The first (legal) hanging here in Letcher County was connected to one of it’s most famous murder cases which also happens to be one of our most famous hauntings. Floyd Frazier was hanged on the gallows where the old Whitesburg High School now stands on May 19, 1910 for the murder of Ellen Flannery. For the last century Ellen is said to be spotted occasionally near where she was killed, seeming to try and get back home.
On May 21, 1907 Ellen Flannery, the widowed mother of five children, sent her two eldest children to town on errands and went out to pick greens for supper. The children returned from town to find that their mother had not returned. When night fell, they were still alone. They spent the night by themselves and the next morning neighbors learned of Ellen missing and a search party sat out to look for her.
Among the search party was 21 year old Floyd Frazier. Frazier was said to have been mildly mentally handicapped and had been sweet on Ellen. Taking the lead, he led the party to a creek bank, then announced their was no need to check down in the creek, she wasn’t there. Other party members insisted on checking, and there they found the body of Ellen Flannery.
Several large stones, some weighing up to 65 pounds, were piled on top of her in an effort to conceal her body. Her throat had been slashed and their was bruising on her head. Also her skirt had been torn off and placed beneath her body.
Nearby lay the mess of greens she had collected along with a blood trail leading away from the scene. A fence close by had bloody handprints on it from someone climbing over it. Following the trail, large footprints were found in the mud with an unusual number of tacks in the heel. Following the footprints they found a knife, and under another pile of rocks, Ellen’s bonnet.
Suspicious of Frazier who had led them straight to the body, police went to his home where a shirt was found with blood on the sleeve that had been scrubbed. He had several scratches on him as well. When a pair of shoes belonging to him were found that contained an unusual number of tacks in the heel that matched the footprints, Frazier was arrested for the murder.
Sentenced to be hanged, his mother and several others testified at the trial that Floyd didn’t have the mind of an average person and was known to fly off in a rage for no apparent reason. Word spread around town that Frazier’s mother disapproved and was even jealous of his love for Flannery, and some said she even told him to kill her.
Ellen Flannery’s ghost has been seen walking in the head of Pert Creek and along Pine Mountain that joins the hollow. Witnesses have seen her apparition walking near the spot where she was killed, perhaps trying to get back home to her children. I’ve visited the site where Ellen was killed, as well as her gravesite on ghost hunting trips. While we didn’t capture any concrete evidence, we did hear strange sounds like gravel crunching but there were no cars. Was Ellen or Floyd walking down the road by us? There are many stories of drivers seeing a woman in white while crossing Pine Mountain. Maybe this is the spirit of Ellen Flannery, eternally searching for her way back home.
To view the lyrics to an old mountain ballad about Floyd and Ellen, hit this jump.
For an old Mountain Eagle article on the hanging, check out this link.