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The Hempfield Ghost




Since the last annual visit of the East Wheeling spirit, no spooks have walked above ground in this vicinity for several years, and the minds of our citizens had begun to run in the even tenor of their ways on this question, some even being so skeptical as to doubt the very presence of the spirits of dead men on this terrestrial ball. The frightful revelations of a party who were eye witnesses of the scene we are about to describe, dispelled those dreams of security and caused the hearts of many to quake, and their guilty consciences to tremble. The witnesses themselves have been in such a state of terror and dismay about the occurrence, that it has been with great difficulty that we could gather the real facts in the case, their rolling eyes and chattering teeth, their ghastly countenances giving evidence of the truth of their asseverations, but preventing a connected repetition of the events as they occurred. The disconnected sentences and ejaculations of horror which have been repeated as coming from their blanched and quivering lips, we feel convinced have been altered and exaggerated so that the accounts which prevailed yesterday in the city were totally incorrect — in fact were garbled versions of the affair.


The tunnel of the Hempfield Railroad has long been notorious as the scene of some of the most horrible murders which have been chronicled in the annals of our newspapers and in the criminal records of our country. Its situation is well known to most of our readers, but for the enlightenment of those who have not visited it, we will give a brief description which the new interest awakened by the events of Thursday will sanction. The tunnel enters the hill side at a distance of about forty feet from the bridge over Wheeling Creek, behind the hill which forms the background to our thriving and prosperous city. It immediately enters a bed of rock and coal, which, If the darkness occasioned by the exclusion of the sun's rays were not sufficient to render it gloomy and dismal, would of itself have that effect. Its sides and ceiling are covered with dampness and moisture. Directly overhead is situated the Peninsula Cemetery, so that the green and poisonous slime which oozes from the fissures and crevices in the overhanging rocks, with but little effort of the imagination, may he attributed to the graves and coffins of the dead who lie mouldering above. At the mouth of the tunnel is a sequestered spot known as Berry's Hole. Its name is significant, as its record shows it to be the watery grave of many poor fellows. In the memory of many of our readers the history of Shaffer, the blood thirsty and brutal murderer, who expiated his crimes on the scaffold at Parkersburg, is still fresh. The slaughter of one of his victims took place in the tunnel is well known and is supposed to have immediate reference to the appearance of the ghost last week. The murdered man entered the tunnel when he was attacked by Shaffer with a hatchet. Unarmed and inoffensive the victim was dealt a ferocious blow on the temple. Holding his supplicating hands before his face he received the second blow upon his arms and fingers. The deed having been accomplished the victim was dragged and concealed in a culvert near the east mouth of the tunnel, where It was afterwards discovered. Other deeds of this kind are too well known to bear repetition — so that it has been an unceasing wonder that the scene of so many horrible crimes has not been continually haunted by the spirit of the murdered men. The place is therefore a most fitting one for the scene which transpired on Thursday.


Thursday evening about 6 o'clock a party of four men were proceeding through the tunnel on their way to the country beyond. Having spent the day in Wheeling and imbibed the usual amount of fusel oil they were rather hilarious than otherwise, though none of them were sufficiently under the influence of liquor to be unable to accurately perceive anything that transpired. The subject of reappearance of spirits after death had been mooted, but was scoffed and laughed at more in a tone of bravado than real conviction. The topic was still under consideration while they were in the tunnel, but no sooner had they reached the point where the light from the outer world becomes dim and obscure, than an ominous silence full upon all and every one of them. The darkness of the cavern had settled into an appalling gloom, but still they held their way. Soon groans and supplications for mercy fell upon their startled ears. The usual cavernous echo was doubly apparent, as the tone of the voice was unnatural and sepulchral — the men stood transfixed with horror and fright, the atmosphere was close and stilling. All at once issuing from the solid rock which forms the ceiling, directly over the spot where the murderer slaughtered his victim, a ghastly form appeared. All around, and we have said, was impenetrable darkness, but the specter itself was as clearly visible as in the noon day. It descended feet first, until it reached a place about equidistant from the door and ceiling of the tunnel, where it stopped and remained for a few seconds. Although covered with the slime and earth of the grave the features of the ghastly specter were distinctly visible, clad in the habiliments of the tomb. Its appearance was horrible in the extreme. With one arm extended, and the bloody fingers of the hand hanging half severed from their stems, with the fore finger of the other hand it pointed to a gaping wound in his temple. The wound seemed fresh, but the drops of blood seemed clotted and stood out in bold relief on the face of the ill starred wretch|ch. Without a movement of the lips, a voice apparently issuing from the throat of the ghost, exclaimed in a tone so unnatural as to be totally indescribable "let the dead rest!" The horror stricken witnesses of this appalling spectacle rushed -from the scene. At the mouth of, the tunnel they met other parties whose credulity was not sufficient to believe the story of the witnesses. They therefore obtained a lantern and returned to the spot where the apparition was first seen. They were not long waiting when the spirit, in the same place repeated the words he had before used, in, If possible, a more horrifying tone, and glided rapidly through the air toward the western mouth of the tunnel. The individuals thus made sure of the authenticity of the apparition, were deprived of the power of speech for some hours, and even after the intervention of days, their fearful recollections are so vivid as to render them almost afraid of speaking on the subject.


The persons who witnessed this appalling spectacle in the tunnel being men of respectable and truthful characters, their statements created a widespread and profound sensation in the eastern part of the city where they reside. Thin was intensified by facts which were disclosed yesterday morning by a gentleman who lives a couple of miles east of the city and which are related as follows: He was coming into the city afoot, by way of the railroad, late in the evening and was approaching the tunnel on the east, and had noticed a couple of persons walking about a hundred yards ahead. He was a short distance this side of the school house, walking on the track and looking down to guard his steps, when he suddenly felt a strange shiver and sensation of horror, and looking up saw a man standing a few yards ahead directly over the stone culvert (where Ulrich's body was hidden), his arms were held up above his head as if guarding against apprehended blows and the blood was streaming down his face and neck. There was an awful stony glare in the eyes, which rooted the beholder to the ground. His first thought was that it was one of the men who had been walking ahead of him who had been assaulted by the other, but before he had time to follow out the thought he glanced past the horrid spectacle and saw the two men just about to pass into the tunnel. At that Instant the man specter, or whatever it was vanished and was nowhere to be seen. Utterly confounded, the frightened and horror stricken beholder stood gazing at the vacant air trying to comprehend what he had seen. In a moment or two he had recovered sufficiently to think connectedly. He looked carefully around. Nothing whatever was to be seen, though it was still light enough to see objects with perfect distinctness. Ha says he thought at one moment of running forward and telling the men who were ahead and asking them if they had seen anything, but he reflected that of course the apparition was not there when they passed and remembered that he had been looking forward over the very spot where it stood, in the alternations between looking ahead and down at the track. Besides he felt sure he would be ridiculed and called a fool for his fright. He found it impossible, however, to go forward over the spot, and turning about he returned home we judge with a good deal of precipitancy. Yesterday morning he came into city by the pike, and hearing of the appearance in the tunnel told one or two friends in confidence what he had witnessed. He is an intelligent person and not given to credulity but he expresses himself unable to explain the mystery. His account of the appearance of the apparition corresponds substantially with that of the murdered man Ulrich. Since these terrifying events have been made public, hints are thrown out that this is not the first time blood chilling sights have been seen and strange sounds heard in and about the tunnel, generally about dark in the evening, but at least once in the middle of the day. Many dark rumors are afloat that don't seem worth repeating. We give the leading circumstances as they are related to us, and leave our readers to judge for themselves of their probability.

Wheeling Daily Intelligencer, July 19, 1869.

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