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Trick-or-treat and spooky tales at Taber Museum

Vivian Pickering, 6 months old, is held by her nana Amber Creasey (both of Williamsport) as they listen to Gary Parks, (background on left) LCHS Executive Director, Thomas Taber Museum, explains the significance of a display of a general store during the Trick-or-Treating event at the Thomas Taber Museum Saturday afternooon. DAVE KENNEDY/Sun-Gazette

As the lights dimmed inside Thomas T. Taber Museum, ghosts, apparitions and werewolves appeared.

Author Jeffrey R. Frazier treated those inside the lecture hall to haunted talks taken from in and around Pennsylvania’s state parks and historic sites.

The museum event followed some 90 children who just filled their bags with candy and goodies in a trick-or-treat.

The eerie and sometimes humorous stories were collected from real-life encounters of phenomena, some of it explained, and folklore passed down from generation to generation.

Frazier made sure any children in the room were accompanied by parents and guardians.

He began his PowerPoint presentation, which was interspersed with photographs of captured spirits and of scenery of sites engraved into the state’s haunted history.

From a cabin near the border of Centre and Mifflin counties, where loggers who worked nearby feared to sleep because of hearing the ghost of a deceased lumberman dragging his logging chain across the wood floor boards, to a woman in white in the White Deer Valley, Frazier’s tales mixed unexplained “phenomena” and natural causes.

A true ghostbuster

Lumbermen feared the deserted cabin, where they swore they could hear the clanking of logging chains of the timberman who’d been killed on the job.

Even the photograph of the actual cabin, which Frazier displayed, showed broken windows resembled the eyes of a skeleton.

The legend went that one brave timberman decided to sleep in the cabin, and upon dawn’s early light, indeed heard the eerie sounds of the lumberman’s chain upstairs.

When the brave soul lit the lantern and ascended to the cabin’s upper floor, white shapes appeared even as the sound of the clanking was louder. It turned out to be a flock of sheep with their hooves clomping on the floor boards, Frazier said. A farmer nearby tended to the sheep, which freely wandered to the cabin, finding it to be a cozy place to huddle after climbing the stairs.

Needless to say, recalling this tale can make one feel a little “sheepish.”

A luminescent discovery

Along the forests near White Deer Pike, Union County, is said, at times, to appear a beautiful apparition.

This specter first appears as an orb or ball of white light dancing in mid-air and then takes the shape of a young woman.

Two students from Lock Haven University recalled the story to Frazier who said they were near the Mile Run exit of Interstate 80 and turned onto road in the White Deer Valley that runs along the highway. They came upon a young woman who was floating in the air. She had a kind of sad expression on her face, and then she transformed into a white ball of light and shot off into the darkness.

Frazier, too, said he traveled to this site in Union County but was unable to find any evidence of the young woman.

Shepherd girl protected by a werewolf

In the Schwaben Creek Valley in Northumberland County, east of Rebuck, lived a young woman, Lillie Mae Paul, a 12-year-old shepherdess, tended to a flock of sheep near Line Mountain, Frazier said recalling how the story was recounted by Henry Shoemaker, a folklorist who was published in the New York Folklore Quarterly, 1951.

To guard her sheep Paul carried a shepherd’s wand and kept a small dog. An old man “suspected by many as being a werewolf” was infatuated with her, much to her parents’ displeasure.

He would sit with her on a log at the sheepwalk for hours never uttering a word. No wolves troubled Paul’s flocks, so her parents tolerated the hermit.

But the wolves from the countryside and rugged nearby Line Mountain would raid the farmers’ flocks, some in broad daylight.

The nearby sheep farmers had wolves routinely raid their sheep pens and chicken houses, but not Paul’s. It seemed the hermit was a good luck charm, or something more.

One of those other farmers while carrying a musket and out to collect bounties on the wolves was said to have seen a form slinking in the distance. He looked for the blood trail but discovered the body of the hermit shot through the heart.

He was buried where he was found, and the spot was called, ‘Old Wolfs Grave,’ or (in Pennsylvania dutch ‘die woolf man’s grob.’

Paul did exist and is found in the 1880 Census, as the daughter of Tobias Haas and Sophia Frey Paul. In 1900, she lived at home with her parents, listed as a 20-year-old dressmaker.

There was for a while a post with the epitaph for the wolfman.

This might have been among the tales of wolf-like creatures carried to the U.S. from immigrants from the old country, where transformations of humans into wolves were frequently shared in stories, Frazier said.

The eternal hunter

The Eternal Hunter of Ancient Times, is a tale spun from the time of the settlers of the Commonwealth, many of whom were Scots-Irish.

There was a long drought that wiped out the white tail deer population.

With death occurring from starvation, the tale goes that a hunter, accompanied by baying hounds, cursed the Almighty as he unsuccessfully searched for deer in the famine-struck land. The hunter never returned from his fateful hunt and today there are times when the enteral hunter can appear in the woods, seen riding a steed.

It is a scary legend that has taken shape in many forms, such as the ancient Norsman deity Odin, a God who can be seen riding a six-legged steed with baying hounds in tow. It is said that Odin, who is seen wearing a black cape and carrying a sword, controls the weather and when those in the woods hear the howl of the wind, they should lie prostrate and low as Odin rides by lest he tap the hunter on the head with his sword, resulting in instant death.

The mysterious woman in black

The tale of a mournful female ghost of Swamp Church (today known as Bethesda Evangelical Church) in Centre County, sent shivers down the listener’s spines.

The church and area are supposedly haunted by a mournful female spirit who regularly makes appearance every spring at midnight, usually on May 3, and there is a reason.

The shadowy form of the woman dressed in black has been spotted walking along the road near the church with a baby cradled in her arms.

Farmers of the past have seen the form of what appears as a black cloud and then a young woman mournfully repeating the name — “Will . . . Will … Will,” Frazier said.

It is said the ghost is calling out to her deceased lover who was a member of the 148th Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry who died at the Battle of Chancellorsville on May 3, 1863, during the Civil War.

The woman was pregnant and unwed and the church folk shunned her.

On that fateful night, at the stroke of midnight, the church supposedly fills with a illuminated glow.

The female ghost is said to show her baby to unseen parishioners.

The historical record shows a soldier with the name Will who was a member of the regiment killed on May 3, 1863.

Frazier is the author of nine books. For more than a half a century, Frazier has been interested in collecting, researching, analyzing legends and folklore, much of it containing stories about hauntings, ghosts, witches and werewolves.

He said he considers some of what he has learned to be the stuff of legends handed down and some phenomena, whether proven to be explained or remaining unexplained and, perhaps, that of the paranormal.

Frazier is a graduate of the Pennsylvania State University having various sciences.

Frazier’s latest book remains available for purchase at the museum and signed copies were available at the event.

The museum can connect individuals interested in reading these books to the author, said Gary Parks, museum director.

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