If you’re looking for haunted places in Tioga County, nearly everyone will include Fallbrook Cemetery in their short list.
Rightfully so, said Shirley Welch and Willow Lockett. They and Willow’s daughter, Bunny, believe they have encountered many different spirits on multiple occasions.
The pair accompanied this reporter to Fallbrook, located a few short miles from Shirley’s house, between Covington and Blossburg. It’s a former coal mining town, now lost to time.
From the beginning, the area had been beset with problems: insufficient coal found, then enough coal but located 600 feet above the railroad tracks. Then political maneuvering blocked creation of the charter to create the Fall Brook Coal Company, but owners persevered and the company was created in 1859.
Did that ill luck cause the unrest that seems to permeate the abandoned cemetery? No one knows, but there seem to be many who believe the spirits are still attempting to communicate with the living.
Shirley first fell in love with Fallbrook as a teenager riding her horse on wooded trails through the hillside. From the very beginning, she felt the presence of others.
In those early years, many of the caskets were visible to visitors. The freeze-thaw cycle of Northcentral Pennsylvania had caused some to heave upward, breaking through the ground.
The cemetery was located a few miles east of Fallbrook, in an area known as the “Fallow.” There the townspeople laid their dead to rest in neat rows on the hillside. These days, beaten grass marks the path between the rows. A wrought iron fence surrounds one family’s markers in an upper corner. Across the way, a chain link fence encompasses those from the Earl Bolt family.
Flowers decorate the graves, along with flags, stones, toys and other momentos. There are many young children buried in Fallbrook, said Shirley. The stones carry their age: 10 months, infant, 2 years, 11 years, etc.
Some of the headstones have fallen; others have been vandalized. The inscriptions are clear on some stones, while others have been washed nearly flat by acid rain.
It matters not. Their stories, their memories live for those who visit, who walk the same path as long-ago mourners.
Shirley was drawn to a stone where time and weather — or maybe something else — had etched a face. She realized it was her face — heart-shaped, small mouth, big eyes and flowing hair. She feels called to the stone, possibly a past life?
Every visit, Shirley would leave behind a special gift for the soul there — some flowers, a pretty rock or small gourd.
That stopped when another spirit grew jealous. The stone was discovered tipped over during the next visit, the image of a woman transformed into something malignant and frightening. A malicious spirit followed the trio home, frightening them and prompting them to act in an unusual fashion until they were able to cleanse it and return it to Fallbrook.
Was it an angry man who died too soon? Someone who felt cheated by the mining company?
Who knows? In its heyday, Fallbrook was a bustling community. The quality of coal finally mined from Fallbrook was deemed of superior quality, sufficiently high to cover the expense of building a railroad track to the mines. By 1862, there were 180 houses, a schoolhouse, three boarding houses, a store, sawmill, two carpenter shops, two blacksmith shops, three weighing offices. The population ebbed and grew according to war, strikes, dull times and transfers to other mines. At its peak in 1872, the population reached nearly 2,300. In 1881, an average of 16,000 tons of coal were mined each month.
It wasn’t without its troubles. Smallpox swept through the community during the winter of 1871-72, resulting in several deaths. A fire on May 11-12, 1872 raged in the surrounding woods and threatened the town. The population fought back and stopped it. The largest sawmill burned to the ground in April 1881.
These days, Shirley, Willow and Bunny use technology to communicate with the spirits there. A smart phone app detects words spoken to soft for human ears to pick up. The app has recorded “Guten taag,” or good morning, near the grave of a Swedish man. A few stones away, they three asked how the spirit died. “Hematoma” was the response. When, they asked. “Event,” he replied. His gravestone noted he died on Christmas day. Death records uncovered by the three women confirmed his death from bleeding.
Another time it said “pendant” and “tied.” Minutes after recording those words, Shirley discovered a pendant tied to one of the stones.
They’ve heard names.
Occasionally they will feel Sadie, age 2, try to hold their hand. Sadie enjoys toys, and they take care to be kind to the youngster.
Robert Russell, born April 12, 1834, died Nov. 12, 1905, is an energy that visited Shirley. He followed her home, appearing in front of her and tipping his hat three times. She felt no malevolence from the man, who returned to the cemetery. To honor his heritage, they planted potatoes and shamrocks.
Swarms of dragonflies fly out to greet them on their arrival. Shirley’s camera has recorded orbs of lights around the resting place with the wrought iron fence. The first photo shows several orbs; hundreds appear in the next.
Spirits can make their presence known even more at night, particularly during a full moon, they said. Respect is important. Visitors should walk on the paths, avoid walking across graves, don’t leave litter or vandalize the stones.
The three women take care when visiting the place, introducing themselves as they arrive and asking that no spirits follow them on their departure.