[cleeng_content id="907894178" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]BERKELEY SPRINGS – John Douglas, recently retired as the editor of Morgan County’s weekly newspaper, has turned his attention from showcasing the latest news from Eastern West Virginia to sharing some of the region’s eeriest ghost stories.
As Halloween nears, Douglas’ new collection, “A Fog of Ghosts: Haunted Tales & Odd Pieces,” is an ideal choice for readers looking for a good scare.
He spotlights, for instance, Samuel Crawford, an outlaw who came to Berkeley Springs after the Civil War. Posing as a physician, Crawford soon was accused of stealing horses, “demoralizing” young women in Maryland, Ohio and West Virginia, and then of killing a local man.
In the summer of 1876, Crawford was in jail in downtown Berkeley Springs awaiting trial in the poisoning death of wealthy farmer William Johnson when vigilantes knocked down the jail door with a sledgehammer in the middle of the night and dragged him out, still in his nightclothes.
Douglas says Crawford is the only man ever lynched in Berkeley Springs and that his ghost has been spotted near his grave in the Old Dutch Cemetery along Martinsburg Road.
Besides ghosts, slaves and former slaves and the Civil War all figure prominently in Douglas’ legends.
The Cumberland, Md., native spent decades at The Morgan Messenger and the Hancock (Md.) News starting in 1975. He concludes his book by expanding on a story that he’d reported on repeatedly through the years – the body of a nude woman dumped near the Potomac River in 1950.
One of the Panhandle’s most fascinating unsolved mysteries, the redheaded victim remains unidentified to this day.
Douglas has been honored for his work by the West Virginia Press Association and has had his stories appear in The Washington Post, Blues Access and other publications.
He’s also penned three mystery novels as well as a biography of Jim McCoy, the Morgan County-born musician who in 1946 put future Country Music Hall of Famer Patsy Cline on the radio in Winchester, Va., when she was just 14.
In 2010, officials with the West Virginia Culture and History named Douglas among “West Virginia’s History Heroes,” calling him the “go-to guy” for information on James Rumsey, the formation of the Town of Bath, George Washington’s links to the area and on the legend of John Henry, the steel-driving West Virginian.
For more on Douglas’ new book or to order a copy, go to blindspringpress.com or write to Blind Spring Press, P.O. Box 901, Berkeley Springs 25411.