The Exorcist, Axe Murder Hollow, and bad choices

A guest post by Dawn Patton

In high school, I worked part-time at a local business called Home Video Exchange, a place that rented out movies on VCR tapes. It was the precursor to Blockbuster. (Anyone remember Blockbuster? Yea, verily, the long ago days before streaming everything.)

Every now and again, I’d choose something to take home myself. We were allowed free rentals of anything we wanted, except for new releases. I brought home Pink Floyd’s The Wall one time, and watched it with my brother… and my dad. Super awkward. I rented About Last Night, and got in trouble with my parents for that one.

And one summer evening after my high school graduation, I rented The Exorcist.

I don’t know what possessed me.

*pause for laughter*

I invited some friends over, and we watched it in my parents’ finished basement. Cast of characters: Alicia, Hope, Tim, and my post-prom-date, then-boyfriend Mike.

And then, after we watched what is arguably the most terrifying movie in the history of movies, we decided to go to the most haunted (allegedly haunted) site in Erie, PA: Axe Murder Hollow.

As with many smaller towns, Erie had an infamous, apocryphal murder. It took place more than 60 years ago. The way I heard it is that a local farmer lost his mind and chopped his family into bits, then killed himself. Other stories say the motive for the murder was that the farmer’s wife was stepping out, and he killed her and her lover. With an axe.

Either way: Axe. Murder. Hollow.

Mike knew where it was, so we piled into his beater, and drove out there. We weren’t even drinking.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash
Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

As we descended the road that lead into the hollow, my friend Hope said, from the back seat, “Oh my god, did you see that gypsy woman standing on the side of the road?”

The other four of us said no, we hadn’t.

Hope was a little freaked out. “The farmer murdered his family because he was cursed. He wouldn’t let the gypsies camp out for the night in his field, and this old gypsy woman put a curse on him. He went berserk.”

That pretty much unsettled everyone. “Maybe we should just turn around,” I said to Mike.

“We’re here anyway,” Mike announced. He stopped the car.

And then he shut it off.

This did not go over well with the female contingent in the car. Tim and Mike had a few yuks at our expense, and Mike said, “Okay, okay, we’ll go.”

He turned the key.

Nothing happened.

“You better not be fucking around,” I said shrilly.

“I’m not, I swear,” Mike answered. He tried the key again.


There was a lot of yelling at that point. Even Tim was like, “Get us out of here, man!”

The car started, and we peeled out.


Mike called me the next day.

“My car didn’t start this morning,” he said.

“You’re kidding me.”

“I swear, I’m not. I had to get it towed to the garage. When I told them it wouldn’t start last night they pointed out [car-related thing that was broken]. They said I was lucky it had started up again at all.”

I didn’t see Mike too much after that.


I guess if there’s a moral of the story, it’s, “Don’t visit a haunted place after watching a horror movie.” Or maybe it’s, “Don’t shut off the car if you drive to a haunted site.”

Either way, if you visit Erie this Halloween, there’s this place where this weird thing happened…

Dawn Patton is a professional writer in Pittsburgh. She blogs at, and tweets @redpenmamapgh. Her favorite writer is Stephen King, but she’s still not going to go see IT. Nope, no way, she values her sleep too much. Despite her visit to Axe Murder Hollow, she still takes her family to Erie to see her parents.

For the month of October, Listing Beyond Forty is Listing Toward Halloween, featuring posts related to or inspired by Halloween.

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