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A Tragedy in Ghost Hollow

Was a ghostly apparition responsible for the death of young Katie Leininger?

A phaeton carriage, similar to the type used by Katie Leininger

"Little did they think when they left home that before they returned one of those robes would be a shroud of blood and one of their bodies a lifeless, horribly mangled corpse."

In Lebanon County there exists a place known to locals since time immemorial as Ghost Hollow. For more than a century, strange things have happened near this rural stretch along Mill Creek between Shaefferstown and Newmanstown. In 1876, a teenage girl lost her life in a horrific carriage accident along present-day Route 419, just outside the tiny village of Millbach. According to the victim's brother-- who witnessed the entire incident-- something "otherworldly" was to blame. 

From the June 30, 1876 edition of the Osage County Chronicle (Burlingame, Kansas):

NEWMANSTOWN, Lebanon County, Pa., June 20.-- The strangest of all ghost stories is creating a terrible excitement in this section of Pennsylvania. Miss Katie Leininger, aged 18, a beautiful and accomplished young lady, has been dragged to death and her body horribly mutilated; and her untimely fate is attributed to a terrible ghostly apparition that frightened her horse on a public road, on their way to this quiet village in the night.

Miss Leininger is the daughter of a citizen of this place. She invited a friend to accompany her to a country fair about five miles from the village. The lady who went with her was Miss Ada Hoffman, also from this village. Their conveyance, consisting of one of the family horses and an open phaeton, was got ready, and a young brother of Miss Hoffman went with them to drive. 

The journey to the fair in the twilight was delightful, as the drive was among some of the finest scenery in the state. They arrived at the small village of Schaefferstown at 7 o'clock, and enjoyed a very pleasant evening with their acquaintances at the festival. The two young ladies were recognized as the representative belles of that section, being courted and flattered for their many qualities and accomplishments. The weather was warm and they were dressed in white cambric robes. Little did they think when they left home that before they returned one of those robes would be a shroud of blood and one of their bodies a lifeless, horribly mangled corpse.

It was after 11 o'clock before the young ladies told their attendant they desired to leave. The night had grown very dark, and as the road was as dangerous at midnight as it was grand in the twilight, the friends of the young ladies importuned and begged them to remain until morning. This they refused, stating that they desired to go home that night and they were not afraid to travel over the road, as they had frequently done before. They left their friends and proceeded on their journey homeward.

They had gone about a mile along a small stream known as Mill Creek, when the young driver says that he saw a strange, unearthly looking object ahead of him on the road. He knew that he was near a ravine known for a long number of years as Ghost Hollow. All of a sudden the white object came nearer and frightened the horse. The boy-driver is about fourteen years of age, and he insists that the fearful thing jumped upon the horse's back, which set the animal running at a frightful pace. 

Over the road the horse plunged in the black night, and the young ladies screamed with fright. Within three quarters of a mile of this village they reached a small bridge spanning Mill Creek. The horse dashed madly to one side and struck a stone heap, partly demolishing the carriage. The animal was intensely frightened and began to rear and plunge. The driver leaped out and carried the reins with him. The horse darted ahead over the rocks and Miss Hoffman, seeing that her brother, the driver, jumped, cried that she too was going to jump if she lost her life. Miss Leininger said, "No! For heaven's sake keep your seat!" 

There was a short struggle and Miss Hoffman, who is a stout well built person, was master of the situation, and she jumped. The wheels caught her dress and after carrying her around several times she dropped on the rocks nearly senseless. She shrieked fearfully when she was first caught and this added to the fright of Miss Leininger, who was still in her carriage. The horse dashed ahead and Miss Leininger heard the noise of the rushing water. She then determined to leap.

She made the effort, and jumped from the front of the carriage instead of the back. Her foot caught in the running-gear near the forward spring and she could not disengage herself. Her body touched the ground. The horse plunged madly on and the unfortunate young lady screamed in vain for help. There were not many houses near the road and the people were all in bed and sleeping soundly. The horse dragged the bleeding, mangled, lifeless young woman at least half a mile, going directly to his home, and when he reached there he walked slowly, while the lifeless corpse of the young daughter of the household was being dragged on the ground.

The father of the young woman sat at home waiting for his dear one to arrive. He heard the horse pass and he went to the front door to see. It was too dark to distinguish his own animal. Finally a neighbor, also returning from the same fair, saw the horse and caught him. He had a lantern and, looking under the carriage, he discovered the mangled body of the once beautiful young lady of the adjoining farm. The two households were aroused and when the men had come together the gashed and bleeding corpse was removed with difficulty. The sight was a horrible one. The back part of her head and back were rubbed flat and the flesh was off to the bone. Her beautiful black hair laid in ringlets clotted with blood along the road. The highway appeared as though a log had been dragged over it. 

The surviving young lady is now lying at the point of death. So is the mother of the dead. The driver still insists that a horrible ghost-like form or shadow frightened the horse.

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