Myth and mystery at Kettle Creek
By LOU BERNARD
Recently, I had the pleasure of staying overnight once again at Kettle Creek State Park. The past few years, they’ve had me up there to speak about local history for a program, and my family has made an overnight camping trip out of it. My son absolutely loves this — He’s gotten really attached to Kettle Creek.
This year, I was asked to talk about Dorcie Calhoun, the man who discovered gas in Leidy Township. I’ll be writing about him soon — Dorcie deserves an article. But not this article. For this one, I thought I’d solve a mystery dating back almost seventy years.
Kettle Creek is full of mysteries. Including its own name; historically, no one is sure where the name “Kettle Creek” came from. There are several theories, none of which quite make sense.
If you’re interested in the paranormal, Kettle Creek is like one-stop shopping. There have been stories of ghosts and haunted places up there. There have been sightings of the Susquehanna Seal, a swimming creature that lives in the river. And there have even been reliable reports of psychic activity — Dorcie Calhoun claimed to have learned the location of the gas wells in a dream.
And in the 1950s, when Dorcie was drilling, local postmaster Hiram Cranmer claimed to have seen UFOs.
Cranmer was a big fan of the paranormal. He claimed to have spotted ghosts and thunderbirds. He lived in Leidy Township, and often went to the newspapers and magazines with these stories. An in Robert Lyman’s book “Amazing Indeed,” he spoke about the times he’d seen flying saucers in the area.
Cranmer claimed that he’d spotted them several times over a decade or so. In 1950, he said that the saucers seemed to be showing interest in Calhoun’s drilling operation. In July of 1961, he said he saw a saucer that appeared in the sky, turned translucent, and then vanished. And in October of 1954, he saw another one, about sixty miles in the sky. He claimed to have figured this out by “complex calculations,” which probably meant licking his finger and holding it up to the wind.
Now, many people get confused about the definition of “UFO.” It does not automatically mean “little green men,” though that’s the way a lot of people interpret it. “UFO” means “unidentified flying object,” which simply means something in the sky you don’t recognize. It doesn’t immediately refer to aliens.
When investigating a UFO sighting, you want to rule out other things. Check for airplanes, weather balloons, military craft, or atmospheric conditions. And it’s that last one that I’m pretty sure holds the solution to Cranmer’s sightings.
Very likely, what Cranmer saw were lenticular clouds.
Lenticular, or lens-shaped clouds, are often mistaken for flying saucers. They are formed through air currents and turbulence in the atmosphere over mountains — About the same turbulence that could have been caused if someone were making environmental changes down below. You know, like if someone were clearing land and drilling for gas.
Dorcie Calhoun, while getting rich, obviously made some changes to the locale environment at a time when that was not as well understood. The saucers seemed very interested in his gas fields because he was the one causing them.
Cranmer likely hadn’t seen lenticular clouds before; they’re fairly uncommon. But with Dorcie down below changing things around a bit, it could have happened — Lens-shaped clouds over the mountains. This would account for the silvery saucers, and the one that seemed to fade away and disappear.
While we were camping at Kettle Creek, we took a little side trip to New Maple Grove Cemetery in Leidy Township. Both Calhoun and Cranmer are buried there, and my son and I found their gravestones. New Maple Grove is a neat cemetery — Many of the graves there were moved into that space in 1960, when they built the Kettle Creek dam. Not Cranmer’s or Calhoun’s; those two guys died after 1960. But much of Calhoun’s family.
It was neat to stand there, looking at the stones. The man who dreamed of wealth, and the man who witnessed the paranormal. And now, all these years later, I think I know what he saw: Lenticular clouds. Now, if only I can find the Susquehanna Seal.
Lou Bernard is a Lock Haven resident with a keen interest in the history of this area. He is adult services coordinator at Ross Library and may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 570-660-4463.