The Darker Side of the Shenandoah

The Darker Side of the Shenandoah – The Legends & Stories Waiting for You Near Waynesboro, VA

Coming to the Shenandoah Valley for the spring wildflowers and a gentle stroll?  This isn’t the trip planner for you. But if you’re looking for a little mystery to go with your outdoor explorations, read on! Like every beautiful place, the Shenandoah Valley is also home to a whole series of legends and stories of a darker nature – sightings and encounters that defy explanation, handed down over generations of adventurers. Here are a few ideas for a walk on the wild side near Waynesboro, VA.

The Dreaded Wampus of the Blue Ridge Mountains

“A piercing scream.”  “An awful smell, like a skunk and a wet dog.”  “Five feet tall.”   “An unholy hybrid of canine and feline.”   “It was holding my pal with a hand.  Then it hissed and took off – on two legs!”

The dreaded Wampus Cat has been known to stalk the mountains of the South and these very lands for generations.  Sure, the illusive Wampus Cat has recently experienced wild popularity as a cutesy mascot and a fantastic beast valued by famous wandmakers.  But don’t allow the Wampus Cat’s newfound familiarity to cause you to drop your guard.  When you’re exploring these Blue Ridge Mountains, you never know what you’ll find or what will find you.  Be sure to follow the cardinal rule – always hike with a buddy!

Spoooooky Swannanoa

Photo credit The University of Science and Philosophy

Swannanoa Palace has many faces.  Poised atop Afton Mountain, the historic marble mansion is viewed by some as a symbol of love and devotion, by others as an eerie magnet for the paranormal.

Built in 1912 as a summer home, the Gatsby-esque mansion is said to be a token of love from James Dooley to his wife Sallie May.  The 23,000-square-foot home boasts Gilded Age architecture, Italian marble, 52 rooms, and ornate woodwork.  But the highlight is a 4,000 piece-Tiffany Glass window with a likeness of Sallie May herself.

In its early years, Swannanoa enjoyed a short stint as a country club (even hosting President and Mrs. Calvin Coolidge for Thanksgiving 1928) and an even shorter stint as a convent. Beginning in 1948, Swannanoa was home for fifty years to Walter Russell’s University of Science and Philosophy, an organization focused on elevating cosmic consciousness in the human race.

Today, Swannanoa Palace makes for a popular wedding and photo shoot venue and a prime setting for paranormal investigations.  To experience both the grandeur and the beautiful eeriness that is Swannanoa, keep an eye out for this year’s schedule of historic tours.

Eternal Darkness In the Land of 4000 Caves

Fountain Cave at Grand Caverns

All is definitely not as it seems here in the Shenandoah Valley.  Something lurks below these majestic mountains and scenic byways.  In a state with over 4,000 caves, the Waynesboro area has its share of legends and ghostly tales.  Even in a show cave such as Grand Caverns, a few well-placed lights are all that hold the eternal darkness at bay.  To experience the thrill and chill of our region’s underworld (and to be ensured to come back safely to tell the tale), contact WILD GUYde Adventures or get down ‘n’ dirty with a trek through Fountain Cave.

“And we’ll hear the dead people talk.”

Sue Eisenfeld’s The Memory Keepers

Wild, delightful, haunting, beautiful, tragic… Shenandoah National Park has been described in a number of ways.  To truly appreciate a walk in these woods, explore the complex history and heritage infused in this land.  Author Sue Eisenfeld’s writings on the lost communities, relics, and memories of these mountains is a good place to start.  Following the wisdom of Tennessee Williams to “hear the dead people talk,” Eisenfeld captures both the thrill and the sadness of coming upon plane wreckage, burial plots, and the remnants of lives lived within Shenandoah.  To feel this for yourself, take a hike along South River Falls Trail to the ruins of Pocosin Mission.  Sit alone in silence and you might hear the many voices of Shenandoah.

What’s waiting for you in Waynesboro, VA?  There’s only one way to find out.  But bring a friend…or two.