Dorothy Burtz Fiedel,
Haunted Lancaster County Pennsylvania
(Science Press, 1994)

Lancaster County just isn't all that scary, unless you're frightened by overdevelopment or poor municipal planning.

But Dorothy Burtz Fiedel gives it a good effort, anyway, as she tries to scare up a few spooks in Haunted Lancaster County Pennsylvania. (The missing comma in the book's title is an immediate warning that this book was not well edited.)

Although Fiedel boasts of receiving a large number of local ghost stories in response to her call for submissions, this slim volume (only 77 pages, including acknowledgements, footnotes and an "about the author" blurb) is padded with several non-ghosty yarns, including Pennsylvania's one witch trial (which didn't take place in Lancaster County) and a possible UFO sighting.

The ghost stories that remain fall largely in the Columbia region of western Lancaster County, so much so I think Fiedel should have written a "Haunted Columbia" book and put all those unused submissions in a book about the greater county region.

One might wish this history-rich county had more ghost stories to tell, but the superstitious Celts who settled this land quickly moved westward, and the practical Germans who followed don't seem to have much truck with the supernatural. What's here, however, is presented in a lively, casual narrative that convinces readers that Fiedel enjoyed her subject -- and probably wished she had more exciting stories to share, too.

As the Philadelphia suburbs encroach further into Lancaster, perhaps a few of those Philly ghosts will come along for the lower cost of living and the manure-scented air. Perhaps then we can prevail on Fiedel to give this another go.

review by
Tom Knapp

14 February 2009

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