Skip to main content


Showing posts from February, 2016

The Great Danville Treasure Hoax

In spite of what you've heard, Captain Kidd's treasure wasn't found in Danville.

As some of you may know, one of my hobbies is treasure hunting. From spring until fall I can usually be found scouring Pennsylvania with my metal detector, digging holes like a human groundhog and hoping to unearth a long-hidden pot of gold. As some of you may not know, however, treasure hunting is not the quickest or easiest way to get rich. Despite all the stories you might have heard about treasure hunters locating vast hordes of gold and silver, most of us are lucky to unearth enough dimes and quarters in a single outing to pay for a cup of coffee at Sheetz (Or Wawa, if you're from the eastern part of the state).

As a kid growing up in central Pennsylvania, one of the oft-told stories of lost treasure that ignited my young imagination was the story of Frank Lewis and Jabob Gearhart, two poor root-diggers who stumbled upon a box containing $47,000 in gold and silver coins while digging up…

A Pottsville witch and her magical pets

The following newspaper clippings describe one of the more unusual moments in Pottsville's long and colorful history. It involves a woman accused of witchcraft and a dog and a cat that glow in the dark, levitate in the air, and speak in human tongues. And, no, this isn't a story straight out of the 1600s. It happened in 1904.

From the August 22, 1904 edition of the Scranton Republican:

From the August 20, 1904 edition of the Wilkes-Barre Times:

Beheaded on the Ringtown Bridge

One can only imagine the feelings of sheer terror and hopelessness these poor souls must have felt, standing halfway across a deathly high railroad bridge with 400,000 pounds of steel bearing down on them. Jacob Fisher may have died a gruesome death, his quick thinking and heroic actions saved the life of his wife.

From the Jan. 4, 1895 edition of the Harrisburg Telegraph:

Berks County's Missing Skeleton

Can you crack the case of one of Berks County's most intriguing unsolved mysteries?

An abandoned log cabin in the woods north of Klinesville was the scene of a bizarre discovery in 1925, when four curious hunters opened an oak chest and found a human skeleton. The police were notified and a search of the cabin was made, but all parties were completely baffled to find that the skeleton had mysteriously vanished.

In June of 1925, four hunters from Walnuttown-- Paul Mote, Frank Stufflet, Frank Noll and Harry Keller-- were hunting groundhogs in the mountain forests above the Edward Matz farm (presumably near the present-day site of the Hamburg Reservoir on Blue Mountain) when they came across an abandoned log house. They searched for groundhogs in the stone walled basement of the building and then two of the hunters, Stufflet and Keller, decided to explore the rest of the cabin.

"There were three chests upstairs," Keller said to State Trooper William Burgoon. "Two were …

A Tragedy in Ghost Hollow

Was a ghostly apparition responsible for the death of young Katie Leininger?

"Little did they think when they left home that before they returned one of those robes would be a shroud of blood and one of their bodies a lifeless, horribly mangled corpse."

In Lebanon County there exists a place known to locals since time immemorial as Ghost Hollow. For more than a century, strange things have happened near this rural stretch along Mill Creek between Shaefferstown and Newmanstown. In 1876, a teenage girl lost her life in a horrific carriage accident along present-day Route 419, just outside the tiny village of Millbach. According to the victim's brother-- who witnessed the entire incident-- something "otherworldly" was to blame. 

From the June 30, 1876 edition of the Osage County Chronicle (Burlingame, Kansas):

NEWMANSTOWN, Lebanon County, Pa., June 20.-- The strangest of all ghost stories is creating a terrible excitement in this section of Pennsylvania. Miss Katie…

Haunted Coal Mines of Pennsylvania

It's impossible to say, with any degree of certainty, just how many people have lost their lives in the coal mines of Pennsylvania, but the figure must be astronomical. Mining, as everyone knows, is a dangerous job-- essential a daily staredown with the Grim Reaper. Considering that coal has been mined in the Keystone State for over two centuries, it should be no surprise that there have been numerous documented reports of ghost sightings deep in the bowels of the earth. Here are some of the most interesting hauntings:

1. Neshannock

In the 19th century, over 24 mine shafts could be found in Neshannock Township in Lawrence County in western Pennsylvania. In the fall of 1898 it was reported that a ghost miner had been haunting the mines. The ghost would enter the mine with his pick and his lamp every night, work busily, and then emerge from the shaft each dawn-- before vanishing into thin air. Miners theorized that it was the spirit of Elijah Bowaker, a worker who disappeared inside …

Circus Acrobat Drowns in Lycoming Creek

Of all the circuses that traveled the country in the early 20th century, only the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus could rival the popularity and fame of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus. Unfortunately, a series of calamities (such as the infamous Hammond Circus Trainwreck of 1918, which claimed eighty-six lives) led to financial struggles, causing the circus to change ownership, passing from the hands of Benjamin Wallace to Ed Ballard, and then to Jeremiah Mugivan and Bert Bowers (of Sells-Floto Circus fame) and, later, to John Nicholas Ringling. The Great Depression delivered the final blow to the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus, and the circus ceased operations in 1938.

While circus historians have written much about the Hammond train wreck, one minor tragedy in the history of the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus was documented by only a handful of Pennsylvania newspapers, such as the following article which appeared in the Williamsport Sun -Gazette on June 17, 1913. It is the sad story of…