Tales of a shadow alleged to haunt the Grey Flats Trail area near Beckley, West Virginia, could be tied to the ruins of an old farmstead there, say trailbuilders who have noticed an uptick in hikers in the woods.
"I began seeing more hikers there once the story went viral," says Gary Morefield, the chief trailbuilder engaged in opening trail system near the community's YMCA soccer complex.
"But I noticed these folks weren't exactly hiking. They were exploring, and I couldn't tell why, though now I understand."
Unbeknownst to Morefield, the tale of a shadowy figure had been published online at WVGhosts.com in 2014 and, afterward, at OnlyinYourState.com. Word of the haunting began to reach thousands of people.
"I'd been out in that area a lot before I knew anything about the ghost, and I'll admit I found myself uneasy at times," Morefield said.
"But me, being the person I am, I ignored it. And it doesn't happen all the time. Sometimes I've been out there and haven't felt anything. Other times, I'm glad to be back to the truck."
According to the story published at WVGhosts.com, a group of friends encountered something near the trail where an old farmhouse once stood:
"At the point on the Grey Flats Trail where trees move in close, we saw a black figure in what might have been a long coat and a broad-brimmed hat. Though man-shaped, it had no obvious depth, as no light fell upon it. It was completely black. And rather than moving like a person, it moved without walking. And it moved to the side, away from us up through the trees, away from the road toward what might have been the farmhouse."
Morefield said he and other trail-builders knew of the farm, but knew nothing of the ghost, which the unidentified author attributed to a murder at the farm long-ago.
Before Morefield and other members of the Piney Creek Watershed Association began building the trails, the area had been known mostly to local hikers and hunters, and much of the southern end of the Grey Flats Trail followed the former road to the farm.
"You can find remnants of the farmhouse there, which is one reason we named the trail we were building off the Grey Flats Trail the 'Old Farm Trail,' " he said.
"But so far we've not been able to find much history on the farmhouse, other than its appearance on early maps, and it does appear early, as far as development around Beckley goes — as early as 1911," he said.
The haunted trail attracted the attention of local hikers, who organized a Halloween night-walk to the trail, according to Levi Moore, an community coordinator for Active Southern West Virginia.
"We had an outstanding turn-out with more than 60 participants," Moore said. "Whether or not there's a ghost, it was a spooky and fun, and I'd definitely like to organize another walk for Halloween 2019."
Morefield said he and other trailbuilders working with the Piney Creek Watershed Association are in search of any history they can find about the farm.
In the meantime, Morefield says he's happy to see people exploring the trail, whether or not there's anything to the ghost story.
Hikers and ghost-hunters looking for the site will find a pdf map of the YMCA area trails here.