Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

I get asked all the time if where I work, The Golden Rule, is haunted? For a building to be built in 1902 and not be haunted is a surprise. I would say that the building is not haunted in the traditional way. Not in the way horror movies show hauntings, full of evil spirits and terrible outcomes. I don’t have slamming doors, lights turning on and off or cold chills in the building. I rarely hear strange unexplained noises. I work for hours alone in the large empty building day and night, never feeling a cold chill. But, this building does have visitors.

Black and white photo of the side of the Golden Rule, Belington WV.

I have worked in the building around 18 months and after about 6 months of clearing out the building I gave up on experiencing anything unusual. That is until one warm summer evening when the rain poured down and lightning flashed that I meet someone amazing.

This usual Wednesday evening I was working alone doing inventory and getting ready for the antique auction we were planning as a fundraiser. Tables were lined with items from the 1920s to items used in the 1970s. I would list each item on an inventory sheet and photograph it, so we could either sell the item or place in on display in the future. The storm came in about 4pm and darkened the sky and made the inside of the building dreary enough I needed to turn on the lights. With my back turned to the front glass doors I worked listening to the rumble of thunder and the sounds of pouring rain. A few minutes into the storm I head a pecking sound on the glass that brought my attention to the double glass doors at the front of the building. Standing under the aged front arch, was a man. A small aged man, maybe 5’2″ around 70 dressed in an unusual way.

Front view of the arched entry of the Golden Rule after a rain.

The man wore a blue and white striped engineers cap over his head of short white hair. His face was light with a short groomed beard and mustache with crystal blue eyes that twinkled when he spoke. He wore an insulated blue work coat in the style of a1970s coal miner. He wore dark blue work pants rather than blue jeans. The blue of his eyes, hat, and coat contrasted with his healthy pink skin so much it appeared he had just showered and still had the rosy glow of the heat.

I walked to the locked door and smiled at him through the glass. I opened the door slightly to speak to the petite man. I asked if I could help him and he replied that he had worked in the building years ago and had seen the lights on. That he saw my car parked outside as he drove by and wanted to see what was happening with the old place.

His accent was pure West Virginia, charming and educated. I felt the urge to let him in from the cold gray outside and felt no fear bringing the stranger into the building. We stopped at the front of the first floor and he began to ask questions about who owned the building and who worked for the company and what were the future plans for the Golden Rule.

He was so filled with love for the place that he excitedly asked if I knew the Shinn family. He also asked if I had known him or his brother back in the 1970s when he worked at the store. I explained that I was not in West Virginia then and shared who I worked for. He preceded to share that everyone called him Hatchet and he had a brother named Don who worked there off and on too. He explained he helped Don moved the furniture and did deliveries for Mrs. Shinn, who owned the Golden Rule for close to 50 years.  He had run the historic water-powered elevator and trapped bats on the third-floor rafters over the years. I asked if he had been in the building recently and he said, “no not for years and years. I spend most of my time fixing up old cars now.”

We visited for an extended time on the first floor then I offered to show him around.  He was a fit older man, so we talked about what was on each floor when he worked for Wanda Shinn. He shared stories about selling mattresses and box springs and having to wait on the elevator to raise and lower. “It was so slow that you would pile everything you sold on one trip to save time,” Hatchet said.

G.R. historic photo

We talked about his life as we looked out the windows on the third floor. He said,” I have always loved the view of the rail yard back here.” We stood side by side looking at the aging trains and cars parked behind the Golden Rule. He talked about his last days at the Golden Rule before going to work for the Mines. How being a coal miner had been the best thing he could have done for the pay and retirement. He had made enough money to buy a house and a couple acres of land when he was in his 50’s and had put plenty away for retirement so he could keep rebuilding old cars. We talked about how Belington had changed and how he used to drag race through town on Saturday nights and go to the movies in Philippi. He shared about how everyone for miles around shopped at the Golden Rule. He listed some of the things he bought for his mining job. Finally, he asked me if they were going to save the old elevator or if it was going to scrap. I was excited to tell him that the old water-powered elevator was staying and that we would be looking for someone to work on it soon. I asked if he wanted to see the elevator and if he had any idea how it worked. He was happy to take a look at the old mud covered basement and tell me a little bit about how it worked. He remembered swabbing the piston and waiting on the elevator to slowly carry its cargo up the shaft.

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Empty elevator shaft on the 2nd floor of the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia.

Golden Rule elevator gears Preservation aliance of WV

Water Powered elevator pullies in the basement of the Golden Rule, Belington West Virginia.  

 

Finally, after about an hour of visiting and laughter, he said he should go. That he needed to get back to the house it was getting late and dinner would be ready soon. I realized that it was about 5:00 and I would need to leave for home too.  He walked to the door and said: “Thank you so much for showing this to me, it looks like she is in good hands.” He stepped down the stairs to the ground and I waved out the door and said: “Hatchet is was a pleasure to meet you, I hope you come back to visit soon”. Locking the glass door behind him I watched out the door for a classic blue car he had told me about. Soon a blue 1970’s Chevy drove by the building towards the town of Elkins. I couldn’t help smiling the rest of the night thinking of my visitor.

umbrella

Old umbrella on the third floor of the Golden Rule building Belington West Virginia.

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Furniture Polish bottles found in the basement of the Golden Rule Building, Belington WV.

A couple weeks later my boss and I found another person who had worked in the building operating the elevator for several years. We invited Charlie to lunch at a local cafe and planned to talk about the mechanics of the elevator and how it worked and if it could be made to operate on just the basement and first floor. Charlie was happy to meet and talk about how the elevator worked. As we eat and visited I casually told Charley and my boss that I had met another man who worked at the Golden Rule. I said I had met Hatchet and that we had talked for about an hour about the building and elevator. Charlie started shaking his head violently “no” and making a throat noise as he tried to swallow his bite of potatoes. Clearing his mouth he blurted out,”You did not meet Hatchet! He’s been dead 25 years! There is no way that is who you met.”

Being  surprised by his tone of voice  I replied with, “if it was not Hatchet then maybe it was his brother Don.”

Charlie’s face grew grave and serious leaning into the cafe table and said, “it wasn’t Don either, he has been dead 30 years or more”.

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Glass shoe sales sign found at the Golden Rule Belington, West Virginia. 

At this my poor boss about choked on his sip of coffee. Charlie continued to ask me questions about how I had heard of Hatchet and Don. I told him that I learned their names from the man who visited me at the Golden Rule. A short white-haired man who wore a railroad cap.

“That’s impossible!” Charlie said, “You must have met someone else!”

I gave a description of the white-haired man that I met and told about him leaving the Golden Rule for the Coal Mines. I shared his love of the old cars that he often worked on.

My boss and Charley looked at me as if the world had ended. Confused and in disbelief of my description they looked at one another. Finally said, “I have no idea how I would know this information any other way than from the source.”

trash and empty shelves of the Golden Rule

Cleaned off shelves at the Golden Rule before floors were cleaned 2019 Belington WV

 

I  joked that I gave a ghost a tour at the Golden Rule and both men laughed at the silliness of the statement. They blew off the strange story I had told them over our lunch. They were both ready to think that I  had somehow gotten the information from some other old man around town and that I couldn’t have met Hatchet. Neither one wanted a haunted job site and no one wanted to share gossip of a stranger at the Golden Rule for fear of scaring off contractors and laborers.

My experience with the Ghost of the Golden Rule was not one that anyone would call scary. Hatchet is happy to see his workplace coming back to life and seemed content to look the place over with me. He made me aware of several things about the building and the town of Belington that I did not know. So If you had asked me if I had seen a ghost at the Golden Rule before that lunch date my answer was “No!”  In my mind, Hatchet is as real as anyone else. But after that lunch date with Charlie, I still find myself wondering who I met that afternoon and if he meant it when he said he would come back to visit me when the building was finished? I just hope he is as happy to see me as I will be to see him!

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Categories: About me, Barbour County, Benefit auction, ghost stories, ghosts, Golden Rule, Haunted House, historic locations, history, Uncategorized, West Virginia | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Ghost Visits the Golden Rule

  1. That’s an amazing story, JoLynn. I think you met Hatchet, However it happened, it’s a memory that will stay with you. Perhaps he will return and you can solve the mystery, but maybe you already have.

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  2. Gail Sinsel

    Hatchet always rode a bicycle. I’m surprised that he was driving a car in your story.

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    • I was not aware of that and I am still not sure what I saw was not just another small man who knew everyone in town and knew a lot about the Golden Rule. If you have more information or stories to tell about the building or family I would love to hear them. I am putting together a photo book about the building and adding stories and memories that people like to share to go with the photos. If you are interested in talking I would love to hear what you have to say about your memories. I could try to set something up after the holidays and we could talk. Just let me know here and we work something out.

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  3. Frederick Ware

    Hatchet head Findley and I were good friends and about the same age growing up in Belington.
    While he was still working at The Golden Rule and I had moved to Connecticut, I had him ship some shoes that I liked to me. I do not recall of him working in the mines but it is possible that his father worked in the mines. I am now 94 years old and he would have been near my age.
    Frederick (Freck) Ware

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    • Thank you so much Fred for reaching out and dropping me a line. I will be working on a photo book of the Golden Rule over the next year if you are interested in talking with me about your memories. I would love to hear about what Belington was like when you were kids.
      Let me know and we can set up a time for me to call you.

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    • William "Billy" Gordon Posten

      My family, the Posten’s are distantly related to the Findley’s. I remember Carl “Hatchet” Findley.

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  4. Brenda Coontz

    JoLynn, your story is beautiful and really not hard to believe. Hatchet was a great asset and so loyal to that Company. Although, I doubt he ever worked as a coal miner; he worked all his life at the Golden Rule. He definitely was such a great, good, man, I really believe he might have been able to visit you. He did have an older brother named Don. He had 2 sisters, Louise and Juanita. I was best friends with Louise during 4 years of High School. I stayed at their home a lot and got to know the family very well. Very nice family!!! Mother’s and Father’s names were Carl and Eva Findley. Hatchet’s real name was Carl, also. I truly believe that God let Hatchet visit his main purpose in life, the “Golden Rule”. That makes me very happy. So believe it happened, JoLynn.
    Brenda Pingley Coontz
    Washington, D,C.

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    • Brenda,
      thanks so much for sharing your story and the information about Hatchets real name a couple people I have talked to did not even know his real first name. I hope to be working on a photobook of the Golden Rule for sale in the retail space that we are creating. I would love to talk to you about your memories if you are willing and add them to a book about the building and its people. I hope to work on it over the next year so if you are intrested let me know by email and we can try after the Holidays to talk on the phone… Thank you again for sharing

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  5. PATTY HOFFMAN

    I think you met Hatchet I remember him and Don delivering things to our house when Ms Shin own the Golden Rule. Ms Shin was the nicest person you would ever meet but u never crossed her because u would be told about it by her. I love that old building I have very fond memories there. Going up and down the steps to see if there wa something I could talk more into buying me. I remember she had clothes and Red Wing Shoes and then there was Baby Dolls and Little Metal Cars in bins to buy she kept it neat and clean. So to restore it I’m happy to see because That lady loved my mom and she always tried to help her with 9 kids and herself my mom was god friends with alot of shop owners. She cleaned houses and the buildings for things she needed.Her Name was Dorothy Shahan but everyone knew as Sis and she was a very special lady.Ms Shin and her was friends for many yrs it hurt mom when Ms.Shin went out of business because she lost the time they spent just walking and talking is what they called it when mom would go in and talk to her. Lot of good memories in that building.

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    • Patty, you so much for sharing your family story about the Golden Rule. As I work on a Photobook of the Building I hope you wouldn’t mind talking with me sometime over the next year. I hope to collect some of these stories and put them with the photos I have taken. I work in Philippi for about three days a week and in Belington at least two. So if you live nearby maybe we could have lunch. if not I can call you if you are interested.

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