Since I’m often called the ghost lady of PA, people wonder if anything scares me. The truth is that not a whole what does scare me, but I’m human and I do have things that frighten me. Perhaps one of the things that frighten me the most was the cemetery outside of Tyrone, Pennsylvania.
I had a friend, Becky, who was into ghost hunting is I am. One evening she called me and said, “You’re not going to believe what just happened to me.” She proceeded to tell me that a couple weeks ago husband caught their oldest son, who was 16 years old, coming home very late one night. The claimed that he had been at an old cemetery waiting to see the ghost that supposedly haunted the place, and he had. They believed that he had been out drinking with friends and, if he had been in the old cemetery, it was because it was a place where no one would look for them.
Her son told her the following story. The old cemetery sits back a long lane and is difficult to find if you don’t know exactly where to look. For that reason it would be a good place for teenagers to go to party and drink. Becky’s son insisted that that was not the reason they had gone to the cemetery, though. He and his friends had heard that years ago a former caretaker had hung himself in the maintenance shed at the near end of the property. People claim to have seen the dead maintenance man either walking from the cemetery toward the shed and going in through the door, or coming out of the door and going down into the cemetery as if to work. Since that time, the old maintenance building has been destroyed and another was put in its place. The new building has a solid wall where once the door had stood, but the old maintenance man still comes through the wall as if he is passing through the long ago door.
It’s a great tale, but Becky couldn’t quite make herself believe it was true. Still, one evening she said to her husband that she would like to go down and sit in the cemetery for a while and just wait and see what happened. While her husband wasn’t particularly interested in sitting in cemeteries when he could be sitting in an easy chair watching TV, he finally gave in and agreed to accompany her to the old cemetery.
They pulled in about 6:30 in the evening and backed up into the farthest corner of the cemetery where they had a wide view of the place. They sat there for a while and just waited. As dusk fell, they were beginning to get tired of this little jaunt. Suddenly, down the hill in the oldest part of the cemetery, Becky noticed an older man in bib overalls kneeling before grave. He seemed to be working and she figured that he was the real maintenance man.
The man stood up and dusted off his knees. He stretches back the second as if he were tired, and in the uncertain light Becky began to watch him walking back up the hill toward the maintenance building. She didn’t say anything to her husband, because she assumed he was seeing exactly what she saw. As she watched, she began to think that there was something odd about this fellow. She watched him take several more steps in that it hit her– it wasn’t walking around the tombstones, he was walking through them!
The man continued on his way up to the maintenance building and literally melted through a solid wall. Becky grabbed her husband’s arm and hissed, “Did you see that?”
“See what?” Her husband was looking at her mystified.
Becky poured out the tale of what she had just seen. Her husband was more than a little confused. He had been sitting there looking at the same cemetery in the twilight and he had seen absolutely nothing. The look on Becky’s face, and the quiver of her voice as she told him what she had just witnessed, convinced him that she had seen something.
And that was what brought Becky and me to the cemetery a few nights later. She wanted to go again to see if she could see this man one more time. On this occasion, she pulled around the road through the cemetery down into the oldest section and parked her van. I was in the passenger seat and fully prepared to wait it out with her all evening long. We had gotten to the cemetery a little earlier this time and decided that before darkness fell would walk around a bit and explore. We looked at some of the older tombstones and took some photographs while we were waiting.
I was all right walking to the cemetery but it was when I got back to the van the things began to get frightening for me. My door was along the side were the woods where and as I walked close to it I had a sudden feeling of being watched. Not just a feeling, a conviction of being watched. I knew that whoever was watching me did not want me there. I felt that we were intruding on their space. My skin literally began to crawl and the air around us got cold and crisp. This was early September and the temperature had dropped easily 20° in less than five minutes. Becky looked at me and I looked back at her and she said, “Do you feel that? I nodded and said, “Cold…” She nodded and her eyes were getting large. She didn’t even have to tell me, I knew she was feeling the same thing I was.
Every hair on the back of my neck and my arms was standing straight up. There was an electric crispness to the air. Every fiber of my being was screaming, “Get out of there!”
I was feeling a fear that I have never felt in my entire life. This conviction that if we didn’t get out of there at that very moment something bad was going to happen. It wasn’t that I was afraid I would see a ghost, because I’ve seen those most of my life. It wasn’t a fear of being alone in the woods because I’ve lived in the woods most of my life. It wasn’t the fact I was in the cemetery because I’ve been in a cemetery at night many times. This fear transcended common sense and suddenly Becky said, “Get in the car now.” Both of us bolted for the van at the same moment. I skittered around the side and jumped in as fast as I could. We slammed the doors and for just a second held our breath as the van hesitated to start. The engine caught and we were out of there.
On the main highway Becky found a wide spot and pulled over. Both of us were nearly panting with fear and anxiousness. Becky’s eyes were wide with fear as she looked at me. “Did you feel that?”
Both of us described we felt and it was very much the same. We had somehow intruded upon someone’s existence and that someone was letting us know that he was less than pleased. I can not tell you that I saw a ghost that night. I did not. What I can tell you is that I felt a fear that I have never felt since that night. I felt fear that raised the hair on my arms and neck, made me break out in a cold sweat, and compelled me to get as far away from that cemetery as I could get.
Since that night, I have never gone back to that cemetery. I have spent 30 years of my life not just writing about ghosts, but communicating with them. I’ve met spirits that were nice and spirits that were nasty. I’ve worked on some demonic cases, and dealt with spirits there were less than pleasant. But I have never again felt that intense fear and need to flee from a place. I keep thinking that one day I will go back, but there’s this irrational something deep in my heart tells me that’s not a good idea. From time to time somebody will mention the cemetery to me at a book signing the lecture and asked me if I have ever been there. If I have time, I will tell them a little bit about the story of what happened to me that night. But I honestly don’t know that I could convey in words the intensity of the fear that Becky and I experienced in that little rural cemetery so long ago. Fear like that is hard to put into words. Fear like that has to be experienced to be understood.
(I cannot tell you the cemetery, because sadly vandals will end up there knocking over tombstones and desecrating the place. I used to give the exact name of such places since they are open to the public, but in recent years we’ve seen an increase in vandalism that is mainly decide to no longer give exact names.)