Saturday, August 30, 2008

Moonshine Church & Cemetery

Raber's tombstone from Charles Kindt

Indiantown Gap, in Lebanon County, is the home to the Moonshine Church and Cemetery. There are so many spooks haunting the boneyard that you need a scorecard to keep up with them all.

The most commonly associated phenomena involving Moonshine is that car engines will die as you drive past and unexplained eerie noises heard throughout the grounds. But there's lots more.

There's the legend of a girl who went into the church and said the Lord's Prayer backwards - and was struck dead by lightning. Another tale, unsupported by any local media reports, was that a mother had a nervous breakdown and killed her four kids there before committing suicide in the 1980s.

The small church itself is fairly new, being built in 1961 after the original structure was destroyed by a fire. Hey, who knows - the blaze may have been caused by the same bolt that got the impious young lady. That would be some sweet spooky irony.

It's said that the area is haunted by a headless horseman who, according to regional lore, has been spotted riding up and down the Lebanon Valley. Then there's the ghost most feared by the locals, an Indian spook known as the Red Devil. Several spirits of Native Americans have been reported roaming the cemetery.

The most famous spook may be that of Joseph Raber, the victim drowned by the "blue eyed six" murder gang for insurance money and buried at Moonshine.

When Kelly Weaver of the Paraseekers contacted his spirit while investigating the cemetery, the former laborer expressed amazement that he was being paid so much attention in death when he had so little of it in life.

BTW, none of the perps are haunting the cemetery or are in fact anywhere near it. Five were hung in the Lebanon County jail, and one, George Zechman, was acquitted, dying at home. The six involved were all buried separately by their families elsewhere in the county.

Israel Brandt and Charles Drews are buried side by side in the veteran's section of Mt. Lebanon Cemetery in Lebanon. Josiah Hummel and Zechman are buried at Sattazahn Lutheran Church Cemetery in Union Township. Henry Wise is buried at Evangelical United Brethren Church Cemetery in the village of Green Point. Frank Stichler is buried in the family plot on McLean Road, now within the bounds of Ft. Indiantown Gap, although some say at least one of the killers and maybe others were later reburied at the cemetery.

If there are a pair of blue eyes floating around or peering from the steeple, as often reported, they must belong to another spook or maybe to Raber himself.

Weaver's group also found several spirits roaming the grounds, confirming the tales, at least to the paranormal community.

And if you were wondering, the church grounds weren't named for white lightning but for a local family, the Moonshines, many of whom are buried in the cemetery. The land for the Moonshine Cemetery was donated by Henry Moonshine, who was born in 1760 and died in 1836.

There are "no trespassing" signs posted, so don't plan on any midnight visits unless you're willing to risk your trip concluding in an Indiantown Gap jail cell.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Duffy's Cut Update

H&H has had a couple of folk ask us about the status of the Duffy's Cut project, since it seems to have stalled out last August. We went straight to the horse's mouth, Immaculata U's expert Dr. William Watson, one of the authors of The Ghosts of Duffy's Cut, to find out what's going on with the dig, and he was kind enough to respond by e-mail:

Hello Ron — thanks very much for the note, and for posting the information on your web site.

Up to now, we have been able to procure the necessary science (GPR, magnetometry, etc) only by specialists donating an afternoon or a day or two. Last summer, we had a geoscientist from UPenn named Dr. Tim Bechtel out at the site for a week, and we were close to locating the mass grave, but when he left due to work constraints, we were unable to proceed.

We have continued to find personal items from the men at the site, like utensils, buttons, and clay pipe fragments.

We have not been able to secure any funding to pay for the continual assistance of the scientific specialists until now. This summer, we received 2 grants from Immaculata University to pay for further GPR and other scientific testing at the site, and we hope that this fall will be productive.

We are eagerly awaiting the word from Dr. Bechtel on his return.


Dr. William Watson

He dropped us another line Tuesday:
Ron -

By coincidence, as I was driving home yesterday, Tim Bechtel’s office called to confirm that he will be out on Friday to help us out. We’ll keep our fingers crossed. He seems confident.



So it looks like the Duffy's Cut Project is back on track. Maybe we can finally point those restless Irish spirits towards the light.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Polly Williams and White Rock


Near Fairchance, in Fayette County, there's a precipice called White Rock. It's a lover's leap where New Salem's 18 year old Polly Williams met her doom in 1810, according to centuries-old local lore.

The story goes that a neighborhood rich dude, Phillip Rodgers, had promised to take her as his wife, but kept putting her off. Wanting to become an honest woman, Polly pressed the issue. He finally told her to see him at the top of White Rock late one night.

It was their favorite meeting spot, but when their last conversation there was overheard, in bits and pieces through the evening breeze, it wasn't lovers cooing, but an argument about their wedding.

Some versions say that the debate ended when he pushed her to her death; others claim she jumped in frustration at Rodger's betrothal betrayal. Deep scratches in the stone from her fingers supposedly remain along the edge of the sandstone cliff.

The next day, her father found her body on the rocks of White Rock Hollow below, shattered after plunging 60 feet through the air. Rodgers took off and joined the army.

But he returned to the scene of the crime after the war, according to one version, and filled with remorse over William's fate, took the leap himself as told in Charles Skinner's Myths and Legends of Our Own Land.

In Ceane O'Hanlon-Lincoln's yarn, written up in County Chronicles, the cad Rodgers was tried in court and found innocent, since no one could prove whether he actually did the dirty deed or she leaped to her own demise.

Her grave is located in Little White Rock's Methodist Cemetery on Hopwood-Fairchance Road, and its epitaph reads:

"Polly Williams 1792 - 1810

Behold with pity you that pass by
Here do the bones of Polly Williams lie
Who was cut off in tender bloom
By a vile wretch, her pretended groom."

Not much doubt about which story the locals bought into, hey? But the tale wasn't quite over. It's said Polly still haunts the cliff, searching for her lover, through its fog and mist. Even in the afterlife, she won't rest until she's wearing that diamond ring.

A reader posted that "White Rocks is now owned by the Pennsylvania DCNR. It is State land open to the public. There is an access gate across from the Little Whiterock Church. No parking though, so park across at the cemetery, and you can also see Polly's gravesite."

White Rock has always ben a fairly popular site for rock hounds & hikers, so feel free to take a climb and see if Polly is still looking for love.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Byers-Lyons Mansion

byer-lyons mansion

Byers-Lyons Mansion from Waymarking

Alexander Byers made his fortune in iron piping and had a huge home designed with two separate wings. Like any proper robber baron of the era, he had his mansion built along Ridge Avenue's "Millionaires Row" in 1898 in Allegheny City (now part of Pittsburgh's Allegheny West neighborhood).

He, his wife and their children occupied one side, while his daughter Maude and her husband, John Lyon, and their children lived on the other. Maude was a social activist of the times, and often left her kids in the care of a nanny while out doing good, which irked her dad no end. A woman's place and all that...

In 1902, Byer's 4-year old granddaughter died when she crawled atop a skylight and fell to her death when the glass broke, as her German nanny napped. The next day, the nanny hung herself from the stairwell.

It's said in one version of the tale that the ghost of the little girl watched her as she swung above the steps, witnessed when the body was discovered.

Before she tied the noose, she wrote “Please don't blame me” in the dust on the stairwell (apparently the cleaning lady was no more conscientious than the nanny.)

Byers never spoke to his daughter after that, of course blaming Maude for leaving the child in the care of a nanny instead of watching her herself. There had been many sightings of the girl since and the sounds of her crying (though none of Byers, who is probably still humbugging Maude in the netherworld).

The nanny has also been spotted, running up the stairs or walking hand-in-hand with the little girl. Sometimes the "thud" of her falling body can be heard. And every time the house is cleaned, the nanny's message is seen again, scrawled in the dust.

The 90-room manse is now Byers Hall, serving as Community College of Allegheny County's student union building and administrative offices. When CCAC removed the skylight in 1990, sightings of the granddaughter ceased. But the nanny is still around, serving an eternal penance for one brief moment of inattention.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

One Less Witness

witness tree
The Witness Tree from Gettysburg Battlefield

Gettysburg 'witness tree' falls during storm
Saturday, August 09, 2008
The Associated Press

One of the few remaining "witness trees" to the Battle of Gettysburg cracked in a storm and fell, National Park Service officials said.

Standing on Cemetery Hill, 150 feet from the platform on which President Lincoln delivered the Gettysburg Address, the massive honey locust tree fell Thursday evening.

The tree, which stood on the right side of the Union lines, "was there as a silent witness -- to the battle, to the aftermath, to the burials, to the dedication of the cemetery," park historian John Heiser said.

"I have no doubt that Union soldiers sat under it for all three days of the battle," he said.

On the second day of the bloody Civil War battle, "if it was high enough at the time, it would have been able to see the battle of Culp's Hill," Mr. Heiser said.

On July 3, 1863, as Gen. George E. Pickett sent his Virginia division across an open field toward the Union line, the tree "would have been able to see the Union guns there on the crest of Cemetery Hill firing at Pickett's men," Mr. Heiser said.

"And, looking to the south, it could have seen the entire Union line, stretching from Cemetery Hill to the Round Tops."

Park maintenance officials will assess what to do with what remains of the tree.

"When it's something this bad, it's highly doubtful that a tree like that can survive," Mr. Heiser said.

Mr. Heiser said he knows of only three other witness trees that still stand in the heart of the battlefield.

"It's a shame when you lose the last living entities on this battlefield," he said. "Nothing lives forever, unfortunately."

There are only four certain witnesses to the haunts and history of Gettysburg of July 1-3, 1863. And now there may be one less.

Carbon County Jail Lifers

Carbon County Jail from Delaware and Lehigh Organization

Formerly the lock-up of Mauch Chunk (now Jim Thorpe) in Carbon County, the foreboding 1871 cold stone building reopened in 1995 as the Old Jail Museum. It still contains 72 rooms, including 28 cells, eerie dungeons and the warden’s apartment.

Seven men where hanged inside the jail, accused of being Molly Maguires. And there are more spooky things inside than Alexander Campbell's eternal handprint.

A man was accused of murdering his brother, and despite his claims of innocence, he was subsequently convicted and sentenced to life in prison. The man swore revenge. He was sent to state prison, and no one thought much of his threat until one night when the man hung himself in his cell.

His suicide note said that he was going to haunt the Carbon County jail, where he was held during his trial, forever to protest his unjust verdict. He would scratch his name "Niehoff" on the floor outside of Cell 2 to remind everyone of the injustice.

According to local lore, the name appeared and is still there. Inmates and guards claimed that every year, on the anniversary of his suicide, his spirit could be heard scratching on the floor of the jail, in front of Cell 2.

There are some other strange reports, like from the Jail library. It's said that visitors feel like they're walking uphill in this small room.

The dungeon in the jail basement is generally off limits to tour groups, but it's said that if you try to enter, you'll experience a feeling of dread so powerful that it stops many people dead in their tracks. That's where the prisoners were kept in isolation. Apparently, they still don't want bothered.

A few tourists have even reported seeing four bodies still swing from the gallows inside the prison, spirit reenactments of the restless Molly Maguires unable to find peace after all these years.

Finally, there's the upper cell block, which has a circular balcony that looks down onto the lower floor. The museum owner claims that many folk feel something "strange" in front of a cell in the left corner, similar to the sense of anxiety experienced in the dungeon.

Some visitors reported hearing voices, and others reported being pushed or touched. Others swear they've spotted a couple of orbs floating around the hoosegow.

You just can't parole some jailbirds. They stay in stir forever.

Betty Lou McBride wrote a book detailing the visitors' strange experiences at the jail she and her husband Tom own, called Ghosts of the Molly Maguires?

Friday, August 1, 2008

Lafayette's Haunted Halls

Van Wickle Hall from The Council of Independent Colleges

Whew! Our road trip finally takes us back to haunt sweet haunt, Pennsylvania. And just in time too, with the price of gas - now there's something that's scary.

And hey, leave one college, head for another. Ghosts just love the books. Here's a paranormal peek at Lafayette College:

Opened in 1826 by the good citizens of Easton, the school was named for General Lafayette, then on a farewell tour. In 1832, Lafayette College acquired nine acres of land on Bushkill Creek in Northampton County and has been there ever since.

Formally named "Mt. Lafayette," the rise soon became known as "College Hill." Today the campus boasts about 100 acres of land and more than 60 buildings, as well as various outlying properties and structures on College Hill and elsewhere. The total enrollment is about 2,300 - and a few have been there for quite awhile.

Van Wickle Memorial Library: In 1963, Van Wickle Hall became home to the geology department. It was built in 1899-1900 as a library, and was named for Augustus S. Van Wickle, the Romanesque building's benefactor.

The old library sports a ghost in the basement. It's the shade of a prof that died in a classroom, and he makes himself known by creating a cacophony of eerie sounds.

There are quite a few students that won't study in Van Wickle alone because of the ruckus he raises. It's just too hard to concentrate with all that spooky racket.

McKelvy House: The McKelvy House, originally the John Eyerman residence (he was a grad and later a prof), was built by McKim, Meade and White in 1888 on High Street overlooking the Delaware River. It was given to Lafayette by the heirs of Trustee Francis G. McKelvy in 1960.

It's spook is "Lady White", Bessie Smith White, the architect's wife, whose portrait hangs in the house. And she isn't an equal opportunity ghost - she only goes for the men. Though the Whites didn't live there, it's where Bessie decided to flirt eternally.

Her husband was the architect Stanford White, who was famously shot by Harry Thaw after canoodling with his wife, Evelyn Nesbit. Two can play at that game.

Pardee Hall: The earliest intact building on campus was designed in 1872, completed the following year, and named after Ario Pardee, who donated $250,000 for its construction.

It originally housed the college's scientific departments, and is now home to most of Lafayette's humanities and social science offices. It was victim to two fires, one set by a disgruntled prof. He decided to hang around after shuffling off this mortal coil to let his displeasure with academia be known forever.

If you're looking for the mad professor's favorite haunt, it's said to be the 5th floor. Watch for some bright lights flickering along the top floor. That's supposed to be his favorite way of showing himself.

There are also alleged creepy going-ons in the extensive tunnel system that runs under the Lafayette complex.

Most of the school buildings are interconnected, and while the stories associated with the underground network are fairly generic and usually credited to noisy utility lines, a powerful aura of spookiness is attributed to them by the students.

Show up for the annual Halloween tour of the tunnels to hear some eerie variations on a spectral theme.

Oddly, though General Lafayette is said to haunt half of Philadelphia, his spook hasn't been spotted at his namesake school. Hey! Maybe he's in the tunnels.