Reichard Cemetery & Hell’s Hollow

Though most people imagine hauntings to be attached to a building, some paranormal events can occur out in the wide open as if the spirits are attached to the land itself. I have been witness to some unusual activity surrounding Reichard Cemetery and Hell’s Hollow down the road from the burial ground. Before I tell my account of this spooky spot, I will describe the location to the best of my knowledge.

Coordinates for Reichard Cemetery:
Transfer, Pennsylvania 16125
Latitude:         41.3486578
Longitude:       -80.4981224

Coordinates for Hell’s Hollow:
West Salem Township, Pennsylvania 16125
Longitude:  -80.498315

Reichard Cemetery at night

Just over the Ohio/Pennsylvania border in South Pymatuning Twp. (city of Transfer, PA), walking distance from Orangeville, sits an old cemetery at the entrance of South Barry Road. Reichard Cemetery is named for the prominent headstone of the Reichard family that stands in front center, a family that remains in the vicinity to this day.  A cemetery of cultural and historic importance, it appears the first burials took place in 1869. Many of the stones are crumbling and illegible with some in the back of the cemetery becoming lost in the woods. It is a dismal place, but aren’t all old cemeteries places of unease?

The dense treelined gravel road of Hell’s Hollow

Past the cemetery, continuing down S. Barry Rd., you pass through the intersections of Rutledge Road and and Darien Road before hitting a point with a sign that declares “No Winter Maintenance”. This is where South Pymatuning Twp. turns into West Salem Twp. and the pavement disappears as the road turns to dirt. It is inadvisable to venture after this point when it’s wet because your car can become mired. It is all farmland at this area of the road with fields on each side. A wooded section lies where the road winds around a curve before a small bridge. The bridge is directly before a steep upturn in the road and past that are more fields before running into a purely wooded area. Here, homes begin to dot each side of the road and S. Barry Rd. winds through the woods for quite some time before running into Rt. 358 (Vernon Rd). The wooded area surrounding the bridge is where the local kids claim Hell’s Hollow sits.

Now, let’s address some of the local legends surrounding this area:

Local youths say that the cemetery was once moved from another location because it sat too close to a creek and when the water rose, it eroded the dirt and coffins began popping up out of the ground. All the graves had to be dug up and relocated to the present location on the corner of Barry and Carlisle roads. This seems an unlikely story, but if you’ll allow me to segue for a moment, this did happen to my great-great-grandpa’s coffin when he was buried too close to Mosquito Lake in Hillside Cemetery (Bazetta, Ohio), and he had to be relocated up the hill.

Another story is that a little neighborhood girl used to play in the cemetery and was often seen frolicking between the tombstones. One day, she didn’t return home and was discovered dead in the cemetery. I have no idea if this story has any validity or when it was supposed to have occurred, but she is alleged to have been buried there.  

 Many legends surround the spot where the bridge is in Hells Hollow, though I doubt there’s much truth to most of them. Apparently, in the 1800’s, a man was walking along S. Barry Rd. when he spotted his wife riding with her lover on a horse driven carriage as they crossed the bridge. The husband challenged the other man to a duel and so they fought. As the husband swung his sword around to chop off the man’s head, his wife threw herself between them to stop it and was immediately decapitated. In his rage the husband killed the other man as well. In a different version of the story, the husband shot his wife in a house that used to stand near the hollows and left her to bleed to death for two days.

This story could have been a molestation of a true event that occurred in the neighboring township of Vernon, OH on May 27, 1867 when William Holcomb was killed by gunshot. His friend, James Saywer, was present at his death and said that Holcomb had accidentally shot himself while squirrel hunting. However, Sawyer had been seen dallying with Holcomb’s wife the past year while Holcomb was in ill health. They were frequently observed riding in a buggy together as they drove to and from singing school and lyceum. Sawyer’s statement was doubted and he was charged with murder. After a lengthy trial where many friends and family were questioned about the so-called affair, no inappropriate behavior was confirmed, and Sawyer was acquitted. Read my post about the case here.

Another legend about the Hollow was that in the 1920’s, the hill leading down into the obscured gulley was a popular make out spot for the local teenagers. A bachelor farmer lived nearby and was enraged at their antics. After several times of walking into the ravine and yelling at the teenagers to get off of his property, they continued to return, laughing all the while at the crazed lonely farmer. The farmer planned his revenge on prom night when he knew the teens would return to the Hollow to make out. He murdered all of them but was not prosecuted due to lack of evidence. Fingers continued to point towards him throughout the years and he never moved away or was convicted. He had no guilt to flee from and was instead very satisfied with his gruesome crime. 

Yet another story is of the man that committed suicide by hanging himself from the large tree that grows next to the bridge. A more modern account is that of a young woman who crashed her car at the sharp turn before the bridge and was killed when she was thrown from the vehicle. 

Besides the account of the two lovers riding in a buggy (albeit in Vernon, OH and not West Salem, PA), I have not been able to find any data to back up these stories. If anyone has insight on whether these stories have some truth behind them, please drop me a line.

If the stories do have some truth to them, perhaps it would explain the legion of ghosts that haunt the Hollow. I have heard accounts of people who braved going there and heard voices and fell into trances. Everyone has a different experience there at each visit. It is described as such an evil place that it could be a gateway to Hell, hence it’s name. Without further digression, this is my story about Hell’s Hollow and Reichard Cemetery:

When I was 18-years-old, I spent almost every weekend night at the local Perkins Restaurant with my best friend Theresa drinking coffee and chatting. We quickly made friends with a group of individuals our own age that were from Hartford Twp., OH. Our common interest was ghosts and the Hartford kids mesmerized us with the stories of Hell’s Hollow and Reichard Cemetery. Hartford is on the OH/PA border and adjacent to Pymatuning Twp. where Reichard Cemetery lies. West Salem Twp. is the township north of Pymatuning where Hell’s Hollow is located.

At this point in our young lives, Theresa and I had never before seen a ghost, despite reveling in a good ghost story, and we had never been ghost hunting. I had been in plenty of so-called “haunted” buildings and never experienced anything, so would require evidence to become a true believer. One night in late February of 2004, the Hartford group invited us ghost hunting and we accepted without hesitation, the thought of a thrill shivering down our spines. We left the restaurant sometime after midnight and piled in our vehicles, setting off on the thirty-minute drive to eastern Pennsylvania. 

Outbuilding on farmland in Hell’s Hollow

On our first visit, we did not venture into the cemetery, but drove down a curving hill amongst a heavily wooded area and parked on a bridge that ran over a creek. We nervously stepped out of the car into complete darkness but for the glow of the moon as the ravine ran steeply below us. We stood there uneasily and I never felt such a feeling as I had in visiting all the other “haunted” spots I had before. My legs immediately weakened and were shaking as if my muscles had turned to jelly. I pointed my camera off of the one side of the bridge and the flash lit up the whole area, blinding all my friends. Our new friend Steve said he felt as if someone was watching him and we all agreed that we had the eerie sense of being watched. We turned and faced the other direction and our new friends pointed out how something didn’t look right. It was simply an uneven, wooded ravine with spots of snow. But something wasn’t right; the Hartford group and Theresa saw a spot that glowed brighter than the snow and knew that it wasn’t snow. I was the only person that couldn’t see it. I lifted my camera the same as before and shot it, but something must have not liked getting their picture taken. The moment after my flash went off and I moved my eye from the viewfinder to look upon the landscape, I saw a white filmy streak race up the side of the tree and disappear into the branches. It wasn’t an animal as it went too fast and was floating parallel to the tree. It was not even a second that this happened, but we all witnessed it and knew it wasn’t the camera. We were so terrified, that we returned to our cars and went home.

Under the bridge

We revisited the Hollow the following night with five of us in one car. This time the atmosphere seemed surprisingly calm and nothing frightening took place. During our visit, flashes were going off every second as we all took photos with our cameras and phones. We walked in circles, going up both hills from each end of the bridge, scouring the area.

The creek

Afterward, we returned to the car and drove the short distance to Reichard Cemetery. Being young and ignorant, I had no clue that it’s illegal to enter a cemetery after dark, so I do not recommend doing the same. Of course we had great respect for the cemetery and had no thoughts of causing damage or any harm; we were simply there to ghost hunt. The cemetery felt incredibly eerie and the air was thick and heavy as we continued taking pictures. 

I felt unbalanced and I tripped over myself several times. We were only there a few minutes before we left and went back to Perkins to review our photos. I had a film camera, so I wouldn’t see my evidence until I had them developed. Our new friend Jeff showed us the pictures he had taken on his phone and what we saw was beyond belief. Almost every photo had something in it; smoky coils in places that we had not seen originally. In the cemetery pictures, Theresa pointed out something that I said realistically, “Oh, that’s just the light reflecting off of the tombstone.” But Theresa showed me another picture of the exact same angle and there was no tombstone, just the headstones in the background. I looked at the weird picture I had thought was a tombstone and as I looked closer I realized that I could see right through it. Also, as we examined it more closely, we noticed how oddly it looked like a close-up of a torso. The other pictures had oddly shaped curls of mist way up in the air and no one had been smoking. One odd photo caught our attention when we realized we could see a face in the mist! Looking closer, it appeared like a skull to me. I gawked at it, frozen in shock. I saw a grinning face, details appearing like nasal-labial folds (the creases running from the nose to the corners of the mouth), prominent cheekbones, a visible jaw line and even a brow ridge. The eyes were sunken hollows, empty and threatening, but that eerie smile was like the skull was taunting us.

Anomaly on upper left of photo
Anomaly on right side of photo

We were “freaked out” —the expression we used repeatedly to each other while we sat at Perkins shaking in our boots. While we talked excitedly, three nearby booths full of kids heard our story and begged us to lead the way to Hell’s Hollow. We were crazy to comply given the long drive, but gas was cheap those days and we had nothing better to do. Our group piled in one car and we led an entourage of three other cars through the uncanny back roads of eastern Ohio. When we arrived at the Hollow, we parked our cars on the dirt road before the hill that dipped down into the actual hollow. Before we got out of the car, Lenny, who was driving said, “My car doesn’t do that,” and we noticed him holding his key in the air with the engine still running. We knew such a thing had happened before to others visiting the Hollow, so we just guffawed as he put the key back in the ignition and shut it off. When we walked out into the darkness we noticed that there were many young adults, around twenty. The atmosphere was as calm as it had been on our earlier visit, but we watched in horror as the group of kids stood on the bridge cussing and throwing down their cigarettes, simply being loud. 

From there, we drove to the cemetery, but a few of us hung back and stood on the road while everyone else went in. That cemetery felt evil at that hour of three o’clock in the morning and I did not want to step foot into it. While we had behaved solemnly on our earlier trip, the new kids were the opposite, acting very loud, cussing more, smoking more, throwing their cigarettes down carelessly amongst the graves and just carrying on far too much. One husky kid was slashing a sword into the ground, making quite a racket. They definitely angered someone or something…very much. Jeff called us into the cemetery for a group picture, so we reluctantly trudged up the steep ground up into it. After he took the photo, the husky kid began having a conniption and told everyone to leave as quickly as possible. 

Theresa and I remained in the back of the cemetery by the time almost everyone else made it to their cars. We were cool and calm, just taking our time coming out and were laughing at how the husky kid was seeing things. About twenty feet in front of us we could discern our friend Ben walking with his girlfriend Amy. 

Suddenly we heard Ben screaming bloody murder. He shouted, “Lenny! Get over here right now! We have a downer!” 

Theresa and I stumbled upon a body just laying on the ground in the thick darkness. It seemed so out of place that we were shocked and confused at the same time. How could a corpse have gotten there and remained unnoticed? Theresa and I looked at each other in absolute bewilderment, each thinking the same thing as we called one another’s name.  At first we thought it was an apparition. However, when Lenny and the other kids rushed to the scene, shining their phones through the darkness, Theresa and I realized it was Amy passed out cold on the ground. She had been walking with Ben before she suddenly fell to the ground and he tripped over her.

Lenny was an EMT and so knew what to do. He turned her over onto her back and said, “Amy, can you hear me?” 

She moaned, opening her eyes halfway, but suddenly shot upright, eyes wide open. The same second she sat upright, she slumped right back over onto the ground unconscious. Lenny turned her back over, noticed she wasn’t breathing and remained calm. He tilted her head back to open her airway so that she could start breathing again. Amy was half-conscious as Ben and Lenny lifted her up and carried her to her car. Theresa and I stood helpless and began to cry uncontrollably, from both shock and relief.

In a few moments Amy came to and was fully conscious so Ben asked her what happened. She said she felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to the back of her head and the only people walking behind her were me and Theresa, but we were pretty far away and would never harm anyone. We had not seen it occur having thought we were stumbling over a dead body. 

Theresa and I tearfully got back in the car and road back to Perkins with the husky kid. As we drove back, the husky kid said, “Omigosh, I saw a freaking little girl running around the cemetery right before Amy got hit. That’s why I freaked out and told everyone to get the hell out of there. I saw a white streak and hair flying out behind her.” 

I replied, “What? You saw the little girl? She used to play in the cemetery but one day they found her dead.” 

He became even more upset and said he didn’t know anything about a little girl. It was so distressing that I immediately began crying again. I later wondered out loud if perhaps the little girl had died by getting thunked in the back of the head by someone or something.

The next morning after a very restless night, I got my pictures developed. There was nothing, absolutely nothing at all on the pictures. They were just pictures of the dark woods, no odd shapes or anything and I wondered how real our experience was or if there was some explanation. 

We returned to Hell’s Hollow and Reichard Cemetery several times that year, but it was quite some time before I had another experience.  

Ruins of a structure in the wooded area behind the cemetery

In the fall of that same year, our friend Jeff claimed to have had an odd occurrence during a visit to Reichard’s cemetery a couple of weeks before my return there. He went with his girlfriend Jen, his best friend Frankie, Frankie’s girlfriend Anne, and their psychic friend Chris. They walked through the cemetery and took photos, but nothing happened, so they went home. In the car, both girls began having trouble breathing and were on the verge of fainting. The following day, Chris called Jeff and told him that he sensed a ghost had followed them home from the cemetery and stayed with Jeff and Jen. This thing stayed with them all the following day, apparently as they ran errands. Chris was able to tell them exactly where they had gone to that day including a particular store and that the ghost was with them. Chris had never been told that they went out much less what exact store they went to. 

Chris had Jeff, Jen, Frankie, and Anne meet with him later that day and informed them that the spirit was after Jen. Apparently Chris was extremely clairvoyant and could pick up details that no one else could. He said the spirit was an old man in a top hat and long coat who carried a cane. His eyes glowed red when looking at Jen but when he looked at Anne his eyes were green and he liked her because she was a virgin and Jen was not. The spirit never entered any buildings the group went in but stayed outside. He never followed Frankie and Anne but was attached to Jen. Chris said that the spirit wished to return to the cemetery but had lost his way and the only way for him to go back was for the group to take the trip to Reichard cemetery. Chris said that the spirit hovered over the car and never entered the vehicle. The group returned to the cemetery and the spirit was gone. 

It’s an interesting account and spooky at that, but I was not there to witness any of it and therefore cannot vouch for its validity. The same applies to the following account:

In November, Jeff’s group returned to Hell’s Hollow. He apparently took a video camera to the Hollow and recorded a strange incident that our group watched soon after. The video was a play-by-play of Jeff, Jen, and Anne as they walked through the graveyard. They then drove to the Hollow where mere minutes after stepping out of the vehicle did they hear a huge, horrible noise that mysteriously did not record on the video tape. They described it as a high whistling trill, the same sound made from a rope when a person is hung. Jeff then recorded the huge tree off the side of the bridge do something that a tree could never do just by itself. The large branch close to the bridge bent down at a powerful angle all the way to the ground without snapping. It was as if a huge weight had yanked down on the end of it. Was this proof that the legend of someone hanging themselves in the hollow was true? Immediately the camera shook wildly as the group jumped in the car, breathing heavily as they booked it out of there. I personally couldn’t make out much from the video because it was so dark and I couldn’t hear anything other than their terrified voices, but they swear it actually happened.

The apparent hanging tree next to the bridge in Hell’s Hollow

That same month, I returned to the Hollow late one night with Lenny, our friend Steve W., Lenny’s sister and two of her friends. We passed by the cemetery and got out of the car briefly in the Hollow. The air felt as uneasy to me as it always had, but nothing of interest happened. We got back in the car and Lenny continued to drive along the narrow, winding dirt road. It curved dangerously up and down, the sharp turns around cliff-like hills not as frightening as it had been the first time we had travelled down the road in mud and ice. 

Apparently, when the group of kids from Perkins had visited previously, two of them had spotted a ghostly Indian. As we discussed this, a dog suddenly bolted out in front of us and refused to move as it barked ferociously at the car. Lenny tried to move forward but the creature refused to budge for five minutes. In that five minutes, the people in the backseat turned around and they all saw something strange. Some of them saw the filmy figure of a girl while others saw a shadow that appeared human like. As Lenny crept the car forward, the dog was nudged to the side of the road and we took off. At the fork in the road ahead, the dog sprinted forward and charged in front of the car again, forcing Lenny to slam on his brakes. After awhile, the dog backed off and we were able to make it to the main road with no other occurrences after that. 

On a subsequent visit to the cemetery, I had a brief experience that caused me to wonder if something was truly there. The cemetery sits up on an incline and while walking into it with the ground rising up from the road, my legs became heavy and my chest tightened. This is a rare feeling I now recognize when I know I’ve stepped into a very haunted location. At the time, I thought it felt like walking through a barrier. The air felt thick and suffocating as if something didn’t want us there.

 One of our last visits to Hell’s Hollow and Reichard Cemetery was especially interesting and we had a large group with us that night. We met at Perkins as usual and piled into Lenny’s Bonneville and made our way out to the Hollow. We passed the cemetery and continued down Barry Road, past the bridge, up the hill into the field where Lenny turned around. Unfortunately, his car became stuck fairly deep in the mud and three of the boys got out and pushed the front of the car while I steered. Finally, we parked down on the bridge and got out to take pictures. It was calm and quiet, so we headed back to the cemetery. 

Our group walked calmly through the gravestones and for the first time, I wasn’t feeling sensations of dread. It was quite warm out for November and the moon was so bright that it was almost as bright as daylight. My friend Rachael said she felt very drawn to a particular old stone with most of its engravings worn away. After wandering around for some time, I stood in the old section of the cemetery next to Jeff, who suddenly turned away, noticeably upset.

Lenny ordered all of us out so that he and Jeff could investigate without interference.  The rest of us stood in the roadway, watching them walk around the cemetery and disappear into the darkness near the rear of the graveyard. I chatted with Theresa and Rachael before Rachael remarked that as she watched the grave she had been drawn to, she saw someone dart through that section of the graveyard. I thought: the last time somebody saw something running through the cemetery a girl was knocked unconscious. Lenny finally emerged from the cemetery with Jeff trailing behind. I watched Jeff drag himself down the hill, sobbing, before he nearly fell over in a spasm of coughing and spitting. Lenny caught his arm before Jeff stumbled back up on his feet and walked towards us. 

I asked him if he was okay as I put my hand on his arm. He looked at me with glazed eyes as if he had never seen me before. 

He blinked and squinted several times before offering a confused, “Wha-what?” He began rocking himself, lamenting over and over, “I’m okay. I’m okay.” He was acting completely out of character.

There was silence on the drive back to Lenny’s house with nothing but the sound of Jeff crying. When we arrived there, we stood in the garage and goofed off in an attempt to lighten the mood. As we laughed, I heard Jeff muttering to himself and his eyes were closed. Lenny leaned forward, listening and Jeff looked up at him to say, “Something about spirits floating around…I dunno…spirits floating around us?” 

He continued muttering while Lenny told him, “That doesn’t sound right.” and “No, that still doesn’t sound right.” 

Finally, Jeff said something like, “Open my eyes so that I may see.” 

The rest of us decided that the conversation was between Lenny and Jeff and therefore did not intrude. As I drove Theresa back to Perkins, we concluded that they must have heard a voice. 

The next day, I talked to Jeff and Lenny, but neither offered much information about what happened and refused to talk about their experience.  All Lenny would say was that something happened that they couldn’t explain. I asked him why he ushered us out of the cemetery and he said because he did not want us to get hurt. The only information Jeff would offer was that he was was feeling much better.

It wasn’t until later that Jeff would talk about his experience and this is what he said in his own words: 

 “I believe that there was something in me at the graveyard. I felt it leave when I fell out into the road. It just left this sadness in me. [When] we all started walking into the graveyard, nothing really happened to me. [But then] I stepped on a spot near the big tree and instantly my legs disappeared. My legs usually go numb but not that sudden. I stopped and I got a sharp pain right under my left rib cage. I could breathe and all, but it was hot air, like if you turn the stove on when your body is cold and you take a deep breath of the heated air. I closed my eyes and tried to catch my normal breath. I started walking but it felt like my legs weren’t moving. I could see everything and everyone. It looked like if you were sitting in a movie theater and all you can see is the screen. Everything outside of the screen was black. I saw Theresa, Rachael, Ashley, and maybe Steve standing at one grave. I started chanting something. I felt like I was screaming it but no one looked. I believe I walked past the group and went towards the back. I took a right and walk towards the little girl’s grave then took another right from it. Still my legs weren’t moving by me but they were walking me. All of a sudden, I walked right into Lenny. I didn’t see him at all. I just saw everything else. I stopped chanting and looked up at Lenny. All of a sudden, I felt this overwhelming sense of sadness and started to cry. It felt like I had to go somewhere and Lenny stopped me…someplace important. Then Lenny instructed everyone out of the graveyard and we walked around. We watched the back right corner and I could feel sadness. I couldn’t stop crying. Both Lenny and I could see a white house there. It was brightly glowing with light. I could see the details from the door to the two windows. We walked to the tree where I started to feel different. Lenny pointed out a single streak of ice drifting down the one side. Lenny touched it and said he felt cold. I placed my right hand on the ice and it was burning. I placed my other hand on the tree and closed my eyes and placed my forehead on it. Again, the sadness came back stronger. I started crying. Lenny soon escorted me out of the graveyard. I stopped right at the edge of it and I couldn’t move forward. In my head, I couldn’t hear a voice but something told me, “Don’t go”. I looked at everyone standing by the cars. You were all looking at me with concern. I could see everyone’s eyes looking into mine. Then I thought loudly in my head, “But I want to go”. Again, I felt it say, “Don’t go with them! Don’t!” and then I screamed in my mind, “No! I want to go to them!” All of a sudden I coughed and hunched over. I was trying to push myself forward and out of the graveyard. I felt something leave out of me. It was like you were laying in a bed on your stomach and someone rips the heavy blanket off of you fast. As soon as that happened I fell forward out of the graveyard. I tried to catch myself and Lenny caught me by my arm. As soon as it left my body, I felt like a big piece of me was taken out. It was as if we were one and it left me. I could feel the hole in my body and all that was left there was sadness. We got in the car and left. I was trying my hardest not to cry in front of everyone in the car. But I still cried. Then later in the garage, Lenny asked me what I was chanting. I tried to think as hard as I could but suddenly a massive headache took over.  The right side of my brain felt like a giant black void was on it applying huge amounts of pressure on it. That night while I was trying to sleep, I kept thinking about what happened. After several replays of the event, I now strongly believe that the reason why I couldn’t feel my legs moving was because it was trying to lead me somewhere and I cried because Lenny stopped me.”

 He said he had felt the spirit directing him towards the large tree that had ice running down it.  Theresa said that she had followed him, curious about what he was picking up. She said she also went to the tree and when she touched it for a few minutes everything went silent and all she could hear was her own breathing. As she continued following Jeff, she said he wasn’t talking at all, but he claims he was chanting and his voice turned into a scream that no one could hear. 

He believes that in that moment, he experienced psychic awakening—when a sudden surge of psychic energy that has slowly manifested in someone is quickly brought to the surface.

That was 15 years ago and though we returned to the spot a few more times, we quickly outgrew it. Because it was so long ago, I base much of our experiences on being young and easily excitable. Someday I will go back and get a more mature read on the place to judge whether there is truly something there and will provide a follow up story when I do.

If anyone has anything to add about Hell’s Hollow or Reichard Cemetery, knows the true history behind the spots, or has an experience they would like to share, please contact me!

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