I’m always on the lookout for new adventures and haunted Lancaster legends to explore, so when I received an email asking me about a ghost sighting along Ironville Pike outside of Columbia, PA, it piqued my interest.
We have seen a woman walking down the road [Ironville Pike] by the old pool dressed all in white. She is dressed like the lady from ‘The Munsters.’ She vanishes after you pass her. Do you know of this or have any additional information?
Initially, I was unaware of any female specters said to inhabit the area. I was familiar with a headless horseman of Ironville Pike legend, but none of the tale’s details matched the email, so I inquired for additional information. Here’s what he wrote.
My stepdad and my mother are the ones that have seen her. Each encounter has been between 12 am and 1 am. The first time they didn’t really think too much about it. The second time they turned around, and she was gone.
Twin Oaks Swimming Pool
The “old pool” referenced in the message is the now-defunct Twin Oaks Swimming Pool, located in the 2500 block of Ironville Pike outside Columbia, Pa. The once-popular summertime destination opened to the public in 1936 on Memorial Day weekend.
Its name comes from two nearby oak trees. As of 2021, one of them was still standing in the woods that surrounded the pool, according to an anonymous neighbor. The pool closed its doors in the late 1990s.
I started my research by combing through the LNP digital archives for deaths and other unfortunate occurrences along Ironville Pike, with a specific focus on the area of the pool. I found three deaths that fell inside the search radius.
The first two were vehicular-related deaths. The most recent occurred on July 12, 1978, when an intoxicated driver struck and killed 21-year-old John Herman. Thirty years before that, on Friday, April 1, 1949, a 10-ton dump truck rolled down a 23-foot embankment near the Twin Oaks pool killing 33-year-old driver Ira McGonigal. While no one witnessed the accident, experts believe that McGonigal drove too close to a slag mound placed along the bank to protect unloading trucks from sliding down the hill or that the bank gave away.
Since neither accident involved a woman, they were unlikely the origins nor related to the alleged ghost sightings. Unless McGonigal had swerved to miss a spectral figure along the road. However, the third article proved to be a possible match as it included the untimely death of a young woman in the 1940s at the pool.
On Sunday, July 22, 1945, tragedy struck at Twin Oaks when 13-year-old Dolores Fay Wright drowned. Authorities speculated the unfortunate girl had suffered an epileptic seizure after diving into the deep of the pool. Despite being a busy public place, no one witnessed the terrible accident. It was not until Wilbur Kauffman’s final dive of the day at around 3:55 pm that Wright’s body was finally discovered in the watery depths.
Richard Spiece and Kauffman immediately attempted to resuscitate the young girl but were unsuccessful. An ambulance was called, arriving three minutes later despite a heavy downpour that had recently begun. Wright was taken to Columbia Hospital and pronounced dead two hours later.
Three days later, on Wednesday, July 25, Dolores’ black and white fox terrier, Snowball, died of a broken heart. Perhaps sensing some impending doom, the furry companion had attempted to follow Dolores to the pool on the day of her death but was forced home. The loyal dog refused to eat or drink anything when Dolores failed to return home Sunday night and died soon later.
Could the repeatedly spotted Wandering Wight of Ironville Pike be poor Dolores Wright trying to make her way home from the Twin Oaks Swimming Pool almost 80 years later?
Miss Mary Mifflin of Norwood
Interestingly enough, less than a mile away as the bird flies—or ghost floats—is the Mifflin Mansion of Norwood Road and the ghost of Miss Mary Mifflin.
The Mifflins were once a prominent family in Columbia. Living in the family estate of Norwood (on the 500 block of Norwood Road) with Mary was her father, John Houston Mifflin, and her four bachelor brothers: John Houston, Jr., James de Veaux, Charles West, and Lloyd.
Without a doubt, the most famous of the group was Lloyd Mifflin. Born on September 15, 1846, he would eventually become a famous American poet and painter. He was once called “America’s greatest sonneteer” and published over 500 sonnets in his lifetime.
On February 24, 1881, Llyod’s beloved and only sister, Mary, was found dead in the Norwood Mansion. Cause of death? A bullet through the brain. Why it happened, however, soon became a matter of gossip and speculation.
Over the coming days, local newspapers ran conflicting reports as to what happened. An initial account said that while Mary was “engaged in arranging the pillows on her father’s bed when a revolver, which was lying under one of the pillows, was discharged.” The following day, a newspaper article said, “the pistol which caused her death was found on the floor of her father’s office, close by the desk.” The accident occurred while Mary was “putting the pistol in its customary place in the office desk” when the firearm accidentally discharged.
While publicly reported as an accident, most locals believed it to be suicide. Regardless, Mary was buried at Mount Bethel Cemetery in Columbia wearing a flowing grey silk dress.
According to haunted Lancaster County author Dorothy Burtz Fiedel, a young boy was walking past the Mifflin Mansion on a rainy day in the mid-1940s. From beneath his umbrella, he spotted a woman in white standing near the gate. As he approached, the boy called out with a friendly, “Hello!” However, the woman slowly turned as if oblivious to the young boy and floated away, eventually disappearing.
On another occasion, the boy was again on Norwood Road near the mansion when he saw a small dog. The boy beckoned for the dog to come closer, which it did. However, when the boy went to pat the canine on the head, his hand passed through the creature as if it wasn’t there. The frightened child then watched the four-legged specter scamper off.
According to Rick Fisher in his book, Ghosts of the River Towns, a resident of Norwood Road near the fabled mansion in the 1990s said that on several occasions she saw “a woman in a long white dress standing at the woods’ edge on the back of the mansion.”
Who Is It?
So who is it haunting the area near the Twin Oaks swimming pool? Is it Mary Mifflin or Dolores Wright? Personally, I think Dolores is a better match with significant ghostly sightings, which also included a dog beginning in the mid-1940s. Could the clothing described as a white dress instead be a pool cover-up? What do you think? Have you had a ghostly experience along Ironville Pike or Norwood Road?
Twin Oaks Swimming Pool today
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More Haunted Lancaster
Haunted Lancaster: The Legend of Ironville’s Headless Horseman
“I’ll be in Columbia by the stroke of midnight…or I’ll be in Hell!” These words and an unfortunate accident forever cursed a headless horse rider to patrol the Pike between Ironville and Columbia. Legend says that on cold autumn nights in the minutes before midnight, the sounds of a galloping horse can be heard along Ironville Pike. Click the link to read the full story.
The White Werewolf and the Full Moon Curse of Shock Graveyard
Legend holds that anyone foolish enough to walk seven times around Hans Graf Cemetery under the light of the full moon will perish before sunrise, hunted down by the werewolf who guards the graveyard. While I’m not superstitious or even a “littlestitious,” I don’t make it a habit of walking around cemeteries in the middle of the night. Tread with caution. Click here to read the whole legend and the history of Hans Graf Cemetery.
Meet Columbia’s Little Bigfoot—the Albatwitch
At Chickies Rock near the ancient Susquehanna River, stories of a 4-foot-tall hairy ape-man fond of apples have existed since Native Americans dominated the region. As recently as 2020, people have seen the hairy beast. Click the link to learn about Columbia’s little bigfoot—the Albatwitch.
More Haunted Lancaster
If you have a ghost story you want to share as part of Haunted Lancaster, comment below or email me.
- Does Anyone Remember The Twin Oaks Swimming Pool In Columbia On Ironville Pike?? Facebook post
- Man Charged in Traffic Death on Ironville Pike, Lancaster New Era: Tuesday, August 15, 1978.
- I.A. M’Gonigal dies enroute to hospital, Intelligencer Journal: Saturday, April 2, 1949.
- Drowned Girl’s Dog Dies of Grief Day Before Her Funeral, Intelligencer Journal: Friday, July 27, 1945
- Columbia Girl is Drowned in Ironville Pool, Intelligencer Journal: Monday, July 23, 1945.
- Haunted Lancaster County, Pennsylvania: Ghosts and Other Strange Occurrences
- Twin Oaks Swimming Pool, Lancaster New Era: Friday, May 29, 1936
- Flickr Photos by Bill
- Columbia Spy: About Town
- Ghosts of the River Towns