By Bob Weaver 2003

A large burning cross with about fifteen to twenty hooded figures slowed traffic on Route 5 near Creston, Wirt County Saturday night.

"I couldn't believe what I saw," said Charlie Brown, who was returning to Calhoun County from Parkersburg with his wife.

Brown, an employee of the USDA, said a fifteen to twenty foot cross was in full flame, burning vigorously with "KKK-like" figures in a circle around the fire, arms outstretched, hand to hand.

The cross-burning was less than one mile west of the Creston Bridge toward Elizabeth.

Sources at Creston said it appeared to be a formal KKK rally. The group was wearing white robes with full face masks. Brown said the masks had the traditional high pointed tip associated with the KKK. He said the cross was in front of a trailer, about 250 feet from Route 5.

Tarps had been strung on a line to block the view from the adjacent property. Brown said he and other drivers on Route 5 drove back to the scene. "It really jarred my senses, not wanting to believe what we were seeing," he said.

Wirt County Correction Officer Mike Whited said he and some other men went to the scene from their hunting cabin at Creston to witness the activity.

"I'm 39 years old and I've never seen anything like it in Wirt County," he said, although rumors had been afloat about a KKK rally for a few days.

A sign near the area had the letters "WWP."

Wirt County State Trooper Jennifer Price reportedly responded to the scene.

KLAN RALLY NOT A LAW BREAKER - Historical Roots In Area

"As far as I know, no law was broken," said Trooper Jennifer Price of the Wirt County Detachment of the West Virginia State Police.

The Klan rally was held on private property along State Route 5, a short distance west of Creston, Wirt County and the Calhoun-Wirt line last Saturday night.

Price said she went to the scene to investigate the cross-burning, with no formal complaint being filed. A cross fifteen to twenty feet high, surrounded by a group of hooded KKK, was burned about 250 feet from the road. An observer along Route 5 said the group had "their arms outstretched, hand to hand."

A spokesperson for the Ku Klux Klan said the burning of the cross is a "religious observance" to uphold Christian principals. "Most people don't understand that," he said.

The homepage for the Klan denies the organization is a hate group, although much of the group's work is directed toward deporting or culturally eliminating blacks, Jews, gays and other groups.

They claim those groups are destroying white Christianity and nationalist pride.

The Klan has a long history of violence and murder toward blacks and other individuals who disagree with their "white's rights" organization.

In America, it has been the toppling of southern monuments and the re-naming of libraries, schools, streets and stadiums after Martin Luther King.

The Klan surged in the rural central West Virginia counties during the early part of the last century. Local men in Calhoun County were active members, with the organization fading by World War II.

A Creston resident, who requested their name to be withheld, said "It is a sad situation we have this hate group represented so close to us. It is hard to swallow when they say they are representing Christian love or individual respect for humankind."

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