The tale of Gilman’s ‘mad moonshiner’
Do Not Whisper
to the Wind
Do not whisper to the wind,
For winds sound far and deep,
Deep down into the shadow land
Where evil creatures sleep.
The echo of thy uttered word
Can wake them, make them creep!
–By Rayne Avalotus
As the leaves begin to change colors and the days begin to shorten, we herald in the month of October. This month ends with my one of my favorite holidays, Halloween. And with the approaching event, many are in the mood for a good old fashioned ghost story. This spooky tale comes to us from the town of Gilman north of Elkins, West Virginia.
Back in the 1920s in America, there were many men who turned to the art of moonshining. In the days of prohibition, it was illegal to make, sell, drink or even transport liquor. Many a good man turned his back on the law and took up this risky occupation. Locals lamented that the only way to make decent money back in those days was to “moonshine, coal mine or move it on down the line”. The government declared war on the moonshiners and sent out agents or revenuers who would hunt the stills down and arrest the moonshiners. It was very dangerous in those days to walk in the woods at night alone, or even with a companion.
In Randolph County, just outside of Gilman, one of the most vicious characters set up a fine still. Anytime his still was approached, this man would barbarously murder the unfortunate man and dismember him. The bodies would then be rudely cremated in the furnace that was used to make charcoal for the still. Many locals feared the mad moonshiner and stayed far away. The federal agents were not that smart. Call it sheer determination or stupidity, but they repeatedly lost several good men to the murderous moonshiner in an attempt to destroy his still and bring him to justice.
The murders at the still continued for many years until the moonshiner was apprehended in the fall of the year. He was caught by a large group of federal revenuers who had banded together in an effort to avenge all of the slain agents who had fallen victim to the mad moonshiner and his gruesome cremations.
It was late in the evening on a cool October night when they made their long awaited capture. The agents decided to wait until daybreak before they hauled their catch into the local jail. The terrain was hard to see in the dark of the night.
They placed their captive in an old outbuilding along the trail and left one soul to guard the prisoner while the rest of the group slumbered. In the morning, the revenuers found the guard murdered and their prisoner vanished. They began to scout about seeking the prisoner with a feeling of gloom, dread and revenge. Several hours later, near the noon hour, one of the men gave a signal shot. The revenuers gathered quickly thinking the prisoner had been recaptured. Much to their surprise, down in a steep pit-like hollow, hanging from a mossy covered grapevine, hung the mad moonshiner. They surmised that the man had somehow stumbled while fleeing in the dark, and had fallen in among the mass of vines where one encircled his neck, snapping it like a twig. He was cold and dead.
For many years now, people who pass along that remote trail near Gilman, swear they hear the sound of the mad moonshiner in the woods along the trail. Perhaps the Ghost of Hangman’s Hollow cries out from pain, or perhaps in regret for all of the men he murdered all for the sake of the devils drink. If you drive along route 219 this month near Gilman, be sure to turn down your radio, pull off along the road safely, roll your window down and listen to the sounds of the night. You may just hear him for yourself.
Sherri Brake is a paranormal researcher, author and Haunted Heartland Tour owner. You may email her at SherriBrake@gmail.com or visit her website at www.HauntedHistory.net