The Gray Lady of Haag Cemetery

The Fahrenbach Memorial stands guard in the early morning rain

Over the years I have collected hundreds of ghost stories and haunted places within the borders of Pennsylvania and when I’m in the area, I like to stop and visit these haunted locations. What brought me to Berks and Lebanon Counties was a haunted tour I had put together – my list of haunted places for these two counties easily filled two notebooks.

On the list of places was Haag Cemetery on the hillside overlooking the village of Bernville.

Traveling on Route 183 toward Reading, I turned left onto Washington Street. “Are you sure this is a road?” my mother asked as I turned. I had to admit, when I slowed to turn, I really wasn’t sure it was an actual road, as it appeared to be a part of the St. Thomas Church parking lot.

However, Washington Street crossed Main Street and I followed it up the hillside to the cemeteries where locals rest. The road passes between two cemeteries located there – St. Thomas and Haag Cemeteries. Through the line of cedars on my left, I could see the memorial I had come to visit, but now I had to find a safe place to park. With only the slightest indication of a road in the grass, I decided to park at the far end of the cemetery and walk the length of the sacred grounds to the memorial I had come to visit.

I stepped out of the vehicle and scanned the historic cemetery. I watched as two deer rose from where they were lying along the cedars and slipped through the stones and disappeared into the surrounding fields. Haags Cemetery – also known as Jacob Haags or the Jacob S. Haag Cemetery – was founded in 1867 when Jacob Haag sold the land to be used as a burial ground by the Old Northkill Congregation of Lutheran Church.

As I approached the large memorial, which stands guard over the cemetery, I could clearly see the figure was a man dressed in a Civil War uniform. Although I had little doubt this was the memorial I sought, the words etched into the stone appeared as I stepped around it. The monument marked the graves of George and Mary Fahrenbach.

George was born August 15, 1846 and in September 1862, at the age of eighteen, he joined the US Army, being mustered into service on November 1, 1862 at Harrisburg as a part of Company G of the 151 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. His Company would be mustered out on July 28, 1863. In February 1864, he reenlisted as a member of Company B of the 55 Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. On April 15, 1865, Fahrenbach was promoted to Corporal and was mustered out with the rest of his unit on August 30, 1865.

George would pass from this life on December 6, 1919 at the age of seventy-three. His wife Mary would join her husband on March 19, 1930 at the age of eighty-four.

Exactly when the spirit of the woman was first spotted near the grave of George Fahrenbach is not known. The phantom lady is described as wearing a gray dress and a bonnet. Many believe it may be the spirit of George’s wife, Mary.

But the identity of the phantom lady has never been determined, because once the spirit is spotted by the living, she promptly vanishes.

However, the identity of this woman may not have anything to do with the Fahrenbach family. Reading the accounts by those who have spotted the mysterious lady, there is one phrase that jumps out – “spotted near the grave of George Fahrenbach.” What if the spirit has nothing to do with the grave of the Fahrenbachs, but is connected to another death?

As I stood at the monument to George and Mary Fahrenbach, my attention was drawn to two graves behind the family memorial. One of them had two angels standing, huddled together and the other had two angels also, but one was standing pointing heavenward, while the other was kneeling beside it. Curious, I walked over to them.

The plot behind the Fahrenbach plot belonged to the Dundore family. The two graves with the angels carved on them marked the resting places of Sarah Ann and Amelia Lydia Dundore. Sarah died on June 10, 1863 and Amelia would pass on June 26, 1866 – both were sixteen years old when they died. Note: Of the four Dundore children, only Nathan lived to be in his sixties. The other sister, Mary Elizabeth Althouse died in 1862 at the age of twenty-one.

I had to wonder if the phantom lady spotted near the Fahrenbach memorial was mourning the loss of two young souls in the plot immediately behind his. Could it be the sorrowful spirit of a mother who lost her daughters at a young age haunting the cemetery?

With no definite answers to the identity of the phantom lady, I respectfully left the two families slumbering on the hillside as I left the area. The lady in the gray dress and the soldier atop the monument stand watch over the graves of Haag Cemetery.

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