Ghost in the Mirror—Part II: Mystery Solved

May 25, 2011

To explain the Lowe Hotel's ghost-revealing mirror (previous blog), we must look at how the phenomenon originated. Recall that a guest staying in room 314 for a week had first awakened to see a man standing in the room. This is a rather obvious description of a hypnopompic experience or "waking dream"—a type of common hallucination that occurs in the interface between sleep and wakefulness. In this state, people often "see" ghosts, angels, extraterrestrials or other entities. The woman also reported that the man appeared in the mirror when she did her hair—another, similar type of apparitional experience that typically occurs when one is an altered state of consciousness, like daydreaming or performing some routine chore, as in this instance. (See my "Phantoms, Frauds, or Fantasies?"—chapter 10 of James Houran and Rense Lange, eds., Hauntings and Poltergeists: Multidisciplinary Perspectives, 2001.) It would not be at all unusual for a person having the one experience to have the other. Probably, the provocative nature of mirrors, together with the prior experience, played a part in triggering the subsequent sightings.

Paranormal writer Rosemary Ellen Guiley has more to say about the man in the mirror. As she catalogs other ghostly activity at the Lowe in an article, "The Lowe Hotel: Haunted Rooms in Mothman Territory" (Fate, August 2007), she writes: "The third floor is the most active. In room 314, a tall, thin man in a 1930s suit, with a long beard, has appeared in a mirror. The solemn-looking fellow has not been identified, but he bears a strong resemblance to Sid Hatfield of the famous McCoy-Hatfield feuding families fame."

Now, Guiley does not say it was Sid Hatfield (1893-1921) who, incidentally, was not a member of the feuding family although he bragged that he was. A photo of him in his prime (apparently not long before he was killed while serving as Police Chief of Matewan, West Virginia) shows him clean-shaven. And he died a decade before he would have been dressed in 1930s attire. He also lived several counties away from Point Pleasant, and had no known connection with the Lowe (although Rush Finley thinks it possible he could have stayed there). Nevertheless, various Internet postings and published articles suggest the ghost was indeed Sid, often using similar wording. Indeed, one ghost-hunters' site uses—without attribution—four sentences verbatim from another site that acknowledges Guiley as its source.

Still another source ( has somehow learned that Sid's mirrored reflection did not appear to just one person but "has been seen by many." But if there were indeed "many" sightings of Sid, we would think someone would see his sheriff's badge or even his most prominent feature—"the gold caps on every one of his teeth"—that earned him his nickname "smilin' Sid" (

I did not see Sid—or any other ghost—on the nights I stayed in room 314. I did photograph some "ghost orbs" (bright balls of "spirit energy" that seem to hover in haunted places). The orbs even appeared in the magical mirror on the wall! However, it probably helped that I pointed the camera at the mirror and then shook a dust cloth in the air in front of it. Real investigators know that orbs are merely the result of the camera's flash rebounding from particles of dust or debris—or, alternately droplets of moisture—close to the lens.

My last night at the Lowe, I had to move down the hall, giving up my room to a party of ghost hunters from Kentucky who had prebooked it. I chatted with them until midnight, and one agreed with me on the fundamentally unscientific nature of ghost hunters endlessly seeking "anomalies" in "haunted" places, using equipment for which there is no scientific proof that it detects ghosts.