Mysterious Mountains is a brand-new podcast produced by the West Virginia Humanities Council exploring the imaginary landscape of West Virginia through the lens of genre fiction and folklore.
Join us on adventures through misty mountains and dark waters as we discover a whole West Virginia as it has been portrayed in detective fiction, ghost stories, campfire tales, and more. Listen to the stories, then unlock new secrets in conversations with expert scholars that unveil new layers in the text.
Listen to Mysterious Mountains on the web at our Podbean page, find us in the Apple or Google Play podcast apps, or listen on another of your favorite platforms. The twelve episodes of Season 1 listed below will be released in installments throughout February and May 2021.
Season 1 of Mysterious Mountains features twelve episodes on the Uncle Abner detective stories of Harrison County-born mystery author Melville Davisson Post. New episodes will be posted throughout February and March 2021.
Between 1911 and 1930, Uncle Abner was one of America’s most popular fictional detectives. The short stories were published frequently in magazines like The Saturday Evening Post, and even influenced famous literary figures like William Faulkner. Set in the shadowy hills and grazing lands of the Clarksburg countryside just before the Civil War, Uncle Abner himself is like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Abraham Lincoln—a stern, Bible-quoting amateur sleuth who brings down righteous justice on lawbreakers.
Season 1 Episode List
- “The House of the Dead Man” – Abner and his nephew Martin are tending to their cattle when they notice tracks that lead to a bigger mystery than they bargained for. Council Program Officer Kyle Warmack gives some biographical information on the elusive Melville Davisson Post and his most successful literary creation, Uncle Abner.
- “An Act of God” – When a disreputable trader is killed in broad daylight at the county fair, it’s quickly declared an accident—but Abner knows something more lies beneath. Our guest, distinguished Romani scholar Dr. Ian Hancock, shines a light on “Gypsy” stereotypes in literature and film, and talks about the realities of Romani cultural experience.
- “The Angel of the Lord” – In the first Uncle Abner story ever published, young nephew Martin is alone on a dangerous mission to deliver a huge bundle of cash for his father’s cattle transactions—and someone else might know he has the money. Dr. Suzanne Bray, professor of British literature and culture at Lille Catholic University in France, joins us to talk about how Uncle Abner might be modeled on the Old Testament prophets of the Bible.
- “The Wrong Hand” – Abner suspects foul play in the death of a wicked hunchback’s brother. Crystal Wimer, director of the Harrison County Historical Society, educates us on the fascinating interplay of religion and culture in early Harrison County.
- “The Concealed Path” – Abner visits a musty old manor house deep in the hills, where a family of exiled Scottish nobility prepares to marry their youngest daughter to someone who might have less than noble intentions. Stan Bumgardner, editor of West Virginia’s Goldenseal Magazine, dives into Scots-Irish immigration to West Virginia in the 1700s and 1800s.
- “A Twilight Adventure” – Detective and nephew run afoul of armed vigilantes determined to lynch a pair of suspected cattle thieves. But do the vigilantes have the right men? Dr. Leigh Ann Davidson of West Virginia State University’s Criminal Justice faculty talks courts and the danger of “extrajudicial” justice.
- “The Riddle” – Martin and Abner are on the hunt for clues in a snowstorm after a wealthy bachelor is found brutally murdered. Dr. Lynn Linder of West Virginia Wesleyan College guides us through the origins of the detective fiction genre and how it often walks hand-in-hand with gothic fiction.
- “Naboth’s Vineyard” – A man is accused of murdering a wealthy old miser, but his lover says she did it. Abner thinks both are lying. Will the truth be unveiled at the trial? Judge Jim Douglas wades into judges, juries, and lawyers, and why the American trial system is the way it is.
- “The Mystery at Hillhouse, Pt. 1” – Abner stops a lynch mob from killing a murder suspect, but who did kill Webster Patterson? Crystal Wimer of Harrison County Society digs into Harrison County’s cattle industry roots, and Dr. Keri Leigh Merritt, author of “Masterless Men,” talks class divisions between rich and poor whites in the pre-Civil War South.
- “The Mystery at Hillhouse, Pt. 2” – By the end of the day, three suspects with equal motive and opportunity have come forward in the murder of Webster Patterson. Sean McCracken, creator of the popular unsolved mysteries YouTube channel “Mysterious WV,” shares the inside scoop on how he does his research and produces the show.
- “The Mystery at Hillhouse, Pt. 3” – Squire Randolph holds a tense legal hearing to determine which suspect will be arraigned as the murderer. Olivia Jones, curator of the Grave Creek Mound and Archaeological Complex in Moundsville, dispels myths about the ancient mound-builders and gives us an inside look at preserving prehistory.
- “The Mystery at Hillhouse, Pt. 4” – Abner brings the mystery to a shocking conclusion. David Houchin of the Clarksburg Public Library shares the history of Harrison County’s Oak Mounds and some new insights into Melville Davisson Post.