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A Séance In Pikeville

Written by Joshua Adams

On the eastern border of the bluegrass state, Pikeville, Kentucky is a sprawling city with a rich history and a financial foundation that have worked together to draw interest from people far and wide. Recently, a major network production company arrived in the city to film portions of a fairly well known television show. The members of the production staff were tight lipped as per their job requirement, as were the guests they had brought with them. Arriving in Pikeville with a group of witches from Salem, Massachusetts to film in the main cemetery located atop a ridge that runs right along the downtown section of the city’s center. The Pikeville City Cemetery is sectioned off by family name and by the expansions that have occurred over the last one hundred and fifty years. It contains the final resting places of key figures in Pikeville’s historic past and prominent families who helped shape the city and the county of it’s seat, Pike county Kentucky.

The Salem witches, and the film crew that ushered them to Pikeville City Cemetery for a late night séance were interested in one of the town’s well known deceased. Neither a Hatfield nor McCoy, this Pikeville resident is famous for the tragic consequences of medical practices utilized at the turn of the century. Her name was Octavia Hatcher, the wife of prominent Pikeville banker and land owner James Hatcher. 

Dressed in hooded black robes the Salem witches encircled Octavia’s grave holding single red candles while the leader of their coven recited an invocation to contact the spirit of the dead woman. It is rumored the production company had heard of the purported ghostly occurrences involving the statue of Octavia Hatcher that sits atop her resting place. For many years there have been individuals who have sworn to have witnessed the statue turning 180 degrees to face away from the downtown overlook it normally faces. Essentially ‘turning her back on the city’ that she may have felt in her dying moments had betrayed her to an horrific demise.

Octavia is one of the numerous individuals buried alive by the mistaken examinations which occurred before the advent of modern medicine. The tragedy occurring in a city which has now become home to one of the premier medical schools in the state. James Hatcher brought his wife whom he had married only two years earlier in 1889, to a local Pikeville physician after she had suddenly fallen unconscious. Failing to revive the young woman, the town doctor relied on the standard procedure of feeling for breath from the patient's nose to determine whether any life remained in them. How her heartbeat was not checked for stands as a testament to the antiquated and often harmful medical practices of the time. Leading to the tragic burial of the young, and very pregnant Octavia in the grave atop the ridge overlooking the town. Within a few days, several more women and men succumbed to identical states of unconsciousness, however, these individuals living further from the city benefitted from the additional time before a physician could be contacted and brought to their bedsides. These individuals spontaneously regained consciousness, which led to the widower, James Hatcher to frantically demand his young wife Octavia be immediately exhumed. Unfortunately, the locals discovered only the truly deceased woman. She had left claw marks inside the coffin in which she had fatefully been buried alive in, her nails broken off in the the splintered lid of the pine box she had been laid to rest in.

With the late night séance held, filming crew surrounding the cemetery, the Salem witches only offered to describe that that they had indeed made contact with the deceased woman, and that the spirit was a heavy one of sadness still to this day. Neither the witches nor the production crew would state for the record which network program they were filming for, but rumor has it, it is for the well known television program ‘Ghost Hunters’. One of the more tragic stories to emerge from the Kentucky community, a haunting reminder indeed to the tragedies involving medical procedures and practices before the advent of modern medicine.