Tunkhannock approves budget with no tax increase

Commissioners mull purchasing Mill City Elementary School

PPA investigates paranormal phenomena in Upper Darby, Pa.

By C.J. Marshall
Wordsmith Productions

Tunkhannock Borough Council approved its 2020 budget on Thursday, Nov. 11, of $1,114,244.

Although approved without a tax increase, Council President Robert Robinson noted that it has been steadily increasing for the past few years.

“It grows,” he said before the vote was taken. “It’s not growing as fast as I thought it might grow. But it grows some.

Robinson observed that, according to information reported in the Wyalusing Rocket, Wyalusing’s 2020 budget is about half-a-million dollars.

“That’s a lot of money for a borough like Tunkhannock,” Robinson said, referring to the borough’s 2020 budget.

Council also approved its assessment of 27.9 mills on property, 1.5 mills for Triton Hose Company, and 1.9 mills for street lighting – all of which remains unchanged from last year.

By a six-to-one vote – with Robinson voting no – council approved a Cost of Living Adjustment of 1.9 percent to the pensions of two its retired police officers.

Before the vote was taken, Robinson explained that the money for the COLA is coming out of the borough’s pension fund.

“We are now sort of in a pension crunch,” he said. “We’re behind in pension revenues. “We’re having put a lot more into the pension fund than we normally would have done.”

During the discussion, council member Scott Douthett said that the increase would only be a minium amount. Borough Manager Dawn Welch confirmed that it would only be about $1,000 a year for each officer.

“Dawn and I talked about this right when it came out,” Douthett explained. “My first knee jerk reaction was ‘Oh my God, more money?’ When I heard what a small about it was – I think Marshall (Davis) said ‘Do you want to pay it now, or do you want to pay it later?’

Robinson announced that council will hold a mid-month meeting on Nov. 20, in which former Mayor Norman Ball will be honored at 2 p.m. Mayor Stacy Huber will be presenting Ball with a plaque, recognizing his years of service to the borough. The meeting will be at the borough building, and all are invited to attend.

The caboose which has been displayed in Riverside Park is scheduled to be moved to its new home in Honesdale on November 25.

Council voted to advertise that it intends to adopt a Property Maintenance revision in December. Robinson reported that the borough solicitor will be going over the proposed revisions before the vote is taken. Council also announced it intends to amend the zoning ordinance regarding signs in the borough.


By C.J. Marshall

Wordsmith Productions

The Wyoming County Commissioners on Tuesday voted to attempt to purchase the Mill City Elementary school.

By a two-to-one vote – with Commissioners Rick Wilbur and Ernie King voting yes and Tom Henry no – the board voted to submit a bid of $125,000 to the school district.

As explained by Wilbur, the board is looking to consolidate the number of offices it maintains throughout the county into one building. The move, he said would allow them to save on rents.

“We spend in excess of $50,000 a year,” he explained.

To help pay for the cost of renovations to the school, Wilbur said, the county could take out a mortgage, costs of which would remain consistent over the years.

Another advantage, he continued, is the county could sell the Robinson building, located near Walmart in Eaton Township, which currently houses Children and Youth. In addition to bringing in money, the move would put the building back on the local tax rolls.

By purchasing Mill City, Wilbur continued, the county could rent space to state and federal agencies, as well as install an “incubator” to assist small businesses. They would also like to keep the all-purpose room at the school as a recreational facility for the community.

However, one problem is the district already sold the elementary building at auction on Saturday for $110,000. Wilbur explained that the reason they did not submit a bid is because the timing was “absolutely horrible,” – the county did not have time to take the necessary steps when the auction occurred.

“What we’re going to do is ask the school district to not accept the offer that’s there and we’re going to make a counter offer,” Wilbur explained.

Henry explained after the vote was taken the reason he voted no is because he is concerned with the timing of transaction.

“How it might be perceived by the public,” Henry said. “And the location. It’s not that I don’t believe in the building.

Wilbur said he understands Henry’s concerns, but if the county does not move now on the project, it will never happen.

After the meeting, Henry elaborated further, explaining he is concerned over the elementary school’s location. Many people who use county services – such as Children and Youth – would have a more difficult time of accessing them should the elementary school be used as an all-purpose facility. Henry also explained that the building is now geared for elementary school children, requiring extensive renovations to bring it up to specifications. Such renovations, he estimated, could cost as much as $500,000.

The commissioners issued a proclamation, declaring “One County, Two Books, Two Movies.” The event, sponsored by the Dietrich Theater and the Tunkhannock Public Library, will feature the reading and discussing of the books “Atonement’ and “On Chesil Beach” by author Ian McEwan on Feb. 5, Feb. 19, and March 4 at 7 p.m., at the library. The event also includes showings of the movie version of Atonement on Feb. 12 at 1 and 7 p.m., and “On Chesil Beach” on Feb. 26 at 1 and 7 p.m. All are invited to attend.

The commissioners heard a presentation from Sandra Boyle, asking that “pickle ball” courts be set up at Riverside Park in Tunkhannock. Pickle ball, she explained, is played on a court, using a net, paddles, and a nerf ball. The activity has become popular with people of all ages, she said, and would be good for the community.

Boyle explained that there are three basketball courts at Riverside Park that could be renovated to allow pickle ball to be played. The cost – including repaving – is estimated at $27,000.

Wyoming County Planning Director Lynelle Farber confirmed that there could money for the project available through the Marcellus Legacy Funds available to local communities. Deadline for application for the money is Feb. 21. Farber urged communities as well as eligible organizations throughout the area to consider making a grant application, because many have ignored the resource in past years.

Albert Olive, a member of Nicholson Borough Council, informed the commissioners that the borough will hold a “Jeans and Cama Ball” on Jan. 25 at 7 p.m., at the local fire hall. Cost is $10, he said, and is also “bring your own bottle.” Proceeds from the event will benefit the local fireworks program, as well as the Nicholson Fire Department.

In other business, the commissioners:

  • Reappointed Ronald Kukuchka as vice-chairman of the Airport Authority.

  • Hired Lindsay Shepherd for Domestic Relations.

  • Approved the promotion of Amber Collett from a part-time to full-time corrections officer.

  • Hired Kelly Ferguson for Case Aid for Children and Youth.

  • Hired Christina Soloman for Case Aid 2 for Children and Youth.

  • Hired Sara Strohl as an administrative assistant for the Sheriff’s Office.


Wordsmith Productions

Paranormal investigations are often a lot of fun, but they can also be a lot of work.

Take the case “The Upper Darby Poltergeist.” In 2010, members of the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association ended up chasing three spirts – one of them particularly bad – before a family being plagued by hauntings could find some peace.

“It was one of the most intense cases that my team and I ever had the privilege of working on,” explained association Director Mark Keyes.

Keyes recently provided a fascinating account of the incident to members of American Legion Post 672 in Dallas. The investigation is but one of many conducted by the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association into unusual activities that occur in people’s homes.

“Take requests from people who want to know what is going on at their house,” he explained.

Keyes is a retired Pennsylvania State Trooper, having served on the force for 25 years in various capacities – including undercover drug work, criminal investigation and public information. Following his retirement, Keyes began investigating paranormal phenomena.

“I started out as an optimistic skeptic when it came to paranormal stuff – ghosts, hauntings, psychics,” he explained. “I didn’t know whether to buy into any of it. I really wanted to. I wanted to believe it. I wanted it to be real, but something just wasn’t doing it for me. So I had to physically just go out and do it for myself just to answer my own curiosity.”

Things started slow, and for the first two years all that happened was strange voices captured on a recorder. But Keyes persisted, with he and his wife Lauren founding the PPA. More members joined the team, and their investigations continued to grow.

Keyes noted that those he worked with were sincere – that they were scared and believed they really needed help in such situations.

“Things kind of grew and grew, and we continued to get more and more requests for help, and now 15 years later, we’re still going and we’re still getting almost a case every other weekend.

The most intense case for the PPA occurred in 2010 a double block house Upper Darby, right outside of Philadelphia.

“It turned out to be one of the most relentless hauntings,” Keyes said. “It was not easy to stop.”

Keyes and his team ultimately determined that the case involved ghosts, voodoo, plus a much darker entity.

“For me, this is the most physically active case that I’ve been involved in,” he said. “The dad, kind of did some seedy stuff in his life, including his business practices. “And that kind of led to an attachment taking place with him.”

Most cases involve perhaps a shadow on the wall, or a door opening an shutting without explanation.

“This case proved to be the exception to everything we did. It became known as the Upper Darby Poltergeist. Poltergeist meaning noisy ghost in German. It’s where you have a lot of physical activity taking place.”

Some of the evidence, though, Keyes and the others took with a grain of salt. The family provided pictures of chairs being stacked neatly on top of dining room table, with items on top.

“I wasn’t buying it,” Keyes said. “It’s too precise. A chair knocked over – maybe. I thought maybe somebody human was doing some of this stuff.”

In another instance, baby was moved while sleeping from one room to another. When found, the child was covered from head to toe with a blanket.

“And I thought to myself – no way. No way, these people are exaggerating.”

Keyes carefully questioned family members, particularly the wife who filed the initial request for help. He discovered that the woman was sincere, and came to the conclusion that she knew nothing about the incident with the young child. However, he remains convinced that another family member – probably one of the other children – pulled the stunt as a joke.

But some of the phenomena were very typical – including knocking noises, doorways being blocked by items piled behind them; lights turning on; someone playing with children’s toys; rooms trashed; and refrigerators being emptied. Other things not so easily explained included cold spots and shadows where none should be.

And something else which Keyes and his teammates eventually observed first-hand.

According to the family, certain things were occurring every single day, all day long.

“And that was the thing that really stood out. Most hauntings aren’t like that,” he said, explaining that typical sightings occur perhaps one or two days per week.

With so much unexplained activity going on, the team decided to do a full investigation of the house, figuring that it would be interesting if even half of what had been reported was actually going on.

“We ended up going down there with a team of three investigators. Myself, a guy named Paul, and guy named Bobby. And Virginia, who is our physic medium.”

Using her abilities, Virginia was able to determine certain things that had gone on in the house – both while the family was present, as well as before they were living there. During a walk-through, Keyes explained, Virginia detected the presence of two unhappy ghosts on the premises. The first was a woman who was extremely bitter because children have moved into the house while she was there, he said.

The other ghost was the woman’s son, Keyes explained. Virginia was able to determine that they two were not communicating with each other, because they were on a separate plane of existence. The son’s situation was that he had lived and died in the house, it was his home in life, and he did not want to leave.

Eventually, Virginia performed a ritual that convinced the mother and son to both “go to the light,” leaving the house forever.

But that was not the end of the situation – in many ways it was only the beginning.

Whiel conducting her walk-though, Virginia uncovered another important piece of information.

“She turns to me, and said, did this family do voodoo or have voodoo done to them.”

According to Keyes, there was no previous indication of voodoo in the case. But family members confirmed that there had been such a situation in their lives.

Keyes and his colleges learned that the father had had a ceremony performed against him by a practitioner of Santeria, which is very similar to voodoo in its practice.

“Her friend did what they call a heart-binding ceremony, and reported manifesting something and sent to him in the way of like an evil entity to physically and financially corrupt him,” Keyes explained.

During the investigation, Virginia had an experience in the house convincing her what had been directed against the husband was true.

“All of a sudden, she said it felt like somebody came from behind her, threw a bag over her head and yanked it backward and something was choking her. That’s the feeling she got,” he said.

On March 30, 2010, the team set up recording devices on the premises to see if they could obtain any physical evidence of a haunting. With no one in the house, they obtained unexplained noises on various recorders repeating themselves on a regular basis. Among the noises included: loud footsteps on stairs; the swinging of a metal hinge; and quarters dropping on the floor.

The quarters turned out to be one of the biggest phenomena for the team, as they actually recorded them appearing from no where on video. In one instance, a quarter was captured on film, appearing off screen, rolling across the room, and stopping when it struck a chair.

In another instance, a door in a bedroom was recorded on film, opening and closing by itself at least twice.

Although the ghosts had left by this time, evidence continued to indicate that the malignant spirit afflicting the father was still around and still causing problems. As a result, the team conducted a second investigation on April 6, 2011. Again, everyone left the building while electronic devices were employed to create recordings.

“At the end of that night, we had a whole bunch of more stuff happen,” Keyes explained.

This time, Keyes actually saw a quarter fly across the room and hit a wall

“And I thought ‘I got them. Whoever is here, I got them,” Keyes said.

But looking through various rooms in the house yielded nothing. However, Keyes noted that the quarter itself was warm- far warmer than the room where it was found.

Believing that a lot of the activity was focused in the basement, Virginia went there, hoping to make contact, Keyes said. While attempting to communicate with the entity, another quarter dropped from the ceiling. This one was recorded on film.

“A quarter drops from thin air,” Keyes said.

In a separate incident which occurred about the same time on the floor above, a door shut by itself. When Keyes opened the door, four more quarters were discovered.

After learning about what happened in the basement, the team decided to make certain there was no logical explanation for what had occurred.

“So the three of us tore that ceiling apart,” he said. “Just to make sure there were no more quarters, no holes in the ceiling. I even went upstairs – there was wall-to-wall carpeting; there wasn’t even a place where someone could push something through.”

Following the investigation, Paul sat in the basement, in the hopes of communicating with the entity. After about 20 minutes, with Paul attempting to strike up a conversation, another quarter was recorded falling in the room.

This was the fourth time that quarters mysteriously appearing in rooms had been recorded in under two hours, Keyes explained.

Although she continued to contact the entity, Virginia was unable to determine conclusively that it had left the premises.

“It was like there, and it was gone,” Keyes said. “For most ghosts, she makes contact with them, there’s a cleansing and they leave.”

But this time, there was nothing to indicate anything had happened.

All was quiet for a while, Keyes continued, but then disturbing things again began to manifest themselves. This was usually tied in when there were depressing things going on with the family – particularly with the father.

“They were still hearing some things, seeing some shadows,” he said.

As a result, the team decided to perform a third investigation.

This time, the team brought a K-9 police dog named Ben, because animals can often sense things that humans cannot.

As the investigation continued, Ben, who was trained to stay in place, suddenly jumped up from the floor and bolted upstairs.

“He jumped up, fixated on the stairwell, and he took off,” Keyes explained. “He went up the stairs, took a right, slammed into the wall and let out a huge yelp.”

Virginia had also sensed an “energy source” at the same time, and confirmed that’s what Ben had gone after.

Ben was unharmed from the incident, but his behavior confirmed that something unusual was occurring in the house.

Attempts were made by Virginia to ‘bind the entity to the earth,’ with limited success, Keyes explained.

“Almost like an exorcism, but physic medium style,” he said.

Other mediums were brought in, along with a physician. But it was determined that the strain of such activity might be too much for the husband, who suffered from a heart condition.

Keyes, Virginia, and others explored additional options, and decided to perform a ritual that would bind the entity to the property. This caused a drastic reduction in the entity’s activities, although they did not cease entirely.

“The only thing that was going on right now was an occasional sighting,” Keyes explained, saying this was limited to shadows on the wall and other minor incidents. “Nothing real bad, but still enough to scare kids if you’re lying in bed at night.”

Finally, Virginia informed the family that all had been done that could be done. She explained that they could either tolerate the situation, or move. Virginia was certain the entity would not follow them because of the binding ritual.

The family remained in their home for about a year before decided to move a short distance away. At that at point, Keyes explained, the haunting and sightings ceased.

There was concern over if the entity would pose a problem for anyone who moved into the now vacant property, given the fact it had been bound to it. However, Virginia was certain it was now harmless, given the fact it had been specifically summoned for the father.

“I felt like this may have been something which was a one time human, but so evil and twisted by evil that I don’t even feel it’s human any more,” was Virginia’s explanation for the entity, according to Keyes.

The family eventually moved to Florida, with no further incidents regarding paranormal phenomena or hauntings. The case was so intense for Keyes he decided to write a book about the experience, title “The Upper Darby Poltergeist.”

Further information about the Upper Darby Poltergeist, as well as other cases investigated by the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association, can be found at the group’s website at

Whistle Pig Pumpkin Patch offers Fall fun

By C.J. Marshall

Wordsmith Productions

Fall is now officially here, and folks showed up at the Whistle Pig Pumpkin Patch on Sunday, Sept. 22, 2019 to participate in various seasonal activities.

Many people stuffed straw into pants and other old clothing, making scarecrows out of various provided materials.

According to Stacy Field, one of the Whistle Pig’s owners, the pumpkin patch will host scarecrow building as well as other fun things every weekend into October.

“This is only the first week,” Stacy explained. “We’re going to do this every weekend.”

Cost to build a scarecrow is $3, Field said. The cost of other activities is as follows: Corn maze, $4.50; decorating pumpkins, $3.50. Folks can pay 40 cents a pound to pick their own pumpkins. Hayrides, scheduled on a regular basis, are free.

The Whistle Pig Pumpkin Patch has been operating in Noxen, Pa., since 2004. Things start hopping at the patch in June, Stacy explained. That month, people can pick strawberries and rhubarb. In July, it’s red, black, and purple raspberries. Other harvests, depending on the month, include blueberries, fall red and yellow raspberries, canning tomatoes, green peppers, and of course, pumpkins.

Group campfire outings are available at various prices. People should call ahead to make reservations.

Further information can be obtained by calling 570-298-0962, or

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