Saturday, October 24, 2009

Pig Lady

Over on my Masks of Mesingw blog, I have a post detailing the legends of the infamous Pig Lady of Maryland lore.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Birth of an Urban Legend

It's not really anything mysterious, but interesting nonetheless given some of the topics covered here on this blog. On October 18, the Lancaster Sunday News reported on the beginnings of an urban legend sparked by real events:
An urban legend, according to one dictionary, "is a modern story of obscure origin and with little or no supporting evidence that spreads spontaneously in varying forms."

In the Lampeter-Strasburg area last week, two stories melded together and grew in the re-telling, creating "white van" myths that frightened residents.

First, the two documented incidents:

West Lampeter Township Police Chief James Walsh said a "person of interest" had been interviewed twice after a Sept. 28 incident. Walsh told township supervisors at a Monday meeting that his department received a 911 call that a woman was being followed as she drove out of the L-S YMCA parking lot. The subject, driving a white Econoline van with a green stripe, followed the woman into the parking lot of an East Lampeter Township Turkey Hill. The woman called 911, and her husband. The person of interest, who has not been charged, is a 22-year-old West Lampeter Township male.

Jeff Kenderdine, of the Lancaster YMCA, said that the man was not a Y member. That investigation continues.

On Oct. 6, a part-time meter reader employed by Strasburg Borough inadvertently frightened two brothers, ages 4 and 6, while going about his work along North Fulton Street. Borough police reported that the boys saw the man in the front yard and became frightened.

The boys ran to their mother, but by the time she got to the front yard, the meter reader had left. The children said the man drove a white van. On Tuesday, Strasburg Police Chief Steve Echternach said the man was confirmed to be a part-time employee, who was driving a light-colored vehicle that could have been mistaken for a van.

Walsh said the two incidents were not related, but some community members mistakenly believed otherwise. West Lampeter Township Supervisor Barry Hershey said at first he, like a lot of other people, thought the incidents involved the same person.

On Oct. 9, the school district sent out a recorded phone message to parents sharing what they knew about the Strasburg incident.

Also that day, more than 500 e-mails, which did not originate with West Lampeter or Strasburg Borough police, circulated the area, Walsh said. He later said he thought people in the community took the liberty to start sharing information that "stretched the facts."

An e-mail to Willow Street Wolverines midget football program parents, relaying information attributed to another youth sports team, stated: "Apparently, there have been some scenarios around our school district that a white van and a white male is lurking and following women and children. Please watch yourselves in the evening hours; this van has been spotted at at the following places; the new Y, Strasburg Library, and at the L-S school campus."

Neither incident involved school district property, police said. Strasburg-Heisler librarian Kristin Fernitz said she and her staff noticed nothing out of the ordinary at the library.

An anonymous Craigslist warning Oct. 9 may have also contributed to the rumors. The Lancaster "Rant and Rave" section read: "... there has been a WHITE VAN following and soliciting women and children for 'indecent acts' in the Lampeter-Strasburg area. ... A 16 year old Willow Street girl is also reportedly missing."

Walsh said West Lampeter has no reports of a missing girl. A Penn Manor teen who was missing has since been found, Walsh said. The teen was not from Willow Street, West Lampeter Township or the L-S School District.

"White van" stories were told and retold at public events.

On Tuesday night, one football dad shared a version of the story; in this twist, witnesses who saw a man try to lure Strasburg children followed the man to the Turkey Hill, where they beat him up.

Both police departments have stepped up their patrols since the two incidents.

A good thing that came out of this, Walsh said, is that people in the community are erring on the side of caution.

Monday, October 12, 2009

The Bunnyman!

What has to be one of the more laughably-named urban legend figures out there hails originally from the area of Fairfax, Virginia although stories of the axe-wielding, bunny-suit bedecked psychopath range into suburban Prince George's County, Maryland, home of the Goatman (with whom stories of the Bunnyman are confused).

Incredible as it may seem, the Bunnyman stories may have been based on real events. The Washington Post ran two articles detailing things that happened near Fairfax, Virginia in October, 1970; in one, an Air Force cadet reported that he had been visited by a man in "a white suit with long bunny ears" who ran out of some bushes, shouted a warning about trespassing on private property, and threw a hatchet at the car. Later that month, another article detailed a bunny-suited man wielding a long axe chopping at a home under construction, also near Fairfax. A security guard distinctly reported a figure about 5'8" and about 160 lbs. in his early twenties.

The Bunnyman was reported to have assaulted a church sign near Greenbelt, Maryland in the 1970s. Supposedly, in 1971, a young man in Hyattsville reported that a white bunny-suited man pounded on his door one evening and used an axe to attempt to gain entry. He also chopped two pillars on the porch. He was also reported from another home nearby.

Bunnyman vs. Goatman... a SyFy Channel original movie. Coming soon.

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Curse of Hawk Mountain

The breathtaking vistas at Hawk Mountain in Berks County, now a bird-of-prey refuge, hide the truth of the tragedies that have befallen the folk who lived on the peak. The genesis of the hauntings may lie in the distant past - in his Ghost of Berks County, vol. 1, Charles Adams III reveals that a ceremonial ring or "medicine wheel", presumably built by the Lenape Indians, exists in the forests of the mountain near the cabin where the first tragedy occurred. In 1756, the entire Gerhardt family was massacred in their cabin by marauding natives, save for 12-year old Jacob. Later in life, Jacob returned to the mountain and built his stone house upon the foundations of his old family home.

Sometime in the 1850s, Matthias Schambacher moved in to the house. He and his wife Margaret converted it into a tavern, and evil rumors soon spread about the Schambachers. Some whispered that they had seen Matthias scrubbing bloodstains off the walls of his barn. Others claimed that horses wouldn't approach the property, or that strange lights had been seen on the mountain, or that strange, wailing cries had been heard. Stricken with a fatal illness, Schambacher confessed that he had murdered 11 people while living on the mountain.

He was later to claim that he was possessed by some evil presence which dwelt on the mountain, which compelled him to kill - an early version of 'the devil made me do it', or something else?

In 1874, the mountain played home to the killing of a mountain lion, cited by the Pennsylvania Game Commission as the last killed in the state, at the aptly named Panther Spring.

Another man, Matthias Berger, moved to the mountain. Berger was devoutly religious, well-liked by the community, and served as a baptist and minister. In July of 1890, an unusually hot and dry year, a hiker on the mountain found the cabin ripped apart, a cross Berger had constructed ripped down, and Berger's mangled form lying in the woods outside.

In 1938, the stone house that was the scene of so much tragedy was made part of the bird sanctuary. The wails are still heard and the lights still seen in the woods. A large, white, spectral bird has been seen many times over the years.

Hawk Mountain is part of the Kittatinny Ridge, which runs through Pennsylvania and New Jersey. Several spots on the Ridge play host to strange sounds and sights.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Der Nockisher Mon

Der Nockisher Mon, or The Naked Man, is an apparition supposedly haunting the neighborhood of Buchtown south of Manheim, Lancaster County. It was seen by Mary Ann Litzenberger sometime around the beginning of the 1900s. As Litzenberger said:
To my astonishment as I gazed across the field nearby, I saw the ghost of a stark-naked man rise up from a fence corner and slowly walk across the field, not looking right or left, but having a worried look on his face.

"I yelled with all my might to my sisters, saying in Dutch, 'A nockisher mon! Don't you see him?' But they insisted they didn't see anything of the kind.
After talking with a neighbor, Litzenberger went on:
She informed me that there really was such a spook, that she had seen it too, at different times. She explained that there had been a dispute about the correct line of the property, and the ghost of the farmer-owner verified it by stepping it off where it should be.
Why the ghost was naked, we may never know!