Paranormal Events On My Family History Journey (PART ONE) - 52 Ancestors

This week I am jumping into the 52 Ancestors project hosted by Amy Johnson Crow. It is week 42 and this week’s prompt is “Adventure.” For this week’s prompt you can write about an adventure your ancestors had or an adventure you had while researching your family history. (Click the link to join Amy and countless others as they share stories of their 52 Ancestors. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #52Ancestors on social media!)
Paranormal Events On My Family History Journey (PART ONE) - 52 Ancestors by Genealogy Girl Talks

I thought about different adventures related to my family history research and this “Life of a Family Historian” that I chose. I thought about the lives of my ancestors who had their own adventures.

Then, I started thinking about those odd paranormal events (“adventures”) that took place as I researched my family history. I could write about that one time I went to see a Medium. I could write about the adventures I’ve had in cemeteries. Maybe I could write about that one time I was headed to a cemetery and found a map of the unmarked headstones at the same cemetery in my great grandmother’s Bible. Or I could write about dreams I’ve had related to my ancestors. There are countless other paranormal “adventures” I’ve had along this journey that I could write about.

However, today, I will share the paranormal “adventure” I had while researching my great great grandmother in a West Virginia asylum...

There were many family stories related to the life and death of my 2x great grandmother, Lenna Parsley. No one seemed to have the answers.

My family and I worked endlessly piecing together the events of her life, but there were many gaps. We couldn’t fill them. So, we attempted to solve the mysteries with the fragmented information we had.

I created timelines of Lenna’s life. We documented the information we had, the information we needed, and the many possible outcomes. We knew Lenna was born around 1877 in Wayne County, West Virginia. We knew her husband’s name, William Goodman. We knew the family stories involving her mental illness after the death of her son. We knew the approximate year of her son’s death from stories of her sister. We knew her husband remarried in 1917.

What we didn’t know was when, where, or how Grandma Lenna died and we wanted answers.

So, one night, I had a great idea! I would research asylums and hospitals near Wayne County, West Virginia where she lived. Surely there would be something on the internet!

It was late at night and I was the only one awake. I sat at my kitchen table with my iPad glowing.  It was dark and getting late. I scribbled notes on a piece of paper while checking my previous notes on Grandma Lenna’s life.

I sat there slowly sipping on my tepid coffee as I googled aslyums and websites. I decided to check the closest hospitals (asylums) near where she lived. Maybe I could find something there.

First, I looked at the one across the state from her. The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Hospital (The Weston State Hospital) located in Weston, WV. That is pretty far from where she lived, but I decided to look into it.

I started reading stories about the hospital. These were disturbing. (If you scare easily like I do, I don’t recommend reading these!) I sifted through countless websites, viewed many pictures, and read stories that still bother me years later.

For some reason I decided this hospital was too far away given the location, financial situation of my family, and the fact that no one mentioned this well known hospital in family stories. So, I headed toward Huntington, West Virginia which was closer. There was a hospital in Huntington that she could have been admitted.

So, off I went to research the Huntington State Hospital (aka “West Virginia Asylum”). Once again, the internet didn’t disappoint with countless images, stories, and horrifying events that occurred at that Hospital. (Once again, if you scare easily like I do, I don’t recommend reading these!)

After reading those stories and viewing those websites, I decided I was going to head to bed. It was getting late and I couldn’t find information regarding patients admitted to the hospital.

But, wait, I thought to myself, “Are there hospitals in Kentucky to research?”

We all know there is never a last question you ask yourself when researching your Family History. One question always leads to another. “I’ll research one more website” always turns into researching more than one more. That is what happened that night.

So, there I was sitting at the kitchen table. I was sleepy and ready for bed, but there was ONE MORE website to research. The answers had to be here somewhere! I just knew I would find them. I knew I would find them that night.

So, off I went to research! I knew Kentucky was next to Wayne County, WV. Maybe she was admitted to a hospital in Kentucky. It was possible, right? Well, I did a quick Google search for “Asylums in Kentucky 1910” and wasn’t disappointed! There were a few asylums to research. Once again, the internet was full of stories, images, history, and websites.

I knew it was getting later and started clicking around the websites. I started reading the stories and viewing the images hoping to find some bit of information to help me piece together the life of Grandma Lenna.

THEN, it happened...

Paranormal Events On My Family History Journey (PART ONE) - 52 Ancestors by Genealogy Girl Talks

I was sitting there, minding my own business, sipping cold coffee, reading, and BOOM...


I sat there frozen.
I couldn’t move.
I couldn’t breathe.
I just sat there... in the dark.
My heart was racing.
My thoughts were numb.

It took a few moments for me to finally gain the strength to push my chair back from the table.

I still sat there in the dark.

I remember looking up and out the window. The street light was on. The lights were on at the neighbor’s house.

“What is going on?” I thought to myself as I still sat in the dark.

I sat there and slowly reoriented myself.

Finally, the lights came back on and the iPad started to glow again.

I jumped up, shut everything off, ran to the bed, pulled the covers over my head, and swore I was NEVER doing that again!

That night was one of the strangest experiences I’ve ever had while researching my Family History. To this day, I’m still not sure what happened that night or why it happened to me. What I do know is that I’m thankful that the “adventure” that occurred that night never happened again!

Have you had similar experiences while researching your Family History?


  1. What an interesting story - thanks for sharing! Sounds like your 2x great grandmother was letting you know she was visiting you!

  2. Wow! Really awesome your Grandmom was making her presence known!

  3. Wow!Really awesome! Your Grandmom made her presence known.

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