The Haunted Majestic: A scary good time on the Ohio River

By Matthew Young, RealWV

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. – Moored near the banks of the Ohio River silently rests a barge so haunted that it has been dubbed the “ship of death.” Steeped in tradition equal parts heroic and horrific, tales of the barge’s misfortunes will satiate desires both carnal and gross.

The Haunted Majestic museum and gift shop. Photo by Matthew Young, RealWV.

The barge, now christened “The Haunted Majestic,” is in reality two barges permanently affixed, with a two-story military hospital built atop. Some 300 service men are believed to have perished aboard the Majestic during World War II, as well as the Korean and Vietnam Wars, with many a wayward spirit still thought to be roaming the narrow corridors and rusty operating rooms in search of lost lives, and lost limbs. However, the Majestic’s haunted history began three decades before the Great War. 

Originally built in 1912 to serve as sand dredge barges for the continued canalization of the Ohio River, the Majestic’s two halves were used to scrape mud and sand from the river bed to allow for cargo transport. While a seemingly mundane operational-function of early 20th Century infrastructure development, history shows us that the Majestic’s 100-plus year existence has been far more macabre than mundane – the most ominous example being the dredging of a massive, previously undetected Native American burial ground. 

In 2019, the Majestic was returned to its home on the West Virginia side of the Ohio River. Now permanently docked at the Majestic Landing, just north of Robert Newlon Airport, the icon of the Mountain State’s haunted history embraces its macabre legacy each Halloween by serving as the tri-state areas’ only floating haunted attraction. 

Advertised as “not the scariest, not the goriest, just the most fun,” the Haunted Majestic delivers on all three counts. The midway effectively carries the impossible combination of family-friendly fun, and “Texas Chainsaw” vibes, while the haunt itself is an expertly designed, slow-building thrill fest that peaks at just the right moment. 

The adventure begins with a trek through an industrial park wasteland, populated with creepy creepers and intricate set designs. After passing through sewer tunnels and not-quite-abandoned buses, you make your way through the trees, and descend towards the mighty Ohio River. It is then you will have your first look at the Haunted Majestic herself, and you soon realize that the spooky good times have only just begun. 

Constructed in 1912, The Haunted Majestic served as a floating hospital during three wars. Photo by Matthew Young, RealWV.

The Haunted Majestic features concessions, carnival games, face painting, and a full calendar of special guests. While there may only be one weekend left to experience the Haunted Majestic in 2023, Horror Host Hall of fame inductee Bobby Gammonster – along with co-host Boris T. Buzzard – will be on-hand for a special edition of the Monster Movie Night Horror Show. In addition, those in attendance will have the opportunity to get up close and personal with the baby dragons and giant snakes from the Zoology Zone Science Center

While exploring the midway, be sure to take a picture beside a piece of the infamous Silver Bridge, salvaged from the bottom of the Ohio River in 1968, after the bridge’s collapse the previous year. The collapse of the Silver Bridge has been notoriously linked to sightings of West Virginia’s legendary Mothman. And of course no visit to the Haunted Majestic would be complete without a trip to the museum and merchandise store for hats, t-shirts, and history of the fabled barge. 

For those who crave just a bit more late night Halloween fun, the Haunted Majestic also offers the chance to take part in a 90 minute “paranormal ghost hunt” after the attraction has closed for the evening. 

The haunt will be open Friday and Saturday night, from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m. both nights. The “paranormal ghost hunt” will begin approximately 30 minutes after the attraction closes. For more information about the attraction, including a full schedule of events and directions, or to purchase tickets, visit hauntedmajestic.com

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