200 South Kanawha Street
Beckley, West Virginia
I’m starting a new type of entry. Frankly, I really do enjoy doing heavy, in depth research on locations but it’s difficult to always find the time to research and write extensive blog entries. So, I’m introducing a new type of entry, the “newsbyte,” which will highlight information I find with less research.
So far, West Virginia has been this blog’s Achilles heel. While Mississippi has not been well documented in terms of its ghosts, it seems that West Virginia is in the same quandary. So far, I’ve found 2 books about the ghosts of Mississippi and 4 on the ghosts of West Virginia. Therefore, whenever I find anything on either state I get excited.
Halloween is a wonderful time to pull newspaper articles on ghosts and I was excited to find a great article on the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building in Beckley, West Virginia. The article, “Stories of Beckley’s ghosts to be told Friday” from The Register-Herald, is regarding a fundraiser presentation for Theatre West Virginia which has just recently moved into the building. The presentation, called “Beckley’s Ghosts, Legends & Lore,” included storytellers describing experiences with the paranormal, including their own, in Beckley. The article then turns to the stories about the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building.
The article quotes Scott Worley, Raleigh County Historic Landmarks commissioner and historian, as stating that many people have had strange experiences in the building. He includes a story about a phantom saxophone solo that was heard during a show in the theatre. Of course, no one with a saxophone was in the building at the time.
A quick search online produced an investigation report from Eastern States Paranormal, a ghost hunting organization out of Virginia. The investigation, evidently conducted this year but otherwise no date is provided, produced some very interesting results. While the first few hours of the investigation was fairly quiet, the final few hours were particularly active starting during the group’s break with a noise like “a herd of elephants r[unning] across the stage.” For the next few hours the group was bombarded with many noises including “footsteps and doors closing…along with knocks, bangs and every other thing you could expect at a ghost hunt.”
According to the background information provided in the investigation report, the theatre opened in 1931 as a memorial to the veterans of World War I. During the opening ceremony, a set of makeshift bleachers collapsed injuring some including a tuba player who survived despite a broken neck. “Bob,” the tuba player, at some point later took up residence in an apartment in the basement of the building and it is there that his apparition has been seen. James Foster Robinson’s 2008 book, A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia, provides a brief mention of this building and simply identifies the ghost as a “gentleman ghost cloaked in gray” though he also mentions that music and children’s laughter are also heard in the building.
The Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Building is owned by the Raleigh County Commission which has just recently handed over use of the building to Theatre West Virginia, a noted theatre company in the area. At the moment, the company is renovating the building for future use.
Eastern States Paranormal. Soldiers and Sailors War Memorial
Theater. Accessed 8 November 2010.
Kuykendall, Taylor. “Stories of Beckley’s ghosts to be told
Friday.” The Register-Herald. 28 October 2010.
Lannom, Andrea. “County hands TWV control of Soldiers
And Sailors Building. The Register-Herald. 25 June 2010.
Robinson, James Foster. A Ghostly Guide to West Virginia.
WV: Winking Eye Books, 2008.