Beelzebub Visits West Virginia
Fingers of lightning tore holes in the black skies as an angry cloudburst drenched the surrealistic landscape. It was 3 A.M. on a cold, wet morning in late November 1967, and the little houses scattered along the dirt road winding through the hills of West Virginia were all dark. Some seemed unoccupied and in the final stages of decay. Others were un-painted, neglected, forlorn. The whole setting was like the opening scene of a Grade B horror film from the 1930s.
Along the road there came a stranger in a land where strangers were rare and suspect. He walked up to the door of a crumbling farmhouse and hammered. After a long moment a light blinked on somewhere in the house and a young woman appeared, drawing a cheap mail-order bathrobe tightly about her. She opened the door a crack and her sleep-swollen face winced with fear as she stared at the apparition on her doorstep. He was over six feet tall and dressed entirely in black. He wore a black suit, black tie, black hat, and black overcoat, with impractical black dress shoes covered with mud. His face, barely visible in the darkness, sported a neatly trimmed mustache and goatee. The flashes of lightning behind him added an eerie effect.
“May I use your phone?” He asked in a deep baritone, his voice lacking the familiar West Virginia accent. The girl gulped silently and backed away.
“My husband…” She mumbled. ’Talk to my husband.”
She closed the door quickly and backed away into the darkness. Minutes passed. Then she returned accompanied by a rugged young man hastily buckling his trousers in place. He, too, turned pale at the sight of the stranger.
“We ain’t got a phone here,” he grunted through the crack in the door just before he slammed it. The couple retreated murmuring to themselves and the tall stranger faded into the night.
Beards were a very rare sight in West Virginia in 1967. Men in formal suits and ties were even rarer in those back hills of the Ohio valley. And bearded, black-garbed strangers on foot in the rain had never been seen there before.
In the days that followed the young couple told their friends about the apparition. Obviously, they concluded, he had been a fearful omen of some sort. Perhaps he had been the devil himself!
Three weeks later these two people were dead, among the victims of the worst tragedy ever to strike that section of West Virginia. They were driving across the Silver Bridge, which spanned the Ohio River, when it suddenly collapsed.
Their friends remembered. They remembered the story of the bearded stranger in the night. It had, indeed, been a sinister omen. One that confirmed their religious beliefs and superstitions. So a new legend was born. Beelzebub had visited West Virginia on the eve of a terrible tragedy.