Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Murder on the Mountain: The Broad Mountain Ghost

Mountain Road, Gordon

A cold rain fell and fog covered the mountaintops as Mike and I made our way towards Hawk Mountain. We both knew the possibility of seeing anything was becoming slimmer, yet we still headed towards our ultimate goal. Though we had managed to stop at a couple of places, the cold rain prevented us from visiting a handful of places we had planned on visiting during this trip. To be honest, had it not been the fact this trip had been planned for over a month I might have called the trip off altogether.

The dreary, overcast day gave me an idea.

"Want to go find a ghost?"

"Ummm....sure," Mike replied "Where we going?"



"Yeah, it's just south of here. Should be there in five-ten minutes at the most. With this weather, it would be a perfect day to see if we can't find her."

Forty-five minutes later and a stop at an old cemetery that I still haven't managed to identify, we arrived in Gordon ready to travel the old road in hopes of finding any evidence of paranormal activity.

The legend of the Gordon, or Broad Mountain, Ghost was one of the very first stories I had come across many years ago when I began collecting the legends and lore of our state. hearing all of the stories about supposedly paranormal activity on the mountain, and without meaning to sound morbid, I had wanted to visit this place for years and now I was going to search the mountain to see if I could have an experience.

Mountain Road, Gordon
The story begins on April 5, 1925. On that Palm Sunday afternoon, a gruesome discovery would be made along the old Mountain Road between Gordon and Heckscherville (not the current State Route 4007, but a narrow road that still parallels the modern road).

While out walking that afternoon, two flower pickers were drawn to the gruesome scene when a murder of crows took off from the brush. Getting closer, they discovered the remains of a murdered girl. After being badly beaten, the poor girl's body was set on fire while she was unconscious, yet still alive.

The girl was alive when she was brought to the remote spot - the amount of blood discovered under the unburnt leaves. Police discovered a rock nearby, and though it had no blood on it at the time, it appeared to have been recently placed at the location. An area around eight foot in perimeter was burned, but rains that week had put it out before the fire finished its job or was able to spread.

The girl, believed to be in her late teens/early twenties, wore an old wedding band with no inscription and a couple of cheap rings; one ring was a twisted wire and another was set with imitation pearls. The remaining clothing showed she wore a lavender sweater with buckshot-like buttons and a pink garter with buckles.

The coroner at Girardsville discovered that the girl had put up a struggle against her attacker. He also determined that the girl had been dead between four and ten days before being discovered.

Locals reported that a small, dark-colored coupe had been spotted making a number of trips up the mountain. It was believed that this vehicle had taken the girl to the location and then made trips for engine oil, which was poured over her before she was set afire.

The body was initially believed to be the remains of Anna Richardson (also known as Anna Sullivan) who had disappeared roughly a week before from Pottstown. The body was similar enough that her neighbors initially identified the body as that of Anna's. It was soon discovered that Anna was still alive and living in Shamokin.

Rock formation along
Mountain Road, Gordon
By the end of the first week of investigating the murder, police rounded up a group of seven people (five men and two women) who were thought to be involved in the girl's death. This group was arrested at the Sunset Inn, a roadhouse located on the Columbia/Schuylkill County line near Centralia, and taken to Pottsville to be questioned.

The unidentified girl was believed to have been from Shamokin and was going by the names Lillian and Babe while staying at the Sunset Inn. The girl's full name was Lillian Tyler, age sixteen. The girl's mother, Mrs. Francis O'Conner viewed the body, but failed to positively identify it as her daughter. The state police were convinced it was Lillian, so imagine the surprise when a couple weeks later Lillian was discovered alive in Detroit.

By this time, a decision was made to have the body cremated. And at this point I personally think it goes from mysterious to bizarre. The unidentified girl's head (and in some articles it says also her hands) was removed and stored in a jar of chemicals in hopes of her one day being identified. A cast was made of her head and it eventually ended up as a part of the collection at the Schuylkill Historical Society.

Soon after rumors began to circulate that the road was haunted. Supposedly cars would stall and the ghost of a young woman approached the car and peered inside, hoping to find those responsible for her death. Some locals would later claim they were responsible for the ghost having dressed up in sheets and run around the mountainside to scare those searching for the murdered girl's spirit.

Arriving in the small community of Gordon, we found Mountain Road and started up it. Though the rain had temporarily slowed down, fog still clung in spots to the side of the mountain. Turning off of State Route 4006 (known also as Biddle Street) the road narrows after the first block, but that did not stop us as we drove up the old road. Eyes open, we searched for any signs of a ghost walking along this old stretch of road.

I think Mike was ready to jump and I hit the brakes and grabbed the camera.

"What do you see?" he asked excitedly.

Rattling Run
Where it crosses under Mountain Road

"Rocks," I replied. "It is a neat formation and I want to get a picture of them."

"Had me all excited there for a moment," he replied.

We finished the two mile drive without seeing the ghost nor did we experience any vehicle trouble. I was really hoping that the truck would stall and I would have a ghost peer into my window, but no such luck. We did not see anything out of the ordinary. In fact the only thing we really saw were some neat rock formations - there are a lot of huge rocks along the two mile stretch of road.

Near the end of the old road, near the location where it ends on Gordon Mountain Road (State Route 4007) we stopped so I could get out and take some pictures of Rattling Run where it passes under Mountain Road.

Standing there for a moment, I shuddered at the whole situation for the first time. Somewhere along this old road a girl brutally lost her life. She died in a manner I cannot even start to imagine. The mere thought of her death sent goosebumps running up my arms.

I hope that somewhere, somebody surely missed her. She was a daughter who never came home, who disappeared and I hoped that somebody missed her smile or her laugh.

Large, very cold drops of water began falling out of the sky, reflecting the sadness I was feeling and I jumped into the truck as the skies once again burst open.

In the years since her death, I imagine that her killer(s) have since passed on from this world. Maybe with the death of her killer(s) she was able to finally find peace. I sure hope so.

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