A Short History of Buchanan
The town of Buchanan was created in 1811 on the opposite side of the James River from Purgatory Mountain. The Wilderness Trail had already been established and passed through the area a little upstream at what became known as Looney’s Ferry. Buchanan received its name because John Buchanan had held the original land title. His son-in-law James Boyd laid out the streets. During this period it was described as a transportation oriented town due to its location at the Wilderness Trail, the James River, and later the canal called the James & Kanawha. Once completed, this canal enabled the shipment of goods from the coast to reach Buchanan and in turn goods were shipped back out of the area. The importance of the canal in this trade network was fairly short lived once the trains came on the scene after the Civil War.
During the Civil War Buchanan was important in shipping raw materials and food to Richmond as well as sending many brave men to serve in the military. The Union army occupied the town briefly as General Hunter passed through on his way to Lynchburg. He burned many homes, confiscated crops and livestock to feed his men while destroying what he didn’t need in the Shenandoah Valley on his way to Buchanan. Many women and children were left hungry and homeless as Hunter made his way to try and take Lynchburg. The Rhein River Inn, known then as the Anchorage survived the occupation due to the Christian hospitality of the Whittle family. Even though they considered the Union army an invading force, the family helped to care for the wounded and sick as well as feeding others. My grandfather showed me a cave about 3 miles south of town where many of the town’s citizens hid what valuables they had from Hunter’s men.
During the First and Second World Wars the town provided industrial manufacturing. One of these plants became Groendyke and was located diagonally across the street from the Anchorage.
Today the town attracts many visitors who come to enjoy the Mountain Magic festival, the Fourth of July parade and carnival, as well as many other family friendly events. The town also honors its past in many ways including a Memorial Day event held at the Fairview Cemetery.
The Buchanan area has provided our country with many important and influential citizens as well as a few very interesting ones. One who comes to mind is Bear Tolley.
His real name was Archie, but everyone knew him as “Bear”. There are many stories about him such as how… well those could be a tale unto themselves.
Bedford Paranormal Investigates the Rhein River Inn
I had first heard of the Rhein River Inn from my younger brother Robert who went there and thoroughly enjoyed the German food. He went back several more times and suggested that I go there soon. I was familiar with the home since it had once been used as a funeral parlor and I had attended my maternal grandmother’s funeral there. She was the nicest person I had ever known and it was a comfort to have someone like Ray Slone preside over her service.
I made reservations for dinner at the Inn for Peggy and myself along with another member of Bedford Paranormal Rick and his wife Stephanie. As I entered the home I went back in time to the era when it had served many families as they dealt with the passing of loved ones. I noticed some changes in the house that seemed to make it more historically authentic. It was easy to see that the new owners cared a lot about the home and had worked hard to create a classy yet friendly atmosphere. The dinner was amazing as was the service. After the meal was over the owners Maggie and John came to the table to talk to us about where we were from and if we had enjoyed ourselves. After a few minutes of conversation I asked if there were any ghost stories associated with the home known as the Anchorage.
Not only were the hosts kind enough to tell us some stories that had occurred there, they took us on a tour of the home. I was impressed at the knowledge they had of the home and of the families that had lived there as well. Along with the historical stories were some paranormal ones that had been handed down through the years as well as some the George family had experienced. After the tour we said our goodbyes and left, pausing in the parking lot to consider all of the history we had heard as we looked across the river at Purgatory Mountain.
Topo map of Purgatory Mountain and Buchanan
As we drove past Springwood and on to Fincastle there was a lot of talk from the members about the Inn. I later talked to John and Maggie by email about setting a date for some interviews and then one for an investigation. We agreed on Monday the 18th for the interviews and Friday the 22nd for the actual investigation. The group felt eager to return to the home.
On the way to the interview we were driving down route 43 from the Parkway when we encountered a tractor-trailer that had become stuck as it tried to navigate the sharp turns. I started to get concerned that we’d be late, but the driver finally managed to free the vehicle giving us a clear lane. The interview of John and Maggie took place in the Inn’s dining room and was recorded. Group members that were present at the interviews were Ronnie, William, Rick, and myself. This interview was transcribed and is included in a separate part of this report. After the interview we took another tour of the home and formulated a plan for the investigation. We had planned to take some baseline EMF readings at this point to help determine where we would set up equipment on Friday but decided not to since the electricity would be turned off to the home in order to avoid any false EMF readings.
As we drove on the Parkway to our exit at Bear Wallow Gap my mind went back to when I would drive through the area as a child with my grandfather. He would point out places where people had lived and told me a little about each family even though some had passed away before his time. One that had come to mind was Buck Wright who had lived near the turn off to a gravel road that takes you to Jennings Creek. Supposedly he had run with the James gang for a while. I have a photo of him taken as he was heading back up to his home after obtaining some supplies from town. Rick and Ronnie were discussing the plan for the investigation. We had to switch it up a little since John had called earlier to say that they’d rather not cut off the power since it was very hot that day. I figured that wasn’t too big of a concern as long as there weren’t any window units running in the rooms we were investigating. I felt good about our team. One was a Purple Heart recipient; another was an accomplished musician, while another had a strong knowledge on electronic communication. The team was a good mix ensuring different points of view and levels of belief yet we all worked together well.
As we reached the bottom of the mountain where route 11 crosses the James we turned onto the quiet Main Street of Buchanan and soon arrived at the Inn. Buchanan has had a rich history being the western end for a canal system that traveled beside the James River.
Its present day festivals and parades attract families from all over the state. It also has a swinging bridge that crosses the James for foot traffic.
Darkness had settled in and we took some photos of the yard and home just as John met us at the door. Wearing a smile as always he asked us inside and talked a while before retiring for the night. Ronnie set up his video camera with an IR illuminator on the second floor landing facing the Commodore’s room. Once adjusted and running, he rejoined the group downstairs. While Ronnie had been upstairs, William had set up a video camera at one end of the Dining Room with an IR illuminator and started recording. He had also set out a green laser grid hoping to make it easier to see any shadow like shapes if they appeared.
The Sleeping Porch
The European Pub
The Pub during the tour Setting up equipment
In the Pub we kept with the same format that we had used in the Sleeping porch. Ronnie took a position in a corner to the left of the door, William was in front of the window that offered a view to the street, Rick set up on the other side of William while I settled in on the opposite side of the room. This room is directly below the Commodore’s room. As we got into position a train went through town. The tracks were across the street and up a hill so it wasn’t overly loud, but was still enough to overpower any possible EVPs. As we paused while waiting for it to pass I looked up and was glad to see the boar’s head had been placed over the fireplace. Rick and William again looked for odd EMF readings and finding none that couldn’t be explained we started. This time I played a fiddle instrumental called the Bonnie Blue Flag and another called I’m a Good Old Rebel before our first EVP session and then the same battle sound recording before the second. As with the sleeping porch we noticed no noticeable changes in EMF readings, unusual lights, had no noticeable changes in the ambient temperature, no change in the compass reading, and no disembodied voices.
We decided to take a break at this point and assembled on the front porch. It was a warm evening so cold water was passed around. We also snacked some while discussing our jobs, floats on the river, and William’s new motorcycle. After a while we were ready to get back to business and reentered the Inn.
The Dining Room
Several times different members thought that they had seen movement or had heard something similar to footsteps from the kitchen. The kitchen area was separated from the dining room by a door which had a small glass panel in it. We observed no changes in the EMF meters, heard no disembodied voices, had no noticeable changes in the ambient temperature, no change in the compass reading, and saw no unusual lights. We left Williams video camera recording and the green laser in place as we ascended the stairs to the Commodore’s room on the second floor.
The Commodore’s Room
The history of the basement is an interesting one. During the Civil War old men, slaves, women, and children hid in the basement while the house was shelled by the Union artillery across the James River. These helpless citizens dug out more space with picks and their hands to make room for the townspeople that needed shelter from the bombardment. The George family took a photo in the basement of what might be a shadow person. We descended the stairs and examined the walls where tool marks can still be seen. It wasn’t hard to imagine how the townspeople had felt at being trapped under the home as artillery and small arms fire struck the back of the house. We set up in the same manner as the other rooms we had done in the home and conducted our EVP session. We observed no changes in the EMF meters, heard no disembodied voices, had no noticeable changes in the ambient temperature, no change in the compass reading, and saw no unusual lights.
We ascended the stairs and collected Ronnie’s and William’s camcorders, IR illuminators, and lasers. We then did a quick sweep of the home to ensure we hadn’t left any water bottles or anything else as we packed up our equipment. I then called John on his cell phone to let him know that we were wrapping things up for the evening. We all said our goodbyes and headed towards the truck hoping to return someday. I stopped while loading up equipment and looked up at the darkened windows thinking “good night”. William had driven separately so he headed south on 11 while the rest of us turned left towards the river and then turned in the direction of the Parkway. The ride home was quiet as we reflected on the evening.
Team Members Alan, Rick, Ronni, and William
This EVP was recorded in the Sleeping Porch area. To us it sounds like an infant crying.
There were no children in the home at the time of the investigation.
This EVP was recorded by Rick.
This EVP was recorded in the Basement.
The voice seems to have a somewhat mocking tone to it. Some feel as if says “I don’t care”.
While others say it sounds more like “We don’t care”.
This EVP was recorded by Rick.