From witches to ghosts to bumps in the night, Delaware County is well represented when it comes to the mood appropriate for cooler, darker evenings and the arrival of Halloween.
In the very first volume of Delaware County Historical Society’s own minutes from 1895 to 1901, the topic of “Some Ghosts and Haunted Places in Delaware County” took up considerable mention.
In fact, the proceedings tell of one British sentinel who has been known to make his appearance seen in the area of Tinicum Island each November.
According to DCHS minutes, in November 1777, a British vessel landed at Tinicum Island at the mouth of Darby Creek, to plunder a nearby farmhouse of “edibles, poultry and liquor.” They left one sentinel behind to protect the yawl from enemy capture. However, the Whigs learned of his presence and killed him.
“(F)or years afterward it was asserted by residents of the locality that on the night of the anniversary of his death, a spectral British marine in the uniform of that day, could be seen walking post, his figure, on occasions when the moon was full, being magnified in the hazy light,” the minutes proclaimed.
Colonial soldier ghosts are also reported as evident in Charles Adams’ Ghost Stories of Delaware County. Among his stories, Adams wrote that Rich Paul told of two sightings of a Revolutionary War soldier roaming the Thomas Massey house. One, in fact, was quite a bit perturbed the house was named after Massey. After his own research, Paul said he found a former resident of the house, Joshua Lawrence, did serve in the war.
In the story Paul joked, “Maybe he’s the ghost and maybe he thinks the place should be named after him ... it is on Lawrence Road. But, I guess that’s not enough for him.”
One woman to be put on trial for witchcraft in Delaware County was acquitted thanks to the wisdom of William Penn.
Margaret Mattson lived with her husband, Neels, on a large acreage in the area of the Baldwin Locomotive plant in Eddystone. Accused of placing curses on neighbor’s cows and being possessed by demons, Mattson was charged by the Provincial Council and pled not guilty.
A jury found her “Guilty of haveing the Comon fame of a witch, but not guilty in manner and forme as Shee stand Indicted.”
Legend has it that Penn himself asked Mattson at the trial if she was a witch and if she had ever ridden through the air on a broomstick. Confused, she answered yes.
To which, Penn allegedly noted there was no law against riding through the air on a broomstick and he recommended acquittal.
Stories and books on these and other local ghosts are stored at the home of DCHS at 408 Avenue of the States, please call 610-359-0832 or 610-872-0502. It is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; 10 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Thursday; and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on the second Saturday of the month. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Appointments are also available upon request. Parking is free in the lot behind the building or across the street in the city’s municipal lot. Memberships are encouraged and donations are graciously accepted.
Charles J. Adams III's tome of spooky tales in Delco can be read at Delaware County Historical Society.