Jeffrey R. Frazier is author of eight books in a series titled Pennsylvania Fireside Tales. To many folks the title evokes images of an old log cabin sitting somewhere in an isolated and little-settled valley somewhere in the Pennsylvania mountains seventy-five or more years ago. A crackling fire in an ancient stone fireplace makes the interior a cozy place to be on a cold winter’s night, especially in those unhurried days before electricity and automobiles forever changed the times that we now refer to as the “Good Old Days”.
No television, radios or computers to break the monotony of the long evenings in those days. Entertainment then was often provided by an old patriarch sitting in his special chair in front of the fireplace. Surrounded by youngsters anxious to hear tales of the olden days, he would begin to talk about Indians, hunters who trailed the wolf and the mountain lion, ghosts, witches, gypsies, moonshiners, and other characters of the long ago; tales the author describes as the “soul” of these dark and rugged hills that we call home. It is these stories that Mister Frazier preserves in his books.
The author was born and raised in Centre Hall, Centre County, where he says he grew up in a “Tom Sawyer sort of way”. Some of his fondest memories of that boyhood include explorations of out-of-the-way spots in the mountains and accounts of the legends that seem to cling to them. After graduating from Penn State in 1967 and moving out of state, he realized how much he loved the Pennsylvania mountains and their stories. It was this “home-sickness” that inspired him to collect and write the old-time tales. Since that time he has collected those same anecdotes from all over the state, ranging from the Blue Mountains of Berks and Lehigh Counties, the South Mountains of Adams County, the “Black Forest” area of Potter and Tioga Counties, the Alleghenies of Clearfield and Blair Counties, and the other counties in the middle.
Many of the stories often sound “far-fetched” to us today, but Mr. Frazier also tries to find the kernels of truth that might be buried in them. In that way he takes on the role of an investigative reporter or detective, treating each tale as a little mystery. It is because of this approach that he chose “Origins and Foundations of Pennsylvania Mountain Folktales, Legends, and Folklore” as the subtitle for his series of books. Written in a format that the average reader can enjoy, the tales take the reader back to a crackling fire in that cabin nestled among the green valleys of Pennsylvania’s legend-shrouded mountains.
He also, at the urging of his readers, published a book titled “Ghosts of Penns Woods – ghost tales from in and around Pennsylvania state parks and historic sites”. The stories therein should prove particularly appealing to lovers of both the natural and supernatural attractions Pennsylvania has to offer. In addition he is working on a new series titled Pennsylvania Mountain Landmarks, being published by Sunbury Press, who also intend to publish all of his previous books as well. They have recently published Volume 1 in that new series.
Mr. Frazier is available for speaking engagements. His lectures, titled “Pennsylvania Legends and Folktales – Fact or Fancy”, include a PowerPoint presentation that enhances the old-time legends and folktales he talks about and are chosen specifically for the area where he is invited to speak.