Be careful who you trust this holiday season and make sure you're giving to worthwhile, legitimate causes.
A few local residents learned that the hard way on Monday after they encountered a transient man who calls himself "Bracklen" and claims to be an 89-year-old Denmark native walking across the United States to spread the word of God and help people.
However, The Corry Journal looked into his claims and determined most of them to be unsubstantiated.
Bracklen stated he was in the city of Corry because he's been speaking at high schools and universities throughout the area. He claimed to talk to students at Warren Area High School on Friday and will be speaking at Meadville Area Senior High School at the end of this week.
However, a representative from Warren Area High School said no one by the name of Bracklen spoke to students recently, and a representative from Meadville Area Senior High School said no one by that name or description is scheduled to speak there this week.
He said he passed through Corry on Route 6 and was on the edge of town near Walmart when a state trooper pulled over to take a photo with him and give him a ride to a bar in Corry so he could dry off.
A representative from the Corry barracks of Pennsylvania State Police said no troopers picked up a man by the name of Bracklen and took photos with him. A local resident walking on North Center Street on Monday around 10:40 a.m. told The Journal she saw Bracklen walking into downtown Corry.
Once he was at the bar, Bracklen began telling people he owns eight world records and was brought to America by the Guinness Book of World Records. He asserts that he brought $350,000 in gold bars to the country to pay for people's rent, utility bills, groceries, medicine, car repairs, etc., who are in need.
"I've helped over 1,000 people. It's all on Facebook," Bracklen said.
However, most of the posts on a Facebook group titled "Where is Bracklen?" are by people sharing stories of how they helped him, not the other way around. The majority of the posts are from Pennsylvania residents along with some from New York and West Virginia.
While in Corry, multiple people gave him food, beverages and money, but The Journal has received no reports of Bracklen paying for anyone's bills when he was in town.
Bracklen claims he's no longer able to help people financially since he was robbed of his gold in West Virginia. He said he was traveling through a town called Ripley in West Virginia and met a local drug addict, whom he didn't know at the time, and gave him $600 for food and electricity.
"They caught me down the road in the middle of nowhere and crushed my face with a pipe and threw me in a well to die. It's in People magazine," Bracklen said.
He claims he had 16 fractures and was lying in a West Virginian hospital until Pennsylvania state troopers came to his aid.
"The troopers here saved my life. They came to West Virginia and got me out of the hospital where they wouldn't help me and brought me to a hospital here," said Bracklen, who claims the state troopers asked him to speak to high schools and universities until he departs for home on Dec. 31.
He attempts to corroborate his claims to anyone willing to listen by showing them a plastic bag filled with patches and business cards from various police and fire departments. Bracklen claims many were given to him for his heroic efforts while on the road.
"On Dec. 30, your President Trump is giving me the humanitarian award on TV in New York," he said. "I've saved some people's lives here as I walked ocean to ocean."
Bracklen also asserts that he has been featured on the "Today" show, "Tonight Show," "Good Morning America," "Jimmy Kimmel," "Wendy Williams," "Maury Show" and has received a medal from Vice President Mike Pence on CNN for rescuing two babies from a burning car wreck just before it exploded in Illinois.
The Journal was unable to find any proof of those claims.
"My mission is to help people," Bracklen said. "I talk to people about God and try to teach them how to be more kind to each other."
Bracklen is mainly sighted in bars throughout Pennsylvania according to Faceboook posts documenting his movements.
"You go to a bar and people are nice to you. You go into a church and they turn their nose up at you," he said. "The police warned me about that. They said, 'Bracklen, you want to meet good people, don't waste your time at church.' They said they're all hypocrites."
Bracklen was sighted on Sunday in Creekside Bar & Grill in Waterford and visited at least two bars in Corry on Monday before reportedly leaving for Spartansburg.
It seems that Bracklen preys on the goodwill of people and takes advantage of their willingness to help others, which is easier to do around the holidays.
Local, legitimate charities, such as the Corry Area Food Pantry, which feeds more than 300 families each month, are working to help the Corry community and are easily accessible for those who want to give this holiday season.