About the Cover
Charles Town was the, very first stop in West Virginia in our hunt for ghostly lore. It was relatively close to where we lived and we thought we could accomplish our first attempt at fieldwork in an afternoon and get home in time for supper. In fact, Charles Town was one of the few places in West Virginia that I had actually visited, for a good friend of mine lived there.
We took off with light hearts and keen anticipation that Saturday morning in August. The day promised to be hot so we had along an ample supply of water and soda plus hats and sunglasses, all the stuff we needed to avoid sunstroke. When we reached the parking lot of the Jefferson County Museum we discovered, much to our dismay, that we had started our great adventure off without our camera. To go back and get the camera and then come back would eat up most of the day. And since we were primed and ready to go, we decided to press on and to come back on a later visit, to get the pictures.
This proved to be a wise decision on our part for we decided to take the tour of the Jefferson County Courthouse and here, we learned about the Charles Washington Inn and its resident spook, Miss Emily, the ghost of a mischief loving 13 year old who some said died in the house. We decided to grab a late lunch and while we were eating, we quizzed the staff about the ghost and saw the Pink Room where Miss Emily likes to hang out. A little later, I had my encounter with Miss Emily, herself. (If you want the details, you’ll find them in Chapter One of our book, in the section entitled “The Haunted Inns of Charles Town.)
We still had to get our pictures and this meant another trip back, which was all right with the both of us. The first trip proved fruitful and who knew what a second trip to Charles Town might bring. (As it turned out, it brought quite a lot. On this trip we found out about the ghosts at the Iron Rail Inn and had a delightful interview with Mr. Perkins, the current owner of the house where John Brown may walk.)
We started out on a cold but clear March afternoon, the polar opposite of our last visit. But when we got to the Charles Washington Inn, we found it was closed. We were disappointed because we wanted to try our luck with Miss Emily again, but alas, it was not to be, or so we thought. We tried the front door in hopes that someone might be hanging around the Inn but had no luck. The door was locked. Obviously the staff was enjoying a well-earned day off.
We took a picture of the front of the inn from across the street. There was no movement or sign of life in any of the windows, just streaks of cloud drifting overhead. We got into the car and headed off to Middleway to get a shot of the Stranger’s Grave.
It was some time later that we carefully examined the photos. There was something not quite right about the picture of the Charles Washington Inn. Then it dawned on me. It looked like there was a figure in the window of the Pink Room, Miss Emily’s room. Mike looked and agreed.
The implications were staggering. Had we actually taken a picture of a ghost? Well, it could have been a weird reflection off the window, a practical joke played on us by the late winter sun and the clouds. It could also be a malfunction of the camera or the fault of the film. It didn’t matter to us. Our purpose was not to prove or disprove the existence of ghosts. And many other researchers had taken pictures just like ours. So we didn’t feel it was worth the time an expense of further technical analysis.
As I write, I can feel you skeptics out there sniggering and sniffing with indignation. Save your harrumphs for another time. We don’t claim that this is an actual picture of a ghost, only that it might be. If it’s some sort of fake, we didn’t do it. If the image is some trick of the light or a film or camera fault, isn’t it strange that the image is standing in the window of the Pink Room, Miss Emily’s favorite lurking spot? And after all, what are ghosts but pale reflections off the shiny surface of reality? A weird coincidence? Could be, with the emphasis on weird.
Post Script: I went back to the Charles Washington Inn for a third time. One evening in May I took several friends to dinner at the inn. The place was crowded and we ended up in the Pink Room. I had told my friends about Miss Emily and the inn. “So where’s this ghost?” they would ask from time to time.
I don’t know what they expected. They all were conditioned by grade B horror flicks and Stephen King novels to expect extraordinary stuff. But nothing happened. We didn’t get attacked by the salad. Vincent Price did not deliver our wine. No apparitions of a little girl floated through the wall. We had a nice dinner, some good conversation and except for some very mild kidding, everything was fine, even though my friends were secretly disappointed.
Ghosts aren’t like a family pet that will come when called. They generally pop up when you least expect them. I can personally testify to that. Or maybe this was just another trick by Miss Emily. I can hear her now. “Order me around will they? I’ll show them, I won’t do anything.” Those of you out there with teenaged kids can probably relate to this.