Historical haunts

By on October 25, 2017
Did apparitions of doomed Revolutionary War soldiers march past the old Keystone Hotel in Rothsville, possibly en route to their final resting place in Lititz, during a cold and misty morning in the early 1940s? A popular local folktale says it happened. Sketch Mearig Collection

Did apparitions of doomed Revolutionary War soldiers march past the old Keystone Hotel in Rothsville, possibly en route to their final resting place in Lititz, during a cold and misty morning in the early 1940s? A popular local folktale says it happened.

October means Halloween, and in the spirit of the season I present to you two scary local tales.

Enjoy, and sleep tight!

March of the Unknown Soldiers

This yarn has been passed down from one generation to another, often shared around campfires. It involves a woman’s bone-chilling experience on a cold and dark winter morning in the early 1940s. What she witnessed from the window of her home near the intersection of Rothsville and Old Rothsville roads has never been explained.

It was a blustery February morning. At about 3:30 a.m., a housewife awoke to a faint sound that could not be pinpointed. While her husband slept, the noise got louder and louder. Continuing to search the home top to bottom, she approached a window that faced west. The mysterious noise became even louder. Finally, it dawned on her that she was hearing footsteps, many of them, coming from the road. What happened next sent chills down her spine and caused the hair on her arms to stand straight up.

Peering out the window, she counted approximately 100 ghosts, all marching in unison and wearing Revolutionary War uniforms, many clenching rifles. She could make out a handful of faces, but most were blurry or too far away to notice details. They all looked haggard, bandaged, and near death. As they continued to march westward, the sound of their feet, as well as the outlines of the figures, slowly faded into a cloud of mist.

The woman was in a state of shock after witnessing such a spectacle. She rushed back to her cozy bed, but spent the rest of the morning with her eyes wide open.

Were these marching specters among the estimated 110 soldiers of the Continental Army that died at the military hospital in Lititz between 1777 and 1778, now roaming the streets of Rothsville, filled with unrest?

An entry in a Moravian Church diary indicates that most of these soldiers were buried indiscriminately, huddled in a mass grave, in a field outside of town. It is believed that 10 of them may have been military officers, thus warranting “a more honorable burial place.” Today, a monument and small park along the 500 block of East Main Street in Lititz marks the final resting place of the soldiers who were wounded in the battles of Brandywine and Germantown.

The eyewitness report of this eerie parade is the only known sighting of the ghostly patriots, but the woman claimed that she wasn’t dreaming or under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

What did she see that night?

The spook house near Millport

The ghost house, nestled along a country road between the villages of Millport and Oregon in Warwick Township, is another chilling local legend. Once upon a time it was a beautiful brick home, but during its last several years of its existence nobody wanted to live there. Read on to learn why!

Unexplained occurrences inside the home date back to the late 1800s and include strange smells, noises, and cold spots. Over the years, residents claimed to have heard footsteps coming from the steep staircase. Those who experienced this were so sure that “something” was there that the door at the top of the stairs was always left open for the spirit.

It’s said that every haunted place has an origin story, often associated with a horrific fatal accident, suicide, or murder. This house is no exception.

In the early 1920s, many area residents blamed the hauntings on a young man by the last name of Pfautz. The day before he was to be married, legend says that he was found dead at the bottom of the stairs inside the home. Perhaps this would account for the footsteps heard? We may never know the answer.

The home is long-gone, demolished many years ago. But for those familiar with the folktale of the mysterious spook house near Millport, the stories will never die.

Happy Halloween!

Cory Van Brookhoven is the president of the Lititz Historical Foundation. He is also guiding a sold-out ghost tour in downtown Lititz on Oct. 29. If you have a favorite local ghost story, let him know at coryvb@hotmail.com.

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