McMurran Hall at night during a Shepherdstown Mystery Walks’ tour. Photo by Sara Corvin.

Haunts and History: A Brief Account of Shepherdstown’s Ghost Stories

By Sara Corvin, Reporter

While Shepherdstown, WV is seen as a quaint university town with a rich history, there is often a strange feeling in the air. Townsfolk and students at Shepherd University alike have had the occasional chill down their spine, a brush against their arm, or feeling a presence that can only be described as one thing: paranormal. 

Many people of Shepherdstown embrace the spirit of Halloween during October. Students and residents are seen on Halloween day dressed up in costume to trick-or-treat, party, or engage in some other spooky activity. The festivities often make people feel encouraged to share any paranormal experiences they have had, as Shepherdstown is well known for its large amount of reported paranormal activity. 

One such person who had a supernatural story to share was Shelby Daughtery, a master’s student attending Shepherd University. She recalled walking home with a friend on High St. during her senior year. It was on that September night when she had seen a figure riding a bicycle. As Daughtery watched the figure, she saw something that left her shocked. 

“I noticed that it just got smaller and smaller and smaller and smaller,” Daughtery said. “It just stopped, and I didn’t see it anymore after that.” She reported having not seen the cyclist again after its mysterious shrinking and disappearance. 

Another witness to the paranormal was graduate student Michaela Barnes. She recalled the events taking place in Room 111 of the Printz Apartments of Shepherd University, which was where she lived during her sophomore year. The three-room apartment was described as having an odd energy in the air that she claimed to always be present.

“One night, we would hear knocks on the wall in threes,” Barnes stated. “But our roommates who lived in the middle room wouldn’t be there.”  

To this day, she could find no earthly explanation for the knocking. 

The accounts of Daughtery and Barnes are simply two of the countless encounters both students and residents have experienced. The causes of those experiences, however, are often left unexplained. This leads people to ask the question that hangs over their heads: Why are there so much poltergeist activity in Shepherdstown? 

One of the answers to that question lies in the history of the town. Founded in 1734 by European settler Thomas Shepherd, Shepherdstown is a place that has a deep connection to the past, much of it surrounding the events of the Battle of Antietam on Sept. 17, 1862. While the battle took place about two miles away in Sharpsburg, Maryland, the people of Shepherdstown offered a helping hand to any wounded soldier who was willing to accept it.  

According to Janet Hughes, paranormal researcher, investigator, and owner of Shepherdstown Mystery Walks, the town took in about 8,000 wounded soldiers after the battle. 

“There is an old saying,” Hughes said during the Shepherdstown Mystery Walk on October 11, “Shepherdstown was one big field hospital, and the streets were run with blood.” 

The hauntings of Shepherdstown were not left unnoticed by the public eye outside of the town. The series Ghosts of Shepherdstown featured paranormal experts Nick Groff, Bill Hartley, and Elizabeth Saint as they investigated the sources of many Shepherdstown natives’ encounters with the otherworldly back in 2016 and 2017. Not only did their work ease the minds of some of the distressed residents, but it also boosted the town’s tourism.  

As stated by Hughes, the show’s popularity raised business by 311% by November 2016 for many of the town’s stores. 

Even though Shepherdstown is rich in tragic history and the supernatural, that is the very thing that brings its people together. Some embrace the otherworldly occurrences and even actively try to see if the stories are true. Others simply acknowledge the mysteries of the town and go about their day. Regardless of how strongly they might believe in the paranormal aspects of the town, if anyone walking on the streets is asked whether they have experienced something strange, chances are that they have a story to tell. 

One of many historical stories worth sharing is the legend surrounding McMurran Hall. Constructed in 1859 by Rezin Shepherd, great-grandson of the town’s founder, it was used as a hospital during the Battle of Antietam alongside the rest of the homes and businesses. Now, it is used by Shepherd University to house the offices of University Foundation and Alumni Relations. 

Hughes states that many people have reported looking at McMurran Hall late at night and seeing something out of the ordinary.  

“They say that you can see a man in the window,” Hughes said. While the identity of the man is up to interpretation, “many firmly believe that it is Thomas Shepherd himself,” she said. 

Learn more about the town’s supernatural history by attending a tour with Shepherdstown Mystery Walks. 

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