Skip to main content

A ghostly tale of Mt. Carmel's Reliance Colliery



Reliance Colliery, located south of Mount Carmel on Locust Mountain, saw many tragedies since its construction in 1867. Of these, the explosion of September 2, 1926, is perhaps best remembered, which claimed the lives of four miners and badly burned several more.

However, one remarkable tragedy that took place in the shadows of Reliance Colliery didn't involve a miner at all, but a middle-aged Lithuanian woman named Annie Metzgas. Her death in 1903 didn't warrant more than a few sentences in local papers, but the stories of her ghost haunting the surrounding hills kept the residents of Mount Carmel inside their homes at night for weeks after her unfortunate demise.

On Friday afternoon, July 10, a powerful thunderstorm swept over the area. It came suddenly, catching Annie Metzgas by surprise as she was picking huckleberries on the hill near the colliery. Annie had arrived in the country just a few months earlier, and barely spoke a word of English. She shared a home with her daughter, Mrs. Matthew Simonaitis, at 202 West Second Street, and was picking berries so that she could sell them in order to earn enough money to bring her husband to America.

When the storm clouds gathered overhead Annie made a run for it, eventually reaching a schoolhouse. She was spotted by Frank Lewis at around 3 o'clock, who was making repairs at the building, and he told her to go into the coal shed to get out of the driving rain. She didn't understand English, and the fact that the man had to yell in order to be heard over the terrible downpour probably frightened the poor woman; instead of seeking safety from the storm inside the shed, she continued to run, heading toward a clump of trees along the road.

Lewis went back to his work and didn't give the woman any thought until later that evening, when he was told that a miner named Wilson Blue, who was on his way to Reliance Colliery for the night shift, had found a dead woman beneath some trees. Blue found her face down in the dirt, near the base of a tree that had been charred by lightning. Blue notified his boss, Andrew Maurer, who in turn notified the undertaker. After the body was identified, it was taken back to the Simonaitis home, where it was later examined by Coroner Dreher.

According to Coroner Dreher, the back of Annie Metzgas' head was charred and her hair was scorched. The lightning strike had been so powerful that the heels of both her shoes were blasted off, and the tin pail she had been carrying was crushed.

Shortly after Annie's death, stories began to spread about a ghostly figure of a woman seen by several witnesses around Reliance Colliery. One witness, a young man, claimed that on the night of July 27 he encountered an apparition on the same stretch of road where Annie had been struck down. The Mount Carmel Item published an account of the incident:

Ever since Mrs. Annie Metzgas met her death by lightning near Reliance the place has possessed its terrors for supertitious. One young man declares that night before last he saw the apparition of a woman come in the road before him and disappear in the woods three times, the last disappearance being in a flash of blinding light. His tale is corroborated by another who professes to have had the same experience last night.

Was it merely a case of an over-active imagination? A hoax? Or did witnesses see the wandering soul of the poor Lithuanian woman whose life was suddenly snuffed out in a blinding flash one stormy summer afternoon in 1903?

Popular posts from this blog

Mount Carmel's Mysterious Suicide Cell

Tucked away at the head of North Oak Street in Mount Carmel is a quaint shop housed in a tiny historic brick building. The Shop at Oak & Avenue is a must-see destination for visitors, offering an impressive variety of gifts and handmade jewelry. It is a gem in an otherwise drab coal town whose glory days faded away with the demise of the steam locomotive and the trolley.

While this quaint small town gift shop gives off a pleasant appearance, the history of the building-- one of the oldest in the borough-- is tinged with horror and death. For this tiny building, erected in the 1880s, served as Mount Carmel's first city hall and jail, and this jail had a rather dark distinction of being the site of the cursed and mysterious "suicide cell".

History records six suicides taking place in the basement cell, along with scores of other attempted suicides. For a reason that has defied explanation, this tiny jail in this tiny town seems to bring out the darkest demons lurking wi…

Natalie, Pennsylvania: A Murderer's Paradise

When a miner named Michael Wanzie was murdered in June of 1905, it was evident that something wasn't quite right in the tiny village of Natalie. Although the scenic mountain village had a population of less than two hundred, the slaying of Michael Wanzie was the fourth murder committed in the village in less than a decade.

By 1924 the population had nearly doubled, thanks to a building "boom" that saw the construction of 40 new homes during the preceding year by builders employed by the Colonial Collieries Company, owners of the Natalie Colliery. Twenty of these homes, many of which still stand today, were built by the Evert Construction Company of Kulpmont. In 1923 there were 56 homes in the village, housing 375 residents. By April of 1924 that number would swell to just under 400 residents and 93 homes.

Although the building boom lent a measure of respectability to the village, Natalie was still imbued with a notorious reputation as being one of the most lawless places …

The True Story of Shamokin's Famous "Mystery Head"

Hardly a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a Pennsylvania Oddities reader asking me to write about the Shamokin "mystery head"-- yes, the very same human head, complete with curly hair and mustache, that was put on display in the window of the Farrow Funeral Home (presumably to show off the establishment's embalming abilities) and later displayed at a local mining museum. The head belonged to an unidentified murder victim whose headless body was found in the woods near the Hickory Ridge colliery in 1904, and the head has been a source of local pride and urban legend ever since.

I've resisted the urge to write about the "mystery head" for a few reasons. Having grown up in the area, I heard about it so many times that the story has worn thin. Secondly, the erroneous local legends and false claims are probably a lot more entertaining than the actual truth about the "mystery head". These local legends run the gamut from plausible to …