John Kelley, a local who has titled himself the Haunted Historian, says Portsmouth is legendary for tales of women in white apparitions. This legends come from the history of Bonefiddle, once known for bars and brothels.
“Alexandria Park, at the west of Front St., is of Boneyfiddle’s premiere hangout spots,” Kelley began. “For many people, it’s a tradition to grab a footer and shake at the 2nd St. Dairy Bar and go to The Point to relax. Just sit back, close your eyes and listen. And, you might hear something…different.”
According to Kelley, stories of Alexandria Point include those of visitors claiming to hear screams of a woman. Kelley says the crew of the paddle wheeler Kanawha Gal also heard these screams when a heavy fog forced them to dock on the Kentucky side more than 130 years ago.
“Screams…from the Ohio side…a woman’s terrified screams echoing in the cold October night…followed by chilling silence,” is how Kelley describes the legendary shrills.
“They did not sleep easy that night,” Kelley stated about the crew haunted by ghostly screams.
According to the story, the crew waited for the fog to lift before they went over to Ohio to investigate the sounds that had kept them awake. As the Haunted Historian continued the tale, he explained that the events turned to a scene of gore as the men wandered upon a structure in the trees.
“There was a cabin set somewhat back in the woods with bloody drag marks leading from the front door. The inside had been completely trashed, blood splattered everywhere and more bloody drag marks like they had seen outside.” Kelley described. “The front door bore the only clue to the butchery – bloody hand print, as though the killer had pushed the door open while dragging the victim. The print was huge. The largest of the crew that had come to investigate was well over six feet, and close to 300 pounds. This made his hand look small. The brute must have been close to seven feet.”
The story continues with the crew searching around the cabin until they finally ran into a hunter, who was clearly in distress and was running for the police.
“He’d found what the crew was looking for, and it was not pretty,” the Haunted Historian stated.
The victim of the murder had been identified as Mary Fisk, whose husband had been away hunting for several days. The couple had a six-year-old son, who had gone missing and was never found.
“Mary’s murder never was solved. The hulking thug that killed her…never caught,” Kelley explained. “Since then, Alexandria Point has had another name…White Lady Point, named for the white clad figure that many have seen walking up and down
the shore, mouth gaping open in a scream, the same screams heard by the crew of the Kanawha Gal so long ago, the same screams heard by countless others since, a bone chilling heart rending wail that cuts right into your soul.”
The story of Fisk is far from the only lady in white story to haunt Portsmouth’s downtown.
“What’s the most frequently sighted ghost in Portsmouth?” Kelley questioned. “Many would say the aforementioned Mary Fisk,and that’s probably correct, today. But not too long ago, another female phantom may have held that title. She was seen countless times, and you still might see her today, as I have. If fact, I’ve not only seen her, I got her on film.”
Kelley explained that the ghostly figure was observed in the Second Street building known as the Riverbend Mercantile building. The served a variety of purposes throughout Portsmouth history including use as an apartment building, housing various shops, packing in crowds as a night club as “The Big House,” and even serving as a hotel during the olden days of Portsmouth.
“It’s during the Hotel Europa days that the story of the White Lady began,” Kelley explained. “Who was she? Some say the Europa doubled as a brothel, and she was a prostitute. Some say she was a maid at the hotel. All that is really known about her; however, is that she died on the property, with no means of identification. There were rumors that was from the McDermitt area, but no one there seemed to know anything. No other leads panned out, so the hotel owner made one last desperate, and gruesome, attempt. He propped her body up in the front window, hoping that some passerby, or customer would recognize her. No one did. She was buried in an unmarked pauper’s grave.”
According to Kelley, throughout the years, there have been countless spectators of the specter. People have reported seeing her in windows or on the stairs. According the legends, she is not usually a full manifestation. Rather, she is seems transparent or some part of her seems indistinct or missing.
An example of this comes from a time when the place was American Legion Post 471. The second floor was the Legion hall, while the first was a pub for members,” Kelley told. “One Legion member tells of coming into the pub, just after it opened, and sitting down with friends. Almost immediately, one of them pointed to the loft. A lady in white, her arms folded on the banister, was looking down at them. She looked solid,but her face was so indistinct as to be missing. They watched until she faded away.”
Kelley also told of a second report from the time when the building was being used as a storage area for Norman’s Tin Shop. According to the story, an employee had gone up to the third floor. It was about 10 a.m. The employee was going up to pick up a stove pipe. While on the third floor, he passed the second room from the back on the left side. As he entered the section of the building, story goes that he felt a cold breeze, unusually cold.
“He turned to see a woman in white standing, or rather floating, in the corner,” Kelley said. “Her feet were not touching the floor. Remember I said that I’d seen her? Here’s the story. It was during a Haunted Boneyfiddle tour about 2009. I took a picture of Riverbend Mercantile from across the street, because I wanted to get the whole building in the shot. I really wish I‘d been closer.”
Kelley provided the photo he took and pointed out a figure in a first floor window.
“For a better look at this picture, visit my Haunted Boneyfiddle page on FaceBook and zoom in on the far right bottom window. While you’re there, tell me your experiences with the White Lady, or anything else that goes bump in Boneyfiddle,” he concluded.
Reach Nikki Blankenship at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931.