Living in south central Pennsylvania has afforded me the discovery of a multitude of myths, legends, folklore and my favorite…ghost stories. Gathered here is but a small sampling of the stories of the rich supernatural life that permeates the nooks and crannies of the fourteen counties that make up this geographical region in Pennsylvania.
- Carson Long Military Academy (New Bloomfield): Founded in 1914 by Colonel Theodore K. Long. He named the school after his deceased son who had died at age 23 out west in a logging accident. The school had been in existence, under different names, for many years dating back to 1836 when it was first opened as a Latin Grammar School. It is not unusual for a place as old as this to harbor a few ghost stories. Years ago, and no one will ever pin point the exact date, a woman, the wife of one of the school’s commandants, perished in a fire. It is reported by passersby and students alike that the sound of faint screams can be heard as well as the sound of crackling noise like is heard when a building is on fire. One of the dorms on the campus has a blood stain that simply will not go away no matter how many times it has been painted over. It is said that years ago (again, no one has a specific date) a young cadet, while out enjoying a snow day, crashed his sled into the building and died. Holman Chapel is said to be haunted by Colonel Edward Holman. There is a portrait of the Colonel that is rumored to have eyes that will sometimes glow red as fire. Also, above the main door to the chapel is an ornately carved eagle that also has a case of the red eye glow from time to time. No explanation is ever give for either of these occurrences.
- Frankenberger Tavern (Mechanicsburg): Built in the early 1800′s, Frankeberger Tavern served as a stop point between Harrisburg and Carlisle. Weary travelers could partake of a drink, rest their weary bones and horses and get a meal and a room, if needed. One day during a heavy rain storm, the the Susquehanna River overflowed it’s banks, making roads impassable. A cattle driver took refuge from the storm at the Tavern and after having a few too many drinks, began to brag about his successful sale of cattle the day before. He was also showing a large sum of money. After retiring for the evening and sometime during the night, someone relieved him of not just his money, but his life as well. The Innkeepers found his body in their herb garden the next day. No one was ever charged with the crime and it is theorized that it is his ghost who is sometimes spotted looking forlornly out of the upstairs windows in the old tavern and some have claimed to see the ghost of a man sitting on the roof near the chimney.
- West Perry Senior High School (Elliotsburg): No one knows his name or the date of his death, but the West Perry High School has a persistent story about the phantom janitor who fell to his death while attempting to clean the windows in one of the rooms on the second floor. Students and staff have reported hearing the sounds of glass breaking and a man screaming before all goes silent. The room number often associated with the story is 118, but since in most buildings, the rooms labeled in the 100’s tend to all be on the first floor, it might be a little difficult for anyone to fall to their death from a window. Maybe room 218 is a better candidate? Do I believe this story, well, no, not really, as with all tales like this, there might be a smidgen of truth mixed in, but as the story is told and told again, it takes on a life of it’s own.
- Dickinson School of Law (Carlisle): William Harrison Hitchler became the dean of Dickinson School of Law in 1930. It was a job that soon became the love of his life and perhaps explains why he never married, he was simply too enamored with the college to have time to court anyone. He was respected by both his peers and students and often described as being a man of impeccable character. He wasn’t one for the traditional kinds of fun that might be found on a college campus, as he disliked the habits of smoking and drinking and basically anything that could be considered enjoyable…in other words, he was a bit stuffy. Sadly, he diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 1952 and eventually came to the realization that his illness would prevent him from continuing his duty as dean. He retired from his position in 1953 and finally succumbed to the disease and its effects in 1959. Since his passing over 50 years ago, its not uncommon for staff and student alike to report seeing a man who fits his description appearing in what was once his apartment on campus as well as in various other buildings, too. The sound of footsteps pacing the halls in Trickett Hall have also been reported and of course when investigated no one is to be seen and many attribute this to the former dean still being active and caring for his beloved school. A few years ago, Tricket Hall underwent a series of major renovations after almost falling victim to the wrecking ball. Public outcry was so strong that the college agreed to remodel the building, I can only wonder what Dean Hitchler thought of all that activity?
- The Hotel Hershey (Hershey): During the Great Depression of 1933, Milton Hershey decided that he wanted a hotel that would rival any that could be found in big cities like Paris or New York, so he set about building one! While other businesses were closing their doors, cutting work forces, basically anything to save money he was doing just the opposite; he spent money! He decided that his grand hotel would be built atop Pat’s Hill, which is now known as Prospect Heights. The haunting associated with the hotel is the smell of cigar smoke, and since this is a smoke free premises, those who experience this phenomenon just assume it’s Milton, who did enjoy a good cigar from time to time, checking things out and making sure the guests are enjoying their stay. It is reported that two ghosts have been seen, one resembling Milton and the other his wife, Kitty. Perhaps, even spirits need a vacation from the other side and staying at your own hotel just makes good business sense.
- The Pioneer Cemetery (Landisburg): The Pioneer Cemetery, in Shaffer’s Valley, is all that is left of the settlement called Pandemonium that was bordered on the north by Bowers Mountain and on the south by Blue Mountain. At it’s peak, Pandemonium boasted about 100 homes, two sawmills, a tannery, a stave mill, and a church. The community eventually began to shrink in it’s size as residents died, or moved way in an attempt to find a better life. Legend has it that the little cemetery is haunted by the ghost of an escaped slave who was accidentally shot near the cemetery. No one knows her name or anything about her life and it is believed that she entered into the community under the cover of darkness, catching the attention of nearby dogs. She must have thought that her pursuers had found her and fearing for her life, she climbed a tree in an attempt to hide. She never realized that the barking dogs were simple from a nearby house. When the owner of the dogs came to investigate, having only a kerosene lamp to see by, he figured the large shape in the trees was that of a bear. The woman, apparently too terrified to cry out, was shot and killed. She is buried outside of the cemetery gate. It’s not uncommon for reports of strange lights being seen in the cemetery (perhaps the faint glow of old time kerosene lamps). The state police have been called and have investigated but never anything out of the ordinary has been found.
- The Walking Statue (Lancaster): This is a story that has really gotten some embellishment over the years and while many claim (even the Bitner family) that it’s not true in any way, it is still a classic kind of ghost story that allows us to believe the idea that love never dies. Augusta Bitner was young, beautiful and in love and she intended to get married. Her family did not approve of her choice for husband material and tried numerous times to change her mind. Aside from being beautiful and young, she was also a bit head strong and would not pay any attention to their concerns. On the day of her wedding (some stories say the night before), Augusta visted her family once more in hopes of getting them to change their opionion of her intended and to get them to attend the wedding. A horrible argument ensued, and she raced out of the family house and tripped falling down a set of stairs breaking her neck. There would be no wedding for Augusta, instead her funeral. The haunting associated with this story centers around the statue that marks her grave. It shows a lovely young maiden (it may be her likeness, but I doubt it as I am certain I saw a statue similar in design in a cemetery in or near Winchester, Virginia years ago) walking down a set of stairs. Beside her is a broken column often used to signify someone who has died young. On the anniversary of her death, the statue comes to life and takes a calm slow stroll through the cemetery, in what some say is the eternal search for her true love, who, by the way disappeared into that annals of time. No one remembers his name or what happened to him.
- Cashtown Inn (Cashtown): The small community of Cashtown is about eight miles from Gettysburg on Old Route 30 which is sometimes called The Lincoln Highway. During the time of the battle of Gettysburg, this road was used by the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia as a way to get into Gettysburg, so troops marching up and down this stretch of road was a familiar sight. The Inn, was in business at this time and in fact, several of the Confederate generals would meet there to plan their battlefield operations. For several decades the Inn has had a history of ghostly happenings. Reports of soliders in uniform, strange and unexplained noises in the attic, doors opening and closing on their own and even in Room 4, hearing mysterious rapping on the room door and when opened no one is there. But, the noises and strange occurrences aren’t just centered inside, guests have reported hearing what sounds like horses snorting and pawing at the ground. Of course, when investigated, nothing can be found.
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