I have family living in Richmond, Virginia. I have visited them during the holidays. Richmond also houses the museum of my favorite author and hero, Edgar Allan Poe. The museum has been on my bucket list of places I want to see but haven’t yet. I wonder if Poe haunts the museum. With Richmond’s bloody history, it is said many ghosts walk the city’s streets. However, the one cryptid or monster you wouldn’t think lived in Virginia – is the vampire.
Virginia doesn’t have just one vampire, but two. That’s correct – Virginia has two vampires. I wrote an article about the Rhode Island vampire. The fear of consumption (A.K.A. tuberculosis) prompted their story. It was known as the ‘wasting’ disease because an infected person wasted away. The early colonials believed something was sucking the victim’s energy.
The settler’s fear of consumption caused them to imagine a monster was to blame. This fear caused a vampire Frenzy, and the townspeople dug up the graves of consumption victims. This mob would chop these poor dead people’s heads off—one of the few ways to stop a dreaded vampire from rising.
In Richmond, Virginia, their vampire was a little different. On a beautiful autumn day, October 2, 1925. The townsmen went to work like they did every day to the Church Hill Train Tunnel. Church Hill Tunnel, built for the Chesapeake & Ohio (C&O) railroad in the early 1870s, had a history of problems. There was water leakage and many other safety issues. C&O finally shut the tunnel down until 1925, when they attempted to restore the tunnel.
This fateful morning, Thomas J Mason and Benjamin F Mosby pulled ten flatcars into the tunnel. The plan was to fill those flatcars with dirt and debris. They had just entered the tunnel when bricks began falling from the ceiling. The workers fled the tunnel in fear, but not everyone escaped. Nearly two hundred feet of rubble fell upon the train.
You would think that was the end of anyone remaining in the tunnel. It wasn’t. Witnesses reported that a bloody figure with pointed teeth emerged from the cave. His skin was hanging in flaps from his bones. Once out of the broken rock and stone, he ran towards the James River. A few men, shocked by the bizarre scene, recovered their wits and gave chase.
The strange creature evaded them by entering W.W. Pool’s mausoleum at Hollywood cemetery. Mausoleum’s only have one entrance and no exits. Yet, somehow, this bloodied creature vanished, never more to be seen.
This strange tale is Richmond, Virginia’s favorite urban legend. It was the first and only sighting of this creature. Where it went from the mausoleum, no one knows, or no one is saying.
Richmond isn’t the only city in Virginia with a vampire. It seems the scariest story is in Big Stone Gap, Virginia.
It is in the Appalachian mountains, close to the Tennessee and Kentucky borders. The early settlers of the Appalachian migrated from all over Europe, including Eastern Europe, where embedded in their culture are stories of vampires.
Big Stone Gap took its name in 1888 and experienced a coal boom. People from all over Europe migrated to the town with dreams of making it rich. They brought their stories of blood-sucking demons with them. The early settlers blamed vampires for every nasty thing that happened to them. It was a way for them to deal with the fear of the unknown.
Then farmers were finding dead livestock with their blood completely drained.
The rumors started quietly when a farmer found two prized cattle dead in the backfield one night. It happens. Wild cats, coyotes, or some other predator got the cattle.
Well, there is a twist.
The two dismembered cattle had their blood drained. It didn’t stop with this one incident. Three more farmers lost cattle in the same unusual manner. A few days later, the leaders in the community met at the local tavern. To discuss what was happening and how to deal with the culprit.
They figured it had to be one of the other immigrants. One particular settler came to their mind. The events started soon after a strange man, Mr. Rupp, arrived. He lived in a remote cabin away from everyone else.
Soon after, two local boys volunteered to check out Mr. Rupp. They snuck up to his cabin and peered through the cabin’s window. What they witnessed shook them to the core. The hermit was sitting by the fireplace, eating a large piece of raw meat. Upon hearing this, the men demanded the sheriff arrest Rupp.
The only problem with this is that Rupp eating raw meat was not a crime. There was no evidence of Rupp eating the farmer’s cattle. The meat could have been from any animal.
Until one day, an incident occurred that even the sheriff could ignore. The town drunk disappeared, and the townsfolk found his body in the woods. His arm and leg were missing, and like the cattle, the blood drained. His final resting place was near Rupp’s cabin.
The townspeople, convinced Rupp was the monster, formed a mob. They invaded his home, only to find him gone. Yet, what they found inside made a few of even the strongest of them sick. Inside, scattered through the cabin, were body parts. Arms, legs, and torsos of both human and animal remains littered the cabin.
Rupp’s kitchen counter and cabinets smeared in blood. The horrifying scene burned into those poor men’s memories. They burned Rupp’s cabin to the ground.
What was even more terrifying was the thought that Rupp was still on the loose. Search parties turned up nothing; it was thought Rupp died in his woods. With no body found, who he remains a mystery. Folk tales say Rupp’s spirit haunts the land and cabin. The citizens of Big Stone Gap stay away from the area even today.
One could argue that Rupp was a cannibal rather than a vampire. I can see that, but it doesn’t explain how he drained the blood. There was no blood in the field with the animals. So, how did Rupp drain that much blood and not make a mess?
Plus, Rupp didn’t eat the entire body, only an arm or leg. He left the rest of the body, which isn’t something a cannibal does. You have a creature that escaped a tunnel in Richmond. You have another monster in Big Stone Gap. Both had a taste for blood, and their bodies were never found.
If you ever find yourself driving through Richmond or Big Stone Gap? I would be hesitant about being out after dark. Just in case there are vampires.