With a name like Boiling Springs, I expected Vincent Price to be dangling victims from a hook over steaming waters. Maybe not every day, but this close to Halloween, I was looking for morbid stories. However, when we arrived in Boiling Springs, Pennsylvania, we quickly learned that the “boiling” just referred to bubbling water, with no heat, deadly or otherwise. Historical sites abounded in the area, though, so the potential for ghost stories was definitely there.
It would have been worth exploring the town even if we hadn’t needed to stop for a bathroom break.
The area springs were dammed up in the mid 1700s to create water power for an ironworks that operated from 1760 until the end of the 1800s. As we walked around the lake created by the dammed up springs, we read signs about the trolley park* that operated on the shores in the early 20th century. Visitors rented boats on what became referred to as “Children’s Lake” and if some of them had drowned, there might be ghost stories. But we saw no bodies bobbing the lake, and failed to learn of any gruesome history. In fact, with the sunlight sparkling on the water, and geese and ducks circling serenely, it was bucolic rather than beastly.
At the south end of the lake, a huge old mansion loomed at the top of the hill. With a strange mixture of 18th Century neo-classical columns and 19th-century gothic trim, the house reflected the perfect synthesis of the Haunted Mansion styles of Disney parks in both California and Florida. That seemed promising.
But despite the potential, no haunted details about the house could be found. So we continued our walk to the forge which was over 250 years old and had creepy holes and gates. No scary stories there either. Yet again it was scenic rather than horrific. Sigh.
We crossed bridges over rushing streams and wandered wooded trails, then finally came back to the lake and continued around. One of the houses on the west side of the lake was built by Daniel Kaufman, who operated a station on the underground railroad from 1835 until 1847,providing food, transportation and shelter to slaves between Shippensburg and Harrisburg. In 1847, he was sued by a slaveholder from Maryland. After three trials, he was finally ordered to pay restitution and court costs totaling about $4,000, which would be about $130,000 today.
Kaufman laid out the town of Boiling Springs in 1845, but he did not build his house along the lake until 1880, so it was not this structure that served as a station on the Underground Railroad. No ghosts there either.
To find ghosts, we could have gone back up the road to the Allenberry Resort which is reportedly haunted by (depending on the story):
1) ghosts of horses in the old carriage house
2) a middle-aged man wearing clothes from the late 1800s
3) a blue column of light
4) a guy in jeans
None of which sound terribly horrific.
So we will come back to Boiling Springs for a peaceful walk, or maybe even to rent a boat in the summertime. But if we want to find something scary, we’d be better off continuing south to Washington DC to watch the frightening machinations of our government.
*I researched and wrote about trolley parks over the summer, so when I read that Boiling Springs was the site of a trolley park, I was ready to look for evidence of a roller coaster. But the amusements offered at Boiling Springs were pretty tame compared to many trolley parks of the era. Visitors could rent a boat or have a picnic and that was about it.
If you enjoy ghost stories with historic flavor rather than gore, you might like my novella Bride of Belznickel.