May 12, 2023 I Brent Swancer

Sinister Curses, Ghosts, and Monsters at Pennsylvania's Chickies Rock

Located in West Hempfield Township, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania is a place called Chickies Rock. A massive outcropping of quartzite rock towering 200 feet above the farmlands of northwestern Lancaster County, the name comes from the native Lenape word Chiquesalunga, meaning "place of crayfish,” and it is a popular recreation area for hikers and rock climbers. Chickies Rock has long been a sacred place for the Natives of the region, who believed it to be populated by spirits, and it has also been a place that has to this day attracted stories of ghosts, strange monsters, and curses. 

Perhaps one of the most well-known stories orbiting Chickies Rock has its origins back at the end of the 19th Century, when three eccentric sisters were said to have lived in a small, dilapidated house atop a place called Chiques Hill. There they lived a simple, reclusive life, rarely showing themselves, and there were plenty of rumors circulating that they were witches. Despite being feared for their purported use of arcane rituals and black magic, they seem to have mostly left the populace alone, that is, until plans were put in effect to build a railway which would wind up the ridge along the Susquehanna River to the proposed site of an amusement park on the west end of the ridge, atop Chickies Rock. The problem was, the railway was to pass directly through where the three supposed witches lived, and although there was some consideration to build around them, after several declined offers to buy the land from them it was ultimately decided to build through them anyway. The land was granted by the local government as eminent domain and construction began, but things would not go smoothly.

The three sisters were furious that they were about to lose their home, and supposedly turned to a dark text called the Sixth and Seventh Book of Moses, which was said to be a powerful magical text allegedly written by Moses and passed down as one of the hidden books of the Jewish Tanakh. It was supposedly so powerful that it could not be destroyed except by being cast into the fire by a boy born on the Sabbath, and it held all manner of spells and curses. Using its sinister power, the witches supposedly cast a curse so potent and insidious that it required them to sacrifice themselves, which they gladly did in order to curse the land forevermore. If the stories are anything to go by, it worked.

Chickies Rock

Construction of both the railway and the amusement park itself were supposedly beset by misfortune, mishaps, and freak accidents, resulting in several deaths, but even then the plans pushed ahead. When the amusement park was finally finished, accidents and malfunctions continued, and the deadliest and most tragic result of the alleged curse happened on August 9, 1896. The day had been sunny, the park crowded with people, but when the trolley arrived to start bringing people home a thunderstorm appeared seemingly out of nowhere. Despite this, a trolley eventually arrived and people desperate to get out of there piled in, quickly pushing the car well past its intended capacity. The overloaded trolley nevertheless departed, but along the way the weight and the wet tracks made the car hard to stop and control. Adding to their woes was a sudden swarm of potato bugs that descended on the tracks out of nowhere to make them even more slippery, and at one point the brakes ceased working properly altogether. When the out of control trolley careened around a bend, it derailed, sending it flying off the tracks, across a road, snapping off a gatepost in the process, before sliding on its side for 75 feet, striking a tree, then a trolley pole, and finally dropping over a 30-foot embankment. In the aftermath six people had been killed in the accident and 68 were injured, making it one of the worst trolley accidents the state had ever seen. 

The dark curse is said to still hang over the rock, and whether this is true or not, there is an inordinate number of deaths and accidents at this place every year, so who knows? Another popular tale from here is that of what has come to be called “Lover’s Leap.” The story revolves around a Native man named Wanunga, who lived there with his beautiful wife Wanhuita. It is said that as Wanunga was away with some of the other tribesmen his wife had an affair with a white settler, and after he returned he began to suspect something. The story goes that one day he followed Wanhuita to one of her secret rendezvous at Chickies Rock. He allegedly flew into a rage, killing the white man and tossing his body off the cliff, after which he grabbed his wife, and after a struggle they both tumbled off the cliff to join her lover on the rocks below in death. Since then, the ghosts of all three of them are said to haunt the area, with Wanhuita’s spirit especially prevalent, said to scream and push visitors with unseen hands. One witness told of her creepy encounter here to Haunted Lancaster as follows:

We were all walking the trail and my husband asked for any signs of spirits being there and next thing I knew I felt something touch my back and no one was behind me. Everyone was in front of me as I was the scaredy-cat of the group. Then out of nowhere, we heard a terrifying scream. It sounded like a woman being killed. I’ve never heard a scream like that in real life. It was something you would hear in the movies. One of the people we were with asked if the spirits would like us to leave, and we all heard a man’s voice say, “Yes.” Almost like when someone is upset and warning you to leave. We all looked at each other and ran to the tunnel and left.

There are other ghosts said to wander about Chickies Rock that are not so readily identifiable. One is a shadowy man wearing a black fedora and flowing cape, as well as an armless limping specter with arrows sticking out of him, various ghostly figures looking like construction workers, mysterious wraith-like Native American warriors standing atop the cliffs staring off into the distance watching over their domain, often accompanied by the disembodied sound of drums, and a bizarre roving mist-like apparition. There are also numerous accounts of ghost lights and eerie shouts and screams from here, and Chickies Rock seems to be a hotbed of all manner of paranormal and ghostly phenomena.

Just as strange as the curse and ghosts are the stories of a miniature hairy ape-like creature said to inhabit the Chickies Rock area. Called the Albatwitch, which translates into “apple snitch,” the creatures have been reported since before white settlers even arrived. They are described as about 4 feet tall, squat, hairy, and muscular, with faces like a cross between man and ape, with a penchant for stealing apples and harassing travelers. Although this seems like it must surely be nothing but Native lore, there have been occasional sightings of these creatures right up into the present. One very recent report was given by a local man by the name of Alan Wilkerson, who claims to have encountered one of the creatures in February of 2002. He says of what happened:

While driving west on Route 23 between Silver Spring and Marietta, Pennsylvania I noticed a figure that appeared to be walking on the road directly in front of me. On this stretch of road in the early morning hours, there is not much traffic. While slowing down so as not to hit what I thought to be a person on the road I approached and was starting to get a bit nervous. Even though it was still dark out, with my headlights shining I could see this figure walking on the road straight ahead of me. As I slowly approached, the figure appeared to be dressed in all black and continued to walk not aware of the automobile that was behind it. As my car was now just coasting slowly I could see this black figure and noticed short black hair covering its body from behind. This figure appeared to me to be about 5 and a half feet tall and really skinny. I am guessing about 80 lbs. It was like it wasn’t concerned about me being behind it or maybe it didn’t even notice. I was a little shaken but curious as to what this was. 

All sorts of things were going through my mind. Was it a kid dressed up? What kind of sense would that make? Was I daydreaming? I can’t say how long this event lasted. It happened quickly. It seemed to be just a flash before it was over. I got so close to this figure that I could almost touch it with the car but still, it kept walking. It wasn’t until I put on the high beams of the headlights that it finally took notice. At that moment I got scared as a chill ran up my spine. The figure turned around and looked me straight in the eyes. I became more frightened now as two yellow-looking eyes were staring at me. It wasn’t an evil look. It didn’t appear malicious. It just felt like it recognized me, but still, I was frightened at what I was looking at. As it turned, I thought it might approach the car in earnest, then it simply vanished. I sat on the road for a moment looking to see where it could have gone but there was no explanation.

Whether the Albatwitch is real or not, it has become entrenched in local lore, and there is even the Albatwitch Day Festival that has been celebrated every October 8th since 2014 and is billed as “the largest little bigfoot festival in the world.” What is going on with this place? Are there really paranormal forces orbiting it or is this all just legend and lore? Whatever the case may be, it remains a rather mysterious place that should definately rank high on anyone with interests in the paranomal passing through the region. 

Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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