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Saturday, March 05, 2022

The Legend of Stovepipe: Rice's Landing, Greene County, Pennsylvania

The author describes several versions of a local ghost tale that began in a hollow near Pumpkin Run Park in Greene County, Pennsylvania. The 'Legend of Stovepipe.'

By James West - I grew up in Rice’s Landing, Pennsylvania. As a young boy I heard many tales of local hauntings, murders, and mysteries. Although Greene County has a wealth of paranormal activity and brutal battles, there was one the stands out to me. That is the legend of Stovepipe. There are multiple variations of this story, as that is a common occurrence with any local legend from any region. As I grew, and started roaming the countryside, I began to explore the forests and surrounding areas namely Pumpkin Run Park. I can remember going into the large park and travelling as far back into it as you can before dead ending  in the woods at the rear of the park.

Running into the virtual end of the park did not discourage me though and I would continue into the forest and after walking for what seemed like miles, I would come out at the top (or bottom depending on the route taken) of Horseshoe Bend Hill. From the bottom side, there is an old, beat up, rusted out car (probably from in the 50’s) laying in the bottom of the hollow. This is where one legend of the infamous Stovepipe begins:

Variation of the Legend of Stovepipe #1 : Vehicle Accident

In one of these modern versions, a boy was riding his bike along Rice's Landing Road. As he raced down the hill, trying to make it home before his curfew, he neared Horseshoe Bend. A car, without any of its lights turned on, appeared and the boy was either pushed or thrown off the road, and rolled down the incredibly steep hill. He rolled and tumbled, and as he neared the bottom of the hollow, landed on an old piece of stovepipe and was instantly decapitated.

Now, it is said that, if you go to the top of Pumpkin Run Hollow/Horseshoe Bend at midnight on a rainy night and yell his name down the hollow, STOVEPIPE!, STOVEPIPE, STOVEPIPE! It is said that he will appear in the area near you and proceed to come after you to take your head to replace the one he lost. I personally have never tried this at midnight on a rainy night, though have done so at the bottom of the hollow by the rusted out car. Nothing happened, but I didn’t carry it out as the legend states. Who is brave enough to come with me during a rainy midnight and call the name into the hollow to see what happens? 

Horseshoe Bend in Rices Landing, PA 

This then leads us into the next part of our tale:

Variation of the Legend of Stovepipe #2 : The Horse and Buggy Accident...or the “The Train Tunnel Legend”

On a cold, rainy night in the 1800s. A boy who was in a hurry to get home, took a shortcut across the railroad tracks at Pumpkin Run. He suddenly realized that a train was barreling down the tracks at him. In his effort to get off the tracks before the quickly approaching train could reach him, He overturned his buggy and the wheels of the train decapitated him. His ghost now aimlessly wanders the area looking for his missing head to replace the stovepipe that he found to use as a head. In this legend, you can go on the tracks or in the tunnel under the train trestle during a rainy and extremely dark night and call STOVEPIPE!!! 3 times and he will appear to chase you down and steal your head.

Or a similar version:

Takes place farther on up the road from Pumpkin Run, along Horseshoe Bend on Rice’s Landing Road. In this tale it is another young man on another rainy night, where he overturned his buggy. Instead of the train causing the death, a buggy wheel was responsible for the boy’s decapitation. Townspeople at the scene commented that the wounded neck resembled a stovepipe. His ghost appeared later, seen lying alongside the road with out his head or standing, with a stovepipe in place of his head.

Other versions:

Feature a character named Stovepipe Kelly. In one version, the jealous husband of Kelly’s mistress caused the buggy to overturn. In this one, however, the husband was the one to do the deed and remove Kelly’s head.

One also tells of a man, Stovepipe Kelly, who was nicknamed this because he routinely wore a stovepipe hat. He was a coal miner and union activist. Angered by his actions, the mine’s owners killed him at Horseshoe Bend. 

 As the years went on, the legend began to metamorphose to fit the times in which the tale was told. The horse and buggy would be replaced by more modern conveyances such as automobiles.

An alternate, more realistic tale is that:

The ghost of Stovepipe is not at the tunnel going into Pumpkin Run Park, nor is it at the second tunnel just a short way up the road that leads up the hill to Horseshoe Bend. The train last ran those tracks in the 1930’s and was much too narrow to drive a horse and buggy on. In the early 1900’s a man was coming down Horseshoe Bend when something happened and the buggy that he was driving overturned and one of the wagon wheels decapitated him. Later, when some townsfolk came to recover his body, it was said that his neck was so flat that it resembled a stove pipe. Approximately a year later someone was travelling the road and saw the headless body laying along the roadside. 

The later mythos about Stovepipe started and it is said that if you go to Horseshoe Bend and call out, “Stovepipe! Stovepipe! I found your head!” you can hear Stovepipe coming up the hillside toward you. The part of the legend that Stovepipe comes from the tunnel or was hit by a train was created by some children who were unfamiliar with the town and the local history.

Something about the author of this document:

As a youngster I would go this area quite often. One time I was camping in the park, in the 3rd field where there is a sort of open-sided log cabin. Everything was nice during the day time. Animals chattering in the summer breeze, going into the creek looking for snakes and crayfish. Climbing the hills to an area known as “Mooney Rocks”. I was always told that a person fell or jumped from the rocks down the hill to their death. I didn’t think about this much as a kid, but now thinking back, it would explain many strange occurrences that happened to me while in that park alone. Now, back to my camping adventure… as it began to get late and the darkness crept its way in encompassing the land in thick, inky shadows, I built a fire for light and some relative safety. I didn’t have a watch and cell phones weren’t a common thing to have except for the wealthy (which surely wasn’t me). I have to estimate the time to have been between 11:30 and 12:30.

I was just trying to settle in on the tarp that I had laid down inside the log cabin. I was just about to nod off, and the fire was burning down, and that’s when I heard it…. Whoop, whoop, whoop… SPLASH!!! Something was thrown into the creek not 20 yards from me. Then I could hear something large move down the extremely steep hillside near me, but was across the creek from me. I laid perfectly still, just listening and waiting to see what would happen. The next thing I heard was a few quick steps down the hill and a loud SPLASH, again. Now I’m on high alert. I can hear whatever it is wading  across the creek in my direction. I heard it snapping limbs and branches as it exited the water, pulling itself up the embankment. I was as silent as could be, then heard loud, heavy footsteps combined with deep guttural breaths just outside the back of the cabin. I could hear it walk all the way around the back, working its way down the side wall and just when it got to where it sounded as if it would be right on top of me with one more step, it would turn around and walk back behind the cabin and proceed to the other end. It would then do the same thing of walking just to the point where it could almost be seen and turn around and go back. It did this a half a dozen times, then let out a loud grunt and a few whoops and took off running back in the direction it came from. It slammed into the water and rushed across the creek and it must have leaped onto the hillside. It was breaking tree limbs as it ascended the hill. Then the footsteps suddenly stopped. Then rocks began to rain down on the cabin. This lasted about 30 minutes before loud footsteps pounded their way up the hill. I don’t know what it was, and is this in no way associated with Stovepipe. I just wanted to set a tone for how odd and mysterious of a place the Pumpkin Run Park/Horseshoe Bend area is. James West

NOTE: Contact me on Facebook. I would be happy to hear from you and discuss this. I can also be found at Greene County PA Cryptids on Facebook - James West

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