Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Suscon Screamer

suscon screamer
The Suscon Screamer from Geo Caching

Underneath the former Susquehanna Railroad Bridge (also known as Boo-Boo Bridge or The Black Bridge) that once crossed Suscon Road lurks the legendary Suscon Screamer.

There's many a tale speculating just whose apparition haunts the area. One story has it spooked by the ghost of a woman jilted at the altar who with a loud scream hung herself from the bridge. Another says she was a teen killed on her prom night who's still trying to hitch a ride home. Yet another says it's a mother and child who died in a car crash while rushing to the local hospital. One more claims that it's cursed by the ghost of a girl that escaped from an insane asylum and leaped to her death off the bridge, landing in the traffic below.

Whichever version you prefer, a spectral lady has been spotted floating about in the nearby woods surrounding Suscon Road, scaring the pants off of generations of local spook seekers.

Then again, some say it's not a human's spirit that haunts Suscon at all. Some believe the eerie sound is the roar of a lion that escaped from a traveling circus (or maybe its' leonine spook after all these years.) Others say it's a half human, half pig swamp monster arising from the bogs.

A Times Leader newspaper story said that a hunter was in a tree stand off of Suscon Road when he heard something coming up over the hill. Then he heard another hunter in the next tree start screaming. That hunter jumped from the his stand and ran. Then our hero spotted the creature through his binoculars.

He described him to the paper as “Being about 6' long with a long snout. It weighed about 200 pounds and was gray in color. It had webbed feet with long claws and had a huge head”. The hunter refused to take the Game Commissioner back to the site because he was too frightened. The man also said “The ground was clawed up as if 100 turkeys had gone through”. He told the officer that he was sure it wasn’t a bear or a coyote; it was a “Monster”.

Here's a Screamer tale shared by one of our readers:
"I used to live by the now gone underpass bridge, and though not a believer in "spooks or ghosts," had experienced the scream one spring night along with my family. We were so terrified we had called the Pittston Twp. police because we thought someone was being murdered in the woods behind our home.

Only later in the night had the screamer idea been thought of after the police found nothing but a few neighbors who had also heard something. I only heard it once and that I will never forget. The spooky part of this story though is 2 weeks later, at 2:30 in the morning, my parents were jolted from bed with that same scream and it lasted a short 30 seconds or so..we never heard it again"

In May of 1976 a family had a different encounter of the spooky kind with an odd creature. They were visiting a nearby lake and saw a family of four, 6' tall, hairy critters looking a lot like Bigfeet wandering around. Maybe it's a Suscon Sasquatch.

Whatever it is, it's supposed to have the most piercing, ear splitting shriek in all of spookdom. Just honk your horn three times when you get under the old bridge site if you need proof. According to local lore, a spirit will appear a'screaming.

And one of readers, Phil, said while he and a friend, John, were exploring the area, they sighted orbs, heard the bang of metal, and the sound of a phantom train rolling down the long-dead tracks (although others have written to say that the train sounds are carried from tracks about a mile removed from the bridge.)

One final urban legend. There's supposed to be 18 streetlights on Suscon Road. Eleven are always out - and every night, it's a different eleven.

Don't limit yourself to the old Boo-Boo bridge site. There are a couple of tales specific to it, but the Screamer and at least one apparition have been reported roaming the general Suscon Road area. So keep your eyes open.

The Suscon Screamer's screech is featured in Charles Adams III and David Siebold's Pocono Ghosts Legends And Lore II.

(We've confirmed that the RR bridge doesn't exist anymore. Phil wrote and gave us these directions: To find the spot where the RR bridge used to be, head up Suscon Rd and drive about a half mile past Duddy Deli. On the right hand side will be a turn-around road, a small hill that you can drive up and quickly loops in a circle back onto Suscon Rd., just before the road to Gable Crest. It seems that the grated bridge in the gamelands may be one site for the Screamer; the old bridge site is where the woman's ghost is located, with an occasional guest appearance from the Screamer, who apparently gets around.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Penn State Poltergeists

Penn State

As long as we're on a creepy campus crawl, we might as well head to the heartland. Penn State was founded in 1855 as the Agricultural College of Pennsylvania. In 1882 school president George Atherton added engineering to the fledgling school's offerings and Penn State took off. By then, the school had become the Pennsylvania State College. It earned university status in 1953 and now has tens of thousands of students yelling "Here we go Lions, here we go" on its' 24 statewide campuses. It's most famous ghost can be seen haunting the sidelines every Saturday at Beaver Stadium...ooops, my bad. That's not an old apparition, that's Joe Paterno. But rest assured the school boasts of many other spooks roaming the campus.

Atherton Hall:
Named in honor of Frances Atherton, the hall opened in the 1930s as a girl's dorm and now houses scholars and international students. It has a pair of reported spooks roaming its' halls. One of them is "Gumshoes", a former house mother. Students can still hear the distinctive creaking of her shoes as she paces the halls, keeping an eagle eye on her girls. The other is Frances herself, whose spirit has been spotted floating along the halls late at night. She must make a quick run to the hall whenever she takes a break from haunting Old Botany. A reader added another little bit of lore: "I lived in Atherton Hall in 2005...and I used to get a creepy feeling in my room all the time. I heard a rumor about someone dying in the elevator shaft, directly next to my room. Anyways, there is definitely something weird going on there."

Beam Hall:
Built in 1975, the old dorm was converted into business offices, and then converted back to dorms again. Campus legend has it that the dorm was originally shut down because of poltergeist activity coming from a second floor loo. A man supposedly hung himself in there from an overhead pipe and his spook has been raising havoc since. Once it become offices, the ghostie reportedly behaved himself. But the pipe is still there, and it's a dorm again...

Brumbaugh Hall: This is a collegiate urban legend brought about by psychic Jeanne Dixon. She once predicted that there would be a mass murder in the tallest female dorm of an eastern university (she later denied she meant PSU) and since then upperclassmen have delighted in spooking the frosh by telling them of a rumored midnight visit on Halloween by an ax murderer in Brumbaugh. Urban legend or not, it's said many freshmen decide to spend Halloween night anywhere but at Brumbaugh.

Ghost Walk: This tree lined path once led to the doors of the Old Botany Building. It's said that a student was caught on the walk in a sudden blizzard and froze to death in the 1860s, and his spirit since has been reportedly seen there by other warm blooded students. The Ghost Walk is now gone. It's site was used to build the Burrowes Building. His spook hasn't been seen since, now that it's presumably warm and toasty inside the new building.

Ihlseng Cottage:, The cottage, built in 1898, was a residence, a hospital, and now hosts offices of the Institute for Arts and Humanities. One of our readers relates this tale: "I used to work there... on the third floor, and one night I was there after hours to meet a deadline and heard what I thought was my neighbor across the hall working. It was a male voice, clear as day. When I was leaving I checked, no one else was in the building, and my neighbor was actually traveling that week." So maybe we have one more hard-working spirit on campus.

Keller Building: There were reports of activity here in the 1990s, when a student left his room screaming because of a presence in his bed. When he returned with the RA, the door had locked, and the sounds of a poltergeist ransacking the room could be heard through the door. This may be related to a student that committed suicide there.

Old Botany Building: The spook of Frances Atherton, wife of old president George Atherton, is said to keep an eye on him from the attic of Old Botany, built in 1909. She's supposedly been sighted looking out the attic's front window towards Schwab Auditorium where George's grave is located. She's also been reported to be seen swaying in her rocker, tending to her knitting. The lights have been seen spotted going on and off in the locked room, footsteps have been heard, and electrical devices malfunction. Once the staff posed for a picture in front of Old Botany. When it was developed, a stranger was seen looking out the upstairs window of the supposedly empty building. The building was investigated on A&E's Paranormal State series with the Penn State Paranormal Research Society in early 2007.

George Atherton
George Atherton's tomb from Wikipedia

Old Coaly: Old Coaly was one of the pack mules used when Penn State was being built in the 1850s. When he died he was the last of the original mule team, and his skeleton was put on exhibit at Old Main. A fire there caused the university to store him in the cellar of Watts Hall, a dorm. He was later put back on display at the Agricultural Building in the 1960s, and Old Coaly apparently didn't like being moved again. It's said that you could hear his braying coming from the basement, and he was even was spotted standing outside the storage area and on the first floor. Current Watt's RAs and residents haven't heard Old Coaly lately. Now that's he's been in one place for awhile and had a campus eatery named after him, he may be satisfied with his lot. But we all know how stubborn a mule can get...

Patee Library: The basement stacks at Pattee are alleged to be haunted by the ghost of Betsy Aardsma, who was murdered there in 1969. The crime was never solved. People have a sense of presence there, things get moved around, and one student claimed to feel someone grab her neck. Other phenomena have been reported that aren't thought to be of Betsy's doings. Screams have been heard from the subbasement and shadowy female forms & glowing red eyes have been seen in the library. The spooks have reportedly either disappeared into a mist or exited by walking through Pattee's walls.

Pollock Laptop Library:
Tales of a spirit roaming the East Side study area and voices heard when the library was empty have been reported from Pollock Library.

Runkle Hall: The Hall, a dorm built in 1957, has almost as many spooks as residents. The third floor is especially active, with lots of poltergeist activity. One girl had her TV constantly switching to an all Spanish channel among other things like locking and unlocking doors, flickering lights, electronics that turn on and off and objects being thrown off of the walls. They broke out the ouija board, and sure enough - the answers were spelled out in Spanish, and the board told them they shared their room with 11 spirits, the first example of Latino ghosts in the state that we're aware of. The study lounge is called the "ghost room" because of the loud bangs, rearranged furniture, opening, closing, and self-locking doors and other phenomena emanating from it. One student saw an old lady's spook sitting in her rocker at the end of the hall.

Scwab Auditorium: Former president George Atherton is buried just outside the auditorium, and his spook is supposedly inside. He's thought to be a friendly ghost, watching over the collegiate actors and occasionally moving the curtains. Reportedly his spirit has both been seen and heard. Charles Schwab, who donated a large chunk of the money used to build the auditorium in 1903 is said to be the ghost that watches performances from the seats. A seat will go down, as if someone's sitting in it, and later rise when it leaves. The actors are convinced that it's "Schwaboo the Ghost" watching the show. Other apparitions have been reported from the hall. One of them was wearing a Revolutionary War uniform. Another duo, an adult and child, have been reported floating above the stage.

charles schwab
Charles "Schwaboo the Ghost" Schwab
from Gutenberg E Books

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Franklin & Marshall's Haunted Halls

old main f&m
Old Main from Franklin and Marshall College

Sticking with our spooky school motif, today we'll visit Lancaster County. Franklin College in Lancaster was founded by Ben Franklin and some others in 1787. Forty years later, Marshall College was established in Mercersburg by Supreme Court Justice John Jay Marshall. They merged in 1853 and kept the Lancaster site. It broke ties with the Reformed Church at the end of WW2 and F&M became a secular liberal arts school. In 1969, it took the final plunge and became coeducational. Fittingly, its' first classroom was a former brewery. Ben insisted. And a stiff one may be called for if you ever come across one of F&M's many campus ghosties. Here's some of its' haunted houses:

Barshinger Center For the Performing Arts:
Built in 1926 as Hensel Hall, the college venue for performing arts, it's said that if you're on stage at night and the house lights are out, you can see two glowing orbs floating slowly back and forth in the rear of the auditorium.

Bonchek College House: Also known as South Benjamin Franklin Hall, this dorm is reportedly haunted by the spirit of a student that committed suicide in her room in the 1970s after losing it while trying to keep up with her studies. It's said that during the fall final exam period that you can hear her scream. Her apparition then takes to the halls, carrying a physics book, no less, and it's been alleged that fresh blood will puddle in her old room.

Diagnothian Hall: Built in 1856, Diagonthian is now used by the Registrar's Office and has an upstairs lecture hall. It was used as a Civil War hospital, as many college buildings in the area were, especially with its' proximity to Gettysburg. The hospital days seem to be the key to its' haunts. People have heard doors slamming and other phenomena such as a feeling of presence when working alone, but period music seems to trigger one spirit. A professor in his office one night played "Red Cross Nurse" on his stereo, and heard the moans and the rattling of a person in intense pain coming from the lobby on the other side of the wall - the former site of the hospital ward. Years later, he had the same result when playing "Haunted Landscape." I wonder how much moaning there'd be if the prof played some rap music?

Distler House:
Distler was built in 1891 as a gym, and its' noisy spooks seem to be remnants of those days. The spirits make themselves known by sound rather than sight. Students on the upper floors hear sounds they liken to squirrels running in circles - right where the indoor track used to be. Other students in the TV room - the Old Gym is the student union & personnel offices now - report hearing sounds of rough housing and physical activity. The TV room is where the school held its' wrestling matches before the Biesecker Gym was built. The sounds are usually heard late during the night, between 11:30PM-1:30AM, and are heard repeatedly during the evening.

Old Main: Old Main was built in 1853 to accomodate the Franklin & Marshall merger. It was built over the old gallows hill, where Lancaster criminals were hung, but the ghost here resides in the bell tower. The bell will sometimes ring of its' own accord in the middle of the night.

Shadek-Fackenthal Library:
The library was built in 1937, and has the usual phenomena of elevators stopping at the wrong floors and books being dumped from the shelves. But the library's best known spooky bookworm is reported to be Dr. Harvey Bassler, who died in 1950. He's been sighted many times in his third floor corner, a "little old man" stooped over his love, the Pennsylvania Dutch collection. He's considered a benevolent, protective spirit. His sightings have gone way down since library renovations of the early 1980s, but continued phenomena in his corner of the library makes the old timers believe that Harvey's ghost is still there.

Wohlsen House:
Now the admissions office, Wohlsen was built in 1929 as the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house. The legend is that one of the Lambda Chi's fell down the cellar steps and killed himself. You can reportedly hear doors slamming, lights going off, and a loud bang on the stairs as the spook relives his fatal fall. His ghost has been spotted in the basement. The folks call the spirit Bob. When the poltergeist pranks such as shutting off the lights get to be too much for the people in the building, they just yell out "Knock it off, Bob," and everything returns to normal.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Pitt Spirits

Cathedral of Learning from Pittsburgh Recreation

From its' humble beginnings in a log cabin still shown on campus in 1787, Pitt has grown into a huge institution known for its' research. But its' scientists still haven't figured out how to get the ghosts to move off campus.

Alumni Hall: Built in 1915, this building was the Masonic Hall. Now it's home for various Pitt offices. Unspecified eerie happenings occur there.

Bruce Hall:
There's some confusion about the identity of the ghost of Bruce Hall, named for chancellor Robert Bruce. Bruce Hall was once the Schenley apartments (it's now a dorm in the Quad), and it's owner, who lived on the 12th floor, was involved in an affair. The tale starts with suicide by hanging in the stairwell, or perhaps a leap from the rooftop, or both – whether the mistress, wife, or both took their life is uncertain – and ends in hazardous duty for the Pitt catering crew. The ghost, nicknamed Harriet (they even hang a Christmas stocking out for her), likes to pull poltergeist tricks on the banquet staff. She'll toss napkins off the table, bang cabinet doors, and jumble the place settings. But other than scaring the aprons off the workers (especially when it's night, and they're alone), she seems fairly tame and content to spook the Banquet Hall (officially, the floor is home to the Office of Special Events). At any rate, there's a fairly well documented ghost on the 12th floor of Bruce Hall, doing her best to disrupt the staff. Oh, and be careful with the elevator – sometimes it'll take you to the 12th floor no matter what button you pushed, and keep you there for awhile.

Cathedral of Learning:
Mary Croghan Schenley is said to roam the Nationality Rooms. The doors to the rooms are locked every night, but Mary likes to rearrange the rooms to her liking every so often, as the daylight staff discovers. Sometimes she'll set a chandelier swinging to announce her presence. She also likes to frequent the Ballroom, which consists of two rooms taken from her childhood home (the Croghan Mansion, built in Stanton Heights in 1820) and transported in their entirety to the Cathedral.

Early American Nationality Room:
This room is reportedly haunted by the spirit of Martha Jane Poe (yes, she is related to Edgar Allen, although I'm not sure of the relationship). Several artifacts of hers are part of the permanent exhibit. Her quilt can be found turned, with impressions in the pillows, as if someone was sleeping there. The aroma of freshly baked bread sometimes fills the room, and the custodian watched the baby cradle rock itself one night. A radio station tried to meet Martha by spending the night in the room, but she locked them downstairs first. Not too surprisingly, the curator of the Nationality Room is Martha's granddaughter, Maxine Bruhns. She tried to make peace with her nana by staying in the room overnight, on Martha's wedding anniversary. She got a water bottle tossed at her for her efforts and left, saying “Grandma, you can have this damn room”. But Martha has to share the room. There's also a story of an old German carpenter haunting the same room, in search of his lost wife.

Lillian Russell Room:
437 William Pitt Union, formerly the Schenley Hotel, is known as the Lillian Russell Room because she lived on the fourth floor while in Pittsburgh. She eventually married a Pittsburgher at the hotel, lived out her remaining years in Point Breeze, and is buried in Homewood Cemetery. Apparently she liked the hotel so much, she decided to stay – forever.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

The Buck Hill Inn

Buck Hill Inn
The Buck Hill Inn

Built in 1901 by Quakers as a 20 room mountain retreat in Monroe County, the Buck Hill Inn grew into the biggest resort in the Poconos with a four story hotel made of stone and 270 rooms. It eventually closed in 1991 and sits deserted and partially burned out now, waiting on its' fate - either restoration or the wrecking ball. In its' heyday, violence, murder and suicide along with other assorted mayhem were well known within its' walls.

It was supposed to be a place that the Mob liked to frequent, and the owners were more than willing to bend a rule or three themselves. It's said that in 66 years of operation, 73 people died at the hotel. Five, in fact, died in one room, #354.

A bride named Lorna Kilpatrick was murdered there by the very priest that married her the day before at the resort. He committed suicide, and Lorna's ghost has haunted the room ever since. A maid slit her wrists in there while clutching a rosary. People refused to stay in the room because of the constant freezing cold, doors that wouldn't stay shut - and the ghosts. The hotel had to shut the room permanently.

There's a small room in the basement that's spooked by the spirit of an accountant who was supposedly murdered there. He was cooking the books and the owner found out. One bathroom saw three murders committed in it, and was haunted by a ghost evoked in a seance gone haywire. It had to be exorcised, and poltergeist activity still took place in the restroom.

A maid's closet was the scene of a strangulation, and it was said you could hear the maid gasp and her labored breathing and death rattle afterwards. The spook of an elderly soldier in an old uniform was reported wandering in the servants quarter's on the third floor. He has a gaping hole in his chest from a musket wound. He once strolled through a garden party and then vanished.

An Indian spirit has been seen roaming the area, too. In fact, the Native Americans believed the whole area was evil and populated with spirit shamans and creatures. Certain psychics agree, saying the East Room is the center of lay lines that mark evil. It may be. One owner's wife used to sleep in a room where the lines converged. She ended up schizophrenic.

There are also lots of poltergeist activities. One guard said during his nightly rounds lights would go on and doors open in buildings that he had secured earlier. Some guests reported hearing voices, shaking beds, opening and shutting widows, electrical devices going off on their own, and ghost sightings - even of spooks hovering over their bed. It was featured on MTV's Fear series, and Kelly Weaver, Paraseek investigator, was part of the show.

The site has been investigated, both privately and by ghost hunting groups, and they've collected photos and EVPs they claim support Buck Hill's paranormal lore.

However, we've also received several comments from former staff members of the old Inn, and they say the stories are all news to them. They've never heard of any murders or spooks associated with the Buck Hill, with several suspecting that the MTV show initiated its lore, and say several incidents were just college kids who worked there playing around after hours. But they do agree that the complex is thick with memories, if not spirits, and in one voice hope that it's restored again to its former glory.