The forests of Virginia are some of the most breathtaking and well-preserved areas in the entire state. That being said, there’s also something eerie about these secluded, densely wooded areas that can allow the imagination to wander. That’s especially true in the George Washington National Forest, and more specifically, Bluff Mountain. This spot is largely considered to be among the most haunted forests in the entirety of North America.
The George Washington National Forest, combined with the Jefferson National Forests, constitutes nearly two million acres of land in the eastern U.S, with portions in Kentucky and West Virginia as well as Virginia. These woods are protected by the Forest Service, and nearly one million acres are undeveloped. This creates a beautiful place for hiking, and a terrifying place for one to get lost.
George Washington National Forest is renowned for its proximity to the Blue Ridge Parkway and Shenandoah National Park. One of the several hikes in this area leads to Bluff Mountain Overlook, which can be accessed through the tunnel via milepost 51.7 along the Blue Ridge Parkway.
This 4-mile hike picks up a portion of the Appalachian Trail as it begins to head southward from the parking area. The hike is rather moderate and will lead hikers to the top of the peak, where a plaque stands designating the site where Ottie Cline Powell was found. The story behind Ottie is tragic, heartbreaking, and the reason why this site is considered so haunted.
Ottie was only four years old when he wandered away from his Amherst County school in 1890. Some say he simply left the building, while other accounts claim that he was sent out to collect firewood. When authorities noticed his absence, they immediately sent a search party out for him. Unfortunately, his body was not recovered until it was too late. Seven miles away from the school, Ottie’s body was discovered at the top of Bluff Mountain.
The little boy had lost his way and judging from his appearance, had wandered through thicket and brush. The search party understood that he had not lasted the first night, after seeing the uneaten snack of chestnuts beside him.
Since this incident over a hundred years ago, hikers have reported paranormal activity late at night around this trail and the nearby hiker’s shelter. One particularly vivid encounter occurred in 2009. A hiker awoke to the sound of crying around 10:00 PM, but assumed it had been the sound of an animal. Later, he awoke again to a raging thunderstorm. When lighting struck, he saw the figure of a little boy crouched in the corner of the shelter. Immediately, the figure vanished, leaving the hiker baffled. When he awoke the next morning, his clothes were folded neatly beside him, with a pile of chestnuts on top.
Have you visited Bluff Mountain or had any paranormal experiences in the George Washington National Forest? Be sure to share your experience!