Retired cop-turned-author shares ghost tales of Route 30, foothills
Monks, nuns, scorned lovers and soldiers are among the cast of characters who people New Florence native Ed Kelemen's books.
Boniface Wimmer, who founded St. Vincent College in Unity, is among the local spirits Kelemen chronicled in his book, “Route 30: Pennsylvania's Haunted Highway,” and “Haunted Foothills,” another book that was a collaboration between Mary Ann Mogus and Kelemen.
Wimmer is said to stroll across the cemetery grounds to the chapel on campus and sit in on a Mass every once and a while.
“They think that he comes by to check on the well-being of the priests who came after him,” Kelemen told the crowd of about 85 people at a Latrobe AARP meeting last month.
Kelemen, 69, a retired police officer, has turned to writing about history, crime and haunts as president of the Ligonier Valley Writers and a member of the Greensburg Writers Group.
In what he called “an excuse to take long motorcycle trips on my bike,” he collected stories about spirits between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh along the Lincoln Highway.
The author said the turmoil and emotions that come with traveling the highway are a natural partner to supernatural encounters.
“A lot of that comes from death,” Kelemen said.
Security guards on the campus at St. Vincent College once saw the form of a monk who died in an accident, Kelemen told the crowd.
“Whoever this brother is, he turns the lights on for attention, and they can see a face in one of the windows,” he said.
Kelemen recalled a incident in which female students in a dormitory used a Ouija board to agitate a spirit named Henry. The ghost crashed a full-length mirror to prove he was real when some male students made fun of him.
“Through the Ouija board, they apologized to Henry, and Henry stopped bothering the people,” Kelemen said.
At Seton Hill University in Greensburg, observers have been known to see nuns in the mist in the cemetery, and another sister who walks the hallways of Maura Hall.
On campus, a child has been seen tossing a baseball, but will run away when called, Kelemen said.
“He just screams, and he'll run right through a tree and disappear,” he said. “They don't know where he came from or anything.”
Apparitions even appear at the Westmoreland County Courthouse in Greensburg, Kelemen said, especially on the walkway that used to be the second floor of the old jail, where prisoners were hanged in the early 1900s.
“From time to time, they have a security camera right there that beams that particular spot. From time to time, they'll see the lower half of a person's body just swinging back and forth there,” he said. “It's strange.”
During that story, members of the crowd reacted to the storyteller with murmurs about the “creepy” recollections.
Judy Larson, program chairman for the AARP chapter, asked the author how to better see or feel the presence of the spirits.
Kelemen answered that “haunts” can manifest themselves differently, including as orbs in photos, but those are usually only dust motes. Ghosts have to consume energy, which is why cold spots are often reported or equipment batteries drain quickly, he said.
“The spirits are absorbing the heat to get energy to manifest themselves in another way,” he said.
The local author plans to have another book full of ghoul tales finished, “Haunted Route 22,” as a part of a book signing from 1 to 3 p.m. April 12 in the Norwin Public Library.
After the presentation, AARP member Linda Bulter of Derry Township bought two copies of Kelemen's “Haunted Foothills.” She said she likes to collect ghost stories as a former member of Ghost Researchers and Investigators of Pennsylvania, and wanted to send the other book to a friend in the group.
Larson said she enjoyed the presentation, especially tales of local sightings.
“He gave us some local color, and that's what we were looking for,” she said. “I think most anybody has had an experience with ghosts, maybe not a sighting but a feeling. ... I'm sure everybody has a story like that.”
Stacey Federoff is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-836-6660 or email@example.com.