Kittatinny Ridge image from Audubon Pennsylvania
What could be more peaceful than a bird watcher's perch? Well, Hawk Mountain sanctuary, in Albany Township, Bucks County, is a fine place to observe our feathered friends but also a haunt of great local renown.
The sanctuary is built on Kittatinny Ridge (also home to the Bake Oven Knob, located on the other side of the ridge and a story all of its own) which was sacred grounds for the Lenni-Lenape Indians of the area. In 1756, spurred on by the French, they massacred the Gerhardt family, who lived in a cabin on the hill.
Their ghosts have been reportedly seen roaming the area at night. The only survivor was 11 year old Matthias, who showed true pluck by eventually returning to build a new home where his family house had been. In the 1800s, Matthias Schambacher and his wife bought the place and opened a tavern and inn in the old Gerhardt house.
They didn't associate with the locals, many of whom swore they would never return to the inn after their initial visit, as also did many of the out of town guests, spooked out by the happenings at the Schambacher spread.
Footsteps could be heard coming up to the door and stopping, as if someone was eavesdropping on the occupants. Strange sounds could be heard coming from the barn. Horses would bolt as they approached the house. Bright, flashing lights and wailing sounds were reported from the surrounding hillside.
More scarily, some of the guests never traveled beyond the inn. People said you could see Matthias scrubbing blood off of the barn walls. On his deathbed, Schambacher confessed to killing at least 11 of the wayfarers that stopped at his inn, robbing them and then burying them in the woods.
But he had an excuse. He claimed that he was driven to the acts by a voice whispering in his ear, and that the area was home to great evil. He was buried in New Bethel Cemetery in an unmarked grave, and his ghost is said to be seen walking along the cemetery road. The story goes that lightning struck his grave as he was being buried, and a glowing light has been seen at the spot ever since.
After his death, another Matthias, this one a devout Catholic known for his good works, bought the house and fought the alleged evil to a standstill. Or so the locals thought.
One day, they went to his home and found the door torn off the hinges and the rooms in a shamble. There was no sign of Matthias. His mangled body was discovered a few days later, and the killer was never found.
In 1938, the property became a bird sanctuary and the building its' headquarters. From the start, odd things happened.
Wails are still heard during the night, and the floating hillside lights are still reported. Some credit the sounds to wild animals, while others believe it's the sound of the old travelers reliving their murder. Faces have been seen in the windows. Hey, on occasion the remains of one of Schambacher's victims is even unearthed around the property.
The ghost of a young girl has been reported, floating 18 inches off of the floor - the exact height that the floors were lowered when the building was renovated. She was supposed to have met her fate from a tumble down the stairs.
It's also spooked by a little German girl tooting on her penny whistle. She died falling down the steps (apparently they were pretty steep stairs!), and her parents, speaking in Deutsche, can be heard talking in the building. It's alleged that the trio were released in the structure after being disturbed during its remodeling.
The most famous spook is the 10 foot glowing man, supposedly a remnant of the sacred Indian grounds and dating back to the days of the Delawares. He's been seen throughout the area by drivers on the two-lane Hawk Mountain road and also been reported many times by people on Kittatinny Ridge. It radiates evil so powerfully that it's supposed to frighten the strongest of observers with just its presence.
One reader, Clint, dropped us a note with some local knowledge: "The historic inn and place of the murders, however, isn't at the sanctuary HQ. It is a small white building just past the sanctuary when you begin to descend the mountain. It is on the left when you are going south, and is easy to pass by without noticing. There are also rumors of a white owl spirit being spotted somewhere on the mountain. Also, there's a lower road beneath the sanctuary, at the end of this road is a very old residence where the owners have reported hearing a piano playing eerily."
So if you're looking for a haunted thrill on Halloween, save a few bucks and pay Hawk Mountain a visit. You'll be killing two birds...