Skip Navigation

Taking a Bite Out of Crime in Wheeling

Text and photographs by Carl E. Feather

Charles “Moondog” Waldrum is a volunteer crime fighter on the streets of Wheeling. Photograph by Carl E. Feather.

He can’t exactly say why Wheeling residents call him “Moondog.” As far as 54-year-old Charles Waldrum knows, he’s always been Moondog, and that’s fine by him.

“He loves that name,” says Sheryl Small, his neighbor and a classmate from their school days in East Wheeling.

Randy Link, the city’s postmaster, also grew up with Moondog. He says Moondog stood out from the other kids in his class, and because of his bold facial features, he looked older than his age.

“I was told that the reason he got the name Moondog was because [of his looks] and he barked at the moon,” Randy says. “He’s been Moondog ever since he was a kid. I never heard him called Charles Waldrum, but he’s one of the nicest persons you ever want to meet.”

“He’s pretty nocturnal,” says Dwayne Cummins, an employee of the 16th Street convenience store where Moondog is a fixture.

Whether by the light of the moon or the noonday sun, Moondog is one of Wheeling’s most-visible if not best-known citizens. Spend a day in Wheeling and you will eventually encounter Moondog, often dressed in a firefighter’s jacket, peddling his bicycle along one of the city’s main thoroughfares. Two fiberglass rods, each holding dozens of flags, extend from the back of his bicycle like the fin of a shark hunting for crime.

“I came here in 1975, and I saw this guy riding around town on his bicycle,” says Dick Clark, hotel clerk at the Knights Inn on Main Street. “I asked who he was, and they said Moondog. You just look for him; he’s part of us now. He’s quite the guy. You’ll never meet another character like Moondog.”

“I think that if he ran for some office in Wheeling, he’d probably get elected,” Randy Link says.

Moondog’s persona reached cult status when the Wheeling Nailers produced a Moondog bobblehead doll in 2008. The collectible was issued on the occasion of Moondog tossing out the puck at the start of a hockey game in the WesBanco Arena.

Randy says the game drew a huge crowd that night because every resident wanted a shot at getting one of the 2,500 commemorative figures.

“You got to go on eBay to get one of them things,” Moondog says as he stands in the convenience store on East 16th Street. “They get a lot of money for them, over $100.”

Sheryl says Moondog did not want to accept the small royalty he was offered for being on the bobblehead, though he did accept a new bicycle. You can call him eccentric, independent, or quirky, but no one can call Moondog greedy.

“A lot of people out on the street, he will just hand them money,” Sheryl says. “And he will not take money from other people.”

If a child approaches him, Moondog reaches into a jacket pocket, pulls out a dollar bill, and gives it to the youngster.

“I like little kids,” Moondog says. “I’m like a little kid at heart. You can’t take money with you, man. You know what I mean?”

“He’s got a heart of gold. He really cares about people,” says Sergeant Bill Nolan of the Wheeling Police Department and a personal friend of Moondog.

Moondog gets his money from his government benefits check. He says he also has a “whole bunch of money” buried in a hill, and that he is the only person who knows where to find it.

“That thing is buried where water can’t hurt it,” Moondog says of the container holding the stash. “Nothing can hurt that money. That thing is way down in the ground. It’s bigger than I am.”

Born September 18, 1958, Moondog is a Wheeling native and one of several children born to Mamie Walker and Charles Waldrum. He attended Wheeling schools and worked “at least 15” jobs before he became a full-time vigilante.

“He rides around town and looks for suspicious activity,” Sheryl Small says. His “beat” is the entire city of Wheeling, which Moondog patrols from midnight until daybreak.

“We call him Moondog because he takes a bite out of crime,” says Lance Miller, owner of Neely’s Grocery, one of the Wheeling businesses that Moondog keeps an eye on at night.

You can read the rest of this article in this issue of Goldenseal, available in bookstores, libraries or direct from Goldenseal.