Ghosts in the PA Wilds: The North Bend Swamp Angel
North Bend, Pennsylvania, lies in the northern part of Clinton County. The oldest community in Chapman Township, it’s located along the newest section of the Elk Scenic Drive on the Bucktail Scenic Byway in the Pennsylvania Wilds. When it was founded in the 1800s, the original name was Youngwomanstown.
It’s uncertain where the name exactly came from; there are several possible stories behind it. All of them seem to involve the death of a young woman, usually Native American, in or around what is still called Young Woman’s Creek.
In his History of Centre and Clinton Counties, John Blair Linn makes an attempt at explaining at least some of the stories. The book says, “A legendary tale there is that the Indians killed a young woman who could walk no farther, and if the Indians camped there at night, her ghost would appear, gliding above the surface of the stream. There are numerous other legends, but all begin with the statement that the body of a woman was found in the creek.”
These stories, up and around the area, led to the legend of the Swamp Angel.
The Swamp Angel was said to appear as a glowing sort of fireball. According to most of the stories, the Swamp Angel was a ghost who wasn’t vengeful, and would help those who asked, if they needed it badly enough.
There seems to be a certain historical basis to this.
(Artist’s conception of The Swamp Angel by Taylor Garner.)
One of the people who was said to have asked for help was Isaac Gaines, also known as Loop Hill Ike. A farmer and Civil War draft dodger from northern Clinton County, Ike appears in many old legends as the sort of go-to guy you’d call in case of a paranormal problem. He’s buried in Clearfield County, and also appears in the legend of the Giwoggle, a kind of magical creature that was a hybrid of a wolf, bird, and horse.
Ike went to ask the Swamp Angel for help in a story about a witch. If you believe all the old legends, half the township was composed of witches in the 1800s. One of them got angry at a woman named Maud, and cast a spell on her and her unborn baby. The baby was delivered by a woman named Liz. According to the story, the baby was born mutated, “Like a half grown monkey.” And Maud died immediately after, with her ghost haunting Liz.
As many people did in these stories, Liz went to Loop Hill Ike for help. Ike, knowing when he had to subcontract, took Liz to see the Swamp Angel.
He burned a plant called foxfire, which was one of the ways you could get her attention. After three nights of it, the Swamp Angel came. The Swamp Angel said that Liz would have to sleep in Maud’s bed for three nights, and that Loop Hill Ike was the only one who could kill the witch.
Liz went and slept in Maud’s bed for three nights, and was visited by the ghost each night. On the third night, Maud’s ghost faded away, and was never seen again.
There was still the original witch to deal with, so Loop Hill Ike did his thing. He made an image of the witch, and stuffed it with a weed called Demon’s Delight, shot a silver bullet through it, and threw it into the fire. The next day, Ike went to visit one of the local farmers. As they talked, a deer ran out in front of them. The farmer shot at it, missed, and watched as his bullet killed the witch next door. As she fell, she knocked over the cookstove, and her cabin burned down. Ike let the farmer think it was an accident.
North Bend and Young Woman’s Creek are both along Route 120, in Elk Country. If you go for a drive up there, you may see some wildlife. If you don’t, stop and ask the Swamp Angel for a hand. You never know.
“Ghosts in 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 Wednesday 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!
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