CLARION - Every city and town has its share of ghost stories. Some may be grounded in fact and others may just be pure fiction. In the spirit of Halloween, here is a look at a few of Clarion County's favorite ghost stories.
Cry Baby Cemetery
The legend of "Cry Baby Cemetery" is grounded in fact. During the early part of the 20th century contagious fevers often led to the death of adults but was particularly hard on the very young.
The legend states one such outbreak led to the deaths of numerous children. The story says there were so many infant deaths that they were buried together.
Among these children was a set of twin babies who were, for some reason, buried on opposite sides of the cemetery around the Salem and Beaver townships border near the village of Monroe.
The legend says on certain nights, the twin babies can be heard crying out to find one other.
The cemetery is also rumored to have a headstone that bleeds, leaving a dark stain on the stone.
The bleeding headstone is representative of the innocent blood lost at the time.
Baby cries have been heard near this particular headstone as well.
There may be a germ of truth to this story. A recent walk through the cemetery found a fairly modern stone near the road.
The marker says: "Infant Goughler Age One Day, 1902." It has a lamb atop the inscription.
Sadly many of the markers were of native sandstone and have been eroded to the point that they are unreadable.
Not far from the modern stone is an older, sandstone marker.
The inscription is unreadable but the faint outline of a lamb, the symbol for a child, is still faintly visible.
Not far away is the Kline family plot. There are two prominent markers and several smaller stones. The stones do not bear a legend but could be the markers for children.
There are no discernible children's markers within the fenced area commonly referred to as the Cry Baby Cemetery.
Judy Zerbe, a native of the area, said she has visited the area often but has never encountered anything unusual.
But for others, Cry Baby Cemetery is a truly haunted place.
One local legend seems to be pure fiction. The legend commonly known as "Tractor Trailer from Hell" is based out of Curllsville in Monroe Township.
The story says late one rainy night, a female semi-truck driver was on her way home after a month on the road.
She was tired and was driving home in the rain. As she drove down the old dirt road toward home, the rain began to pour harder, but the woman pushed on.
The tractor-trailer swerved on the road like it was possessed.
The truck sped into a field and drove itself into the ground and, according to the story, drove the woman to Hell.
The truck remains in the field (between Means Road and McCall Road), sinking into the earth, where the woman's husband allegedly kept it as a memorial to her.
"I don't remember where I first heard the story of the truck, but I did see it one time when I was out looking for a structure fire before the days of GPS and cell phones," said CLARION NEWS Editor Rodney Sherman. "Personally, I think the truck thing was somewhat like the Cadillacs in Texas with their front ends buried. Just some joke a guy with a backhoe and a junk truck pulled."
CUP's Hart Chapel
One of the most enduring local legends involves Hart Chapel at Clarion University. The origins of this legend date back to the 1930s when the building was known only as "the chapel."
Former Clarion University professor Todd Pfannestiel said an actor named William was making a stop-off in Clarion to promote the one-man show he both wrote and starred in. He was scheduled to perform his act two nights in the chapel, but on the first night of his performance William was booed off the stage.
The story goes William later broke into the chapel with a rope, climbed up to the beams and hung himself. William wasn't particularly proficient when it came to tying nooses and was actually decapitated during the incident.
His body landed near the fourth row of the auditorium, and his head landing on the stage.
Pfannestiel said during multiple paranormal studies in Hart Chapel, proof of the ghost's existence has been documented on both film and video as well as on audio recordings.
Pfannestiel played the recordings at a personal appearance in Brookville. He said when the spirit was asked how he died, the voice answered, "Hung by the neck."
The ghost was also asked where he was, in which he clearly responded, "Right behind you," and asked how it was to be dead, in which he responded, "Ain't so bad."
Pfannestiel also said William rode with him from Clarion to his appearance in Brookville.
William sightings are legion among university students.
'The Old Jail'
Another local ghost story grounded in fact is the ghost in the old county jail.
On October 18, 1909, Vincent Voycheck murdered Andrew Stupka in Rimersburg by stabbing him to death. Voycheck was convicted and the judge sentenced him to be hanged at the Clarion County Jail (the building where the current 9-1-1 Center is located, behind the courthouse).
Invitations were even sent out for the hanging, which took place on June 1, 1911. The execution was Clarion's only official execution.
Ever since, people claim the ghost of Vincent haunts the building.
From there the story strays from the public record.
The now defunct Clarion Ledger newspaper states the execution took place in the jail yard and not inside one of the jail's towers.
The supervisor for the execution was from Pittsburgh because no one in Clarion had any experience with executions. Although many people petitioned Sheriff Winfield Scott Smathers to view the hanging, few people were permitted to view the execution.
The trap was sprung by Sheriff Smathers and not, as reported in some accounts, by a female county employee.
The legend says Voycheck enjoyed the company of young ladies and may have been visited by one or two in his jail cell.
If that is the case, it may explain why it is his cell in the old jail that is haunted.
These are a few of the "rural legends" of haunted Clarion County. Happy Halloween!