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Ghostlore, Ghost-Lore, or Ghost Lore is a folklore genre consisting of the folklore of ghosts. Ghostlore occurs throughout recorded history, including contemporary contexts. For example, American folklorist Louis C. Jones observes the following in 1944:

Ghostlore is still widespread and popular. While most of the actions thought to be common among ghosts (chain clanking, cemetery haunting, and so forth) can be found, they are by no means so widespread in the popular ghostlore as we have been led to expect. The ghost who is very like the living is far more common than any other. ... It might be expected that a rational age of science would destroy belief in the ability of the dead to return. I think it works the other way: in an age of scientific miracles anything seems possible.[1]

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  • Pennsylvania Legends & Lore: Ghosts of the Commonwealth
  • Manly P. Hall - Fascination of the Supernatural - Ghost Lore
  • 10 Creepy Japanese Legends That Might Be True


>> Coming up next on Pennsylvania Legends and Lore. Ghosts of the Commonwealth. [ Music ] Discover the ghosts of the Commonwealth. >> Support for Pennsylvania Legends and Lore comes from the Program Innovation Fund at WPSU, Penn State; Capperella Furniture, with showrooms in Bellefonte and Lewistown. Offering Basset, Serta, Thomasville, La-Z-Boy, and Simply Amish. Solid wood furniture handcrafted in the USA. Information at Kessel Contruction, Inc., 345 High Street in Bradford. From childcare centers and church halls, to ice rinks and gymnasiums. With design teams to help build the facility to last and be enjoyed for many generations. And, from viewers like you. Thank you. [ Music ] >> Folklore is many things. A family recipe handed down through the years, a traditional tune that wouldn't be found in any songbook, a tried and true remedy learned from a grandparent, but for most of us, hearing the term folklore conjures up visions of stories shared by the light of the campfire. Such legends were once a popular form of entertainment, but as new amusements have emerged, the oral tradition that perpetuated these tales has begun to decline. If you take a stroll through any town, forest, or valley in our state, you'll likely be passing by the setting of at least one rich story that you never even knew existed. [ Music ] Bethesda Evangelical Church sits in Farmers Mills in Gregg Township, Centre County. Founded in 1855, the tabernacle’s boggy and foggy landscape led to the nickname, "Swamp Church". This eerie atmosphere also may have given rise to the legend of its most infamous parishioner. [ Music ] >> In the 1880s, a couple named Jacob and Rebecca Schultz lived across the road from Bethesda Evangelical Church. One spring evening, May 3rd, to be exact, the couple decided to sit on their porch and enjoy the pleasant night air. It was the time of day that Pennsylvania Dutch referred to as, "when the hours were growing, between 9 o'clock and midnight". [ Music ] [ Wind Blowing ] All of a sudden, the air grew chill. It was then the couple noticed a dark figure not too far off. As the specter moved toward the church, the Schultz's could see it was a young woman carrying a baby [whispering]. Though very soft, they could hear a voice on the wind [whispering]. When the woman entered the dark church, the lights flared up bright. [ Music ] [ Footsteps ] She proceeded to walk down the aisle as though introducing her baby to the congregation. [ Footsteps ] [ Music ] When she finished her procession, she left of the church and went back the way she came-- [ Music ] -- leaving the Schultz's chilled and frightened on their porch. [ Crickets Chirping ] [ Music ] When they finally shared with their neighbors what they had seen that night, they were told of a young woman who had been promised to a Union soldier. The couple had not waited for holy matrimony to consummate their relationship, and the girl found herself with child. [ Music ] Her betrothed never returned from the battlefield, and her baby was born out of wedlock. The town cast her out as a fallen woman, and she and her fatherless child disappeared from Farmers Mills [drums]. Records show there was a young man who served with the 148 Pennsylvania volunteers during the Civil War. Pvt. William Knarr [phonetic] of Gregg Township, killed at Chancellorsville on May 3rd, 1863. Perhaps this is the will are ghostly heroine seeks. >> This type of story is not new unique to Central Pennsylvania. Tales of weeping women and women in white are common the world over. The White Lady of Skipsea is said to haunt the ruins of a Yorkshire castle in Great Britain, well Scotland can boast a similar story of a woman in white who roams the halls of Bothwell Mansion in Pentland Hills, and we would be remiss not to mention the story of "La Llorona", a well-known piece of lore from Mexico which tells the story of a woman who drowned her babies after being abandoned by her lover; took her own life, and now spends the afterlife trying to find her lost children. Whether the story of the mournful ghost of Swamp Church is simply a hodgepodge of tales from the various ethnic groups that populate Pennsylvania, or whether the Schultz's really did see a ghost from their front porch, is anyone's guess. But, legend says that the wailing ghost still appears once a year at midnight on May 3rd. [ Music ] >> Our Commonwealth ancestors were not without means to guard against ghosts, witches, and other dark influences. The tradition of powwowing, not to be confused with the Native American term, it refers to a type of folk magic practiced by the Pennsylvania Dutch. Practitioners known as brauchers employ talismans, rituals, and prayers to provide protection against evil forces and healing for both spiritual and physical maladies. Although the Bible is the primary source for any braucher, some incantations were derived from other ancient texts known as grimoires. German-American, John George Hohman compiled numerous volumes of these charms and remedies. His best-known work, "Long Lost Friend" was published in 1820 and has been used to cure many a manner of ailments. For example, for dysentery and diarrhea, take the moss off of trees, boil it in red wine and let those who are affected with those diseases drink it. To stop pains or smarting in a wound, cut three small twigs from a tree, each to be cut off in one cut, rub one end of each twig in the wound and wrap them separately in a white paper and put them in a warm and dry place. While powwowing may not be as common as it once was, many of these incantations have been preserved, and some are still practiced today. [ Music ] Tradition is a cornerstone of folklore. Many a Pennsylvanian can recall his 12th birthday as an important milestone that marked his passage into manhood, and the same can be said for a character in our next story. [ Music ] In 1952, a group of men set out on a hunting trip to Shade Mountain near Dry Gap, in Blair County. It was a momentous occasion for one member of the party: his first hunt. [ Music ] The woods were thick with fog, so the men sat the boy at a deer crossing and told him to stay put. [ Music ] [ Birds Chirping ] After some time passed, the boy spotted his first deer. [ Birds Chirping ] [ Heavy Breathing ] [ Gunshot ] His aim was true, but the deer kept running, so the boy set off after it, following the blood trail. [ Music ] Eventually, he tired. It was then he realized how far he'd gone. He'd walked and walked, but couldn't find the other men from his party. [ Music ] >> Jimmy! >> After discovering the boy was missing, the men scoured the forest, but to no avail. [ Shouting ] To this day, the boy's body has never been found. [ Music ] Some years later, another hunter was out on Shade Mountain when he stumbled upon a lone boy. >> Are you lost, son? >> The youngster said he was lost, so the man offered to lead him out of the woods. [ Music ] They set off together, but when they reached a clearing and the man turned around-- >> We're here, buddy. >> -- the boy was gone. Later on, the hunter told his friend about seeing the boy in old hunting gear. The friend informed him he'd just encountered a lost hunter on Shade Mountain. It's said that if you walk through Dry Gap on a foggy day, you may meet that lost little boy. [ Music ] The Lost Hunter of Shade Mountain is far from the only piece of lore connected to Pennsylvania's hunting tradition. Most hunters will tell you to steer clear of white deer. Legend differs as to what the repercussion is for killing an albino buck, but it's invariably bad some say you'll never shoot another deer, while others believe you will meet an untimely end. Hunting rituals vary by camp, and some are more common than others. At certain watches, unsuccessful hunters are called to participate in a practice known as, "Shirttail Cutting". This is the penalty for missing a clear shot. The unfortunate individual is reprimanded by having a piece of his shirt cut off and displayed at the campsite, often with his name and the date it is missed inscribed on the fabric. Story telling is another integral part of the hunting tradition. Some tales may be original creations, well others draw inspiration from Keystone Lore [wolf howling]. At one point in time, wolves were so common in Pennsylvania's woods, that they are frequently featured in the tales of yesteryear. Many places throughout the state carry ominous warnings that date back to the days when these canines still held dominion over the land [wolf howling]. There are also stories of more unique creatures. For instance, some of the folks up north may already be familiar with the Sidehill Gouger. It's known to be large and ugly, with the legs on one side longer than the other. An adaptation for climbing along steep mountainsides. Some of the critters found in folklore are more whimsical and frightening. The Weeping Squonk is a pitiful creature that makes its home in Pennsylvania's Hemlock forests, and can be heard sobbing in the night. It's been described as having ill-fitting blemish covered skin, and is said to have a cry sad enough to break your heart. While some stories deal with the likes of these fantastical creatures, other pieces of lore are rooted in doctrine and cultural practices. [ Music ] In the not so distant past, people believed that if a corpse were left alone, and carry away the soul of the deceased. This belief led to a practice called a "death watch". During this vigil, a family member or a friend of the departed would guard the body until a proper burial could be had. While some traditions like the death watch have faded away, others-- like the practical joke-- seem to be more timeless. [ Music ] Once upon a time, in Schuylkill County, a few of the town hooligans decided to have some fun at the expense of the local shoemaker. They told him one of their friends died and asked the cobbler to take a turn sitting with the body. [ Music ] Though reluctant, the shoemaker eventually gave in. [ Music ] Now, a death watch under the best of circumstances could be nerve-racking, so you can imagine the poor shoemaker's surprise when during his vigil, the corpse was not resting so peacefully [shouting]. The shoemaker was so terrified, he slammed the lid down and began trying to nail it shut, shouting, "Dead you are, and dead you stay!" The pranksters behind the joke had to come to the rescue of their co-conspirator, lest he suffocate and find himself in true need of a death watch. [ Music ] Folklore is both universal and local. Common themes exist, yet with each retelling, the details of the story become unique to the particular region where it's being shared. This is the case for our last tale, which takes place in Blair County, Pennsylvania. [ Music ] In the 1960s, there was a young couple that wanted to marry. [ Music ] Their parents refused to give consent, so one rainy night, the lovers decided to elope. [ Music ] Their journey to the altar took them along the steep roads of Buckhorn Mountain. The poor conditions combined with the winding mountain highway proved too much. [ Tires Screeching ] [ Screaming ] [ Horn Honking ] They lost control of the car, and fell to their deaths. The boy's body was discovered, but not the girl's. [ Music ] >> Do you need a ride? >> Since then, more than one driver has reported picking up a female hitchhiker in a white dress at the bottom of Buckhorn Mountain. >> So, where are you headed? [ Music ] Are you going to, like, a costume party or something? >> According to lore, she speaks not a word during the ascent. [ Music ] Then, when the driver reaches the top of the mountain and turns to ask if it's the right place, the girl is gone. [ Music ] Locals will tell you that this vanishing hitchhiker is the ghost of that young girl. Dressed in the wedding dress she never got to wear, and still trying to get to the altar. This vanishing hitchhiker plot may be among the most prodigious of folkloric themes. There are many variations of this story, some dating back to the horse and buggy days of the 19th century. Pennsylvania alone has a handful of versions, and who knows how many exist worldwide. Whichever retelling you've heard, this story's continued popularity demonstrates the power these legends have once they take hold. [ Music ] We've barely scratched the surface of the extensive anthology that is Pennsylvania's legends and lore. Passed down through generations, these stories and superstitions have helped shape our region's collective identity. And by continuing to share them, we are able to maintain an important connection to our past and gain new perspective on our present. I hope you've enjoyed the journey into this unique part of the Commonwealth's culture. [ Music ] >> Support for Pennsylvania Legends and Lore comes from the Program Innovation Fund at WPSU, Penn State; Capperella Furniture, with showrooms in Bellefonte and Lewistown. Offering Basset, Serta, Thomasville, La-Z-Boy, and Simply Amish. Solid wood furniture handcrafted in the USA. Information at Kessel Contruction, Inc., 345 High Street in Bradford. From childcare centers and church halls, to ice rinks and gymnasiums. With design teams to help build the facility to last and be enjoyed for many generations. And, from viewers like you. Thank you.


  1. ^ Jones (1944:253).


This page was last edited on 6 March 2018, at 12:08
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