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  • Writer's pictureLuke Ramer

Do You Believe in Ghosts?

The Lockridge Furnace is home to some of my most vibrant memories from the time I was a kid until today. I played manhunt there, filmed horror movies there, and spent one summer night there looking for a ghost. The Black Lady, to be exact.

Do you believe in ghosts?

People ask me that a lot, and I’m honestly never quite sure how to answer that question.

The Lock Ridge Furnace was the industrial claim to fame for the small town of Alburtis, Pennsylvania. The iron mill operated from 1868 until 1921. Nowadays, it’s a park and part-time museum that looks like the ruins of an ancient castle. Its crumbling yet timeless beauty and mysterious allure bring people in daily. Whether it’s a Saturday afternoon or a Tuesday Morning, you’ll find someone there with a camera—taking wedding pictures, shooting modeling photos, or, in my case over the years, filming a bunch of actors running around covered in fake blood splatter.

The massive building sits in the middle of the property, surrounded by stone arches and slabs, sitting like some sort of small-town Stonehenge. Around that is a series of macadam paths that loop around the edge of the property, twisting through woods. A couple bridges let you walk over the creek that flows through. There is a small waterfall on the west side of the property.

I remember as a kid, there was a Tarzan rope rigged up from a high tree branch. You could swing out across the creek and fall into the slightly deeper water but almost always scrape up your feet and knees. Sometimes I look back on my youth and wonder how I never broke a single bone.

They used to hold a May Day celebration on the open lawn in front of the furnace entrance. It’s hard to understand nowadays, with technology everywhere, but when we were kids with only an NES on our parent’s sole television, no cell phone, no internet, we got really excited when there were events around town. We all rode our bikes down to Lockridge at the edge of Alburtis. The crowd was huge for a town that is less than a mile wide. There were food trucks, arts & crafts, and other vendors. In the center was a Renaissance-style performance that involved dancing, a Jester, and the crowning of the May Queen. My sister was actually May Queen one year.

But us boys weren’t there for the May Day show; we were there for the big bald African dude who always slouched back in his fold-up chair, his eyes squinting even though he was in the shade. His table was the best… Smoke bombs, stink bombs, candy cigarettes, toy guns, comic books, and God knows what else. We loaded up every year. I wonder whatever happened to that guy.

But in those endless summer days, the blazing daylight eventually waned, giving way to lightning bugs and the magic of dusk in the park, where everything slowly fades out of sight. But in Lockridge, everyone was out before it got fully dark, leaving the park eerily quiet. No one wanted to be there when she woke up.

We had all heard the legend, with plenty of variations, but this is the way I know it best…

In 1902 business was good for the Lockridge Furnace and its Vice President. Now, his name changes depending on who is the story, but I knew him as Harold Hunsberger. But the records are spotty at best.

One night, he's sitting in the American House, the town bar right next to the train tracks, a popular spot for train crews to stop and rest. By the time I was a kid, it had deteriorated into a rundown eyesore, but it was a bustling jewel back then.

Anyway, Harold is at the bar sipping whiskey when he gets the news that his wife has fallen ill. Some witnesses said Harold finished his whiskey before walking off to check on her.

A week later, Harold is pounding whiskey after his wife’s funeral. The townspeople try to offer condolences, make small talk, but it is very apparent that Harold wants to be left alone. The funny thing is, later, the bartender would write in his journal that there was something funny about Harold that night. Everyone else thought he was grieving, but the bartender seemed to believe he was actually celebrating.

The next night Harold is having dinner at the bar when Bonnie walks in; she had arrived by train with two heavy bags. No one knows her last name, but all accounts I’ve heard say she had long flowing black hair and was beautiful but timid. Bonnie came in flustered, and Harold helped take her bags, find her a seat, and get her some wine. They talked for hours as she loosened up. She had fled a violent situation and took the train as far as she could afford. She was relieved to find a warm welcome, a place to start over.

They drank until closing time, stumbled up the warm pavement to Harold’s house on Main Street, and fucked until the sun came up. Harold looked around his bedroom and saw all of his wife’s things still sitting there… inanimate objects watching him, judging him. He looked back at Bonnie next to him, wondered how old she was, what the people would think if they knew he was screwing a girl fresh into town the night after burying his wife. He woke her up in haste, acting like it was a big mistake, and pushed her out the door.

Bonnie had little money but found a tiny room on West 2nd Street. She had fled an abusive relationship, something that was much harder for a young girl to do back then. She had left her life behind and risked everything coming to a new town. She was determined to stay and make the best of her new life. In her first couple weeks, she found work at a local shirt factory, planted a garden in her shared yard, and realized she was pregnant.

On a breezy Autumn night she went to Hunsberger’s house and knocked on the giant red door of his brick house on Main Street. He opened the door with an instant moment of dread on his face. Bonnie went inside, and his dreadful suspicions were confirmed.

Harold asked her to take a walk, said he wanted to show her where he worked, down in Lockridge. She agreed. It’s not clear what Bonnie was thinking at this point. Perhaps she was naïve enough to believe he was leading her to the perfect moonlight proposal? No one knows the details of her troubled past; maybe she just wanted to believe she was about to finally find happiness.

He led her down the road past the furnace, over a bridge, and down a stone path. It led to a towering peak with a steep drop off, perhaps fifty feet, to rocks below. We used to call this area The Crusher, although I never understood how it got that name. Surrounding it was nothing but trees. Undeveloped land. Opportunity… that’s how he saw it. But Hunsberger knew his beautiful future would disappear if the judgmental townspeople found out he had knocked up the new girl in town.

They stood under the dark sky, hand in hand. Hunsberger leaned in and kissed her, the air around them still, the moonlight shining down on them at the perfect angle like a portrait. Bonnie felt his hands around her waist and a moment later he thrust her over the cliff. Her body toppling, screams swirling around the trees in an echo that ended as her skull splattered on the rocks below. She had purposely tried to land on her back to protect her stomach, her baby. But in the end it didn’t matter. Hunsberger burned the body in the furnace and no one ever saw Bonnie again. The few people in town that did know her just assumed she up and left. Gone as quick as she had arrived.

Harold Hunsberger supposedly died sometime before 1921 when the furnace closed its doors for good, but records from that time are hard to come by. Rumor had it that he disappeared somewhere after dark when working late outside the Furnace, but nothing can be confirmed.

One night when I was a teenager, my friends and I walked the paths at the stroke of midnight, when it was rumored that the ghost of Bonnie was the most active. I carried a flashlight I had grabbed from my Dad’s toolbox. Besides the beam of my light I was ensconced in darkness, the trees towering over me, the sound of my feet kicking loose rocks. Ahead I could barely make out some of the stone ruins. I kept waiting for eyes in the darkness, the silhouette of the Black Lady, of Bonnie. Many of my friends around town had claimed to have seen her. Countless tales of a baby crying somewhere in the darkness, a female voice screeching in pain and anger, and sightings of a scorched-black silhouette of a young woman with hair flowing endlessly in the air behind her.

I walked away from my friends to a giant concrete archway to pee. As my stream hit the ground, I noticed there was no sound. I was peeing onto concrete but didn’t hear a thing. Or maybe I was just scared more than I wanted to admit and was imagining things. But the towering archway seemed to close in on me, the bugs swarming relentlessly in my eyes and ears. Goosebumps raised on my arms. I couldn’t tell if it was wind or breath on the back of my neck. I didn’t turn around.

I stood in the darkness and zipped up. I could hear my friends’ voices fading farther away. I took a deep breath and spoke out loud, spoke as if addressing Bonnie herself, told her it was fucked up what happened to her. Told her that I sympathized with her. To be honest, I felt incredibly silly for a moment but then there was an odd stillness. I turned and saw nothing. The goosebumps on my arms slowly vanished. The bugs wandered off and left me alone. The breeze calmed down. My fear subsided. No longer scared, I walked across the grass to catch up with my friends.

I probably didn’t talk to a ghost, probably just my mind making peace with itself, overcoming my own anxiety. Probably… but maybe The Black Lady, Bonnie, was there that night. Maybe she just needed to hear that someone cared, that someone understood, and that I wasn’t her enemy. I’ve never actually seen a ghost in real life, so it’s hard for me to say that I believe in ghosts. But we’ve all had those moments—in a dark basement, old attic, dark alley at night—where we feel like there’s something right behind us, a boogeyman in the shadows. Whether the Black Lady was actually there that night or not, that experience taught me that talking to possible ghosts takes my fear away. Hey, whatever works.

So I guess if I talk to ghosts, whether I see them or not, I must believe—at least a little bit—that they exist.

As I walk through Lockridge today, people walk their dogs, take photos in front of the giant concrete archways, and fish in the creek; but it still retains that beautiful yet mysterious feeling in the air, whispers of an era gone by. Ghosts trying to tell their stories. If you're ever in Lockridge, you just might hear one.

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