Continuing on in the subject of my previous blog entry, “A Haunted Church” I would have to relate that sometimes I get some flak from other Christian Ministers for even suggesting a church that is right with God can be haunted. Many offhandedly cast aside even the remote possibility that such an occurrence could happen.
While I will not give an extensive history of such here, (and if one were to make a scholarly search in historical documents and published records from around the world, the concept of a ‘haunted church’ is not only not an oxymoron, it seems to be quite a common occurrence) I would like to highlight in this article one of the most disturbing occurrences of a church haunting I have ever encountered.
This encounter with a dubious entity also was published on the front page of a leading Western Pennsylvania Newspaper over a century ago. Yet today it has been long lost in the mists of time, and all but this historian know of what happened in that ancient churchyard in Shenango Township, in Lawrence County Pennsylvania, so many years ago.
It was November, 1869, when David Barge came trudging through the dark woods that surrounded the outskirts of New Castle Pennsylvania one dark Thursday, late in the evening. He came through the mostly unexplored back woods to open the doors of the small Savannah Methodist Episcopal church for the weekly prayer meeting. It was not an uncommon thing for him to do, for since he had come back from his duties as an officer in the American Civil War, he had began to seek solace within the church, and it was quickly becoming his only brief bit of peace from memories of the bitter conflict that had ripped not only his country apart but his local community as well.
All the horrors he had beheld in this conflict of brother between brother within the past decade did not prepare him for the horrors that awaited him in the churchyard that late November night.
The New Castle News of Monday, February 26th, 1917, tells of the encounter of that dark Thursday night. Reporter David P. Jackson related the tale told to him by the eyewitnesses:
“As it sometimes happened that nobody came to the prayer meetings, he waited in front of the church to see whether it would be necessary to light up or not. No one came and as he turned around to start home, there stood a mysterious thing beside him. David Barge was a veteran soldier…He had courage to contend with flesh and blood but this thing seemed to be a fallen spirit untimely released from the vastly deep, where, since the flood, they had been confined in chains of darkness waiting judgment day. “There is something about the mysterious and uncanny that is more terrifying than real danger and this ghostly figure did something which Confederate guns had failed to do. He was so panic stricken fled wildly from the churchyard, so anxious to put space between him and the apparition that he did not take time to open the gate but leaped the fence. His agitation was so great that when he reached home, nearly a mile away, his folks noticed something was wrong, and with some difficulty induced him to relate what had happened, as he knew he would be laughed at.”
Barge’s 18 year old nephew, Eli Gaston was there at the time. The next evening Gaston and his brother went to their friend’s farm on which land the tiny church stood. They had great sport at the expense of Eli’s Uncle and his great scare from the ‘ghost’ by the church. After a few hours of joking about they decided that they would investigate the churchyard themselves. So they walked through the cornfields and made their way to the tiny church. They stood there where David Barge had stood the night before and they saw nothing. Having proved their point they turned to walk home.