Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Creepy Huntington

Huntington, WV may not exactly be a ghost town, but it is a town that has seen distinctly better days.  It also has spots where ghosts are reported to walk.  Two of these, the Keith Albee Theater and the Frederick Hotel, may or may not be haunted, but they are indisputably creepy.

Along 4th Avenue in Huntington

Huntington's fortunes were tied to those of the steel industry.  In the early 20th century, times were booming.  The Frederick was finished in 1906, and the Keith Albee in 1928.  Both were built in a style that would have been seen as opulent at the time, but gaudy today. When the American steel industry collapsed, Huntington went into a tailspin.  I am told that 30 years ago, the population was 100,000; it recently slipped below 50,000.  This leaves the city with an extended infrastructure but an insufficient tax base to support it, along with scores of abandoned houses that have lately become targets for an arsonist.

The Frederick has marble stairways and a large collection of animal heads in the main lobby, but the only time I've actually gone inside it looked like the steps had not been mopped for about 20 years.  The Keith Albee is made of dark woods, with elaborately carved gilded decorations that leave dark nooks and shadows.  For several years, but ending this year, the Marshall University College of Science held a commencement ceremony in the Keith Albee, and these are the only times I have been there.  

A must hangs around both.  Maybe that somehow accounts for the creepiness of these places; perhaps the creepiest place I've ever been was the old Science Building on the campus of Texas A&M University-Commerce, and that place had a real problem with mold.  Certainly there is an effect that may be due to the movies:  there is something about this decayed opulence that feels really creepy -- sort of a Haunted Mansion effect. 

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