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Halloween Fun: Strange Creatures that Inhabit PA

A gourd jack-o-lantern setting on a fat book, surrounded by smaller pumpkinsIf you dig around in the annals of Pennsylvania history and folklore, you’ll unearth some intriguing legends perfect for Halloween. Among my personal favorites are the Squonk of northern PA, the Yellow Monster of Berks County, and a place known as Zombie Land, tucked into the western part of our state.

Let’s start with the squonk.

Illustration from "Fearsome Creatures of the Lumberwoods" illustrated by Coert Du Bois and by William T. Cox, 1910 PUBLIC DOMAINA mid-sized animal that goes about on four legs, the squonk will never win a beauty contest. Its skin, which sags and flops on its frame, is covered in a mish-mash of warts, boils, and moles. Said to favor the dense Hemlock forests of Northern Pennsylvania, this pitiful creature spends most of its time hiding and weeping, ashamed of its grotesque appearance. Bashful and retiring, it usually only ventures out at dusk when it is less likely to be seen. Numerous hunters have attempted to capture the beast, tracking it by the trail of its tears, yet all have failed. If cornered, or even frightened, the squonk will quickly dissolve into a puddle of tears.

By contrast, the creature that caused a stir in Berks County during the autumn of 1879 wasn’t nearly as bashful. Said to be so bizarre in appearance, it was never given a proper name, dubbed by locals only as the “yellow-what-is-it.”

The tale of the yellow creature begins on a brisk October day, when it was spied by two men herding cattle near the town of Topton. They described the beast as standing about four feet tall with long arms and two fingers on each arm resembling claws. Its feet were said to be flattened lumps without toes, its head furrowed, and its body yellowish-brown and smooth, covered in dirt or clay.

Several days later the yellow-what-is-it was spied by another resident of the region. Fired up by the thought of a creature haunting the countryside, the townspeople diligently combed the area. In the days that followed, reports filtered in of odd footprints discovered around town, strange tracks in plowed fields, and bizarre cries echoing from the woods at night. Some townspeople whispered of being followed when their path took them out on darkened roads after twilight. With fear growing in the small town, armed men, accompanied by dogs, took to patrolling at night.

Yet despite all of the efforts to apprehend it, the yellow-what-is-it, was never captured. It remains a mystery tucked into the annals of Pennsylvania’s dusty folklore.

Finally, we have Zombie Land, a stretch of ground snuggled against the Ohio border. Numerous tales have sprung up during the years of bizarre happenings and spectral apparitions that haunt this area. Rumors abound of eerie screams echoing in the night, and of ghostly phantoms that wander the darkness.

Legend also tells of a group of people known as the Light Bulb Heads. Afflicted with hydrocephalus—a condition that causes water to form on the brain— the group retreated to the area, hoping to live in peace. Their odd medical condition resulted in deformities, making them a target for ridicule and shame, some claiming they were “zombies”—a likeness from which the area derived its name.

The “Bridge People” also inhabited this region, living beneath a stone span commonly called the Frankenstein Bridge. According to legend, numerous markings, names, and symbols can be found on the sides of the bridge. It’s rumored that if your name is spray-painted there, the people who linger underneath will hunt you down to take your life.

Graffiti was never so lethal.

Old steam locomotive with ghostly woman standing in frontOr, you might find yourself on Gravel Road, an old rail bed where visitors reported hearing ghostly train whistles in the night. It’s whispered that if you park your car on the track you’re certain to see lights approaching, accompanied by the loud rattle of a steam engine. Only the foolish linger long enough to discover if the metal apparition bearing down on them is real.

There is also the notorious Blood House. Although the infamous residence now stands in ruins, legend has that it was once the abode of an old woman versed in the dark arts of witchcraft. Locals knew never to venture close, especially when the night was wrapped in darkness and the moon scuttled behind the clouds.

As Halloween approaches, it’s a timely reminder that folklore and legend are deeply ingrained in history, contributing to, and shaping our past. What better time to revisit old tales than when we’re focused on pumpkins, hayrides, and things that go-bump-in-the-night?

May your Halloween be a safe celebration, filled with treats and fun!

Happy Halloween from Brownstone Real Estate!

Candy Ortenzio
Executive Administrator
Brownstone Real Estate Co.

*Illustration of the SquonkBy Coert Du Bois and by William T. Cox; [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons