The First “Roller Coaster” of Mauch Chunk

Have you ever heard of Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania?

Well, then. Have you ever heard of Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania?

In the 1950’s, the officials of Mauch Chunk renamed their borough “Jim Thorpe” after Olympic athlete Jim Thorpe. That whole story deserves its  own blog post. (Or its own blog.)

The humans cognizant in the 1820’s still spoke of this Lehigh Valley town as “Mauch Chunk.” Many earned their livings from the coal mined above this town. In the 1820’s, they built the Switchback Gravity Railroad from these coal mines.

The railroad used gravity to transport the coal down the mountain, past Mauch Chunk. This “railroad” used mules to haul the empty coal cars back up the mountain.

Eventually the railroad offered rides to tourists on this gravity railroad. This inspired the first roller coaster at Coney Island.

If you want to read about Mauch Chunk ghosts, check out this post that I wrote on my other blog:

They Saw the Bloody Handprint – and Orbs

Here is a blog post that my sister wrote:

5 Reasons To Visit The Jim Thorpe This Halloween Season (or anytime)

Pittsburgh Sunrise

Good morning!  Here’s the sunrise view from the window closest to my desk at my job in downtown Pittsburgh.

So, many years ago, a woman from my employer’s Manhattan office came to visit my co-workers here in our Pittsburgh office.

(I shall henceforth call her “the Manhattanite” even though she may live in Jersey, for all that I know.)

The Manhattanite looked out of our office’s windows onto downtown Pittsburgh.

( Maybe the Manhattanite looked out of this very window.)

The Manhattanite said, “My, my, my. That’s a regular little city out there!”

Why, yes, it is.

Do outsiders ever damn a place that you love with faint praise?

Murphy’s Law At the Basket Blessing

Holy Saturday morning in my house means a frantic “grocery store hop” in which we visit every store in New Kensington.

You see, families in our traditionally Polish Catholic parish in New Kensington assemble baskets of the food for their first meal on Easter morning. We bring the baskets to church Saturday for a short ceremonial basket blessing by our priest.

Our baskets include very specific foods, including beet horseradish. Every year, we forget to purchase beet horseradish until Easter weekend.

And of course, the store closest to our house is clean out of beet horseradish the morning of Holy Saturday. Because this store is, like, 2 minutes away from the church and other people beat (beet) us to all of  it!

So, we walk into our third store of the morning. We can buy the last remaining bottle on that store’s shelf.

Then we meet up with our in-laws at the church. They tell us similar stories of frenzied dashes to assemble their baskets five minutes before the ceremony.

Then it happens all over again the next Easter.

#TBHT (Throwback Holy Thursday)

This is Jonathan’s family’s collection of pisanka (or pysanka) eggs. Jonathan’s uncle crafted all of these when he still lived right outside of Pittsburgh. (Uncle did the whole “go west, young man” thing when the steel industry collapsed in the 1980’s.)

Jonathan’s Babcia (Polish for grandmother) set these out every Easter.

I mention all this on my blog about Pennsylvania because Jonathan’s family traditions and his family’s Polish and Slovak roots partly wrote PA’s history.

I will post morsels of Easter traditions throughout the holiday weekend. Have a blessed Holy Thursday.

Bow Tunnel

Come see the western entrance to Bow Tunnel.

This former canal tunnel treks under Bow Ridge. The eastern side of this tunnel lies, sealed off, under the water of the Conemaugh River for part of the year.

You can take the West Penn Trail to reach the other side of Bow Ridge on foot. Then proceed two or three more miles to reach the ghost town of Livermore.

You can see this tunnel for yourself at the Tunnelview Historic Site.

Jonathan, his mom Fran, and I visited Tunnelview in February 2016 when I took this photo.  Here is the post that I wrote on our other blog when we returned from that trip.

Finally, here’s a photo that I didn’t post our other blog: the February ice inside Bow Tunnel.

Invade A Ghost Town. Run For Your Life. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

Have you ever been to Livermore PA?

Me neither. No (living) people reside there now, and most of the town is under the Conemaugh River.

Livermore is (was?) near Blairsville and Saltsburg.  In the 1950’s, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the Conemaugh Dam on the Conemaugh River. This created the Conemaugh Lake and flooded Livermore. The town’s cemetery remains above the river bank.

However, I learned some urban legends about Livermore from a national podcast. I learned about the internet rumor that the town remains flooded from the Johnstown Flood of 1889. That a witch and a ghost train haunt the former town and its cemetery. That on at least one website, thrill-seekers document their trespassing adventures to Livermore.

Also, that at least one group of real-life midnight visitors to the Livermore Cemetery ended up running for their lives from a very real threat.

Here’s the the podcast:

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 from “The Dirtbag Diaries. “

“The Dirtbag Diaries” is podcast about real life outdoor adventures all around the globe. Every year for Halloween, they do a scary story episode. These Halloween stories are all still outdoor adventures. However, in each of the Halloween stories, the narrator ends up terrified (and or fighting for survival) in the course of said adventure. Volume 8, the episode for 2017, was the best yet.

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 includes five stories. The other four stories in Tales of Terror Vol. 8 are also fun to hear. However, the very first story in the episode is the Livermore ghost town episode.

I downloaded both of these from iTunes, but I’m linking here to each podcast’s actual website.

Finally, I posted above a photo that Jonathan took of the actual Conemaugh Dam.

(Note: The podcast doesn’t mention this, but the Livermore Cemetery sign was used in “The Night of the Living Dead.”)

 

The Ghost Followed Her Home From the Battlefield

This is my late grandma’s story as retold by my dad. If anybody remembers this story differently, please feel free to tel your version in the comments.

My dad was born in the 195o’s and he has four siblings. His aunt and uncle and several cousins lived directly across the driveway from him. His other aunt and uncle and cousins lived a very short walk away.  This being the baby boom, my father grew up with hordes of kids around his own age.

Many of the kids were children or grandchildren of World War I and World War II veterans. They lived in North Huntingdon Township (near Circleville and Irwin) in Westmoreland County very close to a marker noting that the British Army under General Braddock camped in their neighborhood before the Battle of the Monongahela in 1755. I mention this because my dad his siblings and cousins and neighbors grew up retelling stories of military history.

Most of the boys in that neighborhood were all in the same Cub Scout pack.  The neighborhood mothers chaffered and chaperoned a pack field trip to Bush Run Battlefield near Harrison City and Jeannette. This battlefield is a relic of Pontiac’s War in 1763.

The battlefield now includes a public park and a museum that houses the musket balls and arrowheads recovered there.

Anyway, my grandma and her sister-in-law and the other neighborhood mothers loaded the boys up into station wagons and they all spent the day at the battlefield.

The docent explained how in 1763 a combined force of Native Americans ambushed British troops marching to Fort Pitt.  How Colonel Henry Bouquet and his British troops built a fort out of flour sacks to shield their wounded from the enemy. How British troops and the Native Americans both sustained heavy casualties.

The Cub Scouts and their escorts hiked through the fields where the dead from both sides fell.

My grandma’s neighbor, “Mrs. Rivers,” felt something follow her through the battlefield. Not a child; she spent most of her life directing children through grocery store aisles, or church, or Kennywood on a crowded Saturday. No, this time no child followed Mrs. Rivers. Instead, an unseen but felt presence pursued Mrs. Rivers through the battlefield.

Mrs. Rivers knew – she just knew – that this unseen presence was the ghost of a Native American man who lost his life at the Battle of Bushy Run.

Mrs. Rivers felt the ghost get into her station wagon when she drove the Cub Scouts back to North Huntingdon Township.

At home that afternoon, Mrs. Rivers felt the ghost with her as she cleaned her kitchen. As she folded laundry. As she weeded her garden.

That afternoon, Mrs. Rivers showed up at my grandma’s door.

“Please watch my kids,” she told my grandma. “Something followed me home from Bushy Run. I have to take it back.”

Mrs. Rivers drove the 15 miles back to Bushy Run.

She said farewell to the ghost.

She told the ghost that it had to stay at the battlefield.

And when Mrs. Rivers drove home again, she was confident that she left “her” ghost at Bushy Run Battlefield where it belonged.