The Titus homestead is located near Plymouth. First settled in 1769, Plymouth was an early pioneer settlement in the Wyoming Valley of Northeastern Pennsylvania. Its location along the Susquehanna River and at the junction of several important Indian trails made Plymouth the ideal place for a trading post. When coal was discovered in the area in the early 19th century, Plymouth– like its neighbor, Wilkes-Barre– became a thriving mining town.
Dennis Titus, one of three miners killed in October of 1885 when the Delaware & Hudson mine collapsed, owned Titus homestead. After his death, his daughter, Cora, and widow, Mary Titus, stayed in the family home on Vine Street until 1900, when Mary remarried and moved out of town.
Although four generations of the Titus family lived on this homestead, the original owner’s name is unknown. Reported to be one of the oldest houses in Plymouth, its construction dates back to the Revolutionary War.
In May of 1897, Mary Titus began experiencing strange and peculiar happenings inside her home.
Residents in the area reported hearing strange knocking sounds throughout the house, anytime day or night. These sounds came from the basement. Yet, whenever Mary or Cora went down the wooden stairs, the knocking stopped, and they found the cellar empty.
At first, Mary attributed this knocking and pounding to some natural cause, like the settling of the house on its foundation. But when visitors heard the knocking sounds, they were immediately frightened out of their wits.
The knocks seemed to be coming up through the floorboards, and guests swore they could feel the pounding in the soles of their feet. No, this was not the sound of a house settling.
Neighbors witnessed the knockings and rappings inside the Titus home. They thought they had found a supernatural explanation when the neighbors learned that the strange sounds began almost immediately after company officials re-opened the portion of the mine where Dennis Titus had met his death.
Some of the Plymouth miners visited the house on Vine Street to hear the eerie sounds for themselves, and many said the knocks were identical to those heard in the mines after workers the cave-in entombed them.
Mary, however, did not buy this explanation. Her husband’s body had been recovered from the mine and given a proper burial, and whomever– or whatever– was haunting the Titus home seemed to have little interest in the widow. The unwelcome entity appeared to have a peculiar fascination with Mary’s daughter, Cora.
Since the knocking began, Cora was subject to fits of hysterics. St. Vitus’s dance afflicted her, too. This disease causes the victims to twitch and jerk uncontrollably. Cora claimed that she had seen the ghost, and it followed her from room to room.
Mary Titus came to believe that Cora’s malady might explain the tapping noises. One day, while sitting at the kitchen table, there came the sudden sound of tapping from beneath the floor. Mary noticed a tapping sound every time her daughter’s foot twitched involuntarily. The mystery, it seemed, had a perfectly rational explanation.
Cora was diagnosed with hysteria and St. Vitus’ dance. Today, we know that St. Vitus’ dance comes from a specific childhood bacterial infection and not from demonic possession or supernatural forces. Eighty percent of cases involve patients between the ages of 7 and 11, and it is exceedingly rare in persons over the age of 16.
However, Cora was nearly twenty years of age when she first began experiencing these convulsions. Also, Cora’s disease did not explain why numerous witnesses heard knocking and pounding noises even when Cora wasn’t present.
Mary Titus eventually remarried and moved out of the neighborhood, settling into a new home on Courtright Street in the nearby borough of Plains. Cora also got married and moved to Courtright Street, leaving the Titus homestead abandoned and stories of the haunted house forgotten. That is, until 1903.
In March of that year, some young boys were playing inside the abandoned Titus home. They were digging holes in the cellar’s dirt floor when they noticed a chunk of wood sticking out of the ground by the building’s foundation.
Further digging revealed a wooden box, about three feet in length and one foot in width. With thoughts of buried treasure in their curious minds, the young boys pried open the lid and found a bundle of bones inside.
Rather than being frightened, the youngsters were disappointed. One of the boys thought the relics might be worth something, so they gathered up several bones and approached a local junk dealer, who gave the children a few pennies. The boys immediately ran off to buy candy. The junk man showed the bones to Dr. C.L. Ashley, who recognized one of the fragments as a piece of the human breast bone.
When authorities arrived, they found the bones to be so brittle they practically crumbled at the slightest touch. Belief is the original owner built atop a long-forgotten burial ground of a centuries-old homestead. But they also made another exciting discovery—over the years, as the house settled, part of the foundation settled upon the lid of the wooden box, causing it to break.
Is it possible a spirit couldn’t rest in peace after the house’s foundation broke through the coffin? Is it possible the knocking sounds heard by Mary and Cora and dozens of visitors to the Titus home result from the disruption? We may never know. I must admit, though, it is a great mystery.
Until next time,
Author: Marlin Bressi, source: paoddities.blogspot.com
Marlin Bressi is an author and history buff who currently resides in Harrisburg. As a nonfiction writer, he has authored four books. The most recent are Hairy Men in Caves: True Stories of America’s Most Colorful Hermits and Pennsylvania Oddities.