C.A.S.P.E.R Research Center

Haunted Mahanoy Area

Media/Press Announcements

I've read with more than "haunting" interest the discussions on the O'Donnell House, its location, and the historical aspects associated with the family. I would like to add, if I may, some commentary of my own. First, its good to hear about "renewed" interest about one of the neglected and forgotten "places" here in the Mahanoy Area and its surroundings. And, it does come at an "appropriate" time of year, when both nature (and human nature) change. It is the season of colorful leaves and even more colorful personalities, in the guise of

Costumed figures. So we need not create any more folkloric figures or enhance or change events. Schuylkill Co., and the Mahanoy Area in particular, has a long collective

History of what is called "cultural hauntings" (as opposed to historical narratives), which is about physical spaces and their relation to memory. The physical manifestations of these

"Cultural hauntings" are largely "invisible" because they are a direct consequence of a form of historical amnesia, socioeconomic decline, ethnic "forgetfulness", and a general

sense of pastlessness (due to a reorientation of goals and outlook that creates a discontinuity with the lessons from the past). It is a concern for "endangered spaces" because of

the perception of "worthless places" (i.e. no longer "relevant" it all its symmetrical meanings). The O'Donnell House, whatever its original physical location may be, is irrelevant.

It is its "space" in both memory, understanding, and socio-cultural history that is important. The O'Donnell House is characteristic of this type of "haunting phenomena", and thus

is an "endangered space" in the Mahanoy Area contemporary socio-economic and historical consciousness. It is a "ghostless" haunting. The "haunting" of the O'Donnell House

follows the same fate of many now "worthless places" in the Mahanoy Area. To name a few:


          1. The lack of attention or interest in the St. Nicholas Breaker, the largest existing of its kind in the world. A walk through the many-layered structure reveals a "time

              standing still" aspect in many areas, as if work had just "finished";

          2. The overgrown vegetation, and sad state of the burial plots and crumbled tombstones, of the St. Joseph Lithuanian Cemet., located on the road between

              Mahanoy City and Brandonville;

          3. The "haunting" image of beer cans and trash surrounding the "Peddlers" grave, a local "haunt" for "beer parties";

          4. The locations and "what happened to" of all the "coal patches"  in the area, a socio-physico entity that is "unique" to this area.


The Mahanoy Area is a landscape rich in scenes of drama and emotional connections to the past, at specific and unique locations, which help create other types of

haunting "phenomena". It is a land amenable to readings and recordings of "spookiness", with its once thick forest covers, and subsequent mines and culm banks. The area was once

called "Towamensing"- "the wild place", and the land of "spirits" by the wandering bands of Delaware. It was a region where interactions and engagements had created a "haunting uncertainty". The continuous influx of immigrants to the region over the past 250+ yrs.continues even today. This led to the violence associated with "ethnic clashes"

and the dangerous and unstable work environment of the mines led to countless premature deaths. It was also a region characterized by its "ghostliness". Each immigrant group

which settled here brought with them their own ethnic folklore and supernatural beliefs, and applied it to the existing landscape. This increased the "spookiness" and "haunting

uncertainty" of the area.


A symmetry exists between the past and present "conditions" of this landscape. The mix of particular events (the "Mollie Era"), figures (the "peddler"), and circumstances (the

economic decline/abandoned "worthless places") provides the potential "substance" for a haunted, and interactive landscape. The historical and economic interplay of factors

and demands (acts of violence, frequent death and injury in the mines, economic decline) make a haunting landscape "useful" and "workable". Finally, the lack of historical

continuity and economic development, combined with a sense of loss, decay, abandonment, and "forgetfulness", make this landscape both mysterious and ghostly, and thus

potentially an area of high demand and promise. This can be "applied" economically, as a source of revenue through ethnic, cultural heritage, and industrial archaeological

tourism. More importantly, it can also serve as an educative "tool". These abandoned and "worthless places" are more than locales of forgotten memories of once daily

hardships. They are an inspiration of a proud work ethic of purposeful activity, of toil to make a "new life" in a wilderness, once only inhabited, it was perceived, by

ghosts and nature spirits. Here, in the Mahanoy Area, we are all descended from immigrants. There is inspiration in the labor once achieved here, and the rich cultural heritage that was brought here, and continues to thrive, albeit less enthusiastically. Let the "ghosts" have their say, and form a partnership toward a brighter, and economically more viable, future.


In this time of change, lets begin to change our perception of some of these  "worthless places". One of the goals of my research center is the development of a cultural

resource management program that attempts to educate the public on the importance of these "endangered spaces", and by doing so, will, idealistically, lead toward a greater

appreciation of the region's rich cultural and ethnic heritage.


          John Sabol

          C.A.S.P.E.R. Research Center

          Mahanoy City  

"We excavate your haunts"
To build a better foundation for the study of ghost research.
"Unearthing the drama in the fields"

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