The White Buck of Ingleby

Looking towards the community of Ingleby from Penns View

“Are you familiar with the White Buck of Ingleby?” Jim asked. I had finished a presentation of local folklore and was enjoying listening to the stories being told by attendees. Jim had been sharing a number of stories he had heard over the years.

Ingleby is one of those spots that captured and kept my attention since I was first introduced to the remote collection of homes and camps nestled in the heart of the Seven Mountains. According to local legend, the town was named after Mr. Ingle, a resident who kept bees. At one time it was a booming resort town with trains stopping daily, but those days are long gone. The collection of houses and camps are hidden with only one road in and out of the community.

“Growing up, my uncle used to tell us of the White Buck,” Jim continued. “I don’t know if he ever saw it, but he had stories about the beast. I’m not really sure it existed, but what do you think about it? Does it exist or is it all merely hunting lore?”

The White Buck of Ingleby was among the first stories I remember being told as I was growing up. The legend, which was popular in the 1970s and 80s, made regional newspapers. However, in recent years the story has mostly vanished from print and is only shared by word of mouth, which is how I first encountered the Legend of the White Buck. The boyfriend of a close friend first told me the story and since then the phantom roaming the woods near Ingleby has been a fascination of mine.

According to regional lore, the White Buck of Ingleby is a pure white stag that cannot be killed, though many hunters have tried over the years. Some have shot at the buck, but their bullets did not affect the beast. Others have claimed to have put the deer in the crosshairs, but either 1) found their rifle malfunctioned or 2) discovered they were paralyzed and unable to pull the trigger. And then there is the story of the hunter who attempted to shoot the buck, but the supernatural beast caused the man to die of a heart attack.

The story of the White Buck of Ingleby is not completely unique – hunting lore is filled with stories regarding why albino deer should not be killed. Almost every version of “Why one should not shoot a white deer” states killing one brings bad luck to the hunter. Some versions of the tradition claim it is seven years bad luck while other versions claim it will haunt the hunter forever.

The White Buck of Ingleby is not the only white deer that haunts the woods of Pennsylvania. James Glimm in Flatlanders and Ridgerunners, shares a story about a phantom buck that was spotted near Lawrenceville in Tioga County. The monstrous albino buck sported a gigantic rack and had shimmering pink eyes. Those who have spotted the phantom deer report that it left no tracks behind.

George Swetnam records another spectral deer in Devils, Ghosts, and Witches: Occult Folklore of the Upper Ohio Valley. This phantom deer was spotted in eastern Wharton Township in Fayette County. Swetnam only recorded a brief mention of the spectral deer. Travelers on the National Road (Route 40) have reported seeing a phantom deer suddenly appearing next to them, running beside them for a short distance, before vanishing.

In a December 1, 1938 article in The Plain Dealer (Hazleton, Pa) there is mention of a white deer. The article, called “Tales Told by Hunters,” is about hunting in the Poconos. A number of hunters near Skytop, Monroe County, reported shooting at a “ghost deer” – despite the number of shots fired at it, when the smoke cleared, the albino deer was spotted bounding safely away into the woods. All of the shots had somehow missed it as “not one of the expert marksmen has even wounded the animal”. The article about the phantom deer was popular enough it was reported in newspapers across the United States at the time.

Another phantom deer is mentioned in the April 11, 1927 edition of the Pike County Dispatch (Milford, Pa). In the article “Phantom Deer Puzzles Pike Farmer,” it is mentioned that one evening, a local farmer went out with a flashlight and shotgun to scare away the deer eating his crops. Shining the light around, he saw six or eight deer staring at him. He fired the shotgun into the air and when he looked in the field again, all the deer were gone, but one.

The farmer tried again to scare the large buck away and when it did not move, he approached the buck, which stood staring at him. When the farmer was next to the buck, he reached out and slapped it. The buck turned and floated upward into the night.

Sightings of phantom deer in Centre County are not limited to the remote community of Ingleby. In a story told to me by a classmate many years ago, he tried to shoot at a “large, white buck” on Mountain Nittany in the late 1980s, only for his gun to malfunction and the deer to disappear.

“This may sound strange, but I saw a white deer once at Ingleby.” Jim stared at me in disbelief.

“Are you joking with me?” he asked.

“No, I’m serious,” I responded. “It was in the summer of 1999.”

The summer of 1999 saw me spending my free time fishing the streams of Central Pennsylvania. There was a group I worked with who fished together and one of the places we loved fishing was the stretch of Penns Creek at Ingleby. We would park at Ingleby, hike roughly a mile downstream, then slowly fish our way back upstream to a spot midway between Ingleby and Coburn, before walking back to the vehicle.

It was not uncommon for us to see deer, bear, an occasional great blue heron and countless ducks.

That particular morning, there was a mist still clinging to the creek as Jason and I began fishing. We heard it long before we saw it. There was something coming down the hollow toward the place where we fished. We turned to watch the place where we believed it would come out on Penns Creek. From among the grasses at the creek’s edge, a deer appeared at the creek’s edge about fifty yards from us.

The coloration of the doe instantly jumped out. It was a piebald; that is the fur was an abnormal mixture of white and brown. This one was mostly white, but had a couple splashes of brown on its neck and sides. We watched as she stood at the creek’s edge watching us watching her. She finally crossed the creek and disappeared into the woods. The whole experience only lasted for a couple minutes at most and while it may not have been the fabled White Buck of Ingleby, it was still a special sight to see that cool summer morning.

“That’s a great little story,” Jim laughed. He shared a couple more stories before he said he had to go, leaving me with his stories.

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