Welcome to Avella, Pennsylvania, established during the mid 1800s by frontiersmen and farmers, and eventually put on the map by coal miners and railroad workers. Avella is merely a ghost town located on the outskirts of the plush interior of Washington County, Pennsylvania, and bordering with Brooke County, West Virginia. It is known for beautiful scenery and a multitude of wildlife, including several species of birds.
There is another side to Avella that is dark, diabolical and recognized for being actively haunted by the coal miners that once rioted a nearby non-union coal mine in 1922 that ended with devastating results. Eight miners and Brooke County Sheriff, H.H. Duval lost their lives that fateful day, several other miners were confirmed dead, and placed in unmarked graves along the wooded area now known as the Shades of Death Road.
European immigrants flocked to southwestern Pennsylvania to work in the coal mines that offered less than cozy conditions, but guaranteed pay and food on the table. The days were long and hard, and the money kept the men and their families barely above the poverty level during the late 1800s and into the early 1900s. The winters were brutal and the work was monotonous as work began at daybreak and ended at sundown.
Coal mining was a hard life for the miners and their families, and their lives were often shortened due to brutal circumstances sustained by work injuries from tools, cave-ins and explosions from dynamite that was faulty or quite often miscalculated. Many of these men suffered from a loss of limbs, suffocation, third degree burns, and wounds that quickly became infected. The screams of the wounded miners were unmistakable, and could be heard by the wives and children awaiting their arrival home after a long day at work.
The Shades of Death Road has long been a mystery to the locals, as well as the many unsuspecting people that have traveled along the deep country road and have heard the eerie noises that mimic blood curdling screams, cries of anguish and even growling. Unexplained anomalies are no stranger to this hauntingly mysterious road, and it is quite likely that you will be privy to ghosts that have missing limbs and burned or damaged extremities.
This whole stretch of road has had its share of dead people becoming part of the dense scenery, but they are not where you can see them, they are hidden deep under the rich soil of long ago, forgotten and in unmarked graves. You can however see them when they decide to appear at different times during the day and night, calling out to whoever is willing to listen to their cries of help.
Driver distractions could explain the hundreds of automobile accidents that have taken place on this haunted stretch of tree lined roadway.
The reports from crash survivors are all basically the same. A dark figured darted across the road in front of their vehicle or they witnessed a glowing white apparition that appeared to be in distress, and vanished into thin air. Both sightings have caused a multitude of drivers to crash into one of the many trees lining both sides of the road.
The local legend firmly holds onto the possibility that the Shades of Death Road is in fact haunted due to a large amount of lives lost through unexpected mining accidents, and the road was at one time heavily occupied from dawn to dusk. Other local folklore includes the story of an escaped slave that was hung from a tree overhanging the road, and when you consider that most of the road is one long brilliant tunnel of trees, the mere thought of his ghost walking along the road, touching those that dare to come in for a closer look, well it just doesn't get any creepier then that.
Pittsburgh, PA to Shades of Death Road in Avella, PA: Take 79 south to 70 east. Exit at Jefferson Avenue/PA-18 in Washington, PA, and remain on this route for approximately 10 miles. Jefferson Avenue will become PA-844. Make a sharp right onto Seminary Road. Make a right on Scenic Drive/PA-231. Turn right onto Avella Road, and then make a left onto Cross Creek Road. Stay straight to go onto Cross Creek Road. Turn left onto Cedar Grove Road. Make a sharp left onto Bethel Ridge Road. Turn left onto the Shades of Death Road.
Directions to Shades of Death Road from the center of Avella, Pennsylvania, approximately 8 miles: Start out going Northwest on Avella Road/PA-50 toward Cross Creek Road. Stay straight to go onto Cross Creek Road. Turn left onto Cedar Grove Road. Make a sharp left onto Bethel Ridge Road. Turn left onto the Shades of Death Road.
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Indeed, boys are drawn to the roadway like bees to nectar, but not only because of the name. On an early spring day, Glenn Lowe, 16; Bill Durbin, 18; and Chris Tuttle, 17; and his brother, Dusty, 14, all from Avella, strolled down Shades of Death in search of "a little adventure."