Think you’ve heard all the best ghost stories the region has to offer? Think again. They go far beyond a baby wailing at the site of the former King George Inn, ghostly forms roaming the halls of Hotel Bethlehem, or a missing hiker on the Appalachian Trail at Bake Oven Knob.
The Lehigh Valley and northeast Pennsylvania are full of fascinating ghost stories re-told each October by costumed guides during candlelit walking tours. Paranormal investigators add their own mystique with EVP (electronic voice phenomena) recordings and explanations of parapsychology.
Are you a believer? Even if you’re not, ghost lore is hugely popular and extends not just through the Commonwealth, but around the world.
In the spirit of the Halloween season, we’re reviving some of these ghost tales by paging through The Morning Call archives and sharing some of the spine-tingling stories. This next story in our series recognizes that all mountains have natural folklore, but nothing like Schaumboch’s Tavern at Hawk Mountain.
If you’re looking for an appropriate Halloween haunt allegedly frequented by the dearly departed, you’ll find it just 36 miles west of Allentown. But ghost hunters beware.
The Morning Call hasn’t disturbed this story in more than 13 years. When you dig a little deeper, you’ll find out why.
Schaumboch’s Tavern, built in 1793 and located within the Hawk Mountain Sanctuary in Albany Township, Berks County, is one of Pennsylvania’s most notorious haunted houses. The stucco-coated domicile (also known as Schambacher’s Tavern) and the surrounding land have a hair-raising history.
A 1997 story in The Morning Call noted that generations of Berks and Schuylkill county residents have passed along stories of gruesome murders and ghosts on Hawk Mountain like heirlooms, making the legend and lore of the dwelling known as Schaumboch’s Tavern all the more mysterious.
The mystery prevails to this day — mostly surrounding a man by the name of Matthias Schaumboch (aka Matthias Schambacher), who established the location as a tavern in the mid 1800′s for peddlers and folks traveling north through the area.
Legend has it that Schaumboch lured his guests and weary travelers to an untimely demise. The next inhabitants reported finding human remains in three wells on the property, though no official recovery has ever been documented.
The saddest story connected to the tavern, however, was way before Schaumboch’s time. In fact, you have to go all the way back to February of 1756 in the midst of the French and Indian War. That’s when a group of Lenape Indians are said to have emerged from the forests and massacred colonial families, including children. One of the orphaned survivors, Jacob Gerhart, was said to have constructed what eventually became known as Schaumboch’s Tavern overlooking the space where his family was murdered.
‘I didn’t believe in ghosts until I came here’
A story featured in the pages of the Oct. 28, 1982 edition of The Morning Call profiled a young assistant curator by the name of Seth Benz who lived in Schaumboch’s Tavern and came to believe in ghosts during his time there. He says it was either that, or he’d begin to doubt his own sanity.
Benz said he noticed strange happenings in the residence following a visit by two noted parapsychologists.
“I was washing the dishes and the sink is over here and the light switch is over near the refrigerator, behind me. It was the only light I had on in the house,” Benz said. “I had finished washing the dishes and had just turned around, and my glance just happened to go right to the light switch, and I saw the light switch go down — and I could hear the switch click — and the lights go off. Then there was a pause of maybe 4 to 5 seconds and the light went back on and the light switch was back up. Then the same thing happened again.”
Benz also heard other unexplained noises during his time at the property, including the muffled crying of a child. The glass doors on his cupboard started to open and close randomly, and friends visiting the property heard heavy footsteps and dragging noises one night as if a body were being pulled across the second floor and down the stairs.
Once a skeptic of the paranormal, Benz came to believe the legend of Schaumboch’s Tavern based on his own experiences.
Reached through Facebook messenger last week, Benz confirmed he lived on the property from January 1978 to June 1984 and recently came across the article in an old trunk recovered from his mother’s home.
“Aspects of what else went on in Schaumboch’s are in Charles Adams’ Ghost Stories of Berks County, Benz recalled. I remember what I characterized as a flute-playing ghost, and having a house party with my girlfriend (now my wife) and several other couples. At first only the women could hear the flute but before the ghost stopped playing I think two of us men also heard it. When we tried to pin down where we were hearing it, I recall each of us going to stand in different places in the house! Very strange!”
Schaumboch’s Tavern today
Matthias Schaumboch died in 1879 at age 55 after suffering a mental breakdown, but his story continues to be a significant part of Hawk Mountain’s history … embraced or not.
The building known as Schaumboch’s Tavern has been used over the years for different purposes and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. Renovations have been continuously made to preserve the Revolutionary War-era style of construction.
Please Note: Schaumboch’s Tavern is not open to the public and the building is the private property of Hawk Mountain Sanctuary.