Make it a double: Two Lancaster county haunted places

In honor of Fly After 5 becoming a bi-monthly publication, we’re here to bring you twice the Lancaster County fun. That means twice the music, twice the food and twice the arts and culture. Be on the lookout for our first two issues Sept. 1 and Sept. 15.

In a county as soaked in history as Lancaster is, it’s only natural that a few myths pop up around places that have whiffs of the otherworldly around them. Here’s a couple of places that are rumored to be haunted.

You’ve probably walked by it many, many times – the Lancaster Cemetery is an impressive piece of land boasting upwards of 18,000 final resting places in the form of graves and, of course, seven crypts, including three that are still active. One of those graves features a statue watching over it; her expression is serene, she holds flowers in her left hand. This statue stands over the grave of Augusta Bitner, and if you believe the legends, it’s haunted as all get-out. Myths vary as to how Augusta died – childbirth? Fell/pushed down the stairs before her wedding day? Who knows? (Records suggest she died of typhus in Philly, but, hey, myths are more fun.) The story surrounding that statue also varies depending on who you believe. Is it Augusta? Is it the Virgin Mary? Is it a generic wingless angel? Just a pretty lady standing watch over the grave? Well, why don’t you ask her? One of the versions about this creepy work of art says the statue weeps, or walks around at night. Other stories say that a young woman dressed in Victorian-era clothing paces in the graveyard after hours. If you mean to be walking around in the cemetery, mind the hours, though – as a sign outside the cemetery will sternly warn you (calling out Pokemon GO players by name, no less!), cemetery hours are from sunrise to sunset.

If a single ghost isn’t enough for you, luckily, there’s a cornucopia of alleged apparitions just a few blocks away. All old theaters worth their salt have a myth or two floating around about a stage hand who may or may not have actually existed, or a performer whose life and death (in the theater itself, naturally) may or may not be verifiable. The Fulton Opera House puts those folks to shame. It shares a partial foundation with the old Lancaster County Prison, where the last of the Connestoga Native Americans were massacred by a vigilante mob called the Paxton Boys. This tribe was so completely destroyed that we now have no idea what they called themselves. Some say they can hear drum, conversations in an unfamiliar language, or blood-curdling screams when at the Fulton, even if apparently alone, and allege the spirits of those massacred in the prison linger still. Others name the spirit of actress Marie Cahill, sometimes spotted in a white dress in the wings of the stage; others still claim that theatre goddess Sara Bernhardt puts in a ghostly appearance once in a while. This doesn’t even cover everything in the manner of paranormal events that have allegedly occurred at the Fulton – but it sure makes a compelling start, doesn’t it?

For more haunted, creepy, and just plain odd things you can find around Lancaster, check out our Fly After 5 podcast on the matter.

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Posted in Articles, Lancaster

Ed Hirtzel is the Summer 2016 Fly intern. She’s currently an English Honors student at Millersville University. Her hobbies include scribbling, writing both fiction and nonfiction, and compiling useless information about cryptids.

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