A middle-aged woman, dressed completely in black, traveling on foot throughout the Southeastern and Midwestern U.S. has become the subject of a huge cult following and obsession. The unidentified woman sports an unusual fashion appearance, disturbing some, while intriguing others. The Woman has been spotted in at least seven states including Georgia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Kentucky, Virginia, West Virginia and Ohio.
UPDATE: The mysterious “Woman in Black” has identified herself as Elizabeth Poles, and has reportedly reached her final destination of Winchester, VA after traveling on foot for nearly three weeks. Read more about the story’s conclusion here.
On July 18, an unknown Facebook user created a fan page, “Where is the Mysterious Woman in Black?” In just the past two weeks since its launch, the fan page has gained more than 50,000 followers and a lot of online buzz. So far, there’s a lot of speculation about the woman’s identity, her choice in apparel, why she is traveling so far on foot, and where is she going?
Many users on the Facebook fan page, who claim to have had contact with her, say that the Woman politely declines most offers for food and beverages, and continues walking, not wanting to be disturbed. Some postulate that she may be on a spiritual journey, with various unconfirmed backstories involving a family tragedy.
What’s most interesting is how much ground this pedestrian has covered in such a short time. According to the reported sightings between July 18th and July 30th, the Woman has walked over 800 miles.
One fan claimed to have snapped these two photos of the Woman, only a day apart, but said they were from both Cisco, GA (left) and Madisonville, TN (right). That’s a distance of nearly 50 miles, and 16 straight hours of walking.
Fan reactions from the Facebook page range from excitement over seeing the traveling, local celebrity; to deeply vested in wanting to know her story, and spiritual inclinations; and many very concerned for her privacy. Some people even believe her to be some sort of “harbinger of doom.”
The Winchester, VA police department today issued a press release asking residents to respect Woman in Black’s privacy. Reportedly, about 50 people gathered around a bank in this area, trying to catch a glimpse of the woman. Though, for the community’s safety, officers “took her to an undisclosed location and provided her with food and shelter.”
According to the Winchester police, the Woman in Black is from the area and intends on staying there. She expressed to the officers that “she wants to be left alone and is asking that the public respect her wishes.”
One Facebook user compared the Woman in Black to a famous vagabond of the mid-to-late 19th century, known only as “The Leatherman.” The Leatherman was known to have traveled in a circuit between western Connecticut and eastern New York for nearly 35 years, and though widely gossiped about, little was ever known of his identity.