Trespassing Treasure (PA Ghost Towns)

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Trespassing Treasure (PA Ghost Towns)

Postby Rick F. » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:33 pm

Since this is audit season, here is an important disclosure: This Ride Story is actually a Drive Story. The trip was so interesting, however, that I've decided to write it up and present it here anyway.

It all got started when I bought a copy of Pennsylvania Ghost Towns on the way back from my "Pennsylvania Grand Canyon" ride with Buzz last month. It pointed me toward a couple of intriguing-sounding destinations in the vicinity of Lancaster and Reading. My wife Nancy also became intrigued and decided to join me.

Of course, whether by motorcycle or by car, most trips don't turn out exactly as planned--and this one was no exception. By the time we were done, we ended up doing Major Trespassing in each of the three locations we visited! With one apparent exception, no one seemed to mind.

Our first destination was the Ephrata Cloister in (naturally) Ephrata, PA. This religious community was settled in the early 1700s by German immigrants who led an exceptionally devoted and humorless life, which included getting up every night at midnight for services, going barefoot through the winter, and practicing celibacy. For some reason, this community and its engaging lifestyle dwindled out over time.

The Cloister has been carefully preserved, fortunately, and is open to the public. Except on the Sunday before Veteran's Day! So, we arrived and found the place closed. Whilst wandering around outside the fence, however, we stumbled across a back way in. With no witnesses lurking about, we did a polite, respectful amount of snooping--solely for the purpose of getting these pictures for you all, of course...

This was the "Academy" or school house (which later became a regular, public school for the whole town):
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And this was the Saron, or Sisters’ House. Quoting from the Cloiser web site (at http://www.ephratacloister.org/), it was "constructed in 1743 for Householder couples who left their homes to live as celibate Brothers and Sisters. It was a brief experiment..."
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To the left of the Saron were the bake house and the Saal or meeting house, constructed in 1741.
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These are the bake house steps and the cemetery where the cult's leader, uh, I mean the religious community's founder is buried.
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After our off-the-books tour of Ephrata Cloister, we had lunch at the Cloister Restaurant across the street. Good food, good prices, and no Cloister Park Rangers.

Our next stop was about 40 miles away, just east of Pottstown. You remember Pottstown, right--home of a major nuclear power plant? Well, in 1967 they built the plant right across the Schuylkill River from poor little Frick's Lock, which had existed since the 1700s. Back in the day, Frick's Lock was a thriving community on the Schuylkill Canal:
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The canal went bankrupt in 1890, and in 1930 it was drained. The town lived on, however, although it gradually deteriorated. When the power plant was built, there were almost no residents left to complain. In the 1980s, the nuclear facility was considered a serious health risk to the population. The power company bought out the town, the remaining residents moved away, and Frick's Lock has sat vacant ever since.

Here's the narrow road leading into and through the town:
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Near the entrance, there are several "newer" houses such as this one. They haven't withstood the elements well, and inside the floors have pretty much collapsed into the basements.
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We scouted around to find the canal and/or locks, but had no luck. Later we read that the canal had been filled in. And it wasn't until we were back home that we realized this house pictured below was, in fact, the lock-keeper's house shown in the earlier picture. (Note the windows on the end in each view.) The canal used to run immediately on the far side of this house, parallel to our path.
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As we walked along, the place began to feel progressively creepier. There were no people, no animals, no birds--and no noise whatsoever. Although the houses had been boarded up, the plywood had been torn off of most of the entrances and they were standing wide open, almost inviting the uninitiated to trespass inside...
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At first, we just resorted to looking through the windows.
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Soon, we were carefully stepping inside the front doors and peeking around.
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All the while, there was the omnipresence of the nuclear plant.
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Near the end of the road, we came to the mansion, which was magnificent (in a decaying sort of way).
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Throwing caution to the winds, we stepped inside. The stairway looked in fairly good shape, but the paint and wallpaper were peeling badly. Windows were broken, doors pushed in, radiators torn away, etc. This once-beautiful mansion had suffered an evil fate.
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Our last picture from inside the mansion looks out on what I believe was the summer kitchen...
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... and that was when we heard the footsteps upstairs!!

In a ghost town, with no people, animals, birds, or noises, that's not the first noise you want to hear! We promptly decided to inspect the summer kitchen more closely and leapt outside. (Actually, our exit was a little more subdued and orderly than that. Quick, you understand, but orderly!)

We briskly walked away from the mansion, eventually realizing that we were going in the wrong direction. Turning around, we tiptoed past the mansion again, looking carefully for any Dread Faces to appear from the upper windows and listening for the sound of a chainsaw starting up... No faces, and not a sound. We calmly (right!) continued on, back toward the car.
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Near the entrance to Frick's Lock, I stopped for one last picture--and ended up with this weird, spectral display of lens flare for my effort. Or was it something other than lens flare??
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Safely back in the car, we realized that there was probably just a harmless tramp living in the upstairs of the mansion--one with enough sense to pick the classiest abandoned building in the town. In reality, we didn't feel any true danger. (On the other hand, I ain't a'goin' back unless I've got Blaster with me!)

We had one more trespassing adventure left in us as we returned home. Spotting a sign for the Daniel Boone Homestead, we turned off to visit it, thinking it would represent a welcome change of pace from our other stops. Needless to say, we arrived to find the homestead closed because of the holiday the next day.

Deftly hopping the barricade, we set off on foot to get a quick picture of the homestead and be on our way. We soon encountered a lovely lake and its unusual dam.
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The lake provided a water supply for a sawmill. There were also a number of other buildings around, some quite old, others not so.
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Eventually we reached the homestead, where Daniel Boone had been born in 1734 and lived for the first 16 years of his life before becoming a famous Indian fighter and frontiersman. Of course, the house had been modified slightly since Boone's birth. First, the right side of the house shown below (with the porch in front) was added on to the original log cabin in about 1750. Next, the original log cabin was torn down, and the two-story left side of the house was added. Sort of like George Washington's hatchet, right? At least the original foundation is still there--and regardless, it was a neat old place.
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After getting our picture (and encountering several other trespassing-but-peaceable folks enjoying the fine day), we drove on home to Catonsville. By that night, the hairs on the back of our necks had finally lain back down, and I'm actually looking forward to going back some day for further exploring--accompanied by my BMWBMW motorcycle gang!

Rick F.
Last edited by Rick F. on Sun Sep 13, 2015 3:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Unity » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:49 pm

Friends who used to live in PA were calmly certain that a house they'd once rented was haunted. They even knew the ghost's name, and it was common knowledge in the community that she was still there. Maybe you were exploring one of those kinds of PA houses. :?

Nice tour, nice photos. Thanks again. :)

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Re: Trespassing Treasure (PA Ghost Towns)

Postby wiredcur » Mon Nov 12, 2007 4:52 pm

Rick F. wrote:Soon, we were carefully stepping inside the front doors and peeking around.
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TOTAL BLAIR WITCH STAIRCASE!!!! SPOOKY!!! :shock:

Rick F. wrote:Deftly hopping the barricade, we set off on foot to get a quick picture of the homestead and be on our way. We soon encountered a lovely lake and its unusual dam.
Image


Very cool waterworks!

Rick, I completely envy you your freetime.
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Postby DUKR » Mon Nov 12, 2007 5:29 pm

C R E E E E E E P Y !!!!!! :shock:

I love visiting history... Thanks Rick, great stories! :D
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Postby Ben_Ricci » Mon Nov 12, 2007 7:50 pm

Not that the rest of your report wasn't fantastic as usual, but I'm curious, was that the Limerick nuke plant? :D

Great job as usual. You should write a book on your wanderings.
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Postby VaSteve » Mon Nov 12, 2007 9:00 pm

Cool. One day I want to go to Centralia PA. Might be a fun group ride.
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Postby Rick F. » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:35 pm

Unity wrote:Friends who used to live in PA were calmly certain that a house they'd once rented was haunted. They even knew the ghost's name, and it was common knowledge in the community that she was still there. Maybe you were exploring one of those kinds of PA houses. :?

Nice tour, nice photos. Thanks again. :)

--John 8)

John,

In the mid-1970s, my wife and I rented a house for a couple of years. Early one morning, I woke up and realized that a man was standing right next to the bed, in rays of light coming through the window. I didn't immediately focus on the fact that he was in black and white, rather than color. As I pondered what to do, he turned away from me, a breeze came through the window, his figure rippled in the breeze, and he disappeared...

Other than that, I'm not much of a believer in ghosts!

Rick F.
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Re: Trespassing Treasure (PA Ghost Towns)

Postby Rick F. » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:44 pm

wiredcur wrote:
Rick F. wrote:Soon, we were carefully stepping inside the front doors and peeking around.
Image


TOTAL BLAIR WITCH STAIRCASE!!!! SPOOKY!!! :shock:

Rick F. wrote:Deftly hopping the barricade, we set off on foot to get a quick picture of the homestead and be on our way. We soon encountered a lovely lake and its unusual dam.
Image


Very cool waterworks!

Rick, I completely envy you your freetime.

Tim,

You're right--a number of the houses had a definite Blair Witch atmosphere to them! Has Kitty told you about the time I took her to Spook Hill just outside of Burkittsville, MD? You can stop as you're going either up or down the hill, take your car/bike out of gear, let off the brakes, and the vehicle will roll up the hill. I'm not kidding.

I bring this up, of course, because the Blair Witch Project was filmed in and around Burkittsville...

Speaking of my free time, I'm really glad that I got back into motorcycling (after a 35-year layoff). My job has a lot of pressures (see, for example, http://www.contingencies.org/novdec04/coverstory.pdf). Motorcycling is a great way to take my mind off other issues, problems, etc.

Rick F.
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Postby Rick F. » Thu Nov 15, 2007 10:51 pm

DUKR wrote:C R E E E E E E P Y !!!!!! :shock:

I love visiting history... Thanks Rick, great stories! :D

Michelle,

Glad you enjoyed it. It was a really nifty ghost town--but if you're going to visit, definitely take Blaster with you (or maybe your friends Smith and Wesson!)


Ben_Ricci wrote:Not that the rest of your report wasn't fantastic as usual, but I'm curious, was that the Limerick nuke plant? :D

Great job as usual. You should write a book on your wanderings.

Ben,

Yep, that's the Limerick Nuclear Power Plant. I think it's been subsequently bought by PECO.

And I'll think about the book idea. After all, Jim Von Baden has sold something like 2,000 copies of his maintenance DVD. Based on that record so far, I'm sure I could sell at least 20 books!


VaSteve wrote:Cool. One day I want to go to Centralia PA. Might be a fun group ride.

Steve,

I read about Centralia and its underground mine fire that's been burning for many years. Is there a ghost town, too? I've only seen pictures of a cracked and buckled highway with smoke coming up out of the cracks.

Either way, it sounds like it would make an interesting destination.


Thanks, everyone, for your responses!

Rick F.
For all my tour articles, check out rsftripreporter.net.

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Postby VaSteve » Tue Nov 20, 2007 8:44 pm

Rick F. wrote:Steve,

I read about Centralia and its underground mine fire that's been burning for many years. Is there a ghost town, too? I've only seen pictures of a cracked and buckled highway with smoke coming up out of the cracks.

Either way, it sounds like it would make an interesting destination.


Thanks, everyone, for your responses!

Rick F.


Most of the structures have been torn down, so it's a collection of paved streets and little else. Just seems like a cool weird place to go. :)
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