August 8, 2023
Haunted Hotspots in the New River Gorge
The New River Gorge in southern West Virginia is a beautiful place with a storied past and an exciting history. From the 1870’s through the 1950’s the coal industry flourished in the gorge and towns popped up everywhere there was a mine to support it. Most of these towns were owned by the coal company so for the workers that meant they lived in a company owned house, shopped at a company owned store and had to adhere to strict company policies. The coal companies owned even the police so corruption and brutality ran rampant among these “police”. Life in the coal camps was tough and rowdy. As demand for coal slowed and many of the mines had given up their bounty many of these towns became abandon.
Today, there are many ruins in the New River Gorge National Park of a time past. One can hike into these abandon towns and find old foundations, broken infrastructure, coke ovens and even some structures still standing. As explorers have ventured into these locations throughout the gorge there have been plenty of ghost stories. Stories of the ghostly steam engine that still travels the tracks of the C&O or of the Confederate Soldier who is seen in the town of Thurmond keeps those interested in the paranormal coming back for more and looking for those ghosts of the New River’s past. There are plenty of places to explore in the gorge and these are just a few of the most popular places to catch a spirit or experience some paranormal occurrences.
Hawk’s Nest Tunnel
This 3-mile long tunnel was dug by hand through Gauley Mountain by over 3,000 men in the early 1930’s. During the construction of Hawks Nest Tunnel many of the workers developed silicosis due to poor ventilation and from breathing in dust. It is hard to tell the exact number of workers who died but some extimates place the death toll over 1,000. This is considered to be one of the worst industrial accidents in the country. Today you can visit a memorial and gravesite at 98 Hilltop Road in Mount Lookout. The memorial is also the location where 48 miners were reburied when the WV Department of Highways widened Highway 19.
One of the locations in the New River Gorge with some of the best-preserved structures has to be Nuttallburg. Located close to the town of Winonna the drive into this old coal mining town is super scenic bringing visitors into the heart of the inner gorge. Here explorers will find the coal tipple still intact, thanks to the National Park Service. There are also many interpretive signs, building foundations, coke ovens and even a brick sidewalk. Visiting the old coal town after dark can produce some exciting paranormal experiences. Tales of a ghostly miner pushing his cart down the tracks is a commonly told story from this area. Visitors have also reported voices, screams and train noises from an engine that is never seen. Day or night, Nuttallburg is a cool spot to explore in the park.
Whipple Company Store
This is one of the most well preserved company stores still standing in the New River Coalfields and until recently was open as a museum. The previous owner, Joy Lynn, spent more than 10 years maintaining the old store and documenting the lives of the people who lived and shopped there. Throughout Joy’s time at Whipple she was able to document numerous paranormal occurrences including objects being moved around the building, doors opening and closing on their own, phantom smoke and vanishing blood stains on the floor. They were even able to get a shadow figure on video. Visits to this old coal company store were always exciting and the building had many stories to tell. Hopefully the Whipple Store will open again one day soon for paranormal investigators to return.
The only difference between Hell and Thurmond was that Thurmond has a river running through it! That was how a local newspaper described this bustling railroad town in the New River Coalfields in about 1900. The scene in Thurmond was that of a stereotypical Wild West movie; hardworking folks, saloons, gambling, ladies of the night and gunfights. There are many stories of a traveler winning big in the local saloon only to be mugged, killed and thrown into the river. Local legends say that some of these spirits lay restless in the gorge and that sometimes they want to tell their story and want you to feel their presence. Many people have claims of ghostly encounters while visiting Thurmond including full body apparitions, shadow figures, being touched and even followed home. There is a lot to see in this town as many of the structures and buildings are still standing and maintained by the National Park Service.
Ghost Hunting with ACE
Ready to explore the paranormal side of the New River Gorge? Join ACE Adventure Resort for one of our Thurmond Ghost Hunts and take an exciting walk on the ghostly side of the tracks. On these investigations we will explore many of the paranormal hotspots in town where we often encounter flashlights turning themselves on and off, trigger objects moving, equipment being manipulated and we have even caught shadow figures. Space is extremely limited on our paranormal investigations where you will have special access to parts of Thurmond not normally open to the public. We also have a range of investigation equipment including K2 Meters, spirit boxes, REM pods, SLS cameras, voice recorders, trigger objects and more.
Get out and explore these paranormal hotspots in the New River Gorge and see what you can find. We always tell our participants that we are not here to tell you what we experience are ghosts or spirits. Maybe it is that or maybe it is some energy form, weird coincidence or who knows what. But every time we take folks to Thurmond we have something happen that keeps us coming back and looking for that steam engine still riding the tracks. Keep an open mind and you never know what you may encounter.
Note: If you visit any of these locations please respect local landowners by requesting permission to visit. Many of the locations mentioned here are closed to the public and trespassing will result in prosecution. Also please leave no trace when exploring any parts of the New River Gorge National Park.
Chris Colin is a raft guide, whitewater kayaker, active caver, and as Special Events Coordinator at ACE he manages, promotes, and executes special events like the Mountain Music Festival.