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Visit to Bucks County Will Raise Anyone's Spirits

June 11, 1989|ALAN C. MILLER, Times Staff Writer and

NEW HOPE, Pa. — At the charming Ye Olde Temperance House in Newtown, employees and an occasional guest swear that a ghostly little boy roams the Edward Hicks suite and the Willard Parlor.

Among the believers is receptionist Joanna Lansing, who says that one summer morning, beer suddenly and mysteriously spilled from a keg when only she was around.

At the recently remodeled Logan Inn in nearby New Hope hangs a large oil painting from the 1890s of a former owner's grandparents. Some claim they've noticed the scent of lavender, which the grandmother carried in a sachet, next to the painting, and shadowy figures not seen in the portrait have reportedly shown up in photographs of it.

Just up the Delaware River in Lumberville, a logger named Hans who was stabbed to death during a brawl is said to be the apparition at the venerable 18th-Century Black Bass Hotel. He makes an occasional spectral appearance in the basement tavern and dining room where he was killed, still clad in his heavy woolen jacket.

Children See Ghost

"He is seen mostly by young children, not by their parents," says manager Everett Volmer. Afterward, "the children behave very well."

In the picturesque, history-rich Delaware River Valley less than an hour's drive from Philadelphia, Bucks County is a bucolic, get-away-from-it-all area destination.

Well, not quite away from it all . The home of inviting inns, exceptional restaurants, antiques and idyllic natural scenery, it is also a highly spirited place.

"We're very proud of our ghosts," says Adele Gamble, who runs Ghost Tours of New Hope. "How many places can you go and find as many ghosts as we do? It's really a haunted village, one of the most haunted villages around."

In October and early November the lantern-lit walking tours are given on Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m.; the charge is $4. Not surprisingly, every Halloween is also a tour night, when large groups of ghost gawkers hit the streets in search of eerie treats. One year 250 revelers, including some in costume, filled five tours.

Blanket of White

October is Bucks County's busiest season for another colorful reason: the annual autumnal glory. Maple, oak, beech and sycamore leaves, in dazzling shades of scarlet, gold and orange, transform the woods and tree-lined Delaware River into a spectacle of natural fireworks. The peak leaf season is generally the last two weeks of October.

In winter the forests are covered with a blanket of white. Cross-country skiers take to the trails, ice skaters whirl on frozen ponds and the roaring fires of the cozy, romantic inns make them all the more hospitable.

There are other seasonal diversions as well. During fall, summer and spring, a mule-drawn barge glides past Revolutionary-era cottages and artists' workshops along the Delaware Canal in New Hope. Prices: $6.50 for adults, $3.75 for children.

Or you can take a self-guided tour of Bucks County's 13 fabled covered bridges along winding country roads.

The 110-foot Bowman's Hill Tower, which commemorates the lookout where sentries watched for enemy troops during the American Revolution, affords sweeping views of the river valley from April through November. Adults $2, children under 12, 50 cents.

Crossing the Delaware

And on Christmas Day at Washington Crossing 120 volunteers reenact George Washington's 1776 crossing of the Delaware with his war-weary troops on their way to the pivotal Battle of Trenton.

New Hope, which is often overrun by visitors these days, was originally the preserve of the Lenni-Lenape Indians. It passed into the colonists' hands as part of Charles II's land grant to William Penn, and subsequently became a way station along the York Road, the first major link between New York and Philadelphia. This journey once took three days by coach.

Industrial growth came with the mills of the early 1700s. They were destroyed in a fire in 1790, but the grist and lumber mills were rebuilt and called "The New Hope Mills," from which the town took its name. In more recent times New Hope has been known as the home to artists and actors.

The town's 18th-Century grist mill has been transformed into the Bucks County Playhouse, where the season lasts from mid-June until early November. Patrons say that apparitions make unscheduled cameo appearances all year.

The Delaware River Valley also hosted a colony of prominent writers seeking respite from New York City in the 1920s and '30s. Colligan's Stockton Inn inspired Moss Hart's show tune, "There's a Small Hotel." Author Budd Schulberg completed his screenplay for "On the Waterfront" while staying at the Black Bass Hotel. And Pearl S. Buck's country estate outside Doylestown is open for public tours.

Haunting Atmosphere

Such circumstances are said to explain why the area has so many spirits--or tales of them, at least. The many pre-Revolutionary buildings are believed to be prone to harboring an old soul or two, and the resident artists and actors are considered more sensitive to such ephemeral characters.

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