Sunday, January 27, 2013

Phantom of Penn's Cave

The Seneca Indian tribe originally discovered the majestic beauty of Penn's cave. They would often use the cave as a refuge during bad weather. The natural creek that flows through offered them great opportunities for fishing, provided natural refrigeration, as well as supply clean drinking water. But there are much darker tales on ways they used the cave to their benefit.

One particular legend that's popular in the State College area tells the tale of a Lancaster county trapper, who fell in love with a local Seneca tribeswoman. In the early 1800's a Frenchman named Malachi Boyer scoured through the mountains of Centre county looking for game to trap. While camping at Mammoth spring near the town of Bellefonte the man was introduced to local chief O-Ko-Cho, the two quickly developed a kinship and exchanged gifts. The local chief had seven sons and one daughter named Nita-nee. The young woman was often closely guarded by her brothers, but one day Malachi caught a glimpse of the beautiful maiden cleaning a deerskin in the nearby stream. It's believed the two immediately fell in love with one another. Native American tradition would never allow the two lovers to maintain a relationship, smitten with each other, the two planned an escape. They were subsequently captured by Nita-nee's seven brothers and were returned to an angered Chief O-Ko-Cho. The Chief instructed his sons to take the man to the cavern of water and dispense of him.

The brothers following through with their orders dragged the man to the Earth's opening and threw him into the dark waters below. For a week the desperate man swam through the murky abyss hoping to find an exit from his inevitable doom. The only pathway out was being blocked by the Seneca tribesmen, exhausting all his efforts the man crawled to deepest recesses of the cavern to pass away. He vowed to not allow the Native Indians watch him suffer through his death. The brothers eventually retrieved his remains, weighted them down, and disposed of them in the deepest cavity of the cavern.

The young Nita-nee has had her legacy remembered forever, her name has been bestowed upon the mountains of the area, as well as the famed mascot of Penn State University. Malachi Boyer's legacy may have been lost but many believe his spirit may still live on. Centuries later it's said on quiet summer nights you can hear echoes from out of the cave that resemble a person crying for Nita-nee. Even in death maybe love still lasts forever.

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