Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Wine Cellars in Dunbar, WV

Last summer, I spent a weekend with my brother Matthew and sister-in-law Shirley in Charleston, WV. While there, we went on the search for many of the local places I had heard contained ghosts or unexplained phenomena.
One of the places we sought out was the Wine Cellars Park in Dunbar, WV. I had heard a faint whisper of a ghost story from that area, so we went to check it out. First of all, this is not an easy park to find. Maybe with a GPS it would have been easier, but we were following Yahoo! Maps directions. After a while, we found the park, situated up a holler across from the city of Dunbar- you literally had to drive under the interstate to get there. We found the sign:
But it took us a while to realize that the actual Wine Cellars are on the opposite side of the road from the sign. We walked way up into the park looking for them, but it wasn't until we turned around that we noticed the giant stone wine cellars.

It didn't look too spooky at first. Mind you, I'm always skeptical about places being haunted - but the closer you get to the Wine Cellars, the more you realize how much the atmosphere changes.
The wine cellars were built, as far as I could gather from the few resources I could find, prior to the US Civil War. I'm not sure about the history of them - so please if you know anything at all fill me in. From what I understand they were used as jails or camps during the war, then abandoned years later after the wine production stopped.

Whatever the history, the mood of the cellars is nearly like that of a cemetery at midnight - and we were there at about 2pm in the middle of a hot summer day. My brother was the first to pick up on the "vibe" from the far left cellar, which is where it got interesting.
A running thing we do is to stand in doorways or entrances of places we've heard are haunted, then ask the ghost to stand between us. I'm on the left, Matthew is on the right. If you look closely at this picture, the white fog between us had to come from somewhere. It was clear as a bell in the cellar.
More and more misty photos showed up on the digital camera the longer we were there. In the far left cellar, especially, was a lot of activity. At one point I was in the doorway, and I noticed a tiny orb of light floating in the air, rotating in place just beyond my right index finger. As I reached out for it, my brother and Shirley let out a gasp - apparently they had thought I was reaching for a black shadowy figure in the mist. But what they saw as a black figure, I saw as a floating orb of light. We've still yet to figure that one out.

Whatever the case may be, we left the Wine Cellar Park and its environs with the feeling that there is definitely something dwelling within. I have my own ideas of what it might be- and I'm happy to say that I have experienced another bit of West Virginia's Spectral Heritage. For more information on the program, visit


Granny Sue said...

One of my neighbors' families were original settlers in the Wine Cellars area. They worked on the farm when the vineyards and cellars were being developed. brady richardson, my neighbor, passed away several years ago, but his family history book is filled with stories of the cellars. His family, according to the book, came to the area during the Civil War to escape some problems in Virginia.According to him, an Italian family owned the cellars; his family worked there and had farms of their own adjoining. In the book, there is a story about how some members of his family could levitate tables. Apparently it was a gift shared down the generations. I wish you had ben able to meet Brady--he grew up in Dunbar, but went west after the war to be a cowboy, which he did for many years before returning to WV and settling on Joe's Run.

Angela said...

It has been many years since I was in that park for a family reunion. I never even thought about looking at the Wine Cellars. I should go back and take a look as I'm not that far from there. I can see the orb you are talking about in your picture!

Oh, by the way, I hope you don't mind to have another follower:)

Jason Burns said...

Not at all Angela! I enjoy readers of my blog.

I do hope you are able to make it back to the Wine Cellars. It is really a nice place to visit - and get a really spooky experience.

spazzygirl said...

Just happened onto your site today. i was born and raised in So. WV; moved away about 30 years ago . . . . . . . just wondering if you'd ever researched or written anything about Mamie Thurman and 22 Mountain?

Patty Richardson Moles said...

I have lived in Dutch Hollow my entire life....60 years... my ancesters were the Richardson's and they did settle here from Virginia. They owned land adjoining the Wine Cellars. The hillsides were vinyards at the time. the grapes were harvested and taken to the Cellars where they were worked up and put in large wooden barrels and put inside the cellars to ferment. then it was taken down to Dunbar to the river and shipped by riverboat to Cincinnati.
The Wine Cellars was shut down after the Civil War. The old cellars are rumored to have been used to hide slaves. I never heard of it being used as a jail.
the farmers from the area used to put their horses in it because it stays a cool 52 degrees in there.
The Wine Cellars was restored by
Historic Preservation back in the 70's. they have started to fall to decay again due to weather conditions and vandalism.
I have never heard in my 60 years that it is haunted....but sure seems like a good possibility.
I live 1/2 mile from them so I will have to go there soon and check it out....very interesting.
thank you.

Neil Richardson said...

I grew living and up playing in and around the Dutch Holler Wine Cellars. We used to take the city kids there and we would sneak to the rear of them and moan through a small hole in the far left cellar asnd watch them run. I would have been the one running if I had thought it contained spirits. We have ventured there at night while bushwacking ro camping and saw no strange things....but who knows. They did have a Haunted House and trails there for years...

rock said...

I've been researching the Wine Cellars for the past few months and I have assembled some great information on Samuel Cabell, Thomas Friend. However, I have nothing on the Richardson Family. Patty and Neil. . .would you be interested in talking sometime to fill in the gaps?

I am planning a mini documentary on Dutch Hollow with emphasis on the history of the cellars. There is a segment of the plans dedicated to the possible paranormal activity in / around the cellars.

So, if this is something you'd be interested in contributing to, that would be great. If not, I totally understand. is my email.

Anonymous said...

Come on folks. Really? I was just at those wine cellars and took notice of how damp and cool they felt inside. Typically when you have cool air masses that meet/mix with warm air you have that mystical "FOG" that appears. Hate busting your bubbles, but your ghost is merely a foggy mist.

6f8fcd90-c816-11e0-8ca7-000bcdcb5194 said...

I am born & bread Dunbar resident. I've never heard of any haunting stories from the cellars, but I am very open to it. We just had a family reunion at the park 8/13/2011 so I visit frequently & would love to be included in further information, as one of my children currently lives on that road. Thanks

Anonymous said...

I'm a descendant of the Richardson family as well. I've read some interesting stories but in my research have found them to be just that, "stories". I've never heard or read anything about the cellars being haunted. In my research I found that they only grew and produced wine from 1855 to 1861. The Civil War brought an end to their ability to produce apparently due to having no labor. The Richardson family came there after 1861 and it would be unlikely that any of them ever worked at the vineyards. They did, however, have adjoining land and many ancestors still live on property near the family cemetery.

Anonymous said...

Ya. Yeah the Bible says not to mess with things like that as the supernatural yet it being something that is un godly. When people pass state are going to have an hour how's things left behind are the things that linger around it called until your spirit which are at the enemy of day in the devil whatever you may wanna call it. I would not invest any other things. yes it's a beautiful place and I loved it but then again seeing your website I would not in counter anything like that or prevoke anything

Anonymous said...

I played in the wine caves when I was a kid visiting my grandmother. My mom grew up on this property. The Craigo family. I have never heard of any ghost stories nor did any of us have any weird experiences. Dave

Anonymous said...

I grew up in Dunbar and graduated from DHS in 1967. As a River Rat, I rode my bike there from grade school on and never saw anything or heard of ghosts until now. The expansion of the park is nice and fun to visit when also visiting the cemetery and park nearby.