Erie/I-80 Haunts & History

The legends, lore, and ghost tales of Cameron, Clarion, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, Mercer, McKean, Venango & Warren counties. 

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Hi. Thanks for stopping by the Lake Erie & Allegheny Mountain Haunts & History pages. We hope you enjoy the legends, lore and spooky stories of the area.

We believe that every ghost tale has a rich history of people, places, events and psychology behind it. We tried to capture some of this history and link it so you could share in the tradition of Pennsylvania's Lake Erie and Northern Tier region.

We linked the primary source, too. They deserve huge credit for running down the lore and preserving it. We didn't link the newspapers and periodicals (we did cite them), which are a treasure trove of tales. They tend to get archived, put on pay per view or zapped after awhile, so we don't consider the links to be truly reliable. There's also a flotilla of books available, featuring both historic and haunted local themes.

One more thing - while many of the sites mentioned here are public, many others are private property. Never go ghost hunting on someone's property without their permission. People deserve their privacy, and a midnight encounter with the police or an unleashed German Shepherd is scarier than any spook you'll find.



Here's some of the sites that offer a grand selection of the tales of the Erie/I-80 region:

The Shadowlands

Erie Legends

N.W. PA Hauntings

Strange USA

Venango Ghosts 


Erie/I-80 Contents:

Page 1) Academy Theater - Devil's Run

Page 2) Eagle Hotel - Miller Farm Cemetery

Page 3) Oak Hill Cemetery - Willow Dale Cemetery

Home) Pennsylvania H&H

 

          THE BOOKSHELF:

  • Ghosts of Erie County (Stephanie Wincik)
  • Ghosts of Hotel Conneaut and Conneaut Lake Park (Carrie Pavlik)
  • More Ghosts of Erie County (Stephanie Wincik)

 

 


ACADEMY THEATER (Meadville, Crawford County) Starting out in 1886 as the Academy of Music (designed by J.M. Wood & built by Ernest Hempstead), this grand old hall has seen and done it all. Opera, live shows, vaudeville, silent films and then the talkies were all enjoyed under its' roof. The Academy lived up to its' goal of being a “temple of amusement” for Meadville. It fell into disrepair after a fire in the 1980s.  But in the 1990s the National Historic Landmark theater was restored by the Friends of the Academy, and now it shows movies and hosts cultural events. It boasts of spirits who roam the Theater. Arts Info

ALLEGHENY COLLEGE (Meadville, Crawford County) Brooks Hall is a girl's dorm at Allegheny College. One night a frat guy marched down Brooks Walk, a brick lane that led to the dorm, to pin his sorority sweetheart. Backed by his Greek brothers, he followed the old tradition of climbing up the wall to the terrace where his girl awaited for some serenading and a smooch. But this particular lad was either weak-kneed with love or a lousy climber. He fell while scaling the wall, killing himself. The shattered girl ran to her room and threw herself out the window, joining him in death. Her ghost haunts her old room and loves to play poltergeist games – moving furniture, dropping pictures off the wall to the floor, and opening closed windows. She might be gone but still acts like it's her place. Needless to say, there are many requests for transfers out of that room. The Shadowlands

ASBURY METHODIST CHURCH AND CEMETERY (Millcreek Twp., Erie County)  Asbury Church was built in 1823, but didn't have any dearly departed returning to the church grounds until over a century later.  In the 1940's, the state decided to widen the road.  They took out a part of the cemetery, careful to relocate the bodies they could find.  But the older section of the graveyard wasn't well marked, and some church members protested to the state that they were paving over old bodies. The state didn't seem to care.  But after they left, strange things began to happen at the church.  The doors would be unlocked, candles lit overnight, hymnals moved to where the choir would be at the turn of the century, and singing was heard late at nightSeems the spirits were still holding services.  Well, that stopped when the old church was torn down in 1965, but now the activity switched to the graveyard.  People reported seeing floating orbs, midnight funerals, and late night visits by a workman, a misty pacing lady, and a laughing boy.  Some parishioners pooh-poohed the claims; others gave names to the spirits.  Eerie Erie, indeed!  Pastor Swope

AXE MURDER HOLLOW (Millcreek, Erie County) This gruesome tale starts in a quiet wooded area off of Sterrettania Road in Millcreek. There you'll find the foundations of a small home. A rock path from there will take you to a creek with a tree stump near its' bank. A jealous husband who suspected his wife of cheating on him with a farmhand chased her down that path and beheaded her on that stump. (Other versions say he killed her and his children in the house.) Then he immolated himself by setting the small house on fire. Skip ahead a few years. A young couple are driving down a narrow road along the creek in the rain when the car got stuck in the mud. The driver told the girl to lock herself in the vehicle while he went for help. Later, she heard the sounds of a struggle, followed by a gurgling noise. A bright light shone in the car and a voice commanded her to get out. Terrified, she did. Hanging from a tree by his ankles was her dead boyfriend with blood dripping from his slit throat. She ran screaming from the figure reaching out for her, holding the light in one hand and a bloody axe in the other.  If you ever visit an old friend that's a long-time Erie local, ask him about the tale. He'll know it, and may even  take you there. Developers gobbled up the land and built some suburban homes on it. But the road is still there... There's also supposed to be another Axe Murder Hollow in McKean (scroll down just a bit.)   The Hollow rated mention in Matt Lake's collection of tales in Weird Pennsylvania. 

BATTLES HOUSE (Girard, Erie County) The Rush Battles Estate covers 130 acres and has two homes, the Battles farmhouse, built in 1858, and the Charlotte Elizabeth Battles house, built in 1861. The first was the home of Rush, his mother Elizabeth, and sisters Alcina & Lucina. The second was the new home of Rush, who in the meantime had gotten married to Charlotte Webster. What bride needs a mother-in-law and two sisters-in-law under the same roof? It's now operated as the Battles Museums of Rural Life by the Erie County Historical Society. There are reports of footsteps heard on the upper floors, children singing in the first floor dining room, objects being moved to different spots, and an antique oil lamp being thrown to the floor. The house's cats are attracted to and upset by unseen spirits. The ghost of a Victorian era lady dressed in widow's black has been seen, accompanied by a noticeable temperature drop. There were reports of a male spirit, and the specters of two young girls were seen on the second floor. There are also sightings associated with a farmhand injured by a horse. after getting kicked in the head. He's been seen in the master bedroom where he was cared for, and a older female spook has also been seen, looking out the loo window.  It's thought that she witnessed the accident from the bathroom.  She's also been spotted moving across the bedroom into the closet, perhaps while attending to him. The last resident of the Charlotte Battle house, Georgiana Reed, can still be seen roaming its' halls, even though she died in the 1980s.  The Battle's House is included in Stephanie Wincik's More Ghosts Of Erie CountyThe Avalon Foundation

BLACKBEARD'S SILVER (Gardeau, McKean County) There are many legends of lost loot in the wilderness of northwestern Pennsylvania and this is certainly one of the more traveled tales. An English navy captain called Blackbeard (no, not Edward Teach, but this is the only name he goes by in the story) raised a sunken Spanish galleon in 1811 loaded with silver. It held $1,500,000 worth of the precious metal and the value would be through the roof now. He towed the wreck into Baltimore, where he intended to offload the treasure and head to England. But with the Brits at war with France and about to get into one with America, Blackbeard was worried about privateers.  He rethought his plans and decided to make the 400 mile trek to Canada and safety. So he loaded a wagon train with supplies and 7-1/2 tons of silver bars, safely ensconced in false bottoms. After a harrowing trip, he made it as far as the southeast corner of McKean County near Smethport. But Lake Erie and the border were teeming with American troops and Fort Niagara was under siege. He decided to bury his loot until the war was over. It's said that the men labored so hard digging that their sweat turned the area into a salt lick for the elks. He made it back to England via Canada, and told the admiralty his tale. After the war, he returned to America under navy orders and sent Colonel Noah Parker out to recover the loot. Parker said he couldn't find it and eventually the frustrated Blackbeard went to his eternal reward. But Parker, who married and lived in the area, was known to disappear into the woods and return to live the life of Riley. Whenever his finances ran low, he took another trip to replenish his funds. So apparently he knew where to look for the silver and dipped into it a bar or two at a time to sell for some ready cash. It's alleged that he even opened a spa in Northern Pennsylvania after the Civil War, though we can't verify that. It's an accepted bit of folklore now that Blackbeard's silver – at least what the wily Parker left of it – is sitting in the forests of McKean County, waiting to be rediscovered (although that's been disputed by some). Blackbeard's Silver - Francis X. Scully   Lost Gold USA

BLACK SUNDAY (entire region) On September 24, 1950, the sky reddened and then turned pitch black for at least a half hour, maybe longer. It was said you could see the stars that afternoon. Some people took it in stride while others thought it was the end of the world. Why the sun disappeared is one of the great mysteries of 1950s. The authorities said it was a forest fire, but most folk don't buy that explanation, and no major fire was ever reported on that date. The theories range from a cloud caused by a secret A-Bomb test to an experiment to “black out” urban areas, presumably to hide the towns and cities from Russki bomb sights. It was in the middle of the Cold War frenzy and anything was possible. Was it really caused by an unreported forest fire?  Was it a government cover-up of secret experiment?  Or was it just God's Hand at work? Aquarian Mysteries

BLUE LUCY (Albion, Erie County) Lore has it that Northwestern High once staged a play that had a character named Lucy, who died as part of the script.  When the show was done, she stayed behind, or at least her spiritual double.  Lucy's been blamed for playing with the lights - they flicker, go on and off, grow dimmer and brighter - and the only way to get them back on kilter is to ask her to stop messing with them.  When she's not putting on a light show, she can be seen in the back of the auditorium or walking across the stage, described as a woman with long, flowing hair, giving off a blue aura.  NHS has its own permanent leading lady.  Strange USA

THE BOUSSON (Meadville, Crawford County) The story goes that the Bousson was owned by a pair of spinster sisters that had been together throughout their lives.  Later in life, one of the sisters became engaged to get married.  The other, in a jealous fit, killed her sisters paramour.  Their spirits are rumored to roam the grounds, along with a large shadowy creature - maybe envy? Northwest Pennsylvania Hauntings

BRADY'S BEND CEMETERY (Brady's Bend Twp., Clarion County) We think this report is referring to one of two small, local cemeteries we could find in Brady's Bend. One is Seybert Cemetery, which to us is the better bet. Only a handful of markers remain there, and some of the last Native Americans that lived along the Upper Allegheny are said to be buried there. The other is Kaylor Baptist Cemetery, with stones dating from 1886 – 1954. Whichever one, there have been reports of strange noises, fog and mist, and a blue haze that follows visitors around the grounds. The Shadowlands

BREWERIE AT UNION STATION (Erie, Erie County)  The BrewErie, located in the old 1927 Union Station, has a resident ghost called Clara, a little girl that was accidentally killed by her father on the "haunted stairwell."  The Union Station itself is honeycombed with tunnels, and there's orb activity there, too, along with odd physical sensations felt by visitors.  Stephanie Wincek followed three investigations of the BrewErie in her book Reaching Through The Veil Para Search & Study

JOHN BROWN'S FARM & TANNERY (New Richmond, Crawford County) John Brown ran a farm and tannery in New Richmond, about a dozen miles from Meadville, from 1825 to 1835. It was, as you might surmise, a major stop of the Underground Railroad, passing some 2,500 slaves through it's hidden room. After some early success, the business eventually failed and John Brown moved on to Ohio and into history. But his body doesn't lie moldering in the grave.  A tall, strapping man that many believe is John Brown has been reportedly seen here. It's debated whether he's returning to the place where he knew peace or if he's drawn to the site where his wife and child died. There's also the spirit of a black man seen at dusk and dawn, perhaps one of the escaped slaves. Voices have been heard, and there's a cemetery on the property that may be the final resting spot for the bodies of slaves, workers, family, even soldiers. No one's exactly sure. The place is a museum now, offering historical tours. Who knows what piece of history you may run across there? Haunted Pennsylvania by Patty Wilson & Mark Nesbitt covers all the Tannery's spooks.

CHESTNUT STREET ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Kane, McKean County) It's said that a janitor was killed by a student in the basement in the 1950s. There's a cold spot where the deed was done and the key-operated elevator runs with no one in it. The Shadowlands

THE CHILDRENS CEMETERY  (Crawford County) This small cemetery is home to the remains of 10 children aged 1-12.  All the markers are dated August, 1918, leading investigators to believe that they died in the terrible flu pandemic of that year.  There are reports of apparitions at the graveyard, including a man with a tall black hat who may be the caretaker.  People have felt touchings and heard children's voices giggling.  The tiny plot has been adopted by the Northwest Pennsylvania Hauntings Association who maintain the childrens site.  (Oil City Derrick "Group Searches Cemeteries For Lively Activity," undated)

CITY OF ERIE STEAMER LIGHTS (Lake Erie, Erie County) On August 9th, 1841, the side wheeler "City of Erie" exploded and burned as it steamed out of Silver Springs, NY, fifty miles away from Erie.  Some 250 souls perished in the accident.  Since then, there have been many reports from both sailors and landlubbers on shore of seeing lights blazing on the lake, lights that looked eerily like a burning ship.  Oddly, the sightings are usually made in November, not August, but many will swear that the fiery ghost ship is the Erie. Ships

CLARION UNIVERSITY (Clarion, Clarion County)  Clarion started out as the Carrier Methodist seminary in 1867.  Floundering a bit at the art of turning out ministers, it became a Normal School twenty years later.  It changed to Clarion State Teacher's College in 1927 and finally hit the big time by becoming the University in 1982.  It educates 6,500 students, and it's the biggest employer in Clarion County.

  • Becht Hall: This may be the most haunted hall at Clarion. The spirit of a dorm mom still watches over the girls and specializes in warding off gentleman callers. The other spirit is that of a young girl, kidnapped and killed by a Becht Hall cafeteria worker. Her body was never found. She can be heard moving throughout the building, stealing combs and turning on water facets. We guess she likes to keep up her appearances.
  • Founder's Hall: Founder's Hall is reportedly home to multiple spirits. One is a former so-so student whose ghostly thing is to frustrate the efforts of current students and instructors in the building. Handy excuse, hey?  Another is the spirit of a WW2 kamikaze pilot. A Clarion professor who survived the attack brought a piece of the plane back with him and exhibited it at Founder's. The pilot now haunts the building, reportedly in an effort to get his relic back. The Hall is often disrupted by banging noises in the walls made by the ghosts.
  • Given Hall: This residence hall has supposedly had furniture moved between rooms and the spirits have tried to break their way through the floor to get to the room below.
  • Hart Chapel: The ghost of a frustrated playwright/actor haunts the Chapel. He came to the campus to put on a one-man show with visions of the big time and bombed. His dreams of Broadway gone, the upset actor broke into Hart and hung himself.
  • Ralston Hall: This hall is home of the Siler Child Care Center. Reportedly it's spook is a 6-year old girl who entertains herself by wandering through the hallways, turning on showers and scattering marbles.  She sounds like a normal teen coed to me.
  • Wilkerson Hall: The spirit of a dead student is said to haunt this dorm. She likes to hang out in her old room, sometimes accompanied by Jimi Hendrix jams.
  • The Carlson Library, Fulmer House (Old Theta Chi House),  Greenville Avenue Student Apartments, and Moore Hall are all supposed to be haunted, too, but we couldn't flesh out the details.  Give us a post if you have some inside knowledge of their spooks.

The ghoulish going-ons at Clarion are so popular that the University sponsors an annual “Ghosts of Clarion Walking Tour”, begun in 2004.

Clarion University On Line Tour

All references for Clarion University are taken from The Ghosts of Clarion  (page 8, pdf file)

CLAY STREET ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (Kane, McKean County) The story goes that if you walk by the school, which is supposed to date back to the 19th century, at 2 AM you can see students watching you from the top floor windows. The probability that this phenomena is tied in with the closing time of Kane's bars is fairly high. The Shadowlands

COLE'S GOLD (Eldred, McKean County) Cyrus Cole lived in a shack by the swamps near Eldred, trapping small game and foraging for his supper. Yet he was strangely never short of cash. The Secret Service was investigating a surge of counterfeit gold and silver coins in the area, and the trail led to Cole as its' mastermind. Armed with a search warrant, they went sloshing through his swamp looking for any signs of his hand being involved in the crime but came up empty. Legend has it that Cole outfoxed them by burying his fake loot and the very real profits he made in the high ground around Eldred. None of it has ever been recovered. Cole's Gold - BBC

CONNEAUT LAKE PARK (Crawford County) This historic park opened in 1892 and has a couple of ghosts on its' resume. If you're around the Blue Streak, a wooden coaster built in 1938, watch for the spook of a rider who died on the attraction. They also allege that you can spot ghostly dancers in the Dreamland Ballroom, built in 1909 and located in the middle of the park.  It was torched by arsonists in 2008, but successfully reopened for the 2009 season. The Ghosts Of Hotel Conneaut And Conneaut Lake Park by Carrie Andra Pavlik has a slew of local park lore in it.

COONEY'S GRAVE (St. Mary's, Elk County) There's reportedly a tombstone of a Father Cooney in St. Mary's Catholic Cemetery.  He's supposedly got a girl in a family way in the early 1900s and killed her. There's alleged to be ghostly phenomena associated with the gravestone, that on moonlit nights it's said a blood-like liquid can be seen on his marker, according to The Shadowlands  There's another tale, too.  Back in the day, a crazy man named Cooney murdered his wife and hung her from a tree in St. Mary's cemetery. It is said that every Halloween, you can see the shadow of her lifeless body hanging from the tree.This was told in PA Legends

CRAZY JAMES (Pleasantville, Venango County) This is one of the more popular and quite possibly true folk tales of the Pennsylvania oil fields. Abraham James was born in Chester County and went west to California to find gold. When he struck out there, he headed back east to Venango County to see if he could find some black gold. While riding past a field with some friends in 1868, he suddenly leaped out of the buggy and sprinted to the north end of the lot. He put a penny on the ground, spun around, and passed out. When he regained his senses, he said he saw an Indian spirit that showed him the spot where there was oil,.  He marked with the penny. He was almost immediately and unanimously appointed the village idiot by the townsfolk who gave him the nickname “Crazy James.”  They considered him to be even loonier than “Crazy Drake” down the road. But he leased the field from its' owner, William Porter, erected a derrick and two storage tanks, and began to drill. For three months it looked like the townsmen were right. But then James hit a gusher at 830' down and the wildcatters rushed to Porter's field and Pleasantville. James and his Indian familiar moved on, finding at least four more strikes. But by the 1870s they had faded from Venango history. He blew the money on poor investments, but became a hit with the Spiritualist crowd, gaining renown for his seances.  Abraham James joined his Indian guide in the spirit world on November 28, 1884 at the age of 77. This tale was first written up in the June 1, 1871 issue of “Spiritual Magazine.”  The folk tale was related by Melba Tomeo of Slippery Rock, whose stories are unfortunately no longer archived by SRU.  Spiritual Magazine Article

CROSSMIRE'S GHOST (Smethport, McKean County) On December 12, 1893, convicted killer Ralph Crossmire (reported as Brassmire in several versions) was hung. While on the scaffold, he told the assembled crowd that he'd be back. Ralph reportedly kept his promise. The following year, an inmate in the cell Crossmire had occupied saw Ralph's ghost. It lingered for a while before disappearing. The prisoners assigned to that cell shared it with Ralph Crossmire's specter until the jail closed. The prison opened for business in 1872, and it's now run as a museum.  It's Smethport's oldest public building. There's no report on whether Ralph stayed on. McKean County Miner article

DAYS INN (Meadville, Crawford County) This older motel, located on Conneaut Lake Road, consists of two buildings. In the main building, there have been reported sightings of spirits in the kitchen. On the second floor you can see the reflection of people in the window at the end of the hall, but when you turn, there's no one there. When you turn back, their reflection is still in the window. In the other building, you can hear doors open and close, see lights go on and off, and hear footsteps behind you when you're alone. You can feel a presence and several ghosts have allegedly been spotted there. The Shadowlands

DEAD BABY HOUSE (Franklin, Venango County) This is a green, two story Victorian house with black shutters in the Miller Park section of Franklin. It's said that a baby died in the house and it's been haunted ever since. The owners leave the house for a vacation every summer, and have an exorcism performed on the house while they're gone to keep the ghostly phenomena down to an acceptable level. The author presents this tale as local hearsay. Miller Park - Venango Ghosts Blog

DEAD MAN'S CREEK (Girard, Erie Couty) This creek is located on the Battles estate, and is often called Battles Creek. The legend goes that there was a community celebration being held in the summer of 1861 on the Battles grounds and as two men were walking by the creek, they stumbled across the body of a dead man floating in the shallows. He looked to be about 21 and his throat was slit from ear to ear. The dead man was dressed in a new, perfectly tailored military uniform – from the War of 1812!  Nobody knew who he was. His discovery was the talk of the town that summer. Did his murderer come up with a bizarre plan to frustrate local lawmen? Some darker theories suggested he was transported from the past or another spiritual plane to the creek (Spiritualism was the rage at that time.) No matter how he got there, his ghost is alleged to walk along the creek looking for his assassin. That's the legend on why tiny Battles Creek became known locally as Dead Man's Creek. The Avalon Foundation 

DEVIL'S RUN (Penfield, Elk County) The tale involves three 18th century trappers camping near Penfield. They're sitting around the campfire late at night, making plans for the next day's hunt.  Suddenly, on the other side of the fire, the Devil appeared. The hunters, quite naturally, took off into the woods, running toward the nearest settlement some 15 miles away, and the Devil was hot on their heels. Two of them made it, but the third was never heard from again. The ground they covered making their escape was left totally barren, and nothing to this day grows over it.  In truth, the stretch referred to as Devil's Run follows the length of a glacial deposit and small vegetation grows there, but nothing thick or tall.  Not too surprisingly, this part of the state was known to the Lenni-Lenape the "Land of the Devil."  PA Legends

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