In 1964, John Henfield, his wife Elizabeth and their disabled six-year-old daughter Clara moved from Charleston into a secluded family farmhouse deep in the wooded hollows of Mingo, West Virginia. John was an aspiring journalist working for the town newspaper and Elizabeth was a cashier at the local Pick-N-Pay. John had inherited the house from his late Grandfather, Dewey Henfield, who was once the town’s Fire Supervisor. Dewey had also held a seat on the Board at McDowell Coal Mines.
Mingo was home to the now-defunct McDowell Coal Mines, the location of one of the worst coal mining disasters in U.S. history. At 10:16 a.m. on Saturday, December 11, 1915, massive explosions ripped through the No. 2 and No. 5 mines, causing the violent death of 287 men and boys. Because of the depth of the mines and the fact that a fiery explosion had sealed off the entrance, rescue was not possible. An official cause of the explosion was not determined, but investigators at the time believed that an electrical spark, or one of the miners’ open flame lamps ignited coal dust or methane gas.
Many of the properties in Mingo were situated directly above the remote mine ventilation shafts, resulting in widespread fires, property damage and additional topside casualties. John’s Grandparents luckily survived, even though the Henfield farmhouse was severely damaged in the blast.
Although he was eventually cleared of any wrongdoing, Dewey Henfield and a few other mining officials were initially blamed for contributing to the poor conditions that led up to the disaster, and for not doing enough to try and save surviving trapped miners.
In the decades that followed, it was rumored that Mingo was harboring an evil supernatural presence, most likely the result of the town’s macabre history. Local townsfolk who were old enough to remember the horrific events that unfolded on that bone-chilling winter day even speculated that the miners were angry at officials for leaving them trapped deep inside the mine to die; the equivalent of being buried alive in an underground coffin.
At first, John and his wife didn’t pay attention to the seemingly benign manifestations that occurred inside the farmhouse and on the surrounding property. They would often find objects moved to other rooms, even though no one had touched them. They also observed a higher than normal number of rotting animal carcasses on their property.
Events soon escalated in terrifying fashion when the family reported multiple instances of being suffocated in their sleep. When confiding to her close friend and co-worker Donna Morrow, Elizabeth often noted that, “it felt like someone or something was covering up my mouth and I couldn’t breathe.” The Henfields would frequently wake up gasping for air, completely paralyzed in fear. Usually these harrowing experiences were accompanied by the appearance of dark shadowy apparitions seen hovering above them, along with a strong rancid smell.
Even their daughter Clara was not spared. On numerous occasions, Clara developed what looked like third-degree burns over her entire back, prompting multiple visits to the town’s emergency room. Doctors could not explain what was happening, although they speculated that the burns were likely caused by a severe allergic reaction to some unknown agent.
Sometime during the late morning of December 11, 1965, the Henfield farmhouse was completely leveled to the ground, reportedly killing the entire family, although no bodies were ever recovered from the scene. The explosion was so severe, that residents over five miles away felt the ground shake. A subsequent investigation revealed that it was the result of a catastrophic gas explosion – likely caused by an electrical short.
To this day, the Henfield farmhouse is considered to be among the most haunted locations in West Virginia, especially on the dark winter evenings leading up to December 11.
Visitors to the property have reported seeing three dark figures roaming the woods at night, as well as hundreds of glowing red eyes starring back at them through the dense forest brush. Others have noted a suffocating sensation, with shortness of breath and tightening around the neck and in the chest, when approaching the location where the house once stood.
Well, I hope you enjoyed my story and Happy Halloween! This fictional account is what I envisioned when I initially came across this mysterious and strange storefront window display in Thomas, West Virginia a few weeks ago. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.