Sunday, March 13, 2011

Tamarack Swamp


Photobucket


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.)

15 comments:

DJEvilJoker said...

Are there two Tamarak swamps in Pa. because the one I remember running around as a teenager is in Warren county with the same George story LOL

Ron Ieraci said...

Joker - thanks, you're right. There are two Tamarack swamps in the northern tier, oddly enough. I had it right on the web site but screwed it up making the transition to the blog. I thought it was a major water feature, but after checking a little more deeply, that's not so; they are separate. Thanks for the correction; I updated the story.

Morgana said...

Hi Ron!

I came upon your blog here while I was doing some research for a writing project I am working on. I enjoyed reading your account here about Tamarack Swamp. The one you are referring to, is that the one located outside of Clymer, NY and Columbus, PA? I grew up living on the fringes of a Tamarack Swamp, the one in the backroads near Clymer, NY. My family owned the farm at the end of Allen Road. The Tamarack Swamp you mention in your story sounds like the one near where I once lived. It was a spooky place. There were three bridges. I haven't been back there in nearly thirty years. My brother went recently for a visit and mentioned that the second bridge fell in and the road was closed.

It was a perfect place, the fodder for spooky tales to be spawned. Nobody lived around there at all, it was desolate for miles and miles. I recall as a child hearing the stories of the reddish orange glowing apparition that held his head in his hand. And, "By Gum" it had to be true because the neighbor boy who trapped the swamp in the middle of the winter saw it! Alas, I never did. I also heard the tale that the water under the second bridge didn't have a bottom and if you stared at it long enough you'd fall in. Well....as a child I spent many a day in the summer sitting on its banks, staring into the water, fishing and I didn't fall in, lots of bullhead though.

As for the story of the school buses and George. I bet George morphed from the reddish glowing ghost holding his head to the ghostly figure you speak of! Thats a new one because I hadn't heard that tale growing up and chanting, "George" three times. I did hear as a child the tale and lore about a school bus that wrecked on the bridge leading into the swamp from the Clymer, NY side, near Catflish Lumber Company. The driver, as the story goes, was found hanging from the bridge. I never did see any ghostly children running about the swamp nor hear their voices. The only buses I recall were two old rusted relics from the late 1950's used for camps.

Back in the 60's and 70's it was a different world there from today. One could drive over those three bridges and get the entire experience of the swamp. I never dared ride my bike or horse alone past the third bridge. There were lots of creepy slithery critters, blood sucking skitters, and weird people who would drive through. All of this lending to the lore and ghostly ambiance of the swamp. George and the story about the handprints on the windshield was spun after I grew up and moved away, as is the story about the UFO. I enjoyed reading your account and experience. it's nice to know that the lore and legends are still alive. And, who knows, maybe George does come o0ut every now and again and when the wind blows maybe the voices of those children whisper through the trees.

Ron Ieraci said...

Morgana - great post; I was tempted to cut and paste it to replace mine. Though I did resist that temptation, ego being what it is, lol, I did add your lore to the post. Thanks!

Donna Brown said...

I remember the tamarack swamp to which you refer. I remember going out there at night in a car (when the road was still open to automobile traffic in the 1970s) and stopping and it seemed as though the car was still going down the road. I heard a scientific reason for the orange glow and it had to do with the phosphorous content of the soil in the swamp.

Ryan said...

I live, and grew up 3 miles away from the swamp. I'm 34 and have never seen nor heard anything on the countless times i've been back there. BUT I do know the lor, I am a believer of the other worldly and super natural entities. I just have never experienced any of it. I live on the columbus side of Tamarack on a dirt road and quite often I still drive back there. The main road in which connects the Columbus side to the Clymer side is very much used during the spring/summer/fall times by many. The bridge roads explained in the article that branch from the main road I do believe are blocked off as mentioned. A beautiful place none the less with interesting flora/fauna growth...BUT beware of the swamp and her quicksand for all who hike into this area. I still love this place, but do not fear it.

Cathy (Davis) Dietrich said...

I lived my childhood years (circa 1968- 1975) a few miles from Tamarack Swap on the Columbus side on Pine Valley Road. My dad, Bob Sadowski , whose family farm was near by, use to take us for walks out to Tamarack and show us the flora and nature.But, rest assured, we were never to venture out there alone due to quick sand and the "traps" of the swamp. I remember what we called "the Bog".. it was like the earth floated on water, if you stuck a stick through it, water would seep through and it was like walking on a bouncy sponge!. Dad was a true explorer though and seemed to know just where to walk and when and where to be extra careful. We found Venus Fly Trap flowers out there and was mesmerized by their ability to actually trap the flies within their petals! Ahh!! To be young again d relive the days of youth!!

Anonymous said...

Some of my best childhood memories are out at tamarack swamp

Anonymous said...

It's called Caflisch Lumber, not Catflish!

rleest34 said...

Back when I was a kid, in the 60's, my parents used to drive us across the three bridges road. I can recall my father stopping the car on the bridges, and getting out to look over the railing,and around. Being a kid, I used to think it looked awfully spooky, and would never have done that. The bridges to me always seemed shaky, and creaky when he drove across them, and almost unsafe. But it definitely was an interesting ride, and a true picture of a real wild, basically undefiled swamp. One time I remember we drove through there, and there was an effigy hanging by the neck from a tree over the road. I can also remember how revellers used to have big drinking parties back in there. And I do recall a makeshift camper or two, back along the roads. We never went back in there after dark. I grew up within ten miles of the place, and have heard tales of the Tamarack all my life. I haven't been over that way in a lot of years, but it seems like I have heard that the bridges were unsafe, and it had been closed to vehicles.

Morgana said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Morgana said...

Ron: You are most welcome! Thank you for the kind words and including a few excerpts of what I wrote! I happened to see a new notification in my inbox and decided to venture on over here to see what was new and exciting. I can't believe a year has gone by!


Thank you, "Anonymous" for pointing out my spelling error, I stand corrected! I humbly apologize for any offense it may have caused you or anyone else. :( I'll also have to apologize for any future offenses because I can't go back and edit to correct it......so kindly please accept my apologies.

To Donna, Ryan, Cathy, & rleest34: Loved your stories! :)

Ron Ieraci said...

Thanks for the comments, folks, and your stories. They're much appreciated. I'm glad the Tamarack is part of everyday life, not just a desolate byway like so many of the other places I write about.

Anonymous said...

Hi my name is Matt I live in corry area. The roads that lead to bridge are closed off I wanted to share couple of experiences I had out there. The first one was me and five of my friends walked from our vehicles towards where the bridges are we get there nothin out of the ordinary until we started walkin back to our cars. We started hearing footsteps beside us in bushes so we stopped to listen and the footsteps would keep going then stop. We didn't know if it was animal or something super natural but we took off running after that. The second story me and my one friend were out there in his truck sitting and listening. Bout 15 mins later we started to hear really really old music really couldn't explain it but we knew out that way there was no house for miles.

Anonymous said...

I grew up in that area and heard all the stories and legends. I live on the other side of the country now, and haven't been back for many years. In my teen years I had a friend who lived outside of Columbus near the fringes of the swamp. We used to ride our bikes into the swamp all the time and camp there with just our sleeping bags. I never saw anything out of the ordinary but we liked to scare ourselves silly. Good times! The last time I drove through there was right after the tornadoes.