I was getting ready to leave St. Joseph’s Spring when the blue car I had encountered arrived at the spring. I watched as the middle-aged couple parked their car and got out. I instantly recognized them as the couple that had been at the Moonshine Church. I stood watching them as they made a straight line for me and for a moment I thought they were locals who were upset I had been in the cemetery.
“We need to thank you,” the man spoke. I stared at them with a curious look. “You were at the Raber grave. We took a chance it was his grave you were at, so we found it quickly. Saved us a lot of time at that stop.” He continued, introducing himself as Bruce and the lady with him was his wife, Patty. The couple were from York County and were spending the day exploring some of the haunted places in Lebanon and Berks Counties.
“You know that Moonshine Church is one of the most haunted places in the state?” Bruce continued without slowing. “It is haunted by the men who killed Raber – all six of them are buried there in unmarked graves. If you come up there at night you’ll see six sets of eyes staring at you.”
Before I could tell them the truth about the burials, Bruce asked, “So what brought you here? Legend tripping?” I cringed at that phrase. I introduced myself before giving them the bad news – the six men were not buried at Moonshine Cemetery.
There are a number of common mistakes that are often repeated involving “The Blue Eyed Six” and the Moonshine Cemetery. First, many people believe “The Blue Eyed Six” are all buried at the Moonshine Cemetery – only Joseph Raber, the victim, is buried here. Other stories state all six were hung for the crime from a tree within the cemetery, which did not happen – only five of the men were executed and the executions happened in Lebanon. Another legend that often surfaces when people tell the story is only five of them were tried for the murder – all six were tried and George Zechman had a retrial where he was found not guilty. The final story that is often told about the crime and burials is the men were secretly reburied in the cemetery – this never happened and all six still remain at their original burial sites. Note: I believe the idea of “The Blue Eyed Six” being reburied in Moonshine Cemetery comes from Stichler’s body being buried in the backyard of the family home. The grave had been considered lost for years, which made people think it was secretly reburied in the cemetery.
Though I was familiar with many of the legends connected to the murder of Joseph Raber and the Moonshine Church, there were a few new ones to me. The majority of these stories held the familiar feeling of an urban legend or “a friend of a friend told me” story.
The most common legend connected to Moonshine Church and Cemetery is: six sets of glowing blue eyes haunt the cemetery, standing guard over their unmarked graves. While many claim it to be true, there is an element of urban legend in them. To see the ghosts, one has to either 1) walk around the church three times, 2) walk around the cemetery three times, or as one supposed witness claims 3) walk once around the outer perimeter of the cemetery backwards.
Of course, there many who have reported they know somebody who visited the cemetery and their car stalled for no reason. And a number of reports state visitors have heard mysterious sounds coming from the woods – I’m not sure what mysterious noises are heard, but remember, it is located at a military base and noises definitely echo in the hollow.
There are stories of a headless horseman who rides the road near the cemetery, but that is another legend that everyone seems to have heard, but nobody seems to have actually seen this figure. There is also an evil spirit called the “Red Devil” that haunts the area. Most who talk of the ghosts of Moonshine Church and Cemetery mention the headless horseman and the “Red Devil”, but there does not seem to be any information other than the mention of them.
There’s also the ghost of a girl struck by lightning. According to legend, she went into the church and said the Lord’s Prayer backwards. God struck her down with lightning. Note: While I have never found any official report stating anybody was struck and killed by lightning at or near the church and cemetery, this appears to be a modern legend in the lore of the area. This story appears to have started in the mid to late 1960s and may have found its start after the Moonshine Church burned down February 2, 1961 due to an overheated stove.
“What about the mother who killed her children here in the 1980s?” Bruce asked. “Their spirits are supposed to haunt the church.”
“That never actually happened,” I replied. “There was an attempted multiple murder-suicide, but the victims were saved.” Note: many newspaper accounts and paranormal pages claim that this murder-suicide actually happened, and the family was found dead in the vehicle at the church. Almost every paranormal site that mentions this legend states “it was all through the newspaper when it happened,” but a quick search reveals there was an attempted murder-suicide, but help arrived in time to save all involved. In the aftermath of her trial, the mother was found insane and sent to the state hospital in Harrisburg for treatment.
“Did you ever hear of a lady who supposedly committed suicide by hanging herself either in the church or cemetery?” Patty asked. I was not familiar with this particular story. “We heard that she committed suicide here on Halloween back in the 1980s or 1990s.” Note: I looked through numerous newspaper archives and was not able to find anything definite about this suicide. I personally believe it is a variant of the legend that “The Blue Eyed Six” were hanged in the cemetery.
“Did you ever hear if Raber haunts the cemetery?” Patty asked.
“There have been reports of a shadowy figure spotted at or near Raber’s grave,” I answered. “According to many, the spirits of murder victims tend to linger long after their deaths. But if he was haunting a place, I would imagine it would be out here, at the spot where he was killed.”
From across Indiantown Run, the sound of a loud snap filled the air as a tree branch fell to the ground and crashed into the underbrush. The three of us turned to stare in the direction of the noise.
“That was odd,” I spoke in barely a whisper. While I don’t believe it was paranormal, I did find it odd that this happened right after I said this would be the ideal place for Raber’s spirit to haunt.
“Yeah,” Bruce spoke softly. “That was really odd.”
We finished sharing our stories and thoughts before we left the scene of the crime. They were headed toward Reading and a couple haunted spots in that direction, while I was headed northward to explore. I wished them safe travels as we drove away, leaving this spot to harbor the ghosts of the past.