Hometown hauntings

Halloween is known as the one day of the year when ghosts and goblins and witches can roam the earth freely, spreading mischief and casting magical spells. But what happens when the moon sets on All Hallows Eve and the mysterious creatures retreat from the streets?

Truth is, the supernatural doesn’t disappear after Halloween. Instead, it lives on in the stories passed down through generations and through communities, including the Juniata Valley. Enjoy a little Halloween scare this year with some ghost stories collected from local experiences.

F.W. Black building: True or False?

When employees of the Mifflin Juniata Area Agency on Aging worked late at the F.W. Black building, in Lewistown, they often reported hearing unexplainable music, distant voices down the hallway or a baby crying.

“When I started working there, a staff person told me that a woman named Martha was the ghost of a mother who lost her child during childbirth when the building was a hospital,” said Nancy Laub, former volunteer coordinator at MJAAA. “All the unusual sounds and occurrences are the result of the ghost of this woman looking for her child.”

But as it turns out, Martha isn’t a ghost at all, but the name of Kathie Graham’s best friend from childhood.

“I made Martha up,” Graham, director of the MJAAA, said. “People were uncomfortable with the noises and voices they said they were hearing at night. I decided to give it a name to make it less scary.”

So, although the legend of Martha has been put to rest, the strange occurrences at the F.W. Black building remain unconfirmed and unaccounted for. The MJAAA moved out of the building in May for a larger location in Lewistown.

Briar Rose B&B:

An Unexpected Guest

In between the stories of holiday parties and restful overnight stays, the guestbook of Briar Rose Bed and Breakfast includes tales of haunted guestrooms and ghostly encounters.

It all began in 2002 when Lisa Everetts and her family moved into the Reedsville home and started renovations for the bed and breakfast.

“Within the first month, weird things started happening,” Everetts said. “The ceiling fan would click from high to low by itself and the dryer would start by itself – all with no rational explanation.”

Everetts suspected some type of spiritual culprit, but didn’t know enough about the house’s history to be sure. Then, one day during construction on the new addition, workers unearthed the hidden tombstone of a young boy.

“William died on Feb. 11, 1847,” Everetts said. “When I started investigating him, I found the rest of his family in the cemetery up the hill. I’m not sure how he ended up here.”

Guests have reported feeling someone crawl into bed when no one was there or witnessing bathrobes move on their own. It seems that William has made Briar Rose his ghostly home, forever spooking guests and playing tricks on the owners.

Lewistown home The Real Haunted House

The Kirk family knew the rumors around their soon-to-be new home in Lewistown – the place was haunted … for real. Each tenant who had lived in the house before, and even the neighbors, had confirmed it. But, without putting much thought or belief into the rumors, the family moved in on Aug. 15, 2008. The moving boxes hadn’t even been unpacked when the family learned they weren’t alone.

“Within the first week of moving in, our youngest encountered an apparition,” said Ken Kirk. “At first we thought she was hurt because of the way she was running and crying, but once things calmed down she told us what happened: she had seen an apparition wearing a mask that wanted her to go into the closet with him and play.”

From there, each day was filled with unexplainable happenings, Kirk said. The family heard voices mocking them, asking for help or screaming for them to get out. Objects were thrown across the room, water faucets left on and the doorbell rang at odd hours of the night.

Over the past five years, Kirk has had a number of paranormal teams investigate the house and a priest bless it on multiple occasions, but nothing has worked. The history of the house remains a mystery as does any possible reason for the haunting. The Kirk family still resides in the home.

Irvin Hill A Lonely Soul

Though Irvin Hill, near McVeytown, is now home to a number of housing developments, farms and churches, most people still remember it as the open mining country they used to explore as kids. But Irvin Hill is known for more than childhood fun and high school mischief; it’s also home to one of the most well-known ghost stories of the area.

“Irvin Hill isn’t anything like it used to be,” said Pam Brumbaugh, editor of “Common Ground” magazine published in McVeytown. “We used to drive up there late at night and park near the field. Then, if you were lucky, you’d see the light.”

The light, as legend has it, is cast from a ghostly lantern carried by Mr. Irvin, a miner whose wife disappeared under mysterious circumstances. No one is quite sure if she ran away with another man, died of sickness or was murdered by her husband. But, no matter the reason, Irvin continues his search after death, carrying a lantern and looking for his lost love.

“The story is passed down over the years to people who live in the area,” said Sarah Sunderland, McVeytown local. “The mining area is closed off and there’s all those houses now, so it might be harder to see the light, but I bet he’s still out there.”

Heritage Gardens Ghostly Fun

Shattering vases, exploding window frames and flickering lights are all part of a normal work day for the florists at Heritage Gardens in Lewistown.

“The building has been a florist since the early ’40s,” said Chriss Short, business owner. “We opened five years ago and these crazy weird things have been happening ever since.”

Employees Belinda Barnes and Bonnie Long report loud voices coming from the back room, boxes sliding across the workroom floor and unexplainable orbs of light moving around the ceiling.

“It’s freaky, but not really scary,” Long said. “Although I do get a weird feeling in the back room that definitely creeps me out.”

During a number of investigations by a local paranormal group, unexplained voices and laughter were caught on tape.

Most of the activity occurs in the old workroom, they all agree, which was originally a greenhouse decades ago. Though much about the ghost remains unknown, it seems like mischievous female spirit with a big mischievous streak, Short said.