Tales of Ghosts, Folklore and Local Legends

First published in 1982, Ghost Stories of Berks County, was soon followed by Ghost Stories of Berks County Book 2, and Ghost Stories of Berks County Book 3, the last of which I just picked up at a little second-hand book store in West Chester.

Though not hugely popular these books do contain some fun, creepy tales of the supernatural and are worth the read for those of us in PA who enjoy local spooky lore. Author Charles J. Adams III has quite a collection of ghostly compilations to his credit, including Bucks County Ghost Stories, Ghost Stories of the Lehigh Valley, Ghost Stories of Chester County and the Brandywine Valley, and other collections of ghost stories in various Pennsylvania locales. A little bit of trivia: the book “Bucks County Ghost Stories” is seen briefly in the film “Signs” starring Mel Gibson, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan.

“Weird” is always a good place to start. Since around 1990 the Weird N.J. periodical has been entertaining readers with stories of strange creatures, strange people, weird events, creepy places and personal accounts of the paranormal in New Jersey. In 2003 creators Mark Moran and Mark Sceurman published their the first Weird N.J. coffee table book with the tagline, “Your Travel Guide to New Jersey’s Local Legends and Best Kept Secrets” which contained the best of the best weird stuff. The book was soon followed by Weird N.J. Volume 2 and through collaboration with authors of strange local lore from other states, the Weird series of books has spread to include all but 17 states in the U.S., including Weird Pennsylvania.

Penned by Matt Lake, who has authored several other books in the Weird guides series, Weird Pennsylvania takes us on a romp through the southeastern part of the state mostly, with some tales from a little farther west. Let’s face it, historically speaking the eastern part of the country has just had more time to collect its share of weirdness. To be sure, the Weird guides are not really intended as travel guides either. While they do share local legends, highlight oddities and roadside curiosities in certain areas, none of the books include maps or specific directions to any of the places or events.

Efforts continue to collect tales and legends and progress can be followed on the official Weird U.S. Website.

Bigfoot Sghting in Bradford PA

UPDATE!
The northern PA area where a couple has been hunting Bigfoot is in Potter County, PA, and they are not the same couple who took the photos of an uprooted tree in Bradford. Sandy Cramer and Justin Prouty call the Sasquatch they’ve allegedly had regular contact with, “Pops,” not “Gramps” as I ignorantly stated in my earlier post (below).

Here is a link to the full article about these Bigfoot enthusiasts.

On a side note, it’s funny to know that there is a convenience store and gas station called “Big Foot Food Store” in nearby Austin County, PA. Need to hit that place for gas and a snack on my next road trip to the Northwoods of PA to find Bigfoot.

— Original Post —

Bradford Bigfoot Sighting - uprooted tree stump.I’m missing out on all the good stuff. Not sure what I was doing in October of 2013 but I missed the Bradford “Bigfoot sighting” which turned out to be an uprooted tree. Recently, on Facebook, a friend of my wife posted something about a couple hunting Bigfoot in Bradfor, PA, and having some success at it apparently.

While doing some research on that — which failed, no current news — I found a story about a guy, John Stoneman, who spotted something strange, maybe a Sasquatch, back in early October of 2013. [Oh, I know why I didn’t catch this story, I was busy making props for my Halloween party!]

Anyway, Stoneman and his girlfriend allege to have seen a possible Bigfoot far off among the trees as they drove by a wooded area near Kinzua State Park. Stoneman claims it was moving, but in both photos we see no noticeable change in position. Stoneman also claims to be skeptical of these creatures.

He did make some waves though. It’s amazing how someone can just come out of the woodwork with a photo of something, claim it’s Bigfoot, and wham they’re in most major newspapers and on TV too, he we apparently even contacted by Finding Bigfoot. Do you think it has anything to do with someone looking for their 15 minutes of fame? Hmmm….

Anyway, the facebook post I read (and I’ll see if I can get more info on that and post an update) linked to an article about a couple “hunting Bigfoot” in Bradford, PA, and that they’ve even had regular encounters with a creature they have playfully named, I think, “Gramps.” Like I said, need to check my reference. It may very well be the same couple wading deeper into Bigfootdom. They caught the bug, like everybody else these days, probably watching Finding Bigfoot or some other nonsense on TV.

You know, when I was a kid Bigfoot was just a cool legend, a story. We told tales of monsters and things like this around campfires or in darkened rooms during sleepovers. Just like ghosts and UFOs. What the hell is going on these days? Sure it’s fun to share spooky stories, but the stuff is getting deep around here…

Bradford PA Bigfoot tree stump debunking photoLove Bigfoot stories. Just my two cents: I think the guy took a picture of a stump and wanted some attention. An unnamed citizen shared his photo of the same object (seen on the left), closer up and from a very clear vantage point, which plainly debunks the Stoneman pic as an upright walking, hairy primate. It’s more like a sideways laying dead tree, you can even see the tree itself lying on the ground running off frame on the left. The stuff that Stoneman claimed to be “hair” is likely just thin root strands draping down from the larger root structure, and all loaded up with soil.

It’s a tree folks.

Mysterious PA Store is Now Open

After some coding and linking, which included building some featured product categories and links, I’m happy to announce that the Mysterious PA Store is live and ready to browse. Shop books and movies related to Pennsylvania legend, lore, folklore and mysteries, including paranormal stuff like ghosts, UFO sightings and mysterious monsters. If you have any suggestions for great products please use the contact form to get in touch.

Meanwhile, start browsing, lots of great gift ideas for friends and family.

Thanks, and enjoy!

PA Halloween Haunted Attractions

Cough! Geez, I know it’s near Halloween but the cobwebs are getting thick around this place. I need to stop neglecting this website. So much going on in life right now though, especially this time of year. We’re setting up for a Halloween party which includes a “Haunted Woods” attraction in our back yard, so there has been a lot of free time going in to designing scares, making props and stuff like that.

Still, that’s no excuse for letting MysteriousPA.com slip like this. I promise to bring more to this site in the months and years ahead.

That said, let me get on with the purpose of this post. Haunted Halloween Attractions! My wife and I love this stuff, Halloween is our favorite time of year. We love dressing up and getting creepy, decorating the house, carving disturbing pumpkins and scaring the Trick or Treaters. It’s a wonderful time of year.

We also like checking out Haunted Attractions. A local place we wandered into last year was The Bates Motel, located in Glen Mills. It’s awesome. There are three main attractions; a haunted hayride, a haunted corn maze and finally the Bates Motel haunted house. You can do one two or all three of the attractions, and we ventured through all of them. Starting with the hayride into horror.

The hayride takes you along a wooded trail with haunted cottages, creepy car wrecks, and tons more, with dark phantoms and living dead zombies stalking you along the way. After the hayride you’re let off by the corn maze and can venture through their on your own, zig-zagging through scary scenes including a werewolf attack, and a huge motion activated werewolf, gnawing on a body. As you enter the scene he turns toward you and growls. Very cool effects. Enjoy the claustrophobic walk through the cramped school bus loaded with ghouls ready to pounce.

After the hayride and haunted corn maze you can take a terrified walk through the Bates Motel, perfectly appointed and decked out with amazing scenes, animatronics and real actors who scare the bejesus out of you.

Bates Motel is perfect for any horror, halloween buff who likes to get scared and see amazing effects, lighting, animatronics and and makeup.

Other haunted attractions to check out in Southeast PA and beyond are:
Pennhurst Asylum
Location: Church St & Bridge Rd, Spring City, PA

Jasons Woods
Location: 99 Stehman Road Lancaster, PA 17603 — Map

Field of Screams
Location: 191 College Ave Mountville, PA 17554 — Map

Haunted Mill Scream Park
Location: 5932 Colonial Valley Rd, Spring Grove, PA — Map

911 Call for Bigfoot Proof in PA

Paint Township Bigfoot footprint - confirmed bear print by police.On May 14th Bigfoot enthusiast, John Winesickle from Paint Township, PA, dialed 9-1-1 to inform police that he had proof of the existence of Bigfoot, in the form of a foot print.

Here is a portion of the 9-1-1 call:

DISPATCHER: “He wants a police officer to come to his residence. He apparently has proof there of Bigfoot.”
OFFICER: “Bigfoot, right?”
DISPATCHER: “That’s affirmative. He has evidence proving Bigfoot.”

An officer arrived at the house and suggested the print might be that of a bear instead, not a Bigfoot, to which Winesickle replied that he could definitely tell the difference between a bear footprint and a Bigfoot print.

Police report regarding Bigfoot footprint find in Paint Township, PA. Originally posted by the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society

Originally posted on Facebook by the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society

When the story first broke rumors circulated that the 9-1-1 call was related to the shooting, and killing of a Bigfoot. The police report was presented on the Pennsylvania Bigfoot Society’s Facebook page, and the report indicates that the investigating officer was only there to check a footprint claim, nothing more.

An MP3 of the 9-1-1 call can be found at DoubtfulNews.com. It’s fairly humorous, but I’m hoping charges or fines were levied against the man for wasting 9-1-1 operator time and that of the police force.

Reference:
WeAreCentralPA.com
HuffingtonPost.com
DoubtfullNews.com

I Believe in Bloody Mary

“I believe in Bloody Mary, I believe in Bloody Mary, I believe in Bloody Mary, I believe…”

STOP!

Did you ever get all the way through? Did you ever repeat that conjuring phrase the full seven times in order to see Bloody Mary in the mirror? I remember my sister and friends spooking themselves out during sleepovers. One time she tried it while gazing out the kitchen window. Now that was scary. With the dark night beyond our fear grew with every repeated chant. We scared ourselves silly anticipating the gory countenance of Bloody Mary gliding up from the gloom, a ghostly apparition.

I don’t think she got to number seven.

While researching Bloody Mary I found one reference that the legend has a connection to Pennsylvania, though in that telling there is no specific mention of a PA locale or family name. The story has simply made its way around our culture through spooky stories shared by children and teens at school, sleepovers and parties. But what are it’s real origins?

The repeated chant to conjure Bloody Mary is just a remnant of a story with various incarnations. The main idea is that a wicked old woman, thought to be a witch, lives in the woods surrounding a remote town.

Young girls from the town begin disappearing and townsfolk assume that the suspected witch is up to no good, killing the girls and using their blood to restore her youth. The witch is apparently caught red-handed, or red- whatever, when a young girl falls under her spell and walks from her parents home into the woods. A posse is formed and they venture into the woods to save the girl and burn the witch at the stake.

They all live happily ever after, but apparently the spirit of the witch lives on in everybody’s mirror from here to Shanghai, and if her name is repeated seven times (or whatever the number may be in your particular version), the bloody visage of Mary will appear, rise up or somehow materialize to kill you and steal your soul.

The tale of the witch in the woods, and similar fables, can be found in many cultures throughout history and may have served as a deterrent to prevent children from wandering off into the woods, where, indeed, real harm could befall them. Fantastic tales of werewolves and witches would normally do the trick, unless the kid was like me and would want to go venturing off to find the thing anyway!

The witch is a fable, but Bloody Mary was real, and the legend finds its roots in England though the real origin has no connection with a bloody fountain of youth.

Instead, the name Bloody Mary refers to Mary I of England, so-called in the wake of executions of Protestant religious reformers carried out under during the Marian Persecutions. Those convicted of heresy, opposing the Roman Catholic faith, were drawn and quartered, hanged or burned. Hundreds, at least 300 according to Wikipedia, were martyred from 1554 to 1559.

Elizabeth Bathory Portrait - Late 16th century copy of the original. This image is in the public domain in the US.The connection with Bloody Mary and rejuvenation through drinking or bathing in blood of young women, or virgins, probably originated with the atrocity that was Countess Elizabeth Báthory of Hungary.

Truly the original “royal pain,” Countess Elizabeth, the Blood Countess, is considered one of the worst female serial killer in history, as far as body count is concerned. She and four collaborators are responsible for the deaths of possibly more than 600 young women and girls, all tortured and murderded at the hands of Elizabeth or her associates.

There are also rumors that the Blood Countess bathed in the blood of the slain girls in order to restore a youthful appearance.

Actual testimony by defendants indicates about 50 murders, but the unofficial number of killings, alleged by one witness, is upwards of 650.

Elizabeth was not convicted, instead being imprisoned in Čachtice Castle by her family, bricked up to spend her last years in a private suite, with only small openings to allow for the passage of air and meals.

As Vlad The Impaler is surely the true inspiration for Dracula, so Countess Elizabeth Báthory is most likely the origin of the blood-loving witch of the Bloody Mary Legend. It is possible that the stories of bloody Elizabeth and bloody Mary I of England were blended a bit on their way through folklore history.

Wisecraft or Witchcraft in Philly

In the early 1970s Dr. Edward Turner, a Philadelphia-based psychiatrist and practicing Druid, made some headlines in interviews regarding his beliefs. He claimed, at the time, that there were about 20,000 practicing witches in the United States, spanning many professions including doctors and lawyers.

Instead of “witchcraft,” Turner felt that “wisecraft” was a more suitable term for those practicing Druidism, which has gained a dark reputation and affiliation with satanism over the years. Turner, and modern practicing Druids maintain that their belief is nature-based, for good, and the improvement of the creative and spiritual self, as well as charity to others.

There are varying beliefs among Druids, some keeping to a more realistic view with a strong foundation in nature, and others with a belief in a higher, spiritual world, reincarnation, and some form of magic.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I’d want a psychiatrist who believes in magic diagnosing me, just as I wouldn’t want to be under the advice of a medical doctor who believed casting magic spells, or homeopathy for that matter.

Here is a link to an original newspaper articles featuring Dr. Turner:

Philly Psychiatrist Tells of Druid Religion

Stewart Traill and The Church of Bible Understanding

I wouldn’t consider this “mysterious” but it is part of PA legend, and cults are part of fringe strangeness…

Stewart-Traill-House-FloridaNothing says “free country” more than the guy who reaps the rewards of others’ labor and rest happily in a Florida mansion owned by a church organization he founded and leads himself. Stewart Traill is one such man. Now in his late 70s, Traill resides in a sprawling mansion in southern Florida, owned by The Church of Bible Understanding, formerly the Forever Family.

Stewart Traill was born in Quebec, Canada in 1936, to Donald Stewart Traill and Lorraine Lillian Tanner. His father Donald, a Presbyterian minister, disapproved of what his son had created with the Forever Family, and ultimately disowned him.

In the late 1960s Stewart Traill, then a self-employed vacuum cleaner salesman, claimed to be an atheist with every intention of discrediting the Bible. He turned to Christianity when he decided he could not adequately explain miracles.

His was a form of self-taught Christianity, as he attended no church. Instead he began to mingle with Christian youths who would gather at Robin Hood Dell, also known as Little Lehigh Park, near Allentown, PA. In true cult-leader fashion he began to gain these young people as followers.

Though some of the crowd thought Traill was up to something, and didn’t agree with his tactics, one Christian group member, George “Skip” O’Neil, began spending time with Traill and forming what would become the the Forever Family.

They would meet at the Message Coffee House in Allentown, with other young Christian friends of O’Neil. There they would engage in Bible studies, discussions and evangelizing, with Stewart Traill leading and teaching the group as it grew.

Initially Traill enlisted some group members to help him find used, broken vacuum cleaners to repair and sell, continuing with his original business. But eventually his “church” was able to sustain him, with members living in a communal arrangement, working and giving most of their income to the church.

Traill lived well, giving up his vacuum cleaner business, but his family saw none of the church profit. They lived meagerly, and Traill is also known to have treated them cruelly. Especially his wife, who was made to weigh herself and was spanked by Traill, as witnessed by one church member, if she her weight was not to his satisfaction.

The cult spread, as Traill had members set up satellite groups, or “fellowship houses,” in other states, eventually spreading to New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Maryland, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Washington D.C., North Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

Aside from being a cult-leader, Traill was also a licensed pilot and bought a plane with church money so he could travel between these locations. Over the years The Church of Bible Understanding amassed quite a fortune, and Traill purchased other planes including a jet.

Stewar TraillTraill was a natural leader, though harsh and domineering. Through various forms of psychological control — the only way one can really build a cult — he managed to keep a growing flock to support him. He also established quotas, and any member not bringing in sufficient new members through evangelism, not meeting their quota, were accused of faithlessness.

Is Traill a wack? Is he completely self-deluded, egotistical and able to control others, or a smart man with no integrity or conscience who had an idea to earn a living without having to work? He apparently started out as an atheist after all.

Maybe he was just clever enough, albeit devoid of compassion, to see how far he could take it. Maybe he’s sitting in his Florida mansion with a big smile on his bearded maw, knowing how he took so many people for a ride and got a free ride of his own. Traill not only brings in money from members, the church has established businesses which profit the cult.

Among them, Olde Good things, worth over $7.4 Million with locations in Scranton, NYC and LA, and Dallas. Cult member Paul Szostak manages the Grand Ave., LA location; S&G Photographics and Christian Brothers Carpet Cleaning.

The apparent good work Traill’s organization does in Haiti is likely just a front to lend legitimacy to a cult that rakes in big bucks, and much of it tax free.

The story of trail and his cult is a long one, too long for me to get into here. Below you will find some references, which I used to put together this post. You can also google it 🙂

The History of the Forever Family and the Church of Bible Understanding
Stewart Traill, the Al Capone of the 21st Century!
My Church of Bible Understanding Story
Ex-Members Tell of Poverty, Powerlessness
On the Traill: Difficult To Peg Reclusive Lead

Monsters of Pennsylvania

Here’s a good one, and a great gift idea for anyone interested in the strange monsters and creatures that lurk in the wilderness of PA, Monsters of Pennsylvania: Mysterious Creatures in the Keystone State.

Wisconsin and Michigan have their Dogman, and Bigfoot is everywhere these days, but PA has it’s share of mysterious sightings as well, including Sea Monsters — like the Lake Eerie Monster — the Ogua, a strange turtle-like river monster of Native American lore, with two heads and a huge tail, said to haunt the Monongahela and Ohio Rivers. Mysterious Big Cats, Tommyknockers, Thunderbirds and others abound, including Bigfoot of course, and the random sighting of well known PA neighbor the Jersey Devil.

Mysterious PA

Every state has their collection of lore and legend, mysteries and myths. At Mysterious PA I’d like to delve into some of Pennsylvania’s own folklore, ghost tales, UFOs, mystery monsters and all other manner of strangeness. It’s fun sometimes, to consider that there may be something else out there, something strange, mysterious or magical.

At Mysterious PA I will explore these mysteries, paranormal or otherwise. So stay tuned.

While you are here though, consider browsing our PA Mystery Store for books about Pennsylvania history, folklore and mysterious tales of the unexplained.

Enjoy!