Friday, June 25, 2010

The Legend of Brubaker Bridge

Photo by Anthony Dillon from Bridgehunter

OK, we end our legends segment with one of the better-known hauntings in Ohio, that of Brubaker Bridge. The bridge was built in 1887, crossing a small stream known as Sam's Run Creek in Preble County, by Gratis.

The span was small, and in the middle of nowhere. It was quietly used as a rural shortcut for decades, when in the 1930s something terrible happened. A carload of teens returning from a Grange party wrecked on the covered bridge, apparently at high speed, and their bodies were scattered everywhere.

The accident was at night, and it wasn't until late the next afternoon that a local farmer checking his cattle discovered the carnage. A gang of locals gathered at the scene, and carted away a dozen bodies, a gruesome toll on the community. The victims were buried, and the whole episode was hopefully laid to rest.

But it wasn't. The farmer who originally spotted the bodies was driving across the Brubaker Bridge afterward with his wife when his truck died. Before they could get out, they heard 13 knocks and a whispering, hissing sound, like a "shhhhh." Others traveling over the old bridge experienced the same phenomena.

The neighbors put their heads together, and made a startling discovery; there were actually thirteen teens missing from the party; one of the bodies hadn't been found, that of a boy who was known to disappear from home for days on end. They again gathered at Brubaker Bridge to search, but came up empty.

According to local lore, anyone who tries to cross over the Brubaker Bridge at night will find that their car stalls, sometimes with flickering lights, and the missing youth will tap on the vehicle, trying to get your attention, accompanied by whimpers of pain. He just hopes that someone will find his body and lay him to rest.

The bridge is also known as "crybaby bridge" because of the whispering sound, and some claim seeing approaching headlights, presumably from the doomed vehicle, but no cars ever appear.

Hey, thirteen people, a covered bridge...what better stuff could a legend be made from? There are a couple of small holes in the tale, though.

Now no one has ever discovered a newspaper clipping of the accident, and 13 kids is a lot to cram into a 1930 era vehicle, though possible. The bridge itself was renovated in 2006.

But one thing has never changed. There's still a body looking for peace after all these years, and it seems like after eight decades, he still isn't giving up.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Duffy's Cut...The Story Continues


"There's a saying that under every mile of track there's an Irishman..."

Many H&H readers have asked us about the progress of the Duffy's Cut project, and we've found a new report on how it's coming along.

The Duffy's Cut saga hopefully heads towards a conclusion as an Immaculata University team, led by Frank and William Watson, tries to find the remains of Irish RR laborers who died - some by cholera, others by murder - who helped build a PRR line through Chester County in the 1830's. The local lore says that their restless spirits still roam the track.

For the original 2008 H&H story, click here.

For the Duffy Cut web site, click here.

For a BBC article on the affair, click here.

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Legend of Crazy James

Drake Oil Derrick photo from Explore PA

This is one of the more popular and quite possibly true legends of the early Pennsylvania oil fields. The lore doesn't involve any spooks, but rather a spirit guide from the other side.

Abraham James was born in Chester County and went west to California to find gold. Failing there, he headed back east to Venango County, switching his focus to black gold during the nascent oil-rush years.

While riding past a field with some friends in 1868, he suddenly leaped out of the buggy and sprinted to the north end of the lot. He put a penny on the ground, spun around, and passed out. When he regained his senses, he said he was controlled by an Indian spirit that showed him the spot where there was oil. He marked it with the penny.

He was almost immediately and unanimously appointed the village idiot by the townsfolk who gave him the nickname “Crazy James.” They considered him to be even loonier than “Crazy Drake,” drilling down the road.

But he leased the field from its' owner, William Porter, erected a derrick and two storage tanks, and began to drill. For three months it looked like the townsmen were right. But then James hit a gusher at 835' down and the wildcatters rushed to Porter's field and Pleasantville.

The local mockers became James' biggest fans after the strike; their marginal farmlands suddenly became valuable property, thanks to Crazy James and his guide. And for years afterward, dowsers became popular in the area, hoping to replicate his success.

James and his Indian familiar moved on, finding at least four more producing wells in the region and locating artesian wells in Chicago. But by the 1870s they had faded from Venango history. He blew the money on poor investments, but became a hit with the Spiritualist crowd, gaining renown for his seances.

Abraham James joined his Indian guide in the spirit world on November 28, 1884 at the age of 77.

His tale was first presented in an article from the Atlantic Monthly called "A Carpet-Bagger In Pennsylvania" from June, 1869.

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Legend of Silver Run's Lady In White

Silver Run tunnel photo from Legend Tripping

Silver Run Station is a small, sleepy town, located near Cairo in Ritchie County, tucked away in north central West Virginia. But a century ago, the Silver Run route was a heavily traveled line of the B&O railroad, which regularly crossed the Silver Run (#19) tunnel.

Now the line, abandoned in the 1980's, is a rail-to-trails bicycle byway. But back in the day, its tunnel was the heart of railroader legend.

Early in the 20th century, trains used to roll through the tunnel every hour. It wasn't unknown for them to hit someone on the tracks, usually a drunk who veered into the path of a speeding engine or someone committing suicide by train.

One clear night, an engineer approaching the mouth of the Silver Run tunnel noticed a mist, and out of it emerged a young, distracted woman standing on the tracks with black hair and ghostly white skin, wearing a long, shadowy white gown. In a panic, he hit the brakes, but he knew that he couldn't miss the lady in white, who just turned and stared at the approaching engine.

Just before the train reached her, the lady in white floated up and disappeared. The engineer and his crew searched for a corpse, assuming they had hit her and sent her body flying through the air, but none was found. Writing it off to a hallucination caused by tired eyes and dancing headlights, they finished the run.

But in the following weeks, the same event would sporadically play out, usually during a half moon. The engineer passed on his story, and the B&O officials transferred him to a different line. Ghost indeed!

They replaced him with a skeptic of the tale, an engineer named O'Flannery, a veteran railroader who gave no weight to the tale of an eerie woman haunting the tunnel.

Of course, he ran across her apparition the very night he took over the route, and the story spread after the run. The company told him he'd lose his job if he too was going to pass on tales of a spooked-out tunnel, suspecting it was more a case of tipsy engineers than shadows from the other side, neither being good for business.

O'Flannery swore if he saw her again, he'd run the lady in white down rather than be called on the carpet by his bosses and risk his daily bread.

Well, we all know that he had to see her again. And true to his word, when he did, he kept the pedal to the metal and drove his train right through her.

When he ended his run, his nerves jingling over the experience - what if he had actually run someone down in cold blood? - a buzzing crowd surrounded the engine. B&O workers along the way had reported that O'Flannery's cowcatcher had the body of a woman in white plastered to it, clearly illuminated by his train's massive headlight.

But as he entered the station, a fog covered the train, and when he pulled in, there was no body nor blood to be found. When he heard the story from the folks gathered at the depot, the hard-bitten O'Flannery had enough; he too requested a transfer, and got it without any questions asked.

The company began an inquiry into the Silver Run affair. What came out of the investigation was that some 25 years prior, a woman in a white gown had ridden the train to Silver Run to meet her fiancee and get married. She disappeared after leaving the train; no one had ever heard of her whereabouts since. It was widely assumed that she was the lady in white.

No one actually knew, or at least remembered, who she was, but vague recollections of a jilted bride or foul play on the way to her betrothed were stirred once again.

And the assumption seemed to be a good one. In the 1940's, the skeleton of a woman, still dressed in white shreds, was found stuffed in the chimney of a long deserted house on the outskirts of town. She was given a proper church burial, and after that, she seemed at peace and the lady in white faded into legend.

Or did she? Bikers going through the Silver Run tunnel occasionally report hearing a train whistle and seeing white orbs. And some locals say that on a half-moon night, sometimes the filmy figure of a lady in white can be seen gliding along the old railbed by the Silver Run tunnel...

Friday, June 4, 2010

Legend Of the Spirit In the Mist

Glen Onoko Falls image from Waymarking

Glen Onoko, located in Carbon County, was known as Hatchet Falls back in the day, and it has an ancient legend of love and denial attached to its falling waters.

Its said that the spirit of Indian princess Onoko haunts the Falls, on the east side of Broad Mountain. There are two stories involving her.

The first is that she was in love with a white settler, upsetting her dad, the Chief, no end. He had the guy thrown over the falls to his death, solving one problem but causing another when his daughter, witnessing her Romeo's execution, also threw herself over the falls to join her lover eternally.

The second is pretty similar, except the suitor rejected by her pop was Opachee, a mere brave and thus unworthy of his daughter's hand in the chief's eyes. She tossed herself over the falls when the Chief forbid their marriage. Pretty picky guy, if you ask us.

At any rate, legend goes that at 9:15 AM of any bright, sunny morning, the "Spirit of the Mist," as Onoko's ghost is known, appears as a veiled Lady in White floating over the boiling waters below the Falls.

Charles Skinner, in his 1896 book Myths And Legends Of Our Own Land, has his own tale. In his story, Onoko is a mighty Lenni-Lanape chief. He was big, strong, and daring. Onoko was engaged to Wenonah, the fairest of her tribe, and had known nothing but success in peace, war, and love.

And as we all know, nothing tweaks the gods as much as a godlike mortal. The envious Miche Manitou, a Delaware tribe evil spirit akin to the Norse Loki, had all he could take of the noble Onoko.

One day while the happy pair were paddling around in a canoe whispering sweet nothings, Manitou struck. Skinner described him with "the scowl of hatred...on his face, thunder crashed about his head, and fire snapped from his eyes..." He was one peeved spirit.

He split the mountains, creating a huge crevasse 1,000 feet deep. The waters rushed through them, carrying our suddenly star-crossed lovers to certain doom. They wrapped their arms around each other and met their fate together. Manitou stormed back to his mountain lair, no doubt thinking it was good to be a god.

No ghosties came from the Skinner lore, just a couple of geographic tidbits. The watery chasm that Manitou created is now known as the Lehigh River. And the memory of Onoko is forever preserved in the name of a glen and cascade a short distance above Mauch Chunk.

Be careful if you want to take a little trek and try to spy Onoko. Glen Onoko Falls Trail is a very intense loop hike with 875 foot rise. A sign at the trail head warns hikers that several people have fallen to their deaths on the path. But if you can get there in one piece, it's worth the trip.