.

If beavers build their lodge’s higher than normal, it is going to be a bad & long winter.

If you see bear tracks in the first snow of the year, it will be a mild winter.

If a cat warms itself in the February sun, it will warm itself by a fire in March.

If there are a lot of herons in the fall, a cold winter is in store.

When woodpeckers leave an area, expect a severe winter. If you see a woodpecker pecking low on a tree trunk, it is a sign of warm weather.

If field birds flock together, it is a sign of a bad storm coming your way.

After the purple martins appear in the spring, no killing frost will occur.

The color of a deer foretells the winter, the darker the coat, the harder the winter.

If fish are seen congregating in deep water, that is a sign of a cold winter to come.

If you hear no birds singing or animals scurrying in the woods, it is a sure sign of a bad storm coming your way.

If there are very few squirrel dreys (nests made of leaves), it is a sign of a cold, hard winter to come.

I’m sure there are more and more of these folk methods of forecasting weather. Also, I’d say there vary from location to location. Do you know of any other ways animals can forecast the weather?

Candy for your Ears

A few days ago, I bought a CD of The Wilson Brothers off of Tipper over at the Blind Pig & The Acorn. Tipper has been a reader and commentor of this blog since it's very beginning. I knew I was in for a treat considering I'd heard samples of the Wilson Brothers music on that site, but nothing prepared me for the pure enjoyment I was to get from one of their CD's. This has led me to write my very first review of anything on this blog.

On their CD, “At the John C. Campbell Folk School & On Radio”, the hometown treasures of Brasstown, NC, The Wilson Brothers, wow listeners with what amounts to candy for your ears.

The harmonies displayed by Ray and Jerry Wilson are very reminiscent of the early Carter Family and would be sheer enjoyment to any purveyor of traditional mountain music. I’m convinced the Wilson Brother’s harmonization on “Careless Soul” would even make Sara and Maybelle Carter envious.

Interspersed with personal comments from these genuine sons of Appalachia, this colorful and unique banter in and of itself is worth the price of the CD. Where else can one hear about Jerry’s bout of croup, or the brother’s first trip to Cu-E-Hogey Falls, OH?

When covering many southern gospel standards in their unique style, The Wilson Brothers, could make Heaven seem within reach to even the worst of sinners. It is rare indeed when entertainers can spread the Word without coming across as “preachy”, especially considering Ray Wilson is an ordained minister of the Gospel. Where I come from we call that “annointed”.

I was especially pleased to hear a cover of “Wreck on the Highway”, one of my favorite songs and one that always bring to mind the late Roy Acuff. On this track, The Wilson Brothers, manage to encompass the passion (and compassion) of Roy Acuff while at the same time still making the standard their own. This is not an easy thing to accomplish.

This CD is an excellent example of real mountain music, and to quote the late Jim Comstock, “It is so real that if you’d cut it, it’d bleed”. To me, no collection of traditional mountain & gospel music is complete until this album is in your collection. I recommend it highly.

For the nominal cost of $10, you could own your very own piece of Appalachian mountain music by the 1998 Recipients of the North Carolina Heritage Award. For ordering information, contact .

Payment is accepted by personal check, money order or Paypal, AND If you buy more than one Wilson Brothers CD, there is even a discount! As they say on the mountain where I come from, “You can’t beat that deal with a stick!”

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Riddle Me This

Okay, today I'm gonna try something new on the blog, and something I've seen work with fantastic results on the Granny Sue Blog. I'm going to have a contest among all the readers of this site who want to join in. These riddles come from the book, "German-American Folklore" edited by Mac E. Barrick. Mind you, some of these German riddles can be the obvious!

Just leave a comment with your answers to enter this amazing contest!! Prizes will be awarded!

1) What goes through a creek with six legs and gets only four of them wet?

2) What passes in front of the sun without casting a shadow?

3) What stands on one leg and has its heart in its head?

4) What is it? The more you eat, the more you have?

5) What is it? He who makes it does not reveal it; he who takes it does not recognize it, and he who recognizes it does not want it?

6) How much dirt is there in a hole that is a foot square and a foot deep?

7) Your mother had a child, which is neither your brother nor your sister. Who was it?

8) Where did Noah hit the first nail?

9) What kind of stones are found in the river?

10) What is blacker than a crow?

11) What has more feathers than a goose?

12) Why does a miller wear a white hat?

Whomever gets the most correct answers (or the most original) wins a nickel's worth of five dollar bills and a mention on this blog.

Answers will be revealed in 2 days.

Good luck.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Lost in the Mountains

I found this story about a cousin of mine named Jason Burns, who was found dead in the mountains at the age of 15. Jason's paternal grandfather was my Great-granddaddy George Burns brother. Also, Jason's maternal grandfather was also my Great-granddaddy George Burns brother. Jason's story is still told in the mountains...a modern day Appalachian cautionary tale.
The Pendleton Times
14 December 1917


The subject of this writing is Jason Burns, son of Mr. and Mrs. William Burns, of Glady, who on Saturday morning November 24, left home with two dogs and his gun to go hunting. He was seen about Eleven o’clock a mile from home going towards Beulah and not returning at night. It was thought that he had gone to some neighbor’s house. But not returning on Sunday, his parents becoming alarmed, word was telephoned all over the country and could get no clue of him. Searching parties began to search the mountainside where he was last seen, but could find no trace of him or the dogs. On Wednesday, the 28th, Jacob Arbogast found the dogs at his bear trap and phoned to his parents about the dogs. Then the mountains were full of men searching for him but it all seemed in vain as it kept snowing and no trace of him was found until Saturday when Wilson Sponaugle and James Wimer found tracks where he had stepped in a mossy place in old snow on an old railroad grade back towards Cheat River.

On Sunday morning, December 2, it was clear and a large crowd started in all directions in hope of finding him. About 11 O’clock, old tracks were discovered again in the old snow but hard to follow. Just at 12 O’clock, his body was found west of Beulah near the top of Shavers Mountain about 5 miles from home. It is supposed that that he was lost and froze to death the first night, as there was no sign of any fire where he was. He had his coat down on the ground and bed down on it and his gun lay at his feet loaded.

There were 18 men in the searching party that found him who names are as follows: Barney and Rafe Harris, Denis and Emery Thompson, Cleat and Ora Strader, Jacob Arbogast and son Sam, Charlie Rennix, Crickard Adams, Glen Heflin, Jess Ingerman, Wade Griffins, Ellis Williams, Dick Kessinger, William Burns, the father of the lost boy, and Clarence Bowers. The one that discovered his body first was Barney Harris, went on and broke the news over the phone while the rest stayed back and brought the body back to the railroad at Beulah, from there he was taken to his home at Glady on the hand car. On Monday, December 8, his body was taken to the church and his funeral was preached by a Mennonite preacher from Job. His texts was from Luke the 4th chapter, the 18th and 19th verses. At 4 O’clock his body was laid to rest in the Glady Cemetery amid a large congregation. He leaves to mourn his loss a father and mother, 3 brothers and 2 sisters besides a lot of sorrowing friends. He was 15 years, 3 months and 27 days old.

Now young boys all who read or hear this, take warning and listen to your parents when they advise you about the danger of going in the mountains with dogs and gun when you are not acquainted with the woods. The dogs led this boy so far in the woods that he couldn’t find his way back out. Think of the 8 long nights he lay out in the cold snowy mountains. Think for one minute how his dear father and mother felt and listen to your parents.

Written by Jacob Arbogast.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Horsemen Hauntings

Germany Valley abounds with the tales of ghostly horses and horsemen. I thought I’d share a few of them with you.

I remember a story about an apparently benevolent ghost horseman who frequented these parts, and whom you could still hear some nights as he followed people going from one house to the other. This occurred on nights in the full moon, and people could see it just fine, it never spoke, and it rode just a few yards behind a person. As far as I know, this horseman never harmed anyone, it would just scare the heck out of you.
Not the Headless Horseman in the lane, but here is an artist rendering of another West Virginia Headless Horseman. Drawn by my brother, Jason Burns.

There are also tales of a not so friendly headless horseman. My granddad told me about a headless horseman that haunted a particular stretch of road, locally known as “The Lane”. The story took place in the summer months, and that this headless horseman chased a local man named Oren Bent. Oren was riding a lazy, old sway-backed horse named “Nelliegur”, and he was coming out of The Lane one evening about dark, after visiting some friends. The headless horseman took after him just after he passed the old cemetery and it chased him all the way home. He said the rider was carrying what he took to be his head in his left hand. Oren said it looked like a big round thing that was wrapped in white cloth and it was dripping blood. Oren that sparks was flying off the horses hooves as the horseshoes hit the rocks in the road. Oren said the horseman rode up beside of old Nelliegur, and the ghost horse snorted and scared her, and she took off running as hard as she could. Nelliegur hadn’t been known to break out into a run for several years prior to this, and was considered to be the laziest horse in five counties. The next day, when Oren told the community of his ordeal, the men doubted his word and followed him up to where this supposedly took place, and the men tracked Nelliegur from where she left the friends home the previous evening. She had been plodding along as usual, until just after passing the old cemetery, where she broke into a flat run. Oddly enough, beside her hoof prints were the hoof prints of another horse that was very large, and every few feet or so, there were droplets of blood scattered in the dust of the road. The men were shocked, nobody around there could explain the hoof prints of the large horse, nobody around there had a horse that large, nor could they explain the droplets of blood. For the next few weeks, Oren couldn’t get Nelliegur to go anywhere near The Lane, in fact, she would lie down in the road to keep from going through that section.

Burns Holler Road

It has long been known that Burns holler is also haunted by a headless horseman. To this day, you can be lying in bed at my parents house, and on some quiet nights you can hear the sound of a shod horse walking (or running) up and down the holler. Everyone in my family has heard this on several occasions, and we don’t make a big deal out of it. I remember one night about 8 O’clock I was walking back from my Granddad’s house up on the hill and I was heading toward home. To get from my granddad’s house to our house, I had to walk down off the hill, around the turn and down through Burns holler before crossing the creek and walking up the hill to our house. On this night, just as I rounded the turn in the road, I heard the unmistakable sound of a horses hooves clanging off the rocks and clomping up the holler road toward me. I just about pissed my pants. I took off running as hard as I could, I practically jumped across the bridge over the creek, and hell-belled it toward home. I was really stepping it off, until I forgot about the little drainage ditch near my grandmaw’s old house, and I tripped in it. Well, I just rolled with the fall and hit the ground running, I didn’t miss a beat! I was just sure the headless horseman was right behind me. I was breathing so hard though, there was no way I could’ve heard it if it was. I know what I heard that night though, and at that time, there were no horses within miles of our holler. I have never been able to come up with an explanation for that one.

One thing for sure, I learned a lesson that night, and after that I always made sure I was home before dark or else I had a big flashlight with me. There’s always been weird stuff that goes on in Burns holler after the sun goes down.

Does anyone out there reading this have stories about a headless horseman from your neck of the woods?

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

A Sunny Day in Autumn

Theodor Kramer, German Poet (1897-1958)
Give me to die some sunny day in autumn…

Give me to die some sunny day in autumn-
already raw and sharp - when frosty lines
and breezes sweep round house and barn that fraught'em
with smells of dying weeds and rotting vines.

Let me inhale the scent of shells decaying
that fall from nuts, and let me watch the plow
uproot and bury fraying stubbles swaying
in fat soil furrows to the final bow.

For then I might believe that such law's ending-
as rots the grape draff and thereby
renews the soil - would grant me equal standing:
It will ensure not all of me will die.

Autumn Splendor

Here are some beautiful autumn photo's from around Pendleton & Randolph Counties in West Virginia. All photo's courtesy of Jason Burns.

By Robert Frost (1874-1963)

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
To-morrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.

The crows above the forest call;
To-morrow they may form and go.

O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow,
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know;
Release one leaf at break of day;

At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away;
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!

For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,

Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Buried Treasure in Pendleton County

Riverton Gap. This is in the vicinity of the treasure.

Mysterious Strangers Do Strange Things in Riverton
The Pendleton Times, January 8, 1932.

For several months a party of three mysterious strangers with a Maryland license on their automobile have been noticed by the inhabitants of Riverton. On the week of Christmas the party was around the hills near Riverton and seemed to be avoiding the local people. Then on Sunday during the Christmas holidays they stopped for the day on the road that leads up Roots Run across the river from Riverton. They seemed to be working on the car. In fact they told one boy the car was broken down and that they had sent to Franklin for a mechanic.

That night while the people of Riverton were at preaching, the three strangers began to dig a place in the ground and by the time the service was over they were starting away. Some of the citizens went over to investigate and found the hole they had dug partially filled. Later in the night it seems the strangers came back and filled the hole and made a couple of marks as though someone had been buried.

Later an investigation showed that a hole had been started in the shape of a grave and that at the bottom of the hole, three feet down, it seemed that some round object like a stone jar had been removed.

Old residents declare that the spot, which is on Elmer Lambert's farm, was once covered by a very large flat, thin rock. This was beaten up as a part of the foundation of a nearby bridge.

Naturally such happenings set people to wondering and the prevailing theory is that they were fortune hunters. It reminds one of the tales of the pirates or gold holders of the Spanish Main.

Old residents declare that after the Civil War a large quantity of gold was stolen in Virginia and brought to this country; that later the two brothers who were supposed to be guilty were apprehended and a party went to arrest them, which resulted in a fight in which one of the brothers was killed. It happened to be the one who had hidden the hold the night before in a new place.

The other brother fled from the county and has not been seen since. Inasmuch as one of the three strangers who was in the party of last week appeared to be between ninety and a hundred years old, many people believe he was the brother who fled.

Naturally this is news of great interest. If the gold was hidden and found we hope that the truth may be discovered and some one found who will divulge the secret. The only clue to the strangers is the fact that the car had a Maryland license. Any further clues as to the identity of these strangers would be much appreciated.

Another View of the Riverton Gap, where this treasure is supposed to be buried.

Hidden Gold at Riverton
The Pendleton Times, January 15, 1932
Editor Times;

This is a reply to the article of last week in regard to the legend of the lost or hidden gold in the gap along Root's Run east of Riverton.

This legend is strong and I have heard it ever since I can remember and I heard it from different old people, some yet living--people who had heard it from older ones who were nearly grown when the incident took place.

The legend as I have heard it is this; During the War of 1812, twelve men came one evening, traveling from no one knew where and camped at or near where J.E. Lambert now lives. I do not know that there was any house then built there.

The descendants of old John Justice Hinkle had scattered and built over most of the Germany Valley section and farther up Root's Run. Anyway, there were dwellings, and dwellers lived on the Stringtown Run where Claude Nelson now lives.

The twelve men camped for the night at the spring where the two runs fork, and they had with them a half-bushel camp pot or kettle, level full of gold coins, and they told the local people who saw them that they were getting away from the war and taking their gold so that it would not be taken from them.

The people supposed they were robbers or pirates; my guess would be the latter, for this was about the time when the American colonists got a navy strong enough to make the pirates along the Atlantic coast think about scattering. As these men stated, they divided up and carried the gold with them during the day, but being afraid to keep it with them during the night it was their custom for one of them to slip out from camp after dark and hide it away. At this they took turn about, one hid it one night, another one the next night.

On this particular night one of them shouldered up the kettle and went down Root's Run, which at that time was almost covered with timber and underbrush. I presume there was some kind of trail there at that time for it was the natural outlet for the settlers to go down to North Fork river.

This man disappeared and came back in a short time, and he alone knew where he had hidden the kettle full of gold, And now the sad part of the story comes in. Before the time to get the gold next morning this man was a corpse. Probably a row started and he got in the way of a long knife or stopped a slug from a flint-lock pistol.

When the remaining eleven men went out to get the gold, they were unable to find it. A month's search with the help of the settlers who lived in the section failed to disclose the hiding place, and finally the travelers had to abandon the search and left for parts unknown. So far as anyone knows this gold has been hidden there for 120 years, and is still there unless the three mysterious strangers mentioned last week who did the digging during Christmas week did really locate it with a divining rod, magic needle, or whatever dinkus is called that they locate buried treasure with. For my part, I did not see the hole that was dug by the strangers until it was so trampled up by people that I could not tell anything about it.

Now, if this legend about the gold was really true, according to my judgment the digging was done at a very favorable place, for the trail that was there 120 years ago was probably right where the road is today, for the reason that there is no other place for it to have been, this man, loaded down with 200 pounds or more of gold did not leave that path very far, or he would have had to up into the rocky bars along the cliffs on either side where the old settlers for many years did most of their hunting for the gold.

About 15 years ago, or about the time of the advent of the Model T Ford in this section, I was going through the gap one evening and saw three men wandering up and down through the rocks on the opposite side of the Run. One had some sort of dinkus in his hand,"sorter" carrying on like Calvin Ruddle does when he is witching for water. The men were strangers to me and had their old Ford parked down where the school house was then.

I also saw, last summer, a party of men in the gap who were probably on the same business. So it looks like the search has been carried on at intervals all down through the years. W.L. Warner.