Some say Judge John Hoke Reddick’s ghost still haunts his grave, and I suppose they could be right, as the grave—a tomb, really—stands strangely alone in the woods, encircled by a heavy wall. It seems a haunted place.
However, that fascinates me and many others who visit this site is that the judge had himself, allegedly, buried in two states—half in Virginia and half in Pennsylvania.
The state boundary has shifted slightly west since then, but there’s not too much doubt that by design the grave once lay on or near the border, now marked with ancient rocks and modern blazes.
But why here in this wooded country? And why in such a strange, protected circumstance? Who was this Judge Reddick?
According to local legend, he was the kind of guy who would make a deal with the devil.
In one variant of the story, Reddick used the law to trick the devil out of a bargain.
In another, the devil transforms Reddick into a great gray stallion, which he still rides on stormy nights over the hills that rise out of a bend in the Ohio Valley.
The version in which the judge prevails is always the favorite. It’s said, in this instance, that the judge’s body was laid with its feet in Pennsylvania and its head in the judge’s native Virginia, facing east, in an open-ended chestnut coffin.
The judge had hoped that when the devil came, he could claim residency in two states and complicate the infernal claim with dual extradition procedures.
Thomas White, in his book “Legends and Lore of Western Pennsylvania,” wrote that Reddick was known for being a fair judge and encouraging settlements that were acceptable to all parties.” He was one of three associate justices appointed when Beaver County was created in 1800 and served on the bench from 1804 to 1830, when he died.
He was was also a veteran of the Revolutionary War and served as a colonel of the Westmoreland County militia in the War of 1812.
But reading the law wasn’t the judge’s chief interest, White said. Horse-racing was. Reddick built a racetrack, hosted races, and raced as well. He once boasted that “not even the devil could beat him in a race.”
According to the legend, after Reddick died, his body was buried according to his instructions in a special coffin buried squarely on the state line.
When the devil arrived, the ghost demanded a writ of extradition, claiming the devil lacked jurisdiction in Pennsylvania.
Enjoying the duel of wits, the devil obtained a warrant in Harrisburg, only to find that Reddick had shifted to the other side of the coffin and into Virginia. The statute of limitations eventually expired, and Reddick was left to rest in peace.
White also notes that two unforeseen circumstances might have upset the judge’s plans.
In 1882-83, after West Virginia separated from Virginia, the line was moved, and the tomb now lies 10 feet inside Pennsylvania, he said.
“The other is that about 30 years ago, the Hookstown American Legion Post arranged for a marble military marker to be placed on the grave,” White wrote. “There’s no hiding from the Devil now—no need for joint writs of extradition.”
The grave is located along the western edge of what had been the Reddick farm in Hanover Township, Pa., now off Hardin Run Road in Hancock County, West Virginia.
For more information on access to the trail, contact the Beaver County Historical Society, members of which intermittently guides tours to the landmark. You can find out more about the legend from Mark Grago in Beaver County (Pa.) Hauntings.