PA- the postal abbreviation could be mean other things, and still be fitting.
PA- Paranormal activity?
PA- Physics absent?
PA- People abnormal?
As a life-long resident of Pennsylvania (minus a three-year stint in Oklahoma), things like a ghostly handprint on the cell wall of an abandoned county jail, a hill that defies the laws of gravity, piles of rocks that have withstood thousands of years of winter winds and a serpent lurking the waters of Lake Erie all seem pretty darned normal to me. But they are some of the oddities that are nestled between the covers of Weird PA, a new release from Sterling Publishing who brought us Weird US and other weird state books.
This book comes to the delight of the daughter of former traveling show-biz duo. During weekend trips to gigs across the state, we’d always sightsee the roadside attractions and museums. This book brought back fond memories of a childhood full of exploring the Keystone State but still, I learned a lot from this bright and fun title.
The book itself is beautiful – certainly coffee table caliber. The 263 colorful pages are divided into 11 sections: Local Legends and Lore, Ancient Mysteries, Fabled People and Places, Unexplained Phenomena, Local Heroes and Villains, Personalized Properties, Roadside Oddities, Roads Less Traveled, Quaker State Ghosts, Cemetery Safari and Abandoned Places. Each of the sections reveals the oddities, tall tales and myths of Pennsylvania through colorful pictures and testimonies from actual eyewitnesses and personal accounts from the editors who visited most of the included sites. Most of the entries are short snippets, making this a good breeze-through book for those not interested in heavy reading.
If this book does not urge people to gas up their wagons and plot out a Weird PA tour, I don’t now what will. In fact, maybe I should get licensing rights to the book and start my own tour group. Hmmm. Anyway, some great sites worth visiting (or steering clear of, take your pick) are Gravity Hill in Bedford County, where a car put in neutral will roll up instead of the obvious; New Hope and historic Philadelphia which are filled with ghost stories of famed Pennsylvanians; Pennhurst, an abandoned mental asylum in Philly and yes, there is even an empty morgue (or is it?); a backyard zoo in Fayette county filled with larger-than-life animal sculptures and in York County, there really is an old woman who lives in a shoe(-shaped house). Okay, former shoe salesman. I was way too tempted to use the nursery rhyme.
Two included places happen to be personal favorites: the burning-for-thirty years Columbia county ghost town, Centralia and Shartlesville’s Roadside America. The latter impressed the authors so much they called it, “The most pleasant surprise we found.” That makes me happy. This massive model train set spans a huge hangar and represents much of America through miniscule interpretations. A must see!
One gripe: nothing from my county of residence for the last decade (Luzerne) and not enough from the Poconos. Is Northeast PA that weird, that even authors of a book recording the strange will not enter? I would have loved to have seen Boulder Field at Hickory Runn State Park, the Archbald Pothole and the old city underneath Lake Wallenpaupak that draws hundreds of scuba divers – you can see the church steeple from land on a clear day.
I’m all for a sequel- Weirder PA.
(I’ll make it an A+ if I get to take the authors on a tour of left-out places!)