Are you looking for the perfect island getaway that’s guaranteed to be peaceful, isolated and secluded because your relatives and friends will be too terrified to visit you? Then hurry over to Easton, Pennsylvania, where the real estate listing agent will take you on a tour — or perhaps just put you in a boat and point you in the right direction – of Getter’s (or Getters) Island, one of the most haunted places in Easton, a city that boasts of a haunted theater (The State Theater), a haunted rock (Hexenkopf Rock) and a haunted business school (Churchman’s Business School Building). Why is Getter’s Island on the list, why is it for sale and why should you consider buying it?
Easton is at the junction of the Delaware and Lehigh rivers and that’s where you’ll find the six-acre Getter Island, named not for its most famous resident but for the only man ever hanged on the island, convicted murderer Charles Getter. The first recorded owner of the then-unnamed island was John Penn, son of state founder William Penn, who sold it in 1787 to five Easton businessmen. At some point it was owned by a Delaware River ferry company, then by a logging company and later by someone who used it to store ice. In the 1940s, it had an amusement park called Tropical Island. The park eventually closed due to frequent flooding (make note, potential buyers) and is now overgrown and uninhabited.
Yeah, yeah, yeah … what about the hanging?
According to a popular version of the story, in September 1833, the unmarried Easton resident Margaret Lawall became pregnant after a tryst with Charles Getter, who married her to avoid going to jail, even though he had a girlfriend named Mary Hummer. Getter had been heard threatening to kill Margaret and, when her strangled body was found less than 100 yards from her house, he was accused, captured, tried, found guilty (after a mere ten-minute jury deliberation) and sentenced to hang. Because the heinous crime received such huge publicity, the gallows were built on the nearby island to accommodate an estimated crowd of 20,000 gawkers who watched Getter, dressed in white, walk across a series of boats to the gallows.
So far, so good … well, for everyone but Getter. Given a strange choice, he elected not to be dropped through a trap door but to be drawn up to the top of the gallows as a 300-pound weight was dropped over the other side. This unreliable method failed the first time and Getter fell to the ground still alive but with a hurt arm (aww). It’s said Getter covered the rope marks on his neck with a necktie and was drawn up again, this time dying after dangling in the air for a while.
Any guess whose ghost haunts the island … and why? Getter’s ghost has been seen where the gallows stood, while Margaret Lawall’s spirit, dressed in black, is said to haunt the Northampton County Country Club, which is now located where her strangled body was found.
According to the real estate listing, the “lush 5.8 acre island” is in the Easton school district and has no utilities. However, it has views of “City Lights, Mountain, Panoramic, Valley.” Lee Heilman, the seller whose family has owned the island for nearly 80 years, told the Morning Call that he and his relatives used it for “treasure hunts and picnics and swimming.” Easton mayor Mayor Sal Panto Jr. suggests it would be a good stopping spot for people canoeing and tubing down the river. Listing agent Theresa Barlow thinks it would be perfect for “a fishing club, a row-up snack stand or camping.” It’s zoned low-density resident, so a few houses can be built there … once sewer lines, water and roads are put in. And maybe a bridge to replace the suspension bridge destroyed in 1944 by a flood (better get flood insurance). And, of course, there’s the possibility of paranormal-type activities for those interested in spirit hunting.
All in all, Getter’s Island may be a bargain at $150,000 for anyone looking for a ghostly summer getaway.
(Island photo from RE/MAX real estate listing)