The countryside of the Schwaben Creek Valley was a step back in time to a simpler day. Located in the southern-most portion of Northumberland County, the valley is far from the crowds and busy everyday life of the Harrisburg metro region, just a couple minutes to the south
The main reason I was in the valley was to photograph Himmel’s Covered Bridge near the community of Rebuck. As I drove through the valley, my mind was replaying a conversation I had with a coworker many years ago. “If you’re ever down in Schwaben Creek Valley, in southern Northumberland County, you’ll have to see if you can find The Wolfman’s Grave. It’s located in the shadow of Line Mountain.” I had kept a watchful eye as I drove, but despite my search, I had yet to find anything supernatural.
I arrived at the covered bridge and got out of the car, scanning the immediate area for anything out of the ordinary. Not seeing any, I photographed the bridge before deciding to take a short walk before starting the long drive home. As I walked, the story of “The Wolfman’s Grave,” also known as “The Line Mountain Werewolf,” was in my thoughts.
The story of the Wolfman’s Grave takes place in the late 1800s at the time wolves still roamed Penn’s woods. The farmers of the Schwaben Creek Valley were no different than other farmers across the state as nightly their livestock was carried off by wolves. The wolves that called Line Mountain home terrorized the farmers of the Schwaben Creek Valley and were bold enough to raid the farms in broad daylight.
One family who was not affected as constant wolf raids was a family by the last name of Paul. They owned a farm in the valley and despite their neighbors losing their livestock, the wolves seemed to avoid their farm.
Though the fear of wolves was great, the Paul children were expected to help with chores around the farm. In charge of taking the flock of sheep into the field and watching over them was May Paul. Every day, May would take the sheep out to graze with only her shepherdess wand and small dog to protect the flock.
One day as she was watching the sheep, her little dog let out a whine. Scanning the field she was surprised to see an older man standing on the opposite side of the field. The man who watched her from a distance was described as having long, gray hair and a filthy beard.
That evening she told her parents about the strange man and they warned May to stay away from the old hermit. Little was known about the man, but that did not keep townsfolk from gossiping about him. According to locals the man had the ability to change into a wolf.
Despite her parent’s warnings May saw nothing wrong with befriending the old hermit. He never spoke, but seemed to be a gentle, kind man. Whenever May took the sheep out, the old hermit would appear on the opposite side of the field where he would sit and watch over the sheep. As his appearance began more routine, the wolf raids on the Paul farm lessened. May would still see wolves in the nearby fields, but when the hermit appeared, they fled as if they were afraid of him.
On the days the old man did not appear, May would catch glimpses of a large grey wolf on the far side of the field, where it would sit and watch her and the flock. She often waited for it to attack the flock, but it never did.
One night a neighboring farmer saw an old grey wolf near his barn. Grabbing his rifle, he ran outside to see the wolf, bathed in moonlight, crossing the road. The farmer raised his gun and fired. The wolf fled into the woods near Schwaben Creek. Although he knew he had hit the wolf, the farmer was not going to follow the wounded animal into the dark woods. He returned to his house and waited until the light of day to follow the trail of blood.
The next morning, he grabbed his rifle and followed the trail of blood through the fields and the forest until it stopped at the cabin of the old hermit. The farmer called out for the hermit and after hearing no response, he ventured closer. In the cabin he discovered the hermit dead in a pool of his own blood, with a bullet hole in his chest.
When locals heard the farmer’s story, they declared the hermit a werewolf. They buried the body in the cabin’s dirt floor and the place became known as “Die Woolf Man’s Grob,” which means “The Wolfman’s Grave.”
May was distraught by the loss of her friend. Unlike her neighbors who declared the hermit to be a werewolf, she refused to believe her old friend was a shape-shifter. Although she never saw the man again, she still saw a large, grey wolf sitting at a distance on the days she took the family flock out to graze. When wild wolves would show up, the large wolf would suddenly appear causing them wolves to flee.
The story of May Paul and The Wolfman’s Grave has been a part of regional lore for years. However, the earliest recorded version of the story comes from a 1951 edition of New York Folklore Quarterly and the author was none other than Henry Shoemaker. Knowing that Shoemaker had a tradition of making up his stories, I immediately had some doubts about the story.
Unlike many of Shoemaker’s stories about werewolves and other monsters roaming the Pennsylvania backcountry, this one is slightly different. Usually Shoemaker’s “hero” visits a witch to discover how to kill the beast and usually it is a silver bullet or a bullet sealed with “sacred wax” that is needed to kill it. Instead, this shape-shifter is felled with a regular bullet. Was the old hermit shot by accident as he walked in the moonlight by the unnamed farmer who mistook him for a wolf or did the old hermit have shape-shifting abilities like the locals claimed? Either way, the man was buried and the area came to be known as “Die Woolf Man’s Grob” by locals. The grave, if ever marked, has been lost over the years.
I finished my short walk and returned to the vehicle. Shoemaker stated that the grey wolf appeared for years after the old hermit’s death. I continued to keep watch for anything out of the ordinary as I continued my journey through the valley, but I found nothing I deemed supernatural. Maybe with the death of May many years later, the old hermit found peace.
Note: Despite my doubts at Shoemaker’s story, I stumbled upon an article from the October 30, 1986 edition of The Daily Item (Sunbury) that might give some credence to it. In the article, it was revealed there was a mention that a Paul family existed in the region and there was a Lillie May – Lillie has been used as a shortened version of Elizabeth.