The best-known literary example of headless ghost stories is that of Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow." The Mountain State has several legends featuring headless ghosts and one of them took place smack dab in the middle of the state. Located in the geographical center of West Virginia, lies the little community of Centralia where our true ghost story takes place.
Many years ago, a man by the name of Jacob Beamer was living in Centralia. Jacob was known as a local character of sorts and many thought him a bit odd and eccentric. You see, Jacob made it known to all who would listen that his ancestors had lived on the moon. He had come to the Centralia area to work on the building of the West Virginia & Pittsburgh Railroad (later known at the B&O). The line ran from Buckhannon to Camden-on-Gauley, and in 1890 Jacob was employed on this railroad project. He was a hard worker but also enjoyed spinning yarns and telling tales to those who would listen.
One of the rare stories that Jacob claimed to be true was the fact his family came from the moon and that he had a guardian moon ghost. He claimed his family had the uncanny ability to travel back and forth among the planets and across the solar system (keep in mind this was many years before space travel was actually attempted by mankind). Jacob stated that while his family traveled from the moon to the earth on one trip, a terrible accident occurred. A large meteor roared past earth and shook the land mass forming continents and which changed the earth's poles. This meteor also threw the moon farther into space and the Beamer family were left behind and trapped on earth. The family adjusted to living here with the help of their guardian moon ghost who Jacob claimed would speak to him very often.
Jacob was a wanderer at heart and had a bit of a gypsy streak in his soul. He was fond of late night strolls in the country while the moon was full. Some of the locals speculated that Jacob took these late walks to speak with his guardian moon ghost. On one night while walking, Jacob was accidentally caught on the tracks when a fast approaching train struck him down. The train was venturing through a deep cut in the hill near the community of Centralia when it plowed over Jacob. His dead body was found lying next to the tracks the very next morning. He had been decapitated with the impact but the tragedy did not end there. His head was not with the body. People searched high and low for Jacob's head but it was never discovered.
Numerous people through the years have claimed a peculiar sight takes place and a few souls have claimed to witness it firsthand. They say that starkly bright moonbeams shine down brightly on the full moon night near the anniversary of Jacob Beamer's death. The moonbeams illuminate the big cut and the railroad tracks as a mist forms. It was at this time that a grayish colored ghost was often observed, leading a headless man by the hand. Their movements are slow and precarious as they search both sides of the tracksapparently looking for Jacob's lost head.
The last time that the two ghosts were observed, a deer hunter saw them as they ambled about. The hunter paused and as he did, he saw Jacob Beamer clutching the hand of the gray ghost and in his other arm; he cradled what appeared to be a white human skull. The deer hunter stood as if frozen in place and watched as the ghost led Jacob into the dense rhododendron bushes, disappearing into the shadows.
The apparitions of the moon ghost and Jacob Beamer have not been seen for a few decades. Occasionally someone goes in search of the ghost and the Guardian Moon Spirit hoping to come across either. If you do visit the area remember it's off the beaten path, as they say. You best take a dependable bright flashlight with you. It can get dark in the big cut at night and you had pay attention to the train whistle if you hear one.