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Hometown U.S.A.: Upper Black Eddy, Pa.

These rocks can sing

Ringing Rocks Park in Pennsylvania is a thing of nature – or is it? Some believe it's the work of aliens or ancient gods.

April 02, 2011|By Daniel Patrick Sheehan
  • Connor and Jacob Johnson use hammers to make the rocks sing. The best of the live ones are obvious; they have been whitened and dimpled by countless blows.
Connor and Jacob Johnson use hammers to make the rocks sing. The best of the… (Monica Cabrera, The Morning…)

The thing about Ringing Rocks Park is that it's amazing enough without the aliens.

It's a big field of boulders in a woodsy area off Route 32 in Upper Black Eddy, a village in eastern Pennsylvania. Bring a hammer, because the name of the park is quite literal. Many of the rocks — known as "live ones" — ring when struck.

They ring with different tones, and plenty of people have composed impromptu symphonies there. If there's no hammer, a tire iron can act as a stand-in, though the experience is not quite the same.

"It amazes me how nature takes care of things," said Thomas Hower, who visited the park with his granddaughter and her husband and their two boys, Connor and Jacob. The boys stepped gingerly into the depths of the field and shouted "Found one!" every time they hit a live rock.

What Hower meant was that nature — not space creatures or ancient gods, as some New Age devotees contend — had strewn the rocks there long ago.

"Their idea is that aliens came by and moved everything around," said Augusta Arnholt, who lives in nearby Kintnersville and had brought some friends from Philadelphia to the 128-acre park to stroll the path between the rock field and the waterfall.

It's not such a bad supposition for those inclined to such theories. Beyond their resonance, some of the rocks are regular enough to resemble hand-hewn building stones.

But it seems more likely the rocks ended up there through glacial activity, or maybe a monstrous flood. Even so, they retain an element of mystery because scientists don't know exactly why they chime.

The best of the live ones are obvious; they have been whitened and dimpled by countless hammer blows. A few have been adorned with spray-paint renderings of human anatomy, but visitors mostly treat the field respectfully. Some have heaped smaller rocks atop larger ones in Stonehenge-like arrangements, perhaps signaling the aliens that it's time to return.

The park lies in Pennsylvania's historic Bucks County, founded by William Penn in 1682. Among other things, the county is known for another park — the Washington Crossing Historic Park, the site where George Washington led the Continental Army across an icy Delaware River in 1776.

On a recent Tuesday afternoon at Ringing Rocks Park, the field sounded like a blacksmith's shop as Connor and Jacob and four or five others rained blows on the boulders.

Another Jacob — Jacob Kinsey, 6, as sure-footed as a salamander in his green rubber boots as he wandered the field with his 5-year-old sister, Mollie — didn't know what to make of the stones.

"Is this how they always were?" he wondered aloud.

"This is the way God made 'em," Hower told him.

The park offers attractions beyond the obvious one of unloading the day's aggressions and frustrations on a stone. You can wander off and commune with the spirits if you'd like. That's more in keeping with local tradition anyway, Arnholt said.

"The people around here mostly believe in the ghosts and the witches," she said.

daniel.sheehan@mcall.com

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