Sunday, March 27, 2011

Cycles And Spooks...

Ron Kirkpatrick Customs

Hey, H&H is used to presenting spooky lore to his readers; this week, he's going to turn the tables and let a reader present his eerie story to the fans.

Ron Kirkpatrick of East Brady is a talented and hard-working customizer; he operates his own shop, Ron Kirkpatrick Customs, on 3rd Street. His company specializes in bike work and does vehicle customizing, too. He wrote H&H and related this tale:

His shop was originally built in 1927 as a Quaker State station. The previous owner sold the shop to Kirkpatrick after he had a ghost sighting and refused to ever set foot in the building again. Despite the tale, Ron plunked down the cash and set up business.

Kirkpatrick poked into the history of the structure a bit, and found out that a pair of people had died there, including the original owner, because of work-related accidents. That in itself isn't all that unusual, considering the shop dates back to the Roaring Twenties.

But the old owner's tale picked up some credence when Kirkpatrick's security system taped pictures of orbs on a daily basis and suffered from unexplained electrical glitches, one of the trademarks of visitors from the other side.

Adding another log to the fire were the reports from his staff, who claimed to witness two misty old men in the garage and "seeing other stuff flying around."

Intrigued, he had a local ghost-hunting crew investigate the place. They captured an EVP of a voice that said their names before their equipment malfunctioned.

Do the spirits of two men who left home for work and never returned now consider the shop their new home? Well, Kirkpatrick will leave it up to you; he has an open invitation for the curious to stop by his place, at 504 3rd Street on Route 68, to see for themselves.

Better yet, bring your ride. The shop spooks will keep you entertained while Kirkpatrick turns your wheels into a work of street art (flames or haunted theme, your choice).

Ron sent us pictures taken by his security cam; here's one orb shot:


Sunday, March 20, 2011

North Bend State Park

Tunnel 19 (Silver Run) photo from Outdoor Travels

North Bend State Park, in Ritchie County, West Virginia, is named for the horseshoe curve of the North Fork of the Hughes River. The park features fishing streams, a 305 acre lake, hiking trails, and critters galore. And it sports a trio of West Virginny wraiths.

The first is from an old wildcatter's tale. Back at the turn of the century, the parkland was still private property and the site of several oil wells. One of the rigs, pumping near the current Jug Handle Campground, blew up, ripping one of the roughnecks to bits. His brother workers gathered up his remains and buried the unfortunate soul - except for his head, which they never found.

A small dirt lane known as Park Road was serviced by a turn-of-the-century jitney driver, who rode the well workers to and from their jobs. One day he felt a bounce while driving his wagon, and looked back to see who was bumming a free ride. It was the bloody figure of a headless man, who we assume was looking for a lift back home. Good luck with that, although he must have made it to wherever he wanted to go, as he's not been seen since.

Then there's the sad saga of blind Ed Koons, who lived near what is now the park entrance. Not only was he sightless, but married to a true shrew, with the mother-in-law also sharing the crib. Aye carumba! Life was not very kind to Ed, and having had his fill, he tossed a rope over a tree, slipped his head in the noose and hung himself.

According to local legend, Ed Koon is still hanging around. To this day, people have reported seeing his body dangling from that tree, outlined by their headlights. Park pedestrians have claimed that they've seen his spook on the gravel path leading to the lodge, near the spot of his sad ending.

Teens parking near the park entrance - it's a local lover's lane - reported hearing pounding on their vehicles, and when they got out to see what was up, all they found were handprints on their car. Most suspect that the prints belong to Koon, probably frustrated that others have the kind of relationship with their girls that he never enjoyed in life (or maybe he's just being ornery, who knows?)

Today, the state park is known for its 72 miles of rail trails, a series of old railroad beds and tunnels that are now used for hiking and biking. It's Tunnel 19 (the Silver Run Tunnel), where Ritchie County's most popular ghost is said to roam.

First, a little cemetery lore. There's an old graveyard at the top of the hill by the tunnel entrance. It was the final stop for workers who lost their lives building the tunnel, and is supposed to be a very active paranormal spot. But that's not the headliner.

A "Lady In White" has been seen in the tunnel, going back to railroad days and continuing into the present. The tunnel itself has cold spots and is claimed to look illuminated inside without any light source. Her story, in brief:

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. None of the locals actually knew, or at least remembered, who she was, but vague recollections of a fatal fall from the train platform, jilted brides and foul play were roiled once again from the dusty past.

It was widely assumed that she was the alleged lady in white.

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, and that seemed to answer their questions. The remains were 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...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tamarack Swamp


Tamarack Swamp photo from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources

The Tamarack Swamp is located near Corry in Warren County on its PA side and stretches north to Clymer, New York. It was originally a logging and gas drilling area; now it seems to mostly be the home of high school keggers, frackers searching for gas that the original drillers left behind, and insect-chomping Venus Flytrap plants. But it's also the origin of the legend of George. Here's the story...

There's a ribbon of a lane that winds through the swamp. One day two school buses tried to pass one another in opposite directions. The road was too narrow, and the vehicles bumped and splashed into the Tamarack. According to local lore, several-to-many of the kiddies lost their lives in the accident.

After the crash, one the drivers - yep, George - returned to the scene of the fatal wreck, and filled with remorse, hanged himself off one of the three bridges that spanned the road.

Legend has it that if you drive over the northernmost bridge and chant "GEORGE, GEORGE, GEORGE," you'll hear thrashing under the bridge from the driver's tormented spirit. It's also claimed that you'll hear the voices of small children out in the swamp and your car will be covered with their little handprints. To make the adventure even dicier, cars were said to stall on the bridge, making them easy prey for George.

A popular game among the area youth is to dare one other to get out of the car, run down the dark road, and make it back to the car before George tears them to pieces. In fact, the footrace with George is pretty much the only game in town now. The state closed that trail and the bridges to vehicles, making it accessible only to foot traffic like hikers and swamp scientists.

Some people reported that the rusting hulks of the buses still remain, but what they saw are actually the remnants of a couple of old campers parked out in the swamp. There's also an unsubstantiated tale alleging that a small town once existed there, but sank in the swamp. That tale claimed that apparitions and the sounds of former residents float throughout the bog.

One of our visitors, Morgana, who grew up in the area, provided us with the basis for George's story. "I did hear the tale and lore of a school bus that wrecked on the bridge leading into the swamp from the Clymer side near Caflisch Lumber Company. The driver, as the story goes, was found hanging from the bridge.

She added more logs to the fire, too, writing that "...I recall as a child hearing the stories of the reddish orange glowing apparition that held his head in his hand. I also heard the tale that the water under the second (and now collapsed) bridge didn't have a bottom and if you stared at it long enough you'd fall in," and H&H would assume resurface floating in the China Sea.

Other suggest that the glow could be from the phosphorus content of the swamp, and the bottomless water could be the quicksand pools or bogs. On the other hand...

Another thing that remains unexplained is the UFO sightings reported by swamp visitors. The Tamarack appears to be an intergalactic tourist trap, too.

So if you're around the state parkland, stop by and see if George is under his bridge or if a UFO is hovering. Maybe a headless orange blob will come callin', or you'll be lured by the depths of the swamp. And hey, if not, maybe you'll at least get to see a swamp mosquito or two become a snack for the Tamarack flora.

(And thanks for the comments. It's a wild and wet area, but still popular and well-used by the locals, many of whom have memories of adventures there dating back to childhood, George or no.)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Point Lookout Park

Point Lookout - Civil War POW Camp
image from Southern Maryland On Line

Point Lookout is a Maryland state park at the southern tip of St. Mary's County, resting on a peninsula formed by the confluence of Chesapeake Bay and the Potomac River. It began as part of St. Michael's Manor, one of three manors owned by Leonard Calvert, the first Governor of the Maryland colony. The site also features an old lighthouse; hence its name.

The peaceful park has a not-so-peaceful past. Native Americans raided its early settlers, the Redcoats and Colonials had several skirmishes there, and it was a hospital and huge POW camp during the Civil War.

It housed over 50,000 reb prisoners over the span of the war's duration, sometimes holding 20,000 prisoners at a time in a fifty acre tent city. There are large, mainly Civil War era grave sites, some of which are now underwater. It's also been the scene of many shipwrecks over the centuries.

There are Confederate spooks galore. One had its picture taken in 1970 during a seance in the lighthouse, casually leaning against the wall sporting a sash and sword. Another has been spotted running across the road from the old infirmary site, reliving his escape attempt.

Visitors report apparitions of gray-suited soldiers that suddenly appear in front of their vehicles and then disappear. Some have seen a southern soldier sitting in the back seat of their car, disappearing when they passed the Confederate cemetery near the park entrance.

Tourists have noted ghostly sightings throughout the park. One road apparently has a legion of troops marching on it; no one has ever seen them, but dogs will stop and growl, hackles up, quite often when by the lane. A general officer is said to haunt the fort proper; his faint voice is often heard and sometimes his shadowy figure has been seen. There are also the obligatory orb pictures.

One famous tale recounts an old lady trudging by the picnic area by the shore, looking lost. A bypasser saw her and asked if she needed any help; he thought she may have dropped something. She replied no, but did the man know where the Taylor Cemetery might be? He didn't.

The Good Samaritan mentioned his encounter to a park ranger in passing, and found out that the Taylor Family Cemetery (the Taylor's owned the property that the lighthouse was built on) had been near where the lady was seen, though it's exact location has been lost to the mists of time.

Some snooping found that one of the folks buried in the now gone graveyard was Elizabeth Taylor. Over the years, someone had stolen her headstone; the grave marker was later found in a local hotel by a Point Lookout ranger. It's thought by some that Elizabeth won't find her final rest until the stone is replaced over her remains. Others believe she's looking for the graves of her children.

But there's no question that the park's spook central is the Point Lookout Lighthouse. It was built in 1830 and expanded in 1883 to allow room for a second lightkeeper and the families. The lighthouse was manned and functioning until the Navy purchased it in 1965, and an automated light tower was placed offshore. Its final keeper left the structure in 1981.

It still stands, and is unlocked for the public occasionally by special request or for its annual open house. (The building is being rehabbed, so it may become more accessible in the near future.) Not surprisingly, much of the unexplained paranormal activity happened after the lighthouse was decommissioned by the Navy, although there were several tales passed on by the lighthouse tenders.

There are lots of reports of the usual ghostly phenomena. They include snoring in the kitchen, voices heard both inside and outside of the lighthouse, cold spots, pungent odors, footsteps, orbs, glimpses of ghostly forms, the sounds of happy singing coming from the stairwell and conversations being held in empty rooms.

Famed ghost hunter Dr. Hans Holzer checked out the place in the eighties. He and his team recorded 24 different voices in the building, both male and female, taped saying things like "Fire if they get too close to you," apparently by an old Union guard suspecting rebel skulduggery, and "Let us not take objection to what they are doing," which must have lessened some of the angst felt by the investigators poking into the realm of the undead.

One voice was believed to be that of Ann Davis, wife of the first keeper, who said "this is my home." Her spirit is said to have been seen standing at the top of the stairs in a white blouse and long blue skirt. And she's far from the only apparition to call the lighthouse home.

Beside Ms. Davis and the Confederate dandy, two transparent figures were sighted in the basement. The ghostly figure of a young man peeking into the lighthouse window has been spotted. The spirit of a silver-haired woman in a gray dress identified as "Rue" has been reported in the attic and on the grounds.

This final tale is the most eerie. A park ranger that lived in the lighthouse (its current use) heard pounding on his door during a severe storm. He opened the door and a man floated inside before disappearing. He shared his weird encounter with the other park rangers, and a little investigating began.

It didn't take long to figure out what happened. An 1878 newspaper article noted that a body had washed ashore after the steamer Express capsized. The crewman matched the ranger's description to a tee. He was Second Mate J. Heaney, who was buried on the beach near the spot where his body was discovered.

He's become a harbinger of sorts. Heaney is said to sometimes appear on the beach in a soaked uniform before a major storm hits the area.

Do the rangers buy into the spooked out stories? It's reported that they at least keep track of the park's strange sightings and reports, and conduct a ghost tour each October. After all, they're never exactly sure who - or what - they'll bump into at Point Lookout Park.