|The donation to the Calhoun County Historical and Genealogical Society
of miscellaneous papers from Lorentz
Carr Hamilton, has yielded many interesting clippings, but by far the
most interesting is one which will be reprinted
here. Written in 1886, it is believed to be the earliest written
account of Calhoun's famous Betts Ghost. Taken
from The Charleston Daily Mail, Dec. 27, 1925, the article in its
CALHOUN COUNTY GHOST STORY FORTY YEARS AGO
NEARLY 40 years ago the Calhoun county correspondent of the Cincinnati
Enquirer prepared the following
account of Calhoun's most prominent ghost, which the Enquirer printed.
Interested persons saved clippings, with
the result that the story has reappeared recently in various weekly
papers in that section of the state. It combines
all the elements of a good ghost story and contains about every
characteristic ghosts are known to possess, and
reads as follows:
Grantsville, Calhoun county, W. Va., March 24, 1886.--The following
history of the haunted house,
situated on the bank of Little Kanawha river, about three miles from
this place, is presented to the scientist for
explanation. The skeptical reader is frankly and honestly referred to
any one of the persons named herein for
verification of their share of the history. Although it is one of the
strangest and most unaccountable stories written
on this subject within a quarter of a century, every detail is well
authenticated. A solution of the mysteries
connected with this history will be received with gratitude and
pleasure by hundreds of the respectable and honest
citizens of Calhoun, Ritchie and Wirt counties.
About three miles from the county seat of Calhoun county there
resided, and still resides, Mr. Collins Betts, a
farmer, who is well known throughout this section of the country. His
house is a one-story, rambling affair, close to
the banks of the stream and but a short distance from the highway.
But for the reputation of the house it would be
a frequent stopping place for the wayfaring; as it is, there are now
but few men, in a country famed for its nervy
and physical giants who would dare to stop over night at Bett's
The reputation of the house as being haunted was acquired some years
since. By some - many in fact - it is
ascribed to the disappearance of a peddler in the neighborhood and
never to be heard of more. It is whisperingly
surmised by the most cautious that the peddler was known to have had
over $1,000 in his possession at the time;
and was probably murdered in the vicinity. Others say his horse had
been left and no one ever came for it. Be this
as it may, from that time forward Collins' house has borne the
reputation of being haunted.
Among the first who tested the truth of these rumors was a Methodist
minister - Rev. Wayne Kennedy - who was
well known throughout the state; a nervy, courageous man, who was
never accused of a particle of cowardice. The
reverend gentleman stopped at Betts' one night when belated, and
willingly took the haunted chamber as his
bedroom. About 12 or 1 o'clock the preacher felt something heavy
bearing down upon his chest. The sensation of
smothering awoke him. When he had collected his senses he declared
that he saw something like a big black dog
sitting upon his body in the bed. He said that it was with the
greatest difficulty he was enabled to throw off the
incubus and release himself from the deadly pressure.
In the morning the preacher left, but before doing so he told Betts'
that he was not a particle superstitious, but that
he would not stay in the house another night for the whole farm. The
ghost or phantom appeared in different forms
and was not confined to the house, but has been seen as far away as
the top of the mountain opposite the house.
One night James Wolverton and his son, a boy about 18 years of age,
were on their way home, driving an ox-
team. When almost at the top of the hill Wolverton declares he heard
the tramping of hundreds of horses, and the
rattling as of so many sabers in their scabbards and upon looking back
saw what he thought a troop of cavalry
riding at t gallop upon him. His oxen saw him also, and became
frightened, and ran off down the mountain.
Wolverton said that just as he thought they would rider over him he
threw up his hands and exclaimed, "My God,
men, don't ride over me!" He declares that the mystic cavalry
disappeared instantaneously just as he cried to
them to stop. Mr. Wolverton and his boy have always adhered to this
story, and as they are men of probity,
nobody questions but they saw something.
Now comes another still stranger story: John Betts, brother of
Collins, came to Calhoun from Colorado on a visit to
his brother. He was a large muscular, rough-speaking man, and when he
heard these stories he laughed at them
and sneered at his brother and everybody who had the temerity to tell
him of the rumors. He declared his intention
of sleeping in the room where the phantom was often seen. One night
he went into his room as a hale, hearty man
as one would see in a month's travel. In the morning he was found
lying upon his back perfectly helpless.
He said that sometime during the night he felt some heavy weight upon
is breast. He undertook to throw it off, but
was unable to do so, and suffered torment until daylight, when the
oppression ceased but he had lost the use of his
limbs. Mr. Betts has never entirely recovered.
A man named Haverest slept there one night. He says he heard the
rattle of chairs upon the floor. Nothing can
induce him to try it again.
A strange feature of most of the cases is that the victims seem,
although perfectly conscious, deprived of power to
resist the incubus, and suffer torment for hours.
Many people profess to believe that it is the effect of some sort of
gas which arises from the earth and is inhaled,
but others disbelieve in the gas theory. All would like to have it
Captain Hayhurst, a visitor also from Calhoun, stopped with Betts.
What appeared to be a headless man rose
before Hayhurst's vision in the middle of the night and frightened the
gallant captain so badly that, as he says, he
"wouldn't stay another night in the house for the entire farm">
Henry Elliott met with a fate somewhat similar to John Betts. He
slept in this room and was nearly smothered to
death by something he took to be a large black animal. Elliott has
been an invalid ever since.
I had a conversation about the haunted house with Mr. Henry Newman, a
prominent timber man
about 60 years of age. Mr. Newman is not the least superstitious, but
he fails to explain the mystery.
He said he had heard the stories often, but didn't pay any attention
to them. One night, however, he
stopped at Betts' and was asked if he objected to sleeping in the
haunted chamber. He said he did
not. Mr. Newman's story is that he went to bed, but being very wakeful
he lay still and mused until
about 12 o'clock. About that time something commenced clawing the
bed-clothing off his person.
He said he threw himself up in the bed, expecting to catch a cat or
some such animal, but there was
nothing there. A second and third time the act was repeated but he
could not see anything. He left
the next morning, and says he does not want any more of it. Young
Hosey a nephew of Betts, who
resides on a farm several miles distant, says he had occasion one
night to pass the haunted house on
his way home. Just about half way up the hill, some strange apparition
appeared and frightened the
horse so badly that it ran off down the hill through the brush. It
could not be found until the next
morning. This is another instance when the phantom or whatever it was,
was perceptible to both man
John Jenkins, a well-known citizen of Ritchie, is reported to have
stopped there one night. What
John saw does not clearly appear, but whatever it was it frightened
him so badly that he got out of
the room as quickly as possible, ran to the stable, saddled his horse
and left in a gallop. He never
could be induced to go back.
It is claimed that the sound as of persons whispering can be heard in
the room, and at the windows.
A sound as of water dropping into a tin vessel is often heard, though
no such article is about.
The family of Betts himself do not seem to be less annoyed than other
people. The women say they
hear all sorts of odd sounds as of water dropping, whispering and the
sound of the fall of some
Two nieces of Betts, stopped over night at his residence some time
ago. One of them was overcome
by the fear of some peculiar shape and ran out of the room followed by
the other. Neither can be
induced to go into it again. They say they saw horrible phantoms, but
could not describe them.
A sister of Betts, in a conversation about the house, said there was
something mysterious connected
with the house which she couldn't explain. According to the lady's
story the house has never been
haunted or in any way different from others until after the death of
an old woman named Riddle.
Since than the place seemed the abode of some restless phantom.
It is no trouble to find people by the dozen in Calhoun who have heard
and had some queer
experience with the Betts house. Such men as Captain George Downs,
whose word can not be
disputed, declare they have seen the phantom of a headless man or some
other headless sight. To be
stripped of bed clothing in the middle of the night, without any
tangible means, was not uncommon.
In fact, the reputation of the place appears to be widespread, and no
one seems to be rash enough,
after such experiences as the above cited, to test the matter or find
the solution of the mystery.
Your correspondent had often heard of the haunted house of Collins
Betts, and determined finally to
learn all he could about the mystery. He has interviewed dozens of
respectable people, and all of
them, though disclaiming any superstition, seem thoroughly mystified.
Everyone who ever stayed
there over night has heard or seen something strange or horrible. I
have no doubt but that some one
will yet be able to explain this mystery, but until then the haunted
house of Collins Betts will be the
notoriety of Calhoun county, W. Va.