Good Life

Spooky sites and county frights: Local tales lure thrill-seekers

It’s that time of year again; when the leaves change, a chill sets in the air and miniature ghosts and goblins prepare to take to the streets.

Along with carving pumpkins and exploring corn mazes, telling ghost stories is a longtime Halloween tradition.

Michael Swayne, author of “America’s Haunted Universities: Ghosts that Roam Hallowed Halls,” says that transient places, particularly university towns like State College, are rife with ghost lore — a type of folklore — because those stories help connect the shifting communities.

These stories “provide lessons on cautionary tales,” he said. “They also give history lessons.”

Swayne said an example of this would be Pattee Library. Inside, the tall, narrow bookshelves — “the stacks” as students commonly dub them — are said to be haunted by a coed whose murder remains unsolved.

According to Swayne’s book, graduate student Betsy Aardsma was doing research in the library in November 1969 — during Thanksgiving break — when she was brutally stabbed. Another student who heard her scream reportedly took her to the heath center in the Ritenour building where she died from her wounds.

The tale, Swayne says, provides a general lesson to current students.

“When you tell that story, you’re also warning female students not to venture out alone,” he said. “Go with a friend. That’s kind of a cautionary tale.”

Swayne said that there are generally two camps in the world of ghost stories: folklorists, who look at stories as the previously mentioned ghost lore, and paranormal researchers who look at the stories as actually cases of the super natural.

“There’s a lot of debate between those two,” Swayne said. “And I just let them hash it out.”

To get you into the Halloween spirit, here are just a few of the many haunted stories from around Centre County:

From beyond the campus grave

Swayne said the two famous ghost stories from the Penn State campus are connected.

George Atherton, the university’s seventh president, is said to be among the many spirits that haunt Schwab Auditorium. His grave site is adjacent to the campus building. Atherton’s wife, Frances, is said to be seen looking longingly over his grave from across the street in the Old Botany Building.

“Those would be my two ones that I would investigate or, in my case, I would avoid,” Swayne said jokingly of the tales.

Swayne’s book recalls various accounts of students and technicians who have had unexplained sightings and experiences in the auditorium, built between 1902 and 1903.

But Atherton isn’t the only alleged perpetrator.

“There’s a couple different suspects that people claim are haunting that building,” Swayne said.

They include Charles M. Schwab, whose contributions funded the construction of the building, and a man with long hair who is wearing gray. The latter is thought to be either a Civil War-era soldier or an actor permanently cast in the role.

Likewise, Frances Atherton isn’t the only alleged spirit to frequent the Old Botany Building, built in 1887. Swayne said the building has had reported poltergeist activity and a second ghost haunting the premises.

Swayne said that a “lovers’ lane” type of tree grove used to be located behind the building. It has also been dubbed the “ghost walk” because of it’s creepy feel at night and the death of a student in 1860s, according to Swayne’s book.

Legend has it that the student was walking home during a snowstorm, but never made it. According to the book, the man’s body was found — he had frozen to death — the next day near the current location of the Burrowes Building.

Black ghost of Scotia

The Scotia area of Patton Township boomed with iron mining from the late 1800s to early 1900s, at which time mining operations shut down, the railroad left the area and the village became a ghost town.

Today, along with feeling breezes blow through the State Game Lands 176, some have reported seeing the ghost of the last man publicly hanged in Centre County. That story appears as told to Centre Hall author Jeffrey Frazier in “The Black Ghost of Scotia and More Pennsylvania Fireside Tales,” his 1997 book.

The story goes that on a fall evening in 1910, Bert Delige, who served previous jail time for voluntary manslaughter and attempted armed robbery, killed Hulda Baudis. Baudis was the widow of carnival worker John Baudis and, as Frazier tells it, was taking a short cut home from visiting her sister, when Delige jumped out and raped her. Delige, who had worked for John Baudis, had claimed he was owed back wages, but Mrs. Baudis disagreed.

When Delige got up to leave, Baudis called out that she knew who he was. Delige turned back and cut her throat, killing her.

Taken to trial, Delige was found guilty and hanged on April 25, 1911. Frazier wrote that he was buried near his family homestead instead of in the cemetery.

Since the late 1970s, people in the area, including Game Lands hunters, have reported seeing a black mist. Just last year, Frazier said he was at a book signing in Harrisburg when a man reported seeing a black mist start to form in front of him during hunting season in Scotia in 2010.

“A gentleman walked up and said, ‘I don’t think I’m crazy anymore,’ ” Frazier recalled. “He said he made it out of there, but he was scared out of his wits.”

Frazier said some people have told him Delige wasn’t buried where the story says, and even Patton Township Supervisor Bryce Boyer tells it a little differently.

In Boyer’s version, Baudis stopped by two stores in the Scotia area, though still was walking home when Delige, the “undesirable guy,” assaulted her, then killed her. Boyer said that Baudis is the ghost.

“The story goes, her ghost prowls around out there,” he said. “That’s a strange area.”

Boo! in Boalsburg

Switching lights on and off, flipping tray holders and rattling doors when no one else is around seems like some practical jokes a younger sibling might play — but at Duffy’s Tavern, it’s something else.

“Some know, some don’t. Some believe, and some don’t,” said owner Tracey Moriarty.

Know about the spirits that roam the restaurant, that is.

Tucked along Main Street in quiet Boalsburg, Duffy’s Tavern with its stone exterior and cozy dining atmosphere is straight out of the 1800s. It was built in 1819 but it has only recently joined the spooky ranks of haunted spots in Centre County. Former owner Harry Duffy died in the building in 1961, and it seems like he — and some of his friends — doesn’t want to leave.

Moriarty said she, her husband and co-owner, Darren, the employees, the regulars at the bar and even her puppy have all experienced some of the supernatural antics. Strange noises. Eerie occurrences. Dark shadows lurking in the doorway.

Once, Moriarty said her 3-month-old Corgi puppy started screaming — not barking — at something in the bar area.

“Stop it, she’s just a puppy and you’re scaring her,” Moriarty said aloud, addressing the spirits. “And then it stopped,” she said.

Servers have shared accounts of chairs rearranging, doors slamming and glasses falling off the bar. In one of the more famously reported instances, when the lights shut off in the dining room, a waitress said, “That’s enough, Harry,” and the lights returned.

Moriarty said every now and then she, too, has to tell Harry and his friends to calm down.

“Good morning, everyone. I think it’s time to start our day,” she says to the spirits if they seem to be rumbling around.

Almost every employee has a story about an encounter with the supernatural at Duffy’s Tavern, Moriarty said, and diners are always encouraged to ask their server about his or her favorite ghost story. Another frequent visitor is “ The Lady in the Yellow Dress,” who’s been known to tag along beside servers and confuse some diners. Although it’s unusual, the best part is the experiences aren’t bad, just supernatural, Moriarty said.

So if you’re in the mood for a meal with the possibility of a little goofy, spooky occurrence, Duffy’s Tavern may be the place to visit around Halloween.

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