When I was a small child, no more than five or six, my mother decided to take us on a tour of haunted America. Mother didn’t believe in such things, so she thought this would be a great way to disprove them to my imaginative mind. The first place that we went was the old Moundsville Penitentiary.
We got there and like most people do, took the walking tour of the place. It was old, dark, and creepy just like you would expect from something that is supposed to be haunted. Strange sounds were coming out of the empty cells that lined the hallways of the building, but Mother was convinced that it was nothing more than an elaborate sound system that had been set up to scare people, and therefore draw more business. This was something that the tour guide adamantly refused to admit to. He swore everything was just as it was when the last prisoner died of typhoid over 100 years prior.
I was too young at the time to understand much of the argument that was going on, I was fascinated with the creepy atmosphere that was all around me. Well the atmosphere and the strange man that was following us around. He still stands out clearly in my mind. He would wail at us that he did not belong there, which I found odd because I remember Mother paid for us to take the tour so why would he have paid if he felt he didn’t belong. The man was also very dirty and his hair was long and stringy. It looked as if it had not been cut in many years.
Mother had taught me not to talk to strangers, so I did my best to ignore him. I couldn’t understand why Mother and the tour guide refused to do anything about him though, if I would have acted that way Mother would have popped me a good one and told me I was not to act that way in public. This poor man continued to follow behind us all the way to the end of the tour.
It was at the end of the tour that we came to a room full of glass display cases. In these cases were old newspaper clippings about the penitentiary and the people it housed. One article stood out in my mind however. It was an article about a young man named Jacob Black. Mr. Black had been convicted, wrongly according to the article, of murdering his wife and small child. He was sentenced to life in prison. He claimed they were wrong and he would never have killed his beloved wife, that it was actually her jealous father that killed them. The article claimed that the town did eventually find out that Mrs. Black’s father was the culprit after all, but not until after poor Jacob had gone stark raving mad and killed himself in his cell.
I looked at my mother and proceeded to tell her that poor Jacob as the article refereed to him now, was not actually dead.He was in fact standing behind us, and had been since almost the moment we walked in. Mother, thinking it was all a joke that the tour guides had set up, turned around and saw nothing. Just in that moment a huge blast of cold air came rushing at us from the direction that she was looking and she screamed as the form of Jacob Black blinked out in front of her, waved at me, and blinked back out again.
It was in this moment that my mother realized that yes ghost were real, and that her darling child could see them.