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Ghosts of Central Pennsylvania

Every area has its local haunts, and central Pennsylvania is certainly no exception. The central Susquehanna Valley region has its own share of ghostly jewels, many of which date back to the earliest European settlers. More often than not, tales of these haunted locations are written off as legend, but there are a few locales within central PA where even the most skeptical have experienced phenomena that can only be described as otherworldly. Let's take a look at thirteen of the most haunted places in the greater Susquehanna Valley!

The Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital was one of the oldest hospitals for the mentally ill.

The Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital was one of the oldest hospitals for the mentally ill.

Harrisburg State Mental Hospital (Harrisburg, Dauphin County)

The Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital opened its doors in 1851 and served as a home for the mentally insane for nearly one hundred and fifty years until its recent closing. Located at Cameron and McClay Streets, this former insane asylum housed some of the most deranged minds and tortured souls of the past century, but its history still lingers on through the haunting screams and ghastly apparitions of its former patients. Strange noises and footsteps are said to be heard throughout the complex, and shadowy ghosts are often encountered in the basement and tunnels beneath the building. Blood stains are said to appear and disappear on the floor of the morgue's examination room, and poltergeist activity has been witnessed in several instances on various locations of the property.

The Pioneer Cemetery makes the cemetery shown in this picture look rather cozy.

The Pioneer Cemetery makes the cemetery shown in this picture look rather cozy.

Pandemonium or Pioneer Cemetery (Tuscarora State Forest, Perry County)

The Pioneer Cemetery is an overgrown and forgotten graveyard that was once located in the small community of Pandemonium. The residents of this forgotten village were mostly farmers residing in a valley along the Pennsylvania frontier which was home to a very successful tannery until they were all wiped out by what some say was an epidemic of smallpox. The area is now a ghost town with nothing left to tell its tale but the meager foundation of the tannery, a few badly weathered tombstones, and the occasional appearance of a little girl named Sadie who wanders the woods in search of her mother. Inexplicable sounds are often heard by visitors and the capturing of electronic voice phenomenon is not at all uncommon.

Susquehanna University's Weber Chapel (Selinsgrove, Snyder County)

Weber Chapel is one of the most energetic buildings on the campus of Susquehanna University. The auditorium is home to a host of university events, guest lectures, regular church services, musical venues, and other activities, as well as a faceless ghost named Charlie. Charlie, as he is known, not only haunts the Chapel, but also the Degenstein Campus Center. He has been spotted in both the auditorium and the basement of the Chapel and numerous spooky sounds have also been attributed to him. The students and faculty consider Charlie to be a friendly ghost. He will sometimes inform you of his presence in the form of a strong breeze.

The souls of the dead cry out from the waters of Penns Creek.

The souls of the dead cry out from the waters of Penns Creek.

The Restless Spirits of Penns Creek (Penns Creek, Snyder County)

The Penns Creek Massacre was a horrendous historical event which took place on October 16, 1755 at various locations along the banks of Penns Creek from its mouth in Selinsgrove to as far north as New Berlin. In total fourteen German settlers were brutally murder, scalped, and burned, while eleven more—including two young girls—were taken captive. The event was so terrifying that it sent scores of German settlers fleeing from the area.

The most famous single incident surrounding the Penns Creek Massacre took place at the Le Roy Spring near New Berlin, where the corpse of Jacob Le Roy was burned in a fire with the two tomahawks used to kill him still stuck in his head. The scene of this horrible murder is said to be very much haunted along with various other locations all up and down this area of Penns Creek. Disfigured and dismembered apparitions are seen, poltergeist activity is rampant, and the terrified screams of the victims are sometimes heard. A strange impish creature with red eyes is even reported to have been seen haunting the area, as well as black dog apparitions, and other supernatural creatures. There are many Indian burial grounds throughout the surrounding area as well.

Sleepy Hollow (Kulpmont, Northumberland County)

No, this isn't the legend of the headless horseman! Sleepy Hollow is a secluded wooded area behind the Kulpmont Cemetery, just outside of Kulpmont, near the town of Del Mar Gardens. This overgrown extension of the cemetery is full of dilapidated tombstones, and has been described as eerie, ominous, and terrifying. Legend has it that the area had been used for decades as a convenient location for black magic rituals, and the markings which can be found on the nearby trees would affirm this to be true. Poltergeist activity has been reported in the area as well as claims of strange chants and blood-curdling screams coming from the surrounding woods. There has even been one report of a girl being levitated several feet after lying down on one of the grave-sites.

Hotel Edison (Sunbury, Northumberland County)

The Hotel Edison, located in historic downtown Sunbury, was the first building in the world to be lit by incandescent light bulbs. The building was wired by the Edison Electric Illuminating Company and its lights became operational on July 4, 1883; but that's not all that is special about this little slice of American history! It is said that the Hotel Edison is haunted by the spirits of children as well as several other entities who have decided to make the historic landmark their home. A particularly nasty ghost is reported to reside in the basement, and a slightly less disgruntled spirit named Ramona is said to haunt the upper floors of the building. There is even a photograph hanging in the lobby which depicts the apparition of one of the young spirits which anyone can view, but I wouldn't recommend standing under any lights! This one has been thoroughly checked out by several paranormal investigators who have concluded that this building is definitely haunted.

Bucknell University rests in the victorian-themed town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Bucknell University rests in the victorian-themed town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

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Bucknell University's Hunt Hall (Lewisburg, Union County)

The Hunt Hall, also known as 'Haunt' Hall was built in 1928 for use as the women's dormitory on the Bucknell University campus. Over the past thirty years, women who have resided in the hall have witnessed numerous paranormal events including spirit manifestations, mild poltergeist activity, and even missing or moved objects. The culprit spirit is known to residents of the hall as Angela. Angela is reported to enjoy trying on various dresses left hanging on doors and has even been seen walking around in them.

Alvira (Allenwood, Union County)

At the beginning of WWII, residents of the small town of Alvira were ousted from their homes and farms by the federal government in order to make way for a proposed—and highly secretive—trinitrotoluene (TNT) factory and storage facility which was believed to be necessary for the war effort. Numerous homes and businesses were bulldozed as a result, and several dozen concrete storage bunkers were erected in their place – only a small church and numerous grave-sites remained.

The residents were told that when the need for the munitions plant ended they would be given an opportunity to return to their lands, but the federal government never kept its word and instead used part of the land to build what is known today as the Allenwood Federal Prison Complex. Now, the spirits of the deceased buried on those lands haunt the wooded grounds outside the prison in revenge for the injustice perpetrated upon their families by the federal government. The spirits in this place are very restless and it is said that the land will never see peace until the federal government makes good on its promise to the original land owners. Every type of phenomenon has been reported here and it continues to this day.

Sidler Hill Cemetery (Danville, Montour County)

Hidden in the woods behind the Geisinger Medical Center in Danville, Pennsylvania rests an abandoned cemetery which was once part of a Catholic parish. It is located up a steep hill behind the water tower on the northern side of the town just off of route 52. No one is certain exactly how many bodies are buried there, but estimates range from 40 to nearly 100 corpses could still be buried beneath the tree covered slope. The tombstones are in a terrible condition and many graves have been lost beneath the soil and can not be determined by sight. Spirits are said to linger in the nearby woods and strange lights have been reported, as well as the distinct voices of adults speaking in their native Welsh and Irish tongues.

Katy's Church (Washingtonville, Montour County)

Katy Vandine was a beautiful young woman who caught the eye of a local man. They fell in love and had many a romantic night together, but as it turns out, her lover was a married man. Katy became pregnant by this man and as a result was ostracized by the local community for her promiscuity. The man—seeking to save his own neck—proclaimed that he had been bewitched by the young maiden, which sent the community into a frenzy. In the midst of it all, Katy decided to kill herself to spare herself from her broken heart and the anguish of ostracism, as well as a potential conviction for the crime of witchcraft. She made herself a noose and hung herself on the tree in front of the church. Katy's spirit still haunts the grounds of the church and she is sometimes seen hanging in the tree or walking beside the roadway wearing a white dress and crying for her lover.

The Devil's Den is home to a plethora of paranormal activity.

The Devil's Den is home to a plethora of paranormal activity.

Demon's Den or Otzniachson (Lower West Branch of the Susquehanna River, Lycoming County)

The Iroquoi named the lower West Branch of the Susquehanna River, otzniachson , which means "the Demon's Den." It was so named because this stretch of river running along the southern border of Lycoming County and dividing Union and Northumberland Counties was reported to be home to all manner of wicked spirits. Many battles took place along this stretch of river between various Native American tribes and also during encounters with European settlers. Many paranormal events have been reported all along this stretch of river from ghostly entities, to UFO encounters, and even large water serpents slithering through the West Branch of the Susquehanna just off of the Milton State Park.

The Siren of Loyalsock Creek haunts these waters.

The Siren of Loyalsock Creek haunts these waters.

The Siren of Loyalsock Creek (Loyalsock Creek, Lycoming County)

During the middle of the 1800's a beautiful Indian girl was brutally murdered by raftsmen along the Loyalsock Creek, near Williamsport. Her spirit is reported to still haunt the area and it is claimed that she is responsible for the deaths of those who have dared to endeavor to raft upon the wide waters of the Loyalsock Creek. She can be heard singing among the trees along the banks of the Loyalsock, and in some instances the figure of an young girl dressed in Indian clothing has even been spotted.

Few places compare to the beauty and the mystery of the Black Forests of northern Pennsylvania.

Few places compare to the beauty and the mystery of the Black Forests of northern Pennsylvania.

Haunted Forests of Masten (Loyalsock State Forest, Lycoming County)

The black forest of northern Pennsylvania is one of the most remote locations in the Keystone State. Here, nestled in the remote wilderness of the Loyalsock State Forest, nine miles down Pleasant Stream Road, are the remains of the old logging town of Masten. The site is that of an old lumber mill town which flourished between 1905 and 1930, but has since been abandoned, and now serves as the trail-head for the very pleasant twenty-seven mile hiking trail known as the Old Loggers Path.

The only remains of the lumber mill town are the concrete foundations which are located where the Masten camping area is now situated. The area is popular among hikers, campers, and fishermen, but is also known as a paranormal hot-spot. Glowing orbs have been seen floating about the camping area, voices have been heard and recorded coming from the forest, strange apparitions have appeared, odd lights have been sighted, and there are even claims that dark elves, or Døkkálfar, roam the forests at night.

Final Thoughts

Many people visit haunted locations because ghost hunting is a fun and relatively inexpensive form of entertainment; some go because they enjoy the prospects of an otherworldly encounter, and still others go wishing to obtain scientific evidence of the hereafter. Ghost hunting will only remain enjoyable if you help to keep it enjoyable by being responsible, safe, respectful, and courteous.

Don't vandalize locations and do not trespass on private property. Get permission when it is necessary, and ostracize those who would ruin it for the rest of us. Stay out of abandoned buildings, and if you are not going to listen to me at least be aware of the dangers of abandoned buildings. Above all be safe, wear light-colored clothing at night, and when travelling to remote locations have a first aid kit and an emergency plan! There is nothing worse than being stuck in the middle of nowhere during an emergency.


Banana on May 03, 2017:

It's not actually Charlie that haunts Weber chapel at Susquehanna University. While he is in Degenstein, a faceless girl resides in Weber. It is thought she may have been crushed by the turntable stage and that is why she has no face. You can walk around the bottom floor, having locked everything up, and then turn around to find all the doors wide open. Siebert hall is also haunted at the university, though it is thought to be inhabited by the family that died within its walls when it burnt down.

Nathan M from Tucson on October 09, 2014:

I've always heard lots of stories about the Black Forest of Pennsylvania, but most of the other ghost tales were new to me. I always like reading about new ghost stories.

bethlc on March 29, 2013:

Hey Mandrake, I live right next to the Demon's Den and I have always felt like the river was looking at me for no reason. One day there was an uncanny thick fog that simply does not happen here and it made it hard to see anything. The river scares me and this was before I learned anything about it. It feels....wrong.

b on March 29, 2013:

This is uncanny

KL Little on August 05, 2011:

Your story about the Loyalsock Siren is not the version I've heard. Yes, she was murdered by a canal boatman, but she was actually loved by the canal workers, as she would sit and sing along the banks of the mouth of the 'sock, and they loved hearing her. After the murder, the other canal workers found the guy who did it (it was an attempted rape but the girl fought back) and they lynched him. And although some who paddle the 'sock say they've heard her, no one to my knowledge was ever been "lured to their deaths" by her.

Stacie L on July 28, 2011:

Your state is rich with history and ghosts..sounds like a dream for paranormal investigators!

Mandrake_1975 (author) from Pennsylvania on July 15, 2011:

Thanks for the compliment jimagain!

Jim Henderson from Hattiesburg, Mississippi on July 15, 2011:

I voted UP and INTERESTING! Well written and replete with information. Not too heavy on the paranormal but enough an appetizer to stimulate the neurons to clamor for more.

Mandrake_1975 (author) from Pennsylvania on June 27, 2011:

Yes Peter, there are many ghosts in the area, many of which first appeared after the French and Indian War era.

Another interesting note is that the Susquehanna River itself, is believed to be one of the oldest, and perhaps thee oldest, river in the world. With a place that old there are bound to be ghosts!

And yet another interesting tidbit is that of the giants who originally inhabited the area - the Susquehannaocks. The Susquehannocks were a Native American tribe who resided in the area during the 1600s when the Europeans first began to move in. They are described in several accounts by the Jesuits, Moravians, and English, as well as surrounding Native American tribes, as giants who had legs the size of tree trunks. Some believe they may have been mound builders who mostly lived at a location known as Spanish Hill, which was also claimed to be a paranormal location by other tribes.

PETER LUMETTA from KENAI, ALAKSA on June 26, 2011:

A whole lotta ghosts in that area. I will be sure to avoid it. Thanks, Peter

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