Updated: Jan 11, 2020
Buckingham Mountain in Central Bucks County, Pennsylvania is rich with history, mystery and a few spooky traditions. They all center around the very small Mount Gilead African Methodist Episcopal Church. Folklore, and even the testimonies of grown men, tell of paranormal encounters, cars stalling, black magic and broken laws of physics and nature. There are three main components that make the area a chilling adventure, especially on late dark nights.
Click the arrows or thumbnail images to scroll through the album. Photos by Brenda Quinn.
Most of the area legends and tales surround a very small historic church, measuring just thirty-two by fifty-two feet.
In the 1700s, local Quakers who lived on the mountain helped shelter escaped and freed slaves. Soon African Americans called the area home and began building log cabins and stone homes along the mountain. By 1822, fifteen families formed a congregation and began plans to build a church. The doors opened in 1835, but it was later rebuilt stronger, using rose quartz and iron-veined stone quarried from the mountain. The church was dedicated on November 20, 1853.
Mount Gilead is said to have been critical to the Underground Railroad. One of the most notorious escaped slaves to live and work in the area was Benjamin "Big Ben" Jones, a man of massive stature and gentle disposition. The movie, The North Star, is based on his life, including time spent at Mount Gilead. I highly recommend it for the history lesson alone. For more about Mount Gilead, please visit mountgilead.org.
"Race Against the Devil"
Like most abandoned churches and a cemeteries, spooky legends began circulating about the old church, particularly with teens looking for a thrill. I don't know by whom or when they started, but they were going strong when I graduated from Central Bucks East in 1985. The rules? Willing participants must start on the far end of the graveyard and declare their willingness to compete with the dark prince by announcing the following, "I would like to race against the devil!" You never see the devil, although some will say they've seen apparitions, but you can tell by the wind if you've won the race or not. If you feel a burst of wind after the race, it's the devil coming up behind you and you're declared a winner. Winning means you'll have a year of luck. No wind, a year of bad luck. Some say death is even imminent. I don't know about that!
One quick YouTube search and you'll find half a dozen videos of folks trying to test the idea that the hill near the church defies gravity. Many say if you put your car in neutral, it will roll uphill instead of down. Some have said their bikes rolled uphill, water runs uphill, you name it. I don't like to burst bubbles, but I kind of think the stretch of road is a bit of an illusion. With that said, there are stories all across the globe of similar "gravity hill" happenings. And if you say it happened to you, I believe you!
Thanks for reading this edition of "Legend Has It." Check back for new editions. If you have ideas, I'd love to hear them.
Written by Heather Slawecki
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