A Walk Through “Weird” South Central Pennsylvania With Local Author

York County’s Toad Road and the Seven Gates of Hell have been the subject of news articles, ghost story books, and even an independent horror film. One local man has done his best to find the real story, digging up the truths behind the urban legends and dispelling rumors associated with the tale. However, the real story may be far stranger than the legends.


Timothy Renner’s new book, Beyond the Seventh Gate documents his travels through local places associated with strange activity. He walked Toad Road; wandered Chickies Rock, and Hex Hollow; visited lonely graveyards and old iron furnaces. He reports on Goatman, Bigfoot, Mothman and werewolves. According to witnesses, all of these creatures have been sighted in our region.

Renner, a folk musician and illustrator from Red Lion, wrote the story about Nelson Rehmeyer and York County’s infamous “hex murder” which appeared in the Weird Pennsylvania and Weird USA books (both published by Sterling 2004 / 2005). He also took the photographs which accompanied both his story and the entry about Toad Road. “I never agreed with their version of the Toad Road story,” says Renner, “and I never liked that my photos were associated with their version of the legend.”

According to Weird Pennsylvania and a host of subsequent ghost story books, an insane asylum burnt down on Toad Road and the inhabitants met a fiery end – or escaped and were killed by fearful townsfolk in the surrounding woods. Somehow seven gates were erected to keep people away from the area of the ruined asylum. These gates became known as The Seven Gates of Hell. If you were to pass through them, you would be greeted by ever more horrifying things as you passed through each consecutive gate.

The author asserts that the local legend of “The Seven Gates of Hell” was not even originally associated with Toad Road. “There’s plenty of strangeness to go around in regard to Toad Road, it just has nothing to do with the Gates of Hell,” says Renner. Nor anything to do with insane asylums or mad doctors as different versions of the story have reported.

The book doesn’t stop at Toad Road. Beyond the Seventh Gate explores many local mysteries including The River Witch of Marietta; a flying phantom associated with Camp Conewago in New Oxford; a singing corpse in York; strange lights seen in Seven Valleys; a UFO landing in Gatchellville; and Bigfoot creatures – which have been seen throughout the region.

Renner found stories of giant, hairy ‘wild-men’ – what reporters used to call Bigfoot – from local papers as early as 1858. Amongst his many local Bigfoot stories, he details the drama of the “Gettysburg Gorilla”, a Bigfoot creature which stalked across Adams County in 1921. The creature caused quite a stir. A Gettysburg man even shot the “gorilla” – which, after falling, got up and chased the man back into his house.

Though Beyond the Seventh Gate has been published, the author continues to research local stories about weird places and odd sightings. “Much of this book was about the past, but I hope my next book will be more about current strange events,” says Renner.

Beyond the Seventh Gate  is fully illustrated both with Renner’s own pen and ink drawings and the images of local photographer A.E. Hoskin. The book is available from amazon.com and local retailers.

SOURCE: news release


  1. On the subject of books, the Columbia library should be praised for providing programs for the children this summer.Good job for a group that gets limited funds.

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