Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Dangerous Roanoke

My hometown, Roanoke, has been ranked by Movoto as the most dangerous city in Virginia (or the 37th safest) if you want to put a positive spin on it. Recently, I read a couple of books about Roanoke that don't exactly contradict Roanoke's reputation, but they do add some interesting insight into Roanoke's past. Both were published in 2013 by History Press, and both are illustrated by photos and drawings.

Haunted Roanoke, by the late L.B. Taylor, contains ghost stories about Roanoke. I've been a fan of Taylor's for years and heard him speak at the Franklin County Historical Society in 2008. 

Haunted Roanoke contains 28 stories. Some aren't actually in Roanoke, though they're close. For instance, "The Man Who Was Buried Standing Up," is about Col. George Hancock's unusual burial arrangement at Fotheringay Plantation in Montgomery County. Another story is about the late John Reiley's ghost-busting adventures in Roanoke and surrounding counties. 

I'd heard version of a few of the stories before—for instance, the ghosts who inhabit the Hotel Patrick Henry and the woman in black who used to walk men home late at night in 1902, but some stories were new to me. 

Hidden History of Roanoke: Star City Stories, by Nelson Harris, is a collection of 15 little known happenings in Roanoke, and it has a few stories that show Roanoke's dark side. The 1949 story of the murder of Dana Marie Weaver at Christ Episcopal Church is one. You can read part of the "Murder at Christ Church" chapter here and you can preview the book here.

One of the events, albeit not a scary one, in Hidden History takes place on a street in Roanoke County where I lived for 26 years. Apparently I missed the excitement by nearly a decade. Bill Cobb, a guy with North Carolina political aspirations, lived a double life in both Morganton, NC, and Roanoke. When a July 1962 issue of Time Magazine spotlighted him for being one of the new breeds of southern Republicans and published his picture, folks in Roanoke noticed. It was interesting to read about happenings on a street where I'd lived. And the other events were interesting, too.

I enjoyed both books and highly recommend them. If you're from Roanoke or currently live in Roanoke or plan to visit Roanoke, you should read Haunted Roanoke and Hidden History of Roanoke. They'll show you a side of the city that you don't often hear about. And some of it is a bit scary.


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