One of my favorite drives in Central Pennsylvania is through the alpine valley known as Sugar Valley. The rolling hills of the valley are covered with a mixture of farmlands and woodlands which remind me of a much simpler time. One of my favorite stops in the valley is to visit the beautiful covered bridge at Logan Mills. Recently, while I was visiting the covered bridge I was reminded of a story I had stumbled across. Note: More about the covered bridge can be found here: Logan Mills.
While photographing the covered bridge, the sound of children playing in the creek filled the air. The cool waters of Fishing Creek is obviously a favorite of local children, because I’ve encountered children playing in the shadow of the covered bridge on many occasions.
Listening to them, the thoughts of the story I had recently encountered came to mind. I had been searching for more information about the “Spook Wolf” of Sugar Valley, when I came across a Henry Shoemaker ghost story that was set within the borders of the alpine valley. Although I was familiar with many of Shoemaker’s stories, this one was new to me. The story appeared in numerous Pennsylvania newspapers as “Folklorist Relates Legend of Clinton County Ghost,” and it ran in the March 25, 1954 edition of The Lock Haven Express.
The story – according to Shoemaker – was told to him by George Mitcheltree. It all had begun at a barn-raising on the lands owned by Dr. Samuel Strohecker. Barn-raisings were an important part of early community life – while the men erected the barn, the women a chance to socialize and the children a time to play. The event helped strengthen the bonds within the community as a lengthy job could be finished in a day’s time. At the end of a barn-raising, the frame-work and exterior of the barn was completed, leaving only the interior to be finished by the owner.
The day of the event found the residents of Sugar Valley gathered to erect the barn for Dr. Strohecker. As the platforms were being placed, one of the logs buckled and the side of the barn fell. Those in attendance scattered to escape the collapse, but one young girl did not make it – in the process of trying to escape, she fell and part of the wall landed on her legs.
The poor girl was taken to Dr. Strohecker’s house at Booneville, where with the assistance of Dr. Peltz of Loganton, both of her crushed feet were amputated. The doctors used chloroform to render the poor girl unconscious as the two doctors removed her crushed feet.
When the girl awoke from the surgery, to her horror she discovered she had lost both her feet. Knowing she would forever be relying on wooden feet and crutches, the girl saw the chloroform still sitting on a table next to her bed. Deciding death was a better option, she drank the bottle of poison.
She was buried with a beautiful ceremony attended by those living in the region. However, the young girl was not completely buried. Dr. Peltz had originally taken her feet to mold a set of wooden feet for the girl, but never returned the feet once the young girl died.
The reason her feet were not returned? The cat owned by Dr. Peltz had eaten them.
Shortly after her death, rumors began to circulate around the valley that her spirit was not at rest. Locals began whispering that her restless spirit was seen at the place of the accident. Others noticed small, delicate footprints appearing along Fishing Creek after every rain or snow. The footprints followed Fishing Creek for three miles, beginning at the accident scene and ending at the door to the office of Dr. Peltz.
The residents of Sugar Valley did not have a logical explanation for the strange footprints. Finally, Martha Boone – who was described as a wise woman – declared that the footprints were caused by the ghost of the dead girl. The young girl’s ghost was going to Dr. Peltz’s office to reclaim her feet, but couldn’t because the doctor kept his office locked up at night.
Martha Boone shared the way to put the ghost to rest. The cat had to be killed and buried in the girl’s grave, so she was complete in death. With great reluctance the doctor killed his favorite cat and buried it in the cemetery with the girl. It must have worked, because – according to Shoemaker – neither her ghost nor her footprints were ever seen again.
I finished visiting the Logan Mills Covered Bridge and headed east along the valley, taking in the beauty of the land as I journeyed. While Shoemaker claims the killing of the cat put the ghost to rest, if you’re traveling through Sugar Valley, and happen to visit Fishing Creek in the aftermath of a snow storm or rainfall – remember those small, delicate footprints may not be from local children playing in the stream.