Monday, September 26, 2016

The Cryptid Creatures of South Central PA, Part III: The Hidebehind

Illustration by Timothy Renner - all rights reserved.

When the Europeans arrived in Pennsylvania the First Nations people warned them about following things through the woods and being followed through the woods. They were told of the strange lights - which we now know as orbs or will-o-the-wisps - and they were told not to follow these lights through the forest. To do so would bring misfortune. They were also warned of another creature which would stalk them through the trees - a thing which would become known as The Hidebehind. 

The Hidebehind was not the shy and retiring creature the name may suggest, but the most feared entity in the Pennsylvania forests. While no one could say for sure what The Hidebehind looked like - for none who saw it ever returned - its behaviors are well noted. It stayed just out of sight in the brush, peeking from the trees and pacing people through the woods. The Hidebehind hunted its human prey through the forest, creeping up behind them and taking the unexpected and unfortunate.

It was said only the bravest should be the last in line when traveling through the forest. For it was only the bravest souls who could be relied upon to never look behind as they walked. To look behind would spell your doom, for those that saw The Hidebehind were struck with fear and panic - and would surely be taken by the creature. So too would those who traveled the woods at night. The Hidebehind was dangerous at any time - but at night it became particularly deadly.

Those familiar with cryptids will recognize the stalking, tree-peeking, and pacing of people through the woods as bigfoot behavior. Indeed some places in Pennsylvania and others in the southern states do call bigfoot creatures by the name of The Hidebehind even today. It would be safe to say that The Hidebehind was a local name for a sasquatch - before the terms “bigfoot” and “sasquatch” became common currency.

In David Paulides Missing 411 series - wherein he documents many missing people, mostly from National Parks - he notes that a great many of the disappeared were the last in line of their party. Paulides also identifies certain clusters of missing people throughout North America. Yosemite and The Great Smokey Mountains National Parks, for instance, are identified as two of the largest clusters. The entire state of Pennsylvania is noted as another cluster. So, we have this supposedly folkloric creature, The Hidebehind who was noted by the First Nations people to snatch the last traveller in line … many years later we have Paulides reporting that people who are the last in line of their party are going missing in the wilderness. If it is a coincidence, it’s certainly very interesting. If it is not a coincidence then we may have answers as to what is taking some of the missing.

The original story I heard about our local Toad Road in York County - before all the crazy (and false) nonsense of burning insane asylums and mad doctors was a simple, haunting phrase: “Don’t look behind you on Toad Road.” This, along with the reports of things around Toad Road such as screams; tree-peeking; stalking; a man being attacked by a hairy monster etc - all connected the area to The Hidebehind and to older Pennsylvania folklore in general. 

If you want to know the true story of Toad Road and of cryptids, will-o-the-wisps, and other strange phenomena in South Central Pennsylvania, check out my book, Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Upcoming appearances for Beyond the Seventh Gate

Upcoming appearances related to Beyond the Seventh Gate:

Wednesday September 23, 2016 (Actually Thursday morning September 24): I will be on Coast to Coast AM from 3:00 am - 5:00 am Eastern Time discussing the book and strangeness in South Central Pennsylvania.

Saturday September 24, 2016: I will be at East Coast Para Con in Scranton, PA selling and signing copies of Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Wednesday September 28, 2016: I will be on Arcane Radio discussing Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Saturday October 8, 2016: I will be at the Albatwitch Festival in Columbia, PA.

        • In the morning I will be playing music with my folk band, Stone Breath. We have a new album out soon called CRYPTIDS which is all about strange creatures, ghosts, and legends. Much of this album ties in with Beyond the Seventh Gate.

        • In the afternoon I will be giving a talk and presentation about strangeness in South Central Pennsylvania and Beyond the Seventh Gate.

        • All day - I will be selling and signing copies of my book, Stone Breath albums, Albatwitch shirts, art prints and more.

No date set: I will be appearing a second time on Sasquatch Chronicles podcast discussing the albatwitch and other "little people" with host, Wes, and frequent guest, Duke. This show should appear sometime soon.

I will be appearing on Paranormal Science radio discussing Beyond the Seventh Gate.

Monday, September 12, 2016

The Cryptid Creatures of South Central PA, part II: The Albatwitch

Albatwitch illustration by the author. All rights reserved.

During my recent appearance on Sasquatch Chronicles podcast I mentioned my research on the albatwitch creatures of South Central Pennsylvania. I guess this must have struck a chord because I have been contacted by other researchers, a TV show and several individuals wanting to discuss the creatures ... while I see Wes (Sasquatch Chronicles) is planning an upcoming show on the “little people” - which is what the albatwitch seem to be known as further abroad.

So, what are the albatwitch? A quick search of the web will turn up some slight information: 3-5 foot tall, hairy ape-men who seem to be fond of apples and live around the Susquehanna River (most notably the Chickies Rock area - though albatwitches have been reported on the York County side of the river as well). Whatever these creatures are, they are not simply juvenile bigfoot - for they are never seen in conjunction with adult bigfoot. Albatwitch proportions are different as well - they are reported as thinner creatures, with arms and legs proportionately like humans; and with round heads that sit atop their shoulders (bigfoot are often reported as having “no neck” or a head that protrudes from the shoulders as opposed to sitting atop their shoulders like humans).

You will also read that “albatwitch” is some kind of Pennsylvania Dutch-ified English compound word for “apple-snitch” or apple-stealer. One must make some tremendous verbal leaps to get from “apple-snitch” all the way to albatwitch! That is, if you are thinking of “albatwitch” as an English word. Of course, the Pennsylvania Dutch are not Dutch in origin, but German - and German is still spoken by many people in the area. So, with help again from my German friend Moritz Maier, let’s look at some other possibilities… taking a passage from my book, Beyond the Seventh Gate:

The name, albatwitch, is commonly reported to be a Pennsylvania Dutchified compound word derived ultimately from English ‘applesnitch’, i.e. ‘apple-stealer’. However, alb is a German word for an ‘elf’ or spirit. Given the nature of the creatures, it seems at least as likely that albatwitch might be a mixed compound word, combining German ‘alb’ + English ‘witch’, i.e. ‘elf-witch’ or ‘spirit-witch’. Another possibility is that the word is derived from a combination of German ‘alb’ with Pennsylvania Dutch snitz - ‘snitz’ being a Pennsylvania Dutch term for apples. This would give the word the sense of ‘apple-elf’ or ‘apple-spirit’.

Since publishing, Moritz has turned up some more information for me: there is an obscure German verb witschen which describes an agile, quick, gliding type movement. (Interesting to note how bigfoot locomotion is often described as “gliding” - people describe them moving somewhat like cross-country skiers.) Probably related to witschen is the more common German verb entwishen - “to escape”. Alb-witschen or Alb-entwishen would give us a agile, quick or escaping elf/spirit. Keeping the entire word German, ALBWITSCHEN or ALBENTWISHEN  seem far more likely a root for “albatwitch” than either my “alb-snitz” and “alb-witch” guesses above OR the commonly reported “apple-snitch” you will find elsewhere.

The Susquehannock Indians knew well of the albatwitch, and painted images of the creatures on their war shields. The Algonquin also told of small hairy hominid creatures known as Megumoowesoos. Like the Celtic fairies, Megumoowesoos were said to lure people into the woods with wonderful music. Bewitched by the sound of the creatures’ flutes, many who heard and followed the flute songs disappeared. Here again we have the recurring idea of a creature (or other phenomenon) either luring people into the woods, or else taking people already in the woods, with the people in either case never being seen again.

The albatwitches were said to live mostly in the trees. Preferring to keep to the shadows, they made their presence known by a sound like a cracking whip (perhaps this is aggressive branch-breaking, a well known bigfoot trait?). Picnickers at Chickies Rock have reported their apples stolen and sometimes even thrown back at them. 

I go on to present three modern albatwitch encounters in the book. Two from the general area of Chickies Rock and one from just outside of Red Lion, Pennsylvania in York County. Encounters with these creatures - whether in South Central Pennsylvania or abroad - seem to be exceedingly rare. By contrast I have nearly 50 bigfoot encounters from South Central PA in the book.

On a recent episode of Sasquatch Chronicles, Wes Germer reports that these creatures are called “little people” by modern Native Americans and have been reported all over the country. They are very quick, mischievous, and aggressive if cornered. This reported aggressive nature of the creatures makes one wonder if some of the encounters with so-called Devil Monkeys are not, in actuality, albatwitch encounters. While we are speculating: perhaps another look at the Jacobs Photos is due - this time with the albatwitch in mind. Bigfoot creatures don’t tend to get caught on trail cams - they seem to understand in some way what they are and how to avoid them. Perhaps albatwitch, though much rarer, are easier to catch on film?

Local legend states that the albatwitch were “hunted to extinction” in the 1800s… however, with area sightings as recent as 2008 it seems the reports of the albatwitches’ demise have been greatly exaggerated.

My albatwitch illustration above is available as a t-shirt ... contact me directly to order, or see the Lost Grave Etsy Store.

If you have seen something like an albatwitch, bigfoot, or anything else strange or unusual in the area, please contact SEEKERS and report your sighting.