Years later, during an ancestor search at the church cemetery, I discovered the grave of my great-great-great grandfather Levi Kreiser, a Civil War veteran who had fought at Wilderness with the 93rd Pennsylvania Volunteers when he was no longer a young man. And also found there, to my surprise, the grave of Joseph Raber, murdered by drowning in Indiantown Creek in 1878 for a life insurance policy that a group of men had taken out on him.
In that moment the source of the ghost story became clear.
The group leader was Charles Drews, a German immigrant, also a Civil War veteran of the 93rd Regiment. He was married to Sabina Kreiser. Sabina’s sister, Polly, lived nearby with Raber in a one-room mountain cabin.
Edna Carmean’s book about the murder, The Blue-Eyed Six (frankly, the In Cold Blood of Pennsylvania history, just an excellent read) tells the chilling details. When her husband returned from committing the murder, Sabina took his dripping coat and hung it to dry. She had to have known what he had just done. What huge betrayal. Huge.
As Carmean noted, people were immediately suspicious about the cause of Raber's death partly because Indiantown Creek is barely deep enough to wade in.
Decades later, around World War II, my mother was walking to the Lebanon city market with her aunt, Mabel Kreiser Fields, when they passed a member of the Drews family. “We don’t talk to them,” Mabel told my mother sternly.
Over the mountain from Indiantown Gap lie the remains of the Cold Springs Hotel where the men had met and planned the murder. Five of the six were hanged but they were not the only ones who were absent without leave from their senses, let alone from the divine spark. A brutal chain led to Raber's death and included state legislators and the insurance industry. Reforms were enacted afterward, but insurance remains the equivalent of legalized gambling.
I biked on the rail trail there recently and visited the site of the hotel (the trail was open to motor vehicles Sunday, October 14, 2012, a once-a-year event). Easily the most untamed, isolated trail I’ve ever ridden or hiked. Majestic trees and mountainous boulders. Not a single human being the whole time, even though the weather was fine.
On the way back I heard a coyote yip nearby in the forest, and pedaled fast back to my car at Goldmine Road.