Tuscarora Falls in Ricketts Glen State Park
(photo by Dave Pidgeon of Compass Points)
Ricketts Glen is a National Natural Landmark known for its old-growth forest and many waterfalls along Kitchen Creek. It's carved out of five townships in three counties: Sugarloaf in Columbia County, Fairmount and Ross in Luzerne County, and Colley and Davidson in Sullivan County. The burg of Ricketts, 30 miles west of Scranton on the Sullivan County border, has been a ghost town since 1920.
The park area was once home to the Susquehannocks - who had their own local tales of evil spirits lurking on the nearby Sheshequin Path - and later Lenape and Shawnee before being pretty much cleared of Native Americans after the French & Indian War and Revolution.
It was named after Civil War Colonel R. Bruce Ricketts, whose family bought the land a generation earlier. The ex-officer ran a hotel and over time either owned or controlled 80,000+ acres of land in this area through his lumber companies, which clear-cut nearly all the property (and, in fact, the state still allows controlled lumbering in the park). His family sold 10,000 acres to the state after his death, and PA opened the park in 1944.
There are a couple of spooky tales associated with the isolated area. Here's the better known local lore:
First is the legend of the "ghost tree." During the lumber boom days, a boy was cutting down a tree when it toppled on him, causing his death. A sapling sprouted where the boy died, and grew into a white tree that has never produced a single leaf, even to this day. It's also said that nothing will grow near the ghost tree.
Lake Jean's story is a bit spookier. A boy fell through the ice, and his parents, watching from a shore side cabin, rushed to his rescue. They too cracked the ice and dropped into the frigid lake; all three drowned. Since then, it's been said that strange lights appear over the lake, and that the faces of the family can be seen in its waters.
Locals also claim to hear voices in the wind. There is no cemetery in the area; many think the voices are the laments of all the restless spirits that were never properly laid to rest, dating from the Native-American to lumberjack days.
So hey, if you're ever visiting Pennsylvania's great northeast, take in Ricketts Glen State Park. It's a beautiful site, brimming with history, meandering trails, waterfalls, scenic spots...and a smidgeon of spookiness.