conemaugh haunts and history

The legends, lore, and ghost tales of Bedford, Blair, Cambria, Clearfield, Indiana, Jefferson, & Somerset counties.

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Hi. Thanks for stopping by the Conemaugh Haunts & History pages. We hope you enjoy the legends, lore and spook stories of the Johnstown-Altoona area.

We believe every ghost tale has a rich history of people, places, events and psychology behind it. We tried to capture some of this history and link it so you could share in the tradition of the Conemaugh region.

We linked the primary source, too. They deserve huge credit for running down the lore and preserving it. We didn't link the newspapers and periodicals, which are a treasure trove of tales in themselves. But they tend to get archived, put on pay per view or zapped after awhile, so we don't consider the links reliable. There are also many oustanding books available based on the region's historic and haunted themes.

One last word to the wise. While many of the sites in these stories are public, many are privately owned. Always get the owner's permission before you go chasing spooks on their property. Folk like their privacy, and a midnight encounter with the police or a snapping watch dog is scarier than any ghost.

Here's some of the sites that offer a grand selection of the tales of the Conemaugh:

The Shadowlands

Mother Bedford

PA Mountains of Attractions

AM Ghost Hunters 

Ghost Research Foundation

Conemaugh Contents:

Page 1) Allen Bridge - Foxburg Inn

Page 2) Ghost Hollow - Morley's Dog

Page 3) North Fork Dam - Woodbury Mine

Home) Pennsylvania H&H

          THE BOOKS:

  • Ghost Tales from the Ghost Trail (CL Shore)
  • Legends of Clearfield County (Melvin Lingle)
  • That's What Happened (Frances Strong Helman)

ALLEN BRIDGE (Cherryhill Twp., Indiana County) There are reports of a lady in white haunting the rural bridge. The Shadowlands

BAKER'S CROSSROADS (East Carroll Twp., Cambria County) People reportedly have seen the ghostly vision of a girl late at night  She died in a car crash by the Crossroads near the red barn. The Shadowlands

BAKER MANSION (Altoona, Blair County)  Built in 1849 by iron mogul Elias Baker, the 28-room, Greek Revival Baker Mansion is now a museum and the offices of the Blair County Historical Society. The ghosts of both Elias and his daughter Anna, among others, have reportedly been spotted in the house by startled staffers and visitors.  It's said that Anna was forbidden to marry her socially inferior fiancé (he was a steelworker) by the domineering and apparently snobby Elias. She never did wed and died an old maid in 1914. A wedding dress was eventually put on exhibit in the museum (not hers, but one belonging to another prominent Altoona deb, Elizabeth Bell Dysart, a socialite rival of hers).  On nights with a full moon the dress quakes violently in its' second floor glass case, sometimes threatening to shatter the display. It's supposed to be Anna shaking the exhibit, still enraged at the sight of a wedding gown like the one she never got to wear. To add insult to injury, the dress is shown in her old bedroom. Even ghosts get Freudian, we suppose.  She's also been reported on the stairway. Anna's brother Sylvester, who like her never left the mansion, is also supposed to be still roaming the halls of Baker Mansion. Elias himself is alleged to haunt the Mansion's dining room. A woman in black has reportedly been seen roaming the third floor. There have been other stories of ghostly figures seen reflected in mirrors and orbs floating about the old stone house.  There's even a tale of screams coming from the basement ice room where the body of David, one of Baker's sons who had been killed in a steamboat accident in 1852, was stored until the frozen ground thawed enough for a proper burial.  There have been reports of a soldier's spirit guarding the basement.  Also, there's supposed to be the little spirit of Baker's two year old daughter, who died before the house was completed, haunting the mansion halls.  Geez, you'd think at least one of the Baker clan would rest in peace. Then again, what fun would a building tour of a spooky old mansion be without a few spirits haunting the halls?  Haunted Hill - Ron Adams   Mountains of Attractions

BAUGHMAN CEMETERY (Snyder Twp., Blair County) It's said that if you visit the secluded  Baughman Cemetery during a full moon that you can see the outline of people hanging from the trees. It's also claimed that no matter how calm the night, there's always a wind gusting through it. If you go to the tree in the center of the cemetery you'll hear a rapping sound repeat itself over and over.  When a fog starts to rise, it's time to leave.  If you don't, legend has it that you'll be chased out of the cemetery by a misty figure or a white horse. Whoa!  The Pennsylvania Ghost & Paranormal Research Team didn't experience any of Baughman's phenomena, though.  They pretty well debunked the cemetery's bad reputation. The Shadowlands 

BECKY'S GRAVE (Richland Twp., Cambria County) The legend goes that a young girl named Becky was hung as a witch in the early 1800s because she had befriended an Indian who taught her the forbidden folklore and herbal healing of the Native Americans. She's buried at Snavely Cemetery (though that's sometimes disputed), a mile west of Elton off of Mt. Airy Road, with stones dating back to 1841, and her spook has been sighted by several people.  (The SW PA League of Apparition Techs disputes the whole Becky story in this article.)  It's also said that when there's a full moon out and a westerly wind blows, you can allegedly see a shadowy figure of a WW2 veteran rise from his grave . Please show some restraint if you go seeking spooks at Snavely Cemetery. The place has been trashed by so-called ghost hunters.  Apparitions are often the lesser of two evils. The Shadowlands

BEDFORD COMMONS SCHOOL (Bedford, Bedford County) The Commons first starting teaching children in 1859.  Today, it's the National Museum of American Coverlets and sits in Bedford's Historic District. Some of its rooms are still being used for art classes, and one of the students reported sharing the class with some older students - no, not adults, but the spooks of kids that went there long ago.  The pre-teen apparitions sit in the back of the room, ignoring the teacher while playing and laughing.  Hey, makes sense.  After all, the famous Bedford Ghost Tours use the building as its kick-off point for making the rounds of haunted Bedford.  Mountains of Attractions

BEDFORD SPRINGS RESORT (Bedford County) There are allegedly photographs of spirits taken throughout the Bedford Springs Resort. The hotel's first building was put up in 1806, and one of the nation's first golf courses was laid out there. It was visited by James Buchanon, James Polk, and Ronald Reagan. It was closed in 1986.  After a $120,000,000 restoration, the resort was reopened in 2007. Whether the ghosts survived the pricey remodeling isn't known. The Shadowlands

THE BELSANO TRAIN ROBBERY (Cambria County) This is a legend of lost loot. On the morning of October 11, 1924, a train from the Cambria & Indiana RR was transporting a safe with a payroll of $33,000 to the miners of Ebensburg Coal Company. Just outside Belsano, the engineer slowed down to pick up a passenger. He was shot down by two bandits aboard the train, who grabbed the safe and escaped with four other accomplices in a waiting car. After a regional manhunt, Michelo Bassi and Anthony Pezzi were picked up in Terre Haute, Indiana. They were armed, carrying $3,000 apiece, and had alibis that wouldn't hold water. The pair were convicted of murder and fried in the chair on February 23, 1925. The remaining money and safe were never found. Maybe the gang split it and dumped the safe, but the local legend has it that $25,000 is sitting hidden in the Belsano countryside, waiting for a lucky finder to claim. The Belsano Job

BENNINGTON CURVE (Sugar Run, Blair County) On February 18, 1947, the Pennsylvania RR's Red Arrow train jumped the tracks around Bennington Curve, a few miles below the Horseshoe Curve. 24 people died in that wreck and another 131 were injured. It's said that if you park by the Gallitzen tunnel at night, flash your headlights three times and then shut off the engine, you'll hear voices talking and laughing, coming nearer to you, and then you'll see the shadows of the dead approach. The Curve and its' ghostly crowd is written up in Haunted Pennsylvania by Patty Wilson & Mark Nesbitt.

BRACKEN DIP (Bracken, Indiana County) This is on the Ghost Town Trail, and Bracken is one of its' ghost towns. A beautiful “Lady in White” is said to wander this part of the trail, seeking out the lover who killed her there.  There's also been reports of her spirit being seen on Beulah Road, near Nanty Glo, at the end of the Ghost Trail.  She ain't giving up 'til she finds that cad!  Another version has her suddenly appearing in cars occupied by couples.  She smiles sweetly at the woman and scares the pants of the guy.  Her presence is supposed to be a warning to the girl to dump the fellow she's with before the relationship turns abusive.  She's sorta a spook social worker.  Fabulous Travel

BROWN'S CEMETERY (Jackson Twp., Cambria County) This secluded cemetery has reportedly been the site of strange sounds, lights in the woods, and winds that blow through the cemetery but not the surrounding area. There's also been alleged sightings of an elderly couple walking among the trees by the pond. The Shadowlands

BRYAN HILL HOUSE (Bryan Hill, Indiana County) The president of the Historical Society of Indiana County bought this pre-Civil War house after being told it was haunted. The home had an extensive history with the Bryan family after whom the township was named. Every morning at 9 AM, the front door sounds like it is being opened and shut (we guess the spirits were punctual in life, too.) The owner has had visions of a couple standing in the parlor, and also of a little girl with a bow in her hair dressed in her Sunday best. (The Penn “Tales Of Paranormal Haunt Indiana,” October 31, 2003)

CAMBRIA HEIGHTS HIGH SCHOOL (Patton, Cambria County) The story is that the student lead of West Side Story got sick and died on opening night. The aspiring thespian has haunted the school auditorium ever since. He likes to disrupt things by dropping objects from the overhead spotlight room, but he'll lend a helping hand, too. If you're off your mark or fall, he'll come to your aid. The Shadowlands

CHANDLER SCHOOL (Johnstown, Cambria County) This school has been shut down since 2000, we think (The Shadowlands has the closing in 1990), and is supposed to be haunted by at least a pair of spirits. One is a janitor who was killed when the ceiling fell in on him. Another is by a child who died from an asthma attack at lunch. Lights go on and off, although there is no electricity in the building. A piano that was supposed to be transferred to the high school the next day was left on a landing. In the morning it was found shattered at the bottom of the steps. We guess the school doesn't like to share. The building has recently been reopened as the Chandler School Apartments for seniors. The status of the ghosts is unknown. Maybe the old folks will add a couple of more spooks to the mix after awhile. The Shadowlands 

SILAS CLARK HOUSE (Indiana, Indiana County) The site of the Clark House was originally owned by George Clymer, who signed the Declaration of Independence, and a building was put up in 1816 to serve as a school.  It burned down, and Clark, who was a state Supreme Court Justice, bought the property and built his home there.  The house is now maintained by the Indiana County Historical Society.  It has been the site of some reported poltergeist activity (the most commonly described phenomena is a feeling of being watched or followed) and the spook of a young girl with blonde ringlets sitting in a rocking chair has been seen. (Indiana Gazette  "Many Local Legends Based On Fact" October 31, 2007)

CLEARFIELD MIDDLE SCHOOL (Clearfield County) The custodians report that an old music teacher haunts the auditorium. He plays the piano and you can smell his distinctive pipe tobacco.  There's no business like show business... The Shadowlands 

COALWARD STREET SPOOKS (Windburne, Clearfield County) This small town near State College was the site of a train crash long ago that took the lives of a mother and infant.  The locals say you can spot her spirit, clutching her baby, pacing along the Coalward Street tracks, searching for her lost husband.  The Shadowlands

COLLEEN IN WHITE (Horseshoe Curve, Blair County) On the Altoona side of the tunnel, it's said that sometimes at midnight you can spy a beautiful young Irish girl's ghost, dressed in white and standing sadly by a stone wall.  She's supposedly awaiting her beau, who lost his life in a barroom brawl after a hard day's work building the Curve.  She can be seen among the spruce trees by the wall.  PA Mountains of Attractions 

CONEMAUGH TOWNSHIP HIGH SCHOOL (Davidsville, Somerset County) The school is allegedly haunted by an Indian Chief who is buried underneath the property. He likes to play with the lights during big events and has been reportedly seen at football games, opening night of student shows, and graduation. Naturally, the Conemaugh mascot is an Indian. The Shadowlands

CONEMAUGH VALLEY HIGH SCHOOL (Johnstown, Cambria County) When the school was built (it opened in 1969), allegedly the land it used was the site of an old cemetery and several bodies had to be relocated to other graveyards. That's always a bad start. Custodians report humming and whistling when no one's in the building but them. Others report lockers flying open and lights going on and off. After school, students have seen apparitions that disappear or walk through the walls along with ghosts spotted in the parking lot and football field. A word to the wise - let sleeping dogs (and spirits!) lay. The Shadowlands 

COVE FORGE SINGING SPOOK (Cove Forge, Blair County) This old house has been converted into an office building.  But when it stood, you could hear a young girl singing eerily from the attic.  The voice belonged to the spirit of a girl whose grandparents had kept locked in the attic all her short life.  PA Researchers

CRESSON LAKE PLAYHOUSE (Ebensburg, Cambria County) The Cresson Lake Playhouse is in a pre-Civil War barn that was converted to a theater in 1975.  It's claim to fame is its moving trunk. The trunk is in the attic, and you can hear it being dragged to and fro from the downstairs area when no one is upstairs.  People have seen its trail in the dust, but never found any accompanying footprints. Obiwan

CRUM CEMETERY (Shade Township, Somerset County) Hey, cemeteries are supposed to be spooky places.  But Crum Cemetery near Windber takes the spectral cake. The most popular tale is that of witch Rebecca Crum.  She and her family were thought to be local hexes, and she was dragged out her home by the locals and killed.  She was buried outside the cemetery proper, and her tiny village of Crum was burned to the ground by the mob. With a rude send-off like that, it's no wonder her spirit is restless.  It's said that you can hear her wails from the nearby woods, and the spirit of a lady in white can be seen floating through the grounds, thought to be Rebecca. The urban legend goes on to claim that if you turn your car off on the second bridge of the path that leads to the cemetery, you won't be able to start it again. There's also been reports of folk spotting a black carriage that rides through the grounds at midnight. Other versions say that the phenomena are related to a plague that hit the village of Crum, claiming most of its inhabitants.  Their remains were buried in the cemetery, and the local government had the village torched to keep the disease from spreading. And hey, we're not done with local lore quite yet.  Nearby is a “dead zone”, an area rumored to be haunted by a man that hung himself after killing his wife and children, although the story has never been verified. It's supposed to be about two miles away along a blocked off back road that leads to their long deserted shack. PA Attractions

CURWENSVILLE HIGH SCHOOL (Clearfield County) The ghost of a construction worker killed in a fall while building the auditorium is reported to haunt the scene of his death. You can see the reflection of an older man in the windows and hear him speak.  His voice comes from above you as if he's floating in air, but his message is unintelligible. He lurks mainly in the rooms below stage. The Shadowlands

THE “DEAC” (Johnstown, Cambria County) The story goes that if you walk into a former teacher's room, turn out the lights and say “Good morning, Deac” three times, the old instructor will appear at the chalkboard and grant you three wishes (or at least leave you a message) before you turn the lights back on. The Deac must have been one heckuva popular teacher. The Shadowlands

DIXONVILLE MINE DISASTER (Clymer, Indiana County) Mine inspector Glenn E. Berger reported in 1944 to his superiors that the Dixonville mine disaster which killed 15 men was not the result of a cave-in, but rather an attack by underground creatures capable of manipulating the earth with partial cave-ins whose domain the miners had apparently accidentally penetrated. Supposedly most of the dead miners were not injured by falling rocks but instead showed signs of large claw marks.  Others were missing and one survivor spoke of seeing a vicious humanoid creature that was 'not of this world' within the ancient passage that the miners had broke into. The creature somehow created a cave-in, blocking himself and another inspector (who closed his eyes when he felt the creatures 'hot breath' on his neck) from the main passage until a rescue party began to dig through the collapsed rubble, scaring the cave creature away. The biggest mine disaster there took place in 1926. We can't find any mention of a 1944 cave-in except in hollow earth conspiracy mags. Dixonville - Area 51

DUBOIS REGIONAL MEDICAL CENTER (DuBois, Clearfield County) DRMC took over the old Central Catholic HS building and the convent which date to the 1880s. In DRMC West, the former school building, it's said the spirit of the old headmaster haunts the hospital, turning out lights. There's also reports that a child that runs up and down the hallways and another apparition that stares out a window. The old convent (St. Catherine's, we think) is the transcription office of DRMC and there are strange phenomena there at night.  The prayer bell rings, radios in vacant offices play, and you can feel the presence of the old nuns.  Watch out for those rulers slapping your wrist if you step out of line! The Shadowlands

ELIZA FURNACE (Indiana County) Situated on the famous Ghost Town Trail, the Eliza Furnace produced iron from 1846-49 for owners David Ritter and George Rodgers. It's on the National Register of Historic Sites. Ritter's ghost still haunts the oven. He hung himself in the furnace because (a) his wife ran off with Rodgers, (b) he was distraught over financial ruin, or maybe (c) his son fell into the furnace and died. Probably (d), all of the above, combined to push him over the edge. Sightings of his ghost around the oven have been reported many times. Some say that you can even see him hanging in the furnace if your timing's right.  This tale and many others are spun in Ghost Stories From the Ghost Trail by C.L. Shore. Eliza Furnace - Fabulous Travel

ELMHURST (Munster Twp., Cambria County) This 20 room Tudor mansion was built by William and Mary Thaw, parents of Harry, in 1897 as a country residence. The spirit of Gibson Girl Evelyn Nesbit, Harry's wife, reportedly haunts the place. Drawings and etchings of her adorn one room although she only visited the summer retreat a few times. Another tale says that motorists have picked up a young woman in a long white dress on nearby Route 22 who asks tearfully to be taken to Elmhurst. When they approach the gate of the mansion, she disappears. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette “Cambria County Mansion Rumored To Be Haunted By Ghost Of Legendary 'Gibson Girl',” October 27, 2001)

EUREKA MINE #40 (Paint Twp., Somerset County) Eureka Mine #40 (The old company town of Scalp Level is still open seasonally) near Windber is allegedly haunted. You can hear dogs barking when none are around and get a feeling of being followed when you go through the deserted buildings. “The Ghost of the Old Miner” haunts the nearby railroad tracks at night. He could be one of many souls who lost their lives in mining accidents at Eureka #40 over the years. Eureka Mine #41 operated nearby, too. The Shadowlands

FEED MILL BABE (Williamsburg, Blair County) The owners of a Williamsburg house kept hearing the sounds of a crying baby coming from their basement, but when they went in the cellar to check, they couldn't find any source for the noise.  They sold the home, and it was converted into a feed mill.  When renovating the sewer lines downstairs, the new owner found a burlap bag in the pipes - with the remains of an infantPA Researchers

FIDDLING GHOST OF MAHONING VALLEY (Indiana County) Two men who worked on the Rochester & Pittsburgh railroad being built through 19th century Indiana County shared a small house. One of them was an avid fiddler who played the local dances, barn-raisings, and other social events of the day.  He played his tunes at home, too, early in the morning and late at night, virtually non-stop. He showed no consideration at all for his roomie, who apparently didn't share his love of fiddle music. The manic fiddler was found stabbed to death one day by fellow railroaders after he didn't show up for work. His fiddle was smashed to pieces and the bow snapped in two. His roommate was no where to be found, no doubt off to quieter (and further from the long reach of the law) locales. It's said you can see the old fiddler on the roof of his deserted house, still sawing away to this day. You can even hear his weird, eerie melody floating through the air. He's been called the noisiest ghost in Indiana County.  One report places this haunting in Smicksburg, but the original site of the town has been razed so the spook doesn't have a roof left to fiddle from there. Besides, it's not likely the Amish farmers would be hosting English railroaders in their tight knit community, though they may still be tapping a foot to his tunes. Many of the region's folk tales, including this one, are set down in That's What Happened by local folklorist Frances Strong Helman. Regional historian George Swetnam also related this story in a long ago edition of the defunct Pittsburgh Press. (The Penn “Tales Of Paranormal Haunt Indiana,” October 31, 2003 )  Fiddling Ghost - BBC    

FLIGHT 93 (Shanksville, Somerset County) Much paranormal activity has been associated with the site of this famous 9/11 air crash. There have been reports of voices.  One man, as reported by Johnstown TV station WJAC, heard a voice ask “So what now?” The guards said that they could hear someone knocking on the trailer door and then heard muffled voices outside of the trailer. Their theory is that the ghostly passengers were trying herd the terrorists into the trailer as a sort of prison, to protect those living beings by the trailer. One guard reported that while he was getting into his car the trunk went down, as if someone were sitting on it, and moments later sprang back up, as if the person jumped off. The guard also said that he saw a girl dressed in a blue baseball jersey and jeans by the park gate. She had light brown hair and glasses, and disappeared as he approached her. He saw her again in a photograph of the passengers. These phenomena were all reported by guard Robert Wagstaff in an interview with Patty Wilson. Photographs of orbs by the Memorial have also been taken. The site is a national park, and open to visitors. Tilted Forum Project 

FOREST LAWN CEMETERY (Conemaugh Twp., Cambria County) Forest Lawn Cemetery goes back to the early 1800s. An apparition wearing a white dress has been reported walking through the cemetery at night. The Shadowlands

FORT ROBERDEAU (Tyrone Twp., Blair County) Built in 1778, Fort Roberdeau was known as the “Lead Mine Fort” because it protected the local lead miners of Sinking Stream Valley whose product was essential in providing musket balls for the Revolution. The legend has it that a guard was killed while on duty, and his spirit can be seen as a black shadow still serving as a sentinel down the road. (the original fort doesn't exist anymore; the one used now is a reconstruction, so the locations are slightly different.)  It's also said that the bodies of a boy and his dog were found by the road and you can still hear them at night, the boy laughing as his dog playfully barks. The Shadowlands

FOXBURG INN (St. Benedict, Cambria County) Allegedly the first booth on the right in the dining room is bewitched. The tablecloth flies off when it's empty, dumping everything on the table onto the floor after a tug by the Foxburg poltergeist. The Inn, located on Theatre Road, hosts live bands now.  Could it be that their cranked-up amps are set up by the haunted table? The Shadowlands

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