Friday, November 2, 2007

Dead Man's Hollow

image from the Allegheny Land Trust

Dead Man's Hollow is a 400 acre nature preserve in Boston, between Elizabeth Township and Lincoln. It's crossed with steep paths and deep gullies intersecting throughout its' woodlands. There are many remnants of old industrial plants littered across its' landscape.

But more importantly to our ghost tale, it was the site of several unnatural deaths in years past. Every autumn, a ghost makes its' presence felt in the Hollow, rustling through the fallen leaves and making eerie sounds. The mystery is whose spirit it is. There's a long list of interesting candidates to choose from.

In 1874, a group of boys found a man hanging from a tree. Some say the lynching was the result of backwoods justice, others the work of the KKK. Yet others say the man was actually a woman; some claim it was a Native American whose ghost has been spotted on the Youghiogheny River. One version of the tale claims that a baby cries for the victim at night, when the moon comes out. It could be that this unfortunate soul is the Ghost of Dead Man's Hollow, seen haunting the woods since the turn of the century.

But the cast of characters doesn't end there. In 1881, shopkeeper Robert McClure was gunned down chasing the robbers of his McKeesport general store. Ward McConkey was hung for the crime, seven years after the fact. He claimed he didn't do it, and his last words were “Goodbye, all you murderers." Many believe his innocent soul returns to curse those who killed him.

In 1887, Edward Woods drowned in the Youghiogheny River, and his body washed ashore at Dead Man's Hollow. His death was ruled accidental, but many suspected foul play. Could he be the Hollow's resident spirit?

In 1905, Mike Sacco, working in the local Union Sewer Pipe plant, was crushed in an elevator accident. Maybe it's his spirit that's still roaming the area.

Another story has two bank robbers splitting their loot in the Hollow after pulling off a heist in Clairton. One shot the other. Perhaps the cheated thief is still around, searching for his cut of the ill gotten swagger.

Of course, the Hollow had its' share of other mishaps - an earthquake, a lightning strike that caused a derrick of the Snee Oil Company to explode and catch fire, and floods. Maybe our spook met his or her end during one of those disasters.

Another long-reported phenomena is that of the sound of small children laughing in the woods; there's no background tale we can find for the cause of those claims.

Even odder, Dead Man's Hollow has its' own mythical creature – a late 19th century news article said a snake, 30-40' feet long with a 2-3' head was seen slithering through the Hollow. Not too surprisingly, the Hollow was also a haven for moonshiners and their stills. Maybe the snake was a white lightning induced hallucination.

There's only one thing we can be certain of - the name “Dead Man's Hollow” rings undeniably true.

Karen Frank has written a book titled "Dead Man's Hollow: An Oral History and More" concerning the lore and trails of the Hollow. And for everything you could want to know about the Hollow, click on Dead Man's


DMH Fellowship said...

From the official Dead Man's Hollow website...

Great Job! A very accurate description of one of Allegheny County's Most Haunted places.
Only two corrections should be noted.

Correction #1 - The statement that Mike Sacco's death occured at the Bowman Brick Works is incorrect. The accident happened at the Union Sewer Pipe factory. The Bowman Brick Works burned down seven years prior to Sacco's untimely demise. The factory was later rebuilt and renamed. During this time, a five story building with an elevator was constructed. Sacco died in an elevator accident. The Bowman Brick Works did not have a building with an elevator.

Correction #2 - The lightning strike did not occur at Youghiogheny Brick Company. It actually happened on the ridge above Dead Man's Hollow at a derrick belonging to the Snee Oil Company.

These facts can be confirmed with the McKeesport Heritage Center.

For a detailed look at the lore of Dead Man's Hollow, please visit today!

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks, guys. Fixed them up. Great site!

Anonymous said...

Having 'known' a few 'shine runners......I don't think the snake was a hallucination, but more of a 'well placed suggestion' to keep unwanted hikers, neighbors and 'revenuers' from poking around where they weren't wanted. Tell enough highly suggestive people the snake tale and not only does the tale spread but the snake grows as well.

Anonymous said...

I've never been there, but I'd guess that the sound of kids laughing in the woods is actually fisher cats. They can often sound like a woman screaming for her life or a couple of kids playing.

Anonymous said...

I live up over the hill from Dead Man's Hollow in Liberty Boro. If you drive up to the end of Orchard Drive and park, you can take the path to the right down a hill to Dead Man's Hollow. But, if you walk down the hill, you have to walk back up to get to your car. It is a nice, scenic walk to enjoy nature. I was actually in the factory ruins and heard a squeaky wheel turning, but could not determine the direction of the sound. The dog was pulling me out of there. I do believe it to be haunted as I have lived in Liberty Boro for 60 years.

thomas p ganley said...

A friend of mine and me both over 50 yrs of age were in deadmans hollow today at 6pm when my friend saw a youg child stop at a distance then turn around and run back toward the main trail. When we inquired with other people on the main trail they never saw the boy exit from Dead Mans Hollow