At least five months out of the year, West Virginia is warm enough to welcome light family camping, and there's little more exciting about a night under the stars than campfire tales relived over roasted marshmallows.
Without fail, as the embers dim, inexplicable sounds come out of the darkness. The crash of a falling branch! Was is a rotten limb that fell under its own weight? Or was it brought down by a bigfoot? Maybe the faraway cry that just broke the silence was a bobcat, or was it the wail of a murdered woman still searching for her children?
I asked Johnathan Moore, publisher of West Virginia Ghosts, to provide us a selection of a few of the most haunting stories that concern strange sounds in the night. Rather than legends, these are "true stories," submitted recently, and you're always welcome to submit your own stories, too.
(P.S., Looking for a campground. Here's our list of some of the best camping in West Virginia.)
The Legend Of The Screaming Thing
By J. B. Workman
This story was told to me by my mother and was also told to me by my best friend’s mother. There are a lot of witnesses to this story, and most of them grew up on Paddle Creek. Some people believe Paddle Creek to be haunted. At night you could hear screaming in the woods. My mother told me it sounded like a woman screaming and would raise the hair on the back of your neck, so they called it the “Screaming Thing”.
Some people believed it to be an old crazy lady that lived down the road from my best friend’s house. Some believed it to be a big cat at one time, but there is no such cat in these parts. The funny thing is that you could hear it on one side of the woods than a few seconds later on the other side. There is no old lady or big cat that fast, and some believed it to be a ghost of some kind. Some people would see black figures at the time of the screaming.
My mother was coming home from church one night when all at once a black figure sailed out from a tree, over her head, and went over a hillside. Then the screaming started, mother hurried home. People have tried to chase it down, but every time they would find nothing, hunters would wait for it, just to come home empty-handed. No one can catch it, and no one knew what it was.
By Anthony Raila
A friend of mine’s brother bought a house in the Albright area about a year ago. My friend also moved into his brother’s house as care-taker. I visited him there in June of 2010 for a week. The first night I stayed in the house, I felt a little on the edge, as it felt like I was being watched by something. The second night I woke out of a sound sleep about 3:15 AM and felt as if I had a weight on my chest. It was almost like a feeling of something heavy in the air in the house. As I laid in bed trying to fall back to sleep, I could hear something that sounded like a man moaning outside my window. It would start out as a light moan, but then it would turn into a heavy breathing sound. This happened all week until I left. I thought nothing of it, maybe just my wild imagination.
In late September of 2010 I returned back for a second visit, but this time my brother came with me. Almost immediately I felt the same feeling of being watched and every morning a 3:15 AM I would wake up. Shortly after being awakened out of a sound sleep, I could hear the same moaning again. This time though my brother heard the same thing as I did every night. I told my friend who lives in the house about what we were experiencing. He said “It’s probably a buck grunting near the window outside the house. I told him I know what a buck grunt sounded like and this was no deer grunt.
My brother was so scared that he grabbed a 30/30 that hangs on the wall and locked all the doors. As the moaning turned into a heaving breathing sound coming from outside. The living room window began to shake. The sound of footsteps could be heard walking around the sides of the house from outside. This scared the crap out of us. I will never go back there again.
Lady Knocking At The Tent
By Ashley Brooke
It was the night of July 6. My three friends and I were camping out in the tent in our back yard. We were doing fairly well alone by ourselves until we went out to give the dog a drink of water.
When the four of us came back in, the zipper to the tent door got stuck. I was scared of the outside, so I tried as quick as I could to zip the door shut. I failed, so my oldest friend tried again.
While she was doing so, I went to the back of the tent, and then, all of a sudden, someone or something hit the front of the tent. We all started to scream. My oldest friend and I started to laugh, thinking it was my mom, but when I started to call to her, I realized it was not her. I stuck my head out of the tent door to see if anyone was there, still thinking it may still be my mother, but I saw no one.
We all started to scream and backed up, knowing no person was there. Another hit to the tent, and then a shadow appeared. I was not all the way to the back of the tent yet, so I hit the shadow—to find just plain air. My dog ran out the door, scared from the screaming. In spite of the dog, we ran, too. I ran along one side of the tent to see if anyone was there, while the others ran around the other side.
When we reached the door, my mother was standing there, because of the screaming. Later that night my friends, mother, and I went to collect the tent items to find no sign of anyone. Within five minutes of coming back, a storm started. We know this is not a person, because we have no neighbors for at least a half-mile. If this was a sign of the storm, we are not sure, but it scared us for sure.
By B.R. Ferguson
This event happened when I was about 10 years old, in 1950. We lived in an old log house set halfway up a hill in the middle of a pasture field. There were no houses within a half mile of us. A barbed-wire fence completely surrounded the house to keep cattle out of the yard. At that time we did not even have electricity.
My dad worked as a helper on a truck, and at times he was gone for a day or two. One night mom and I were alone when the dog began barking. He went out into the pasture, and then suddenly I could hear yelping, and he came running back under the house. Suddenly, there was a tremendous bang, and the house shook, and the windows rattled.
Both Mom and I were scared to death. The dog went into the field, barking, and once again raced back under the house. Again came the loud bang! as the house shook.
This happened a few times over the next month or so. One night, dad was home, and he opened the rear door and yelled to "get out!" It only happened one time after that. We never knew what it was.
My second strange event was many years later. I grew up out there in the country and finally relocated and became a police officer. My wife and I bought an old farm with an old house on it that was not worth staying in. One night we were down there for the weekend and camped out far up in the hollow from the house. Where it was located was sort of remote. We pitched a tent and built a fire after it became dark. Suddenly, I heard the strangest noises I had ever heard coming from the woods above where we were camping.
The sounds were a strange mixture of growls—and something else I can not describe. I grew up around animals, and I have heard a lot of dog fights. This was not a dog fight, and it was extremely loud. I grew concerned and fired my gun into the ground, and it suddenly stopped. I slept a little uneasy that night. Never heard it again.
Read also: Recent bigfoot sightings at Sutton Lake have historic precedent
Do you have a scary story of an experience in the West Virginia hills you'd like to share? Visit West Virginia Ghosts to explore more frightening tales and submit your own story, the whereabouts of a haunted location, or your own inexplicable photograph.