Sunday, January 29, 2012

Broad Top Snake

If you find yourself walking the woods of the Broad Top mountain be careful where you step or more precisely where you sit. A legend passed from the 1800's tells the tale of a lumberjack who sat on a log one day to enjoy his lunch. His face turned a pale white when he realized his crude bench began to move. Since then tales have surfaced and sightings have occurred of an exorbitant serpent roaming the lands.

Numerous locals in the Huntingdon county area pass along tales of an 18-20 foot long snake with yellow markings around its neck and eyes. Travelers through the rural area have reported running over small logs only to spot them slither across the road. During the 1950's several strip miners in the area also recognized an abnormally sized serpent roaming the mountaintop.

Broad Top mountain isn't the only place in Pennsylvania where large snakes have been spotted. Several years ago in York county a gentleman found a massive snakeskin in the woods. Others in the county have reported spotting a snake as large as 14' long and over 18" inches in diameter. This is certainly not an indigenous creature leading many to believe these sightings should be attributed to careless pet owners. But many years before owning exotic snakes was a common practice, many Gettysburg citizens claimed to have spotted an immeasurable snake slithering throughout the nearby thickets. This vermin evoked so much fear in the residents that he was named "the devil." The vast monster was thought to make his home in a nearby boulder field which was affectionately known as "Devil's Den."
Those who study snakes often attribute these sightings to large black snakes. Though new evidence has surfaced showing that a species known as the pine snake has been spotted throughout several isolated pockets of the Appalachian states. The snake has been known to grow quite lengthy, but doesn't measure much more than a few inches in width. If you find yourself hiking or camping near the Appalachian mountain range and see a colossal creature slithering by, don't say you weren't warned!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Thunderbirds of Pennsylvania

Native Americans often paid tribute to large predatory raptors. Most totem poles feature a likeness to a thunderbird perched high on top. The natives often held these mammoth birds in high regard. They believed these feathered creatures held supernatural powers, including the power to cause hazardous storms. It was believed that their flapping wings created thunder, while their dark ominous eyes were capable of causing lightning strikes. The natives passed these tales onto the early settlers, as well as stories of the monstrous birds swooping down to attack deer and even small children. They described the birds as having talons as large as human hands, glassy black beaded eyes, and heads larger than a yard long. But are they real?

It's quite easy to dismiss these tales as simple early American folklore passed down from generation. What's not so easy to dismiss is the inordinate amount of eyewitness accounts in the past two decades. Alarmingly a majority of these reports come from the black forest region of northern Pennsylvania. Several witnesses have reported immense birds roaming the area, ranging in size from 14 to 22 feet in length. Often they resemble small aircraft, yet have the appearance of a large bat. More shockingly is there are a host of witnesses in every county of Pennsylvania who can attest to spotting one of the gargantuan creatures. I do know one thing for certain, on future Outta the Way trips were gonna be keeping our eyes on the sky as well as the road.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

"The Town that Was" Centralia, Pennsylvania

"The Town that Was"
is an intriguing and thought provoking documentary on the small mining community of Centralia, Pennsylvania. A town that has lived and died with the coal industry. Centralia was once a bustling borough that thrived on the anthracite coal buried deep beneath the surface, but on the surface was a town of dedicated, hard working individuals. This film mainly pays it focus on them, instead of the fire that burns deep beneath the surface of this near ghost town.

Centralia was once a standard mining community. Row homes with well manicured lawns dotted the streets, while local churches and taverns served as meeting places, and homes away from home. But since a warm Summer day in 1962 the times have been a changing. A controlled trash burn on Labor Day weekend, escaped into an underground mine and ignited the slow burning coal. Since then the fires been spreading and the residents have been fleeing, but not all.

The documentary shares stories of past and present, from current and former residents. As well as their concerns and grievances about the town and the controversy that surrounds it. The picture mainly pays attention to Centralia's youngest resident, John Lokitis. The film follows him through his daily routines of helping to maintain the small town charm that still remains there. The passion he shows for his hometown shines through immensely. Being one of less than a dozen remaining citizens, John thrives to keep the "Town that Was", a town that's never forgotten.
Watch "The Town that Was" free on Hulu

Friday, January 6, 2012

Legend of Hell's Funnel

On the outskirts of Strasburg, Pennsylvania, there is a ghostly spirit known to haunt the rural surroundings. Off of a seemingly pleasant rural route, lies a dark history. Legends abound telling the tale of a man and his mill.

Early in the 20th century while working feverishly one day in his mill, the man sustained an accident. The sharp spinning blades from the mill dismembered the gentleman's hand. Since the area was quite remote, phones and neighbors were scarce. The man rushed to his home which sat on the property, his wife could do nothing but watch her husband suffer and bleed to death. Being so distraught over the loss of her husband, she took her own life.

The area surrounding their former home is thought to be haunted by the spirits of both. There is a small lake near the home where most of the apparitions have appeared. I've heard stories that people have seen a woman in a white dress walking around the lake, as well as hovering above. There are also tales of those who have been scratched on the arm while approaching the lake.

On a nighttime visit to Hell's Funnel, Outta the Way didn't notice any apparitions, though we did spot a few orbs in photographs and felt an unsettling feeling. "No Trespassing" signs are posted liberally around the area, and Outta the Way asks that you respect these wishes. Besides, maybe it's just my horror movie fascination, but don't all these hand-less spirits usually fashion a hook in the afterlife?