The man behind the Greene curtain

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In the late 18th century, Great Britain was at war with its own 13 colonies, soon to be known as the United States of America. The war found its way over to Greene County, Pennsylvania, where a noncommissioned officer’s sword was left behind in the rubble of battle. There was nobody around to know who or what it belonged to.

Somehow, some way, this sword ended up in the possession of a 38-year-old man who took charge of the Greene County Historical Society museum around two years ago—a museum that was on the brink of financial collapse before he arrived.

This friendly, fast-talking history buff is Matt Cumberledge. He tells his historical story with exciting passion in his voice and an audible smile that stretches from coast to coast.

“The Greene County community obviously values their deep-rooted history, but Matt is firsthand preserving and presenting that history for the community to remember and learn about,” Grace Zablosky, history student at Waynesburg University and volunteer at GCHS, said.

Cumberledge was born and raised in Greene County. He’s lived here all his life. Looking even further back, Cumberledge’s ancestors have lived in Greene County for literal generations. The name “Cumberledge” has been in the region for centuries. The first lot that was sold in Waynesburg was signed by one of Cumberledge’s ancestors.

“My family’s been involved with everything in the county as some point in time or another,” Cumberledge said.

Cumberledge’s lineage traces back to the Revolutionary War, where the first Cumberledge settlers scattered across the surrounding colonies came westward through the Allegheny Mountains to escape colonial governments.

Home to thousands of historical artifacts and documents, the museum has also had many reports of paranormal activity, according to Cumberledge. Back in 1862, the building he works in was originally an asylum.

There are around 746 recorded deaths in the building, maybe more. Stewards were abusive and inmates were sometimes chained to the basement walls. 

Cumberledge assumes that “a murder or three” took place.

But nonetheless, he calls this place home. Despite the horror stories, Cumberledge has a healthy relationship with his supernatural guests.

“They’re very friendly. They just let you know they’re there,” Cumberledge chuckled.

Doors would slam shut, lights would flicker and boxes would slide across the floor. While volunteering with Cumberledge, Zablosky said she could hear a music box start playing while cleaning the parlor room.

“It’s a creepy building, that’s for sure,” Paul Hicks, former GCHS intern, said. “If you’re walking around a hallway by yourself … you feel like you’re being watched. There is something really creepy about that place.”

The ghosts aren’t creepy enough to scare off Cumberledge though, as he calls this ghost-riddled, dusty old building his “dream job” where he gets to sit down and admire artifacts that his ancestors owned and created.

“[Matt] adds an energy to the community. That’s what he does best. He energizes people,” Hicks said. “He definitely changed my outlook on this whole region in general.”