Friday, October 30, 2009

Bake Oven Knob

bake oven knob shelter
Bake Oven Knob Shelter image from Travelblog

A couple of readers wanted to know why we were holding out on the Bake Oven Knob tale mentioned last week, so for you guys, here it is...

The Bake Oven Knob Shelter in the Lehigh Valley, about 20 miles from Allentown, can best be described as a log version of a bus shelter. It's meant to provide a sleepover spot for bird watchers or a few campers as they hike the Appalachian Trail.

It's not a place for the faint of heart. You have to clamber uphill over a boulder field to get to the site. Once you're there, don't count on getting a good night's rest.

Very weird things happen around the Knob. The forest can turn from bright sunlight to complete darkness within a couple of steps. And at night, you can hear eerie murmurs and whispers in the woods, often followed by the Bake Knob beast.

One group saw a huge, shadowy entity 500 feet away from the shelter coming up Kittatinny Ridge in the middle of the night. It frightened them so much that they rolled up their sleeping bags, stuffed their gear into their rucksacks, and stumbled up the trail in the darkness rather than wait to get close up and personal with their visitor.

No one knows for sure if there's a spirit that haunts the Kittatinny ridge, but a frightful creature has been associated with the area since the days of the Delaware Indians.

It could be a misty spook; no one has ever been able to describe it with any more detail than as a glowing, red-eyed blob. Some speculate that it's a Blue Mountain Bigfoot, or maybe just a noisy feral woodland critter.

In addition, there's a local legend of a ghostly hiker, the shade of an outdoor enthusiast who fell to his death from Bake Knob's outlook and still walks the trails.

So hey, spend the day spook-hunting at the sanctuary, then cross the Kittatinny ridge and spend the night at the shelter. See what trick or treats this Halloween holds...

Friday, October 23, 2009

Hawk Mountain

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...

Friday, October 16, 2009


Goatman image from Monstropedia

Maryland's Goatman is a critter that paranormal bloggers just love. It's described as part man and part goat, maybe even a relative of Bigfoot.

But it's hard to get the description quite straight. Some report that the Goatman has a human body with a goat’s head, the spittin' image of Satan.

Others claim that it has a goat’s lower body with the torso of a human, like the satyr Pan of Greek mythology, the god of fields, groves, forested glens, and fertility, which plays right into the woodsy lovers' lane part of the legend.

Yet others say that it's a hairy humanoid creature roughly six feet in height, lookin' like an old-timey studio wrestler, deranged killer, or mini-Bigfoot. Geez, can't someone in Maryland buy a camera?

Anyway, Goatman likes to hang out in Prince Georges county, particularly the Bowie area. One of his favorite haunts is Cry-Baby Bridge on Governor’s Bridge Road. Its particular urban legend is that if you stop your car on the bridge and shut it off, you can hear the crying of an infant's ghost, tossed off the bridge by its unhinged young mother.

But Goatman devotees say it's not a baby's cries, but the braying of Goatman that's heard at Cry-Baby Bridge. It's a popular parking spot and lovers' lane, and it's said that Goatman likes to attack young couples doin' what comes natural, sometimes butting the car, and sometimes wielding a doubled-edged axe, depending, we suppose, on what form he's taken that night.

He's also associated with Hook lore, when a couple hear the dragging of something across their car, like a hook. The guy gets out to check on the noise, and the girl finds him a couple hours later, dead and dripping blood on the car. It's pretty similar to urban legends across the land, except for the Goatman part.

The Goatman is also known to frequent Lottsford and Fletchertown Roads, bracketing the Glenn Dale Hospital, the former site of a state tuberculosis sanatorium. There are tales of many an axe attack on parked cars in this area, some credited to Goatman and others to escaped inmates still roaming the woods. Some versions say experimental treatments turned the inmates into Goatmen.

But the most sinister stories regarding Goatman's origins concern the United States Agricultural Research Center in Beltsville, Maryland.

One two-ending story concerns a scientist that was working on genetics, using a goat as a guinea pig. In one version, the doctor went mad, and escaped into the woods, where he became a fur-covered, deranged axe-murderer.

In another, he went the mad scientist route and mutated himself into Goatman, again fleeing into the woods and visiting havoc on the community at large.

In another, an experimental cancer drug being used on an unwitting test subject backfired, spawning Goatmen.

But for fans of the KISS (Keep It Simple, Stupid) theory, Goatman is Satan incarnated, called to Maryland on occasion by his occult worshipers.

Hey, Goatman has it all: Cry-Baby Bridge, an axe, deranged scientists, genetic experiments gone wrong, Satan, Pan, Sasquatch...what more could you want from an urban legend?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Halloween Contest: Boo Blog


Hey guys, H&H wants to spend Halloween week telling the readers' spooky tales around the ol' e-campfire. Here's the deal:

Regale us with your own true or fictional ghost story based on a Halloween theme - cemeteries, witches, resurrection stories, Bloody Mary tales, full moons, zombies, whatever gets your jack-o-lantern beaming - keep it to 750 words or fewer, and e-mail it to Haunts and History by October 24th with your nom d'plume.

A select state-wide panel of eerie experts (OK, so far H&H and LC, but hey, that covers Pittsburgh and Philadelphia) will choose a winner(s), maybe polish them up a bit, and post the terrifying tarradiddles during Halloween week.

So if you're ready to channel your inner Edgar Allan Poe or Washington Irving, get to the keyboard and spook us out.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Mothman Plaque image from The Ashville Paranormal Society

For a thirteen month period beginning in November, 1966, a series of bizarre sightings took place around Point Pleasant, WV, at the confluence of the Ohio and Kanawha Rivers on the Ohio-West Virginia border. There were UFO sightings, poltergeist reports, but weirdest of all were the tales of Mothman.

The tale began on November 12, 1966 near Clendenin, West Virginia. Five men were preparing a grave for a burial when something that looked like a “brown human being” flew over their heads. The men were baffled. It didn't appear to be a bird, but more like a man with wings.

A few days later, riding past a deserted Point Pleasant factory on the evening of November 15, two young couples spotted something that was "shaped like a man, but bigger, maybe six or seven feet tall with big wings folded against its back" and had glowing red eyes. The couples floored their car and fled in a panic.

Moments later, they saw the same creature on a hillside. It flew after their car, which by now was zooming along at over 100 MPH down the road. "That bird kept right up with us," they said.

Later that night, a resident watching TV saw his screen go dark, followed by high-pitched whining coming from his porch and warning growls from the family hound. He went out to see what was up, and saw a pair of glowing red eyes looking back.

He went back in the house to fetch his gun while his dog chased the critter, but couldn't screw up the courage to go back out to face the eerie eyes. When he went out at daybreak, both the creature and his pooch were gone.

The red-eyed beast was busy that night. Another group of four witnesses claimed to see the “bird” three different times.

The town held a press conference the next day, and the authorities said they took the sightings seriously because of the number of reports and the credibility of the witnesses. The press immediately dubbed the critter Mothman, after a Batman nemesis.

That night, a family saw red lights flying overhead, and a visitor found out what the lights were - Mothman. She got out her car, and the creature popped up near her, causing her to drop her baby. She gathered her child and got to her hosts' front door in Olympic time. The haunting sight would stay with her for months in the form of nightmares.

Paranormal researcher and author John Keel arrived in Point Pleasant in December and immediately began compiling reports of Mothman sightings. Before he was done, he would have 100 sightings in his files from November of 1966 to November, 1967.

Here is how they described Mothman:

* approximately seven feet tall
* a ten foot wingspan
* gray, scaly skin
* large, red, glowing, hypnotic eyes
* able to take off straight up in flight, traveling up to 100 miles an hour
* liked to mutilate or eat large dogs
* screeched like a rodent or electric motor
* caused radio and television interference
* had some mind control powers.

Keel believed the creature was real, although he realized that many of the reports he got were generated by folk who were influenced by the flood of lurid Mothman publicity. But he never did say what he though Mothman actually was (which didn't stop him from writing a couple of books anyway, "The Mothman Prophecies" and "The Eighth Tower.")

Instead, he claimed that Point Pleasant was a “window” area between dimensions, a place that was susceptible to odd sightings, monster reports, UFOs, poltergeist activities, and the coming and going of eerie beings.

Others blamed the events on the Cornstalk Curse that was placed on the Point Pleasant region in the 1770's, when the Shawnee chief, his son, and two other tribesmen were gunned down in prison by vengeful soldiers for a crime they didn't commit.

His dying words were "...may the curse of the Great Spirit rest upon this land. May it be blighted by nature. May it even be blighted in its hopes. May the strength of its peoples be paralyzed by the stain of our blood." Hey, King Tut couldn't have said it better.

Other, somewhat cooler heads, theorize that the Mothman was a Sandhill Crane, which have a wingspan of 5-7 feet, a overall average length of 39 inches and an unusual shriek.

Owl theories also abound. The possibility of the Mothman being a Barn Owl, an albino owl, or perhaps a large Snowy Owl have been put forward. Skeptics suggest that the Mothman's glowing orbs are actually red-eye caused from the reflection of light, just like the ones caused by the flash of your Kodak.

But hey, whether Mothman was from the Twilight Zone or just a fat screech owl, it did spawn quite the cottage industry. We've found nine books, two movies, six TV shows, two role-playing games, two computer games, and a pair of dolls that feature the winged critter.

And Point Pleasant isn't shy about its native son. The Mothman Festival, an event held on the 3rd weekend of every September, combines a little folklore along with a lot of local tub-thumping. Hey, he even has a local museum.

Now Mothman has gone international. It is believed to be a harbinger of imminent disaster, reportedly being seen around the globe before great tragedies occur.

Not bad work for a thirteen month run in wild and wonderful West Virginia.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Loveland Lizard

loveland frog
Loveland Lizard image from Weird Things

Next, we'll head across Ohio towards Cincinnati, and check out the reports of its mean green machine, the Loveland Lizard (or frog).

The Algonquin Twightwees (the Miami tribe), lived in Ohio's Miami Valley and were the first to tell tales of a froggy creature. As early French explorers came by, the Twightwees warned them of a lizard-like creature that could not be killed. They called this critter Shawnahooc, meaning "demon of the river."

But after a couple of centuries spent fighting the expansion of the settlers, the Miamis were forced to relocate to Kansas, and with them went the Shawnahooc legend.

That is, until May, 1955. A businessman reported that he saw three or four frog-faced creatures gathered under a bridge near Loveland.

They were described as three-foot tall, with wrinkles instead of hair, broad chests, and wide mouths without lips, like king-sized frogs. One of them is said to have held up a wand that shot sparks. A strong odor of alfalfa and almonds was reportedly left behind after the varmints vacated the bridge.

The witness couldn't decide whether he had seen fairy-tale trolls, creatures that were half human, half frog, huge reptiles, or spacemen.

As the years rolled into decades, there were no further reported sightings of the Loveland Frog. Then the long arm of the law got involved.

On March 3, 1972, a police officer was patrolling a section of Riverside Avenue that runs along the Little Miami River in Loveland, Ohio. The policeman saw what he thought was a dog lying in the middle of the road, and slowed down his cruiser on the icy road, unsure of the animal's condition.

The cop stopped his patrol car and got out with his flashlight to check if the dog was injured or perhaps even roadkill. Suddenly, the creature crouched on two legs, and the officer realized his sighting wasn't a dog at all, but something entirely different.

It was three to four feet tall, 50 to 75 pounds, with leathery skin, maybe a short tail, and a head and face like a frog. Whatever this creature was, it glanced at the patrolman and leapt over the road's guard rail toward the river.

The officer reported the odd event to the police dispatcher, though never filing an official report, and later returned to the scene with another policeman. All they found were markings from something that had scraped along the hillside as it made its way to the river.

Two weeks later, another police officer saw it, again lying in the middle of the road. When he got out of his car to haul it to the shoulder, it got up, climbed over the guard rail, eying the policeman, and disappeared toward the river.

The cop took a shot at the creature, but it never slowed down and escaped into the waters of the Little Miami River.

A farmer in Loveland also claimed that he spotted a froglike creature during the same time frame.

A local publicity firestorm erupted, based a little bit on the sightings and a lot on Loveland politics and efforts at embarrassing people and evening scores, not an uncommon tack in small-town editorial rooms (or big city ones, for that matter.)

The second peace officer pooh-poohed the whole affair, claiming that he saw someone's tossed-out, overgrown pet lizard. He took a shot at him in an effort to bring the critter in and clear the first officer's reputation. His guess was that either he winged it and it eventually died from the wound, or that the cold got it.

An investigation came up empty, suggesting that the officers saw an escaped Nile monitor lizard or a large iguana, which can be over six feet in length. So did the sightings.

Did they actually see a lizard-man? Well, there are reports of them from other places. Some of the more renowned are the Lizardman of Wayne, New Jersey, the Giant Lizard of Milton, Kentucky, and the Lizard Man craze that swept Bishopville, South Carolina in 1988.

But for Loveland, it seemed the end of the story. The twentieth century passed by without anymore lizards littering the local roads. But...

In 2000, a visitor on vacation reported seeing the Loveland Lizard on the way to his hotel. He described it as a 4-foot-tall creature that was part human and part lizard or frog. He said it had scaly skin, webbed hands and feet and was holding a wand-like stick. Sound familiar?

The tourist tried to take a photo of the creature but he hit the flash instead of the shutter button and scared it off. Pity; a picture is worth a thousand words.