RED ROCK - A rich history lies within the confines of Ricketts Glen State Park. A century ago, when the area was thriving due to the logging industry, a town was located on part of the state park and Game Commission land.
All that physically remains are bits and pieces of foundations where houses and buildings once stood. But, a part of the town that continues to live on is its history and folklore.
To get a rich taste of both, visitors can join Judy Adamic, an environmental education specialist at the park, on one of her "Ghost Town Walks." The walks usually are scheduled during the summer, with one or two in the fall.
Judy Adamic, right, an environmental education specialist for the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources at Ricketts Glen State Park, speaks to a group about the folklore of the ghost town of Ricketts.
Adamic stresses the walks are not a "haunted Halloween" program.
"It is simply the history of a town that is now buried beneath our fields ... the story of the hardworking people that lived here and how the town became a 'ghost town of PA," she said.
The town's remains are about 5 miles from the park's visitor center. Adamic said it primarily lies on Game Commission land but does run into areas of the park.
"The public may visit at any time since it is public land; however, it is also open to hunting, so it is not recommended that anyone come walking through these tall grasslands during that time," she said.
The town, called Ricketts, was named after Col. Robert Bruce Ricketts, a commander in the Union Army during the Civil War, who owned the land before it was sold to the state.
"There is a large monument in his honor in the Gettysburg National Cemetery. Unfortunately, the colonel's old homestead, which is still standing, is now located on private Ganoga Lakes Association's grounds," Adamic said.
The park did not acquire that.
The town was built in the North Mountain area and became famous because it was one of the last lumbering towns in that region during that era.
"Harry Trexler and Henry Turrell started the town with a sawmill and a post office in 1891. Soon, there were 800 people living here, with a school, church, recreational hall, one doctor-dentist, a general store, a few mills and a railroad station," Adamic said.
The people who lived and worked in the town were very self-sufficient, Adamic said. They received supplies by railroad and used the trains as their primary means of travel.
During the town's peak, more than 100,000 board feet of lumber was cut each day at the mills of Ricketts, Adamic said.
"Lumbering in this area continued into the early 1900s, with the final cutting around the park areas of Cherry Ridge and Lake Leigh, by mid-1914," she said.
The town "shut down," as Adamic puts it, as quickly as it sprang up.
"Trexler and Turrell closed their mills after clear cutting pretty much the entire area of north mountain and moved their operation to Sonestown ... along with the people ... and the isolated little lumber town of Ricketts became a ghost town," she said.
As guests walk with Adamic on the tour, the only building still standing is the old pump house, which is the first building on the trail.
"Only the pump house, foundations and a few old apple trees remain to help us remember the glory days of this 'forgotten town,' " she said. "The town was a 'thriving' lumbering town for approximately 25 years ... famous for its huge hemlocks and tall, majestic white pines. I do not know who the last families were that lived in this town."
Most people have the same reaction upon learning that a town once bustled on the state land, Adamic said.
"Most people do not even know there was a town here due to the fact that there are no other buildings standing, other than the old pump house," she said.
A number of building foundations hide under the second-growth forest.
"It is a good hiking trail - and I also use this trail on some of my bird walks in the spring and summer," Adamic said. "It is an 'easy hiking' trail and leads to a quiet pond area that becomes the nesting area for a variety of wildfowl in the early summer."
As part of the tour, she tells stories, old folklore tales and the true history of what happened in the town.
During a walk on Oct. 18, Adamic mentioned the "ghost tree," where a boy was killed during the lumber booming days while he was cutting down a tree. In the place where he died, a large white tree grew and has never produced any leaves - even to this day.
Among other tales is one of a young boy who went ice skating on a nearby pond, where he fell in. When his father and mother came for help, they fell in too, where all three drown.
Adamic spoke about the lore behind the family's cabin and the strange things that happen to the people who stay in it. Strange lights appear on Lake Jean at night, Adamic said, and the faces of three people are rumored to be seen in the waters.
"I really have heard strange sounds throughout this area, as many locals claim to also, including unexplained voices in the wind. I have walked this town many, many times, usually with many people on walks, but also totally alone, and I get the sincere feeling that there are spirits here that are not at rest yet," she said.
She also shows participants photos of what the town looked like when it was standing and images of the people who lived and worked here.
"People lived here ... but they also died here," Adamic said. "There is no cemetery in this town. Some of the people were shipped by railroad to their families in other places, but I feel that is not the whole story. Many accidents happened in towns such as this, where the work was dangerous and the hours were long. I know there had been mysterious 'disappearances' of people in this area in those days. I feel this restlessness as I walk down the old railroad path and into the past."