In a city as old as Pittsburgh, there are some interesting and authentic ghost stories to be had. Humans dressed up like monsters and madmen in scarehouses have nothing on some of the spooky places around here. This Halloween, treat yourself to some good old-fashioned home-spun ghost stories.
University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning Room 328 “Early American Room”
Fifth Avenue at Bigelow Boulevard
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
One of the University of Pittsburgh Cathedral of Learning’s only Nationality Rooms that is not used as a classroom, the Early American Room is a true homage to Americana. An old bed, an authentic spinning wheel and a fireplace made from 200 year old handmade bricks inhabit the room on the 3rd floor of the Cathedral. The director of the Nationality Rooms says that’s not all that inhabits the space though. For years, students taking tours, custodians doing upkeep of the room and even the director herself have seen shadowy figures and strange occurrences in this small room. Cold spots, self-igniting candles and head-shaped imprints on the bed’s pillowcase are just some of the spooky tales about this room. It’s not uncommon for the baby cradle next to the bed to rock and it’s not unheard of for tour groups to smell fresh baked bread when they get close to the fireplace. So many students, university staff and cathedral visitors have experienced strange things that it’s hard to resist taking a tour to see the room for yourself.
700 Arch St.
Pittsburgh, PA 15212
Once upon a time, Western Penitentiary inhabited the space where the Pittsburgh Aviary now sits on the North Side. During the Civil War, Western Penitentiary was used as a prison by Union troops when they captured Confederate soldiers. Legend has it this prison was too small for the amount of prisoners it housed and many soldiers suffered long and torturous captivity before they eventually died there. First-hand accounts of workers and visitors to today’s aviary report that the ghosts of Confederate soldiers roam the halls of the aviary every night. What makes the story even more interesting is that the aviary fully embraces its freaky history by having a Halloween party every year. Check it out for yourself and try not to get too spooked when you walk through the bat house or the owl habitats.
The Frick Art & Historical Center – Clayton House
7227 Reynolds St.
Pittsubrgh, PA 15208
This is steel city, so Pittsburgh of course has a ghost story about industrialist Henry Clay Frick’s family. Located in Point Breeze and frequented by many Pittsburghers for its lovely high tea service, the Clayton House is home to a fabulous ghost story. Frick’s daughter Helen was born and raised in this gigantic Victorian home and when the Fricks moved to New York in the early 1900s, Helen never recovered from her homesickness for Clayton House. After her parents died, Helen began visiting her childhood home again and began paying for its upkeep. In her 90s, Helen finally moved back into the home and died there three years later in the early 1980s. Night guards claim to regularly hear the sounds of footsteps on the third floor long after the building has been closed to visitors for the day. New stories have also begun to circulate that human body-shaped depressions have been seen on the former bed of Helen’s mother, Adelaide. If having high tea isn’t enough to lure you to the Clayton House for a visit, the mother-daughter ghost story surely will.
222 Craft Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Perhaps home to the most hauntings in one place, South Oakland’s Pittsburgh Playhouse has a true cast of ghosts that have taken up residence there. The Lady in White, an actress believed to have been the murderer of her husband is seen pacing the theater’s balconies. Weeping Eleanor, though never seen, is the story behind mysterious crying coming from an dressing room that to this day is not used. Gorgeous George, a man with a gangrened face, is surely the ghost you’ll be most afraid to see. Legend has it this ghost likes to tap you on the shoulder and scare the wits out of you with his rotted face. And finally, those partial to the art of a good seance might want to conjure the spirit of the Bouncing Red Meanie, believed to have been summoned at a seance in the 1970s, who comes from the other side to bounce off the walls and ceilings of the theater.
“Blue Mist Road” in North Park
Irwin Road at Babcock Boulevard
Gibsonia, PA 15044
Step out into mother nature for this scary haunted place. Word has it Irwin Road is covered every night by a low-hanging blue mist. Along this unpaved road are only a few houses and some abandoned structures. The road has “no access” signs posted at each end of the five-mile street. Local stories of murders, mysterious floating blue orbs, lynchings and people being chased by ghosts and strange animals seem pretty easy to believe on a stretch of desolate road in the middle of a big, busy and well-maintained county park. If you are brave enough to visit, keep in mind that park rules are enforced and the park does close at dusk.
Sally Turkovich Wright lives in her beloved city of Pittsburgh with her husband, Jason and German Shepherd, Zeus. She is a policy analyst by training, an eyewear stylist by trade and an amateur healthy-living advocate by choice. She also writes a column for Twoday Magazine. Catch up with her there at twodaymag.com. Her work can be found at Twodaymag.com.