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The Singing Spirit Wife of Kanawha County

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I’ve got another historic newspaper article to share with you today! Although this clipping can be found in the November 8, 1886 edition of the The Mail–a newspaper out of Stockton, California, the tale told is actually from deep within the mountains of West Virginia. Cannelton, WV is now located in present-day Fayette County, with Cannelton Mountain at the boundary of Kanawha County. 

This is a really interesting story of a preacher and his wife, both of whom seemed to have some rather spooky characteristics about them. When the wife passes away, she leaves a rather bizarre request for her husband to follow, which he does, much to the horror of those living in the surrounding communities. But, things get even worse for him when he decides to go back on that request and bring a new wife to his home. I hope you enjoy this strange little tale and share it with others so that together we can keep the rich, and sometimes weird, folklore of West Virginia alive. 


The Haunted Glen in the West Virginia Mountains

Corr. Cincinnati Enquirer

There is a wild country in the rear of Cannelton mountain, in the western part of Kanawha county, West Virginia. Strange people, many of whom are nomadic in habit, strange customs and strange habitations may be found for the looking. Here the “sing-diggers,” or cave dwellers, thrive in wild luxuriance; here the “Brotherhood of Prayer” and Church of God sects, whose curious rites of humility and penance recall the history of druidical worship. On the southern slope of a mountain about five miles beyond “the settlement”–as these primitive-mannered people still call the villages–Edom Smith, a free-will Baptist, pitched his tent ten years ago. His claims for preferment were speedily recognized and a following obtained. 

A rude hut was his dwelling-place, in a dense wood, never touched by sunshine, and hard by a little stream, spring-fed, and a twinkling waterfall. Here the owls hooted grewsomely in the night time. Deacon Smith was pale, cadaverous and solemn. His wife was of the gypsy type–dark, of stormy mien, alert and active. That she ruled the deacon with no gentle rod no one had reason to doubt. She held herself aloof from “his people,” though taking part in the Saturday night services. He never preached save at night, and then only in the light of the moon.

The dark woman was held in veneration by the “sing-diggers,” for she sang as none others could, and gave them healing potions and charms against the evil one. Once, it is said, that when Edom Smith spoke of death and the grave in his discourse, she shrieked aloud and rebuked her husband with angry words. It was known that her terror of death amounted to madness, and she had extorted an oath from him never to consign her body to the ground, but to enclose it in an oaken box, to be deposited on a specific stump near the house. For want of sunlight she fell ill of rheumatism one Autumn and died when the leaves were coming out again in the tangle of vines on the tent.

Edom Smith remembered his vow, and respected it. Within sight of the bridle-path that led to the highway a few miles beyond, on the stump that Olga had selected, the rude oak box containing her remains was placed. The people besought him to bury the remains, but he said he durst not break his word, for she had promised to haunt him for this, and always kept her word. Then they made a new path to the river that they might avoid the awful spectacle of that discolored box, where the figure in white came every twilight and wandered to the waterfall. This weird vision was a common sight, it was said, and they persistently prayed the deacon to put the coffin under ground, where the dead belong. Elfish screams were heard in the moonlight hour, it was told, and wild songs, such as Olga used to sing as she sat by the cabin door. 

All knew that strong, strangely sweet voice, and shuddered when they heard its echoes among the trees. But no one complained to the authorities of the horror, and the box remained through that Summer and one Winter undisturbed. It finally disappeared, no one knew why, and were afraid to ask concerning it. But the mystery was explained when he brought a bride to the hut. She had steadily refused to share his lot until the former wife was put away. 

But the songs went on as of old, and the awful cries of the gloaming, till they called it the haunted glen, through which belated travelers hurried to the nearest habitation. It was found that Edom Smith had carried the box to a cavern, almost at the mountain top, on the other side. How he succeeded in reaching the place without assistance was more than anybody could understand, but no one questioned that awful matter.

There on a ledge of rock in the cave may yet be seen the oaken box, over which the mosses grow and the ancient ferns, and where the dolesome nighthawks scream a mournful threnody. The rattlesnakes hiss about the place and fantastic vine drapes the mouth of the tomb with scarlet blossoms. The tale is told that Deacon Smith had never peace in the hut with his new wife, for the ghostly songs of the restless Olga, and that his Bible had bloody fingermarks throughout. So they left the place one night, going no one knew whither, leaving everything as though they would return, but they never did, none hearing from them or the cause of their hegira.

Perhaps they were murdered, say the “song-people.” Who can tell? But the furniture disappeared a month later, and then a fire destroyed the house–by what means no one could say. They still say the songs may yet be heard in the twilight and the awful shrieks in the midnight hour. And they will tell this tale to succeeding generations, and warn them of the haunted cave near the mountain top, and the ghost of the lonely glen. 


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