Haunted Lancaster: The sad tale of Lover’s Leap at Chickies Rock

Chickies Rock

Located between the boroughs of Columbia and Marietta is Chickies Rock. At over 422 acres, it is the county’s second-largest regional park. Its most notable feature is the massive outcropping of quartzite rock towering 200 feet above the river. The vista offers impressive views of York County, the borough of Marietta, and farmlands of northwestern Lancaster County.

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The view from atop Chickies Rock.

The area once boasted seven iron furnaces and rolling mills, a canal, and a trolley line. Remnants of furnaces, canal walls, and trolley-line grades are still visible today.

The rock and surrounding land seem to possess a certain magnetism. Hundreds of years ago, it attracted Native Americans. In fact, the name Chickies Rock comes from the Lenape word Chiquesalunga meaning “place of the crayfish.” There is a nearby stream with the same name. Technically, it is now called Chiques Creek. The name changed from Chickies Creek in 2002.

Today, the park attracts dog walkers, hikers, and picnickers. But it has always attracted mystery. The area is filled with century-plus old stories of ghosts, monsters, and even a curse. The earliest legends involve the Susquehannocks that once lived in the area.

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Looking up from the bottom of Chickies Rock.

Lover’s Leap

Arguably the most popular myth involving Chickie Rock is the story of Lover’s Leap. In one version of the story, a young Susquehannock Indian named Wanunga lived there with his beautiful wife named Wanhuita.

One autumn, several men including Wanunga left on an extended trading expedition with far-off tribes. While he was away, Wanunga’s wife became friendly and eventually fell in love with a nearby white settler. The two would sneak off under the cover of darkness to Chickies Rock for secret rendezvouses.

After several weeks, Wanuge returned home. He immediately noticed the lack of interest from Wanhuita and became suspicious. One night he observed Wanhuita sneaking out of the longhouse and decided to follow her.

Staying in the shadows, he followed Wanhuita up the hill to Chickies Rock. There in the moonlight, Wanuge’s worse fear was realized as he saw his wife in the arms of another man. Adding insult to injury, it was a white man.

Wanunga flew into a rage, pulled his tomahawk, and ran at the man, catching the white man off guard, Wanunga repeatedly hacked at him. After slitting the man’s throat, Wanunga cast the rival’s lifeless body off the cliff’s edge.

As Wanhuita watched her lover tumble into the dark oblivion, she screamed a heartbreaking, “No!” Furious over this final betrayal, Wanunga lunged at his wife. He grabbed Wanhuita attempting to throw her over the cliff too but in the struggle, they both tumbled off. As they plummeted to their deaths on the jagged rocks 200 feet below, Wanhuita’s screams filled the cold night.

In another telling of the story, it’s not an affair but unrequited love that brings on the tragic ending. In this telling, Wanunga takes Wanhuita—who he secretly loves—to the top of Chickies Rock to profess his love after a string of recent victories in battle. Much to his surprise, Wanhuita rejects him confessing her love for a white man from the nearby village. Flying into a rage, Wanunga attacked Wahuita. The white man who had been watching from the shadows ran to the aid of his love. Wanunga killed the man and threw his body from the cliff and then grabbed Wanhuita by the arm and dragged her over the edge.

In yet another variation of the story, a nameless Indian maiden is being pursued by a group of Indians. When she reached the edge of the cliff, rather than be captured, she jumped to her death.

Regardless of the version, persistent tales circulate of a Colonial-era dressed white man standing at the summit of Chickies Rock or near the water’s edge below.

Even more frightening are the phantom screams of Wanhuita often heard still today late at night.

Wanunga too has remained forever cursed to haunt the area. When exploring the area surrounding Chickies Rock, people report seeing a ghostly Indian figure silently moving through the night on a revengeful mission. Sometimes he’s seen holding a tomahawk  He’s frequently sighted in, around, or on top of the old tunnel at dusk or on overcast days.

To our knowledge, no harm has come so it would appear this Indian is still on guard and isn’t ready to leave his past.

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Other Native American Spirits

Not everyone believes the ghost is Wanunga, some think this Susquehannock apparition is warning people to stay off sacred Indian grounds.

As recently as 2004, a tall shadowy silhouetted man wearing a fedora-style hat and flowing cape was spotted. Similarly dressed specters exist in Native American lore throughout the country. They seem to be fond of remote areas and usually seen standing atop cliffs and hills, where they act like sentries or watchmen.

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There are also stories of ghostly drumming heard by hikers. No one has ever been able to locate the source of the drumming despite many attempts.

A Place of Real Tragedy

Even if you don’t believe in Indian ghosts or spectral apparitions, Chickies Rock is a place of death. Before the county built a fence around the summit in 1990, one or two people died there every year. Even with a protective railing, at least four people have fallen to their death in the intervening years. Sometimes it’s accidentally from people hiking to close to the edge or having too much to drink. Other times its suicide. There are even whispers of murder being committed from atop the rock’s summit.

Reader’s Submission

Here is a Haunted Lancaster submission from a reader who visited Chickies Rock.

Go Away!

Hi! My name is Kayla. I wanted to share a story with you about Chickies that my husband and I experienced a few years ago. The first time we went ghost hunting back there with a few friends we had a scary experience.

We were all walking the trail and my husband asked for any signs of spirits being there and next thing I knew I felt something touch my back and no one was behind me. Everyone was in front of me as I was the scaredy-cat of the group. Then out of nowhere, we heard a terrifying scream. It sounded like a woman being killed. I’ve never heard a scream like that in real life. It was something you would hear in the movies.

One of the people we were with asked if the spirits would like us to leave, and we all heard a man’s voice say, “Yes.” Almost like when someone is upset and warning you to leave. We all looked at each other and ran to the tunnel and left.

For years when we told the story people kept telling us that we heard foxes trying to mate. Last night my husband found the article and we instantly got chills. So that’s my story. I just thought I’d share it with you since we are now so sure we heard the screams of a woman and an angry man warning us.

More Haunted Lancaster

You can read more about the things that go bump in the night at Chickies Rock here. If you have a ghost story you want to share as part of Haunted Lancaster, comment below or email me.

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