There have always been ghosts here.
Throughout the Pennsylvania Wilds, in all of recorded history, there are old legends of spirits and monsters. I’ve written about a few of them before, including the Giwoggle, a sort of hybrid werewolf said to inhabit Keating Township in Clinton County. Keating Township, a remote area in Elk Country settled largely by escaped slaves on the Underground Railroad, was always sort of a trendsetter in this regard, and even had its own guy you could call for help in the event of a paranormal problem.
His name was Isaac Gaines, and he went under the nickname of Loop Hill Ike.
Loop Hill Ike was described in the stories as a sort of supernatural bounty hunter. If you had problems with the local ghosts, monsters, or witches, all of whom were common in the area, Ike was the guy to call. At one point, he was called in to deal with a haunted violin.
No, not the same haunted violin from the legends of Ole Bull State Park area. That was a different musician. How cool is this, that the Pennsylvania Wilds has a selection of haunted violin stories? But no, this one was at a dance in Keating Township.
Dances were pretty common, back then. It was all they had for entertainment. Before the dance, however, there were two brothers, Bob and Bill. In an argument over money, Bob attempted to murder Bill. Bill survived, however, snuck up outside Bob’s cabin while Bob was eating dinner, and shot him through the window, killing him. (Believe it or not, this legend is based on an actual incident from 1863.)
So, some time later, the locals chose to hold a dance in Bob’s house. Hey, it was unoccupied, right? I mean, what could go wrong? Loop Hill Ike was invited to play the fiddle, and so was a local man named Bud.
They began to play one song, called “Pallet On The Floor.” But that wasn’t the only thing on the floor, it turns out. They heard footsteps coming, but saw nothing. As if someone invisible, a ghost maybe, was clumping along in heavy boots, down the stairs and onto the dance floor.
Most of the partygoers ran outside, showing a certain amount of sense. Bud kept playing, however, and said that he could see the ghost. This is because he was the seventh son of a seventh son, giving him certain paranormal abilities, and the best reason I’ve seen yet to study math.
It was Bob’s ghost, he said, returning to attend the dance. Everyone could hear the sound of the boots, dancing faster and faster as Bud played.
Finally, Bud called out that he was tired, and needed Ike to take over. Ike couldn’t play for someone he couldn’t see, though, and only Bud could see the ghosts. No matter; Loop Hill Ike was always on top of the situation. He ran to the creek and found a small blue flower called “Devil’s Dude.” When he placed it in his hat, and blew out the candles, he could see the ghost.
So Ike played. Not only a paranormal expert but a decent musician, he played faster and faster, making the ghost dance rapidly. And finally, Bob’s ghost cracked through the floorboards and fell through the floor, suggesting that the whole dance had been fairly unsafe to begin with. As the ghost fell, it slapped the blue flower out of Ike’s hat, and disappeared. Nobody could see or hear it after that.
Afterward, the fiddle couldn’t be tuned. No matter how hard Bud tried, the instrument was out of tune. Ike brought the fiddle to the forest at midnight and built a hemlock fire, as one does when fixing a musical instrument, and it worked after that. And afterward, Bud never got tired when playing the fiddle again.
All of the people involved in this story are buried up in northern Clinton County, not too far from the Elk Scenic Drive. And presumably, there are still ghosts around. If you drive up at night in October, you may see more than just elk. You never know.
“Ghosts of the PA Wilds” describes a series of ghost stories from the region written by historian Lou Bernard, who also revels in folklore and the paranormal. Each Saturday of October, and leading right to Halloween, the PA Wilds Are Calling blog will feature a new ghost story to celebrate the spooktacular season upon us.
Know of another good PA Wilds ghost story worth investigating and sharing? Let us know in the comment section below!