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. For the tale of the week, visit

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Haunts & History

COLLECTIQUES SHOP (Monongahela, Washington County) Located on 808 West Main Street, the antique shop hosts the spirit of a young girl in the building's upstairs “green room,” whose voice can sometime be heard and is accompanied by an overwhelming chill. The apparition was allegedly caught in a photograph, wearing a nightgown. A gentleman ghost is sometimes seen seated in a room, gazing out the window. The shop was built in 1869. (Pittsburgh Post Gazette “Ghosts of Monongahela Candlelight Walk features 13 Scary Places,” October 8, 2006)

CONFEDERATE SILVER (Uniontown area, Fayette County) No spook tale here, just a quick down and dirty legend. During the Civil War, a convoy of Yankees was transporting a load of silver – 15 tons, reportedly – to the Philadelphia Mint. It was their bad luck to run into some dashing rebel raiders near Uniontown, who gladly relieved them of their precious metal bars. They weren't able to carry the load back to their base, so they hid it in a local cave and sealed the entrance. The fortunes of war being as they were, the graycoats never got to return to claim their booty, and the silver is said to still be stacked inside that cave. Some lucky spelunker is in for the find of his or her life. Confederate Silver - BBC

CONGELIER HOUSE (Manchester, Pittsburgh) Renowned as the “Most Haunted House in America” in the book Haunted Houses by Richard Winer & Nancy Osborn, the alleged history of this place is enough to turn anyone's blood cold. 1129 Ridge Avenue was home to Charles & Lydia Congelier, who built the house in the 1860's, and their maid, Essie. The tale begins in 1871. That's when Lydia found out Charles was having an affair with the maid (was that part of their resume?), and ended it by stabbing Charles to death, beheading Essie, and driving herself insane. The house was vacant for the next two decades. It was remodeled to become a dorm for railroad workers in 1892, but they wouldn't stay in the house, claiming to hear the sobbing and screaming of a woman. Then it gets interesting. Around the turn of the century, Dr. Adolph Brunrichter moved in. His maids didn't end up lovers, but cadavers. He beheaded them and then did experiments to keep the heads alive, which apparently he could do for short periods of time. On August 12, 1901, the neighbors heard a scream and saw a red flash come from the house, blowing out all the windows. The good doctor vamoosed, and police found a decomposed body strapped to a bed and five headless corpses buried in the basement.Needless to say, the house again remained unoccupied for awhile. Equitable Gas later fixed it up to use as a dorm for its' Italian workforce. They experienced many odd happenings, but wrote them off to hooliganism from the American workers they had displaced, at a lower wage. Then one night two of them were found in the basement, one with a board impaled through him and the other hanging from a joist. Local police claimed it was an accident – one man fell going down the steps and speared himself on a propped up board, and the other strangled himself in the dark cellar on some loose wiring. Nevertheless, the house was empty again. In 1920, Thomas Edison allegedly visited the home. He was interested in building a machine to communicate with the dead. The results aren't recorded, but its' said that he left the house as a great believer in the afterlife.  In 1927, police arrested a drunk who claimed to be Dr. Brunrichter. He regaled them with tales of orgies, demonic possession, torture and murder, and wrote “What Satan hath wrought let man beware” in his own blood on the wall of his psychiatric ward. The media called him the “Pittsburgh Spookman”, but officials couldn't figure out if was indeed the doctor or just an imaginative alcoholic, so they let him go, never to be seen again. That same year, a huge gas tank was being built near the current site of the Carnegie Science Center. It blew, and the ensuing explosion rocked buildings within a 20 mile radius. The Congelier house disappeared from the face of the earth, leaving nothing behind but an 85 foot deep crater. People said Satan himself pulled the ill fated house into the depths of hell. It's also been said that on occasion a spectral house appears on the site, shimmering and then disappearing again to the netherworld. Alas, like most good stories, this one has a debunker, too. Troy Taylor rebutted the Congelier House claim to evil immortality in an article found on the Prairieghosts web site. First, he can find no record of a Charles Congelier living in Pittsburgh or of Lydia's murderous ways, which one would expect to fill the local rags of the era. Next, he says the modest rowhouse was built in the 1880's, totally screwing up the original timeline. Marie Congelier owned & lived in the house (at least the name is right), and no trace of the evil Dr. Brunrichter has ever turned up, either as a tenant or a mad scientist. Ditto for the railroaders. They didn't stay at the Congelier house. Marie says that Edison never visited her humble home, and one would assume she'd remember if the Wizard of Menlo Park came calling. He also found that no reports of any deaths, accidental or otherwise, existed from the Ridge Street address. He couldn't find any mention of the “Pittsburgh Spookman” in the papers. Finally, the gas explosion didn't send the house straight to hell, but only shattered a few windows. The house was eventually razed to make room for a highway interchange. Marie, by the way, died the morning of the gas explosion, not from that accident, but from a cut. She bled to death en route to the hospital, the only known death recorded of someone in the Congelier House. Thanks for ruining a nice spooky tale, Troy. Congelier House

CORVETTE TUNNEL (South Park, Allegheny County) Located just before the infamous Green Man's Tunnel, this spot is haunted by the spirit of a girl that shuffled off this mortal coil when she slammed her 'Vette into another car while drag racing. If you drive through at the stroke of midnight, you can hear her screams, screeching tires, racing motors, and see the lights of the Corvette. There's also a small creek running alongside the tunnel. It's said that a man killed his wife and disposed of her body by chopping it up and tossing it in that creek. If you're walking through the tunnel, her invisible spirit clutches at your legs, begging for help. Urban Legends  Unexplained Mysteries Forum

COULTERVILLE ROAD (White Oak, Allegheny County) If you take a 90 degree right hand turn at the bottom of the road, you can see figures of children and hear footsteps. These phenomena are linked to a nearby church with a small cemetery. We found a Coulter cemetery & Christ United Methodist Church on Coultersville Road, but we think that old St. Patrick's cemetery is the spot. The Shadowlands

COURTHOUSE SQUARE (Greensburg, Westmoreland County) The Courthouse Square building was constructed over the site of the old county jail, which was in use from the early 1900's to 1960. Emergency dispatchers work there now. One worker saw a transparent image of half a man hanging in the upper parking level of the building garage on a security screen. When guards went to check, no one was there, but the area was noticeably cold. A staff member watching the monitor saw the people that went to check actually pass through the image of the hanging man. It was discovered that the jail had hung condemned inmates on its' second floor, which is now the upper parking level of the garage. The Shadowlands

COVERED BRIDGE ROAD (Volant, Lawrence County) Covered Bridge Road wanders along the Neshannock Creek, eventually crossing the old Bank's Covered Bridge, built in 1889 and still in use today. The story has it that a young Amish girl lost her life along this road in the late 1800's when she was riding in a buggy with her family. She was thrown into the creek and drowned. It's said that to this day she walks the road at night, trying to find her parents. The Shadowlands

COVERT'S CROSSING BRIDGE (New Castle, Lawrence County) Covert's Crossing Bridge was built in 1887 as a RR crossing, and is single lane. It's said that cars stall out on the bridge at night, and there are a handful of sightings possible while you're frantically turning the key.  In the 1940's, a girl coming home from her prom drove off the side of the bridge and died. It's said that at midnight, you can see her walking towards you in her white prom dress, sometimes dancing. Another earlier tale, posted by Princess Krystal, has a buggy-auto crash occurring one Halloween evening.  The car's hubcap decapitated a woman and her husband's body was never found.  It's said that on Halloween, at midnight, you can see the girl sitting on the rocks by the river.  It's anyone's guess as to whether she's looking for her head or her hubby; probably both.  The Shadowlands  Another headless tale involves a brakeman, who slipped in the darkness underneath the train and was decapitated.  It's said that you can see him walking the bridge at night with his lantern, looking for his noodle - or maybe yours. RavensBarrow  Be careful on the bridge; it's been the site of many accidents, and ghost hunting is a silly reason to get into a midnight crash or to become the next spook to haunt the Crossing. Here's a vid from the Lawrenceville Historic Society. Bad news, though. The bridge was stolen in late 2011, the metal supports cut out by some hardworking and hard up thieves. We wonder if the spooks are going to continue their haunts at a scrapyard now?

CRAIL HILL CEMETERY (Raccoon Twp., Beaver County)  This old cemetery is overgrown so badly that if you walk through it at night, you could mistake the tombstones for rocks.  There is poltergeist activity there, like stones being thrown at visitors and objects being picked up and dropped.  But it's claim to spooky fame are the sets of red eyes that follow you from Crail Hill Road to the cemetery.  PA Legends

CRAZY BILLY (Fayette County) Crazy Billy isn't a spook, or even a legend.  But the true life story of William "Crazy Billy" Stafford is one of the best known in Fayette County.  In 1831, Billy chased Judge Crow and his wife out their home with an axe for reasons never known.  Overpowered by the neighbors, he was sent to Uniontown for trail.  While in jail, a drunk was thrown in the cell with him to sleep it off.  Thanks to Billy, the sot had a long, long rest.  Billy asked a piece of firewood if he should kill the guy, the firewood said yes, and so he bashed in his skull.  Billy was tried on both charges, and found, reasonably enough, not guilty by reason of insanity.  But as a danger to society, he wasn't allowed out of jail, and was in fact chained to his bed.  After a couple of decades in the slammer, one of the sheriffs' wives decided he was harmless, and Billy became an errand boy and mascot of the Fayette County Jail and a well known sight roaming the streets of Uniontown on his missions.  He died in 1883, after knowing nothing but the jail as home for 51 years.  He outlasted 18 sheriffs, and four ex-lawmen served as pall bearers at his funeral.  This story is in Victoria Dutko-Leonelli's Do You Remember When...In Fayette County.

CROW ROCK (Crabapple, Greene County) Crow Rock got its' name because this is where the young Crow sisters were butchered by Indians in 1791. Four sisters were taken by Indians, and three brutally killed. This grisly episode led to some alleged ghostly visions of the sisters. Urban Legends

CULMERVILLE HOTEL (Tarentum, Allegheny County) It allegedly hosts a spirit that is always cold and confined to the building forever. Haunted Curiosities explored the now-closed building, and discovered the spirit of a man named Eliot, a warlock who liked to deal with djinns and did his occult thing at the hotel. Haunted Curiosities

CULP'S GHOST (Pittsburgh, Allegheny County) The old Allegheny County Prison, an historical landmark, was designed by H.H. Richardson and opened in 1884.  It was remodeled and now houses the juvenile and family sections of the Common Pleas Court. A footbridge, known as the "Bridge of Sighs," connects the old Jail and the Courthouse.  And it had ghosts from the get-go.  This is taken from the NY Times, September 15, 1907: "Murderer's Row in the Allegheny County Jail has had its location changed.  W.A. Culp, awaiting trial for the murder of his brother, killed himself last week.  Since that time, the other murderers have declared that they could not remain in the row.  They all said that Culp's ghost came back each night and prevented them from sleeping.  Their murmurings became so loud that yesterday Warden Lewis moved the row to another part of the prison"  Even murderers fall apart when they're spooked out of their beauty sleep!  NY Times 

CURSED BED OF THE MONONGAHELA HOUSE (Pittsburgh, Allegheny County): This tale isn't too spooky; no ghosts and a curse that last worked in 1901. But it is a fairly well-known bit of Pittsburgh lore and rich in 19th century Steel City history that's still preserved today.The Monongahela House in downtown Pittsburgh was once the Ritz of Three Rivers hotels. Built in 1840 at the corner of Smithfield and Front streets (Front later became Water Street and then Fort Pitt Boulevard), the five-story hostelry featured 210 rooms and was considered among the first of the grand hotels west of NYC. Pittsburgh's Great Fire of 1845 reduced the hotel to ashes, but by 1847, it was rebuilt at the same spot, bigger and better with nearly 300 grand rooms.The hotel's diverse guest list of the famous included Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Stephen Foster, PT Barnum, Henry Ward Beecher, Robert Ingersoll, Lilly Langtry, Buffalo Bill, Tom Thumb and Chang the Chinese giant. Politicos that slept there were Prince Edward (who became Edward VII) of Great Britain, James Blaine, Teddy Roosevelt, Ulysses Grant and Grover Cleveland. Abraham Lincoln, who stopped overnight in 1861 on his way to his first inauguration, was a guest, and after his visit (the only time he came to Pittsburgh), the room was considered a special lodging where only the creme de la creme could stay. James Garfield and William McKinley met that criteria. They shared two fates with Ol' Abe: they slept in the same walnut bed at the hotel and later were assassinated. And that in a nutshell is the legend of the cursed bed.The bed those souls slept in went to a small county museum in South Park after the Monongahela House closed in 1935, ignominiously razed for a bus depot. That museum closed during World War II, and the bed was stored away in a county work shed until a carpenter discovered it in the early 2000s. Covered in decades of...well, you can imagine the detritus, it was positively ID'ed from old photos. The County voted to send the bed to an appropriate space, the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall & Museum in Oakland, and from there it went to the Heinz History Center in the Strip District. There, it was featured as part of a major exhibit during President Lincoln's 200th birthday in 2009, and is now included with the Special Collections display on the center's fourth floor. So it's still there for the viewing over 150 years after Honest Abe laid his head to rest on its downy pillows. Oh, and a word to the wise...don't take a nap on it. Just sayin'...

DAMIANS GRAVE (Moon Twp., Allegheny County) First off, please don't visit Resurrection Cemetery to get a peek at this urban legend. It's just that, and the cemetery has some first class watchdogs now, thanks to Homeland Security – it's near the airport, so county police cruise it, and nearer the local reserve Airbase, which will send MPs to check out any suspicious characters. There's nothing like a jeepload of soldiers with M16s to spoil your day. The cemetery itself has extra security in October to carry it through the Halloween season.The legend began thanks to “The Omen”, which identified Damien (yes, with an “e”, not an “a”) as the Anti-Christ. Teens looking for a secluded spot to drink or neck found the cemetery irresistible, and Damian's grave was just icing on the cake. The black headstone itself is unique, with an art deco sort of cross on it, which many believe is an upside down cross (it's supposed to represent an ascension) and the message “This is not goodbye, just so long”, a favorite phrase of the deceased taken from a radio DJ's sign-off line. The headstone is allegedly either very hot or very cold – well, it's black, doh, and absorbs and sheds heat quite rapidly. Stories exist that say red eyes follow you from the grave, and if you defile the grave or pick one of the black roses (they're all black at night) growing around it, you'll meet with an accident, and sooner rather than later. Our guess is the winding roads, piles of empty beer cans, and teen drivers are more likely causes. This legend is built solely around a movie name, and has been thoroughly debunked by the Pittsburgh Ghost Hunters and others. So do Mr. Damian and his long suffering family a favor, and let him rest in peace. (Cory-Moon Record “Experts Say Nothing To See At Notorious Cemetery Site,” October 26, 2006)

DARLINGTON GHOST (Beaver County) From one generation to another, a tale was handed down of a spirit in irons and wrapped in an Indian blanket that haunted the Darlington countryside. The ghost was particularly fond of one isolated farmhouse, which has since rotted away because no one would move into it. Ghastly Graveyard Gambols

DARR MINE DISASTER (Rostraver Twp., Westmoreland County) On December 19th, 1907, an explosion in the Darr Mines claimed the lives of 239 miners. Only two survived. The cause was supposedly the open helmet lamps of the miners setting off a gas pocket in a roped-off section of the mine, although many think that was just a handy excuse to spare the Pittsburgh Coal Company owners from responsibility. Locals claim ghosts haunt both their mass gravesite and the still open shafts of the mine.  Male voices can reportedly be heard arguing at night, although no one can make out the words. Could it be they're speaking in their native Hungarian? Smoky images around the site have been photographed. One visitor, unaware of the event, heard a voice whisper “Oh God” in his ear while camping in the area. And it could have been much worse. Two hundred Orthodox miners had taken the day off to celebrate mass on St. Nicholas Day. But life went on – the mine was reopened in 1910 as part of the Banning Mine #3. It closed for good in 1919. The site is a few hundred yards south of the small hamlet of Van Meter, by the Youghigheny Bike Trail. It was called Jacob's Creek when the miners lived there.  And a word of caution, from Shawn, a miner whose great grandpa worked Darr: "There is black damp on the mine floor, and walking can stir it up and possibly kill anyone that wanders in. Some years ago, a teenager from a nearby town went 15 feet in the entrance and died from black damp, which depletes oxygen almost immediately. The condition is prevelant in coal mines where explosions and fires have happened."  So stay out!  The Shadowlands

DEAD MAN'S BRIDGE (Slippery Rock, Butler County) A husband and wife were killed on St. John's Road when their car rammed into a wagon. If you're on the bridge, it's said that you can see approaching headlights. The lights disappear, and then you can hear their screams coming closer and closer. We don't know the proper name of the bridge, but it's near Slippery Rock's Old Stone House. The Shadowlands

DEAD MAN'S HOLLOW (Boston, Allegheny County) Dead Man's Hollow is a 400 acre nature preserve in Boston, between Elizabeth Township and Lincoln. It's crossed with steep paths and deep gullies intersecting throughout its' woodlands. There are many remnants of old industrial plants littered across its' landscape. But more importantly to our ghost tale, it was the site of several unnatural deaths in years past. Every autumn, a ghost makes its' presence felt in the Hollow, rustling through the fallen leaves and making eerie sounds. The mystery is whose spirit it is. There's a long list of interesting candidates to choose from. In 1874, a group of boys found a man hanging from a tree. Some say the lynching was the result of backwoods justice, others the work of the KKK. Yet others say the man was actually a woman; some claim it was a Native American whose ghost has been spotted on the Youghiogheny River. One version of the tale claims that a baby cries for the victim at night, when the moon comes out. It could be that this unfortunate soul is the Ghost of Dead Man's Hollow, seen haunting the woods since the turn of the century. But the cast of characters doesn't end there. In 1881, shopkeeper Robert McClure was gunned down chasing the robbers of his McKeesport general store. Ward McConkey was hung for the crime, seven years after the fact. He claimed he didn't do it, and his last words were “Goodbye, all you murderers." Many believe his innocent soul returns to curse those who killed him. In 1887, Edward Woods drowned in the Youghiogheny River, and his body washed ashore at Dead Man's Hollow. His death was ruled accidental, but many suspected foul play. Could he be the Hollow's resident spirit? In 1905, Mike Sacco, working in the local Union Sewer Pipe plant, was crushed in an elevator accident. Maybe it's his spirit that's still roaming the area. Another story has two bank robbers splitting their loot in the Hollow after pulling off a heist in Clairton. One shot the other. Perhaps the cheated thief is still around, searching for his cut of the ill gotten swagger. Of course, the Hollow had its' share of other mishaps - an earthquake, a lightning strike that caused a derrick of the Snee Oil Company to explode and catch fire, and floods. Maybe our spook met his or her end during one of those disasters. Another long-reported phenomena is that of the sound of small children laughing; there's no background tale we can find for the cause of those claims.  Even odder, Dead Man's Hollow has its' own mythical creature – a late 19th century news article said a snake, 30-40' feet long with a 2-3' head was seen slithering through the Hollow. Not too surprisingly, the Hollow was also a haven for moonshiners and their stills. Maybe the snake was a hallucination induced by a jug of  white lightning. There's only one thing we can be certain of - the name “Dead Man's Hollow” rings undeniably true. A couple of good books on the area are The Great Allegheny Passage Companion – Guide to History and Heritage Along the Trail by Bill Metzger; and Dead Man's Hollow: An Oral History And More by Karen Frank. (Pittsburgh Tribune Review Focus Magazine “Trails at Dead Man's Hollow Spring to Life,” July 11, 2004; Tri-State Sports & News Service “Tales of Unexplained Sights and Sounds Along Youghiogheny River Trail,” October 31, 2001) Dead Man's Hollow

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