PITTSTON — Just in time for the Halloween season, Stan Zurek stood in front of about 50 people at the Pittston Memorial Library, speaking about local folklore, urban legends and paranormal activity.
Zurek, who goes by the pen name of John Stanley, presented his book “Suscon Screams: Short Stories and Tales of Suscon Road” to the attendees Sunday afternoon, along with an open discussion.
The presentation touched on multiple points of Suscon Road in the Pittston area, including some well-known and not-so-well-known folklore such as the “Suscon Screamer,” real-life incidents, and legends dating back to local Iroquois Indians.
Zurek, 57 and a lifelong Suscon resident, said he decided to write the book after doing years of research on the area.
“I heard these stories my whole life,” he said of the road and its history. “I got curious, and decided to look up my hometown online. I found that the stories online were nothing like what the old timers told me, nothing made sense. So I began doing research and ended up with over 100 pages of notes. A friend suggested I turn my notes into a book, and so I did.”
No paranormal novice
A member of many local and state paranormal groups, Zurek is no novice to the unexplained. Aside from participating in the Pennsylvania Paranormal Association and East Coast Para Con, he also is a co-host for WILK-FM’s Paranormal Science.
Zurek said in all, Suscon Road has over 55 fatalities, perhaps the most recent being Kayla McGrady, who died in an automobile accident in 2011. In 2009, Elvis Riccardi and Michael Simonson were charged will the killing of Donald Skiff, leaving his body in the woods off the road. For years, ribbons and wooden crosses have adorned areas of Suscon, particularly near the unforgiving “S” turns and across Buzz Bridge.
The crowd listened as he began telling some of the tales, pointing out specific areas of the long and at times windy road. Many chimed in throughout the presentation, either to tell a personal or family story of the history for some areas, including the old fire tower and Jim Reap, the watchman who claimed to first see an unidentified creature circa 1945.
Jan Lokuta of Dupont came to listen to the stories, and to see what would come of Reap’s story.
Jim Reap’s monster
Longtime family friends with Reap, Lokuta said he first heard of “Jim Reap’s Monster” when he was a small child, sitting on the porch of his family’s bar. Years later, Lokuta said he traveled to talk with Reap in person about what he said he saw that night in Big Shiny.
“He said it had a long snout, long grey hair and a bushy tail. It jumped up on a pile of debris, stood up on it’s hind feet and had eyes that shined like diamonds,” Lokuta said. “He said it seemed to be unafraid of people.”
When asked what Lokuta thought the “monster” could have been, he replied: “Personally, I think it could be one of two things. In the post-war era, there were a lot of roadside attractions. Maybe it was an escaped exotic creature that was used to being around people.”
As for his second theory?
“This area is the southernmost extent for wolverines. The way (Reap) explained it to me, the creature walked with it’s front legs crossing in front of the mid-point of it’s body — that’s how wolverines walk,” he said.
Overall, Lokuta said the presentation was interesting. He was glad Zurek paid respect to Jim Reap, and also was glad to reminisce about the stories that have been passed down for generations.
“I think there are simply things we don’t know enough about to discount,” he said. “I think there’s some truth to these stories. In the 1970s, there were a lot of people who met a grisly fate (on that road) — one way or another.”
The old Black Bridge
Aside from the fire tower, another area of the road that gains much attention is the old Black Bridge. Although all that is left of the narrow, one-way bridge now is remnants of a railroad bed, there’s many a story of a woman in white roaming the area, trying to get a ride “home.” While each story varies as to the woman’s demise, most contain an estranged lover and all involve her ear-piercing screams for help.
Bob Price of Dupont came to the event to learn local history, as well as for a chance to hear the stories. He said his favorite part about the book is the GPS coordinates Zurek provides, giving readers the chance to (safely) visit the areas for themselves.
“I’ve seen too many strange things in this world to not believe that something could be out there,” he said.
Zurek said that aside from his research online and at local libraries, he relied on the stories of long-time residents to complete the book, and that he has begun writing a second book.
“Suscon Screams” is available at Duddy’s Deli, Pittston; Gumba’s Pizza, Pittston and Inner Peace Health, Healing and Wellness in Plains Township for $10. The e-Book is available to purchase for $7.99 at smashwords.com.