History of the Herr Tavern
The Herr Tavern and Publick House was built in 1815 by Thomas Sweeney. Sweeney built his tavern here to capitalize on the route that led west. This is now US Route 30. It is possible that while Sweeney owned the tavern, Davey Lewis hid out there. Davey Lewis was a famous bank robber in the early 1800's. There are stories of "Lewis the Robber" using the tavern as a base of operations for counterfeiting. If this was the Davey Lewis of legend, he had to have been here when Thomas Sweeney owned the building, because Davey Lewis died in prison in Bellefonte in 1820. Bank Robbers aside, Mr. Sweeney's prosperity would not last long.
He would only own the building for twelve years. In 1827 he was forced into bankruptcy and had to sell his tavern. In 1828, Frederick Herr purchased the tavern that still bears his name. He turned the tavern into a fixture of the area; in fact, by all accounts the ridge it sits on is called Herr's Ridge. Herr ran the tavern as well. He provided food, and lodging for travelers and the local people. It seems that he also had some less that legitimate business ventures as well. According to stories and legends, he allowed a friend to use the basement of the Herr Tavern for counterfeiting operation. Frederick would then launder this money through the tavern, passing it off to people heading west. There is also a story that he used the upstairs as a brothel.
It seems as if Mr. Herr had a very diversified portfolio. Even though it appears that Frederick Herr used his tavern for some illegal activities, he also put it to good use. In the years before the Civil War, he allowed his tavern to be used by the Underground Railroad. No one knows how many people were helped to freedom by Mr. Herr. The Civil War removed the need for the Underground Railroad, and it also blasted its way through Herr Tavern.
The summer of 1863 would forever change the history of Herr Tavern. On the night of June 30th, and advanced guard of Union General John Buford's Cavalry camped on Herrs Ridge. On the beginning of the next morning, July 1st, a few musket shots were heard. These few shots soon became a torrent of fire. The Confederates of General Henry Heth pushed Buford's troops back to the outskirts of Gettysburg. What started as a minor skirmish was quickly developing into the most costly battle of the war. Herr Tavern was overrun by the Confederates, and remained behind Confederate lines for the length of the battle. It was during this time that the Herr Tavern had its saddest and most traumatic use. The Tavern was the nearest building to the fighting, so it was a natural choice to be the first Confederate hospital. Several of the rooms were turned into operating theaters. It was said that amputated limbs were thrown out a window into a waiting wagon for burial. A Civil War hospital was the closest thing to Hell that you could ever experience. Wounded men were everywhere. There were little or no painkillers available. The concept of sterilizing instruments was not yet known. Surgeons would wipe off their bare hands to locate the ball or piece of iron that had torn into the unfortunate patient. The smell of blood, death and decay permeated the building. With all that energy being expended, it is no wonder that some of it remains.
The conditions here at the Herr Tavern during and after the battle were horrendous. The summer of 1863 was an unusually hot one. The first days of July were no exception. The temperatures were in the upper 80's and the humidity was just as high. Try to imagine what it was like to be wounded and lying in the hot sun or in a sitting room waiting your turn on the surgeon's table. There is no record of how many men spent their last hours in the charnel house that the Herr Tavern had become, but it must be a truly frightening number
. Frederick Herr owned the tavern until his death in 1868. After his death, the tavern was sold to the Reading family. The building was subsequently bought and sold over the years, eventually seeing use as a dairy farm in the early 1900's. The current owner, Steven Wolf purchased the in 1977, and has spent the last quarter century turning it into the marvel it is today. The Tavern shows the care and effort that Steve has put into the restoration. The tavern is a testament to Steve's dedication.
Hauntings at the Tavern
There are literally dozens of incidents at Herr Tavern that would indicate that it it haunted. Steve Wolf, the owner, is the first to admit that his place is haunted. Steve calls one of the ghosts "My buddy, Freddie." Steve thinks that it is the ghost of Frederick Herr, although he has no way to be sure. He has had encounters in his tavern that have no rational explanation. One night at about 2 am, Steve and a friend were closing up the tavern for the night they were sitting at the bar ready to tally up the days receipts when something strange happened. They both heard the door open and then heard footsteps coming toward them. This didn't seem unusual until they realized that the door was locked! When they looked up, there was no one there. This incident would have been strange enough, but what followed was even more strange. As they looked toward the end of the bar, both men heard a voice say "Can I order a beer?" While they looked on in bewilderment, the voice repeated the request. No other words or sounds were heard, and nothing could be seen. Was this a thirsty soldier looking for some relief from the hot days of battle?
Steve is not the only person who works there that had experiences. Some of the staff has found forks stuck into the floor and tables amiss the old dining room when no one was around. Glasses have scooted across tables as if they were pushed...with no one around. No one living anyway! One night one of the waitresses was in the kitchen and looked out towards the bar. She saw a very large man at the end of the bar. She was about to walk out and tell him that the bar was closed, but when she looked up again, he had vanished. There was no way someone could have gotten up from the bar and left with out her seeing them go out the front door.
The kitchen is very active. The chef once heard what sounded like a tray of dishes crashing to the floor and breaking, but upon investigation found nothing wrong. The same chef had also heard pots and pans banging and falling, but never saw anything out of place. People have also seen a woman with a baby looking out of the upstairs bedroom window. Some guests have seen a young woman with an infant in her arms walking down the stairs or heading up the stairs to the attic. Also guests have also heard a baby crying and soft voice of a woman singing to it. Who are this woman and child? No one can say for sure, but some say it is Suzanne Herr or a woman who came to wait for her husband during the Battle of Gettysburg. Guests have also reported hearing the doors to their rooms close and lock, even when they are already closed and locked. People staying overnight have heard doorknobs rattle as if someone is making sure that they are locked. The sound of heavy footed footsteps have also been heard. When the guests look out of their rooms to see who is there, the hall is always empty.
Electrical appliances are not exempt from the entities that are at Herr Tavern. One night the credit card machine went crazy, it just kept rolling out paper. Lights and televisions have turned out themselves in rooms 1 and 4. Rooms 1,2,3,& 4 seem to be the focus of much activity. Objects will be moved from where they were placed, doors will open and close on their own, and footsteps of an invisible intruder are heard.