I can’t say that I don’t believe in ghosts, because, frankly, I’m not sure if I do or not.

I’ve never seen one; but just because I’ve never seen a ghost doesn’t mean they don’t exist, right?

There are some folks that really take this ghost-hunting stuff seriously.

They go to supposedly-haunted places, use high-tech gadgetry to try and pick up energy waves and utilize the power of those that claim to be one with the spirit world to attempt to talk with the long-since dead.

If I’m being honest, I have to admit the whole idea of hunting ghosts is interesting and something I wouldn’t mind trying one day.

And that brings me to this week’s case.

It’s not necessarily an old crime story and it’s not nearly as famous as “The Greenbrier Ghost” tale from Greenbrier County, but I think it’s an interesting dive into the world of the paranormal as I look into the long-standing Alleghany Highlands urban legend of “Mrs. Jeter” and try to find out just where that legend originated.

Did Mrs. Jeter die falling down the stairs on her wedding day, as decades-old urban legend has it?

Does her statue in Cedar Hill Cemetery drip blood every Halloween?

Today, we’ll look at the myth, we’ll look at the facts and we’ll see what exactly makes up this local urban legend.

So, sit back and relax, and we’ll travel back across the West Virginia line to my stomping grounds in Covington, Va., to look at the truth behind “The Ghost of Ms. Jeter.”

Recently, my mother-in-law asked me to go to Cedar Hill Cemetery in Covington to look for the graves of her grandparents.

How hard could it be, right?

I’ve been to dozens of graveside funeral services in Cedar Hill Cemetery, I’ve got family in Cedar Hill Cemetery and I used to walk the roads of Cedar Hill Cemetery at lunchtime every day for exercise.

I figured it would take me no time to find the graves she was looking for.

So I started with the oldest part of the cemetery, as I thought the graves might be located there, and I started my walk.

And I walked.

And  I walked.

And I walked.

OK, you get the idea.

Along the way, I walked by the “Jeter Statue”, which marks the Jeter family plot.

Every time I passed by the statue (and it was quite a few times that I passed by it), I couldn’t help by go back to a story I had heard as a child and wrote about several years ago in The Virginian Review.

According to legend, the statue depicts Annie Jeter, wife of James Jeter, who had fallen down the stairs of the church on her wedding day, breaking her neck.

The Jeter name has a long-standing history in the Covington and Alleghany County area.

I knew from the basic histories of the area that the name of the current Jeter-Watson Intermediate School in Covington name came from the old Jeter School, which was located on Locust Street where the Mid-City Mall Parking Lot is today, and Watson High School, which served as the African-American high school until desegregation and consolidation of the high schools in 1967.

The Jeter School was named after James Garrett Jeter, who was a teacher, principal and superintendent in Alleghany County schools in the early part of the 20th Century. It was torn down in 1969.

James Jeter was born in Franklin County in 1860, came to Covington in about 1892 to become a teacher and principal at the Covington School, married a lady named Annie Maria Smith in 1894 and became school superintendent for Alleghany County and Clifton Forge schools in 1910, retiring in July 1933.

Sadly, Annie died on May 8, 1912, at the age of 48 and was buried at Cedar Hill Cemetery.

After some digging online, I found an obituary for Annie Jeter in the May 9, 1912, edition of The Richmond Times Dispatch, which read:  Mrs. Annie M. Jeter, aged forty-eight, wife of Professor J. G. Jeter, died in Covington today, after an illness of twenty-four hours from an attack of acute peritonitis. Mrs. Jeter was very prominent in both social and religious affairs. She was Miss Annie M. Smith, daughter of Rev. H. B. Smith, a Presbyterian minister, who formerly lived in Franklin County, Va., but who died several years ago in Alabama. Her mother died when she was a child.”

So, the legend that Annie Jeter died of a broken neck on her wedding day has been proven impossible, seeing as she had been married 18 years when she died and her and James had three kids together – two sons and a daughter.

There’s also an urban legend that the Jeter statue drips blood on Halloween night.

Just to see if that were true – and, yes I actually checked – I traveled to Cedar Hill Cemetery about 11 o’clock one Halloween night and can report to you that no blood was dripping from any of the Jeter statue appendages.

Several years ago, after I had written about the legend of Mrs. Jeter for The Virginian Review, I received a letter from her grandson, James Clay Jeter, a prominent Charleston attorney who had served in the West Virginia legislature and was a noted historian in the Greenbrier County and Monroe County areas.

In his letter, he said the statue had been purchased by his grandfather following Annie’s death and had been imported from Italy. He also verified that Annie had died of peritonitis, which, in her case, was caused by a ruptured appendix.

James Clay Jeter died in Greenbrier County in 2019 and was buried alongside his grandparents in Cedar Hill Cemetery.

I really wish I’d had gotten a chance to meet him. He seemed like an interesting character.

But ghost stories are nothing new for Cedar Hill Cemetery.

In my files, I found an article which had appeared in The Covington Virginian on July 2, 1930.

Claim Ghost Seen In Cedar Hill Cemetery

When one man sees a ghost in a graveyard, something is wrong with him; but when four boys see it together and others see the same thing later, something is wrong in the graveyard.

And something sure seems to be wrong in the Cedar Hill Cemetery. Queer lights are dancing around out there. That is, they dance until someone approaches them and then they just pass away.

Monday night about 11:30 or 12 o’clock, one of Mr. Olin Payne’s big busses on the Rayon Run passed the cemetery and a boy on the bus saw funny things happening out in the graveyard. A light was bobbing around out near the center of the cemetery. The drivers and a couple of passengers got out to investigate. Holding each other by the hands so nobody could get away ahead of the other, they advanced cautiously toward the dancing light. Their description of it makes it seem as if it were a flame of some nature, almost bluish in color and dancing around always over the same lot but never in the same place.

They advanced toward it until they had approached to within fifty feet of the queer light when suddenly it vanished as mysteriously as a bank-roll does in New York.

They felt no air stirring and saw no light nor was there anything to indicate there had ever been anything there.

Later that night, a driver was drifting past the cemetery at 3 a.m. He had heard of the queer light and had scoffed at it, but as he passed that point he glanced over and saw the light. He was sorry he didn’t have time to investigate, but he suddenly realized he was behind schedule and he had to step on the gas and leave for other points immediately.

The first report of the strange sight was brought in Sunday when a woman of that neighborhood was passing there on her way after a doctor for her sick husband. She saw the light and according to the report, needed the doctor after that more than her husband did.

So how did the legend of Mrs. Jeter take root in the first place?

By their very nature, urban legends tend to take root in some kernel of the truth.

In this case, Mrs. Jeter did die young and there is a statue of a lady walking down the steps; but I think what’s happened is through the years, the legend of Mrs. Jeter could have possibly melded with the legend of another of Cedar Hill Cemetery’s long-term residents, Martha Skeen Jordan.

Walk across the cemetery lane from the Jeter statue and walk toward Carpenter Drive and you will find the Jordan family plot and one of the most unique tombstones I’ve ever seen.

It’s shaped like a keyhole and is the stone for Martha and her infant daughter, Lucy Ira Jordan.

The story here goes that Martha gave birth to Lucy on Nov. 9, 1847, but the baby died just two months later.

Supposedly gripped by grief, Martha died a month after Lucy, on Feb. 28, 1848, at the young age of 24.

Or so they thought.

About 40 years after Martha’s “death,” her body was exhumed to be placed in a new coffin and interred in a new Jordan family plot in Cedar Hill Cemetery, where she and Lucy now lie.

When the casket lid was opened, they found Martha had turned over on her face and her hand was up at her head.

It was later believed that she had some type of apoplexy, lapsed into a coma, and had been buried alive.

I’m still researching the Martha Jordan case and we’ll review that sometime down the line.

…Stay tuned.

If you’ve got comments or questions you’d like to send along, or if you have ideas for cases I can investigate in the future, feel free to e-mail me at David@wvdn.com.

You can also write me at:
               David S. Crosier
                c/o The Virginian Review
               P.O. Box 271
               Covington, Va. 24426

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This statue in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Covington, Va., has been the subject of local lore for decades. Urban legend says the statue depicts Annie Jeter as she fell down the steps on her wedding day, breaking her neck. This week in “Walking the Beat,” David S. Crosier delves into the urban legend of Annie Jeter and tries to get to the bottom of the infamous local lore