Of more than 400 artifacts collected in this museum of the paranormal in West Virginia's "city of the dead," one is attracting more attention than all others, though curators are at a loss to explain why.
"You can see why the lost execution-cap from the penitentiary's electric chair is popular," says Steve Hummel, referring to a relic from the nearby W.Va. Penitentiary, now a focus for guided ghost tours.
"But this portrait — few guests pass without remarking that they were moved by it, or 'her,' in some way."
Hummel has little explanation as to why he acquired the portrait and only some idea why it is so paranormally active, though he can verify that it's garnered more consideration than many other museum artifacts, which include dolls, books, statues, an embalming table, and even soil collected from the yard of serial killer John Wayne Gacy.
The portrait attracted his attention years before he established the "Archive of the Afterlife: the National Museum of the Paranormal" in 2012 in Moundsville, a city named for prehistoric burial mounds that rose along the Ohio River.
(The Grave Creek Mound, now the centerpiece for a state park, is all that remains of several burial mounds raised in alignment in what would become the city. Some paranormal investigators speculate that destruction of these sacred landmarks is what has contributed to psychic activity in the city.)
"I had been visiting an antique mall in the Centre Market area in Wheeling and often passed the portrait. I wondered what the young lady might have to say, though it wasn't until I opened the museum that I realized it belonged in the museum."
Of all artifacts, Annie's portrait also seems to be the most paranormally active, he says.
"Annie has been known give some folks uneasy feelings, but she has also activated proximity meters, generated a disembodied laugh from within the museum and has even been recorded on digital recorders. One particular recording was her saying her name, 'Annie,' leaving a Class A EVP or 'Electronic Voice Phenomenon.'
"Added, she has even followed me home, twice to be exact, though I'll relate that tale to museum visitors as there's much to tell."
As for the execution cap, Hummel says the relic, ironically acquired on eBay, is among the museums other popular attractions.
Communication with two of nine inmates executed with the cap at the penitentiary was made during an investigation by the Society of the Supernatural, he said, during which convicted killers Tom Ingram and Fred Painter made contact with the investigators.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday 1-6 p.m. Winter hours (Dec. 1-March 1) are Friday and Saturday 1-6 p.m., excluding major holidays and during inclement weather. Appoints may also be made for private groups.
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