The following old newspaper account is somewhat similar to a tale I first heard when I was a boy growing up in southcentral Pennsylvania. I was not aware of the vintage article until today, but reading it brings back references to the birth of a monstrous child in the area of present-day Pine Grove Furnace State Park:
Salt Lake Daily Tribune, Utah - 16 December 1888
THE VERY PICTURE OF THE DEVIL
A Gilt-Edged Fable From Pennsylvania
A student in the theological seminary at Gettysburg, Pa., writes to the New York Herald as follows:
“To the north and west of this city, about fifteen miles away, dividing this county from Cumberland and Franklin counties, is a ridge of mountains. In some of the mountain valleys the people are in a state of dense ignorance, seeing little of the outer world and scarcely touched by the civilization that is all around them. In one of these little corners of the mountain, about two weeks ago, was born a monstrosity that has filled the mountaineers with terror and dread. Among many of them superstition is religion, and they believe that the devil has appeared among them incarnate in the monster, born in their midst.
“During the past week rumors have reached this city of this fabulous creature born in the mountains, and of the intense excitement spread to the lowlands, and those who had the courage to overcome their superstitious fears and visit the creature describe it as being somewhat larger than the average new-born babe, and although the offspring of a white father and mother, is dark in color, and covered with short, black hair. From either side of its head grow short horns. A long tail hung to its feet, which strongly resemble the cloven hoof. In fact, to use the word of one who saw it, it was the very picture of the devil.’
“There are many stories as to the incidents attending the birth of the monster, but the following story is the one which seems to have so fixed itself in the minds of the mountaineers that they cannot be convinced that the devil has not lived and been among them in the flesh. From what they say it appears that the father of the creature has some sort of religious belief, and tried to persuade his wife, who did not agree with him, to accept his opinions. Finally she declared that she would not do as he wished, and in blasphemous language declared that she would rather see the devil than to have a cross always before her eyes. Shortly after this declaration she gave birth to a horrible monster, as described above.
“In terror the father summoned several neighbors, and one of them, more brave than the rest, offered to open a vein in the arm of the creature and bleed it to death. As he took his knife from his pocket the creature raised itself, got down from the bed, walked across the room, and returning, addressed its would be executioner in the most terrible language and threatened him with dire misfortune if he attempted to do it harm, and then declared it would live for seven days, and having revealed its object in coming into the world would then die. It lived for seven days, and on the last Monday, the eighth day, died, but without having spoken again. As strange as it may seem this story has many believers, and there are few who do not shun the little cabin in the mountain which lives the poor mother of the miserable creature whose birth and death have filled her neighbors with such uneasiness.
Here is the story told to me when I was a young boy. I used to go camping and fishing in the same area, so the tale stuck with me:
Not so many years after the War Between the States, a young Quaker man decided to leave the confines of Philadelphia and start a new life in the mountains of Pennsylvania.
After a long search for the right piece of land, he purchased a large lot in Cooke Township, where he found employment at the old South Mountain Iron Works. On his land was a stream full of brook trout, plentiful timber and lots of open space to raise a family.
Not long after planting his roots, he met a young woman who soon became his wife. She wasn't the religious type, but the Quaker fell deeply in love...so they were married by the local Justice of the Peace.
The Quaker's wife was soon pregnant and the happy couple began looking forward to building a long life together.
In the final month of her pregnancy, the young wife started to experience bouts of anger and intense pain. The doctor ordered her to complete bedrest, though he could not diagnose the cause of her malady.
The Quaker said he had a horrible dream where the Devil had come to visit their home while he was at work. He was sure that his wife was possessed by a demonic being and that he needed to purge her of this evil.
For ten days straight he knelt by her bedside invoking prayers and charms...much to the chagrin of the wife.
Soon she became disgusted by the fuss her husband was making. In a fit of rage she grabbed a small wooden cross, that was laying on the bed, and flung it threw a window. She declared that there is no God and that the Devil was only a creation of a feeble mind.
That very night, the Quaker's bride went into labor. She tolled in agony for the entire night and into the early morning. A midwife was quickly summoned for the delivery. Soon after daybreak, the child started its way into the world.
As the midwife coaxed the new mother to push, it soon became apparent that this child was unlike any she had ever witnessed.
The newborn 'boy' resembled a beast...not a human. It was alive and breathing but did not cry or make any sound. It was gray in color and more scales than skin. It had a long tail and small horn buds above its pointed ears. There were claws for hands and hooves for feet. It also emitted a foul, lingering stench. This was the embodiment of Mephistopheles.
That's where the story ends, but there have been rumors of the demon's seed roaming the woods of South Mountain. I haven't received any specific reports...but you never know what may show itself. Lon
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