In the 1940s, there were sightings of an odd monster in the Cook Forest and the Ancients landscape of the Pennsylvania Wilds. The few witnesses who saw it described it as hairy, and very quick, disappearing into the trees after one quick glimpse. As nobody could ever get much of a sighting, let alone an explanation, the creature came to be known as the “Clarion What-Is-It.”
Nobody ever figured out what it was, and the creature doesn’t seem to be sighted anymore. But one explanation that nobody ever really considered was that it might be a werewolf. According to an old legend, it’s possible.
The legend was compiled by Henry Wharton Shoemaker, a Clinton County folklorist who wrote down a lot of old stories like this. Shoemaker wrote this one for a magazine back in the early fifties. According to Shoemaker, werewolves might come all the way from Northumberland County to visit this place in the Pennsylvania Wilds.
Supposedly they would visit a cemetery a bit south of Clarion, checking in on the grave of a young woman named Elizabeth Paul.
Elizabeth didn’t live in Clarion County at the time. She lived outside the Pennsylvania Wilds, on a farm in Northumberland County. (Don’t worry; we’ll get to the Pennsylvania Wilds.) At the time, she was a young woman. This would have been about 1830.
Elizabeth was in love with a much older man. That bothered her family. What bothered them even more was that he was said to be a werewolf.
The two of them would meet up at night, though clearly not when there was a full moon. They would sit on a fallen log and talk for hours, watching the family’s flock of sheep. Her family wasn’t exactly thrilled with this, but because of the man’s company, their sheep never got attacked by the local wolf packs, so they tolerated it.
This was important, actually—wolf attacks were a serious problem at the time. Many of the flocks were routinely attacked; it got to the point where farmers were offering rewards for dead wolves, PETA not having been invented yet.
One night, one of the local men shot a wolf that he saw, hoping to collect the reward. It was described as bigger than usual and old-looking. It was wounded, and staggered off into the forest. The next morning, he went looking for it. The story said, “The man went to find the wolf for the $25 reward, tracking it by the blood.”
He didn’t find a wolf, not exactly. He found Elizabeth’s old boyfriend, lying dead.
“Lying on his back, shot through the heart,” said the story. “It was noticed that his teeth were long and yellow like a wolf’s, and that there were stiff hairs on the underside of his hands and on the soles of his feet.”
The man was buried where he’d fallen. And, even though he was dead, Elizabeth and her family seemed to get a sort of residual protection from the local wolf packs. It appears that the wolves felt a kind of loyalty, as Elizabeth’s family never lost a sheep to the wolves again.
Elizabeth Paul was not a fictional person. Her family appears in property records from the area. Records show that she was born about 1811. As she grew up, Elizabeth got married and moved to Clarion County about 1850. She died there in 1905, and was buried near Cook Forest.
Her grave may still be getting some special protection from the local werewolf population. To this day, reports of “upright canines” are noted in the area. Maybe the werewolves are still checking in on Elizabeth’s grave. Maybe Clarion County has its own tribe of werewolves, protecting a grave forever.
“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!
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