The Ghosts of Owl Valley


Eastern York Neighborhood Series

Is there a spiritual world out there that is just as real to experience as experiencing the physical senses? If so, perhaps some areas are more spiritually rich than others. In Hellam Township, just off of Libhart Mill Road is a neighborhood known to many as Owl Valley. To me, this neighborhood is characterized by dense forest, large lots, neat houses (which I have since learned are mostly of the “Franklin Lloyd Wright” design), and its proximity in the valley carved out by Kreutz Creek. “Quaint,” is a great adjective which is used by one resident, Anne Kostas. “Haunted” may be another great adjective in accordance to a story Anne tells.

But let’s not start with the ghosts and hauntings. Let’s talk history. Anne gave me her knowledge of the history of the area, and it began around Libhart’s Mill. The Libhart family owned much of the land in this area, including what is known as Owl Valley. Most of this land was one parcel which was later bought and subdivided by neighbors. After the subdivision, in addition to the mill, the area even had a general store and the “Rudy Schoolhouse” (According to the Hellam Township website, the Rudy Schoolhouse is on Lincoln Highway so there may be a discrepancy here). So when did all of this occur? Anne couldn’t give me specifics on dates except for the fact that her neighbor, Gary Geiselman lives in a house that was built in 1790, a date corroborated by the York County tax records. This house is what used to be the general store. One other tidbit provided is that the area was also known as “Westphalia,” a name inspired perhaps by Germany’s Westphalia region. When and why it came to be known as Owl Valley was uncertain except for Anne believes she has a map dating back to the 19th century which names the area “Owl Valley.” Maybe the question of why can be assumed: Anne could at least confirm that the area has a strong population of screech owls and barn owls. Still lurking then is the question of when it gained it’s name.

Judy Bono, a 28-year resident of Owl Valley, and owner of “the Gardener of Owl Valley,” had much to contribute to that conversation. Judy pointed to former residents Bob & Betty Swengel who were some of the first residents to move into that area. Originally they lived in the Mill and then moved into the house now owned by Judy and her husband. Bob was a scientist, mostly an expert on the flow of water, and he held many patents. One story holds that his intellectual fame summoned a visit from the Russians. Betty was an artist and a potterer. So what do Bob and Betty have to do with the naming of Owl Valley? Bob and Betty had many of the homes built to the style aforementioned, and are responsible for the naming the road which led to them, “Owl Valley Road.” Perhaps it is just as easy as that: a couple who “developed” the area were inspired by the owl population in the area to name the road and this became the popular name for the greater area.

Judy has no ghost story to tell, but let’s circle back to Anne. To Anne, the ghosts of this area seem to be as real to her as her other neighbors. She had always heard that the area was haunted, and so had many others. This popular knowledge inspired some kids to come by Anne’s house one day and ask around about these ghosts. Anne didn’t want to spook the kids so she denied their existence. The ghosts took this as a slight. Later that night, she experienced nothing like she has experienced before: a great wind rushing through the walls, dogs & cats howling and mewing all over the house, and a latched door even opened in her face as if to send a message.

Just as I have said in my last blog posting, I am not a journalist, I am a Realtor. This story is far from exhaustive in its research, and I welcome all you, the readers, have to contribute. What do you know about the history of Owl Valley, and what do you know about the spiritual side? If you do have something to share, be careful not to deny it!

Thank you to Anne and Judy for your contributions!