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The legend of the Pigman of Angola

BEWARE — This tunnel on Pigman Road (Holland Road, down Route 5) is home to the legend of the “Pigman.” Photo by Paul McQuillen.
ANGOLA — “Only one spot in Western New York – Goodleberg Cemetery – is more captivating … than this piece of Lakeshore Road,” said Mason Winfield, in “Village Ghosts of Western New York.” “People are absolutely haunted by Angola’s Holland Road, and ‘The Pigman’ just won’t go away.”

The legend of the “Pigman” of Angola has endured for nearly 60 years. The story has lived on in many forms, the constant being the existence of the Pigman on Holland Road, colloquially known in the area as Pigman Road.

This stretch of road runs from Erie Road (Route 5) to Hardpan Road. In between, on this 1 1/2-mile stretch of roadway, are two railroad underpasses, each of which is a single lane wide, not expansive enough to accommodate an automobile and a bicycle at the same time.

Due to the narrowness of the trestles, combined with the winding narrow road, drivers must honk their horns, prior to entering the tunnels, to warn others of their approach. Railroad tracks above rattle from passing freight or passenger trains.

“Drive the short road, even in the day, and let its atmosphere touch you,” Winfield said. “Few houses are on it, and the brush seems to churn. The two one-lane bridges are eerie enough, even without the veil of night.”

There are no outlets on this stretch; between its two end points are few residences and only a handful of utility access roads. The only open space is located at the end of one such road, found between the two railroad trestles. That utility road leads to an abandoned garbage dump.

It is when the stories focus on the Pigman’s history that the tales diverge. The Pigman has long been the topic of conversation and folklore by area residents, high school and college students and ghost hunters from near and far.

Local spook author Winfield has written about the Pigman in two of his books. “Something feels murky about this Pigman,” he said. “I sense I’m getting a mass of urban legends that even the historians of the area can’t sort out. Maybe it’s just the energy of a road, manifesting in crazy ways.”

A butcher shop once inhabited this short span. The story of the Pigman revolves around that butcher shop, its butcher and the goings-on therein. Locals have said that the proprietor of the shop, bothered by curious young, would hang heads of pigs and hogs from spears or a spikes outside the shop, to keep the curious away; and thus arose one Pigman legend.

Another tale speaks of an occurrence in the late 1950s or early 1960s. Again, the butcher shop is the locale. A man was murdered at the butcher shop by a shot to the stomach and found hanging from one of the meat hooks within the shop. Legend said that he was hanged by the butcher. This tale has not been verified, nor has such a local killing been attributed.

Another scenario tells of three boys who visited the same butcher in his shop, late at night. Each was thereafter decapitated; the heads were displayed on meat hooks along the path leading to the butcher shop.

Many storytellers said that the foundation of the butcher shop structure remains, but none are able to say exactly where.

Another story reported that the phenomena manifesting themselves in the area are the ghosts of the “Angola Horror,” the 1867 train wreck into Big Sister Creek.

The accident resulted in the deaths of 50 passengers, 19 of which remain unidentified and are buried in Buffalo’s Forest Lawn Cemetery. Some have said that the unclaimed restless dead inhabit and inhibit the area. The train had crossed railroad tracks over a Holland Road tunnel, before tumbling into the ravine.

In an Oct. 2011 The Sun article, Tony Burtis said that he traced Angola’s legend to a man named William Derricks, born in 1913. Derricks, who had a cleft lip and split nose, had the appearance of a pig, according to Burtis. Although the man was not a butcher, he did work in a butcher shop. According to Burtis, “that is where fact and fiction begin to blur.”

No evidence exists that links Derricks with evildoings. Burtis said that this individual merely provides yet another plot twist.

Two students from the State University of New York at Buffalo, Jill Gregorie and Jordan Zyglis, in “Generation Magazine,” spoke about the attraction of the site: “With an alluring mix of historical background regarding a train accident and urban legends about a pork-crazed serial killer, Pigman Road has become a rite of passage for anyone in the region wishing to access the world of the unknown.”

Although there is no consensus as to the origin or nature of the Pigman, the legend has persisted for decades.

The mystery of the Pigman endures, handed down from generation to generation. Take a drive, any time of the year and any hour of the day, to visit a local legend: the Pigman.
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