“Do you know the cemetery at Yearick’s Church is haunted?” Brenda, a former co-worker asked one day while we were on break. I admitted I was not familiar with the story and eagerly listened as she spoke.
“My grandpa used to tell us about a large, black figure that roamed the cemetery. When he was a kid, he had been told that this figure appeared from behind the largest tombstone and would chase people out of the cemetery. Every now and then it would not only chase them out of the cemetery, but would follow them down the road. Just when the ghost was within reach of the person it was chasing, it would suddenly vanish.”
“Did he ever see it?” I asked, curious about this account and wanting to talk to him if he had been chased out of a cemetery by a ghost.
“Not that I’m aware of,” she admitted before changing the subject.
With my curiosity piqued, I made a trip down Brush Valley in search of this cemetery. I arrived at the church and carefully explored the grounds of the cemetery. I was quickly dismissing her story – there were no large stones on these grounds. I was in the process of returning to the vehicle when an older couple stopped and asked if I needed any help. I told them I was looking into a ghost story which caused the elderly man to laugh.
“You want the Old Yearick’s Cemetery,” he spoke. He pointed down the road in the general direction of Centre Hall. “It’s a little overgrown, but it’s on the left side of the road. If you turn back the farm lane next to the cemetery, you can park there.” With these directions, in just a couple minutes I was parked along a farm lane and looked at the overgrown cemetery. In all of my times traveling along Route 192, this was the first that I realized this cemetery existed, just a couple yards off the main road, a few miles west of Madisonburg.
The older cemetery had the elements of the story Brenda had told me. A large stone stood amid the tall grass. I tramped through the grass and paused at the largest stone and studied it for a moment. It was possible that somebody could crouch behind the stone and not be seen. If it was dark, it would appear to the unaware that a figure suddenly appeared out of nowhere and chased them out.
I filed the story away, dismissing it as a mistaken identity or the possibility that the person had been the victim of a prank.
A couple weeks later, I was at the Centre County Historical Library looking through some newspaper clippings when I stumbled upon an article that made the front page of The Centre Democrat. “Brush Valley Family Witnessed Appearance of Ghost Near Church” made the front page of the January 4, 1962 edition. The article told the story of the ghost of Yearick’s Church. The story differed slightly from the version that Brenda had told but the gist of the story was the same. A family passing the cemetery in their buggy had been chased by a large, black figure.
The ghost of Yearick’s Church and Cemetery involved Mrs. Peter Bierly, two of her daughters and one of her sons. The trip to Bellefonte was an all-day event and the family would leave their home in Rebersburg very early in the morning, long before the sun had peeked over the distant mountains. Early one Saturday morning the quartet climbed into their buggy and started towards Centre Hall, where they would cross over the mountain to Bellefonte.
The trip had been uneventful and the children slumbered as Mrs. Bierly drove the buggy onward. It was around four in the morning when the buggy passed Yearick’s Church. At that moment, the figure of a large man suddenly appeared from behind the fence that formed the border between the cemetery and road. The horse reared and snorted in fear as Mrs. Bierly fought to keep the animal from bolting. The children awoke and searched for the cause of the horse’s fear and spotted the ghostly figure.
Mrs. Bierly encouraged the horse to move faster as the children cowered in fear of the gigantic figure. The ghost chased after them, growing in size with each step. The horse ran as fast as it could but could not outrun the monstrous figure that continued to grow larger in size as it closed in on the terrified family. At one point the ghost seemed so large that it seemed to fill the entire sky. Then at the moment it seemed that the ghost would completely overtake them, it vanished.
The family never passed by the cemetery in the dark again and even in the daylight they were overcome with a sense of uneasiness when they would pass it.
During a recent trip through Brush Valley I stopped at the cemetery once again. The cemetery had a much different feel than it did the first time I had visited it. The cemetery had been mowed and in the field next to it, a house now stood. It definitely was not the creepy, abandoned-looking spot I had visited years before. Instead, the garden of stone was looking well kept.
As I walked around the grounds, questions that I knew would never be answered filled my mind. What happened to the Bierly family early that morning? Was it the result of overactive imaginations? Was it a result of mistaken identity? Or did the family experience something paranormal that frightful morning? Whatever happened, one thing is for sure: they never traveled to Bellefonte, or past Yearick’s Cemetery, again while it was dark.
Note: I do find it interesting how the version Brenda told me she had heard from her grandpa differed from the account in the newspaper article about the ghost of Yearick’s Cemetery – the fence had been replaced with a tombstone, and the ghost had become sort of a guardian to those buried there.
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