Mythical Monday: Legends of Zombie Land by Mae Clair

Tucked into western Pennsylvania, snuggled against the Ohio border lies a stretch of ground known as Zombie Land. Numerous tales have sprung up during the years of bizarre happenings and spectral apparitions that haunt the area. Rumors abound of eerie screams echoing in the night, and of ghostly phantoms that wander the darkness.

Legend also tells of a group of people known as the Light Bulb Heads. Afflicted with a condition that caused water to form on the brain (hydrocephalus), the group retreated to the area, hoping to live in peace. Their odd medical condition caused deformities making them a target for ridicule and shame, some claiming they were “zombies”—a likeness from which the area derived its name.Spooky setting with hand rising out from the grave. Halloween

Another group who inhabited the region were known as the Bridge People. They lived beneath a stone span, commonly called the Frankenstein Bridge. One legend references a young boy who jumped from the bridge and committed suicide, forever branding it as a place of desolation. The sides of the bridge are spray-painted with numerous markings, names, and symbols. It’s rumored that if your name is spray-painted on the bridge, the people who linger underneath will hunt you down and kill you.

Graffiti was never so lethal.

Or, you might find yourself on Gravel Road, an old rail bed where visitors reported hearing ghostly train whistles in the night. It’s whispered that if you park your car on the track you’re certain to see lights approaching, accompanied by the loud rattle of a steam engine. Only the foolish linger long enough to discover if the metal apparition bearing down on them is real.

There is also the notorious Blood House. Although the infamous residence now stands in ruins, legend has that it was once the abode of an old woman versed in the dark arts of witchcraft. She kidnapped and murdered children, burying their remains in a field behind her house. Locals knew never to venture too close, especially when the night was wrapped in darkness and the moon scuttled behind the clouds.

There has been physical evil here, too. In the year 2000, Shannon Leigh Kos, a twelve-year-old girl was found raped and stabbed to death beneath the bridge. Her murderers were three men in their early 20s, one of whom she’d had a relationship with. The men set fire to her body, hoping to hide the remains, but were eventually discovered.

If there is any gentleness about this place, it rests with a statue of the Virgin Mary. Although the St. Lawrence church and cemetery no longer stand, it is rumored that a likeness of the Lord’s mother once graced the spot. If it was safe to enter Zombie Land her arms would be open, welcoming strangers, but if her hands were clasped in prayer, it was a sign to stay away. One can only hope that the Blessed Mother was there to welcome poor Shannon Leigh Kos into her embrace in her last hours.

As Halloween approaches, this sinister area of Pennsylvania will likely be on the lips and tongues of many as they share old tales. Teenagers in particular, enjoy turning the area into a lover’s lane where they share ghost stories and whispers of things that go bump in the night.

Knowing all that has taken place in Zombie Land, would you be brave enough to visit when the night is dark and the moon is hidden in a blanket of clouds?