Memory Lane: Erie Ghost Story

(For Father Spoon)

Every town has one: The haunted house or field where one day a father (sometimes a mother) snaps and murders his spouse and children. (Doesn’t every town have one?)

In Erie, it was called Axe Murder Hollow. Mr. Jones (I don’t actually know the alleged family’s name) slaughtered his wife and four (?) children with — you guessed it — an axe. It was a deserted field on the west (maybe east) side of town.

And one night, after watching The Exorcist with some of my friends, including my prom date/boyfriend-for-six-weeks-afterwards Mike, we decided to pile in Mike’s beater and take a ride out there.

We weren’t even drinking.


The Exorcist is a very scary film. Still, I think Poltergeist (the original) is way scarier. And that’s because I suppressed most of my memories of The Exorcist. When people say, “Have you seen The Exorcist?” I say, “Yes.” And then when they’re all, “Do you remember the part when her head spun around/she said those things/she did that thing with the crucifix?” I’m all, “No. No I do not.”

Poltergeist, on the other hand, I vividly remember. Especially the part when the guy rips his face off. That scene may be a prime reason I’m a vegetarian today.

In terms of today’s horror films — the Saw franchise springs to mind, not that I have seen a one of them — Poltergeist is probably pretty damn tame (or lame, your pick). But nothing at that time was scarier to me than trees that could reach through windows and eat you, or clown dolls.

CLOWN DOLLS, people. *shudder* That’s like taking the scariest two things from my childhood and combining them. And then bringing them to life onscreen.


I love horror films, incidentally. I love the suspense and the chills, and being too scared to sleep. But I haven’t watched horror films in a long time. (And regardless of how scared I get, I’m too tired now-a-days to *not* sleep. So, win, I guess.)

Because my husband is a wimp. He *hates* horror movies, and won’t watch them. And I won’t watch them alone. I mean, what good is that?

Although we did watch 28 Days Later together. And Sean of the Dead. (Okay, technically speaking, not a horror movie.) And Identity. That was kind of an accident; we thought it was a mystery, plus it starred John Cusack. We like John Cusack.


So: I bring home The Exorcist from Home Video Exchange (where I worked) one night. I have a few friends over for a viewing.

And it is terrifying. (Incidentally, I think I got in trouble for bringing it home, too. My father was not pleased. Although that may have been another movie… Darn if I can remember though.)

And somehow the subject of Axe Murder Hollow comes up. Six teenagers decide to get in a car, and drive out to the scariest part of Erie.

And we were *smart* teenagers, too.

The entire ride, we were giving each other the willies. I believe Tim made up an entire story line about a gypsy that cursed the family because they wouldn’t let said gypsies camp on their land, and one of the gypsy children died in a car accident.

So, as we descended the hill into the “hollow” of Axe Murder Hollow in Mike’s car, and H “saw” a gypsy woman on the side of the road, we started getting even more freaked out. Crying may have been involved at this point.

Mike parked the car and turned it off. Then something — a noise, a shadow, a raccoon — spooked us, and that pretty much sent this carload of teens (three girls, three boys) over the edge. Pleas to get us out of there started.

Mike’s car wouldn’t start. Or so he claimed. I was sitting in the front seat, and I saw him turning that key for all he was worth. I may have even given it a shot, because by now we were sure we were going to be pulled bodily from the car by ghosts and ripped into tiny pieces.

Scary movies, ghost stories, and teenage hormones. Do not mix.

Mike’s car finally, mercifully, and reluctantly came back to life, and we drove hell bent for leather out of Axe Murder Hollow. I’m sure we recovered over cheese fries, with ranch dressing and ketchup, at the nearest Perkins.

The next day, Mike called. “I took my car to the mechanic,” he said.


“He said he couldn’t believe it had started again last night. My [very vital car engine part] is fried. He can’t even get it going.”

“You lie!”


True Story.


What’s the scariest movie you’ve seen? What’s the scariest thing that ever happened to you? Does your neck of the woods have an Axe Murder Hollow?

11 thoughts on “Memory Lane: Erie Ghost Story

  1. I heard a similar story about it but also the house that used to sit there was burned down after he killed his family.

    The gypsy thing was true when I was there in highschool (which was around your time also) and they would chase us. Looking back at it it was probably some left over hippies still on acid.

    My big places to go was the gudgeonville bridge and vampires grave in erie cemetery on W26th st

  2. Haha, I started to read this, and told Joe about the time a bunch of us girls went out there, turned the van and its lights off, and then how the van wouldn’t start… and then I finished reading the blog post. lol, similar! I think every Erie kid has an experience like that out there… We never got out of the car, though… Pretty sure my sister got out and went to see the burned down place and get chased by gypsies… And weren’t there stairs that counted one way up and another way down? Oh, crazy Erieites…~

  3. Soooo much to chew on here. And I LOVE to talk about movies!

    The Exorcist: I remember hearing about it from a neighborhood kid that saw it (in the theaters) and I was all, “no freakin’ way am I going to see that movie.” Cut to my teenage years, on bored on vacation at my aunt’s house and I picked up the book. It was scary but enjoyable. (I’ve always liked scary/mystery/horror books and movies.) It was a couple years after that when I finally saw the movie. All I can say is that “sound” changes everything. Whoever put the sounds together was an evil genius. That old man voice the little girl used, (from a well-known character actor) was just creepy beyond belief. Wrenching movie, all the way around.

    Poltergeist: an all-time favorite. I probably saw it in the theater 2 or 3 times. To me, it was all about the toy clown scene. Creepy beyond belief… (I used to have nightmares as a little kid, about a tiny clown that was always trying to “get” me.) Spielberg has a way of knowing what scares us… But mostly, I thought the movie was just very, very cool. And it was totally cutting edge visually, for the time. Like that scene where the one scientist describes how he filmed a car moving by itself across a table over the space of 9 hours… then the father opens up the door to the room and the shit is flying all over the place…

    The movie that affected me the most was probably “Seven.” Usually I can write movies off immediately as bizarre works of fiction, but this was one that got to me. Saw it with Future-Ex in a theater. After the final scene, we just sat there staring, as the credits rolled. I felt like I’d been clubbed over the head. Horrified… Shaken up… Bludgeoned… Finally we stood up and I said, “God, I need a drink.” We promptly went over to the mall bar and started knocking back some shots.

    I saw the first of the Saw films, but I don’t really like that kind of stuff. Scary, creepy, suspenseful horror flicks like (the original) Halloween are one thing, but I don’t go for the pointless torture stuff… gore-porn, if you will. Nothing redeeming there, if you ask me.

    The only thing missing from your Erie story was a hook left swinging from the door handle.

    • I, too, love reading horror. Steven King was one of my first literary loves. But I didn’t know the Exorcist was a book first. I wish I had read it.

      Seven was brutal. Just… yeah.

      I’m going to add the hook to my story!! Not really. It was freaky enough as it was.

  4. Years ago, when I grew up in Erie, the only theaters for movies were the Warner and the Strand downtown, and Dipson’s Plaza out on West 8th Street. The Warner was that huge theater, with balcony, and the floor really sloped downward towards the screen.

    My best friend and I were about 19 0r 20 when we went to the Warner to see Maniac. I don’t remember much about the movie other than the fact that we were carded to get in! You had to be 18 because of the violence! That’s what drew us there! It was THE goriest movie we had ever seen.

    As kids, we used to like to sit way up front for movies. In the middle of the movie, some guy in the back started throwing up, we assumed from the gore. Sitting down front, we raised our feet of course, and as soon as the guy got himself under control and stopped hurling, my best friend yelled out “I’ve got a fork for the big chunks!” Eww! That started the guy hurling all over again and a lot of groans from the crowd.

    Granted, I don’t remember much about the movie this many years later, but I sure remember the sound of him hurling!

    Good times!

  5. I remember that night…but not nearl as well as you! I totally forgot about the car not starting! I think I was more freaked out because I had NO idea where we were. really smart, huh:)

    Poltergeist got to me too…I watched it first with my whole family so somehow that made it less scary. Totally agree about the clown/tree thing.

    The Exorcist is probably the scariest movie ever made. the Shining is up there, too. Love Stephen King and Jack Nicholson.

    and if you enjoyed Sean of the Dead, you will love Zombieland…woody harrelson and the social network star whose name I can’t remember right now.

    My “need a drink” movie? Requiem for a Dream. I never ever want to see that movie again. felt like i got punched in the stomach.

    • Oh, yes, Requiem for a Dream was terrible. Exactly like a punch to the stomach. I guess it gets points for beauty and gritty realism, but it was way too heavy for me.

      People keep suggesting Zombieland. I gotta get my hands on that. Thanks!

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