The Night the Dunglen Burned Down

It was 89 years ago today. The notorious Dunglen Hotel in Thurmond, WV, burned in what was then reported to be faulty wiring, but is generally believed to be an act of arson. Although–to this day–the arsonist has never been named. The popularity of the Dunglen may have had something to do with the fact that it served alcohol–which was […]

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – Brown Mountain Lights

I love mysteries and unexplained phenomenon. Miracles even. Lately I’ve been reading about the Brown Mountain Lights–a mysterious occurrence people sometimes see on a mountain about an hour east of where I live in NC. Brown Mountain is in the Linville Gorge near Morganton, NC, and there are two popular overlooks for folks wanting to see the ghostly lights–the Brown Mountain Overlook and Wiseman’s View. Of course, there’s no guarantee you’ll see them if you go, but October and November are said to be the best months during clear, moonless nights. The lights seem to appear both in the sky above the mountain and among the trees. Sometimes they’re brief and other times they dance and linger. Theories/stories include: Swamp gas (of course, there aren’t any swamps around there) Headlights from the valley (except people saw them before cars were around) Foxfire (phosphorescent light from decaying wood–my favorite theory!) Moon dogs (moonlight shining on haze–oh wait, they show up on moonless nights) Lanterns being carried by ghostly Indian maidens looking for braves killed in battle A slave looking for his master who disappeared while hunting (there’s a song for that one) The souls of a woman and her child murdered by her philandering husband A revolutionary war hero searching fruitlessly for his family Scientists from Appalachian State University have even studied the lights and, yes, have recorded them. And yet we’re no closer to knowing what they are. Which I […]

Read More →

How About a Poem?

The hero of my next story is Colman Harpe. I chose the name Colman for two reasons–first, he’s inspired by Jonah (the one swallowed by the whale) and both of the names–Jonah and Colman–mean “Dove.” The second reason is that I grew up knowing a fellow named Coleman Ware who was a local fur seller. Dad took him many a hide for a little extra cash and had quite a few Coleman stories in his repertoire. I even wrote a poem about him. COLEMAN WARE His house, as knock-kneed as he, holds to the hillside with claws buried in the flesh of a mountain. He kills for a living, steel-jawed traps have tongues quicker than the black snake coiled beneath the shed thriving on spilled guts. He opens the bellies of his liveliehodd with a flicking blade and a line of talk that flows sinuous, like blood. He piles hides in a corner. Case-skinned, hollow animals lack only heads and feet; lack only claws and teeth. Wiping death from his knife on a dirty pant leg, he cuts into an apple. Slicing chunks of fruit against a steady thumb he eats from the blade as one who knows how all our stories end.

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – WV Quiz Results

Last Thursday was WV Day. To celebrate, I sent out a quiz to help readers determine if they could pass as a Mountaineer. The results were interesting! The first question was whether or not you’ve ever used an outhouse. I was amazed that almost EVERYONE who took the survey had done so–92%. Only one person vowed that they never would. Guess it wasn’t as big a deal as I thought when we got married at a church with no indoor plumbing. Next, I asked readers to identify the state flower of WV. This was a little bit of a trick. The choices included Magnolia–wrong! Mountain Laurel–wrong, but doesn’t it sound right?? and Rhododendron–the correct answer with 35% of folks getting it right. Sixty percent chose Mountain Laurel. This was the second most missed question. Third, I asked if WV is The Mountain State, Hillbilly Nation, or Coal Country. Two thirds know it’s The Mountain State with just one smart aleck choosing Hillbilly Nation. Okay. The what does “watch out for deer” really mean question was also tricky. If you’d read my post about this, you’d know it’s code for “I love you” (just 14% chose that answer). But I gave out a point for “be careful” as well which tied for the obvious answer of “watch out for deer” at 43%. Question 5 also surprised me with 72% of quiz takers enjoying wild game. Only 10% would turn up their […]

Read More →

Appalachian Thursday – What do diamonds, women who dunk, and stalagmite sitting have in common?

Today is WV Day. But you probably already knew that. My home state is turning 156 and in honor of the day I thought I’d share some unusual facts about the Mountain State. The largest diamond ever found in North America was discovered in Peterson, WV, by the Jones family. They kept it in a cigar box for 14 years before realizing that it wasn’t just a piece of quartz, but rather a 34.5 carat diamond. About 75% of the state is covered by forests with nine state forests and 37 state parks. The New River in WV is actually among the world’s oldest rivers and runs from south to north instead of north to south like most other rivers in the U.S. The first woman to dunk a basketball in a college game was WV University center Georgeann Wells in 1985. In the northern panhandle the city of Weirton touches Ohio on one side and Pennsylvania in the other. In 1972 spelunker Bob Addis set the world record for stalagmite sitting in New World Caverns in WV. He stayed up there for 16 days. When it seceded from the Union, plans were to call the state Kanawha, but they went with a shortened version of Western Virginia since that’s what everyone was already calling it. And cursed natives to hear, “So you’re from Western Virginia–right?” from then on. Happy birthday, Mountain state!

Read More →