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Ghost Cow - The Weekly Holler #26

October 16 · Issue #26 · View online
American Mythology
Welcome to The Weekly Holler. This newsletter is published by Luke Bauserman. Luke grew up in the Appalachian foothills of southeastern Ohio. As a young adult, he worked in a nursing home while studying history in college. During this time, he made friends with and heard many stories from the old-timers of his community. Shortly before graduating, Luke won the Randolph Stone Award for Historical Writing from Ohio University. Luke is working on his first novel, a mix of Appalachian folklore and history (updates forthcoming). 

The Ghost Cow of Cambria County, Pennsylvania
The following story comes from The World (New York) - Sunday, August 9, 1896: 
A new kind of spook has appeared to frighten timid people in Cambria County, Pennsylvania. A specter cow, with her head severed from her body and dangling in the air in front of her, has appeared to several people who have chanced to pass near her haunts at night, and all unite in saying that the sight wad most terrifying.
Elmer Person, city editor of Pennsylvania Grit, a newspaper published at Williamsport, has investigated the stories told by several people regarding the apparition, and finds that they all agree in every particular. He interviewed a number of folks who claim to have seen the spook, and he vouched for their respectability and declares that they believe the stories they tell.
As described by men seen by Mr. Person, the ghost is a frightful object. At a late hour of night, the spook is seen madly cavorting along the roadside, at times using the rail fences as a path, occasionally careening wildly along stone fences, and again taking to the air. At all times, the head of the cow appears severed from the body, looming fearsomely some feet in advance of the rest of the specter.
The abode of the ghost is a ruined building near Johnstown. The building was formerly used as a slaughterhouse, and innumerable cows lost their lives there. It has been untenanted for years and stands in an isolated and lonesome spot. Ever since the butcher abandoned the premises, uncanny things have been told about it, and children have been afraid to pass the spot at night.
Many people who have passed the place after sundown have seen the bovine spook. The say that the form of a cow suddenly dashes out of the rickety building, which stands some distance back from the road, and runs past them with the speed of an express train. The head maintains a uniform distance from the body, and from the severed and bleeding neck come frightful cries that would chill the warmest blood. 
The eyes flash fire as the cow passes the frightened spectator. The mouth is always open, and the teeth—large and jagged—are plainly seen and lighted with some sort of greenish fire. The bellowing is awful and can be heard for a long distance.
The spectre is always seen either leaving the old slaughterhouse, or else returning to it. One spectator said that after emerging from the building, the ghost went down the road, at times running on top of the stake-and-rider fence until the stone fence was encountered at the edge of what is known as Climber’s Hill.
Then it followed the stone fence across the hill, and, after giving one tremendous bellow, retraced its steps. Arriving in front of the former shambles, the spectre cow paused for a moment, and then, with a wild burst of noises more hideous than before, dashed into the building and disappeared.
Mr. Person puts forth the story as one worthy of all credence. He adds that the people for miles around are very much excited about the spook, and none is able to offer explanations that are satisfactory. No one who has encountered the spook once can be induced to go near the place again at night. One sight of the headless cow as she dashes down the road bellowing hoarsely through the stump of a neck is all that anyone cares to have.
The country about the scene of the terrifying occurrences is wild and hilly. There was formerly considerable travel along the road which led past the slaughterhouse, but since the ghostly cow has begun traveling the thoroughfare at night with teeth that look like bicycle lanterns, and a head that refuses to stay where it belongs, things have changed considerably and people drive around the other way.
“That headless cow spook seems funny in the daytime,” said one man who saw it, “but at night there is nothing funny about her. I saw her once and heard her bellow, and I shall not go past that old slaughterhouse again soon after dark.”
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