Ghost in the Mirror—Part I: Mystery at the Lowe Hotel

May 16, 2011

Given the illusory nature of mirrors, with their reflective and ever-changing surfaces, they have long been used for scrying. In this activity (of which crystal gazing is a form) shiny surfaces are stared upon at length until clairvoyant visions are perceived in the mind's eye—i.e., the mind of a "psychic" (or fantasy-prone person). Some believe mirrors are portals into the spirit world, so it is not surprising that the ghost-in-the-mirror phenomenon is common. Indeed, it represents a distinct genre of ghostly encounters, indicated by a book, Ghost in the Mirror, by Leslie Rule (2008), as well as by my own investigations. Among my ghost-mirror cases (in addition to one at the "haunted" Myrtles Plantation in Louisiana and the story of another mirror, now lost, in which Abraham Lincoln witnessed a double image of himself) is a more recent investigation—in Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

According to a number of sources, Point Pleasant offers haunting experiences—literally: Ghosts have supposedly checked in at the Lowe Hotel and never left!

Three times I have visited this Ohio River town to investigate its mythical Mothman monster, a fanciful statue of which now stands across the street from the historic inn. (Once, I conducted an experiment in perception for the History Channel's popular TV series Monster Quest, and I include a chapter on Mothman in my Tracking the Man-Beasts: Sasquatch, Vampires, Zombies, and More, 2011.) In so doing, I have twice stayed at the Lowe, each time daring to bed down in its especially haunted room 314.

The Lowe is one of those grand hotels of yesteryear. Built in 1901 on the bank of the Ohio River, it is very near the site of the 1774 Battle of Point Pleasant (which Congress later decreed the First Battle of the American Revolutionary War). Originally named the Spencer Hotel (in honor of a local judge), it was operated by the Lowe family from 1929 to 1990, when it was acquired by its present owners, Ruth and Rush Finley.

When I asked Rush (March 19, 2011) if he had had any ghost experiences, he replied that he was "not of that mindset." Guests did occasionally have an experience, however. Ruth told a reporter, "We used to keep all those stories quiet, because we thought it would be bad for business. But in the last several years, these kinds of experiences have come into vogue, and we've encouraged guests to share their experiences" (see "Ghostly Encounters," Charleston Gazette-Mail, Feb. 18, 2007).

On my first stay (April 12, 2002), I interviewed Ruth Finley as she graciously gave me a tour of the old inn, a place filled with ambiance. She said that the wife of a railroad employee had stayed in room 314 for a week and once awakened to see a man standing there. The woman also reported seeing the man in a large framed mirror when she did her hair. But are such experiences evidence of ghosts, or does science have another explanation?

Next time, Part II sheds light on the Lowe's ghost in the mirror.

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