Haunted Highways: Route 44

Cherry Springs State Park

Certain roads just seem to be haunted. In the past, I’ve written about some of those stretches of highway rumored to be haunted. Maybe that’s why I like traveling those remote roadways – maybe there’s a desire deep inside to experience the same things others have experienced in the past or maybe it is because many of those haunted highways remain remote and as wild in the present as they were in the past.

Route 44 is one of those roads that seems to have a number of ghost stories connected to it. In the past I’ve written about other experiences people have reported from the wilderness that is Pennsylvania’s Black Forest region. Soon after publishing the ghost light of Cherry Springs State Park and Henry Shoemaker’s story about the screaming skull, I received a number of emails from readers who have had experiences along Route 44 and – with their permission – I’m going to share three of those stories with you.

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The first email was from James R. about the ghost light that has been spotted Cherry Springs State Park. Note: the original article can be found here: Cherry Springs Ghost Light.

“Back in the 90s by father used to drag us kids out once a year to stare at the stars. He was big into star-gazing, but my brother and I hated it. We would go sit and stare at the sky. For hours. In the dark.

“This one time we were there and as it was getting dark, there was a bright, white light coming from the far side of the star-gazing field. Of course, this had everyone upset because they thought it was somebody with a flashlight, which was not allowed.

“My father [complained] about the ‘the idiot’ ruining everyone’s experience. The light turned off and on, like somebody turning a flashlight on and off. He finally had enough and he started over to confront the person ruining the experience.

“As he walked toward the light, it blinked off and remained off. He comes back mumbling about how some people ‘ruin it for others.’ He sat back down and the light comes back on in the same spot it had disappeared.

“There goes my father back across the field. Once again, the light vanishes as he approaches it. This time he was gone for a while, searching for ‘the jerk’ who kept turning a flashlight on and off.

“When he came back this time, he was mumbling something about how the person must have run off, because nobody was there. The light didn’t come back.”

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The second email comes from Shannon H. who had an odd experience along Route 44 north of Cherry Springs State Park.

“I just read your story about the Cherry Springs light and while this isn’t a ghost story, I thought you’d find this interesting. My boyfriend at the time and I had spent the afternoon at his family’s camp in Potter County. We left camp around five to head back home to Olean, New York. (When I asked Shannon when this happened, she said it was in the late 1980s and she believed it was in 1987 or 1988, but she wasn’t completely sure. But she was positive it was before she broke up with her boyfriend which was in 1990.)

“We had gone through Cherry Springs when we noticed a large, gray object in the sky ahead of us. When we first saw it, we thought it was an airplane, but as we got closer, we noticed it was too large and the wrong shape for an airplane.

“We stopped along Route 44 to try to get a better look at the object. It appeared to be a couple miles away and for the first time, we both realized how big it was. We grabbed a pair of binoculars from the car to get a better look at it.

“What I saw was a large, gray object. You’re going to think this sounds strange, but it reminded me of a football stadium. I’ve been to a lot of football stadiums and looking at the object, that is what it reminded me of. It had a dome top that was also gray and the bottom had a curve to it and the gray bottom seemed to lighten and darken as it moved. The sides of the object had streaks of green moving over it. (When I asked Shannon if she could clarify the green light, her response was “the streak of green light was moving around the outside of the object, circling around the surface of the object. The light never went over the top or bottom of the object,”)

“As we were standing there another car parks next to us. This older couple gets out and comes over and the lady goes ‘Nice view.’ They’re talking about the view and how beautiful the sunset should be from here. They never said a thing about the object. It was like they couldn’t see it.

“They stood there for a couple minutes before getting back into their vehicle and left. When they left, the vehicle made a loud noise and we both turned to look at what they were doing and when we looked back, the object was gone.

“We got home and when we had the pictures developed, we were shocked to discover the thing was not in any of them. We had pictures of the sky, but there was no object in any of them.

“We know it was not an airplane, but we did not know what it was. Some of our friends thought we saw a blimp, but I’ve seen blimps before and this was not a blimp.”

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The final email came from Doug F. who replied to “The Screaming Skull”, which Henry Shoemaker had set along the Coudersport Turnpike. Note: The original article can be found here: The Screaming Skull.

“I’ve never heard the story that you mention in The Screaming Skull, but I have heard that the area was haunted by a murdered peddler.

“According to what I was told, back in the early 1800s, the area was terrorized by a highwayman who robbed and killed peddlers traveling along the pike. He had a small house hidden just off the road and when the weather turned cold, he would invite weary travelers in and murder them in their sleep.

“One particular traveler he invited in and murdered the poor man as he slept by the fireplace. Going through the man’s goods, he discovered the man was a son of a popular Coudersport resident.

“Realizing the man’s disappearance would cause his family to come searching, the highwayman carried the body deep into the woods and buried the body under a large pile of rocks. While he hid most of the peddler’s goods, he kept a ring the man wore. When the peddler’s family saw the ring, they strung the highwayman up along the pike as a warning to others who may think of robbing and murdering along the pike

“Supposedly, the highwayman was offered to be spared and placed in prison if he led the father to where his son was buried. The highwayman refused, maintaining he never saw the peddler and had found the ring along the pike while riding along one day.

“After the highwayman’s death, his father spent hours roaming the woods in search of his son’s body, but never found it.

“My grandfather told us that the murdered peddler still roams the roads along Route 44. The man’s spirit tries to lead people to the place his bones were buried, in hopes of getting a proper burial. Nobody has ever recovered the peddler’s remains.

“When my grandfather was alive, he showed us where the cabin stood along Route 44. We hunted the area a lot and one time my brother claimed he saw the peddler’s ghost. He was in a tree stand near where the highwayman’s house once stood. He said this man with a long beard appeared and motioned to him, like he wanted my brother to follow him. My brother did come down from the tree stand, but did not follow the figure. He ran back to the vehicle and locked himself inside it until the rest got back from hunting a couple hours later.

“Anyways, that’s the story I heard growing up.”

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With those stories in mind, keep alert when traveling along Route 44. Who knows what strangeness is out there to be discovered by those who dare to travel the remote stretch of highway that winds through the mountains of northcentral Pennsylvania.

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