An old-time West Virginia wonder is again causing quite a discussion among the people of Wyoming and adjoining counties. The wonder referred to is the mysterious light which has been known since times almost prehistoric as the Wago Owanhan.
This light appears to emanate from a certain spot on the sides of the great Pat Wess canon. It casts its ghostly sheen across the waters of the river, lighting the surroundings, not with a sickly, pale, white light, but with a phosphorescent glow of sufficient brightness to make the reading of a newspaper or book possible on the darkest night.
According to some investigators of the Wago Owanhan, the light does not emanate from any spot on the canonís side, but hangs out over the river like a luminous cloud or fog. This appears to have been the case at the time when Professor Tohlure, and Mr. I.E. Christian the latter of Oceana, WV visited the spot.
On the 15th and 16th of last February an expedition headed by Mr. Christian again visited the Wago Owanhan. Snow was falling rapidly at the time, and Mr. Christian says that every flake, when it reached a height of about 200' above the water, would blaze out with a dazzling brightness, and remain luminous until it reached the surface. A scientific investigation of the phenomenon will be made. St. Louis Republic.
Kansas City Daily Journal 6 September 1896.
I donít know if that scientific investigation was ever made, but Mr. I.E. Christian was genuine enough. He was an attorney in Oceana, West Virginia and law partner of Judge Joseph M. Sanders of the West Virginia Supreme Court. He was murdered on 22 December 1904, shot to death by Ken Canterbury, a gambler who had been recently indicted through Christianís efforts. Law Notes, February 1905.
He is described as a Judge in newspaper articles about the murder. Canterbury escaped to the mountains with a posse in pursuit; he was not captured until June of 1905.
But here are the snags:
Where is the great Pat Wess canyon? It doesnít appear in lists of West Virginia place names.
What water runs through it?
Who is Professor Tohlure?
And is Wago Owanhan actually a Native American phrase or just something made-up?
The actual manifestation does not sound in the least like the average spooklight. There was coal mining in Wyoming County, coal and gas fields are often accompanied by weird luminous phenomena.
Or was this just a newspaper hoax?
Wyoming County is noted for its petroglyph sites, said to be written by Irish monks in the ogam script. One of these, translated by Dr. Barry Fell, is said to be a Christmas message and is positioned to be illuminated by the sun on 22 December.
The river theyíre talking about is the head of the Guyandotte. Itís about 70 miles south of where Barry
Fell did his stomping around up in Lincoln County.
A lot of traditional place names were changed with the coming of the coal and timber industries and the railroads that followed. Names of certain towns and areas were renamed for coal barons, their family members and politicians in that era. Some of the old names are still in common use, but have long been off the maps.
Most of the towns of Wyoming County are at the bottom of canyons or as we call them, hollers. In Wyoming County theyíre deep narrow V shaped valleys dropping from ridges 1500' or so above the valley bottoms. Watching snow fall and disappear on the way down is common in most parts of WV. Inversion layers of warm air set up in the valley bottoms. When conditions are right they create all sorts of optical illusions on the horizon. That would be my guess on the lights, if they exist at all.
Thereís a geothermal hotspot below the knot of mountains in Wyoming, Raleigh, McDowell and Boone counties. It was just detected a few years ago. Earthquake lights anyone?