Sunday, May 15, 2011

Update: Adamstown UFOs (1869)

I've since found that, though it's not mentioned in the original article, on the day of the sighting there was also a solar eclipse. The solar eclipse did produce luminous phenomena (seen by astronomers in Kentucky, Iowa and Ohio) which were seen crossing the eclipsed disk. Being those lights were in the air, I'm not sure how they're relevant to ground-based phenomena, but they could be.

Berks County Birdman

After the reports of the New Oxford winged humanoid were posted, Phantoms and Monsters also received a report of an eerily similar being in Mertztown, Berks County. Mertztown is in Longswamp Township, in the eastern portion of the county nearest Lehigh. Berks County has a veritable ton of bizarre reports, and most relevant to this critter are a ghostly white bird which haunts Hawk Mountain and a sighting of something at least called the Jersey Devil in Reading in 1909. There are persistent legends of a "fiery dragon" near Virginville.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The dragon-man of New Oxford

Lon over on Phantoms and Monsters has some interesting posts on the sightings of a winged humanoid near New Oxford, Adams county. The creature was sighted in 1988 and twice in the summer of 2008.

As discussed in the article given above, an animal called the "Jersey Devil" was seen in neighboring York county back in 1910. This also may be similar to a "gargoyle" seen in Lancaster (discussed in Mysterious Pennsylvania).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

One for the doctors: the Stone Child (1880)

From the Lancaster Daily Intelligencer (January 10, 1880):
The petrified child in the family of J.A. Kinsley, of New Philadelphia, continues to attract general attention, and is considered by all who have seen it to be the wonder of wonders. The hardness has gradually spread over the entire body, some portions being so hard that not the slightest indentation can be made. The case is said to be without parallel in the history of the country, and the singular disease has thus far baffled all medical skill. How the child can live in this solidified state is the greatest mystery. The parents are greatly grieved over its sad affliction, and are doing everything in their power for its relief.
I'm not a medical expert, so there may be a better candidate, but I would submit the possibility that this was a case of fibrodysplasia ossificans progressiva (FOP), a degenerative disorder in which the muscles turn to bone, paralyzing the victim. The Mütter Museum in Philadelphia has in its collection the skeleton of an individual named Harry Eastlack, who died in 1973 at age 40. At the end of his life, Eastlack was able to move only his lips. However, from what I've been able to gather it would be extremely rare (though nothing's impossible) for FOP to be so pronounced in childhood.

The skeptic in me, though, is also doubting the account somewhat, based on a singular lack of detail about the afflicted child: no name, sex, or even age is given.

UPDATE: The doctors at the time labelled this an advanced case of scleroderma. This also took place in Ohio, not Pennsylvania.

Monday, May 2, 2011

An armadillo found in New Castle (1927)

From the New Castle News (Oct. 11, 1927):
Throngs of people were busy all morning at the window of the C. Ed. Smith Hardware company store on East Washington street, viewing the strange animal captured by Dewitt Gormley in the corn patch of Wesley Gormley, his father, who resides on the Harlansburg road.

The strange animal was eating corn, when discovered and captured. The animal has been found to be an Armadillo, a native of the warm climate of Mexico and other far southern countries.

It has a hard shell covering on its body, which is in the nature of armor plate to it, protecting it from its enemies. It can and does draw its head into the shell when the occasion demands it. It can run and jump with ease and great speed.

How this strange animal of the tropical clime came to be stealing its food in the corn patch of the Gormley farm is not known. It is thought possible that it may have been at the New Castle Fair and escaped from its owner at that time.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The 'Monk' of Wildcat Hollow (1945)

This has to take the prize for most misleading name in the annals of Forteana. While it gives the impression of a clerical, cassock-wearing phantom, this beast was nothing of the sort, being a "large rhesus monkey or a chimpanzee" that roamed the area between Latrobe and Ligonier in 1945.

The first real mention of the so-called 'monk' came on September 7, when an article appearing in the Altoona Mirror mentioned that the Reed School had been closed the day before due to sightings of the weird creature. It leapt into the midst of a corn roast being held at the school on the night of September 5, making off with two ears and displaying no fear of humankind. I'm assuming this was the incident which led to the closing of the school - as a local game warden (coincidentally also named Reed) said, "The parents won't let their children out of the house so long as the thing is on the loose. And we can't blame them." Reed had also been investigating the animal for a month, so presumably there's some earlier sightings, though I haven't seen them.

One of the witnesses to the animal was Paul Claycomb of Marietta, who said the 100-pound beast broke into his chicken house and stole one of the birds. His dog "almost broke down the door trying to get in the house when that thing came along."

Another article, appearing in the Indiana Evening Gazette the next day, reported another sighting of the beast, made the previous night. Two boys near Norvel, Norman White and Joseph Seville, were out in Seville's backyard with their dogs when they began to growl - swiveling their flashlights around the yard revealed the animal hiding nearby. One of the ubiquitous hunting parties was formed, but like practically every posse hunting a weird creature ever formed, all was for naught and they came up empty-handed.

And there the story seems to materialize and end. A predominant theory mentioned was that the ape escaped from a circus about six weeks before - isn't that the theory on any animal found where they aren't supposed to be?

This is probably the earliest sighting of a simian nature from the Chestnut Ridge I'm aware of, the Chestnut Ridge area of Westmoreland and Fayette counties being, apparently, the domain of Pennsylvania's resident Bigfoot population.

As a fun 'name game' aside, Wildcat Hollow might, or might not, be named after another weird creature - an article following up on the 1922 shooting of a long-tailed wildcat shot near Tinicum, Bucks county, says that the cats also inhabited the Chestnut Ridge.