Ghosts Of Pittsburgh: Old Allegheny County Jail

With one week to go until Halloween, we’re looking into some of the ghosts that may inhabit Pittsburgh’s landmarks.

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – There are all sorts of tales of the paranormal in the Allegheny County Courthouse, including one that started with a love triangle more than a century ago.

If the walls of the old Allegheny County Jail could talk, they’d likely share some pretty interesting stories.

“A lot of times, it’s because people either have a violent death or a strong attachment to a place. Maybe something traumatic happened there. They just don’t want to leave,” Haunted Pittsburgh tour guide Haydn Thomas said.

In 1902, inmates and brothers Ed and Jack Biddle were known to rob, torture and kill. Still, Kate Sofel, the wife of the jail warden, didn’t seem to mind their sordid history.

“The guys were young and famous and handsome and the ladies in Pittsburgh went rock star crazy for them,” Thomas said.

Sofel fell in love with one of the brothers and helped them escape. Two days later and after a shootout in Butler County, the brothers were dead. Mrs. Sofel’s love affair was over.

Today, it’s said she still roams the old jail, shuffling papers and touching unsuspecting guards.

“One night, it began to move on its own and it sounded like sand falling through the wall and once, he felt a cold hand on his arm,” Thomas said.

But, Mrs. Sofel isn’t the only spirit lurking around.

“They used to hang people in the jail. There were 58 hangings and they say after every hanging, there’s a ghost sighting,” Thomas said.

But, it was William Culp who really caused a scare in 1907. He haunted the prisoners by re-enacting a horrific murder every night.

“Soon, all the prisoners on death row were saying that they were seeing the same thing happen every night between 12 and 1 a.m.,” Thomas said. “These men were so terrified that the warden took pity on them and moved murderer’s row to a different section of the jail.”

While that section of the old jail no longer exists in what is now Family Court, the stories live on.

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One Comment

  1. John Cross says:

    I have worked at the Family Court Facility in the old jail for 14 years. I’m a supervisor there and have had several spooky experiences while working night court on Wednesday evenings. I continue to believe those experiences were a bit out of the ordinary.

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