Friday, November 24, 2017

Classes


In Reba McEntire’s video Is There Life Out There? Reba plays a returning, non-traditional college student trying to manage family, work and school. At the end she turns in a paper that is covered with coffee stains. When the professor returns it he gives her the lecture about being neater about the work she turns in. The response she gives back is “I’ve learned more from the stains that I did from the 
paper.”

As many of you know, I’m going back to school to finish up the history part of my degree. When I graduated twenty years ago, I never really thought about going back. However, after twenty year away from being in the classroom, I returned to Lock Haven University.

The first time through college I was the typical student: I showed up, did my thing, was given my diploma and sent out to face the world. I ended up in a job not in my field, but a job that allowed me to do what I wanted. I had the power to go and explore and then blog about it.

When I made the decision to go back to school I was terrified. How was I going to balance work, school and trying to have a life? Part of my “plan” was to return to the way I cruised through school the first time around: I would show up, get my work done, do “my own thing,” and go home.  I would “do my own thing” because how could I expect to relate to other students who were young enough to be my own children?

That was the mentality I had going back to school. I would show up, do what I needed to do and go my way.

The first day of class arrived and I showed up and slipped into a seat near the back at the back of the classroom. Though I knew the professors knew me, I did my best to avoid the rest of the class. The first class of the day was all freshmen and sophomores and everyone of them gave me a strange look as they entered into the room. Despite the odd looks, I managed to get through the first day.

It was the second day that almost did me in. The first class of the second day was ok, but the second class…the second class I really felt like the outside. As the rest of the class filtered in, it was very obvious that they all knew each other. At that moment I really had my doubts and I wanted to walk out, to escape the fact I was the stranger in this class. For the first time I wondered if the words so many had told me were coming true: “You should just take online classes…you’ll be happier and you won’t have to deal with the younger students.”  I went home that night and seriously debated just dropping the classes and waiting until spring to do the online classes.

But I didn’t.

The first few weeks I managed to not get involved. I showed up (put my earplugs in to block out the consistent chatter before classes), did my thing and went my way. I spent my time not in class hiding in the library doing research, hidden away from the rest of campus. In the first three-four weeks I had a better connection with the cleaning lady in the library than I did with my fellow students.

And then it happened. My fellow students started talking to me. *GASP*

Slowly I was brought into their world. For the first time, in all the time in I had spent at Lock Haven, I actually felt a connection with my fellow students who I call friends and peers. I discovered myself having stronger connections with my fellow students this time around than I did my first time through college.

I realized as the semester continued I was learning more about myself, something I would have never learned had I decided to do the online classes. I have learned compassion and understanding, how to listen (not just hear, but how to really listen to others), how to be a mentor and an example (which is very scary knowing that others are looking up to you because you are the adult), but most importantly how to be a friend.

As the semester is drawing to an end, I can look back and I see how much I have personally grown. While my fellow classmates may not fully realize it, they have changed me. I can say that I am a much better person because of them. Sure, many of my classmates will deny it (some of them may not even realize the impact that they’ve had on me), but they created the personal growth of this semester, something that no professor could have ever taught me.

Honestly, I could fail all my classes (which, for the record, there’s no way that that could possibly happen) and I can walk away from this semester knowing that I have become a better person.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: Phantom Plane of Dark Hollow

A view of the Cumberland Valley from
Three Square Hollow Vista
PLEASE NOTE: I AM IN NO WAY CLAIMING THE AIRPLANE DISASTER ATOP BLUE MOUNTAIN AND THE PHANTOM PLANE INCIDENT OF DARK HOLLOW CONNECTED. THE TWO EVENTS MERELY HAPPENED IN THE SAME REGION.

Also I need to apologize about the pictures. It was extremely hazy the day I stopped at the vista.

Standing at the Three Square Hollow Vista, I took in the view of the Cumberland Valley. Far below was the community of Newville and on the far side of the valley, South Mountain rose majestically, draped in the green splendor of Michaux State Forest. Here, on the northern side of the Cumberland Valley, vultures drifted lazily in the wind and in the woods nearby a hawk screamed as it passed through the wilds of Tuscarora State Forest. The shade of the trees has a relief from the heat of the day

The vista atop Blue Mountain, near the junction of Three Square Hollow and Cowpens Roads, was an added bonus to the day's journey. I had made my way up the narrow road while silently hoping that the warning signs were wrong because I had no desire to meet a lumber truck coming down the mountainside.

After taking in the view, I drove a short distance westward to a monument that had been recently erected in memory of an airplane crash that happened here on October 26, 1956. On that fateful night, a military airplane crashed into the northern face of Blue Mountain.

On the morning of October 26, the C-119G-FA (known affectionately as “the Flying Boxcar”) left the Sewart Air Force Base near Nashville, Tennessee, to pick up cargo at the Olmsted Air Force at Middleton and return it to Sewart.  The Olmsted Air Force Base was located at the present-day location of Penn State’s Harrisburg Campus.


Memorial for the crew who lost their lives
By 1:30 p.m. the plane was over Altoona and was cleared for approach. However, as the plane approached Harrisburg visibility was limited due to rain and fog. The pilot radioed that he had missed the approach and was cleared for the approach a second time. However, the Blue Mountain Range suddenly loomed out of the fog, giving the pilot no time to react. At 3:15 p.m. the plane slammed into the mountain, killing all four on board instantly.

The Air Force immediately took over the crash site, removing the wreckage. From time to time another piece of missed wreckage is discovered by those visiting the site. I would hope that if you visit the site, you do not remove any pieces you may find.

The four members of the flight crew were:
1st Lieutenant Robert S. Hantsch, pilot
 2nd Lieutenant Walter B. Gordon, Jr., co-pilot
 Tech Sergeant Marvin W. Seigler, crew chief
1st Lieutenant Gracye E. Young, flight nurse

As I stood before the memorial, I could see a path leading into the forest beyond the stone. Not knowing at the time where it led, I decided not to venture further into the forest. I later learned that had I followed it, the path would have taken me to the crash site roughly half a mile away.

Once I paid my respects to the crew, I returned to the Three Square Hollow Vista to study the far mountain through my binoculars. While a real plane crash that happened here, my mind drifted to a bizarre incident that occurred in the mountains south of Newville in November 1955, the year before this deadly crash.

Please Note: Before you say “I read that this incident happened near Duncannon and not Newville,” I want to clarify a problem that has been incorrectly handed down time and time again. More recent reports and articles put the “phantom plane incident” in the Dark Hollow region just west of Duncannon, along Route 274. There is a Dark Hollow on State Game Lands 256 and I will admit that I too was guilty of starting my search there. Only after re-reading the original newspaper articles from that time did I realize that the phantom plane incident happened further south than I had initially thought.

November 18, 1955 was a snowy day for the community of Newville and a day that would leave residents of the Cumberland Valley mystified.


Three Square Hollow Vista
Reports began pouring in to Dale Murphy (who was the civil defense coordinator for Cumberland County) that the people around Newville heard, and in some cases saw, an aircraft that was in obvious trouble. Mary Toner, a Civil Defense ground observer, spotted the plane flying just above the treetops. She lost sight of it as it disappeared behind a distant hill and a couple seconds later she heard what she described as a large explosion. In addition to Mary’s observations of the doomed plane, two other Civil Defense observers in the region, along with numerous citizens, reported seeing and hearing it.

Dale Murphy responded by sending two Civil Defense planes over the area. Neither plane reported seeing any debris or any signs of a crash. Despite the planes failing to find any signs of a wreck, a group of seventy plus men set out to search the area on foot in the Dark Hollow region approximately nine miles southwest of Mount Holly Springs.

The search of the mountainous region came up empty. But things were about to get stranger.

That evening a flare, the first of several, was spotted coming from the mountains at 9:45 p.m. Calls flooded in as the residents of Newville reported seeing the flare.

Calls were made to various air control agencies but there were no reports of a missing aircraft. A second group of searchers went into the mountains on November 19 to search for the crash and the origin of the flares. In addition air-sea rescue planes were dispatched from the Westover Air Force Base in Massachusetts to aid in the search. After searching for half a day, the search was called off because of the snowy weather.

At 9:45 p.m. that night, residents in Newville and also Boiling Springs, observed another flare coming from the mountains.

On November 20, a couple living near Dillsburg reported seeing two yellow flares coming from the mountains west of town. Please note: I cannot find a definite time that the couple witnessed the flares, but newspapers reporting the incident make me believe it was late afternoon, but I cannot determine the exact time of this event.

Around six that evening, flares once again were spotted coming from the same area south of Newville. At 9:30 p.m. that evening, Dale Murphy ordered that all sirens on the fire trucks in the region be blown. Roughly fifteen minutes after the blast from the sirens later another flare, arched into the air from the mountains.

Dale Murphy observed that there had to be a meaning behind the flares shooting off at 9:45 p.m. in the evening, but had no reasoning what the timing meant.

On November 21, the searchers once again set out on the task of scouring the mountains. Once again the searchers came up empty. Once again more flares were observed by the residents of the Cumberland Valley. At 9:45 p.m. that evening the first flare of that night was spotted. Unlike the previous ones that glowed yellow, this flare glowed green. That night, between 11:00 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. three more flares were spotted.


Three Square Hollow Vista
The following day, November 22, Dale Murphy called off the search. No evidence of the plane was ever discovered. The searchers came up with no explanations for the flares. That night no flares appeared in the sky.

Later newspapers state that some heard a voice calling from the mountains for “Help!” but I was unable to determine what day(s) happened or where in the search area this occurred.

With the search called off, the incident became legend.

Exactly what happened that day will remain a mystery. Was it a real crash that somehow was missed? If the crash scene was missed among all the searches, then what happened to the survivors calling for help and setting off the flares? Despite the snow, why didn’t the survivors make their way towards one of the communities?

Another thought that ran through my mind was maybe it was a real plane in distress that was spotted that day. In attempt to not crash it abandoned its load, which caused the explosion that was heard. But then again, maybe the plane exploded in midair. If this was the case surely some wreckage would have been found..

But there is another theory. Maybe for an instant the window between dimensions was thin enough to allow a glimpse into another time and place to see an event that happened in another world.

Whatever happened that day remains a mystery hidden in the mountains of State Game Lands 305.

Please note: The airplane crash that happened near the top of Three Square Hollow was a real plane crash that cost the members on board their lives. The monument and the area around it should be given proper respect if you choose to visit. The location is just west of the vista.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: New Bethel Cemetery

New Bethel Church and Cemetery, Kempton
On one of my trips to Hawk Mountain, I was met with Dan, a man I went to college with who lived in the area. The two of us hiked the trails while swapping stories of where life had taken us over the years.

During the conversation, he asked if I still collected folklore like I had back in my college days. After telling him I had a filing cabinet full of ghost stories, legends and lore, he asked if I was familiar with the legends involving Hawk Mountains. I mentioned that I had read a number of ghosts stories about the region, knew about the legend of Matthias Schambacher, and also the unsolved murder of Matthias Berger.

“You ever been to New Bethel Cemetery?” he asked as we finished up our hike.

“No,” I replied. I knew that the cemetery was the final resting place of Matthias Schambacher and while it was on the list of places I wanted to eventually visit, I had not gotten around to it yet.

“It’s not too far away,” Dan announced. “If you’re interested, you can follow me and I’ll give you the tour.” I agreed and a short drive eastward, we were at the cemetery. I was surprised to discover a familiar blue Pennsylvania historical marker at the edge of the cemetery. The marker was for Ben Austrian, a noted painter born in Reading.


Grave of Ben Austrian, artist
New Bethel Cemetery
“He isn’t one of the ghosts that haunt the cemetery, Dan spoke as I read the information about him. 

“I’ll show you his grave in a couple minutes if you’re interested. But first, we need to make a stop at Schambacher’s grave.”

A short distance from the road, Dan pointed out a spot between to old stones. “According to word of mouth, this is the spot where Matthias Schambacher is buried.” Matthias Schambacher was a tavern owner who, if the tales are true, was America’s first serial killer. The debate rages on about this claim because no real evidence has been uncovered to prove this. He supposedly made a death bed confession, and some bones were discovered in a well on his property, but as far as the number of people he had supposedly killed, there should have been something in regional papers about the disappearances, but nothing has been uncovered to support the claim he was a serial killer.

“According to legend,” Dan continued his story. “As Schambacher was being lowered into the ground a bolt of lightning hit the ground nearby and those gathered took it as a sign that God was not pleased with him being buried on holy ground.”

“Another legend about his burial was that he was buried, the stone had just been placed and lightning hit the stone, reducing it to ash and that’s why his grave remains unmarked. If their was a stone, I imagine it was chipped away by souvenir hunters,” Dan observed. “You want to hear the latest rumor about his death bed confession? I heard that Schambacher’s career as a killer is now close to two hundred victims.”

“You really believe that?” I asked.

“No,” Dan laughed. “But people will believe anything they hear.”

“So has Schambacher’s ghost been seen?” I asked.

“Not that I’m aware of. I’ve never read anything about his actually haunting the cemetery and I can’t say I’ve heard of it,” Dan answered.

We walked around the cemetery and we made a stop at Ben Austrian’s grave. After paying my respects to him, we continued walking among the stones.

Mathias Schambacher lies in an unmarked grave
Among the older stones of new bethel Cemetery
Dan informed me about the typical stories about cemeteries that are supposedly haunted. There have been sightings of ghostly balls of light that appear and disappear on their own, mysterious voices, strange shadows, and cold spots.

“There have been two more recent sightings that I’ve heard about,” Dan announced. “The first is a women dressed in mourning attire. Supposedly she is seen walking around the cemetery before stopping and kneeling at a grave. But I haven’t heard which grave she has been spotted at.

“The other story is of a young girl who is usually spotted near the top of the hill, near the large monument,” Dan stopped talking as he stared past me and up the hill. The look on his face told me that something had caught his attention. I turned to look at what he was staring at and immediately noticed a large black spot sitting on top of a stone to the left of the large monument.

“What is that?” I asked not noticing it there before as we walked around the cemetery.

“I’m not sure,” he replied. “Let’s go figure it out.” We made our way slowly up the hill getting closer to the black object but still not sure what it was.

“It looks like a crow,” he whispered. “But I don’t remember seeing it before.”

“I don’t remember seeing it earlier,” I agreed.

“It is a crow,” he announced as we got closer. If it was, the object had yet to move. The object remained stationary as we paused a couple feet away.

“Go! Shoo!” Dan yelled at it without any result.

“Maybe it is stuffed,” I observed. “But it seems strange somebody would put a stuffed crow on top of a tombstone.”

“People do the strangest things,” Dan answered as he stepped up to the grave to remove the ugly looking bird. He reached out for it and with his fingers a mere inch from it, the bird exploded from the stone and into the air causing Dan to curse loudly as he jumped back from the bird. The sudden flight of the bird caused me to jump. The crow flew to a nearby stone as landed, screaming loudly at the two of us.


The crow was resting on the stone to the immediate
Left of the large monument
Despite myself, I started to laugh at the situation. “Not funny,” Dan glared at me, making me laugh harder. It was decided that this was our sign to call it a day and we left the cemetery and headed our different directions, agreeing we had to get together more often for such adventures.

If you choose to visit New Bethel Cemetery, please be respectful of the area.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: Haunts of Hawk Mountain

Fog lingers along the trails of hawk Mountain
The fog added an eerie appearance to the mountain
“It doesn’t look too good up there,” Mike spoke as we approached our final destination for the day’s journey. I had to agree as I looked at the mountain looming ahead of us. It had rained the night before and now a thick fog clung to the mountaintop.

Mike had agreed to join me for a trip to Hawk Mountain. While I was out to explore, I knew he would normally be scanning the sky for birds, but with the thick fog we both knew seeing birds would be a challenge.

“So there is supposedly a mysterious large white bird that has been spotted. Maybe we’ll see that mysterious bird,” Mike observed to my surprise.

“You know about the ghosts of Hawk Mountain?” I asked.

“I looked it up while you were in the last cemetery,” Mike laughed.


No view from the overlook on the foggy morning
Hawk Mountain has always fascinated me since I first read about it in the writings of Charles Adams.  Quite a few stories are told about the area.

The most popular legend involves inn keeper Matthias Schambacher. Legends claim that he was a serial killer and on his death bed confessed to killing a number of travelers. The legends go on to claim that he killed people and those travelers became a “special sausage” to be served to other guests. Was Schambacher the serial killer legend makes him out to be? I have nothing to support these claims but the stories persist.

The Schambacher Tavern still stands along Hawk Mountain Road. The tavern has a couple ghost stories attached to it, but the most popular one involves the spirit of a young girl who roams the building. She supposedly died by falling down the steps of the tavern. The sounds of somebody crying and somebody speaking in German have been heard inside the tavern.

We arrived at the parking lot for Hawk Mountain and paid the small fee to tour the grounds. If there were any spirits haunting the ridge, the thick fog was going to work in their favor. Mike set off in search of birds while I took my time looking around and enjoying the quietness of nature. I had been here before and had enjoyed the views, but there were no views to enjoy on this trip due to the fog.

One spirit has been spotted roaming the mountain more than others: the ghost of a ten foot tall Indian. Legend maintains that he guards an ancient ceremonial circle that the Delawares used when they inhabited the area. Many have reported seeing this gigantic figure walking along the road that passes through the sanctuary. The feeling described as being pure evil has been reported by those who have spotted him.


Another foggy overlook
But this is not the only spirit that roams the forests of Hawk Mountain. Member of the Gerhardt family have been spotted wandering the area. The family was slaughtered by Indians sometime in the 1750s.

Others have reported seeing strange lights dancing among the trees from time to time, mysterious screams, and their vehicles suddenly dying for no reason.

The mountain does have at least a handful of unsolved deaths attributed to it but the most infamous was the murder of Matthias Berger. Berger was a devote Catholic who lived in a crude hut (described as looking like a tepee) he built along the old Catawissa Road. Berger mostly stayed to himself and those who knew him were unaware of him having any enemies.

On June 29, 1890, Harry Mohl stopped at Berger’s place to find the hermit missing and the place in disarray. Mohl gathered some people and they began to search for Berger. His lifeless body has discovered lying face down on a pile of rocks. He was taken to Reading and given a proper burial. It has been agreed upon that robbery was the reason behind his death, that it had happened almost three weeks before his body was found, and that somebody had chased Berger for almost two miles before killing him. Who killed him remains unsolved.

I was still thinking about the ghosts and murders that haunt the mountain when Mike suddenly appeared at my side. “You know what I saw?” he asked.

“A new bird for your lifer list?” I asked.

“Nope,” he laughed. “I didn’t see a thing…it’s too foggy up here.” I could only agree.


View from one of the overlooks on Hawk Mountain
On a clear day
Please note: The stories of Matthias Schambacher and Matthias Berger are both very interesting and are stories to be told another day.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: Spangler's Spring

Spangler's Spring, Gettysburg
On the southeastern edge of Gettysburg, at the base of Culp’s Hill, sits a spring that has become a part of the lore about the Battle of Gettysburg. Arriving at Spangler’s Spring is a journey in itself. Turning onto Colgrove Avenue from Baltimore Pike, I found myself caught up in the memorials that lined the winding avenue.

I arrived at a small parking area and got out to meet up with Randy, a gentleman I’ve known for a couple years now. He had emailed me a couple weeks before and wanted to know when I had the time to visit: he had some new stories he wanted to share. Knowing I was going to be in the area, I instantly made plans to visit with him so I could hear these "new to him" stories. After the usual small talk, we turned our attention to the stone arch in the field that marks the location of Spangler’s Spring. We crossed the road to investigate the area around the spring. In all of the times I had driven past it, this was the first time I had actually stopped here.

The stone arch structure that covers the spring was erected in 1895 to protect it from visitor damage. On the stone structure are three plaques that announce this as Spangler’s Spring, the fact it was used by both Union and Confederate troops, and a memory to those who fought and died during the Civil War.

Although the spring was covered in 1895, water could still be obtained by visitors through a metal grate. Note: When the National Park Service took over the park, it was decided to stop its usage over concerns of water contamination. Standing next to the spring is an informational plaque that tells of the importance of the spring during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Over the years a number of stories about the spring have surfaced. The most common legend is that on the evening of July 2, 1863 Union and Confederate troops created a temporary truce. During this truce soldiers from both sides gathered around the spring and shared stories and fellowship until the early morning hours. As the sun began to rise both sides returned to their lines and prepared for another day of fighting.

If there was a meeting between the two sides as they filled their canteens under the cover of darkness, it was more than likely an accident. While this may be the oldest legend involving Spangler’s Spring it is not the only story that has been told about it.

“There are the 'normal' ghost sightings that surround the spring,” Randy laughed. “There have been both Union and Confederate soldiers spotted. People say they’ve heard the sound of gunfire. Gunfire isn’t the only thing they hear: people have heard mysterious voices, especially one of a female.”


Soangler's Spring, Gettysburg
“More recently there has been talk of a woman in white,” he continued. “She’s been written about in a couple of those ghost books, so you have all sorts of people now out here at night trying to see her.”
He informed me that, according to legend, a ghostly lady dressed in white haunts the area of the spring. She appears first as a mist that rises up out of the ground before taking the shape of a lady dressed in white. People who have witnessed her claim the feeling of a great sadness fills the air around her.

“Exactly who she was when alive is not known, but legend states that she committed suicide here after her fiancĂ©e broke off their engagement,” Randy spoke. “I have not been able to find any definite proof that somebody actually committed suicide here. I’m not saying it didn’t happen, I’m just saying I have not been able to verify the events."

Randy informed me that he heard of a sighting that happened one day in early autumn 2015. The story he had been told was a couple doing the battlefield tour on bicycle had arrived at the spring to see a young lady dressed in a white gown standing near it. They stopped to take a picture of the spring and turned their attention away for a moment. When they looked back, she was gone.

“I’ve tried to debunk it, but really, there’s no place for a person to hide in the immediate area of the spring. For a living person to get to a good hiding place…well, nobody can run that fast if they were only distracted for a moment,” Randy said. I had to agree, for a person to get to a good hiding spot, they should have been spotted running because there were no good hiding places near the spring itself.

After we looked around the area for a few minutes and I took pictures of the spring, we headed out so he could show me a couple other places that Randy wanted to show me before I had to leave.

If you choose to explore this area, remember it is a battlefield and it does deserve respect, so please give it the respect that it deserves.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: Haunted Hastings Mansion

The Hastings Mansion, Bellefonte
Please note: This is private property, so please be respectful of the land owner and please, no trespassing.

At the corner of North Allegheny and Lamb Streets in Bellefonte stands the Hastings Mansion, the one-time home of Governor Daniel Hastings. In the 1890s, the former Red Lion Inn was purchased by Governor Hastings and he had the mansion expanded, adding a south wing and a portico. The portico that makes up the grand front of the mansion was designed in the style of the Old State Capitol Building which burned on February 2, 1897.

When Daniel Hastings returned to Bellefonte after his terms of governor were over, he bought the property and settled into civilian life. Hastings was no stranger to Bellefonte; though he was born near Salona, he had spent the majority of his life here, serving as Principal of the Bellefonte High School and Superintendent of Bellefonte Borough Schools (1867-75), was editor of the Bellefonte Republican, joined the Centre County Bar (1875), and served as a member of both the Bellefonte School Board and Penn State Board of Trustees. Hastings died in 1903 and is buried in nearby Union Cemetery along Howard Street.

Over the years, there have been numerous stories about paranormal activity that have become connected to the mansion. If all the stories are true, the Hastings Mansion may possibly be the most haunted building within the boundaries of Bellefonte. There are stories of strange sounds, mysterious lights, and objects moving on their own, all being common stories regarding haunted houses, but the Hastings Mansion has a handful of spirits that have been spotted.

The most famous of the Hasting Mansion stories involves the spirit of a young woman in a wedding dress who haunts the third floor of the building. The identity of the young lady has never been discovered, but some versions say she died on her wedding night when the mansion was still the Red Lion Inn.

Rumor say she is a death omen; those who have seen her have experienced a death within their family. The original story involves the spirit and a night watchman. One night while on duty, the night watchman saw the young lady coming towards him; she disappeared leaving the man in wonder and dismay about what he had just witnessed. A couple days later he received word that his brother, or in some versions it was a parent or some other relative, had died.


The old Pennsylvania Capitol Building, harrisburg
Hastings modeled the front portico after it
Postcard part of the author's collection
This young lady is not the only ghost known to haunt the third floor. The ghost of a phantom watchman haunts the third floor. The unidentified ghost has been heard walking and checking the doors, testing each door knob to make sure it was locked and the room was secure.

Interestingly, the story of the phantom watchman has become mixed with the story of the young bride with many people asking: “Was this the night watchman who saw the ghost of the young bride?” Some claim that the man died soon after witnessing the death omen.

Another ghost that has been spotted is a young child playing on the stars. Once noticed, the child immediately vanishes. Though sightings of the child are rare, the sound of the child playing is commonly reported.

But the most interesting story to come from the Hastings Mansion is the story about an old grandfather clock that has since disappeared into history. The clock was built with a realistic human face within the glass of the face of the clock. Legend maintains that if a person stared into the eyes of the human-like face along enough, the clock face would come to life at wink at the person.

Please note: Again, the Hastings Mansion is private property, so no trespassing! But it can be viewed from either North Allegheny or Lamb Streets.

Friday, October 20, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: Ol' Red Eyes

Snyder Family Cemetery
Moraine State Park
There is something about abandoned cemeteries that draws legends to them. Looking through the collection of stories I’ve gathered over the years, there are a lot of old, abandoned, rural cemeteries that have ghost stories attached to them. It seems the more rural the cemetery is, the more legends seem to spring up around it.

One such legend was the reason I had arrived at Moraine State Park. Even with directions, finding the cemetery was an interesting adventure. After a number of wrong turns I finally stopped at a gas station to ask for directions.

“Why do you want to go there?” the older man stared at me as he questioned me. “You know it is patrolled regularly, especially after all the vandalism. People like to go up there and party.”

“I hadn’t realized it had been vandalized,” I answered truthfully. In doing the research for this journey, I had not read anything about recent vandalism.

“Kids go up there and party…get drunk and destroy things.” He paused for a moment and looked around before speaking in a low whisper. “Then you have the people who are hunting for Ol’ Red Eyes.”

“Ol’ Red Eyes?” I asked. I was familiar with the legend of people seeing a pair of glowing red eyes in the area of the old family cemetery. Supposedly this was the ghost of Conrad Snyder chasing away those who disturbed his slumber.

“Yeah…a pair of red glowing eyes that they claim haunt the cemetery. And then there’s bigfoot too…” he spoke. “Never saw either of them myself but every now and then somebody will spot them. Had a guy in here a couple weeks ago said he saw bigfoot walking down the middle of the road one night. You ask me he had a little too much to drink…” After sharing a couple more “friend of a friend told me” stories, he said he’d like to help me get there, but he didn’t feel right giving me the exact location of the cemetery.

“Not that I don’t trust you, but you go up there and do something stupid, I’ll feel bad I gave them to you. Enough people have vandalized it over the years.”

Two headstoines and footstones in the cemetery
I believe they are Conrad Snyder and his wife,
But I did not enter to verify this
I thanked him for his time and told him I understood the reluctance to give me exact directions and walked back out to the vehicle. I was about to get in the vehicle when another customer stopped me. “I overheard you talking about Ol’ Red Eyes,” the girl spoke. “You looking for the Snyder Cemetery?”

“Can you get me there?” I asked. 

"We used to go over there a lot when I was younger," She announced. "We never saw the Red Eyes, but we heard a lot of freaky stuff out there." She wrote out the directions and almost thirty minutes later I finally made it to the Snyder Cemetery, an old family cemetery at the edge of Moraine State Park. Note: This is the official name of the cemetery though most know it as the Conrad Snyder Cemetery or just in many places it is referred to as the B.W. Snyder Cemetery, but I’m not sure why it is known by this.

Parking on the opposite side of the road from the cemetery, I instantly noticed that the man at the gas station was right about the vandalism. Two stone pillars guarded the start of the short, level path to the cemetery and the one on the left had been broken and the top was missing.

Stepping out of the vehicle, I was immediately taken in by how quiet the area was. The silence gave me an eerie feeling but I shrugged it off as I walked back the path to the cemetery. On the wall was a stone with the name “Snyder Cemetery” carved into it. In front of it was a stone marker that gives a little bit of the history of the cemetery plus a short list of people known to be buried there, though there are supposedly twenty people buried here.

Looking over the wall, I shook my head at the condition of the family plot. The broken stones were hidden among the overgrown grass. I started to make my way around to the the entrance at the back of the cemetery when a large metallic bang filled the air, majorly startling me.

Looking around I realized that the gate into the cemetery had fallen off its hinges. Once my heart rate returned to normal and silence returned to the area, I walked around to look at the gate hanging from a rusty hinge.

After a couple of minutes of investigating it, the two pieces of wood on the ground beneath it gave me an idea what happened. The piece of wood that had been holding the broken gate in place had broken causing the gate to fall. It could have picked a better time to break than the moment I was almost next it.


Memorial for those buried within the cemetery
Located just out the cemetery walls
Though I believe that it was just a strange coincidence and nothing paranormal, I decided the gate falling was my sign not to enter the family plot. I fixed the gate as best as I could, putting one of the pieces of wood in place to hold it up.

Returning to the vehicle, I glanced around one more time and seeing nothing out of the ordinary on this trip, I decided it was definitely time to move on, leaving the area in silence.

If you choose to visit, please remember that his is a cemetery and those buried here should be paid the respect they deserve.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

13 Days of Halloween: The Fountain of Youth

Entrance to Penn's Cave
Postmarked 1967
Postcard part of the author's collection
Nestled in the heart of Brush Valley, Centre County, is America’s only all-water cavern, Penn’s Cave. Regionally, this is the place where school kids come for field trips and many are introduced to the world of Henry Shoemaker for the first time as tour guides recall the legend of Nita-nee and her lover Malachi Boyer.

The legend of Nita-nee is the most famous legend about Penn’s Cave, but it isn’t the only one that Henry Shoemaker recorded in his booklet Penn’s Grandest Cavern. In the shadow of the famous legend involving Nita-nee and Malachi Boyer is the story of Chief Wisamek and the fountain of youth.

The Seneca chief was a widower and in his sixties when the fair maiden Annapalpeteu caught his eye. Chief Wisamek was described as an old, wrinkled man with a beaked nose, colorless eyes, thin, blue lips, and a toothless mouth. Though he desired the young maiden, his small frame did not compare to the youthful warriors who also sought the attention of Annapalpeteu.

Wisamek made a week-long journey to visit the wise man Mbison who lived in the foothills of South Mountain. After meeting with the soothsayer, Wisamek was given a talisman of a red bear’s tooth with the picture of a youthful man etched onto it and was sent on another journey. This time Wisamek sought out Gamunk, the old man who guarded a fountain that would return the Indian chief to his youthful state.

The old chief discovered Gamunk at the edge of a water-filled cavern. The guardian of the fountain had snow-white hair, stood fully erect, and walked with a youthful stride, despite being an old, old man, possibly hundreds of years old.


Where the water comes out of the cave
Postcard part of the author's collection
Wisamek gave the talisman to Gumek and asked about the fountain that was to restore his youthfulness. Gamunk told the chief that the stories were true. If Wisamek spent a day and night in the waters of the cavern, without food, the chief’s youth would return. Chief Wisamek eagerly entered the cold waters and remained there until the next day. When he emerged from the waters, he had become a handsome young man.

He journeyed home to find his love, Annapalpeteu, sitting in front of the lodge of her parents. She wondered who this man was wearing the chief’s outfit. She soon discovered that this young man was her old friend Wisamek. The two soon fell in love and were married.

Despite being outwardly a young man inside Wisamek was still the old man he had been. While his young bride wanted to mingle with the other youth and have fun, Wisamek desired only to sit in front of his lodge and enjoy the sun while telling stories of his other life. Feeling that his young love was drifting away, Wisamek decided that he needed to return to the waters to restore youthfulness to his soul.

With his friends, Wisamek journeyed once again to the cave and its healing waters. When he arrived, he met Gamunk who was hesitant about allowing Wisamek to bathe in the healing waters again. Despite the guardian’s protests and the demand for a talisman, Wisamek pushed past and jumped into the cavern’s waters.

He remained there throughout the night and when the hour came for him to reemerge, he failed to return to the lodging of Gamunk. The group finally descended towards the cavern to discover nothing but the skin and bones of Wisamek: the waters that gave him youth during his first bathing had claimed his life with his second bathing. Wisamek’s remains were buried near the entrance of the cavern.


The Nittany Lion formation in Penn's Cave
Postmarked 1987
Postcard part of the author's collection
Of note: This is not the only spring that Shoemaker spoke about, claiming it had healing powers. Near the headwaters of Queen’s Run (also known as Quinn’s Run in Shoemaker’s story) that empties into the West Branch of the Susquehanna River, just north of Lock Haven, is a spring that he claims had healing properties. Early settlers discovered the powers of the spring after watching their cattle stand in the waters after being bitten by wolves.

The waters had an oily property to them and appeared in the pool as being blood red in color. At this spot the Indian princess Wulissah was murdered and her body was transformed into a spring that produced healing waters – at least according to Henry Shoemaker. The story of "The Healing Spring" can be found in his Black Forest Souvenirs.