Upcoming Christmas Performances!

Come see me at one of the following events! Click on the posters to see them full-screen.

Merry, merry, merry!

Ghostly Times

It's been a busy time for ghost stories! From my hometown of Ripley to the eastern mountains of West Virginia, from ghost walk to libraries to a lodge buried in the mountains to the beautiful Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, the stories have been flowing.

And more to come! Tonight, Petersburg WV Library, tomorrow night at the Calhoun County Library in Grantsville, WV.

Ghost Stories Workshop October 20th



Pearl S. Buck Birthplace – Hillsboro, WVSaturday October 20, 2018 – 1:00 – 4:00 PMOn Saturday, October 20, 2018, the Pearl S. Buck Birthplace (located in Hillsboro, WV), with support from The Calvin W. Price Appalachian Enrichment Series, will host Beyond the Grave:A Ghost Stories Workshop for Tellers and Writers lead by professional storyteller, Susanna “Granny Sue” Holstein.  The workshop is open to the public (pre-registration is recommended but not required), all levels of writers and tellers are welcomed.  A $10.00 donation is suggested for attendance.  Light refreshments and drinks will be provided.  Please bring paper and pen.

Join professional storyteller Susanna “Granny Sue” Holstein for an in-depth workshop that delves into the process of creating a tellable, fully developed tale. Beginning storytellers, writers and those who simply want to bring life to a family legend will all find this workshop helpful, informative and inspiring.Stories and storytelling have been a part of West Virginia’s culture since the earliest pioneers crossed the Allegheny mountains. People told stories to while away the time during long winter evenings, or on the porch on hot summer days. Stories were a way to pass on family history, traditions, stories from the “old country,” and to teach children the accepted rules of behavior. Ofall the stories told in our state, the most prevalent is the ghost story. Often these tales are only snippets of memory or an anecdote. But what’s the rest of the story?

Writer, poet, professional storyteller, and ballad singer, Susanna Connelly Holstein, from Jackson County, WV, writes the online journal Granny Sue’s News and Reviews, the blog Mountain Poet. Her storytelling performances include Appalachian stories and ballads, family heritage and history, and tales from West Virginia’s weird and wonderful history.

Holstein’s work has appeared in the poetry anthology, Fed From the Blade and the short story collection, Diner Stories, both from Mountain State Press, and other online and print journals and anthologies. She was a founding member of the West Virginia Storytelling Guild and has performed and presented workshops at events from Bellingham, WA to Boston, MA. She holds aBS from West Virginia State College and MLIS from the University of South Carolina. When not writing or storytelling, she spends her time gardening, putting up food, and selling antiques.

Ghost Stories Coming Up!

October is full of ghosts--ghost stories, that is! My schedule is filling up and I will be traveling from one side of West Virginia to the other, sharing stories of restless, vengeful, unquiet spirits. I hope to see you somewhere along the way.

Here's the schedule so far: 

Oct 7: Greenbrier Resort, Ghost Stories, private event.

Oct 12: Ripley Middle School full day performances

Oct 13: Do You Believe? Ripley Ghost Walk, 7pm. Starts at the Ripley courthouse. $10 per person. Not recommended for young children.

Oct 20: Storytelling Workshop, Pearl S. Buck Birthplace, Hillsboro, WV. Details 10am-4pm. 
$10 per person. Telling Ghost Stories. Calvin Price Series, Pearl S. Buck Foundation.

Oct 22: Mannington Public Library, Ghost stories! 6:00pm

Oct 24: Petersburg WV Moomaw Mem Library, Ghost Stories! 7:00pm

Oct 25: Calhoun County LIbrary, Grantsville, WV, 6:00pm Ghost Stories!

Oct 31:Do You Believe? Ripley Ghost Walk, 7pm. Starts at the Ripley courthouse. $10 per person. Not recommended for young children.

Nov 1: Moorefield WV Library, 6pm: Ghost Stories!

Who Haunts Sliding Hill?

Salt furnaces. Coal mines. A beautiful river. And a murder.

Sliding Hill, located in Mason County, West Virginia, has been the site of all of the above.

Sliding Hill is located between the towns of New Haven and Mason, not far from the community of Hartford. Today it is a quiet little place; most residents of the area probably work at the nearby power plant. But in its heyday this stretch of the Ohio River was teeming with people and excitement.

The towns of New Haven and Hartford were named, as you may have guessed, by settlers and entrepreneurs who came to the valley of the Ohio from Connecticut, and named the new settlements after their old homes. In 1856 salt works were built in the area. 

photo of the Jackson Salt Works, from http://www.wvgenweb.org/mason/hartford/hart.html

Processing the salt required coal to fuel the furnaces, so coal mining also became a big industry. With the location of Mason county on the Ohio River, shipment of the salt via steamboat was an easy affair, and the coming of the railroad in the 1880's expedited exports even more. Dairy farming became a growing industry in the rich river bottoms as well. 

In 1774 a major battle in Lord Dunmore's War occurred at Point Pleasant, VA (now West Virginia). This battle officially drove the Native Americans back across the Ohio River, although raids continued for years after the Treat of Camp Charlotte was signed. 

One of the stories about the haunting of Sliding Hill is loosely connected to the fort at Point Pleasant (Fort Randolph). According to this story, an army paymaster was making his way along the river to the fort, carrying with him a quantity of gold with which to pay the soldiers at the fort. A gang of robbers set upon the paymaster and killed him. Hearing soldiers approaching, the thieves quickly left the area, after first hiding the body and burying the gold. Legend has it that the gold was never recovered, and that the area is haunted by the ghost of a man walking along the road.

A dark spot along the road. "Perfect place for a murder," was Jared's comment.
Sliding Hill Creek, a little muddy after all the recent rain.
Two things in this story seem odd to me: first, that the paymaster should have been traveling alone. Surely in those dangerous times, when attacks by Indians were common and the route was a lonely one, there would have been at least one other man with the paymaster. Second, how in the world would there have been time to hide a body and bury the gold? Why would they have buried the gold anyway, if they had time enough to get away? 

The second story of a haunt in the Sliding Hill area was reported in this old newspaper article:

This version, the murder of early settlers who were traveling by canoe and stopped to camp on the riverbank, makes more sense to me, although the statement that they had "much gold" with them seems odd. Why would one carry a lot of gold into the wilderness? Still, it could have been true. It seems unlikely, however, that the robbers would not have come back for the rest of the gold. With so few people in the area, what would have prevented them from recovering it? 

Whichever version is the true story, the belief that an area along the road by Sliding Hill is haunted seems to have been well established. And the sightings reported sound frightening indeed. I suppose we will never know the truth of the story, who was killed and when or by whom.

I wonder, are the ghosts described as horrific haunts on Sliding Hill still wandering, or have they settled gently into their graves after all these years? 

I suppose I will never know the answer to that, either. Only the river would know, and she's not talking.

Thinking of Christmas

We may be sweltering in August heat, but Christmas is on my mind. I even ate some of last year's incredible fruitcake last night! But I am already thinking and planning stories for the upcoming holiday season. 

Consider hosting a house concert as a different form of entertainment for your holiday guests. How about a presentation of carols and songs about the folklore and history of the season's greenery? Or a family-focused program of memories of a childhood growing up with an English mother who brought her traditions to America with her? Or perhaps stories about the "other" Santa Claus figures? Contact me and we'll get to work planning something special!

New CD Now Available!

I am pleased to announce the release of my latest CD, Idy Mae's Full Moon and Other Stories and Songs.

The CD has stories from my husband's childhood in a West Virginia coal camp along with tall tales and songs. It's guaranteed entertainment for the whole family.

You may buy directly from me, or wait a few days and it will also be available on CDBaby and Amazon. Price is $15.00 (with free shipping if you buy from me!) Just click on this link to my other blog, Granny Sue's News and Reviews, and click on the Buy Now button on the right, or email me at susannaholstein@yahoo.com and I can send you particulars.

Another CD of ghost stories is in the works and should be ready for release in about 6 weeks, so stay tuned!