9 Spooky Spaces to Explore in Northwest Pennsylvania

By on October 29, 2015
Michael J. Henderson

Hearty Adventurers…load up your kayaks, dig out your GPS units, and pull on your hiking boots for these spooky stories and !

History and lost locations lend well to stories of and lost treasures. While no one encountered anything too spooky during the recent Oil Creek 100 Trail Runs, the wild history of Oil Creek State Park through which the trail runners race throughout the night certainly can get imaginations going during the middle of the night!

Those trail runners who run the 100K or the 100-mile events have the opportunity to pass right through two spooky graveyards one or more times in the darkest hours of the night. Maybe it is a good thing to just look straight down at the well-worn path, one foot in front of the other…maybe those howls and hoots in the night can be ignored…maybe it is a good thing to have a pacer to keep your mind from hallucinating as you run through the darkness!

Since I just had the pleasure of running through the top two spooky places on this list, both within Oil Creek State Park, as well as right on the trail itself, let’s just say that I was very happy to have company right alongside me as I worked my way through the night hours of the 100K race! Check out the GPS coordinates on Google Earth or with your GPS to locate these Spooky Spaces for yourself! Please respect the integrity, history, and beauty of these locations and…Leave No Trace of your own encounter.

Note:  29 October 2016 – I decided to update this article just in time for Halloween with a video showcasing three of the locations I cover in this article ( Cemetery,  Cemetery, and ):

 

1 – Petroleum Centre Cemetery        

The first spooky space in the Park to explore is the Petroleum Centre Cemetery. (Oil Creek State Park, Venango County)

The Park Headquarters are located at Petroleum Centre (41° 30’ 56.48” N, 79° 40’ 51.62” W), as well as a weekend museum right at the Train Station (41° 31’ 05.73” N, 79° 40’ 59.91” W), and the Cemetery (41° 31’69” N, 79° 40’ 46.23” W, Elevation 1115 feet) itself is located right on the edge of this abandoned ghost town. By 1866, six years after the first well was drilled here by the McClintock family, wild and lawless Petroleum Centre became a rapidly-expanding hub of the oil industry with its quick and not-so-easy access to the steep and muddy hills of that “Valley that Changed the World.” As quickly as the town grew up, by 1873, the town was essentially abandoned and quickly achieved ghost town status just like so many other oil boom towns of the era even though the movers and shakers of the industrial world, such as Andrew Carnegie and John D. Rockefeller, built their fortunes on the backs of these small towns.

There are many raw and edgy stories from the oil boom days, but one story attached to the Petroleum Centre Cemetery is that when the nights are just right a woman in a white dress can be seen on the road leading into the cemetery. According to local legend, it is understood that she hung herself from one of the few remaining trees that hadn’t been cut down and used for lumber. The Cemetery itself is a fascinating and quick day trip, and the Gerard Hiking Trail that goes through the edge of the Cemetery actually skirts a private stone-walled plot for the McClintock Family; the oldest inhabitants were buried there in the mid-1800’s. The Cemetery has a number of intact gravestones and remnants of wrought-iron fencing that have been engulfed and devoured by the bordering tree line in a mesmerizing natural reclamation.

2 – Miller Farm Cemetery

miller farm cemetery

 The next spooky space on our list is also located within Oil Creek State Park. The parking lot is located at 41° 33’ 54.12” N, 79° 39’ 23.36” W, Elevation 1132, but there is a quick steep climb up the hill to the Cemetery itself.

One of the Miller family descendants is still alive and in her 90’s. Her family farm bordered the edge of this Cemetery while she lived there as a young girl. The area was infested with rattlesnakes when she was little, and at one time she was bitten by one of the snakes. Her father rushed to the railroad relay just down the road and signaled for the train to stop and rushed her into nearby Titusville where she was successfully treated at the hospital.

This Cemetery is even older than Petroleum Centre Cemetery, and the local stories talk about it being haunted by a different Lady in White. Those who dare to travel the dark and forlorn road near the Cemetery also have stories of glowing reddish lights and orbs, along with a tombstone that sometimes gives off a greenish glow. One crazy story floating around is that small dirty handprints are sometimes left on cars that park near the trail entrance to the Cemetery.

3 – The Story of Doc Haggerty

This story also takes place within the boundaries of Oil Creek State Park, most probably somewhere along Russell Corners Road as it veers upward out of the Valley. At the point where the Gerard Hiking Trail crosses this road, there are a number of old well sites and relics on both sides of the road on the trail and probably old Doc Haggerty met his explosive end right in that area.

The story of “DOC” HAGGERTY (Pleasantville, Venango County): During the heyday of the oil boom, there was a stretch of road called the Oil Creek Highway. It ran from Oil City up along Oil Creek through Petroleum Centre and then either on toward Titusville or Pleasantville.  At the time it was described as being, “Wholly unclassable, almost impassable, and scarcely jackassable.”

“The road was frequented by the nitro-glycerin shooters. These were men who drove around from magazine to well in buckboard wagons carrying square 3 to 5 gallons cans of nitro in felt-lined boxes.  In the back of the wagon, they carried several torpedoes which when filled with nitro would be lowered down an oil well and then set off in order to increase production.  On December of 1888, one “Doc” Haggerty was making the run to the Pleasantville magazine with a wagon filled with fourteen-hundred pounds of nitro. The last person to ever see any part of him spotted him twenty minutes before a furious explosion was heard to echo up and down the valley. Bits of horse and wagon were found, but not one atom of Haggerty was ever seen on this Earth again. He disappeared so completely that the insurance company which held a five-thousand dollar policy in his name wouldn’t pay up on the grounds that since no remains of the alleged dead man could be produced, he might well be alive.  Finally, experts were found to confirm the belief that the explosion was sufficient to cremate the body instantaneously, bones, clothes, boots and all.  It’s said that on certain December days, when everything is just right, you can still hear that explosion echoing through the valley, and every now and again someone will come forward to claim that they saw a horse drawn wagon going slowly down the old road with a full load in the back and a man wearing the clothes of an older time.  Doc Haggerty is determined to deliver that load.”

(from: https://sites.google.com/site/hauntsandhistory/pennslvaniahaunts%26histroy)

4 –

Pithole

Pithole (41° 26’ 25” N, 79° 34’ 53.53” W) was another flash in the pan town during the oil boom days and pretty much paralleled the same decade as did Petroleum Centre. This was a truly wild town filled with brothels, booze, and brawls right along with occasional murder and mayhem. Digging deep into the stories of Pithole reveals some very dark deeds that have left their mark in the grassy fields of this ghost town.

Susan Hutchinson Tassin, in her book, Pennsylvania Ghost Towns: Uncovering the Hidden Past  discusses how many visitors have felt a cold chill and then reported seeing apparitions of French Kate, the notorious Madame of Pithole who once held a young girl captive with much ill intent and was involved in many nefarious activities. Tassin also shares a story of some tourists who in the 1990’s asked the curator of the museum at that time about the couple dressed in excellent reenactment costumes at the corner of Holmden Street and First Street. The curator politely informed the couple that there weren’t any costumed actors at Pithole. One of the visitors insisted that the costumed man had introduced himself as Alexander Payne, and that he had formerly worked at Pithole and was surprised at the condition of the town. The curator was dumbfounded and dismissed the story, but decided to look up the name. At the time, he could not locate the name of Alexander Payne on any of the historic registers. Several years later, the curator and another fellow were excavating a nearby gravesite and found the name of Alexander Payne on the stone; apparently, Mr. Payne must have lived nearby and commuted to work at Pithole. But, the day of the encounter, there were no other vehicles at the site other than that of the curator and the tourist who reported the incident. Another book filled with most of the wild history is Pithole, the vanished city;: A story of the early days of the petroleum industry

 

5 – The Lost Cave of Silver

Let’s go ahead and venture away from the oil boom towns and head even further back in time to the late 1700’s, when the now-towering virgin white pine was still relatively young in what is now the Allegheny National Forest.

Every year the Allegheny 100, an endurance trek on the North Country Trail, (NCT/Baker Trailhead 41° 25’09.94” N, 79° 12’ 37.59” W) crosses the territory described in this next story. Many of us enjoy tackling the challenges of the A100 and see how far we can go. The massive glacial rocks encountered through this 100-mile stretch of trail are ancient and moss-covered with tree roots wrapping long limbs around the rocks to hide many stories from long ago, including possible hidden caves filled with treasure.

THE LOST CAVE OF SILVER” (Forest/Warren Counties): The story goes that in the late 1700’s, a settler named Hill got lost in what’s now the Allegheny National Forest.  He took shelter in a cave. When he lit a torch, he saw the cave was shot through with veins of silver.  The floor had a pit that was filled with pure silver ore.  But alas for Hill, when he finally found his way home, he couldn’t retrace his steps back to the cave.  His story was backed up by an Indian trader.  He sold liquor to the Indians and got furs and silver in return.  He asked the natives about the silver, and they blindfolded him and took him to a cave that was just like the one Hill described.  He could never find it again, either.  Hill and the trader were based to the west of Tionesta.  Pure silver was found in the Indian burial grounds by Irvine, 15 miles upstream.  Somewhere in that stretch of forest lies a mine of solid silver, waiting patiently for someone to discover its riches again. Silver Mine – BBC”   (from: https://sites.google.com/site/hauntsandhistory/pennslvaniahaunts%26histroy)

6 – The Lost Gold Ingots

Continuing in a similar “vein,” here are a few more lost treasure stories!

“THE LOST GOLD INGOTS (Route 55, Elk County) This legend of lost gold dates back to the Civil War. A young Yankee lieutenant was leading a wagon of supplies to Washington from Wheeling, accompanied by 8 cavalrymen and a guide. He was to go through northern PA so that he wouldn’t run across any rebel raiders. Lee was heading towards Gettysburg, and the cargo wasn’t to fall into his hands. A false bottom in the wagon held 26 fifty pound ingots of gold. The group made it to St. Mary’s without a hitch – and then disappeared into the forests of Elk/Cameron county, just 20 miles short of their goal of Driftwood and the Susquehanna River, where they could float the load down to Harrisburg. A month later, the civilian guide, Connors, staggered back into St. Mary’s. He told the townspeople that the wagon was lost and everyone but he was dead. He got the sympathy of the people, but not the Army. He told the military questioners that the lieutenant had died of fever and was buried, then of a terrific fight, and then…his memory failed. The Army put the Pinkertons on the case, and they swarmed over the forested hills. Eventually, the dead mules were found, and a couple of years later, the skeletons of the guards were discovered. They had made it to Dent’s Run, close, but not close enough, to Driftwood. The Army drafted Connors into its’ service, and transferred him to a western outpost. He was going to be a lifer. The Army told him he would never be discharged unless his memory improved. When he was drunk, a fairly common occurrence for him, he would tell everyone he knew the whole story and would lead them to the gold. But when he sobered up, he couldn’t even find Elk County on a map. Recently, a message from the battle was found. It mentions the year 1863, and a two hour fight near a big rock. It ends with “they see me…” There are several theories. Maybe they were ambushed by Copperheads, anti-war fanatics of the era, or robbers found them. Some suggest Connors set up the whole thing and was double-crossed. But many people believe that no matter what happened, there’s $1,500,000 worth of gold still hidden the mountain wilderness, waiting to be found.”

More “LOST TREASURE LEGENDS (Elk/McKean Counties) This is sort of an oddity, but if you work your protractor right, there are four lost treasure legends placed within a 50-mile radius of Emporium. So grab your metal detector and shovel and see if you can strike it rich by digging up Blackbeard’s Silver, Cole’s Gold, Kinzua’s Cash, or The Lost Gold Ingots.”

 

7 – Rockland Furnace & Freedom Falls

Rockland Furnace

Rockland Furnace

If you are looking for a quick hike to a gorgeous waterfall and an ancient ore furnace, this is the place for you to explore. The waterfall is commonly known as Freedom Falls, and the furnace is called Rockland Furnace (41° 14’ 39” N, 79° 44’ 48.5” W). The furnace was built in 1832 by Andrew McCaslin, who later became the Sheriff of Venango County. It was a water-powered charcoal furnace. In 1837, 40 workers were listed as employed by McCaslin. An old newspaper account tells that Andrew McCaslin loaded a barge with pig iron from the furnace and started for Pittsburgh with his wife and several other persons. A few miles downstream the barge overturned in some rapids and McCaslin and his wife were drowned. Later the furnace was operated by Rockwell, Dempsey and Week, William Spear and E. W. and H. M. Davis. The Davis brothers operated the plant until it was blown out in 1854. Whispered stories relate that eerie things happen to those folks who dare to linger after dusk and into the darkness…voices echo off the water, shadows creep around, and rocks roll behind you as you walk along. In the heyday of this furnace, an acre of hardwood trees per day were cut and hauled to turn into charcoal to heat the furnace hot enough to make the iron ore into pig iron to haul downriver to Pittsburgh. It consisted of a stone structure approximately 25-feet tall that remains in amazing condition. Close beside the furnace is the wheel pit and mill race, all just downstream from magnificent Freedom Falls.

 

8 – , Pioneer Rock & Alien Rock

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow coined the phrase, “One if by land, two if by sea,” in his famous poem regaling the ride of Paul Revere. Well, let’s get off the land trails and onto a water trail for this series of local legends.

The Allegheny River has its headwaters in north central Pennsylvania, travels up into southern New York state before heading south again through the Kinzua Dam and travels approximately 325 miles all the way to Pittsburgh. But, in ancient times, long before any waterway projects, ancient peoples travelled the Allegheny River and left their marks along the edges of this waterway. From pre-historic natives, to pioneers, to bizarre old alien-art, the rocks along the Allegheny River tell a silent, but visual story of times we never knew. On the Allegheny River south of the storybook town of Franklin, there are three rocks that particularly leave us questioning and wondering.

All three of these rocks contain strange old carvings.

Indian God Rock leads us to another ancient lost treasure mystery:

 

Indian God Rock

Indian God Rock

Indian God Rock is located on the bank of the Allegheny River about 8 miles south of Franklin, Venango Co., PA. This large rock is inscribed with verified authentic petroglyphs – rock carvings made by native peoples with a possible date as far back as 1200 A.D. Apparently, according to local stories, the large slab of rock served as a landmark to early steamboat travelers and was pointed out by ship’s officers who would call out “Indian God Rock” so that the passengers would be able to view this ancient curiosity. The rock is 22 feet tall. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984.

Petroglyphs on Indian God Rock

Petroglyphs on Indian God Rock

To add to this ancient mystery, another local legend relates that in the summer of 1749 a French expedition headed by Bienville de Celoron (Pierre J. Celeron) traveled down the Allegheny River and laid claim to the territory for the French. He identified primary locations that would mark the region and then buried lead plates to claim the lands for the French King. Indian God Rock is identified in de Celoron’s diary entry  for 3 August 1749: “Buried a lead plate on the south (sic) bank of the Ohio river, four leagues below the Riviere Aux Boeufs (French Creek), opposite a bald mountain and near a large stone on which are many figures crudely engraved.”  From what I have learned it appears that only one of the plates has been located, and it wasn’t the one near Indian God Rock.Celeron Plate

Celeron Plate

Celeron Plate

 

 

Pioneer Petroglyphs

Pioneer Petroglyphs

These mysterious carvings must date to the earliest of pioneer days from the appearance of the carvings. This is a beautiful location near the amazing Angel Falls, but most people miss out on the mystery of the carvings. If the Allegheny River is too high, some of the carvings cannot be located. These carvings tell an interesting story that you must experience first hand!

IMG_1228

 

Geocache Alert!!

There is a geocache located near these carvings. The rock is at N41*13.548 W079*46.609Pioneer Petroglyphs Geocache

 

Alien Rock

This is where the truly spooky mystery really exists…remember, these are ancient carvings, not recent graffiti of any kind, and most likely more than 150+ years old. Are you really ready for Alien Rock? This very secret location will not be revealed, but it truly does exist on the Allegheny River. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to find this rock and solve this bizarre mystery.

Alien Rock

Alien Rock

 

IMG_5647

 

Alien Rock

Alien Rock

 

Alien Rock

Alien Rock

 

Alien Rock

Alien Rock

 

IMG_5672

 

9 – Geneva Swamp

Back to the waterways for some more spooky stories!

There is a long-standing legend with this swamp that makes many a brave-hearted adventurer fear to launch a boat upon these murky waters. The swamp itself is officially recognized as Conneaut Marsh, but locals call it Geneva Swamp or Geneva Marsh. This is the largest swamp in all of Pennsylvania, but there is very little recorded information about it. No one seems to know exactly how deep the Swamp goes down into the dark depths, and even Interstate Highway 79 which crosses it only leads to further speculation, and even dread by many folks.

IMG_7164

The stories of the construction of the interstate highway only add to the mystery and creepiness of this body of water. Rumors handed down since the generation that built the bridge over this Swamp declare, emphatically, that the bridge itself is floating, and that when the bridge was built in the 1960’s, the road construction workers could never find a solid bottom on which to anchor the bridge pillars and supports, which apparently go down more than 200 feet deep and there is still the question of whether or not there is a bottom.

Another story that is related is that a large crane or bulldozer or similar piece of equipment rolled down into the swamp and was never found again to be retrieved from the murky sludge.

IMG_7221

A similar, but much older story relates the time that a full-sized locomotive was parked overnight on a floating train bridge that crossed the swamp. By morning, however, bewildered railroad workers could not find a single trace of the large locomotive that was left there the night before. It had completely and totally just up and vanished. Local legend says that it rolled over, the locomotive fell into the dark water, the bridge righted itself, and never another bubble emerged from below to reveal the truth.

No matter the stories, when the water in the swamp is up, this is a truly wonderful kayaking or canoeing experience. The “creek” that moves through the swamp is about 12 miles long, and some portions are more or less accessible depending upon water levels and marsh vegetation. There are several launch points; one easily accessed launch is right down between the concrete spans of Interstate Highway 79 (41° 32’ 59.57” N, 80° 10’ 52.39” W). There are possibly rare and elusive Eastern Massasauga rattlesnakes, along with non-venomous water snakes, and numerous water birds including osprey, as well as a large population of Bald Eagles. This is a nature lover’s dream paddle with all of its colorful native flora and fauna.

Geneva Swamp

Geneva Swamp

Enjoy your spooky adventures and share your photos and stories with us on Facebook! https://www.facebook.com/Cross-Adventuring-1555806244677507/?ref=hl

About Tambra

Tambra Warner Sabatini is the “Adventurer-in-Chief” of Cross Adventuring, which encompasses her vision for a better approach to our lives and where adventure and whole life mastery merge to transform us individually and within our communities. She believes that we must regain our passion and ability to design personal lives that are truly fulfilling and leave a positive legacy for our children and our world.

Tambra is a devoted entrepreneur with a heart for sharing and leading others outdoors into life-transforming adventures. After a decade-long stint with the Federal Government as a paralegal, she began her entrepreneurial adventures. A series of major life transitions were kept in perspective through expanding her adventuring activities into ultra-endurance events and teaching her love for outdoor recreation with school children and adults through one-on-one coaching and group classes and include cross country skiing, geocaching, kayaking, windsurfing, ultra trail running, backpacking/fastpacking, and the list expands frequently.

She is a prolific Indie Publisher of her own and her client’s books. Check out her Amazon Author Page for her latest releases, including Adventure Foods.

12 Comments

  1. John McGinnis

    October 29, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    Great article! I’ve been to a few of these. One area that used to creep us out when we were young, was the Rockland Railroad Tunnel. It was a right of manhood, to walk through it alone at night. (I don’t think I even ran that fast in combat! Keep up the good work!

  2. Kathy

    March 3, 2016 at 7:40 am

    I used to ride my horse Cheyenne, till the Indian god rock, freedom falls, Rockland furnace ,the Rockland tunnel without a a flashlight ( before the rails to trails ) even road to emlenton on the old railroad bed.

  3. Karen N

    March 4, 2016 at 8:47 am

    When i was a child i heard of 3 different legends about these areas that where similar to these. 1 was about a lost silver mine in the area that is now between old 8 and new 8 on pecans hill. Also a lost cave full of extremely old artifacts and mummies on either one of the sandycreeks. Was found during french and indian war. Then never again. Last stoey i heard was that while building geneva swamp bridge. A perfectly preserved viking ship was discoveres. But contractors on the job destroyed it so they wouldnt be delayed or forced to change building route. Have always wanted to tdy and track down the truth behind these stories.

  4. Ruth Litwiler

    April 15, 2016 at 1:42 pm

    The story about the Geneva Swamp is great. The story of the construction equipment is true. When they were putting in the bridge the farmer who’s land they acquired told them not to park the bulldozer where they did,because of quicksand. Asked how he knew that it was quicksand he said that his cattle wouldn’t go near that spot. The company parked it anyway for the weekend came back on Monday not a trace of it was seen.

  5. Ben

    April 16, 2016 at 3:56 pm

    Correction on Elk County route number, it’s 555.

  6. Amy Greer

    April 17, 2016 at 2:30 pm

    Absolutely fascinating!! I’ve walked through Miller Farm after dusk w/ my gun on my hip to ward off the bear & coyotes. But the atmosphere is entirely different after the sun goes down. There is definitely something dark & heavy in the atmosphere that is not very comforting. Being a country girl I’ve walked many a dark, dirt roads at night & felt very peaceful. Miller Farm road is NOT one of those roads. I stopped walking Miller Farm road after dark. I’d make sure that I was near the top of Dutch Hill before the sun ever began to set.

  7. Rather not say

    April 30, 2016 at 2:00 pm

    We visited the Petroleum Centre Cemetery on the way home from Oil Creek Campground in 2015 with the family. I have to say I was never a big believer in all the ghost stuff. More of a there’s a reason for everything kinda person. Well we snapped pictures with our phones on the way out the day we visited and one clearly has nothing in a nice spot in a tree for sitting, the next what looks to be a male child with old style dirty cloths head tilted looking our way. Didn’t see it until we got home and were looking through. Now I’m leaning towards okay they could be real, especially seeing the 2 photos taking on my own phone. Definitely check this Cemetery out if your into this stuff, take some pictures. If needed I can send mine to check out. No photo shop or whatever done to them, very interesting.

    • Rather not say

      April 30, 2016 at 2:03 pm

      jcustomwoodworking@yahoo.com forgot to leave my email for the pics

    • L. Everett

      May 12, 2016 at 12:41 pm

      I would love to see your pics. My family and I have had some strange things happen while visiting that cemetery. My email is deelae@gmail.com if you ever get a chance to share your pics. Thank you!

  8. Jodi Gray

    May 12, 2016 at 4:23 pm

    Wow, do I have a strange story about Alien Rock!
    First off, I never knew it was any type of landmark or a place of significance. I also did not realize the carvings were ancient. We float the Allegheny quite often as our whole family kayaks. We happened upon Alien Rock around 5 years ago, my son saw the strange stick figure/head drawing so we went over to check it out. On this rock was the craziest assortment of spiders bugs and insects we have ever encountered. The spiders were enormous! There was a strange looking Praying Mantis looking insect that my 12 year old son and an adult friend of ours, Charlie, was trying to get a closer look at. My son did not want to get too close so he backed off. Charlie paddled up to the rock, and he swears this bugs head opened up like a giant jaw and exposed another head that scared him so badly he, honest to god, screamed and tried to turn so quickly that he overturned his kayak and Fell into the water right in front of this rock! It was pretty scary. The water is pretty deep there and he panicked. To this day I’m not sure how he did it, but he jumped back into his kayak and was paddling away from the rock before we could figure out what happened. There were 5 of us there, we laughed and joked about it at the time. This is really crazy now seeing this article and the pictures! Had no idea, but there is definitely something very strange about that rock. I’m not even sure if we could find the rock again.

    • Tambra

      May 16, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      Whoa! That’s freaky and awesome both! lol! Some of those carvings are so incredibly old it really does make you wonder! Pretty bizarre stuff! BTW, there are also ancient legends and findings in the 1800’s of giant human skeletons throughout the region and along the River…just to keep it even more fascinating!

      • Dan

        August 9, 2017 at 12:49 am

        I heard about the giant skeletons found. Please post more about it. Did you ever hear about the ghost road off guys run road in harmar. There was an orphanage once there and they all were murdered.

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