PAX, W.Va.—Of the many kinds of ghosts said to haunt the hills of West Virginia, among the most disturbing may be those which are thought to be portents of death.
Among the most famous of these may be the Horse Creek Ghost, the legend of which has been told repeatedly around the campfire. According to most versions of the legend, the ghost appears to unsuspecting travelers and warns of the untimely passing of a president.
The late Jim Comstock retold the tale in print on several occasions through the 1970s, though in none of his versions did he ever indicate which Horse Creek the ghost was said to haunt.
There is a Horse Creek that is a branch of the Little Coal River in Boone County and another that is a branch of Paint Creek in Fayette County. Another is a tributary of the Tug Fork in McDowell County, another is a tributary of the Guyandotte River in Wyoming County, and yet another is a tributary of the Marsh Fork of the Coal River in Raleigh County.
As to which Horse Creek is the haunted one, perhaps our readers will know or can discern by the names of the witnesses given in the following account, published by Comstock.
HORSE CREEK GHOST
The first recorded appearance of this other-worldly being was on April 8, 1865, when Major Walter Hanson and Elijah Miller were hunting on Horse Creek Hollow. They heard a loud noise in the brush and, thinking it was a deer, got their guns ready. What actually appeared, though, was a female phantom in a long dark dress that appeared to be wet. She pointed a finger at the men and said, "Lincoln will be gone before the full moon rises."
"The news wasn't like it is now," Major Hanson said shortly before his death. "We didn't hear about the president being shot and killed in Washington till nearly two months after we seen that thing."
The specter next appeared in 1881 to Clyde Pardue and his wife, who were returning home after a Saturday night church service. What they saw was a glowing death's head covered by a dripping wet black shawl. The ghost again predicted the death of a president, and the prediction came true.
In 1963, the ghostly figure appeared to Max Alberts, a traveling magazine subscription salesman who saw her standing in the road as he drove his car along the creek. He claimed he couldn't hear what she said, but it was that year that President Kennedy was assassinated. An elderly resident of the area has been quoted saying, "The phantom only comes around when there is trouble a-brewing."