Today is All Hallows Eve, or Halloween, which traces its roots to Gaelic culture when it was believed on this day the boundaries between the living and dead overlap.
It’s also a great day to read a ghost story, which is why Berkeley Springs writer John Douglas made sure his new book, A Fog of Ghosts: Haunted Tales and Odd Pieces, was published this month.
Douglas is the former editor of the Morgan Messenger newspaper and he started writing ghost stories in the mid 1970’s. Every year he’d pen one for the paper’s Halloween edition.
“And people loved them, the years I didn’t do it they asked where it was,” Douglas said.
Douglas made some of the stories up and some were based on local legends and stories he heard about haunted houses. The book contains about a dozen previously published ghost stories and several new ones.
Two chapters focus on a 1950 cold case in which a red headed woman was found dead. One chapter talks about police efforts to identify the woman and solve her murder. The next chapter is Douglas’s fictionalized version with a possible answer to who killed the woman and why.
Some of the stories have a Civil War theme, including one Douglas created for the newspaper about a young woman who was fascinated with Confederate Gen. Stonewall Jackson. The woman hid in a creek along the side of a country road hoping to get a glimpse of her hero. Instead she was accidentally shot and killed by a soldier who mistook her for a rabbit and, the story goes, she still haunts that stretch of road today.
“It’s funny, there was a Michigan college professor who was doing a Stonewall Jackson tour and he was doing some legwork to figure out where he was going to take his people,” Douglas said. “He called me up a couple years after the story was in the paper and said ‘all the old people out there on Winchester Grade Rd. tell me about this old story about the girl being shot who wanted a glimpse of Stonewall Jackson.’”
Douglas had to tell the professor that he made the story up for the newspaper.
But, does Douglas believe in ghosts himself? Not really.
“I think there are things we can’t explain, but I don’t know that I believe in ghosts,” Douglas said. “We carry things around in our mind and we superimpose our own minds on the places we are.”