From structures that conjure Stonehenge, to rocks that sing, to a hotel with a Ouija board for a roof, these Pennsylvania destinations each have a story to tell.
In a state as old as Pennsylvania, with its diversity of rural and urban landscapes, it’s no wonder that some places can at times feel downright magical. Over the past few centuries, immigrants brought their legends and lore with them while natural areas formed millions of years ago stood sentinel. The peoples indigenous to Pennsylvania also shaped their folklore on this land and passed it down, where it mixed with the folklore of settlers.
Some places in the state, both new and old, hold mysteries about their origins. Other areas make visitors feel as if they’ve transcended reality. We’re highlighting places in Pennsylvania that feel somewhat mysterious, whether there’s an actual mystery involved or whether the landmark just inspires awe. Read on to start planning your next otherworldly day trip.
Columcille Megalith Park – Bangor
This park in Northampton County may have only been built in 1978, but it looks — and feels — ancient. This is because Columcille Megalith Park contains more than 90 megaliths, large stone structures made of massive rocks in the style of prehistoric monuments. Columcille was inspired by Scotland’s Isle of Iona, home of an ancient abbey and old Celtic stones. You can explore the 20 acres of Pennsylvania’s own sacred stone park, enjoying the peace and mystery of the place, via a set of walking trails.
Kecksburg UFO Monument and Festival – Kecksburg
In 1965, thousands of people reportedly saw a large fireball streak across the sky over the eastern US. In Westmoreland County’s Kecksburg, locals said they witnessed something falling into the woods, with some even claiming to have seen a large, acorn-like object in the forest. The forest area was quickly sealed to the public, but state police and other government officials reported that they found nothing.
Astronomers said that the fireball was likely a meteor. Others have speculated that the object was a Soviet satellite or even a UFO. In Kecksburg, you can visit a replica of the object, the Kecksburg Space Acorn, that serves as a monument to the strange incident. The town also honors its unofficial status as “Pennsylvania’s Roswell” each year with the Kecksburg UFO festival.
Gettysburg National Military Park – Gettysburg
The fields of Gettysburg take on a mystical quality as soon as one considers the thousands of people that were killed over three days during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863. Because of this grim history, Gettysburg has been a regular stop for people interested in ghost stories and haunted houses. Within Gettysburg National Military Park, a popular area to visit is Devil’s Den and its boulders, which provided cover for Union soldiers as they attacked advancing Confederates. Here, where the loss of life was immense back in 1863, visitors sometimes report their camera equipment malfunctioning or claim to have seen apparitions of men in old uniforms.
Toynbee Tiles – Philadelphia
The Toynbee Tiles appeared in the asphalt in dozens of major US and South American cities throughout the 1980s, with the greatest number of these mysterious tiles found in Philadelphia. The plaques featured cryptic inscriptions like “TOYNBEE IDEA/MOVIE 2001/RESURRECT DEAD/PLANET JUPITER” and other messages alluding to their creator’s worldview. In 2011, a documentary film came out about the tiles, theorizing that they were the work of a Philadelphia artist who installed the tiles via a hole in his car. Many of the tiles have been removed, but you can still visit some in Philly on Chestnut Street between 12th and 16th Streets. Check the Toynbee Tile map for other locations.
Labyrinth at Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park – Erie
The labyrinth at Erie’s Lake Erie Arboretum at Frontier Park (LEAF) is one of dozens of similar spiral structures across the state. While one may typically equate a labyrinth with a maze, many labyrinths have just one path that leads to the center. The form of the labyrinth is ancient and has been used for thousands of years for meditation and ritual. LEAF’s labyrinth is unicursal (it has a single path) and follows a meandering route — meant to inspire slow reflection — to the center. You may also seek out other labyrinths in Pennsylvania.
Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania – Wellsboro
The Appalachian Mountains formed more than 1 billion years ago, making these mountains older than bones. On the western side of the Appalachians, the Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania, officially known as the Pine Creek Gorge, cuts into the Appalachian Plateau for 45 miles, reaching depths of roughly 1,500 feet. Making your way to the gorge from the nearby town of Wellsboro is otherworldly. Suddenly, the ground drops and a gash in the earth stretches far beyond what you can see. Visit one of many Pine Creek Gorge overlooks to admire the view, which includes the Pine Creek River below. The Grand Canyon of Pa. is part of Tioga State Forest, where you can also enjoy hiking and waterfalls.
Kelpius Cave – Philadelphia
Within Wissahickon Valley Park in northwest Philadelphia lies a cave with ties to a doomsday cult. In the late seventeenth century, Lutheran sect leader Johannes Kelpius and his followers traveled to William Penn’s Province of Pennsylvania and lived in the forest that is now Wissahickon Valley Park. As the story goes, in order to meditate and pray for the end of the world — which the sect believed would occur in 1694 — Kelpius created what’s now known as Kelpius Cave or Hermit’s Cave. You can visit the cave by parking at Hermit Lane and walking along the Yellow Trail. A signpost will direct you to Hermit’s Cave.
Forest Cathedral in Cook Forest State Park – Cooksburg
The Forest Cathedral in Cook Forest State Park is an area of old-growth forest — indeed, it has some of the tallest trees in the entire northeastern US — and it lives up to its name. The majesty of the Forest Cathedral area, a national natural landmark, makes one feel as if they have been transported back to a time before most of the forests in Pa. were cleared. Walk under the towering, ancient white pines and hemlocks via trails such as Tom’s Run Trail (an easy hike) or Longfellow Trail (a more difficult hike).
Ringing Rocks County Park – Upper Black Eddy
When visiting this Bucks County park, be sure to bring a hammer. After all, Ringing Rocks County Park has a seven-acre field of large boulders that mysteriously sing when struck. One could even bring a variety of hammers and mallets and compose music. When you’re finished making music on the rocks, you can also walk the park’s trails and visit the county’s tallest waterfall.
Grand Midway Hotel – Windber
This historic hotel in Somerset County has a reputation for the mystical and mysterious, as it features occult-related attractions and is said to be haunted. The Grand Midway Hotel has themed rooms inspired by mythical creatures, a séance parlor, and is also home to the world’s largest Ouija board, which makes up the roof. Ouija boards are famously used to attempt to contact the dead (perhaps via séances). The hotel regularly rents the entire place to paranormal investigators, but hotel guests can also reserve individual rooms. Just don’t stay in the Canopy Room — the spirits there supposedly aren’t pleasant.
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