If Friday, Oct. 10, had rained according to the predictions the weatherman called for, this story would have started out with, ‘It was a dark and stormy night,’ but instead it turned out to be a chilly autumn evening as a group of 20 people followed a man in a black cape. He wore a black derby and in one hand carried a sleek black walking stick topped with silver and in the other hand he carried a lantern. The group gathered around him as be told tales of gruesome and untimely deaths.
Charles J. Adams III, Hamburg native, took his last walking tour among the dead through historic Hamburg. After 10 years of ghostly stories and leading enthusiasts of the supernatural to haunted sites, Adams decided it was time to let the tour rest in peace.
Melanie and Mark Geiger, Necessities New and Used Furniture, Hamburg, have hosted the annual tour since 2003. They had purchased the rights to Adams’ Haunted Hamburg Ghost Stories and Campfire Tales from Northern Berks County and sold the book until there were no more. The only copy they have left is one he signed for them and there won’t be any more printed.
“This is his 11th year doing the tour. We were hoping to make it to 13 because that’s the number, but I think its kind of run its course now that he’s retired from the radio show, Charlie and Company. He’s doing a lot more ghost tours and speaking different places,” said Melanie Geiger.
Necessities Used Furniture was originally a men’s club, Loyal Order of Moose, from 1926. The blueprints show the staircase leading to a sloped hallway. Geiger said the slope is what’s left of the original cork floor. The first floor was a restaurant, the Keystone Diner, with a bar in the back room. The second floor was the ballroom with a ticket booth and a coat checkroom and then the third floor was where the ladies were allowed to climb stairs to sit. Geiger said there was also gambling on the third floor. There was an atmosphere to the old place and maybe that played a part on our imaginations as a couple of us experienced a bit of a difficult time in opening the door to the restroom and yet others did not.
“On ghost tours, people have taken pictures from the outside of the front of our building and have seen the orbs in the photos,” said Geiger. “And Charlie has felt presence here. He’ll tell you all about that part too.”
Adams said he is doing a lot of things over the East Coast and felt it was time to make this the last tour for Hamburg, but one spot in particular along this walk carried more impact for Adams.
“I would think, just for the sheer visual and spectral impact, the railroad bridge over the Schuylkill River which carries the Schuylkill River Trail right now. That has all the visual. It’s what you expect to look like a haunted place and it is and that to me is the ultimate spot,” said Adams.
Adams said people have reported psychical, physical, and photographic evidence from their walk especially around that bridge. He added that he too has had experience.
The story of the Pennsylvania Railroad, told in oral tradition, was about transients hired to do a job in the early 1920s on a very active railroad going in and out of Hamburg. The three men (Adams believes to be Italian based on the information he had found) were busy painting the bridge when a train came around the bend. They tried to get onto a little catwalk off to the side, but that didn’t help as the bridge rumbled causing one of the men to fall into the river. He cracked his head on the bridge and died. His body was found in a nearby clump of trees. The other two men had made it to safety.
“It’s his ghost that remains here and of all the places and I’ve talked about the herbal shop there, suicide in the basement, yeah it’s pretty strong right there. It’s very strong at the Hamburg Diner, that area, but this is it; this is thee place. This is the place where I’ve had the most experience of my own, pure energy,” said Adams.
Others reported having experienced things to Adams after being on a tour and having returned to that spot on their own. Adams thinks it’s all rooted in that man’s death, but also said that from the building of the Schuylkill Canal and the use of the canal which went along there as well, is historically documented with the number of deaths that took place in that stretch from State Street Bridge up to Waterloo where Adams’ great grandfather was a lock-tender. There was also a murder at the bridge and in the park nearby which Adams said adds up to a micro-vortex of activity. That is the place where if you’re going to experience something you will. If you’re going to take a picture with something in it, it will be there.
“I think that the magic of Hamburg is it’s sort of in the epicenter of a lot of activity from Witch’s Hill up in Windsor Township to Bloody Spring. Hawk Mountain is not that far away. State Street is the Hex Highway; I mean come on, what do you want,” Adams said and smiled. “And so it’s got a lot of history beyond the paranormal stuff. It’s rich in strange historical stories; it’s magical. It’s my hometown too.”
Adams indicated that there are possibilities to do new programs of some sort, not necessarily tours, in Hamburg. Adams is currently involved with the Colebrookdale Railroad and will be doing ghost story telling in November from Boyertown to Pottstown. He said this is one of the new things he is involved with and added that he’s been doing this 30 some years and is looking for fresh things. Adams did say he is not abandoning Hamburg.