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Roadtrip! Virginia Ghosts and Hauntings



Little Lost Ghost of Bluff Mountain
Parking: Punchbowl Mountain Overlook Pull-off on the
Blue Ridge Parkway in George Washingon National Forest, Virginia

(37.673973, -79.334564)

This story can be found in my book:

Haunted Hikes of the Appalachian Hills and Hollers

I found a cool roadtrip stop just off the Blue Ridge Parkway about a little boy who haunts a mountain ridge along the Appalachian Trail in George Washington National Forest in Virginia. Some called him Ottie, and his story goes like this—
Edwin “Ed” Powell was a farmer and circuit-riding German Baptist Brethren preacher in the Blue Ridge Mountains. He and his wife, Emma, had eight children, and among them was a four-year-old boy Emmet. He was tall for his age with fair hair, complexion, and blue eyes. On a chilly and gray cloudy morning of November 9, 1891, Emmet left as usual with his brothers and sisters for their 1-mile walk from home to their schoolhouse. The scent of an oncoming cold November rain hung in the air.
The children attended a one-room schoolhouse, Dancing Creek School, with 25-year-old Nannie Ann Gilbert as their teacher. It was a typical day with students of varied ages and grades all attending to lessons and learning under one roof and from one teacher. As was customary, the girls took a five-minute recess in the afternoon. When they were finished, the boys were allowed their time to play outside. Miss Gilbert then asked the boys to collect twigs and branches for the pot-bellied stove before returning to the schoolhouse. There was a forest of chestnut, oak, and pine trees surrounding the small building. The boys set out in the chilly air to collect the wood, some working a little farther away as they had already gathered the choicest burning wood near the schoolhouse in the earlier weeks after a long cold spell.
The boys boisterously returned with their collection in the middle of the girl’s lessons and were told to sit so Miss Gilbert could continue the schooling. In the chaos of unpacking the firewood from arms to stove and floor and resuming the school day, it was not for twenty minutes that it was noted the youngest in the classroom had not returned. Without delay, Miss Gilbert peered outside and, after seeing no Emmet, sent the boys back out to the area they had collected the firewood. When they could not find the little one, she sent the children to Emmet’s home and the homes of nearby neighbors, but no one had seen the child.
Soon, everyone in the community and even outside areas joined the search. Night came upon them, and cold rain turned to slushy snow at the higher peaks. Many were exhausted. Some went home. However, hundreds took up the search over the following days. But all they discovered was a half-mile trail where young Emmet had dragged a 12-foot chestnut branch intended for the fire. Yet, his path had led away from the school instead of toward it. Confused and left behind by the older boys, the four-year-old had gone the wrong direction. Eventually, all gave up save Ed Powell, who continued searching whenever he could, hiking into the mountains still searching for his boy.
It was not until nearly five months later, on Sunday, April 3, that four young men were traveling along the trails of Bluff Mountain when one’s dog went astray. Its persistent barking compelled the men to the top of the peak. As they crested the summit nearly three and a half miles from the schoolhouse where Ed Powell’s son disappeared and stopped just short of a large stone, they beheld the tiny, lifeless body of a child lying on his back, one arm outstretched and the other missing. There was little flesh left on the corpse, and his feet were separated from his body. But by the raggedy clothing torn by scrubby branches and thorns and left to rot in the weather, they knew they had found Emmet Powell.
A doctor who examined the body said the little boy probably laid down to rest on that first night at the summit. After falling to sleep, he died of exposure. Years would pass, and his fateful journey was made famous by J.B. Huffman’s story where he called the boy “Ottie” and used the proceeds to build a monument where the little boy died. Later, the Appalachian trail was constructed to cross the summit of this mountain, and it passed by the memorial. A shelter camp, Punchbowl Trail Shelter, was built not far away so those taking the long trail could stop for respite for the night. It was then that more hikers came to the area that whispers of a ghostly boy visiting the trail and shelter began to occur. He has been seen standing near the camp, whimpering, before wandering away and trudging through the thick brush near the place where he laid down to rest and passed away.
You can also listen to the story on podcast, Sometime Between Dusk and Dawn Ghost Stories:
Or take a hike with me along the Appalachian Trail on YouTube along the trail and hear me tell the story too! https://youtu.be/mQ-KJEtnNeg



Punchbowl Shelter: Bluff Mountain: Haunted by a little boy, Emmet Powell, also known as Ottie!

The Appalachian Trail, leads to Ottie's memorial and haunting.

Ottie Powell's Memorial and place of death: Bluff Mountain: Haunted by a little boy, Emmet Powell, also known as Ottie!