Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Cloak Woman...and the Cloak Man

A bizarre figure known as the Cloak Woman haunted the town of Schuylkill Haven, in Schuylkill County, back in 1911. The Call of Allentown reported on February 11 and 18 about the mysterious figure which followed some women to their homes. The figure was itself followed on Haven Street, where several men said that it wore women's clothing and a red tam o'shanter cap. When seen next, by several young girls, the mysterious Cloak Woman wore goggles of some type and a long shawl. Then, in the Prospect Hill area of town, multiple Cloak Women were seen.

In a bizarre twist, Tony Rossi, sexton of St. Ambrose Church saw a masked, dark-cloaked figure loitering in his churchyard. After lying in wait the next evening, Rossi attacked the figure. When cornered, it turned out to be a man, who claimed that he was disguising himself in order to spy on his wife.

By some bizarre coincidence, at around the same time, during the years of the early twentieth century, the streets of Manheim here in Lancaster County were being haunted by the Cloak Man. This was a mysterious figure - clad all in a billowing cloak - who would approach women walking through Bull Alley (present-day Ferdinand Street). Who exactly he was remained a mystery, and the Cloak Man faded away in the years that followed. The figures of the Cloak Man and Cloak Woman are both similar to the Woman in Black, a female form, replete with luminous eyes, which haunted the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton metropolitan area some fifteen years before.

These black-clad mystery figures seem to have been an integral part of the era, from the pulp hero The Shadow to the Mad Gasser of Mattoon and beyond.

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