Tag Archives: Shenandoah Voices

Oh, the Inspiration in a Place


Blue Ridge MountainsFor me, in my writing, it’s all about time and place. Certain settings inspire me, like old homes, particularly haunted ones, castles, Southern plantations, and their opposite, rustic log cabins, but most especially, the mountains. I love the misty mountains. What stories they hold. Secrets, mysteries, ghosts…

Many accounts centered around the mountain people have been recorded. The late author and historian, John Heatwole, left a rich wealth of information in his books about the Shenandoah Valley and mountain people. Some of these stories are wonderful for inspiration. I’ll give you several examples from John Heatwole’s book, Shenandoah Voices.

Moonlit Night

“When Nelson Whetzel was a young man he had an interesting experience while walking home from work one evening. In Brocks Gap in earlier times the only things to light ones way were the stars or the glow from a lamp in a neighbor’s window. 

As he walked Nelson heard a horse coming up the road behind him.  Nelson stopped for a moment, thinking, ‘Good! I’ll have someone to talk to.’ But the sound of the horse’s hooves stopped when he did. He called out, asking who was there in the pitch-black.

No answer came and Nelson began uneasily walking again, this time a little faster. The sound of the horse picked up pace to match Nelson’s. He stopped a second time and the sound of the horse ceased to be heard. Nelson started trotting and the sound horse’s hooves were heard at a trot behind him, close on his heels. He grew very frightened and began to run as fast as he could.  The galloping horse seemed to be so close, Nelson thought he felt the breath on the back of his neck.

Up ahead Nelson saw the lighted windows of the cabin belonging to George and Mat Smith. He was so terrified that he hit the Smith’s front door at full force. He knocked it down and went right through the structure, knocking down the back door as he exited. The Smiths blinked at each other in wonder and amazement. They saw no phantom horse follow Nelson through their home.

Immediately after his encounter with the doors Nelson noticed the sound of the pursuing horse was gone, however, he ran on home as fast as his feet would carry him.”

*That tale reminds me of the headless horseman from The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Scary!

“The Roadcaps lived in a two-story log cabin just down the road from Gospel Hill Mennonite Church. All of the girls of the family shared a room upstairs.  One night one of the sisters, Peggy by name, went to the bedroom alone.  There she saw a woman sitting up on the iron headboard of one of the beds.

The woman didn’t say anything or move toward the frightened child, just sat there and looked at her. Peggy was rooted to the spot in fear but able to find her voice and call to her father to come to her aid.  There was something in her voice that demanded immediate attention and she heard his heavy footfall as he hurried up the stairs. As her father neared the room, the woman vanished into thin air.  Peggy never entered that room alone again.”~

“The children of the Roadcap family loved to play on the banks of the little Shoemaker River near their home. Once they came running home and told their father they’d seen a woman all dressed in white walking along the opposite bank of the river from where they played. They’d never seen her before and being shy had not spoken to her but only observed her progress.

Their father listened thoughtfully and then told them they had seen the spirit of a young woman who had died years before of a broken heart. They were told they would probably see her again and that she would do them no harm. They were to behave as they had before and refrain from calling out to the spirit.

They believed their father. There were not that many people living in those parts and the children knew them all. They promised not to disturb the apparition if they encountered her again. During their childhoods they witnessed her strolling along the river on several more occasions.”~

That story reminds me of the novel, The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, which was a very intriguing BBC mystery/thriller starring Tara Fitzgerald. I saw the film on Netflix and highly recommend it.

***If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy the one I wrote entitled:

The Poltergeist in our Old Farm House

***John Heatwole’s books are at Amazon, but may only be available as used copies.

Paranormal Account from the Shenandoah Valley


The Blue Ridge Mountains

This fascinating story is taken from Shenandoah Voices, Folklore, Legends and Traditions of the Valley by late author and historian John Heatwole.

Brock’s Gap~

“Up in the Brock’s Gap region (of the Shenandoah Valley) the old resident’s referred to the rest of the world as “out.”  It was not uncommon to hear the phrase, “people would come along from out.”

In the old days, the rest of the country was well served by the Valley Pike and other well maintained thoroughfares, but the Gap and its scattered homesteads remained isolated beyond the first rise of the Allegheny Front (*Mountains).

The hamlets of Fulks Run, Criders, Bergton and Dovesville were oases of social contact, as were a few churches here and there, but the people in the Gap were pretty self-sufficient.  Before electricity came into the area, moonless nights smothered the hills, hollows and mountains…making the faint glimmer of candlelight in a window way off a welcome sight to a late-night traveler.

It’s not surprising that some wonderful ghost stories have come from this area.  Unusual happenings were woven into stories that were told and retold…long winter nights found rapt listeners gathered around a glowing fire or warm stove to be thrilled by a story-teller.”

****

Ghost story:  “One young girl of the Crider’s area was told that she could take the horse and go to meet her mother and sister who were returning from a trip to “out” late one night.  Her path took her to a neighbor’s farm gate where she dismounted, opened the gate, led the horse through and then re-latched it.  As she climbed back on the horse, she heard something coming from the direction she had just come.

“Someone come a runnin,’ was a man a comin’ up the road a runnin’.”

He was coming fast and she was scared.  She kicked her horse into a gallop.  As she looked back over her shoulder she saw the “man” run through the closed gate as if he were made of air.  “I flew out,” she said, but it seemed to make no difference—he was gaining on her.

“When I got to the top of the hill he was about two steps behind me.  He grabbed the horse by the tail, and she kicked up, and away she went as hard as she could run!”

That did the trick and the pursuer disappeared in their dust.

“I don’t know what it was.  It wasn’t no human; no human coulda kept up with that horse!”

The woman who was once the girl in the preceding story also related her father’s brush with a demon.

“My daddy seen one, one time.  He was comin’ home after dark from Casper Turner’s.  Saw what looked like a man layin’ on a fence; had eyes like fireballs!”  Her father had a gun with him, and he shot at the demon.  The thing fell off the fence and started making a noise that made the man think he should be getting away from there.  “Had run down from the mountain.  He was scared to death.”~

I would be totally freaked out.

Paranormal Account from The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia–Beth Trissel



This fascinating story is taken from Shenandoah Voices, Folklore, Legends and Traditions of the Valley by late author and historian John Heatwole.

Brock’s Gap~

“Up in the Brock’s Gap region (of the Shenandoah Valley) the old resident’s referred to the rest of the world as “out.”  It was not uncommon to hear the phrase, “people would come along from out.”

In the old days, the rest of the country was well served by the Valley Pike and other well maintained thoroughfares, but the Gap and its scattered homesteads remained isolated beyond the first rise of the Allegheny Front (*Mountains).

The hamlets of Fulks Run, Criders, Bergton and Dovesville were oases of social contact, as were a few churches here and there, but the people in the Gap were pretty self-sufficient.  Before electricity came into the area, moonless nights smothered the hills, hollows and mountains…making the faint glimmer of candlelight in a window way off a welcome sight to a late-night traveler.

It’s not surprising that some wonderful ghost stories have come from this area.  Unusual happenings were woven into stories that were told and retold…long winter nights found rapt listeners gathered around a glowing fire or warm stove to be thrilled by a story-teller.”

****

Ghost story:  “One young girl of the Crider’s area was told that she could take the horse and go to meet her mother and sister who were returning from a trip to “out” late one night.  Her path took her to a neighbor’s farm gate where she dismounted, opened the gate, led the horse through and then re-latched it.  As she climbed back on the horse, she heard something coming from the direction she had just come.

“Someone come a runnin,’ was a man a comin’ up the road a runnin’.”

He was coming fast and she was scared.  She kicked her horse into a gallop.  As she looked back over her shoulder she saw the “man” run through the closed gate as if he were made of air.  “I flew out,” she said, but it seemed to make no difference—he was gaining on her.

“When I got to the top of the hill he was about two steps behind me.  He grabbed the horse by the tail, and she kicked up, and away she went as hard as she could run!”

That did the trick and the pursuer disappeared in their dust.

“I don’t know what it was.  It wasn’t no human; no human coulda kept up with that horse!”

The woman who was once the girl in the preceding story also related her father’s brush with a demon.

“My daddy seen one one time.  He was comin’ home after dark from Casper Turner’s.  Saw what looked like a man layin’ on a fence; had eyes like fireballs!”  Her father had a gun with him, and he shot at the demon.  The thing fell off the fence and started making a noise that made the man think he should be getting away from there.  “Had run down from the mountain.  He was scared to death.”~

Ghost Story


This fascinating story is taken from the book I’ve been featuring lately, Shenandoah Voices, Folklore, Legends and Traditions of the Valley by late author-historian John Heatwole.

Brock’s Gap~

“Up in the Brock’s Gap region (*of the Shenandoah Valley)the old resident’s referred to the rest of the world as “out.”  It was not uncommon to hear the phrase, “people would come along from out.”

In the old days, the rest of the country was well served by the Valley Pike and other well maintained thoroughfares, but the Gap and its scattered homesteads remained isolated beyond the first rise of the Allegheny Front (*Mountains). The hamlets of Fulks Run, Criders, Bergton and Dovesville were oases of social contact, as were a few churches here and there, but the people in the Gap were pretty self-sufficient.  Before electricity came into the area, moonless nights smothered the hills, hollows and mountains…making the faint glimmer of candlelight in a window way off a welcome sight to a late-night traveler.

It’s not surprising that some wonderful ghost stories have come from this area.  Unusual happenings were woven into stories that were told and retold…long winter nights found rapt listeners gathered around a glowing fire or warm stove to be thrilled by a story teller.”

****

Ghost story:  “One young girl of the Crider’s area was told that she could take the horse and go to meet her mother and sister who were returning from a trip to “out” late one night.  Her path took her to a neighbor’s farm gate where she dismounted, opened the gate, led the horse through and then re-latched it.  As she climbed back on the horse, she heard something coming from the direction she had just come.

“Someone come a runnin,’ was a man a comin’ up the road a runnin’.”

He was coming fast and she was scared.  She kicked her horse into a gallop.  As she looked back over her shoulder she saw the “man” run through the closed gate as if he were made of air.  “I flew out,” she said, but it seemed to make no difference—he was gaining on her.

“When I got to the top of the hill he was about two steps behind me.  He grabbed the horse by the tail, and she kicked up, and away she went as hard as she could run!”

That did the trick and the pursuer disappeared in their dust.

“I don’t know what it was.  It wasn’t no human; no human coulda kept up with that horse!”

The woman who was once the girl in the preceding story also related her father’s brush with a demon.

“My daddy seen one one time.  He was comin’ home after dark from Casper Turner’s.  Saw what looked like a man layin’ on a fence; had eyes like fireballs!”  Her father had a gun with him, and he shot at the demon.  The thing fell off the fence and started making a noise that made the man think he should be getting away from there.  “Had run down from the mountain.  He was scared to death.”

****

Sayings and Superstitions from The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


These sayings are taken from Shenandoah VoicesFolklore, Legends, and Traditions of the Valley by late Shenandoah Valley historian and author John Heatwole.

Many early valley settlers were Scots-Irish, my ancestors among them.  People from the British Isles tended to be superstitious.  Also prevalent in the valley were Germans bringing the influence of the Pennsylvania-Dutch, another superstitious group.  To quote Michael Scott, boss from NBC’s hit show, The Office, “I’m not superstitious, just a little stitious.”

****

It’s bad luck to lay a hat on the bed.~

An itching nose means a visitor is coming. ~

A cardinal bumping against the window pane is an indication of an early death~ *To this I have to add ‘or an insanely jealous bird regarding his reflection as another male.’

Peel an apple all in one piece and throw the peel over your shoulder.  When you turn around and look at it lying on the ground, whatever letter it reminds you of will be the first letter of your future husband’s last name.~

It’s bad luck to bring a shovel into the house ‘because it is a grave tool.’ Some also think a hoe in the house bodes no good.~

“If your right eye itches, you will soon be displeased, and if your left eye itches, you will soon be pleased.  If your right foot itches, you’ll soon walk on strange or unfamiliar ground, and if your left foot itches, you’ll soon walk in the graveyard.”

“If you are out driving a wagon or buggy and a black cat crosses the road in front of you from right to left, it is a bad sign. If it crosses from the left to the right, there is no reason for concern.”

If you enter a house and leave it without sitting down it is bad luck.  Particularly if you leave by a different door than the one you entered.~

If a bird flies into your house there will soon be a death in the family~Within six months if a whippoorwill comes to your treetop and sings at night. ~

If a baby smiles in its sleep, the child is talking to the angels. ~ *My personal favorite.

Count the number of foggy mornings in August and that is how many winter snows there will be.~ I heard this one not long ago and suspect it may be true.  I’m also a believer in wooley bears predicting winter…

A new moon with the points up means dry weather, and a moon with the points down means rain will soon fall. ~

On Ash Wednesday people made pancakes or the chickens wouldn’t lay.~ *We still have pancake suppers in the valley on that day.

~Horse chestnuts carried in the pocket are thought to ward off rheumatism.~ Sassafras tea is good to thin the blood. ~ Broth made from the hind legs of mice is good for kidney ailments.~ *Not tried this one. ‘Swamp root’ tea is also recommended for kidney disorders.~ I’ll have to research exactly what swamp root is.
Before taking a new baby out for its first ride (this probably applied to a wagon or buggy) the ‘herb lady’ rubbed warm bear grease on one of the infant’s palms and the bottom of the opposite foot thus insuring that the baby was protected from the rigors of the journey.

A hog’s tooth carried in your right pocket will ward off toothache.~ *Maybe I should take up this one.~ Sage tea will keep a woman’s hair from turning gray prematurely.~

Treat measles with sheep manure that has been boiled, strained, and diluted with moonshine.~ *I assume with enough moonshine the patient didn’t notice the manure so much.

Freckles on the face can be washed away on the first of May. If they are washed in morning dew, they will be transferred to the hands which can be dried on another less visible part of the body like the arms or legs and left there permanently.  It’s recommended that this practice be repeated for three years in a row to work. ~

And I could go on, but this is enough for now.  Well, maybe one more.  “To get rid of warts, tie a knot in a string for each wart you have and bury it under rock.  When the string rots the wart will be gone. ~

Contributed by author Beth Trissel.  For more on my work please visit: www.bethtrissel.com

*Photographs of the valley by my talented husband.

Old Sayings and Superstitions from The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia


 

These sayings are taken from Shenandoah VoicesFolklore, Legends, and Traditions of the Valley by late historian and author John Heatwole. I also threw in some cures.

I knew and greatly respected John Heatwole.  He even helped me with some of the initial research for my first historical novels.  The wealth of knowledge he amassed is just one of the rich legacies John left behind.  Shenandoah Voices is my favorite book by him.  I recommend it to anyone interested in the old ways and days of rural Virginia, especially the valley and surrounding mountains.  I was also privileged to hear John speak on this fascinating subject.  He’s best known for his vast knowledge and books about the Civil War.  He was also an amazing wood carver/artist, a man of many talents.  Much missed.
****
Many early valley settlers were Scots-Irish, my ancestors among them.  People from the British Isles tended to be superstitious.  Also prevalent in the valley were Germans bringing the influence of the Pennsylvania-Dutch, another superstitious group.  To quote Michael Scott, boss from NBC’s hit show, The Office, “I’m not superstitious, just a little stitious.”

 

It’s bad luck to lay a hat on the bed.~
An itching nose means a visitor is coming. ~
A cardinal bumping against the window pane is an indication of an early death~
*To this I have to add ‘or an insanely jealous bird regarding his reflection as another male which tends to happen with cardinals.’

Peel an apple all in one piece and throw the peel over your shoulder.  When you turn around and look at it lying on the ground, whatever letter it reminds you of will be the first letter of your future husband’s last name.~
It’s bad luck to point at a rainbow. ~ *I suspect we are all guilty of this one.  Who knew?
It’s bad luck to bring a shovel into the house ‘because it is a grave tool.’ Some also think a hoe in the house bodes no good.~

If you enter a house and leave it without sitting down it is bad luck.  Particularly if you leave by a different door than the one you entered.~
If a bird flies into your house there will soon be a death in the family~Within six months if a whippoorwill comes to your treetop and sings at night. ~ *How many of you have even heard a whippoorwill?  I have.

If a baby smiles in its sleep, the child is talking to the angels. ~ *My personal favorite.

Rain isn’t far behind when a tree shows the underside of its leaves.~

Count the number of foggy mornings in August and that is how many winter snows there will be.~ I heard this one not long ago and suspect it may be true.  I’m also a believer in wooley bears predicting winter…

A new moon with the points up means dry weather, and a moon with the points down means rain will soon fall. ~

If a full moon has a ring around it there will be snow by morning. ~ If the ring is large, the number of stars you count in it will be the number of inches that fall.~ *We say a ring around the moon means rain, or snow, within a few days.

Sheep shearing takes place around the first of May.  A cold rain will follow within a few days of shearing called a sheep rain. ~

On Ash Wednesday people made pancakes or the chickens wouldn’t lay.~ *We still have pancake suppers in the valley on that day.

 

Horse chestnuts carried in the pocket are thought to ward off rheumatism. ~

Sassafras tea is good to thin the blood. ~

Broth made from the hind legs of mice is good for kidney ailments.~ *Not tried this one. ‘Swamp root’ tea is also recommended for kidney disorders.~ I’ll have to research exactly what swamp root is.

For someone who is weak and recovering from long illness, make them sparrow broth tea. ~ *This supposedly saved my grandmother’s life when she was sick as a child.

Before taking a new baby out for its first ride (this probably applied to a wagon or buggy) the ‘herb lady’ rubbed warm bear grease on one of the infant’s palms and the bottom of the opposite foot thus insuring that the baby was protected from the rigors of the journey.

 

A hog’s tooth carried in your right pocket will ward off toothache.~ *Maybe I should take up this one.

Catnip tea was made for children with colic.~ Tea from peppermint leaves will stop a stomachache.~ *These are still practiced.

Sage tea will keep a woman’s hair from turning gray prematurely.~

Treat measles with sheep manure that has been boiled, strained, and diluted with moonshine.~ *I assume with enough moonshine the patient didn’t notice the manure so much.

For a bad cold put lard on your chest sprinkled with salt. Another remedy is a mustard plaster made with mustard, lard, and egg whites and laid on the chest~

Freckles on the face can be washed away on the first of May. If they are washed in morning dew, they will be transferred to the hands which can be dried on another less visible part of the body like the arms or legs and left there permanently.  It’s recommended that this practice be repeated for three years in a row to work. ~

When mumps invade your house put hog manure on the throat as a relief or cure. ~ *Considering the stench of hog manure, I doubt the sufferer would find much relief.

And I could go on, but this is enough for now.  Well, maybe one more.  “To get rid of warts, tie a knot in a string for each wart you have and bury it under rock.  When the string rots the wart will be gone. ~

*Photographs of the valley and mountains by my talented husband and mother. Bottom pic is of a tiny log chicken/hog barn.  I should add former as it appears abandoned and a wet weather creek runs right under it.