Three Rivers Haunts & History 

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The legends, lore, and ghost tales of Allegheny, Armstrong, Beaver, Butler, Fayette, Greene, Lawrence, Washington & Westmoreland counties.

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Haunts & History

DEPRECIATION LANDS MUSEUM (Allison Park, Allegheny County) The Depreciation Lands Museum building, built of red brick and dating back to 1873, was once the Pine Creek Covenanter Church. With that in mind, museum staffers nicknamed their helpful house haunter the “Deacon,” described as an old man wearing a long black coat and old-fashioned boots. He first showed up in the mid 1970's, when a volunteer fixing up the building caught sight of him. He played shy, disappearing whenever she turned to see him, but when she said in frustration “The least you can do is help”, he did, by helping her repair a window. Other acts attributed to the Deacon were catching a falling ladder and returning it to an upright position, saving a painter on it from a tumble, catching a cleaning woman who was falling, and sparing a group of Girl Scouts from harm when a ceiling collapsed over them during a sleep over. Not only were none of them hurt, but most slept through the whole thing.  The Deacon gets his props in Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by Beth Trapani & Charles Adam III.

DIVINE PROVIDENCE (KINDRED) HOSPITAL (North Side, Pittsburgh) The old hospital is reported to host a sense of presence, voices, footsteps, the sounds of children laughing and running, and shadow figures. The sixth floor is said to be the center of the activity, with the elevator often going to that floor...empty. Sister Mary Loretta is the most noted spirit on the floor. The kindly nun ministered to patients when no staffers were available at night, bringing them water and fresh blankets. Divine Providence became Mercy Hospital's Northshore Campus and was sold in 2006 to Kindred Health Systems, which now uses the older, haunted building for administrative and lab tasks. The Shadowlands

DIXMONT STATE HOSPITAL (Kilbuck, Allegheny County) Dixmont State Hospital (named for its' founder, reformer Dorothea Dix) was one of Pennsylvania's first mental institutions. It covered 400 acres of ground, and was entirely self sufficient, having its’ own gardens, post office, and cemetery. Originally it housed 140 beds, but it routinely hosted 1,000 or more insane folk, often in deplorable conditions, as the state kept sending it more people and less funding. Opened in 1856, it closed its' doors in 1984. As insane asylums go, it was rather civilized, although lobotomies, electro-shock, and hours-long ice plunges were occasionally used. Oddly, although the place is assumed to be a hotbed of psychic activity, no actual hauntings or spirits have ever been associated with it that we could document. There is an aura covering the place, probably a result of the psychic energy left behind by the thousands of patients that passed through its' campus. But it seems that it's reputation as a local spook central was based primarily on Dixmont's deserted buildings and underground tunnel system where an imagination can run wild (not to mention the oddities experienced because of partying teens).  Even those remnants are gone now, as the property has been cleared for, of all things, a Wal Mart. All that's left is the cemetery, maintained by the state, with 1,300 plots and some reported activity. It's been examined by Ghost Story Investigations, who found no obvious signs of a haunting. The Pittsburgh Ghost Hunters have been there many times, and they feel that there may have been some residual energy connected to the place that's now dissipated. However, the old spirits had one last hurrah left in them – there was a massive landslide on the property while it was being graded for development. Some think the souls buried in the nearby cemetery caused the ground to crumble because they didn't plan to spend eternity looking at a big box store. And it worked – Wal Mart has canceled the project. We guess that proves they weren't entirely insane. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette “A Mental Hospitals Breakdown,” April 20, 2003; KDKA-TV report “Route 65 Trouble Could Be a Supernatural Matter,” October 19, 2006)

DORMONT LIBRARY (Allegheny County) This book haven is reportedly haunted by Alice, an old librarian. Books disappear and reappear at her hand.  It's also said that the laughter of a couple can be heard, presumed to be Alice and her hubby, no matter how much the current book marms shush them. Alice gets some ink in Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by Beth Trapani & Charles Adams III. I Love Libraries

DOUCETTE HOUSE (Manchester, Pittsburgh) Debbie Doucette owns a Second Empire rowhouse built in 1889. A ghost visits her in her TV room. First the room gets cold, and then the scent of men's cologne fills the air. She's not certain who the spirit is. Doucette found a rosary hung on a basement post (which she won't move), and believes the spirit may be that of a monk who once lived there, leaving behind a portrait of St. Nicholas and a tiled mosaic floor in the foyer. Her neighbor, though, thinks it may be the tailor that lived there in the early 1900's. The ghost is friendly, at least, causing no one any fear and eschewing poltergeist activities. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette “Manchester Haunted Tales Tour Invites You to Join the Ghosts,” October 25, 2003)

DRAVO CEMETERY (Elizabeth Twp., Allegheny County) The Dravo Methodist Cemetery (the church burned down in 1920) started as the Newlin family plot, and has tombstones that date back to 1812. It contains 708 bodies, the last being buried in 1942.  Many are the remains of young children. Some locals, who know the spot as Stringtown Cemetery, believe it's haunted. There are reports of a two-headed dog there, sent by Satan, along with sightings of a ghost train rolling past, one that crashed over a century ago. The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society went there on an investigation, and on the trail to the cemetery caught a glimpse of ghostly frontiersmen waiting to ambush a stage. They snapped some photos, and got pictures of several orbs in the area. These tales aren't spooky enough to scare off the locals, though. They use the Dravo Cemetery for hayrides and built a pavilion there. It's also a popular spot for bicyclists to take a break from their ride & wander through the old cemetery, as it's right along the well traveled Youghiogheny River Bike Trail.  (Tri-State Sports and News Service “Tales of Unexplained Sights and Sounds Echo Along the Youghiogheny River Trail,” October 31, 2001)

DREAM CATCHER (Ohio Valley)  This new-age device was actually an Obijwe invention, shaped like a round snowshoe.  Traditionally, they were hung over an infant's sleeping place.  It was said to catch nightmares in its webbing and allow good dreams to pass through. The dream catcher was made of a willow frame with sinew threads purposely; when it dried out, the child was old enough to deal with his own dreams. It was likely used in the Tri-State by the Algonquin Shawnees.  Here's a fictional tale of a dream catcher gone astray, written by an anonymous author for the local North Hills News. But it could be so....

DUQUESNE INCLINE (Mt. Washington/South Side, Pittsburgh) This is an example of a manufactured sighting. The Duquesne Incline originally served workers going up & down the steep slopes where their homes were nestled on their way to and from work on the flat river valley below. To save money (it was, after all, 2 cents per trip!), early 20th century workers would walk the steps beside the incline to get to their job and then home. To induce them to part with their pennies and ride the Incline, Samuel Diescher, the engineer who built it, hired people to jump out of the bushes surrounding the steps and frighten the walking workers. The rumor soon spread that the steps were haunted, and viola – everyone started riding. (New York Times “A State Of Incline In Pennsylvania,” July 20, 2007)

DUQUESNE UNIVERSITY (The Bluff, Pittsburgh) Duquesne was founded in 1878 as the Pittsburgh Catholic College and held classes above a bakery on Wylie Avenue in the Hill District.  In 1885, they moved into their current campus on the Bluff.  In 1911, they became the Duquesne University of the Holy Ghost.  And like many Catholic colleges, they could use a good exorcism.

  • Fisher Hall: Formerly the Fisher Scientific building, Duquesne took over the century old structure. The building was extensively renovated, but, per agreement with Chester Fisher, the second floor, consisting primarily of a cafeteria and museum, was left largely unchanged. But several mysterious happenings led the staff to believe the floor was haunted. Doors would shut on their own. Papers would be blown around in a windowless office. Sounds of screaming could be heard from the museum hallway. Then one morning when the manager tried to turn on the lights, a cold breath was felt on her wrist and a disembodied voice said “Leave it off”. The spirit later relented, allowing the switch to be flicked on after several tries. A week later, priests from the University blessed the cafeteria and its' workers, and so far, that's turned the trick. But upstairs, where the building is connected to the main campus by a walkway, an elderly man will hold the door open for the crossing students. When they turn to thank him, he's gone. (Duquesne University Times “'Haunted' Fisher Hall Attracts Suspicion and Eerie Caution From Employees,” October 25, 1999; Pittsburgh Ghost Hunters – AOL)
  • Old Main Administration Building: The basement of the Old Main was a major transfer point in the Underground Railroad. Most escaped slaves there were well on their way to freedom; others were captured there. Door and lights operate on their own in the basement. The sound of voices can be heard through the building's vents, and sometimes the sounds of rattling chains can be heard echoing through the Old Main's halls. (The Tartan “Ghost Stories Around Town: Pitt, Duquesne Offer Collegiate Haunts,” October 28, 2002)
  • St. Ann's Learning Center: The spirit of a boy allegedly haunts room #409.  He scatters objects and belongings all over.  Boys just wanna have fun. The Shadowlands

Duquesne University Virtual Campus Tour 

ECONOMITE RAPPISTS (Ambridge, Beaver County) People who occupied the old brick homes of the Economite sect said the places were haunted by Rappists, the followers of George Rapp. They would come back to pound on the walls, disturb one's sleep, and generally raise a ruckus in any home that wasn't sufficiently up to snuff by the religious standards of the spirits. They must have eventually given up trying to convert the homeowners, as the current residents report no supernatural din to keep them awake at nights. Ghastly Graveyard Gambols...

EDGAR THOMPSON STEEL WORKS (Braddock/Duquesne, Allegheny County) The mill, built over Braddock's trail, is haunted by the spirits of British redcoats & Colonials who were killed during the French and Indian War slaughter of General Edward Braddock's troops. George Washington allegedly first saw these ghosts when he organized the retreat of the remaining forces back to Fort Necessity after the defeat. The Shadowlands

ELFINWILD VFD (Allegheny County) Elfinwild, near Allison Park, has a fire department with a chief that won't quit – Ralph “Obie” Obenauf. His ghost haunts the fire hall – and he can keep a close eye on it & his men, seeing how his grave is just across the street in Mt. Royal Cemetery. The firefighters say that Obie turns on lights and shuts doors, watches over them, and even mounts up behind the wheel of the fire truck. They can hear him walking up and down the steps, and even smell his favorite pipe tobacco in the firehouse. Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County by Beth Trapani & Charles Adams III has a chapter dedicated to the fireman who wouldn't quit.

EVANS CITY CEMETERY (Jackson Twp., Butler County) Ghost hunters and fans love to attribute the supernatural to Evans City Cemetery, but it's on this list purely for its' legendary status as the graveyard where George Romero shot the opening of his classic film Night of the Living Dead in 1967. Off Franklin Road, the cemetery, established in 1891, unfortunately couldn't be used for Romero's anniversary shoot. It wasn't because the spirits were unwilling, but because the graveyard had been hit by a tornado in 1985 and was pretty well torn up.  But never fear - Barbara's grave escaped intact. Ghost & Hauntings Research Society

EVERGREEN HOTEL (Millvale, Allegheny County) The Evergreen has a mottled history, going from a hotel built in 1874 to a bar to a strip club. Poltergeist activity has allegedly occurred for years there – slamming doors, breaking dishes, lights going on and off, customers being locked in the bathrooms, help being locked in the cellar, and cold spots upstairs (although rowdy clientèle could be thrown into the mix of suspected causes, too). The ghostly guests should be pleased that the Babcock Boulevard Evergreen has become JezeBelle's Dance Club & Showbar, not a pizza shop as reported. The show must go on.  EDIT - The show has stopped.  The state seized the building because of alleged drug activity, and it has been condemned. The Shadowlands

FALLEN TIMBERS (Fallen Timbers, Fayette County) In the 1800's, a couple were traveling along what is now New Geneva Road near Route 119 when a sudden, furious storm arose.  It cost the lady her life, and her body was never found.  Since then, the ghost of her companion has been seen roaming the area, looking for her.  He's a shadowy torso, dressed in 19th century finery - a long black cape and a tall satin hat.  Don't freak if you run across him - after all, it's not you that he's looking for.  This is another tale told by Ceana O'Hanlon-Lincoln in County Chronicles.

FALLINGWATER (Bear Run, Fayette County) There' s a ghost that is said to haunt Fallingwater's master bedroom. She is allegedly a woman in a white nightgown staring out the window. She never speaks, just looks sadly at the falls. A night watchman, who has since been replaced, is supposed to have seen her while making his rounds. Is it Liliane Kaufmann, who died with a broken heart?  She was Edgar Kaufmann's first wife, and put up with his constant womanizing. But his last mistress had displaced her in his heart, and in failing health, she fought back bitterly, the contest ending with her divorce (without compensation - she signed a prenuptial agreement) and eventual death. She was buried in Homewood Cemetery, but her body was returned to Fallingwater after Edgar's death. The Swiss sculptor Alberto Giacometti was commissioned to create the crypt's immense bronze doors for the pair by their son. It was said he was trying to get them together in death, since he couldn't do in life. The doors depict two solitary figures in bas-relief, a woman sitting against a tree on the right and a man standing far away on the left, facing each other across a barren valley, against a dark, stormy background. It puts one in mind, appropriately enough, of William Blake's ''Marriage of Heaven and Hell."  Modern Gothic

FAYETTE COUNTY COURTHOUSE (Uniontown) There's a couple of tales involved with the Fayette County Courthouse. First, there's the curse of the courthouse clock. A man was on the gallows, and he was asked for his last words five minutes early, and then promptly hung. His final statement before they slid the gallows door open was was to curse the clock to running 5 minutes slow through eternity, to make up for the five minutes the hangman took from him. Another version has him calling on the four clocks to never keep the same time as a way of showing his innocence. Either way, the clock faces have never agreed on the time of day. Then there's the ghost of Frank Monaghan, who was allegedly beaten to death in the Courthouse basement after stabbing an officer.  Shortly after his death, reports of objects moving, sounds of a fight, and a shadowy figure from the courthouse basement were made, and they continue to this day. Screams of the Courthouse by Wolford Swimmer and Beverly Patterson covers all the ghostly going-ons.  To see the Courthouse, click on Grave Addiction

FERGUSON HOUSE (South Side, Pittsburgh) Lisa Ferguson and her brother lived in a Victorian home in South Side. She's twice spotted a young woman's spirit in her house, surrounded by a grayish white aura. The ghost pulls mostly poltergeist pranks, like moving things, flicking lights, and even changing the setting on the thermostat (those living souls turn the heat up soooooooo high!). Only once has the spirit gotten physical, pushing one of Lisa's brother's friends on the steps. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review “Teen Ghost,” October 29, 1997)

FECEK HOUSE (Brownsville, Fayette County) The Fecek's bought a house built in 1827 with a built in staff.  The only problem is that the household help are ghosts.  There are allegedly 4 spirits still in the house - a maid, her blonde haired boy, who had been raised in the house, a gardener and another maid.  The Feceks have smelled brownies cooking and coffee brewing, along with everyday sounds of doors shutting, and hammering.  A local ghost hunter got pictures of an orb and some mist, but you didn't have to convince the Fecek's - they had seen the little boy running around the house.  Everyone coexists just fine, and Mrs. Fecek says she loves having the spirits around.  We'll bet she wishes they were making real brownies and coffee, though.  (The Valley Independent "Spirits Visit Sites In The Mon Valley," October 13, 2004)

MIKE FINK (Fort Pitt) Although not technically a spook, Mike Fink is mythological figure from the Davy Crockett era with Pittsburgh roots. The “half horse, half alligator” was born in Fort Pitt, the 'Burgh's early alias. He was a renowned riverman, with rootin', tootin' exploits immortalized in American folklore. He wasn't warm and cuddly, though, being a womanizer and drunkard.  His tale ends with him being shot to death as payback for killing Carpenter (some say accidentally, others on purpose), who he had raised as a son.  Legends are not all cut out of the same noble cloth.  This was taken from Tales Of Pioneer Pittsburgh - Ahoy, Mike Fink done by the Federal Writers Project, and his lore is easily Googled.

FLAME SCALPS OF CHARTIERS CREEK (Chartiers, Washington County) While Pittsburgh was still an gleam in the geographers' eyes, a family settled by the mouth of Chartiers Creek. The husband and his brother went hunting one day, and when they returned, an Indian raid had reduced their cabin to ashes.  The bodies of the man's wife and two children were buried in the embers.  They left a note, and went seeking revenge on the Indians, never to return.  People that settled in the area claimed to hear the cries of the family on stormy nights, intermingled with the war whoops of the Indians.  Orbs floating around the old homestead were often seen.  Some of the neighbors believe they're the spirits of the mother and father, seeking one another and their children.  Others say that they're the scalps of the slain  - and claim that after a sighting, blood red drops of moisture can be found on the flowers that were beneath them.  This legend was retold by Charles Skinner in his Myths and Legends of Our Times.

FLEISCHMAN HOUSE (Manchester, Pittsburgh) Martin Fuess and David Fleischman share a Victorian house on Sheffield Street with a woman's ghost. She's been seen passing back and forth by the doorway of the second floor family room, wearing a long Victorian skirt. It seems their Jack Russell terrier often catches sight of her when the owners can't, staring at the dining room ceiling, watching intently with its' head cocked for minutes at a time. She'll also crack open the cellar door or turn on the hall light at night while the owners are sleeping. Fuess runs the Manchester Historic Society. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette “Manchester Haunted Tales Tour Invites You to Join the Ghosts,” October 25, 2003)

FORT LIGONIER (Ligonier, Westmoreland County) In October of 1758, the French and Indians attacked Fort Ligonier, the last safe haven on the way to Pittsburgh, and were defeated, opening up Fort Duquesne/Pitt to become the English Gateway to the West. The reconstructed fort is also a gateway to the otherworld. Workers and visitors had reported experiences of office furniture moving by itself, the feeling of being followed by the eyes of historical figures in photographs and paintings, and the apparition of a woman, thought to be Phoebe St. Clair, wife of Major Gen. Arthur St Clair, in the parlor. There's also the lore of the Lone Piper and the ghost officer who posed for a picture with some reenactors. ("Ghosts and Legends of Fort Ligonier" by Cassandra Fell and Dr. Walter Powell)

FORT NECESSITY  (Farmington, Fayette County) Fort Necessity taught George Washington a lesson in guerrilla warfare - and humility.  He took his first whupping here in 1754, an omen of things to come with General Braddock a little later, although the lesson did eventually sink in. It's said that you can hear musketry and Indian war cries at night.  There's also been reports of bodiless footsteps heard in the visitor's center. The Shadowlands

FORWARD TOWNSHIP VFD (Forward Township, Allegheny County) Crew members at Forward Township Volunteer Fire Company claim to occasionally hear the voice of a young child over the station’s two-way radio speaker. Another spirit is believed to walk around opening doors. (Our Strange World "Haunting Season In Pennsylvania" September 12, 2010)

FOURTH RIVER PROPHECY (Three Rivers) The Mayan calendar stops at 2012, when the Earth is aligned with the center of the Milky Way and a new era of cosmic consciousness is upon us. Pittsburgh is linked quite prominently in all this (bear with me). The Meadowcroft Clovis people, living in western PA some 15 millenia ago, are considered by some to be the predecessors of the Maya, heading south as so many Pittsburghers do, to found that great civilization. They also consider the confluence of three rivers to be sacred. There are only 12 in the world, all considered to be “portals”. Throw in a fourth river – well, not actually a river, but the Wisconsin Glacier Flow, an aquifer that feeds the Point State Park fountain - and we become the key portal in the upcoming new age. Our role in the prophecy won't be clear until 2011-12, but according to it, we will be the prime player in receiving and spreading the glories of the new global age. Confused? Well, give it a handful of years, and all will become clear.  Pittsburgh Maya

FOXWOOD ROAD GHOST (Koppel, Beaver County) Around midnight, it's said that you can see the ghost of a little girl and her two dogs roaming the road near the old early 1800s cemetery on the road. The cemetery is located on Foxwood Road, off Rt. 351 in the Koppel/Enon ValleyThe Shadowlands

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