The story of the ghost of Nestorville water mill mystery ran as follows:
My grandfather had as little superstition in his make-up as any man could have. His idea about ghosts was like my grandmother’s and I have often heard her say, “There can’t be such thing as ghosts. When people die and to heaven, they don’t want to come back and if they go to the other place, Old Neck won’t let ‘em”
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But I know there was one time when grandfather was not sure of his unbelief.
Many a winter evening have I sat before his fire, listening with a half smile
and with intense interest to stories of ghost and goblins, and of haunted houses in our own community. Nearly every one of the neighbors who gathered there knew of some happening quite out of the ordinary. In spite of his good natured scoffing, grandfather had a favorite tale of his own to add to the assortment. There was a part to it, though, which he never told to anyone but grandmother, and from here my curiosity gathered it, almost a word at a time.
Near Grandfather’s house was this old Nestorville water mill. With a over shot wheel and a ditch that lead the creek water to the large water wheel. Between the millstream, which was of considerable size, had the mill itself, ran the county road. Farther up, the water was diverted from the creek stream into the millrace that turned the heavy wheel, and downstream was the water fall. The cement is still in tack to this day.
The stream was the very one you boys explored this in the day straight across from the old farm house. The creek was used by all of Nestorville to go swimming and play on a large flat rock. The mill stood about 2 or 3 miles down stream from here.
It was common knowledge for miles around that the old water mill was haunted. strange noises, were heard there at night and queer objects, accompanied by sound to terrible for description, had been seen in the stream.
Some said the noises in the old mill it self were only those made by the creaking wheel or by souls, or other marauders, fighting over stray grains of corn and wheat But, even those bold should could not explain the eerie sounds from the creek, and I noticed that they never passed that way after night fall. I remembered, too, that most men were never to close the stream.
All this rather discounted Grandfather’s bold skepticism in my own mind. The descriptions of the thing that haunted the creek varied some what. “I was just drivin’ along the road, my old uncle declared, “when I see something rolling’ along right beside me in the water, it looked a little like a barrel, or the trunk of a tree. But it kept changin’ as it rolled over, and I finally seed what it was, a man’s body with the arms and legs off. Didn’t make no sound as I heard. I wasn’t long gettin’ out of there, and I ain’t been back since, after dark. I seed the same thing to over the waterfalls below the mill one night”, my uncle declared soberly, I never did hear sucha ailin’ and groaning as it made. It turned my blood cold. When I got home I was all in a shake. Couldn’t sleep a wink that night.”
As time went on, the tales grew and others were added. All were alike in the essentials, but differed in details. It kept on until there were few indeed who dared pass the old mill after sundown.
My Grandfather was not one of these. “That thing don’t seem to be neither man or devil”, he would say with a supercilious grin, and there is nothing else a body needs, to be afeeered of.” “You will find out one of these days, “ they told him.
Grandmother just sat and rocked, and looked at him with her knowing old eyes, and I would smile and crowded a little crowded a little closer to her chair.
One afternoon in autumn, when the sunshine lay gold over the scarlet-hued West Virginia hills.
Grandfather rode his old mare up the road past the mill to the blacksmith shop in the village. The Blacksmith at the shop was busy and it was almost dark by the time he finished setting Old Dot’s shoes. Then it was supper time, and the smith would not think of letting an old friend depart without a bite to eat. The supper was well cooked and abundant, and it seemed a good idea to sit and gossip a while and catch up on the community news. It was pretty well along in the hazy moon light night before Grandfather finally started home.
Grandfather was well known as a teetotaler, so the story he told of the rid could not have been colored by an alcoholic influence. Neither was he superstitious—all the neighbors would vouch for this—also he could not have been seein’ things. Thus what he told must have been the stark truth, or at least a part of it. What he kept to himself was equal the truth, without a doubt.
My guess is that the strange tales told of that millstream caused him to glance rather apprehensively toward the water running beside the road, as he traveled along or it might have been because old Dot snorted and shied. At any rate he did glance, and there it was, The Thing. “It was rollin’ over in the middle of the creek,” he said afterwards, “just like his neighbors said that saw it. I could, make it out plain in the misty moonlight, it kept whimperin” and moanin”, as if it was being hurt, or like it was sorry about something or other.”
“I’ll bet you whipped up old Dot that time.” Offered one of his hearers, not sorry to get even the jabs, he had himself endured.
“Didn’t neither, “Grandfather snorted indignantly, “Had to hold her back to keep her from boltn’, I wanted to watch that THING.”
In my soul I knew that Grandfather would have liked to bolt, too, but according to him he held his ground, or at least a tight rein. However, when involuntarily rubbed his gray head, I knew that he felt his scalp prickling with terror again, just as it had prickled when he was—by his own statement—“holding back” old Dot for the laudable purpose of fathoming this mystery.
If you could have seen clearly, he might have un riddled it, perhaps, but the stream was bordered by sycamores and willows, which made observation some what sketchy, even in the bright moonlight. He did see the THING go over the falls below the Mill, its woeful cries rising in a sharp whining crescendo as it disappeared. And he noticed something that other, less careful, watchers had failed to see.
As the “body” toppled over the brink, it seemed to fall apart. Grandfather could not be sure it did so, because of the trees, which just at that point obscured his view. But something happened to apparition, something so weird and mysterious that he could not restrain old Dot any longer, the two of them thundered down the road toward home at a rate that would have mad Ichabod Crane green with envy.
When the old nag reached the stable door, Grandfather literally fell out of the saddle, according to Grandmother, who saw them arrive. Since it could not have been from fright, it must have been caused by physical exhaustion. At any rate he staggered into the house, fell upon his bed, and could not speak coherently for several minutes. When recovered, at least partially, and having told the story to Grandmother, he sat himself to find a reasonable explanation for the strange sight.
That way not so hard, once he was away from the scene of Ghostly apparition. When the solution began to take shape in his mind, he even found he could smile, not at his fears, because he gad bit been frightened, as he stoutly maintained; but at his won bewilderment and credulity of his neighbors.
It was the peculiar falling apart of the “body” that gave him the clue. He remembered that only a few weeks before, while fishing down the banks of Tygart Valley River, he had been startled by a strange noise up stream, like animals whining in concert. Looking in that direction he had been started even more by what at first looked like a huge serpent, then bunched suddenly into a ball.
Over and over it tumbled as it drew near a stretch of swift water, then all at once the ball fell apart, and several sleek, mink-like animals scattered over the water, He had the rare opportunity of watching the family of otters at play in broad daylight, a privilege seldom enjoyed by even the most ardent naturalists.
Comparing this incident with what he had just seen, Grandfather was convinced that he had hit upon the solution. A little scouting next day in the vicinity of the pool below the waterfall showed that he was correct. It had been the combination of time, surroundings, and the memory of eerie tales that had misled him, as is usually the case in events of this fort.
Grandfather lost no time in exposing the story to his neighbors and poking fun at them for seeing anything supernatural in the first place.
Grandmother never gave him away, and was probably the only other person who ever knew of his terrified ride home that night after he had seen exactly what every one else had been seeing, the GHOST of NESTORVILLE MILL. A Ghost?, or just a family of playful otters.
Of course, all this happened long ago, but I heard it so often that it all seems very real to me. However, it did teach me that any seemingly supernatural happening has a very natural base if one will only look for it.
I must say we are not scientist, but you must heartily agree with any statement of Ghost all do question, is this true or not. All will look at each other to see what there eyes say to each other. Had some that witnessed the otters, would the have slept any that night when the extent of the evening’s adventure, had they know that unaware of the man clinging to the anchor rope under the bow of my moon lit deck they sat upon. A man clinging to the anchor rope was listening with great interest. He slipped away and disappeared into the shadows. Now tell me truly, do you believe in Ghosts, or believe in things supernatural. How many believe, you may see a Ghost or just a shadow, but it is always fun to find out.
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