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  • Writer's pictureFrank Romans

Terror on The Schuylkill River Trail

Adeline Baver was a local farmer's daughter, a popular, pretty young woman with many suitors. She attended a fall dance in Leesport, Pennsylvania, and sometime during the evening she slipped away. No one noticed when she left, or if she was alone or with someone. During the night, Catherine Seaman, who worked at the Mohrsville Hotel went to a shed for supplies. She heard someone moaning, and thought it was probably a drunk, sleeping it off nearby. The next day, Adeline Baver's body was found under Irish Creek Bridge on the Schuylkill River Trail. Her throat had been slashed. This was October of 1857.

Many theories circulated, and some of the lads courting her were brought in for questioning. Her murder was never solved, and some say her ghost haunts the trail around Leesport. There have been many reported sightings and encounters over the years, and many believe her troubled spirit is trapped to roam the trail forever.

Heidi Grant is ten years old and in a magnificent good mood. Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, and this year the whole family will be in attendance at her grandparent's home. Their house will be filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins, and she is excited for the day to come. Mom-Mom has delegated chores to help out with the large group, and Heidi's mom is in charge of making three pumpkin pies. She has added two pecan pies to her list, as a surprise for her Dad. Everyone knows they are his favorite. She carefully arranges the five pies in a large basket and says, "I should take these over to Mom now, but I have too much to do." "I can do it," Heidi offers. She has been stretching boundaries since turning ten and occasionally rides her bike to see her grandparents. "Oh honey, thank you. But this basket is too heavy for you to carry that far." Then her mom has an idea...she removes the two pecan pies. "We don't want Pappy to see these. They're a surprise." She lifts the basket and thinks it might be manageable. "Maybe Monica can go with you."

Monica is Heidi's older sister and quickly voices her opposition. "Mom, did you forget? I'm going to Shannon's tonight and I have to get ready." Heidi chimes in, "I can do it, Mom. It's not that heavy, see?" She lifts the basket over her head. "I'll use the trail for a shortcut. It isn't a big deal."

The Schuylkill River Trail passes through Leesport, Pennsylvania, and is a favorite shortcut to the other side of the borough. It is popular with joggers and bicyclists and is heavily traveled during the day. The trail is off-limits starting at dusk. Every evening, Constable Elmer Hansen walks a sweep of the trail to make sure there are no lingering lovebirds or pranksters.

Heidi's mom is not fond of the idea but relents. "Ok. You may go, but I do not want you on that trail coming home. Do you hear me? It's getting dark earlier with daylight savings time. You go straight there and back. And take the roads coming back. Do you understand?"

Heidi's dad enters and says, "Hey pumpkin, if you're going to Mom-Mom's, come back with some of her chocolate-chip cookies." Heidi leaves and waves her hand behind her as her mom yells from the porch, "Straight there and back." Dad yells, "Hey, Little Red Riding Hood, watch out for wolves." She turns and sticks her tongue out and is merrily on her way.

Using the trail makes it a quick trip. She likes the sound of the running water and the cool autumn wind blowing through the trees. Sometimes in the summer, she and her friends would take off their shoes and wade into the river's edge. They never told parents or it would mean big trouble.

She bursts through the door and says, "Hi Mom-Mom. I brought pumpkin pies." Her grandmother gives her a bear hug and says, "Are you by yourself? You didn't have to bring these today." "I know, but I wanted to. And Dad wants chocolate-chip cookies." They share a laugh, and her grandmother wraps up a dozen cookies for her son-in-law. "How about you? Time for cookies and milk?" "Yeah, but Mom says I have to come straight home." Over a snack, the two discuss tomorrow's meal and seating arrangements. Two kids' tables are will be crowded. After a while, Mom-Mom says, "You'd better get going, honey. Do you want me to send Pappy with you?" "Nah. I'll hurry." "Ok. Well, tell your father to save room for tomorrow. And you stay off that trail." "I know...Mom told me." "Ok honey. Thanks for bringing the pies and we'll see you tomorrow. You can come early if you want."

Heidi starts for home and her grandfather yells from the back door, "Heidi...stay on the road with the street lights. Don't go on the trail, it will soon be dark." "I will. Love you - bye."

She stayed a little too long and it is quickly getting dark. She thinks about going back and asking Pappy to walk her home but doesn't want to be a scaredy-cat. As she gets to the trail entrance, she sees a light down the trail "I'll bet that is Constable Hansen. He'll walk home with me." She turns onto the trail and hurries after the light and Constable Hansen.

The more she hurries, it seems the light gets further away. She calls out for Constable Hansen and begins to run. It's darker now and the night noises from the woods are creepy. She turns to look behind herself, and it appears the vegetation hangs across the path. The way back looks more dark and ominous than going forward. When she turns back around the light is gone. The noises are louder. She sees something rapidly climb a tree to her left. It's a dog or cat. Crickets are chirping and it sounds like Heidi, Heidi Heidi, Hiedie, Hiedie, Diedie, die...die...die...she cries as she presses slowly onward.

Now it is so dark the trail is hard to see. Something slithers across her foot and she screams. Her scream is answered by another and another. One is an is not. Die...die...die...die.

She stumbles and a vine grabs her ankle pulling her toward the undergrowth. She tries to free herself but more vines grab at her. Slowly she is being dragged to an opening in the earth. The ground has opened and exposed a cavernous hole. She kicks and cries. The vines are long, sinewy limbs with claws that clutch her legs and arms. A terrifying shriek emanates from the hole and a billowing white cloud swirls around the trees above.

The cloud drops to the ground around her and a woman's shape holds out her hand. The claws pull her down as she reaches for the hand. Heidi hears a voice in her mind commanding it to stop. "Release the child." The woman floats to the opening and repeats her command. "Release the child, now." The grip on Heidi eases, and the vines slither into the opening, which closes leaving a barren patch of earth.

The shape moves closer to Heidi. "Do not fear, child. I am Adeline. I must remain here for all time, but you must leave this trail. Never come here alone or your spirit here will roam. This time I will free you from the trail's evil grasp...come here again in the harvest season at night, and you will become like me. Now go."

Flashlights are coming from both directions and voices are calling for Heidi. Her Mom and Dad from one direction, and her grandparents from the other. She yells for them and there is a celebration of relief and joy.

Heidi Grant is plagued by nightmares of that night. These last until her nineteenth birthday, when she decides to visit the trail night.

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