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

VALLEY HOTEL (Jefferson Hills, Allegheny County) Built in the 1840's, the Hotel Grainger served passengers of the Pittsburgh, Virginia & Charleston Railroad, miners, and riverboat crews   The New England Road building, currently named the Valley Hotel, now houses a bar. The place is alleged to be filled with spirits, including poltergeist activity, faces in the mirror of people that aren't there and glowing lights. Things disappear from behind the bar and in drawers, then reappear weeks later. Guests have heard voices and footsteps overnight. A worker quit after hearing the voices of a man and women arguing in the basement. The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society investigated the place, and came away with pictures of orbs moving around the bar and a spirit beside one of the team members. A mirror shattered when they were in the basement. They came away believers. So if you'd like to share a beer with a ghost and a hard-rockin' indie band, this is your kind of place.  Pittsburgh Paranormal Society

VENANGO TRAIL GOLF CLUB (Cranberry, Butler County) The golf course is built over part of the old Venango Trail, a well traveled portage that ran from Franklin to Lawrenceville, a route that is now approximated by the Perry Highway. Golfers have reported seeing Indians emerging from the woods, crossing the fairway and then disappearing into thin air, without even asking if they can play through. The golf club is shut down now, and the land is slated to become a 500 home development. The Shadowlands

VICARY MANSION (Freedom, Beaver County) The mansion has been the home of the Beaver County Historical Research & Landmarks Foundation since 1999. Philadelphian William Vicary, a merchant sea captain, built his estate overlooking the Ohio River in 1826, moving in in 1829. His family lived there until 1912. Local lore claims that the mansion is haunted by Captain Vicary, and you can spot swinging chandeliers, lights going on and off, and hear voices.  But Brenda, the director of the BCHR&LF, says it's all hogwash.  "I have been associated with this mansion, having slept here as well as worked here for nearly ten years and have never, ever had any experience with the things mentioned above, and neither has any of our volunteers.  To go further, we have had three different paranormal societies do investigations here and nothing was found," she wrote.  "No evidence of any paranormal activity has ever been found." So step back people - the good captain's haunts are just another urban legend, so say the folks who should know best.  Vicary House  & History of the Vicary Mansion

VILLAGE RESTAURANT (Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County) This W. Main Street eatery was allegedly once a funeral home. There have been reports of strange sounds & footsteps being heard, and the spirit of an elderly lady has been seen sitting on the basement steps. The Shadowlands

WABASH BRIDGE CURSE (Pittsburgh, Allegheny County) The Wabash Bridge's history began in 1902 when railroad entrepreneurs Jay and his son George Gould commissioned its construction as part of what would be his planned transcontinental system.  Gould's RR bridge, linking his new terminal on Water Street to the Wabash Tunnel through Mount Washington, loomed 109 feet above the Monongahela River. Its construction was costly in lives as well as dollars.  A series of misfortunes beset the Wabash job. Weather was a constant problem, and a smallpox epidemic hit the workmen. There were strikes, riots, landslides and floods.  On the morning of Oct. 20, 1903, the worst was to hit.  While tying together the bridge's center piece, it collapsed.  Men fell through the air into the Mon "like flies," and 10 workers died.  Things didn't improve after the bridge opened with much fanfare in 1904.  In 1908, the Wabash RR was forced to go into receivership just 4 years after the bridge opened.  The old bridge was eventually scrapped and the steel melted down for use in the Dravosburg Bridge in 1948.  Now all that's left of it is a stone pier on either shore.  They say while it was up, the ghosts of the dead RR'ers haunted the span.  They put a curse on it, as it had done to them, and it sure seemed to work.  Wabash Bridge-Pittsburgh Roto

WALNUT STREET ELEMENTARY SCHOOL (West Homestead, Allegheny County) The building is now the home of Sign Creators, Inc., but its old student body hasn't given up the ghost yet.  It's been closed since the seventies, but the SCI workers have heard spectral voices and footsteps, and seen doors opening and closing on their own.  One staffer saw a little girl dressed in white, another saw a spook walk through a wall, and others have spotted an apparition thought to be "Shorty," the school janitor. The building still has a chalkboard with the signatures of a class and its teacher from 1908, when the school opened.  Maybe they're still there.  ("Ghost Hunters Test Former School," Pittsburgh Post Gazette, October 22, 2009)

WARDEN HOUSE (Mt. Pleasant, Westmoreland County) The Victorian mansion of Samuel Warden, built in 1886, is at 200 South Church Street. It's now the home of the Daughters of the American Revolution, who share the mansion with some spooks. At first, the DAR members quite naturally thought The Warden House was haunted by the spirit of Margaret Warden, Samuel's wife, and they took to calling the spook Margaret. But a visiting psychic told them the spirit's name was Rebekah. They believe she was a teenage housekeeper that worked for the Wardens. Most of the activity occurs on the third floor, which was the servant's quarters. She wears a long Victorian dress that swishes as she goes by. The DAR has even put together a 16 page pamphlet titled “Rebekah: The Spirit of Warden Mansion.” Although mischievous, she's considered a friendly ghost and protector of the house. Psychics also say that there are three other spirits roaming the halls, so maybe Margaret is still hanging around her old haunts. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review “Ghosts Scare Up Spectral Tales,” October 31, 2000)

WARNER THEATER (Downtown, Pittsburgh) Whitey, the old projectionist for the Warner Theater – he worked there for 40 years - died while in the booth, showing a movie. The aroma of his ever present cigar still fills the projection room. The Warner Theater closed in the 1980s and became the Warner Center, an indoor mall of sorts, and Whitey presumably moved on to that big movie house in the sky.  Warner Theater Post - Cinema Treasures

WASHINGTON & JEFFERSON COLLEGE (Washington, Washington County) Founded in 1781 and located about 30 miles south of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Washington & Jefferson College is one of the nation's oldest co-ed, four-year liberal arts colleges.  It's been a part of Western Pennsylvania's history, from Indian attacks to the Civil War to today's economic battles.  And some of its buildings are still haunted by history.

  • Admissions Office: Built in 1894, it features stained glass windows and a majestic oak stairway.  It also was used as a funeral home.  It's supposed to host a variety of spirits within its walls.
  • McMillan Hall: The oldest of the W&J buildings and a registered historic landmark, McMillan Hall was constructed between 1793-1794. It is the 8th oldest college building in continual use in the United States and the oldest college building west of the Allegheny Mountains.  Today it's used as academic offices.  The faculty and staffers in the building have spotted a colonial lady spook roaming its halls, known as Abigail, who sweeps the halls.
  • Old Fiji House: Another haunt is the former Fiji house (they moved in 2006), where things would get moved around, blankets would levitate, and other poltergeist-type activity would occur.  There's a spook in the house that's been seen several times, described as a male with slick-backed dark hair and dressed in turn-of-the-century clothing.  This is from Heather Frazier's book Pittsburgh Ghosts: Steel City's Supernatural.
  • President's House: Sometimes the cats spot someone no one else can see, the radio turns on by itself, the fireplace lights itself, footsteps are heard upstairs when no one is there, and the third floor is cold, even in the summer without AC. The top floor of the house is allegedly haunted by a Confederate officer (it's even briefly mention on the W&J website, under "Did You Know?") who was taken in by southern sympathizers living there during the Civil War. He hid in the house before being captured and hung. His ghost walks the upstairs hallway between the stairwell and the window, still on the lookout for Union soldiers, and his marching has allegedly scared away workers. Activity is said to have increased in the house because the new president is from Boston, and the spirit still hates those darn Yankees. The house was given to W&J in the 1940's by the Duncan family of glassworks fame.  The Confederate tale is sorta iffy, though, as the house wasn't built until 1892, so the spooks true identity is still up for grabs. The Shadowlands  

Unless otherwise noted, the information was taken from KDKA-TV's report "Ghosts Living on Washington and Jefferson's Campus?" October 27, 2009.

Take a tour W&J's campus

WASHINGTON'S CROSSING (Wainwright's Island, Pittsburgh) In 1753, returning from a mission undertaken for Virginia's governor, Washington and his guide Christopher Gist set out to get help for their stranded party. It was late December, and the Allegheny River was partially frozen. They hastily built a raft and tried to cross the river, but Washington fell into the icy waters and barely avoided drowning only to nearly freeze to death. The men had to spend the night hunkered down around the fire on Wainwright's Island. The next day, the river froze solid and the intrepid duo walked across it, successfully completing their trek for help. It's said that the spirit of the Washington can be spotted on the eastern end of the island, sometimes on horseback. But Wainwright's Island is not Herr's Island, which is now known as Washington's Landing. You reach it by taking a ramp off of the Washington's Crossing Bridge; maybe that's the cause of the confusion. Wainwright's Island disappeared under the Allegheny River well over a century ago. So unless George is walking on water... The Shadowlands

WAYNESBURG COLLEGE (Waynesburg, Greene County) The cemetery (we think it's the Green Mount Cemetery) behind Burn's Hall is alleged to be haunted. Waynesburg students report that they hear voices, accompanied by strong winds and flashes of light. The Shadowlands

WENDY'S RESTAURANT (Murrysville, Westmoreland County) A man's apparition has allegedly been sighted, voices are heard, doors slam, and the lamps swing and then stop. The shop was built over old mines in which several miners died, and their spirits are the prime suspects for the activity. We don't know if that's so, but Murrysville is no different than any other part of Western Pennsylvania in that it's honeycombed by the old mines underneath its' streets and buildings. So...  The Shadowlands

WESTINGHOUSE CASTLE (Wilmerding, Allegheny County): Westinghouse Castle was industrialist George Westinghouse's original HQ, built in 1890.  From his office window, ol' GW could see his Westinghouse Air Brake factory and Wilmerding, his company town.  It's now a museum, gift shop, offices and banquet space - and home to a few wayward spooks.  The staff has complained of feelings of being followed around, felt disembodied spirits brush past them on  the stairway, and reported actual sightings of old workmen in jeans appearing and then disappearing. The Pittsburgh Paranormal Society paid a visit to the Castle, and found the presence of a couple of children, a workman in the boiler room, some bad vibes in the attic, and, of course, the presence of George Westinghouse himself.  (Monroeville Times-Express "Paranormal Group Investigates Westinghouse Castle" October 14, 2010)

WESTMINSTER COLLEGE (New Wilmington, Lawrence County)  The small Christian Westminster College was established in New Wilmington in 1852 and was one of the first coed colleges in the nation.  It's hard to believe it has so few ghosts with all that time and tradition behind it.

  • Hillside Ghost: Hillside was built in 1885, and originally was known as The Ladies Hall and Conservatory of Music. It's the oldest building on campus. There are reports from there of computer tomfoolery, doors opening, closing, and locking on their own, lights turning on and off, and objects being knocked over and then put back by invisible hands, in front of witnesses. But the star of this show is Betsy, a ghost that predates the college and haunts the dorm as the Hillside Ghost. She was allegedly murdered in the building. The Shadowlands
  • The Mummy: OK, so no one ever said that Westminster mummy Pesed ran around putting curses on people. But she is an integral part of campus life. Several attempts have been made to spirit Pesed away from school. Legend has it that she had an active social life in the early 1900's (she arrived on campus in 1885), and would appear in different coed's beds. Pesed gets no respect – the underside of her wooden coffin lid has student's names carved into it, with one dating back to 1899. She is 2,300 years old.  Whatever happened to respecting your elders? 

WESTMORELAND GLASS COMPANY (Grapeville, Westmoreland County) From 1889 until 1984, the Westmoreland Glass Company produced collectible-quality glassware.  And though the company has been shut down for the past 25 years, its loyal workforce still punches in.  It's said that if you're by the factory at night, you can see employees still in their work clothes walking the road, some right down the middle, disappearing once you slow down or swerve to the other lane.  One likes to torture the neighborhood hounds; he cuts through the backyards and gets them all howling.  Ghosts of America

WEST OVERTON (Scottdale, Westmoreland County) The Abraham Overholt family estate dates back to 1800, and still has 18 of its' original buildings, including the mansion and distillery.  Does Old Overholt ring a bell? This is the family that distilled it, though not at this site. It's also the birthplace of Henry Clay Frick, whose family maintains the property as a museum. Sometimes the distillery lights won't go out, and loud bangs are heard from inside the building. Staffers have seen shadows flit from room to room and a man in a tall stovepipe hat go by in the barn. Some claim Jacob Overholt was allegedly murdered there by his father - they actually owned separate distilleries - over a business dispute (although the most definitive cause of death we could find was that Jacob passed from his "last illness,' as we suppose we all do). He's been reportedly seen on the grounds, and the distillery has had a pair of fires some credit to him. But the star spook here is Clyde Overholt, who haunts the grounds. He was the last Overholt to live in the house. He committed suicide by shotgun in his bedroom in 1919 after his older brother laid claim to the Overholt estate after the death of their father. Museum director Mary Ann Magnus says “We blame all the strange happenings (here) on Clyde.” Clyde's not entirely to blame, though. One Overholt hung himself from a tree on the property, and another died in a room now used as a storage area. People say they can see his face looking out the room's window.  There are also tales of a "rude" ghost that's found by the springhouse who reportedly asked an investigator "Why are you in my house?"  The ghosts are the stars of the book Weird West Overton by Mary Ann Mogus and Ed & Brendan Keleman. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review "Tour Explores Haunted Village Near Scottdale," October 21, 2007; Pittsburgh Tribune Review “A Look At Some Old Haunts In Western Pennsylvania,” October 24, 2004)

WHITE LADY OF PORT VUE (Port Vue, Allegheny County) A carload of kids were driving by Sacred Heart and Calvary cemeteries, which join together at Dersham and New York Avenues.  They saw a white figure strolling through the graveyard.  They got out of the car and carefully followed the misty figure.  The closer they got, the faster she backpedaled.  Suddenly, she floated over a small tombstone - and disappeared.  It was the grave of a young girl, their White Lady.  (The Daily News "Local Urban Legends," October 6, 2000)

WHITEMAN HOMESTEAD (Shenango Twp., Lawrence County) The homestead is allegedly haunted by several ghosts. The best known is the spirit of a Civil War soldier that walks across the dining room while the lights flicker during his passage. We can't find the homestead or any Whiteman prominent in Lawrence County history, so we can't verify this report. The Shadowlands

WHITE ROCK (Fairchance, Fayette County) There's a precipice overlooking the river called White Rock, and it's the spot where New Salem's 18 year old Polly Williams met her doom in 1810, according to local lore.  The story goes that a rich dude, Phillip Rodgers, had promised to take her as his wife, but kept putting her off.  Wanting to become an honest woman, Polly pressed the issue.  He finally told her to see him at the top of White Rock.  It was their favorite meeting spot, but when their last conversation there was overheard in bits and pieces through the breeze, it wasn't lovers cooing, but an argument about their wedding.  Some versions say that the debate ended when he pushed her to her death; others claim she jumped in frustration and anger.  Deep scratches in the stone from her fingers supposedly remain along the edge of the cliff.  The next day, her father found her body on the rocks of White Rock Hollow below, shattered after falling 60 feet through the air. The young man took off and joined the army.  But he returned to the scene of the crime after the war, according to one version, and filled with remorse over William's fate, took the leap himself as told in Charles Skinner's Myths and Legends.   In Ceane O'Hanlon-Lincoln's yarn, written up in County Chronicles, the cad Rodgers was tried in court, and found innocent, since no one could prove whether he actually did the dirty deed or she jumped. Her grave is located in Little White Rock's Methodist Cemetery on Hopwood-Fairchance Road, and its epitaph reads:

"Polly Williams 1792 - 1810:
Behold with pity you that pass by
Here do the bones of Polly Williams lie
Who was cut off in tender bloom
By a vile wretch, her pretended groom."

Not much doubt on whose story the locals favored, hey?  But the tale wasn't quite over.  It's said Polly still haunts the cliff, searching for her lover, in its fog and mist.  Even in the afterlife, she's still holding out for that diamond ring.  Now White Rock is a fairly popular site for rock climbers, so buckle up your boots if you're ready to meet Polly Williams. White Rock - SWPA   Myths & Legends Of Our Own Land

WICKERSHAM HOUSE (Monongahela, Washington County) The Wickersham House on Fifth Street dates back to 1834. The Holets bought it in 1986. And they found out that they're not the only ones living there.  It's haunted by an old school marm, Harriet Moore. John & Joan Holet were introduced to her when they were renovating the house. Doors in the basement opened, and as they followed them, the path led to a Waverly School banner. Harriet, one of the home's former owners, had taught at the now closed school. It was her way of welcoming the new family.  Joan  was in the kitchen one day and heard pleasant voices chatting. Then the oven door began to open and close. She said “Harriet, quit it!”, and the commotion died down. Harriet has company. Other spirits have been sighted in the house, too. There was a woman in a black cape seen roaming the home. Then John spotted another lady, dressed in a Victorian outfit. As he turned to speak to her, she drifted up the steps towards the attic and disappeared. When the Holets followed her into the attic, they found an old trunk with women's shoes and a photograph. The girl's picture in the trunk was a dead ringer of the spirit John had seen. (Valley Independent “Ghost Walk Draws Crowd For Tales Of The Unexplained,” October 23, 2001)

WIDMER ENGINEERING BUILDING (Beaver Falls, Beaver County) Widmer Engineering Inc. bought the old St. Mary's Episcopal Church on Lincoln Place, and there's more going on there than the quiet hum of CAD programs.  There have been claims of footsteps, the sounds of glass breaking, the laughter of children, crypt doors slamming, and whispering voices.  Hey, one investigator even got a stone tossed at him for his efforts. No spooks have been sighted, but where there's smoke...  United Paranormal Investigators

WILLIAM PENN HOTEL (Downtown, Pittsburgh) The unused 22nd & 23rd floors of the Omni William Penn Hotel are reported to be haunted. Watchmen report cold gusts, laughter, the sounds of feet shuffling, and the presence of being watched while there. The floors were supposedly a female dormitory in the early 1900's, and a murder was said to have been committed there. The Shadowlands

WINDIGO (throughout region) The Windigo (The names Chenoo and Windigo are used interchangeably, although Chenoo has also been referenced as a stone giant) is a mythical creature, sort of a vampire Sasquatch on steroids. His legend was spread by the Delaware, Mahican, and Shawnee tribes in the region, and indeed throughout native North America. The Windigo is a creature of winter, a human driven to madness through famine until he becomes pale white, monstrously sized, insatiably hungry, virtually indestructible, and with a craving for mayhem – and human flesh. You become a Windigo by eating human flesh, being bitten by one, or because of a shaman's curse. The only way to destroy a Windigo is by fire, and even then its’ frozen heart, made of ice and shaped like a human, needed chipped into small pieces to melt. There are many Native American tales about encounters with it, and it serves as a cautionary cultural tale against violating the taboo of cannabalism. There's even a mental disorder named after this critter, the Windigo Psychosis. Windigo - Dino Joe    Chenoo Native American Folk Tale

WITCHES TUNNEL (Unity Twp., Westmoreland County) There's a tunnel near Beatty Patch where it's alleged that if you honk your car horn at midnight, a ghost will appear. Aren't dark tunnels fun? Beatty Patch is an old coal mining area near Latrobe. This is from Jena, in an Original Tales forum. Original Tales Post

WITZEL HOUSE (North Hills, Allegheny County) The Jacob Witzel house was built on Evergreen Road in the North Hills in the 1820's and is a historic landmark. The current owners report that guests have seen a spirit of an older woman dressed in white, with auburn hair, who through some old photos was recognized as a former resident of the home. Their children had experiences of being touched, doors have been shut and knocked on with no one present, and footsteps can be heard going up and down the stairs. An investigator was shoved while walking in a hallway.   The spirit is thought to be a former resident of the home who doesn't want to be forgotten.  It also seems to disapprove of the daughter's relationship with her boyfriend.  These guys have one pushy spook in the house!  The home and its apparition are part of A&E's Paranormal State TV series. Greater Pittsburgh Paranormal Society

WOODLAWN SCHOOL (Munhall, Allegheny County) The school is allegedly haunted by the ghost of a man who burned to death in the basement. He can be seen looking out the windows and walking around the building. Smoke can be seen coming from the stack of a shut-down boiler. There are also stories of a janitor and a “smiley face” spirit at Woodland. The school itself was closed several years ago by the Steel Valley School District, but one ghost still frequents the building. A little girl in a white dress can be spotted at night, humming or singing “ring around the rosey.” She's reportedly been seen there often, and her ditty can be heard, accompanied by shutting doors. One of our readers, Zachary, visited the school with his friend Heather and saw smoke, heard an announcement over the school PA, and caught a girl singing on tape. The building is for sale. Good luck finding a buyer for it. The Shadowlands 

WOODWARD HOUSE (Luzerne Twp., Fayette County) The Captain Isaac Woodward House is an eight room, red brick home built in the 1800s with a couple of outliers on a 78 acre farm.  It was so comfy old Isaac couldn't bear to leave. The owners have seen and felt his ghost.  If you're unfortunate enough to be in his way, you'll be greeted by an icy blast as he goes by.  One former resident said "He made the rounds once in a while and scared Grandma, but most of us just ignored him." (Uniontown Herald Standard "Restored Woodward House Was Targeted For Condemnation," March 23, 2003)

JOCK YABLONSKI HOUSE (Clarksville, Greene County) On December 31, 1969, UMWA official Jock Yablonski, his wife Margaret, and his daughter Charlotte were murdered as they slept at home. Afterward, there were whispered tales of screams and gunshots heard from the home, blood running out of the walls and other manifestations of that violent night coming from the boarded-up house. To add to the tragic aura, a state trooper had been murdered in the same house 31 years before the Yablonskis. But since the house has been sold, the phenomena - or stories - have ended. Your Haunted Houses

ZIMMERMAN HOTEL (Zelienople, Butler County) Now the offices of the Butler County Tourism Bureau, the East Grandview Avenue building was originally built in 1867, and was a home, hotel, bar, B&B, and funeral parlor during its' time. The staffers believe there's a friendly ghost named Robert, who seems to be a playful young boy who appears as a shadow around the office, haunting their building. And they swear it's not to drum up business, either. Agreeing with them is the Pittsburgh Paranormal Research gang, who believe they may have made contact with the youthful spirit.  (Pittsburgh Post Gazette “Tourism Bureau May Have A Haunted Home,” January 7, 2007)

ZOMBIE LAND (Mahoning Twp., Lawrence County)  Hard on the Ohio border, Zombie Land is a lovers lane, party spot, druggies hangout - and the scene of murder.  The desolate, two acre spread of land is frequented by teens, state police, and the supernatural.  The first tale concerns Frankenstein Bridge, from where a youth once leaped to his death.  It's said that if your name appears on the bridge, the "bridge people" living underneath will find and kill you.  It's also known as Puerto Rican bridge, because its early taggers were Latinos.  Another tale concerns an old oil well near the bridge.  It seeps natural gas, and if you light it, you'll trigger an attack of the easily annoyed bridge people. There's a small church by the bridge.  It's reported that its boneyard sports a glowing grave.  It's home to the Blood House (now burned down), where an alleged witch lived.  She only came out when she wanted to put a spell on someone - or snatch a child to kill.  Her yard is supposed to be the kiddies' burying grounds. Zombie Land has its own Green Man legend, too, featuring a handy man that was badly burned in an electrical accident who now roams the ZL roads, all the way to Steubenville.  The area also includes lore of ghost hounds and a phantom train, although the train legend could be explained by the echoes of actual trains resounding off the hills.  It's been the scene of grisly death, too.  A car crash claimed another life.  The tale, as told by one of our readers, is that Chris Jordan, aka Spoon, was riding with his friend Pat, with other friends traveling in a car behind them. Supposedly they were running from something which had chased them from Graffiti Bridge, leading to a wreck that took his life.  A child was murdered there, when three men raped and killed a 12 year-old Ohio girl. They burned her body and left it under the Robinson's Crossing bridge.   It's also said that the mob use to dispose of their victims in the mine shafts that dot the area.  But those deaths were the results of evil that walks the earth, not the supernatural.  There is one saving grace.  A statue of the Virgin Mary, the sole remaining piece of old St. Lawrence's church, will open her arms when it's safe to enter Zombie Land, and clasp them in prayer for the people there if it isn't safe.  No one ever recalls her arms being open... (Pittsburgh Post Gazette "This Time, Zombie Land Tale Is True" October 30, 200)

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