Adventures in Third Hollow

The Saturday before last, April 6, Julie and I ventured into the rugged bluffs overlooking the Beaver River — and thence into the wooded ravine known as Third Hollow. We were partly in quest of Skull Cave, which Julie had explored as a young teenager . . . but mostly in quest of a good hike on a day of burgeoning early spring.

April 6, 2013

April 6, 2013

I experienced at once how different much of western Pennsylvania is from most of the Midwest, especially when one is off the beaten track. There’s a lot more vertical out here! After a pleasant meander along the bluff-top, the path plummeted over the edge, into the Hollow. Yes, Julie assured me, this was the way down she remembered. So over the brink we went . . .

The Beaver River at Beaver Falls / New Brighton, PA

The Beaver River at Beaver Falls / New Brighton, PA

We descended from the far wall of the ravine in this picture, followed the stream along its bottom, climbed that same wall, traversed its top (and discovered some intriguing “standing stones” — the concrete remains of long-abandoned bridges?), went to the bottom again, and scrambled up this wall, from the top of which this photo above was taken.

The stream in Third Hollow

The stream in Third Hollow

Water and stone, soil and wood, birds and sky . . . green life peeking through the winter-worn carpet . . . the chatter of water careening toward the river, giddy with spring.



You know how Alan Lee uses those watercolors to bring Middle-earth to life in the genuine tones of the Earth? This hike was like walking through an Alan Lee painting.

P1050463I did not realize until I crossed the stream and looked back that I’d been sitting on such a cantilever perch!

P1050456I don’t know how many miles we covered, but they were all good ones, and a great many of them were steeply pitched. (No, we did not precisely find Skull Cave . . . this time. Later, from across the river, we gazed at the stretch of rock face where it must be, based on expert testimony, and I think I must have been standing at one point on a ledge just above it. But it was hiding. Appropriate, for the object of a quest. But I’m thinking of one message of Shadowlands, the movie about C. S. Lewis: one doesn’t have to come completely before the goal to attain the fulfillment of all that the goal means. By grace, our quest for Skull Cave was in every way a success.)

P1050446One true highlight was this picnic above the waterfall.

Waterfall in Third Hollow

Waterfall in Third Hollow

Such days are far too short . . . yet they’re the sort we remember throughout our lives.


Bilbo wrote: “For still there are so many things that I have never seen; /

In every wood, in every spring, there is a different green.”

In the words of Psalm 145:10: “All Your works shall praise You, O Lord . . .”





32 Responses to Adventures in Third Hollow

  1. Julie does not know her danger! Fred has had a love of caves his entire life and if she is not careful her soon-to-be-hubby will have her all over the country exploring the underground! (Mammoth, to name one of our host’s fave places, is not a terribly far drive from Pittsburgh.)

  2. Good to hear from Hagio … once upon a time this blog burst with excitement and while it is still great reading, methinks much of the energy has been sponged up by facebook. Hmmm (I know that Marquee and I wage daily war there, and Shieldmaiden is occasionally present, and that jedibabe unfriended me in disgust). Quick, someone say something controversial and spice us back up!

  3. fsdthreshold says:

    Thanks for the pictures, Hagio! Skull Rock is eerie and interesting — and of course I’m always fascinated with cave photos!

    Mr. B. Snowflake — I think you’re right about Facebook. I think I have a new post coming up soon that may stir some interest — I hope!

    • Hagiograph says:

      Hmmm, since it is a lazy Saturday afternoon, let us guess what stirring, presumably controversial post Fred will make.

      I will start off with an hypothetical….

      Fred has to leave Pittsburgh because of “the incident” at Greenstar. One day while Fred was feeding some fresh human excrement to his friend, My Man the Rat, Millipede, the new foreman came over and accidentally stepped on My Man killing him. Fred flew into a rage, picked up one of the random depleted uranium disks that fly through Greenstar and got into a pitched battle with Millipede.

      Millipede, being larger and with 996 more appendages than Fred threatened to kill Fred using 500 of the javelins that fly through Greenstar.

      Ultimately Fred was able to kill Millipede and scoop up the corpse of My Man. Driving through the dark night to Beaver Canyon he took My Man to Skull Cave, where tales tell that one can resurrect the dead.

      But there was a price to pay…Fred would have to offer up something…or someone…in exchange to the Indian spirits who offered the resurrection service.

      Their only reqirement…that the sacrifice speak Ukranian.

      Fred knew what had to happen. Either he had to live his life without the comfort of his rodent buddy or….

      From a payphone on the lonely road that lead to The horribly named Beaver Canyon, Fred tremulously dialed the numbers…she would come to help him…surely…

  4. Denis Pasquale says:

    I was just in Third Hollow this past weekend with my oldest son and his oldest son. It was part of my playground growing up.
    Skull cave is not so much a cave as it is just some weather worn sandstone. I live within
    easy walking distance of the Skull Cave and would be happy to take you there if you are in the area again.

  5. Denis Pasquale says:

    Hope you can see a close up photo of the skull cave. this wasn’t taken by me but by a Facebook friend

  6. fsdthreshold says:

    Thanks, Denis! I appreciate the clarification on what Skull Cave is. It looks as if the link didn’t come through. May I ask you to post it one more time? I think now that comments from you have been approved, it should come through with no trouble. Again, thanks for reading this post, and for your input!

  7. Andy says:

    Just took my youngest son to Third Hollow for the first time last week. I grew up in New Brighton and spent a lot of time there as a boy. I hadn’t been there in over 20 years and was surprised that I still knew my way around. We entered the Hollow by following the railroad tracks from the area of the old Tenth Street Bridge and climbing up where the small train bridge spans over the creek. After a pretty steep climb (that didn’t seem as steep when I was a kid) You are rewarded with a magnificent view of the Beaver River and Beaver Falls from the top of a high cliff. from there you just travel the path and will eventually run into all of the natural stone structures. I myself have always liked one of the first ones you run into that you can actually stand in. My son and I traveled just beyond the Skull Cave and then decided to head back. As a kid my friends and I would sometimes travel the whole way through which led to a junkyard in Eastvale. One of the truly cool things that my son and I did not travel far enough to see is an abandoned Mine. It sits off of the path just before the junkyard. I have been told that it was a clay mine but I’m not certain because I have also seen coal there. When I was young, my friends and I were able to slip through the iron gate blocking the entrance but were not able to go that far in because we started to run into water that was at first ankle deep but soon got up to our knees. I would love to find out more about that mine, like when was it in operation and what exactly did they mine there. Tried to research it online but came up empty. That’s how I ran into your website.

  8. Jason says:

    I liked reading this, Andy. I as well found this looking for information on caves, tunnels, etc. in Beaver County. I heard stories from friends I previously worked with who have found caves somewhere along River Road between Eastvale and North Sewickley that would go so far in and then the water got too deep to continue. It’s a shame that so many places may have never been fully explored ever. I also read of a similar cave from another website in the Brady’s Run area. It would be nice to gather information, explore and map all the unknown places in Beaver County so others may at one point easily access them as well.

  9. Bob says:

    Not sure how I stumbled on this site, but brought back some youth memories 35-40 years ago. Kids lived (played) in these woods then.

    For the real die hard (and oldies) it was a short cut to the pie factory on those late summer nights. lol

  10. Julie says:

    Hi Andy, Jason, and Bob! Fred’s wife here (the girl in the pictures). Thanks for leaving comments!

    Third Hollow is a great place; some relatives and church mentors took me with a group of kids out there when I was a teenager. When I took Fred, it had been so long, I really couldn’t remember how to get anywhere. At least you can’t miss the waterfall! 🙂

    I remember the mine too! Yep, that iron grate, the dank, creepy waters… Would be fascinating to explore (or um, just hear from someone who had explored it….)

    I grew up on Stuber Rd in Daugherty, so we had woods behind our house to play in. Didn’t make it to Third Hollow that often, but I remember how cool it was to finally realize that “our” woods eventually connected to these woods 🙂

    Nothing like those scrambles across death-defying landslides, or up and down those steep paths (which were also about to become landslides)….yikes! But what a sense of accomplishment to climb all over those places and come home alive!

  11. Dave Gettemy says:

    I grew up living at the upper end of Third Hollow / Dead Man’s Hollow on Studer Rd. I spent a lot of time playing there. At that time there were mines along the creek. Several years ago I took my wife, daughter, and son-in-law there and took them to the waterfalls that you showed in one of your pictures. Thanks for posting your pictures even though I just read your story.

    • fsdthreshold says:

      Thanks, Dave! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures and the trip down Memory Lane! Thanks for your thoughts here!

  12. Bob Volinic says:

    I too was raised within walking distance of Third Hollow and spent many a day hiking and hunting the area. We once traversed the mine wearing hip boots and carbide lamps. Nothing was found, and farther back in, we started feeling unsafe due to slides and muddy bottom. Have not been back to Skull Cave in over 40 years but there are a lifetime of memories and so is hearing other people’s quests and adventures of Third Hollow and the Skull Caves. Thank you for the post and the memory.

  13. Kirk Hardy says:

    Interesting story! Here’s another from Third Hollow’s deep, dark, and almost forgotten past….

    The brutal 1845 murder in “Third Hollow”: Many Oak Hill and Daugherty Township kids (like me) had fun goofing around in the beautiful ravine just north of New Brighton’s city limit known as “Third Hollow.” Most of us probably had no idea about the tragedy that happened there in the autumn of 1845.

    According to the 1938 History of New Brighton (pages 30 and 31), a German-speaking man wearing expensive-looking clothing, claiming he’d been robbed of most of his money in a Pittsburgh marketplace, and unable to communicate except through an interpreter appeared in the streets of New Brighton during the autumn of 1845. Two men “of ill repute” took the unidentified man out Mercer Road to a thicket at the head of the ravine then known as “Trough Run” (now known as “Third Hollow”) and shot him in the side of the head. Finding nothing of value on him, they threw his corpse into the creek.

    During the next Spring (1846), boys ascending Trough Run discovered the half-frozen corpse in some brush at the beautiful spot in the ravine known as “The Falls.” The corpse was recognized as that of the unidentified man and was buried in a “rude box on the nearby hillside.” Years later, a landslide partially exposed the corpse. When students from the nearby Bran Hill School (subsequently replaced in the same spot as “Thompson School” and now used as the Daugherty Township municipal building) viewed the exposed corpse, they began referring to Trough Run as “Deadman’s Hollow.”

    My best friend and I knew the ravine as “Third Hollow” when we were kids–a name it got because it’s the third ravine north of the original northern New Brighton borough limit. Interestingly, there is (or perhaps was) a small cavern with two openings (eye holes) overlooking the Beaver River and Beaver Falls known as “Skull Cave” on the hillside north of Third Hollow, but we had never heard about the tragedy or the ravine’s nickname as “Deadman’s Hollow.”

    • fsdthreshold says:

      What a story! Thank you, Kirk! I had never heard of this foul play or of the origins of the names “Third Hollow” and “Dead Man’s Hollow.” There are still people who claim to be able to find Skull Cave, though we weren’t successful in finding it. Some say a landslide has damaged or obliterated it.

      • Kirk Hardy says:

        You’re very welcome, Fred. I very much enjoyed your adventure story, which brought back many fond memories of kicking around in Third Hollow. Inspired by your story and if weather conditions allow, I plan to visit the area again after 43 years. I’ll let you know if I can find Skull Cave again and get some photos for you. It’s vividly burned into my memory because one of my classmates “of ill repute” and a semi-automatic .22 rifle shot at my best friend and I from across the hollow while we were enjoying the stunning panoramic views from the cave. You tend not to forget such things! (:

        I hope 2017 is a happy and healthy one for you.


        • fsdthreshold says:

          Yikes! That would indeed be memorable! I would love to hear about any expeditions you make to Third Hollow and would greatly enjoy seeing any photos!

          I hope the same for you in 2017–may you have a joyous, healthy, and peaceful year.


  14. Nancy says:

    My son, Rob, wrote of his experiences and now I’m full of memories also as a teen going into Third Hollow with friends, following the creek and then going up to then we called it the Indian Caves…. lots of love writings on the walls…Now I’m talking 65 years ago… thank you for this.

    • fsdthreshold says:

      You are welcome, Nancy, and thank you for this comment! It’s always fun and interesting to read of the memories people have of Third Hollow. It’s a part of our culture in this area! Thanks again.

      • Nancy Wilson Carver says:

        I am now replying with even sweeter news of Third Hollow . . . There is a tree there with carved initials, “B.C. loves N.W.” . . . written 67 years ago. This man’s son saw the carving and asked his father who was this? Well, now, reunited at a reunion this past summer 2019, we just got married after all these years. First date in ’52 … and now settling back on Oak Hill not far from Third Hollow. Fairy tale!

  15. Denis Pasquale says:

    I read your adventure in 3rd Hollow being from New Brighton and probably spending half of my young life in those woods i really enjoyed your descriptions.
    What was your wife’s maiden name she obviously had to be from NB as she knew the trails so well

  16. Terry Waller says:

    Greetings from New Brighton Pennsylvania. I found your website while trying to locate the cave which I was in as a teenager back in the early 80s. My grandfather and a friend rappelled down in the cave and ran out of rope and had to come back up. The cave that you were looking for used to be accessible from third hallow. Unfortunately the trail led to a ledge in front of the cave and all of it has washed out. My crazy ass is thinking of getting some gear and accessing from the top of the hill. Perhaps I’ll be better just remembering it as I do. I don’t know what you found when you were here but I am finding that people in this area know nothing about the history of this place. My people have been here for a hundred and fifty years so when I moved back up here last year year I started learning and found out people are generally oblivious to anything in regards to our town history and was only able to find a man whose father told him about the cave and he told me the entrance had washed out. Happy spelunking!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *