On top of a mountain along the border of Virginia and Kentucky lies a dirt path that shoots off the Appalachian Trail. This isolated stretch was once the only way to get from one state to the other, long before US23 and its four lanes of asphalt. It is along this path that the Killing Rock is located, the scene of an ambush that left several people dead, others on the run for their life, and possible paranormal activity.
Let’s start with the Killing Rock’s history.
On May 14 1892 this desolate stretch witnessed a horrific massacre that seems to have left a psychic impression on the land. Ira Mullins was a moonshiner on his way to the coal mining camps of Jenkins to sell a load of unstamped illegal liquor. His party of seven, including his wife and some children as well as hired hands, had just begun their descent into Kentucky when a shot rang out. A horse fell dead. Three men with veils partially hiding their faces emerged from their hiding place upon the rocks where they had camouflaged themselves with branches. When the smoke cleared, Ira Mullins’ sister-in-law and his 15 year old son were the only survivors of their party.
|Ira Mullins, moonshiner|
The massacre is just part of this story that has been handed down from generation to generation. There was bad blood between a US Marshall, Doc Taylor, known as the “Red Fox,” and Ira Mullins. Taylor was a former soldier and local doctor who had declared war on moonshiners when he was deputized. On a previous run Mullins ran into Taylor in Wise, VA. Over 250 shots were fired. The wagon driver was killed and Mullins himself was left partially paralyzed. Soon after Taylor lost his government affiliation, but the hatred between the two intensified. Out of fear Taylor decided to take action first and went to the Mullins home one night, shooting through the windows. Afterward Taylor fled to Kentucky, fearing a return attack.
|The Red Fox, Doc Taylor|
There he caught wind of Mullins’ next scheduled trip to deliver illegal liquor and enlisted the help of two brothers, Heenan and Cal Fleming. The trio laid in wait among the rocks as noon approached on the scheduled day. They fired mercilessly on the travelers.
Ira’s wife, Louranze, was shot several times in her chest and knees. She had been wearing a leather pouch tied underneath her clothes containing about $1,000, the family’s entire savings. Her skirt was tossed up and the pouch had been cut off. It had been cut to pieces and parts of it were found a few hundred yards away. The money was never recovered.
When the shooting broke out 15 year old John Harrison Mullins took off running back toward Wise. The suspenders he was wearing were shot through by passing bullets but he was unharmed and made it back to town.
Jane Mullins had married Louranza's brother. He was riding at the front of the procession and was among the first shot. She was also riding on horseback and was thrown from her horse. She scrambled to where her husband lay dying. Louranza yelled out for Jane. Despite bullets continuing to fly Jane hurried over to Louranza, who was fatally wounded and had propped herself up against the back of the overturned wagon. She looked Jane in the eyes and uttered her last words, "They have killed me."
The shooting died down. The gap hung thick with smoke from the gunfire. Jane chanced a look and saw the three men upon the rocks, the bottom half of their faces visible. She called out to them,” Boys, for the Lord's sake, don't shoot anymore, you have killed them all now. Let me stay here with them till someone finds us." They yelled and cursed at her. Jane thought she recognized one of the voices as being Cal Fleming’s, and another to be Doc Taylor. Some accounts hold that Heenan Fleming had been sweet on Jane and convinced the others to spare her life. He yelled to her,”Goddamn you, take to the road and leave or we will kill you, too." Jane took them at their word and made haste down the mountain towards Jenkins. Her clothes were riddled with bullet holes but she herself was not shot.
Fingered for the murders, Doc Taylor and the Fleming brothers went into hiding. The Fleming brothers made it to a logging camp in Boggs, West Virginia where they found work. Big Ed Hall and a posse after the reward being offered for them intercepted a piece of mail that told them where they were. The posse traveled to Boggs and confronted the brothers when they came to the Post Office to check their mail. A gunfight ensued, with Cal killed, several of Hall’s posse members dead, and Hall himself wounded. Heenan was brought back to Wise to stand trial.
|Heenan and Cal Fleming|
By this time Jane, who had been kept in the jail as a form of witness protection since she believed she could identify the men, had passed away. Heenan was set free due to a lack of evidence. He returned to West Virginia, took a wife, and eventually became a law officer himself.
Taylor hid in the attic of his son’s home. He was attempting to board a train in Bluefield that would have ensured his escape, but was captured by a railroad company detective. He was taken to the Wise Jail where his trial and conviction were quickly accomplished. His appeals failed to help, and he was scheduled to be hanged on October 27, 1893.Taylor was quite the character, subscribing to the Swedenborgianist Christian faith, a movement that followed a Swedish man who claimed God had revealed secret meanings of the scriptures and the second coming of Jesus. They believed followers needn’t have faith to get into heaven, only do good works in life.
During his years of practicing medicine he would often come in and talk with the ill person. He would ask them a few questions, then ask them to concentrate on him. He would lay his hands on them and recite prayers and incantations. Following this he would go outside and hold his hands up to the sky, continuing his prayers and incantations. He would return and tell the patient the ‘spirits’ had told him what was wrong with them and how to treat them.
On the day of his hanging Taylor’s request to preach his own funeral was granted. He spoke to a large crowd that had gathered outside the courthouse for the hanging, speaking for an hour and a half, citing Revelations 3:20 and appeared to be drunk on wine that had been smuggled into him. He asked the crowd to join him in singing “How Firm a Foundation,” and all but one old widow declined.
At 2:00 pm he was led up the scaffolding dressed in white as he had requested. He also asked that his body not be buried, because to prove his innocence he would rise from his coffin on the third day and continue to preach the word. After saying another prayer, he trembled and had to be aided to remain standing. The noose was placed around his neck, the trapdoor dropped, and he was pronounced dead 18 minutes later. His body was taken to his home and laid out, but after nothing occurred three days later it was interred at a Wise County cemetery, where it remains unmarked to this day.
This sign marks the spot along the trail where the massacre occurred. With so much emotional energy being expelled in one spot, it’s no wonder that for decades visitors to the Killing Rock have reported paranormal activity. Phantom horses can be heard trotting along the path both in the daylight and in the dark. Dark or black shadowy apparitions have been reported.
I was part of a local ghost hunting team and after learning the hard way that private property wasn’t always a good place to go hunting. On Halloween night I came up with the idea to go hunt at the Killing Rock. We split up and did some EVP recordings and took hundreds of pictures. Some strange orbs and flashes of light were showing up in some of our pictures. I sat my flashlight on one of the rocks. I asked the spirits if they were hanging around to turn my flashlight off. After a few seconds of nothing I went back to taking pictures. About a minute later I looked back to see that my flashlight was now indeed off. Thanking who or whatever had manipulated the flashlight, I asked them to do it again. We all watched for the next 20 minutes as the flashlight came on, went off, dimmed, and grew brighter. After a few minutes with no more activity I retrieved the flashlight to find that the batteries, brand new when I put them in that night, were dead as a doornail.
A lot of pictures I got that night had strange light anomalies in them. The following pictures are a few examples:
The strangest photo evidence from that night came while I was standing on the path. I randomly snapped this shot:
Wondering if i had some kind of lens flare going on or something paranormal in nature I asked it to come closer if it was a spirit. This is what i got:
A camera malfunction? In case it was paranormal in nature I said, “That’s good, keep coming,” and got this photo.
Almost looks as if the main concentration of energy is passing to the left. In the next one it’s completely gone. Did something come toward and past me?
With its history of a lot of bloodshed, mass murder, and killers claiming to come back from the dead the Killing Rock is a relatively undiscovered paranormal treasure. I'm excited about returned and seeing what we capture next. I highly recommend the Killing Rock if you're in the area.
For more on the Killing Rock Massacre check out these links:
If you enjoyed this article, click an ad...I'd do it for you!