Friday, April 24, 2009

Splish Splash

Spanglers Spring

Spangler's Spring in Gettysburg has a couple of tales associated with it, and oddly, the star spook has nothing to do with the bloody battle.

The first story dates a couple of decades beyond the Gettysburg conflict, to the 1880s. A woman met her lover boy at the spring, their favorite trysting spot, and the cad told her that the relationship was over. Distraught, she killed herself then and there, dying in his arms. (Talk about your messy break-ups.)

Another version claims she killed herself after she realized her married Romeo wasn't going to leave his wife. It's said that she still roams the spring area with a broken heart, known to the neighbors as the "Lady in White."

Two nurses that went ghost hunting, according to local lore, found her one night. They heard a popping sound, followed by a rising mist from behind a tree that morphed into the Lady in White. One woman felt deep sadness and the other felt crippling fear. Neither feeling was very comforting; they both skedaddled and never looked back.

It's also said that there have been sightings of rebel soldiers in the area. Spangler's Spring was the site of heavy combat during Gettysburg, although according to legend, the thirsty troops on both sides would allow one another a temporary cease fire during the two-day bloodfest so they could take turns at having a water break.

It looks like a couple of the troops are still around, drawing on their only source of solace during the slaughter.

The spring is a popular tourist spot, and the Park Service was forced to cap it because the visitors were so numerous that they collapsed the banks. So now, for all intents and purposes, it's a grotto with a railing around it. But hey, it's still home to the Lady in White and her gray buddies, and that's good enough for us.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Mansion House

The Mansion House from Ghost Tours of Phoenixville

The historic Phoenixville eaterie, now known as the Pickering Creek Inn, was first opened in 1842. It's across the tracks from the banks of the Schuylkill River by French Creek, at the end of Bridge Street's Restaurant Row.

It was a stop on the Underground RR and housed such illustrious guests as the Sundance Kid, Harry Longabaugh, who had a home in nearby Mont Clare. It was also a departure point for Union soldiers during the Civil War, and one them, Jeremy, is still there and stars as its' most famous spook. He was allegedly shot to death there.

The long-haired soldier is best known for his trick of spinning a single rose that sits in a vase, and he's also been known to have conversations with the guests. And he's not alone.

Workmen renovating the building in 2002 found a couple of sealed rooms, closed off before electricity was run into the House, filled with antiques and the smell of smoke from a long-ago fire (There have been several at the Mansion House over its history). Among the old things discovered in the dusty rooms may have been ghosts upset at being disturbed for the first time in over a century.

Some workers refused to continue on the job after knick-knacks flew off the shelves at them, the scents of cinnamon and perfume filled a room when the rest of the place reeked of smoke, and ghostly hands stroked their hair.

The owner could hear the front door opening and people entering the restaurant - but no one was there. The staff has stories of spooky going-ons in the sub basement and its dirt tunnel, presumably where the runaway slaves hid before being transferred to freedom.

There's enough going on to earn the Mansion House a mention in the book Ghosts of Valley Forge and Phoenixville Area by DP Roseberry, and it's a regular stop on the Ghost Tours of Phoenixville, said to be “the most haunted borough in Pennsylvania.”

So if you're looking for a burger, brew, and some otherworldly entertainment, Phoenixville has a place for you.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Hall's Haunted Tower

Vid of the Tower and Mansion, posted by xjmoe83 on YouTube.

Just off of the intersection of I-81 and SR114 near Mechanicsburg in Cumberland County is a 16 story building, towering alone in the countryside. It's known as Hall Tower, or Carillon Tower (its original raison d'etre). Now it's a vandalized wreck, covered in graffiti and burned several times, best known as the home to teen parties - and a spooky presence.

The local urban legend is that the guy that built it, John Hall, embezzled money from his company to build the Tower and surrounding Mansion, complete with a moated building, b-ball court, and worker's house.

He went broke, had to sell the estate, and then set it on fire right after the signing the transfer papers in a fit of frustration over losing it. If he couldn't have his Tower, no one could.

Some accounts say that his family was still inside, while others claim he lived there alone. Most lore claims that he was inside the tower when he started the fire and perished in the flames.

Another tale says that he was sent to jail after his son blew the whistle on his embezzlement scheme, and had the house and property transferred to him. When Hall was released from prison, he went back and burned the property as revenge against his son. Hall died shortly after that, some say by suicide, other by natural means.

(One of our readers wrote in to debunk the family fire tales. She said that Hall had been arrested for fraud and arson, but was never connected officially with the Tower fire. He and his family are still alive. In fact, we understand that his son lived, or may still reside, on the property. Urban legends are a mess to sort through.)

What we do know is that Hall ran through his fortune and put his dream estate up for sale in 1993 as part of his bankruptcy settlement, but didn't draw a decent bid. It suffered major fire damage in 1995, and no one knows how that blaze started.

Anyway, that's the genesis of the Hall stories. And hey, if you want to buy a spooked out property, just contact Fred Essis, the current owner. For $1.25M, it's yours.

There's supposed to be an apparition that stares down at people from the top of the Tower, which is impossible to get to from the ground. Others have reported a voice inside that says "Get out."

A young man named Ernie Barr (a popular guy who's friends still recall him fondly) died there when he fell while climbing the ladder along the elevator shaft, and some posit that it wasn't the partying that got to him, but that an unseen spirit shoved him to his doom. There are also reports of fatal construction mishaps and drownings in the small lake across from the tower.

(Erin, a neighbor, told us that a diver who was hired to drain the moat died when he was caught in the suction of a drain pipe, and confirms the death of the teen, who was brought to her house to await the ambulance. So some of the Hall's ill-fated lore is based on actual events.)

The place has recently been fenced off, and if you want to visit, satisfy yourself with a gander from the road. It's a no-trespassing area, and the local gendarmes have been known to cruise by the old bones of the Tower.

It's a treacherous building to wander around in - some might say a lawsuit waiting to happen - and hey, you never know who, or what, you'll run into in the Tower.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Spry Ol' Stories

Image from Karen's Whimsy

Hey, if you're ever driving through West Virgina and pass Harts, take a little side trip to Dry Branch Hollow. There, between Board Tree and Frances Tree Roads, you'll spy Spry Cemetery.

First, look for the tombstones of Dixie and Charlie Counts, buried alongside one another. Dixie didn't survive childbirth while having Charlie, who was delivered stillborn.

But death didn't affect the bond between mother and child; in fact, it made it everlasting.

When there's a full moon casting its eerie cold light over the graveyard, it's said that Dixie can be seen rocking her baby at their grave site, both dressed in white gowns and crying. Even in eternity, there's no closer tie than between a mother and her baby.

Then take a stroll to the Spry footbridge crossing the small creek. It has some local lore associated with it, too.

It's been told that the devil appeared to a rough Mountaineer one night in the 1950s, facing off on opposite sides of the span. It seemed to be a good match; the man was a brawler, well known in the community as a person that mistreated his family and neighbors. It was only a matter of time until Old Scratch claimed him.

But this wasn't the time. Satan thought he'd teach the man a lesson before he got to the fiery kingdom, and challenged him to a fight after the ruffian had spent the prior day bragging to all who would listen that he was mean enough to lick the devil himself.

Hey, the guy had a big mouth and a powerful punch, and he also had a trick up his sleeve to back up his bravado - he knew his demonology.

He eyed up the Reaper of Souls and told him "Come over here to the road, and I will fight you." Lucifer, frustrated, said "You know who I am and that I cannot cross running water." At a stalemate, the Prince of Darkness let out an evil cackle and disappeared into the night.

Of course, the street fighter let everyone in town know that night that he had stood down Satan. The next day, a boy was walking through the boneyard. He crossed the bridge and found cloven hoof prints burned into its wooden slats. Maybe for once the town braggart was telling the truth (although we suspect the next meeting may have a decidedly different result).

So if you're ever passing through Point Pleasant under a full moon, head east for a few miles and visit. Spry Cemetery will be worth the trip.

(And please be respectful if you do stop by - after all, Old Scratch may catch you on the same side of the creek.)