Hidden Histories

An Unexpected Pennsylvania 'Haunting' in 1787: A Tale of Warning?

Friday, 10/14/11

Since this is the month of October and close to Halloween, it's only appropriate that I relate at least a short supernatural tale. Without further introductory remarks, it's best to simply quote the article in full, as it appeared, within the published pages of the New Jersey Journal and Political Intelligencer, for September 12, 1787, which goes as follows:


"We learn from Lancaster that the following singular affair is founded on fact, and confirmed by Dr. Huston.
On the evening of the 11th ultimo, a young man having obtained information of some young women near Wright's ferry, having formed a resolution of going in the evening to a cornfield to get some roasting ears of Indian corn, resolved he would go with a white sheet about him to represent a ghost, and have some fun in scaring them; but fatal was the consequence to him; whether he saw any thing which might be permitted to chastise him for his boldness, or what incident fell out to craze his imagination we cannot tell.
But so it turned out, that after running through the fields for some hours, at last he reached a house in a manner frighted beyond description; he was immediately seized with epileptic fits, and continued to have frequent returns of them, till they put a period to his existence about the middle of last week.
Doctor Huston attended him, and says when he was not in these fits, he was always scared and imagined he saw something terrible, and cried to be taken away from him."

The above is a simple story, but perhaps it contains a warning to all those who would attempt to frighten others this coming Halloween. Yet, if one enjoys being "frighted," or frightened, as occurred in 1787, there are many photographs, diaries, letters, newspaper accounts, etc., relating to the supernatural, available within the collections, housed here within the hallowed halls, of The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, in Philadelphia.

Incidentally, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania will be conducting a 'Ghost Tour' of our building, as well as a short power-point presentation, relative to some of our supernatural-related materials. This will occur on Wednesday, October 26, at 5:30 and 7:00 p.m. To register for the event, click here.

Visit us, if you dare!