Parkersburg Haunted Ghost Tours are not for everyone. The evening walks along the streets of the Ohio River city may not be appropriate for squeamish children. Giggling teenagers may find it to be a waste of time.
For psychic medium Susan Sheppard (pictured, right), this is serious work. First noticing her "gift" as a 4-year-old, this will be her 18th tour season.
"We've had children leave the tour early and teenagers sometimes scream, but it's important to point out the tour is a serious look at the paranormal history of Parkersburg as well as tales of ongoing hauntings in the area. I'd like to point out that hauntings are not rare; neither are they dangerous or evil.
"To begin with, I'm a psychic medium," said Sheppard, who offers the $10 tours on weekends from late September through October. "The idea of being scared by it is something I don't even relate to. The tour is jam-packed with West Virginia history, American history and the unique paranormal history of Parkersburg that has not only famous ghosts, but fascinating UFO cases."
Sheppard's ancestry may be tied to her "gift" just as she believes that her childhood might have some bearing on a keen interest in the paranormal. She is one-eighth "Black Dutch," meaning she descended from the less than 850 Shawnee who remained in the east while most of tribe was being forced onto reservations on the "Trail of Tears" of the 1830s.
Growing up in the hills of Doddridge County, she says she witnessed two Native American braves standing in broad daylight near her grandparent's house.
"I was already seeing spirits of Native Americans around me all of the time as a child," said the poet, artist, author and astrologist appearing on several episodes of paranormal television shows. "I've always been aware of other things, other dimensions."
Sheppard, who started working as a spiritualist medium at age 14, admits that her special abilities aren't always accepted by others.
"Some people make fun because they are either ignorant or on some deep level are very afraid of the idea of ghosts or spirits of the dead," she noted on her website.
Her tours begin and end at Parkersburg's historic Blennerhassett Hotel. Sheppard describes it as an appropriate starting point because the Victorian-era building itself is occupied by a number of ghosts.
Participants should arrive at 7 p.m. wearing warm clothing and comfortable shoes. The tour covers a lengthy 2-hour walk, so it's not recommended for those who have mobility issues. She calls the experience an "inspired journey" with the route being altered from time to time.
"It is the history that keeps my interest in doing the tours," she said. "Another interesting feature is the number of paranormal happenings that occur. Tour-goers get a number of ghost pictures, orbs, ghost mists, vortices and actual apparitions in the windows of haunted houses along the way.
"Three years ago, some got a picture of an African-American Civil War soldier not far from where there was a Civil War hospital for African-American and immigrant Irish soldiers. It was a truly amazing picture."
A "shadow person" in a Parkersburg graveyard will make an occasional appearance. The "weeping woman" statue is another hot spot.
The tours continue each Friday and Saturday evening through the finale on Oct. 31. Halloween is a popular evening for the tour, which is rarely canceled by weather. Sheppard also will arrange private sessions and special tour packages are offered by the Blennerhassett (304-422-3131).