Posts Tagged With: ghosts

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: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Wishing these houses would share all their Stories

Victorian two room house

Victorian two room House, Johnstown, WV.

 

Often when I have free time I drive the back roads to my destination. I make a point to bring my camera and give myself plenty of time for extra stops along the way. As I drive the hills and hollows that surround my home I always find some treasured old building and take its photo. This one really caught my eye last week and Christopher said it was “beautiful” as we drove to his dental appointment. It seems more decorative than most two room houses you usually see along the back roads. Making me wish that the somehow theses old houses would share all of their stories with me.

It is the stories that I love, not so much the genealogy of the houses ownership, that makes me write this blog. I want to hear about the births that happened in the houses, and if the children lived. I want to hear about the medicines that the woman of the house used when those children got sick. I want to know if those long gone children, got doses of cod liver oil in the spring as a tonic, just like mine. It was traditional every spring to line the children up for a heaping spoons full of the nasty oil. I wonder if everything moving got a dose as if they were cattle that needed spring worming.

Dried herbs grown for medicine in the 1700 to 1800.

Dried herbs grown for medicine in the 1700 to 1800.

I have always loved stories of feather tick beds in those houses, although my mother’s family could only afford to sleep on straw and corn shucks. I imagine a grandmother airing out the house on a warm spring day with the bedding hanging out the windows. I can see her out in the yard beating a rug on the clothes line and see her walking back from the root cellar with jars of canned food for supper on a cool spring night.

empty canning jars

Empty canning jars on my kitchen table.

 

Dairy Barn Rt #20 Harrison County

Dairy Barn Rt #20 Harrison County

I  imagine her grandchildren taking a wagon down the road about 6 miles to this dairy barn to collect the milk she would use to make butter, and cheese for her family. I can hear the cows and see the doves flutter away as the children run toward the barn. Somewhere in the distance is the  dairy farm owners house. Where the same family has lived over 125 hundred years. Working the land and raising beautiful cattle and gallons of rich milk.

Century farm house Lost Creek, Wv

Century farm-house Lost Creek, WV.

Christopher feeding a 4 day old calf.

Christopher feeding a 4 day old calf Lewis County, WV.

It is the stories of the people who carved out a life from the woods that call to me. I wait on them and try to catch a glimpse of them as they pass by an old frame windows and hide behind creaking wooden doors. I listen for their voices when I sit quietly on an old porch.I wait to meet the old folks when I smell wood smoke from a stone chimney and hope that they invite me in for a spell around the fire.

Tom surrounded by smoke from a 1860's chimney

Tom surrounded by smoke from a 1860’s chimney

Cellar steps into the basement to Sunny Pointe Guest House

Cellar steps into the basement to Sunny Pointe Guest House

Hutte Hause window

Hutte Hause window  Helvetia WV.

I dream of sitting on porch swing and talking for hours about the “old days” with a woman who shares a jar full of sweet tea with me. I feel that somehow we have known each other for generations even if she is nothing but a dream. I ask her about her  life and family and then when the light changes she is gone and all that is left is her home place.

SunShine on old house Doddridge County WV

SunShine on old house Doddridge County WV

I know that her house wants me to stay a bit longer, so I linger. I look in the windows at the mess that is left from a long life of children and farm hands. I know that really  my job is just to uncover the stories that live in these houses, cabins and barns. They want me to  spread the stories of peaceful joy and long-suffering. They want me to remind the world that they existed and promise that their memories will not be forgotten. I hear on the whispering wind that these old houses are not willing to die without a fight. That like the men and woman of the mountains they will not go down easy into the earth.

At times I wonder how  I am going to share the lives of so many. Then it happens, a house or barn or person  appear. They show up in my life without any warning. I take photos and hear the most wonderful tales. They remind me that I am just supposed to slow down and listen to the stories these buildings want to share.

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, cabins, Country life, family memories, ghost stories, ghosts, Memories, nostalgic | Tags: , , , , , , | 6 Comments

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