Jack-O-Lanterns in the Green River Valley

By Sandy Schenck

In the Green River Valley the term of Jack-O-Lanterns means something quite different than a carved out pumpkin. As legend has it, Jack-O-Lanterns are mysterious balls of light that randomly appear floating in the air. Sometimes they appear singly and sometimes many at a time.

Alfred Heatherly served as a caretaker and farmer at GRP from the time Sandy was a young man until his death a few years ago. Alfred grew up on the Green River Preserve in a one room cabin near the original growth hemlocks. He told us tales of Jack-O-Lanterns that would keep you on the edge of your chair!

One evening Alfred was coming home to his cabin through the woods. He misjudged his timing and the sun began to go down. As the darkness settled in, Alfred approached a “Rhododendron Hell” and could not find his way through the thicket. Out of nowhere, this large ball of light appeared. It had a sort of dancing, vibrating movement and seemed to signal – follow me. Alfred said he was surprised by the light, but he was never scared. Something told him he should follow it. Sure enough, this mysterious light led him through the thicket and then it rose up and disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.