With such a turbulent history, it’s no wonder that Pennsylvania is considered one of the most haunted states in the country. It’s almost impossible to go
anywhere without hearing of ghostly battle sounds, apparitions of Civil War soldiers, and other spooky tales. While the rest of the U.S. waits for October to roll around, in PA it doesn’t matter what time of year it is – these ghosts are permanent fixtures.
Whether or not you believe in ghosts, the stories are still fun to hear. We have shared stories about the state’s many
haunted houses, but we decided to dig into a few of the favorite local legends. Rather than search for new spots that make us shiver, we went looking for stories about the ghosts, not just of them.
Plenty of people ponder the paranormal, but we wanted to get to know some of these spirits; who, exactly, are (or were) they? Of course, these tales are always evolving – thanks to creative imaginations and the nature of oral history – but we thought we would properly introduce you to the ghosts that we may-or-may-not share our state with.
We’ve all heard the general tales of mysterious, unknown ghosts. Those are not the stories we’re sharing here. We wanted to find the ones with “identities”…the ones who have been named (or nicknamed) and have more to their story than a wispy mist and bumps in the attic. There are
thousands of ghostly tales out there; these are just a few of our favorites.
Please do NOT run off in search of these spirits – several of them “inhabit” private residences or potentially dangerous abandoned places. We’re just looking out for you here; trespassing is a crime and we’re not going to bail you out of jail. Some have previously haunted spots that (unfortunately) no longer exist, but that doesn’t mean we can’t keep their legends alive.
Without further ado, we’d like to introduce you to 7 ghosts from Pennsylvania and their spooky stories.
1. Isaac Mishler
It seems that Mr. Mishler simply did not wish to leave his beautiful theater in Altoona. The Mishler Theater opened in 1906 and promptly burned down before re-opening the following year. Unlike many haunted places, the Mishler Theater has no documented deaths, murders, or otherwise tragic events that happened here.
Isaac, who has been spotted in many places inside the building by employees, actors, and visitors, is a mild mannered spectral tenant who often appears for young children. He shows up in the projection room overlooking the stage, on the catwalks, and occasionally in an empty row of seats during rehearsals. Perhaps most interestingly, Isaac makes his presence known even when he remains unseen; many report a sudden and distinct scent of cigar smoke. Mr. Mishler is well remembered as a cigar aficionado and smoking has been banned inside the theater for decades, yet several visiting actors have even reported seeing a puff of smoke rise up from the seats in an empty theater.
2. Elizabeth "Maggie" Graeme
Elizabeth “Maggie” Graeme, daughter of prominent Port Physician, Justice of the Superior Court and co-founder of the Pennsylvania Hospital, Dr. Thomas Graeme, inherited her father’s beautiful Graeme Park property after his death in 1772. Maggie was fortunate enough to be highly educated and socially well off, but her luck ended there.
At age 17, she was engaged to William Franklin (yup, son of Benjamin Franklin)…until he married another woman while in England. Oops.
Maggie, heartbroken by the failed engagement, travelled to London to meet King George III, only to learn that her mother had died while she was away. She assumed a caretaker role for her father as his health diminished and, after an extremely short courtship, married Hugh Henry Ferguson without her father’s knowledge. A month after her secret wedding, Dr. Graeme died of a stroke before she worked up the confidence to tell him. Unaware of the marriage, Dr. Graeme left the entire estate to her…but under colonial law, all property belonged to her husband.
Ferguson, a British loyalist, didn’t stick around – he spent most of their marriage in Philadelphia and, after the British evacuation in 1778, London. Maggie refused to leave her home; however, Graeme Park was confiscated by the Pennsylvania government shortly after the war, as it legally belonged to a loyalist. She did eventually regain control of the land, but couldn’t afford to keep it and sold the property in 1791. She lived out the rest of her life with family members and friends, and died in a house very close to her former estate.
3. Louie & Grandma
The Harmony Inn has long been considered one of the most haunted locations in Western Pennsylvania and has a long history of mysterious deaths, including “Louie,” who is believed to be the original owner of the property and was reportedly killed in the street in front of the building.
Louie usually hangs out in the bar and seems to enjoy throwing dimes at people. When the current owner bought the property in 2013 (and subsequently added a face – including a moustache – to the front of the building), he was washing glasses when five coins burst from the wall and narrowly missed his head. He also leaves quarters in odd places around the building. When he’s not in the bar, you might find Louie outside in a rocking chair.
Grandma is a bit more confusing and, apparently, not a pleasant woman. Her skeletal apparition appears in a dining room on the second floor. She does the typical ghost-routine – flickering lights, making strange noises, moving objects – but she also is known to poke at people with her cane. You have been warned.
4. Caleb Brinton, “The Lady in White” & “Dapper Dan”
Caleb Brinton purchased Brinton Lodge in 1920 (which had been built as a private estate in the 1700s) and opened up a gentleman’s club. The buildings were destroyed by Hurricane Agnes in 1972 and, unable to pay for repairs, Caleb abandoned the property...but not for long. Caleb usually appears as a plump man who tips his derby hat to female guests.
“The Lady in White” is frequently seen in mirrors in the ladies bathroom on the second floor and appears to be wearing a white gown. Some suggest she was Caleb’s mother, others believe she was a woman named Katherine Wittman, and still others suggest she was Caleb’s wife, Ruth, or his later girlfriend, Lillian Moore.
“Dapper Dan” is a bit more bold in his haunting; this older gentleman has a habit of pinching visiting women! He hangs out in the second floor hallway and meeting area, and many female employees have stories of the not-so-suave specter blowing in their ears as they work.
Brinton Lodge was destroyed again by floods in 2006 and has since been reopened by Hidden River Brewing Company, so even if you don't catch Caleb (or get pinched by Dapper Dan), you can still enjoy a refreshing drink after your Ghost Tour.
5. Marie Cahill
The Fulton Theater in Lancaster has a pretty dark history, so it’s no wonder that this old opera house has been plagued by the paranormal for more than a century. Before the theater opened in 1852, the land on which it was built was the site of the old Lancaster Jail. In 1763, a group of Conestoga Indians who had narrowly escaped death in the Paxton Massacre were taken into the jail for protection from an angry anti-Indian mob. Unfortunately, the mob broke in and the Indians were brutally murdered; their screams can be heard in a corner of the theater.
Despite the violent history, the murdered Conestoga men are NOT the most famous ghost of Fulton Theater. Visitors report hearing phantom applause, a self-playing piano, odd whistles, and a woman in a white dress who haunts an area that once had stairway that actors used to travel from the green room and the backstage wings.
This woman, who is reportedly dressed in turn-of-the-century era dress, has appeared so often that a member of the stage crew asked her name. “Marie,” she answered. Many stars have graced the stage at the Fulton, including the Broadway actress Marie Cahill. Marie was notoriously difficult to work with, which some believe held her back from a larger career, and the theater director suggests that her disgruntled ghost may be revisiting the stage where she held the spotlight in some of her more successful years.
6. Jennie Wade
It would be impossible to leave Jennie Wade off of this list, as she is one of the most famous ghosts in the state. Jennie was the only civilian casualty of the Battle of Gettysburg. She was killed in her home as she was baking bread for the soldiers.
Although the true identity of the killer remains unknown, many suggest it was a Confederate sharpshooter who may have fired the Minie ball that bust through a wall and through her heart. Jennie was temporarily buried behind the McClellan house (which belonged to her sister and was renamed the Jennie Wade House to honor her death) and later moved to the Evergreen Cemetery.
Jennie’s ghost appears throughout the house, most commonly associated with the smell of freshly baked bread. Perhaps she has stuck around to finish her noble task.
Is that Jennie's ghostly face in the right side window?
7. Alexander Campbell
The old prison in Jim Thorpe (now a museum) held six members of the Molly Maguires as they awaited trial for murder. All six men were hanged in the prison; however, one of them – Alexander Campbell – may have cursed his cell before his death.
Alex maintained his claims of innocence until the very end, and it is believed that he was not responsible for the murder and was convicted simply by association with the rebellious group. As he was led from Cell 17, Alex reportedly slapped the brick wall, proclaiming that the handprint he left would serve as a reminder to the jailers that they had killed an innocent man.
Here’s where his story takes a creepy turn: the handprint is still there. The wardens attempted to scrub it off, paint it over, and even re-plaster the wall…but somehow the spooking handprint returns. The museum owners now hold a license to protect the handprint from photos, but we found this image from a printed guide to the museum.
Along with the ghostly hand, touring visitors have also felt a hand touching their shoulders and pulling their hair, heard spooky voices in the dark dungeons used for solitary confinement, and seen shadows moving through the cells and hallways.
Do you believe these supernatural stories? Have you visited these haunted hot spots and taken photos that give you the chills? (If so,
send them to us!) We know there are plenty of other Pennsylvania ghosts out there; if you have an excellently spooky story, we’d love to hear it. Tell us your tales in the comments!