Thursday, October 2, 2014

“None of the town is spared of a ghost story”—Shepherdstown, WV

This article touches on Shepherd University. For a further examination of the hauntings on that campus, please see my guide to higher education haunts in WV.

I must sheepishly admit (pun intended) that I was not familiar with Shepherdstown, West Virginia until I stumbled across the website for Shepherd University with a recounting of its campus ghosts. Upon googling local ghosts, a marvelous article from the Shepherdstown Chronicle popped up with the above quote from a local historian. Of course, that got me excited.

Shepherdstown is located in the eastern panhandle of West Virginia in Jefferson County. Of the counties in West Virginia, Jefferson County seems to be one of the most paranormally active, most certainly in the area of Harpers Ferry. Standing in the large shadow of Harpers Ferry ghosts, I imagine that is why there really isn’t much written about Shepherdstown’s ghosts.

Settlement of the area began in the early 18th century with Thomas Shepherd being granted over 200 acres in the area. He set aside a portion of that acreage for a town which was chartered in 1762 and is—“arguably” as Wikipedia says—the oldest chartered town in West Virginia. The town was named Mecklenburg and would remain under that name until after the Civil War.

One of the city’s oldest remaining structures is the Entler-Weltzheimer House, also known as the “Yellow House” (East High Street, Shepherd University Campus) which is now owned by Shepherd University. Not only is the yellow house one of oldest in the city, but the ghost story told about it may be one of the oldest documented ghost stories in the city as well. The story was mentioned in a Shepherd College (as it was called at that point) yearbook in 1928. An article in the student newspaper, the Shepherd College Picket, in 1954 also covers the tale.

In 1910, the Yellow House was the home of a local cobbler, George Yontz and his furry companion, a cat named Ham. When Mr. Yontz’s body was found not far from the cabin, locals assumed he had been killed for his money (many thought him to be very wealthy), though none was found when the house was searched. Since his death, the cobbler’s taps of his cobbler’s tools have been heard in and around the house.

The student newspaper mentions that a family moved into the house not long after Yontz’s death and their cat heard the tapping in the attic. The cat headed up the stairs and not long after came streaking back down and out the door. The cat was never seen again.

The house is built on the site of what was a fort built in the area during the French and Indian War. The house was purchased by the university in 1926 and has been used for a variety of educational uses—including as a Home Economics Cottage—until recently. The university was recently granted money to preserve the house.
McMurran Hall, Shepherd University. Photo by Acroterion, 2012,
courtesy of Wikipedia.
Just down the street and around the corner from the Yellow House is McMurran Hall (NE corner German and King Streets), one of the grandest buildings on the university campus. McMurran is where Shepherd College was founded in 1871 and its clock tower is featured in the university logo. This grand, Greek Revival building was constructed as the town hall by Rezin Shepherd, the great-grandson of Thomas Shepherd, the town’s founder. Construction began on the eve of the Civil War and building stood incomplete when the wounded from the Battle of Antietam (17 September 1862)—considered one of the bloodiest battles fought on American soil—began arriving in Shepherdstown. Public and private buildings were commandeered for use as hospitals including the unfinished town hall. Perhaps it is the spirit of one of these men who passed in this building that’s seen peering from the clock tower at night.

At the other end of the block, where German Street intersects Princess Street, the corner is graced with the lovely, old Entler Hotel (129 East German Street), also called Rumsey Hall and now home to the Historic Shepherdstown Museum. The first building on this property was a home for the Entler family which was destroyed by fire in 1912. The subsequent buildings constructed here remain and these housed the Entler Hotel.
Entler Hotel, 2008, by Acroterion, courtesy of Wikipedia.

Shepherdstown’s location along a main road from Baltimore to the interior of the southeast, brought a great deal of traffic through the area in the early 19th century. This hotel was opened primarily to serve the wealthier travelers, though the nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places notes that there was gambling and other gaming taking place in the inn’s yard. Continuing, it notes that one businessman, having lost his money in a card game, shot himself at the back of the hotel.

This was not the only tragedy here, in 1809 after a duel just across the Potomac River, Peyton Smith was brought here. The duel was held following a card game between Smith and Joseph Holmes, both members of noted Virginia families. The wounded Smith was placed in Room 1 and cried out for his mother before he passed. His mother arrived from Winchester after her son’s passing. People in the building continue to hear Smith’s pathetic cries.

Walking south down Princess Street, visitors will find an old carriage repair shop that formerly housed the Carriage House Café (107 South Princess Street). This building has housed a variety of businesses and the spirit of a former owner is said to remain on the property.

A bit further down East German Street, another corner is graced by a grand building in this case it is the Beaux-Arts style, the old 1906 Jefferson Security Bank. The bank was converted to a restaurant some years ago and now houses the Yellow Brick Bank Restaurant (201 East German Street). Table 25 was the scene of some activity in the 1990s when a patron reported to the restaurant’s manager that she couldn’t sit at the table because of the ghost. The bartender also reported that he had glasses fall from the glass rack and break.

Of course, for Shepherdstown, I think these hauntings are just the tip of the iceberg. I’ll be keeping my eyes open for more reports from this lovely little town.

Sources
Engle, Georgia Lee. “Restless spirit roams campus, haunts High
     Street Cottage.” Shepherd College Picket. 28 October 1954.
Lehman, Mary Corcoran. “Entler Hotel.” Historic Shepherdstown and
     Museum. Accessed 2 October 2014.
McGee, Ted. National Register of Historic Places nomination form for
     Rumsey Hall (Entler Hotel). 6 October 1972.
Molenda, Rachel. “Town serves as home to ghosts from past.”
     The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 28 October 2011.
     Theresa’s Haunted History of the Tri-State blog. 16 July 2011.
“Shepherd receives restoration grant.” The Shepherdstown Chronicle.
     5 August 2011.
Shepherd University. “Historic Tour—Yellow House.” Accessed
     2 October 2011.
Shepherd University. “Legend of the Yellow House.” Accessed
     2 October 2011.
Shepherd University. “Historic Tour—McMurran Hall.” Accessed
     2 October 2011.
Whipple, Jim. “The Carriage House to celebrate liquor license.”
     The Shepherdstown Chronicle. 19 November 2010.

29 comments:

  1. I am the creator and guide for the Shepherdstown Mysteries Walk. I have a picture taken near the yellow house with a nice orb in it, and a visiting psychic said the spirit in the house does not like the color, he says the house was painted the wrong color" She didn't know that the house had been repainted within the past 3 years. You did a nice job on the stories you related. There are many more. Check out ShepherdstownMysteriesWalk.com or Shepherdstown Mysteries Walk on Facebook. Dana Mitchell

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  2. Shepherdstown, WV definitely is overshadowed by Harper's Ferry, but that's not all. Just across the river is Antietam/Sharpsburg,MD of Civil War fame. But that's not all, less than an hour away is Frederick, MD no slacker on the ghost front. However, lest I forget, Gettysburg, PA is just stone's throw away. Then just beyond the hour mark are both Bull Run and Manassas,VA. And two hours down the road, more or less, lands you in Fredericksburg, VA. So, there's quite a few voices drowning out any one other.

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    1. Thanks for pointing this out...I'm very familiar with this region and have never thought of the fact that it's a paranormal hotspot.

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  3. I look forward to watching the upcoming T.V. program about this town.

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    1. I know I can't wait I will be watching too

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  4. sounds good what about paranormal lockdown

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  5. I lived in Shepherdstown for 21 years. I have a great picture taken of the little barn behind the Little House (Near White Hall). It's chock full of orbs.

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    1. Such an edifying comment that says absolutely nothing. What's your point?

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    2. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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  7. I'll b coming there one day the show turned me to it.

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  8. I LOVE the show about the town. It is truly a ghost story show. I can't wait for Sunday night at 9:00 cst for my next ghost fix!

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  9. Yes it's the first time I'm hearing about Shepherdstown West Virginia my family is from Springdale West Virginia and I heard stories about cat running out from being burnt in the oven for my family home my last name is ham Walter ham and we are with from Springdale West Virginia in other words ham Hollow in Springdale West Virginia so some of the stories that I can believe that is true my grandfather is name Shepherd ham

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  10. Yes it's the first time I'm hearing about Shepherdstown West Virginia my family is from Springdale West Virginia and I heard stories about cat running out from being burnt in the oven for my family home my last name is ham Walter ham and we are with from Springdale West Virginia in other words ham Hollow in Springdale West Virginia so some of the stories that I can believe that is true my grandfather is name Shepherd ham

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  11. I have spent a lot if time in west virginia. something that I have noticed about the show is the absence of any southern accents by any of the towns people. This is very strange in relation to my experiences in west virgina. I have always noticed a very distinct accent from people who have lived their whole lives there, and adds to my suspicion that this is fake.

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    1. Even though Shepherdstown is West Virginia it is on the border of Maryland and is close to Washington, DC and Baltimore, MD. The northern part is WV is more like MD and PA and the accents are more similar to people from those areas. Southern West Virginians consider Northern West Virginians "Yankees". As you go south of of Clarksburg and Elkins you will hear the southern accents.

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    2. In Winchester and north through the panhandle of WV, a deep southern accent isn't that prevalent. The Baltimore and DC proximity is probably part of the reason.

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    3. I live right near Shepherdstown all my life and we all do not have the strong southern accent. Remember not everyone that lives here grew up here & we have been told many times this area does not have an accent like the rest of WV.

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    4. I'm from Western New York, and as I watched the show (which I loved), to me I could hear a bit of a southern accent in a few of the locals..especially the sheriff and the psychic and a little bit from the town historian. I could be wrong, just saying that the difference between the way we talk up here in WNY (which is completely different from the classic NYC accent), compared to the way certain people spoke on the show, to me they sounded southern. I mean not like the southern accents you get from let's say, Alabama or Georgia (to me those are deep southern accents), but there was definitely a hint of the south in the way they spoke. But again, I'm from NY so anything from PA and down is southern to me. Except for a few states down the east coast like NYC, New Jersey and the New England states. I live close to the Pennsylvania line, it's about 45 minutes south of here, I'm in what's considered to be the country or rural area of WNY and there's even a few people around here that have a type of southern accent even though they grew up in this area lol. I just think its amazing how different we all sound in parts of the US..like to me I don't have any accent, but if I head down south I'll most likely be picked on cuz of my "yankee" accent lol

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  12. I've noticed the lack of accents in everyone, even those who claim to be lifetime locals. I like the show, so far as entertainment goes, but there are things that just don't add up. These investigators just show up and everyone is happy to see them. I've done quite a few investigations and there is always someone in the area who tell you you're full of it. Too many people just seem like they are out of central casting.

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    1. I live in Hagerstown, not far from Shepherdstown. I visit that town often, love the shops there. There are only 2 people (shop owners) that I have noticed with southern accents on my visits there, and I have spoken to many people. What you're seeing in the show, is pretty much on point. BTW, where I live, not far away, no southern accents either.

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    2. I live in Shepherdstown. Half the locals interviewed are people I know.

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    3. I don't believe anyone was casted on the show, but I do believe they knew they were going to be interviewed and that process was planned out..but not any of the rest

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  13. I looks at the Corporation of Shepherdstown, nothing about filming in the August 2015. I did note that Mike King, is now the Chief of Police as of Jan 2016.

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  14. So why is Nick a fake?
    There's more out there that we don't see and may never see, even the religious among us do believe there are realizing there are untested spirited.

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  15. I have watched all six episodes of this program, and have a concern for the town. What about the "Satanic circle" that was found in the woods? That has to be giving off dark energy. They may have settled one large issue that was excaberating paranormal activity, but I think the upside-down crosses, etc. need to be neutralized, also.

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  16. I have lived in Shepherdstown from infancy. Growing up and maturing in the town and well into my college and later years and then much later years, the only ghost story many people knew of, including most of the WWII generation living here, was a tale from outside of town--the tale of the Wizzard's Clip in Middleway, VA. Even if there was another minor ghost story here or there that most people didn't know of, the one most had heard of and possibly the only major one was of Wizzard's Clip. For the past few years the town--dubbed a corporation-- has been aiming to turn itself into a tourist town in order to line the pockets of already well-heeled individuals. One way to build tourism is to pander to public interest in the paranormal by creating ghost stories that are fake. As one responder has stated, "It is all fake." Amen.

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