Tale of lost "Moon Man" lives on in remote Braxton County valley

Tale of lost
Belva Holstein walks the rails at Centralia, West Virginia, alleged haunt of the headless "Moon Man." (Photo: Sibray)

CENTRALIA, W.Va. — The ghost town of Centralia, with no more than a dozen houses and a country store, might seem one of the most isolated communities in West Virginia, though it's a drive of only 20 miles from the nearest interstate. Now the site of a campground that borders a scenic lake, it's perhaps best known as the home of the "Moon Man."


Along the track of the old Baltimore & Ohio Railway, an eccentric drifter known locally in the late 1800s as the "Moon Man" was decapitated after being hit by a train at Centralia. Some said his headless ghost haunted the tracks, and some say it does now.

Though not far from the I-77, Centralia remains one of the more isolated ghost towns in central West Virginia.

According to most sources, the phantom was that of Jacob Beamer. It long walked the rails near Centralia, about 13 miles up the Elk River from Sutton, West Virginia, along I-79.

Beamer was said to have been struck by a train at night and run over in about 1890, only a few years after the railroad through that section of the mountains was constructed.


The tragedy of the violent removal of Beamer's head isn't the only thing remarkable about him. He had already been given the name "Moon Man" by locals who reported that his origin story was a subject of some discussion.

Beamer claimed his ancestors had come from the moon and had been forced to remain on Earth after a meteor knocked the moon out of its orbit, destroying all life in what had been a thriving lunar civilization.

It was also the subject of some discussion that Beamer liked to stroll in the moonlight, and on such a night, beneath a brilliant West Virginia moon, he met his death under the hooves of the iron horse. When the townsfolk found his mangled body, it was headless.

The head has never been found. It could have been carried away by the train. It may have rolled into the Elk River and been lost beneath the still waters of what's now .


For years after the tragedy, some of the residents of Centralia claimed to see a gray ghost leading a stooping, headless man, who they took to be Beamer. The phantoms walked the tracks, looking downward in search of the missing head.

In the 1930s, a hunter from reported that he saw the pair, and he believed the ghost of Beamer was holding a skull in the crook of his left arm. The two weren't seen for years, and most assumed that the moon man had finally found his head.

Though the original tracks were removed in the 1950s, when Sutton Lake was created, ghost hunters say they believe the phantoms walk the meadows along the lake where the tracks ran.

For more information about the haunting and its location, contact the .


Remote Baker's Run campground includes its own ghost

Might a ghost haunt Bakers Run Campground?

Many remote campgrounds hide away in the mountains in West Virginia, but few are as remote as Baker's Run Campground and boast their own ghost. Only 30 minutes from Interstate 79, the campground near Sutton, West Virginia, may feel remote due to the way it tucks into the Allegheny foothills on the Elk River at the back of Sutton Lake, and that's much of its allure.

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