In the small, unassuming graveyard of Jerusalem Evangelical Lutheran Church of Eastern Salisbury, lie the remains of the deceased from the past two centuries…and the site of a tale of terror and mystery that dates back to the 1700’s.
The story begins at the site of the current Bolete restaurant where the junction of Seidersville Road, Emmaus Avenue and Susquehanna Street form a triangle intersection. That old stone structure was once Giess’s Tavern and it’s where Tambour Yokel spent an evening shortly after the end of the Revolutionary War drinking heavily.
Tambour had had a long and bitter feud with a local man who had recently died, and was drunkenly railing on about his continued hatred of this man. His fellow tavern goers dared him to walk up to the graveyard and say these things directly to the recently deceased, so Tambour, thinking this was a great idea at the time, began the trek to the cemetery with an equally drunk companion, who lived just beyond. When they got to the graveyard, Tambour climbed over the wall enclosing the place, stood on the fresh grave and called on his enemy by name, shouting vile threats and daring him to come out of his grave and fight. According to the eyewitness though, out of the grave came the devil himself, at which point he ran for his life and didn’t look back.
The next morning, after sobering up, Tambour’s companion returned to the graveyard, and his cries at what he saw attracted the attention of several passersby. According to an article in The Allentown Democrat from December 15, 1880, revisiting the story a century after it took place, here’s what they found:
“…a severe tussle seemed to have taken place; following the track over a wall toward a clump of trees nearby they found under one of them marks of blood and portions of clothing, and what appeared to them like marks or prints of hoofs. On looking up one of the saplings they discovered clotted blood adhering to it. Some of the bark seemed torn off as in desperation, with here and there pieces of flesh and parts of clothing up to near the uppermost branches of the tree…”
Tambour Yokel disappeared on that night, never to be seen again. For a while the graveyard was somewhat of a tourist attraction with folks coming from near and far to look on the place where a man had fought the devil and lost.
Interestingly, this story was even referenced in the 1914 publication “History of Lehigh County, Pennsylvania” which discussed the decline in the church’s congregation due to the dilapidation of the original log structure, but also stated that:
“Another reason for the decline in congregation is found in the gruesome tale of how, shortly after the close of the Revolutionary War, the devil one night slew, dismembered and carried away from the cemetery the body of a certain Tambour Yokel. That this legend powerfully affected the community cannot be gainsaid, for even today the story is widely circulated and frequently credited and there are still people to be found who will drive several miles extra to avoid passing the cemetery.”
So why had the devil allegedly taken Tambour Yokel? It’s said that Yokel was a reluctant participant in the war, and had sold his soul to the devil to survive. He survived the war, but the devil came to claim him one night in a small cemetery in Salisbury Township, PA.
Edited directions: You can find the cemetery (called Morgenland Cemetery) at 1707 Church Road, Allentown, PA 18103. Turn onto Church Road from Emmaus Avenue, near Bulldog Beverage and go about 1/2 mile up the hill. If you visit, please be respectful!