The Appalachian Trail is one of the most popular hiking trails in the eastern United States. Running through Virginia, it is the longest hiking only foot path in the world. It is also said to be haunted by four year old Ottie Cline Powell who roams the woods after his fateful death one dreary winter.
Ottie Cline Powell disappeared in 1891. His body was discovered five months later by hunters, near Bluff Mountain. Ottie was the fifth son of Reverend Edwin and Emma Belle Powell’s eight children. He was a lovely boy with blue eyes, light hair, and a fair complexion.
The morning of his disappearance, Ottie begged his father to stay home from school to help his parents with chores. His father, although impressed with Ottie’s lifelong eagerness to lend a hand, sent him to school. When he never returned, his religious father blamed himself for not heeding the warning he had received in a dream the night before.
Reverend Powell had dreamt of a wagon carrying a little coffin. When he approached the wagon, he saw the coffin had no lid. Above where the lid would have been, he saw a tiny light. The light was suspended, and as he watched it, the light slowly dimmed out until it was no longer recognizable. Waking in a cold sweat, he told his wife about the dream, but thought nothing more of it.
Ottie traveled to school that November morning in 1891. The first snow of the season had just left the area a cold winter wasteland. After using all the firewood in the classroom, the teacher sent the students outside to gather kindling and wood. She warned the littler children to stay close to the school house.
Four year old Ottie, not to be outdone by the bigger kids, wandered off in search of large firewood. After wandering off a little ways, he spotted a large branch, perfect for the fire. He realized he had become lost but clutching the large branch, attempted to return in the direction he believed the schoolhouse was located.
Poor Ottie walked until it was nearly dark. When he did not return, the teacher and students gathered local residents to search the hillside for Ottie. Hundreds of volunteers combed the area, searching countless hours for Ottie. They figured he couldn’t have possibly wandered that far as he was so young and it was so cold. They never thought to go as far as Bluff Mountain. Unfortunately, that is exactly where young Ottie wandered.
An ice storm had been brewing all day and finally gave way when the sun went down. When Ottie could no longer see, he curled up in a little spot on the mountain. There, he closed his eyes and died of exposure. It wasn’t until the first thaw in April of 1892 that a hunter’s dog alerted him to the body of young Ottie.
Of course, his family was devastated. After his death, the family relocated due to the rapid deterioration of Ottie’s poor mother, who could only sit in the window as if waiting for him to come gayly tramping over the hill. She died in 1897 after her broken heart failed her. She never stopped mourning her lost son.
On Bluff Mountain, a marker was placed in the spot where young Ottie Cline Powell died. After many questions about the marker, it was replaced with a cement marker telling Ottie’s story. In 1917, the US Forest Service built a lean to. In the lean to was a hikers log. Even to this day, hikers share stories of their adventures on the mountain…and their experiences interacting with Ottie.
The most common story involves weary hikers feeling as though they are being poked in the ribs by an unseen source. Other hikers tell stories of approaching a young boy asking for help and then disappearing. Some hear cries for help. In order to appease the young boy, hikers frequently leave trinkets at his memorial. The spot is often riddled with toy cars, or plastic animals and soldiers.