You most likely, at one time or another, have retold an urban legend. Maybe you didn’t even know it was an urban legend you were talking about? It was just a story you heard from a friend who had a cousin whose college roommate told them? Most of us have either told an urban legend or know one or two. I’ve always been fascinated by urban legends, particularly the ones that have been told as a way to frighten folks. There is something about the possibility of them being true, even though my mind knew they weren’t true, that resonates with me. Makes me look over my shoulder and makes the hair on my arms stand up.
It was with this in mind that I decided to create my own urban legend.
I am a regular contributor to the website COAL-co.com. It is a website devoted to the happenings going on in and around the city of Reading (check it out; it’s a pretty cool site). In my research for an article about the painted rock in the Schuylkill River, I thought about the idea of an urban legend tied to the rock. What comes next is a story about the rock, told as an urban legend, created solely by me.
The story is in 4 parts and will run for the next 4 weeks. I hope you enjoy it. I hope your hair stands up and who knows, maybe the next urban legend you tell your friends will be about the painted rock in the Schuylkill River.
Founding a Father
For those of us in the Reading area, we all have undoubtedly driven past the painted rock in the Schuylkill River.
The rock, which sits along the bend of the river near Poplar Neck, is our area’s billboard for local schools’ letters and colors. It can be seen heading west along a bridge on the West Shore Bypass, sitting in the middle of the river.
While there has been no definitive date of origin of when the rock began to be painted by schools, some point back to around 1989. Cross Country teams began setting out in the early morning to paint the rock. This tradition of painting the rock has not only continued but has been adopted by many other teams and organizations of the schools.
But what many people do not know is, before it became a rite of passage for sports teams to adorn the rock with paint, there had been a tragedy at the rock. In researching its history, I was shocked to find out the real story. What comes next was told to me by an Exeter township resident I discovered during my research. She was nice enough to talk to me.
This is her story of the events one night in 1981.
Her only request for telling me her story was she remains anonymous.
Her name has been changed to protect that anonymity.
August 20th, 1972.
The headline in the Reading Eagle: ‘Exeter Student Missing’.
On August 23rd, 1972, the paper’s headline read: ‘Student’s Body Still Missing’.
After a week of searching, the body of Exeter track and field star, David Weidner, had not been found. David was known as friendly, fun to be around, and a bit of a daredevil. It came as no surprise when his friends had told police David had gotten the idea to go down to the rock in the Schuylkill River to paint it in Exeter’s school colors before school and before the track season started. Earlier in the day, witnesses had seen David in Leinbach’s, a local hardware store in Mt Penn, to pick up blue and white paint (Exeter’s school colors). He was last seen sometime around 10pm at Fegley’s Restaurant. A waitress there had said a teenage boy matching David’s description was there. She described David as being tall and thin and he had been wearing an Exeter Eagle tee shirt, running shorts, white socks pulled up his shins, and a pair of white running sneakers.
When he did not come home the night of the 20th, David’s parents called the police to report him missing. Exeter police would eventually find David’s 1967 Volkswagen Beetle parked on a dirt road leading down to the Schuylkill River. After an exhaustive search around the rock and down the river, David’s body was never found. He was presumed dead August 27th, 1972. The police in the area made it known afterwards, no person or persons would be allowed to go down to the rock after that.
The night of August 20th was the last time anyone will have seen David Weidner alive.
*The story of David Weidner was originally published on the COAL website at www.coal-co.com.
Jimmy Ettele, is an Exeter Township Dad, husband and writer of the blog Founding a Father. Email him at foundingafather.com