Friday, November 19, 2010

Hawk Mountain Sanctuary

Perched high up on the Kittatinny Ridge of the Applachian Mountain sits a sanctuary for raptors and birds of prey.

Hawk Mountain provides the world’s first refuge for hawks, eagles, falcons and vultures. Offering 8 miles of trails and picturesque vistas, there is no

shortage of nature to admire here. But things weren’t always so safe here for our feathered friends.

In 1929, the Pennsylvania Game Commission was paying hunters $5 for each goshawk they shot down. This was big money considering the Great Depression was upon us. The state believed the hawks were harming farmers’ livestock. In 1931, an amateur ornithologist from Philadelphia was visiting the area. What he found astounded and shocked him. Hundreds of hunters perched high in the mountain shooting the birds for their own pleasure. The dozens of carcasses lying on the mountain floor would become an inspiration to eradicate this horrible movement. Richard Pough, the young man from Philadelphia, tried to stop the hunters on his own, but was unsuccessful. Eventually photos he had taken of this travesty made their way into the hands of conversationalist Rosalie Edge.

Initially she leased 1,400 acres and hired a warden to keep the hunters off the property. By 1938 she had purchased and deeded the property to Hawk Mountain Sanctuary Association. Interestingly, the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary is not supported by the Pennsylvania or Federal Government, it is all privately run. Aside from the hundreds of raptors who migrate here every fall, there’s also a small pond where you’ll find frogs, turtles, fish and even newts. The sanctuary also has a native plant garden, consisting of over 250 species of Pennsylvania native plants.

It’s not only nature lovers who enjoy Hawk Mountain, Paranormal investigators are quite attracted to the place as well. The land was originally traced back to the Lenni Lenape Indian Tribe. Remains of a ceremonial ring have been found on the mountain, as well as Native American artifacts. It’s thought that this ceremonial ring could have been used for spiritual rituals. But this mountain has an even more horrid past than some ritualistic animal killings.

In the 1750’s, tensions between colonist and Native Americans began to escalate. On a cold February evening, a group of Indians slayed 5 family members relaxing in a family cabin. What the natives didn’t realize was that the family’s young son had survived the ordeal. Hiding in the nearby woods, the young man witnessed the brutal attack of his family. After many traumatic years, the son returned to the mountain and built a larger home, which he eventually sold to Mathias Schambacher and his wife. Sometime during the mid-1800’s, the couple opened the doors as a tavern and roadside inn. Slowly, overnight patrons from the inn began to steadily disappear. Everyone in the mountain area started to become suspicious of Mathias Schambacher, though not enough evidence was found to arrest the man.

In 1879 while on his death bed, Mathias had his wife contact a preacher for a death bed confession. Mr. Schambacher had admitted to killing between 11 and 14 men. He claims he lost count after his well become filled with human skulls. During his funeral, witnesses have attested to seeing lightning hit his grave. Maybe this accounts for the strange flashing lights many have witnessed on Hawk Mountain.

Many other visitors have sensed and seen what appears to be a 10-foot apparition that evil radiates from. Maybe this apparition haunted Mr. Schambacher as well, since he claims to have committed the murders due to a strange voice he would hear demanding him to kill. Perhaps undiagnosed schizophrenia is the reason. Whatever the reason, there is something mysterious going on here. Shortly after the purchase of Hawk Mountain, many of the staff felt a supernatural phenomenon immediately, and many human remains have been found in the area.

So whether enjoying nature is your thing, or if you prefer to live a little on the dark side, Hawk Mountain is a definite must visit.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Linfield Industrial Park

Located near the lush maintained greens of the Linfield Country Club, lies an industrial complex that hasn’t been maintained for nearly 25 years. Situated behind trees and large overgrowth, the Linfield Industrial Park lies abandoned and almost completely forgotten about. As you walk your way through the gridded streets, you see Mother Nature reclaiming what was once hers.

Grass and weeds shoot through the macadam, while buildings show the effects of neglect: bricks crumbling, steps broken and shard pieces of glass, representing windows.

On the inside of a few buildings it seems as though all who worked here just simply vanished. There are still cabinets full of paperwork, machinery and even a forklift overcrowded with vines and weeds. The entire complex is like an industrial wasteland. But things weren’t always like this at Linfield. At one time this complex helped employ numerous citizens in the area and gave them a better way of life.

Linfield was an industrial hub up until the 1960’s and was once the home of the famous Kinsey Distillery.

The Kinsey Distillery began shortly after Prohibition and was in operation up until 1986. It’s thought that most of the whiskey distilling took place at their main plant in Philadelphia and the Limerick Production plant was mainly used as a warehouse to store what was once the “world’s largest single concentration of aging whiskeys.” The warehouse was capable of holding more than one million barrels. In 1986 the distillery closed its doors and has been left to crumble ever since. Urban explorers and photographers have since become fascinated with the area. The nearby Limerick Power Plant gives the area a post nuclear holocaust feel that many find to be haunting, yet beautiful. Linfield is one of those places you could spend a day at, just being in awe of its decrepit-ness, while feeling its history pulsating through you.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Union Canal Tunnel

Looking to pass through the oldest transportation tunnel in the United States? Better have a boat in tow or be ready to get wet.

The Union Canal was originally proposed by William Penn in 1690 in order to access a second settlement on the Susquehanna River. Original surveying for the Canal was done in 1762 then again in 1770. In 1792, the Schuylkill and Susquehanna Canal Company began construction. Several miles were dug and 5 locks were built between the towns of Myerstown and Lebanon. Unfortunately a lack of money ceased the work.

Reorganizing in 1811 to form the Union Canal Company, work began again in 1821 and finally the Canal was opened in 1828. During the time of May 1825 and June 1827, men were hand drilling through the ridge and blasting gunpowder in order to build an engineering feat. At the time of the tunnel’s construction, it was considered unheard of in this country. Boats would be pulled through while the mules were led over the top of the ridge.In 1832 a branch of canal was finished reaching into Pine Grove, so the coal in that area could be easily transported.

During the 1850’s, the locks of the canal were enlarged to accommodate larger boats. In 1858 the tunnel which originally was 729 feet was shortened to 600 feet. Around this same time, transportation was seeing a transformation and the railroad was growing. In 1857 the Lebanon Valley Railroad was built and seriously reduced the canal’s revenue. To make matters worse, a flood in 1862 destroyed much of the canal. Costly repairs, water problems and the advancement of railroading forced the canal to close in 1885. In the early 1930’s, the Civil Works Administration began restoring the tunnel of the canal.

In 1950 the Lebanon County Historical Society purchased the tunnel. In 1974 it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Union Canal Tunnel Park was opened up in October of 1988.

Instead of getting wet and swimming through the dark tunnel alone, you can contact the Historical Society and they’ll be happy to boat you through.