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
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
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
hauntings" are largely "invisible" because they are a direct consequence of a form of historical amnesia, socioeconomic
decline, ethnic "forgetfulness", and a general
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
"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"
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
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
of the area.
exists between the past and present "conditions" of this landscape. The mix of particular events (the "Mollie Era"), figures
(the "peddler"), and circumstances (the
decline/abandoned "worthless places") provides the potential "substance" for a haunted, and interactive landscape. The historical
and economic interplay of factors
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
and economic development, combined with a sense of loss, decay, abandonment, and "forgetfulness", make this landscape
both mysterious and ghostly, and thus
an area of high demand and promise. This can be "applied" economically, as a source of revenue through ethnic, cultural heritage,
and industrial archaeological
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
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
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.
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
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
of the region's rich cultural and ethnic heritage.