What would you call a 4-foot-tall ape-like creature covered in reddish-brown hair that likes to steal, eat and throw apples? If you live in Columbia, Pennsylvania, you might call it a good reason to hold an Albatwitch Festival celebrating a local mystery.
Columbia is in Pennsylvania’s Amish country but the legend of the Albatwitch may date back 500 years to the Susquehannock Indians who lived along the Susquehanna River and were known to draw ape-like creatures on their war shields. This area is home to Chickies Rock, a popular picnic spot in the 1800s where the creature’s name and reputation may have originated, according to Rick Fisher, curator of the National Museum of Mysteries and Research Center in Columbia.
These creatures, the albatwitch, would come out of the trees and steal apples from the people who were picnicking there. They would eat the apples and throw the cores back at the people.
The name “albatwitch” is believed to be a variation on “apple snitch” from its fruity kleptomaniac behavior. While similar in spelling, it has nothing to do with the Elbedritsch, which is a different myth among the local German population having to do with a creature with a goat’s horns, duck’s bill, rabbit’s ears and squirrel’s tail whose “hunts” are a popular April Fools prank.
Sightings of the albatwitch tapered off in the late 1800s but picked up again starting in the 1950s with new reports of a manlike creature around Chickies Rock.
One witness is Rick Fisher himself, who claims he saw an albatwitch on Route 23 while driving toward Marietta, PA. Another is Chris Vera, who says a boyhood friend was pinned to a tree by one. Vera is president of the Columbia Historic Preservation Society and he and Fisher are the creators of the Albatwitch Festival, which was held on September 27.
Pennsylvania has a long history of Bigfoot sightings so the albatwitch could possibly be a similar species, a Sasquatch child or a smaller relative. Or just a myth. Whatever it is, it’s a great reason to hold a festival.