Halloween is the season for sharing local legends of ghosts, hauntings and other unexplained happenings.
And what better place to find them than Western York County, an historic area filled with dozens of antebellum homes and other sites that played significant roles in the Revolutionary and Civil wars?
For this Halloween weekend, we asked some local historians and residents to share with us their favorite ghostly tales. Here are three.
Girl in the white nightgown
Vern and Denise Eakin, members of the Yorkville Historical Society, live in a two-story white farmhouse on York’s East Liberty Street. The oldest part of the home, which once sat on a homestead of 100 acres, was built in 1786.
Denise Eakin said she and her grandchildren have seen the ghost of a little girl in a plain white nightgown fleeting through the home.
Visitors have seen it, too.
Eakin prefers to refer to the child “as an energy, because you can feel it. You just see like an outline, and she’s in pajamas.”
Eakin said she first saw the child a decade ago, after the couple had purchased the home, but before she and Vern moved in.
Eakin was alone in the house one evening while they were painting. She was getting ready to leave for the night.
“I turned around to look upstairs to the second floor to make sure there were no lights left on and here is the figure of a little girl. And I actually got the feeling she was saying, ‘Where are you going, it’s not finished,’ because I was painting a bedroom upstairs. And I thought, ‘I’ll be back.’”
After the Eakins moved in to the home with their two grandchildren, ages 2 and 4, she said the children saw the child.
Eakin said she had never said anything to her grandchildren about her own experience with the child when they began talking about her.
“They would be tired and they would say the little girl kept me awake, she wanted to play,” Eakin said. “And I would say, ‘What little girl?’ and they would say, ‘The one who comes out of the fireplace.’”
Sometimes, the children would say the girl had pushed them out of bed. “She had a tendency to pull the cast iron twin beds away from the wall, trying to get them to play,” Eakin said.
Last winter, Eakin said she was sitting in the family room with Vern one evening when saw the child go into a wall. Her grandson, who was lying in bed in his room on the other side of the wall, screamed that he had just seen the girl, she said.
A couple visitors have also reported seeing the girl, Eakin said, during a party and during the annual Christmas tour.
Eakin said she hasn’t looked into the history of the home to see if a little girl lived there, but she believes the child is happy. “She’s a completely positive energy,” she said.
Legend of Bullock’s Creek
Historian Jerry West, who lives in Sharon, tells the legend of an apparition in the rural community of Bullock’s Creek in his 2006 book, “Tall Tales of York County: Ghostly Secrets, Daredevil Preachers and Walking on Water.”
West writes that in the late 18th century, residents in the Bullock’s Creek area were “being bothered by the appearance of a ghost or apparition” that appeared in a certain field.
The appearance was always near dusk along a road that ran by the field. “When it appeared, it would follow a person until it reached the end of the woods and would then disappear,” West wrote.
West said the appearances began around the time Adam Meek was elected York County sheriff. The encounters became more frequent, West said, and some people called the sheriff for help.
Meek questioned witnesses, some of whom appeared to laugh off the idea of a field-haunting ghost to cover their fears, West wrote. But one man was clear about his fear, and said he and his horse had been chased by the apparition.
One night, Meek crept into the field to wait, and the phantom appeared and traveled with the sheriff as he moved down the road and through the field. Meek later said he and the ghost walked together for some 200 yards.
Weeks later, according to West, the sheriff vanished without a word to his wife and children. Speculation ran wild about his disappearance.
But two months later, the sheriff appeared at his home no worse than before. He would not say where he had been, and until his death in 1807, the sheriff refused to discuss his disappearance or his encounter with the phantom.
“I cannot tell you now, I may before I die, but that is not certain,” the sheriff said, according to West. “But this I can tell you, the ghost of Gordon’s field will never be seen again.”
The corner of downtown York
One of the most often-told ghost legends in Western York County is that of the Rose Hotel on Congress Street in downtown York.
The hotel was built in 1852, across from the York County Courthouse, according to York Mayor Eddie Lee, a Winthrop University history professor. Lee said the corner across from the courthouse is intricately tied to the Civil War.
Some people say the Rose Hotel is haunted because of its links to the war, he said. Union soldiers stayed there after the war, during Reconstruction, he said.
“What they say about it is, there are ghosts with Confederate uniforms who wander the hallways, and there are women, who are usually described as widows, who are sighted in the hallways in mourning garb,” he said.
The corner across from the courthouse and next to the Rose Hotel also is significant, Lee said, because it once was the site of a tree were hangings were conducted.
“When they would have court, if it was a serious crime, the way capital punishment was administered was they went across the street and hanged you,” he said. “There was no appeal.”