A woman with the head of a goat. A spectral hitchhiker. Red eyes that stare at passersby from the dead, black windows of abandoned buildings.
This is the legend of Windyville, Mo.
“Visitors have reported screams from the old cannery building, and a horseback rider was spotted at Lone Rock Cemetery. It’s also home to spiritual cults, so watch out,” proclaimed an Oct. 20, 2005 article in USA Today.
Sounds like a great place to hunt ghosts, right? Not really.
Ronnie Powell lives in Windyville, a town many sites on the Internet say is a ghost town. It’s not. The town was once home to a tomato cannery, grocery store, post office and a number of families. The buildings are still there, but the businesses aren’t, and only four or five houses are occupied.
“Windyville looks deserted,” Ronnie said. “But real live people live here.”
The population of Windyville grows, however, when ghost hunters are in town.
“(These) people came to Windyville and they pilfered, they broke into buildings, they had rituals, and it got so bad that we got the law to get rid of most of them,” he said. “They told them not to come back.”
Ronnie, who retired after 30 years with the Missouri Department of Conservation, has always liked to write and once penned a few Windyville ghost stories for “More Missouri Ghosts,” by Joan Gilbert. He wrote the stories as fiction but they were published as fact. Although the stories were left out of the next edition of the book, they’d already hit the Internet.
“I know (the trouble) is all because of me and my stories,” he said. “‘The Ghosts of Windyville’ was just tidbits of things that I couldn’t corroborate. They were just stories. I sure did ruin Windyville. ”
Ghost hunters and the curious have vandalized the buildings, trespassed and terrorized the few residents of the town.
“The stories I could write about the ghost hunters would be better than the ghost stories,” Ronnie said. “They wouldn’t want people looking in their windows.”
Although people have trespassed around his home, nothing bothered him as badly as the Goths.
“They had some kind of a fire ritual down here,” he said. “I ran them off. They all ganged up around me. I told them I was armed and they scattered. They were dancing around a fire and were chanting and all that. One man had a knife. I saw that.”
The School of Metaphysics in Windyville probably hasn’t helped the town’s reputation.
“They picked Windyville as the ninth (most haunted) place,” Dr. Barbara Condron of the School of Metaphysics said of the USA Today article. “They picked dead places. Windyville isn’t dead.”
The school, which has 15 branches throughout the Midwest, focuses on channeling the mind’s energy in positive ways and learning how to co-exist with your fellow man – but the locals don’t always view it that way.
“We’re kind of the talk of the high school here,” Barbara said. “A lot of times we get joke calls. ‘Ah, yes, you guys move things with your mind out there?’ It’s the Uri Geller bending spoons thing. It hasn’t been good.”
And the school has experienced trespassing and vandalism, too; much like a recent incident.
“Two guys who graduated Lebanon high school were going to chain our gate to their pickup, tear it down and drag it down the road,” Barbara said. “They were fortunately caught by local authorities.”
The nature of the School of Metaphysics calls for thinking positively. The school rarely prosecutes – it didn’t in this case – and Barbara said she doesn’t think the kids from Lebanon will come back.
“It’s one thing to do it in the night time and another to look the people in the eye the next day,” she said. “It’s the golden rule in Christianity. You treat people the way you want to be treated. I hope it heals.”
Today, the Windyville ghost stories remain on dozens of ghost hunter Web sites, which means Windyville may not be off the paranormal map anytime soon.
“It’s Pandora’s box. It’s already been opened,” Barbara said. “Technology brings good to the world, but there’s always a dark side.”
Copyright 2007 by Jason Offutt
Got a scary story? Ever played with a Ouija board, heard voices, seen a ghost, UFO or a creature you couldn’t identify? Let Jason know about it: Jason Offutt c/o The Examiner, 410 S. Liberty, Independence, Mo. 64050, or email@example.com. Include your name, address and telephone number. Your story might make an upcoming installment of “From the Shadows.”
Jason’s book of ghost stories, “Haunted Missouri: A Ghostly Guide to Missouri’s Most Spirited Spots,” is coming in May. FREE SHIPPING when you order online at: https://tsup.truman.edu/store/ViewBook.aspx?Book=849. Visit Jason’s Web site, www.jasonoffutt.com, for his other books.