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Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Decemystery (2023) 5: The Pennsylvanian Pumpkinhead


Finding a header image was a real pain; I poached this one from Fine Art America, so all credit goes to them. Or, well, to Cavan Images, I honestly have no idea if the two are associated, but I figured I ought to give credit where credit is due.

Oh well, I digress. Good day, dear reader. Pull up a chair; I have a story to tell you. If you remember reading this blog in the grand old year of 2020, you may recall a write-up I did entitled “The Subway Man.” It wasn’t much of a mystery, not in my eyes, at least. A woman saw a tall man in a New York City subway and was put off by him. I still find that remarkably rude, but it’s New York City. Many of the people there aren’t known for being the friendliest folks on Earth.

Anyway, I consider that to be a “non-mystery,” a story that I don’t think is a mystery but is nevertheless on websites dedicated to mysteries. Today’s story is one of those non-mysteries, although it isn’t quite as cut and dry as The Subway Man. I call it The Pennsylvanian Pumpkinhead, and while it’s nowhere near as goofy as it sounds, it’s still pretty weird. So come along, let’s see what lurks in the forests of Pennsylvania!

Pumpkins Scream in the Dead of Night

I found this story on the Paranormal World Wiki, where it’s called the Anthracite Pumpkinhead, with the cited source on there being Lon Strickler, who operates Phantoms and Monsters. The latter of the two sources contains two stories, but the second has nothing to do with things that have pumpkins for heads, so I won’t be going over it. Maybe somewhere down the line, I will. Until then, it can sit there and wait its turn.

Now, then, this story was received by a colleague of Lon. It occurred in the “Anthracite area of Pennsylvania,” which is located in the northeastern part of the state. I’ve been to Pennsylvania a few times in my life, but I’m unfamiliar with the state by and large. As such, I have absolutely no idea about the region of the state where this took place. I just wanted to make that clear since I’ve mentioned in the past that I resided in the northeastern United States for almost all of my life.

Unlike most of the stories that are posted on Phantoms and Monsters, this one isn’t a first-hand account. Rather, it’s a third-hand account; Lon was told the story by his colleague, who was told the story by someone who heard it from a friend… in the 1960s. Given Lon posted the article that contains this story in September of 2015, that means the following events happened half a century before being posted online. I cannot imagine the eyewitness’s memory was at all clear when it was told, but I digress.

Lon’s colleague was told this story by someone else; how they knew each other, I don’t know, but I’ll assume they’re friends. Whatever the case, I will refer to this person as Dan; Dan heard of something called the “Pumpkin Man” at some point. This jogged his memory of an encounter a friend of his had 50 years earlier; I will refer to this friend as Paul, who was 13. As a side note, I have no idea what the “Pumpkin Man” is. I tried looking it up, and I got one result from a site called “Monsters Here & There,” which has a short piece on an urban legend from North Carolina. Beyond that, I have absolutely no idea what story Dan may have heard. This isn’t the only pumpkin-related being that I have no clue about, but more on that later.

Anyway, onto Paul’s encounter. Supposedly, back in the mid-1960s, Paul was taking a “shortcut” through the woods. Suddenly, he saw a tall, lanky man. He was wearing a black suit and had “very pale hands.” To top everything off, he had a pumpkin on his head. All things considered, he sported the ideal male physique, and everyone should aspire to look like Jack Skellington over there; ditch the gym and put pumpkins on your heads, men!

Now, something I need to address is that the manner in which Paul came across this individual (assuming it was just a guy wearing a pumpkin on his head) isn’t given. All that’s said is he was walking through a path in the woods, and then he saw this guy with a pumpkin on his head. I have no idea if he was just idly waiting in the woods or if he himself was walking around, or if he appeared out of the blue like he was Slender Man masquerading as the Headless Horseman, but without the horse. So, if you’re hoping for answers, you’re out of luck.

The details of the pumpkin are also not given. I’m not sure if it was carved like a jack-o-lantern so the person could see or if there was a hole on the bottom and it was put over their head. Given the nodding, I imagine it was carved so they could see and breathe. If not, then that must have been uncomfortable.

Getting back on track, Paul went on to say that the man nodded his head “as if to say yes, you are seeing what you think you’re seeing.” I have to admit, that is a pretty chilling image, even if the thought of seeing someone with a pumpkin over their head is slightly amusing to me.

Unsurprisingly, Paul took the sight of a man with a pumpkin over his head in the woods rather poorly. He ran—presumably away from the guy. Whatever the case, he looked back once and saw the man still standing there, nodding his head. As a quick aside, it’s only now that I realized how it’s never stated how far the two were from each other at any point. There are so many details missing, but I guess that’s to be expected, given this is a recounting of something that happened half a century prior.

After that, Paul eventually told Dan about his encounter. Dan asked if it had been a Halloween prank, but Paul didn’t think so, as “it was after Halloween.” He also regularly used that trail and “never encountered anything weird” prior to this experience.

As a result of the Pumpkinhead’s little act of tomfoolery, Paul never used the shortcut when he was alone. Thankfully, he never saw the strange man ever again, so he didn’t need to worry about being scared silly.

That’s ultimately where the story ends, though I want to go over something before we jump into the theories. Earlier, I said there was another pumpkin-related being I knew nothing about. I want to discuss that now since it ties into the closing remarks of Lon’s article.

According to Lon, there are “legends in the Appalachians,” especially in West Virginia and the eastern part of Kentucky, of something called “Pumpkinhead.” However, Lon believes this to have been something else. This piqued my curiosity as I was wondering if maybe there’d be something else I could look into. So, I got to Googling and scouring the Internet for stories of this so-called “Pumpkinhead.”

To my dismay, I could find nothing about it. There was a post on Wattpad, of all places, about something called “Pumpkinhead,” which was a part of a collection of the user’s own urban legends, as far as I can tell. I didn’t read it because I’ve listened to enough bad story riffs from that site to know the quality is extremely spotty at best. Still, it was not what I expected to see.

I also found a movie from 1988 called Pumpkinhead, which apparently became a cult classic over the years. I have absolutely no idea if the movie is worth a watch (it sounds like 1980s schlock). Regardless, I think this might be what Lon was referring to since the film, I believe, takes place in the Appalachian area. If I’m wrong, then please correct me. Otherwise, I feel quite let down that there wasn’t more to this funny-named freakazoid.

With that, the story of Pennsylvania’s very own Pumpkinhead comes to an end. As I said at the start, I don’t consider this to be much of a mystery; on the surface, I think the answer to what happened is blatantly obvious. Nevertheless, given the lack of any concrete details, I figured that I’d add a few common hypotheses to weird sightings like this to the theories section. So, without further ado, let’s dig into them.


1. It was some guy in a costume

Honest to God, this is the only theory that really has anything going for it; even then, it’s a bit wonky due to the lack of details given in the story. I have no idea how tall the figure was, whether the pumpkin was carved or not, just how pale the hands were, and how long after Halloween it was.

Despite those issues, it’s the one that makes the most sense. Just about anyone can buy a pumpkin, carve a hole at the bottom, remove everything inside, and then wear it to scare people. It also wouldn’t be hard to do so in a way that would let you see and breathe. Alternatively, you can buy a costume with a pumpkin head; that’s one of the defining traits of the Headless Horseman. Given Paul never explicitly states whether or not the pumpkin appeared to be real, it doesn’t entirely rule that out. Sure, that may seem nitpicky, but I’ll stand by it.

Aside from making the most sense, this is also the theory that has the most precedent behind it. People play pranks all the time, especially younger folks. Given we don’t know the age of the Pumpkinhead, they could have been an older teen who wanted to scare someone with a leftover pumpkin (or jack-o-lantern) before it had to be thrown out. Alternatively, it could have been an adult who wanted to have a bit of fun; it’s impossible to tell, and given this happened over half a century ago, we’ll never know unless we achieve time travel.

With that, the one and only realistic theory ends. However, as I said before, I want to have a bit of fun, so let’s speculate on some of the more silly hypotheticals of this story. After all, it’s a story about something called “Pumpkinhead,” why waste the opportunity for a bit of goofy fun?

2. An interdimensional being with a pumpkin for a head

From here on out, the theories will be little more than me throwing the most generic ideas at the wall. The reason is that there isn’t much to go off of than the usual suspects. So, if that doesn’t interest you, you can jump to my personal take. Otherwise, let’s have some fun!

For our second theory, we have the idea that this was some interdimensional monstrosity with a pumpkin for a head. Admittedly, that’s far from the most bizarre thing we’ll be discussing this month; trust me, there will be stories in the coming weeks that will make this look positively normal. Though, for the time being, I guess this is one of the weirdest things I’ve proposed. 

Now, granted, there isn’t a whole lot to back it up—we lack the capability to travel to another dimension. Sure, there are conspiracies that state we have the technology, but it’s kept secret, but that’s a topic for a future write-up (if I’m ever willing to devote the time to covering it, anyway). Assuming that this was some interdimensional traveler, however, there’s one question we must ask: what was it doing here? Did it arrive here because our reality overlapped with its own, or did it come here of its own volition?

If it was the former, then it was remarkably calm and collected; it showed no adverse fear or confusion. It was standing in the middle of what would have been an alien forest, nodding its head at one of its inhabitants. If it came here on its own terms, then why was it here, and what does it want? Was it observing us, or was it seeing if we were worth trying to conquer? Or was it some sort of higher being that wanted to judge us in all of its pumpkin glory? If it was the third one, then why the heck does it have a pumpkin head, and can I attain such god-like status if I put a pumpkin on my head? If I can, then maybe I should abandon this whole writing thing and become a Pumpkinhead myself.

All of these questions and more that I’m sure exist, but I can’t think of any answers. That’s mainly due to the lack of details provided by Dan and Paul; this story, as I’ve said before, is incredibly sparse when it comes to any sort of description. If I were to add any, I’d effectively be fabricating stuff, which is something I’d rather not do. Sure, I could try to describe the area, but let’s face it: anyone can envision a trail in the woods. However, as I’ve said multiple times already, it’s next to impossible for me to imagine where this thing was standing, just how tall it was, and whether or not the pumpkin was carved.

Nevertheless, this is probably one of the more entertaining theories I could think of. However, it isn’t the most entertaining; nay, that is the next one, and I really want to dive into it.

3. An escaped government experiment

It’s the middle of the 1960s. The Cold War is at its height; paranoia over a nuclear winter looms over the heads of Americans and Soviets alike. Somewhere in the middle of the Pennsylvanian woods lies a secret military base; it’s there where they experiment to create a super soldier. A soldier with a pumpkin for a head. Why? Don’t ask questions I lack answers for. All that matters is that this thing has a pumpkin for a head, and it escaped because it had no desire to be a weapon.

Now, it roams the woods, nodding at people because it wants their head instead of its silly pumpkin head. This is Pumpkinhead, and he is the stupidest thing I’ve ever conceived when making up a theory. I will turn it into a multi-billion dollar media franchise and make sure the legal rights are so entangled that no one will ever be able to rightfully own it without having to partake in a glorious death battle at Thunderdome.

There is absolutely no basis for this theory; there are no facts, documents, or citations I can provide. However, I was not going to pass up the opportunity to create a magnificently dumb theory for my own amusement. Therefore, this is the theory I buy into the most if I am to approach this from the angle of having fun. And really, why should logic get in the way of fun? If I let that happen, I wouldn’t be able to enjoy life anywhere near as much as I do.

4. The most festive alien

Although Paul said it was “after Halloween,” there is no clear indicator as to how long it had since passed. As a result, I wanted to include the theory that an alien decided to take a trip to Earth and give someone a late Halloween fright. Is it realistic? No, but I don’t really care. The mental image of an alien deciding to play a prank on a human is rather amusing to me, and I’m someone who will take fun over realism more often than not. That’s one of the many reasons my writing style is not academic in the slightest.

5. It was the Great Pumpkin

I want nobody to tell Linus that this is where the Great Pumpkin actually resides. He may try to stay overnight in the middle of the Pennsylvanian woods; it gets frigid out there!

My Take

I really don’t think there’s a mystery here; I’ve said that before, but I feel it bears repeating. In my eyes, this was nothing more than a guy who wanted to play a prank on someone. Given we don’t know how long after Halloween this was, it’s hard to say if it was a late Halloween prank or not, but I do have a decent idea in mind for why this happened.

Assuming that the pumpkin used by the “Pumpkinhead” was a jack-o-lantern and that this took place only a few days after Halloween, it’s possible that the man used his jack-o-lantern as a mask. Generally speaking, jack-o-lanterns will rot “three to five days” after they’re carved. If this person wanted to have a bit of fun with it before having to throw it out, he could have carved a hole at the bottom, gone into the woods, and waited for someone to pass by.

The pale hands, meanwhile, could have been a part of a costume, or the man could have just had a pale complexion. Speaking as someone who doesn’t go outside much, I’m rather pale, so I doubt this was a walking corpse or something akin to the Headless Horseman. It could have also been some sort of skin condition.

Of course, it’s possible that this was something else entirely; I’m a firm believer in the paranormal and am willing to keep an open mind about this having been some sort of strange entity. However, without any concrete details to go off of, along with a lack of any other sightings (as far as I’m aware, anyway), I’m doubtful. Besides, it’s not uncommon for pranks to be pulled, especially around Halloween time. So, in this instance, I feel it’s far more likely that this was a prank rather than anything strange.


Although I like to cover mysteries of any kind, I do think it’s vital to always cover “non-mysteries” to remind people that not everything strange, creepy, or weird is immediately unexplainable. It’s something I see a lot of when it comes to “creepy Internet videos” or scary stories. A lot of people like to jump to conclusions; it’s immediately something no one can possibly explain. While I think it’s important to keep an open mind, it’s equally important to be levelheaded. Jumping to conclusions is how you throw everything into chaos; approach everything as calmly and collected as humanly possible.

Anyway, I would love to know your thoughts on this story: do you think it was a late Halloween prank, or was it something more paranormal? Leave a comment below, and as always, stay happy, stay healthy, and thank you for reading!

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