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by Denver Walton
Milestones Vol 19 No 2 Summer 1994

What, ghosts in Beaver County? Why not-other places have them. Readers of Milestones will recall the story of Judge John H. Reddick whose spirit in his tomb on the state line struggled with the devil for his soul. There have been several instances of supernatural encounters in my family. If I tell you about these, please promise to send in your ghost stories for retelling in Milestones.

It was back in the early teen years of this century, in Monaca, that my dad, Dewey Walton, had his experience with spirits. A gang of boys were sitting around with nothing to do when one of them got the idea of exploring the old empty house on the east end of town. Now this was not a real old house because Monaca wasn't a real old town yet. But the house was empty and surely there was something inside worth collecting.

The house stood off by itself, away from the more settled part of town. There was a lot of junk in the yard (no old cars, because cars were not that common back then.) The grass and weeds around the house hadn't been mowed in years. The boys walked around the house looking for a window to break, but earlier vandals had broken them all. They reached the back door and entered the house, carefully walking across the rotten planks on the small porch.

Now, this house may have been old, but it had one "modem convenience". On the counter beside the kitchen sink was a water pump. Where most pumps were outside above the well, with this one you could draw water from the well without leaving the house. Walking through the kitchen, the boys ignored the old table and broken chairs. The floor was covered with broken glass from the many shattered windows. There were rusty cans on the floor and some moldy dishes in the sink. The next room visited was the living room, empty except for an outdated calendar and more broken window glass.

Going upstairs single file on a very untrustworthy staircase, the boys found nothing of value in the three small bedrooms. A rusty bedspring, a chamber pot, and a pile of old newspapers littered the front room. They didn't enter the other rooms because the floor didn't look very safe and the ceiling was falling down.

The boys had just decided to leave when they heard a strange noise from downstairs. Had someone followed them to the house, and was now downstairs making noise? As quickly as possible the boys tip-toed down the stairs. When they reached the bottom they were shocked by what they saw: the kitchen sink pump handle was moving up and down, making a creaky old iron noise. There was no hand moving the pump, and soon there were no boys in the house either. Local speed records must have been set that day as the boys exited the "haunted house". My father never heard any reasonable explanation for what happened, but he knows what he saw and he remembers it clearly today. -

Now, I didn't believe in the supernatural 35 years ago and I don't believe in it today, but something happened to me then that has had me wondering ever since. It was an exceptionally nice evening in early June of '59, and my wife and I were out for a walk on the streets near Van Buren Homes, where we lived. Our first child was due in about a month, so we weren't walking too fast or too far. I was carrying a paring knife and a bag in case we found some clean dandelion leaves fo ra salad. Walking along, we found a well-traveled trail leading up into a valley behind Vanport.

I've always had a curiosity for paths in the woods and it seemed like a good idea to explore this one. It was about dusk and we didn't have much time before dark. A few hundred yards up the trail, I laid my knife and some dandelion leaves on a stump beside the path and we agreed not to walk much further because it was getting dark.

The path ended suddenly near the ruins of an old house. There were the remains of a dam nearby, and a stone springhouse. Darkness was falling fast, and we gave a last look at the ruins before heading back down the trail. During that last look, we saw something that we will never forget. There were two tall trees that once shaded the old house. Across the first of these trees we saw a white glow, moving slowly. It was a large irregular light passing in front of the tree. It moved on to the next tree and a second object followed where the first had been.

Was it a breeze turning over silverbacked leaves on the tree? No, there was no wind. Was it a momentary glow from the headlights of a car? No, we were a mile from the nearest highway. Was it supernatural, a ghost, a spirit or what? We didn't take the time to watch any further. We turned and, as quickly as we could, walked down the path, with frequent looks back up the trail to see if anything was following us. It was pretty dark by then, and maybe that's why we didn't remember the knife and the dandelion on the stump. We reached the road safely, though a little bit out of breath. Nothing followed us.

I've been back to "Ghost Valley" several times, but never saw anything to explain our encounter with the supernatural.

Jacob Frederick Streit and Margaret Mateer, my matemal grandparents, married in the early 1890's and "went to housekeeping", (as old timers say) in a house on Chapel Road in Center Township.

The house, a typical Western Pennsylvania 2-story farmhouse, was warm and comfortable. There was only one problem: it had a ghost. Now, my grandfolks had never seen their local spirit, but they had heard it often. There was a fence around the house, and in front, an iron gate that squeaked when it was opened. It seems that every night, they would hear the gate open and close. Going to the front door, they would open it wide and look out, but there never was anyone there.

This went on for months until the Streits were ready to move to someplace less haunted. Then it happened. It was just after Christmas in the early days of the new year. The house was still decorated for the holidays and ghosts were far from everyone's thoughts. A bitter cold night and a severe blizzard made conditions outside too much for traveling anywhere, so the folks sat around the fireplace and did the things that rural people did a hundred years ago. Suddenly, for the first time in weeks, the gate opened and closed. This time it couldn't be ignored-there was a knock on the door. My grandfather picked up the lantern and walked swiftly into the hall, my grandmother right behind him. He pulled the latch on the front door and quickly opened it, revealing a tall figure, partly covered by a black cloak. My grandmother said, "My God, it's a man." Hearing the name of God, the black figure moved backwards off the porch and passing through the gate, disappeared into the blizzard.

Never again did they see the "haunt" and never again did the front gate open and close when there was no-one there.

The Streits did move shortly after; they bought a farm on Chapel Road where my mother was born and grew up. The farmhouse burned 30 some years ago, but the haunted house is still there.

This is the end of the ghosts of Beaver County-until we hear from you.