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.

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