Scary surroundings: Haunted places near Duquesne
Published: Wednesday, October 24, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, October 24, 2012 23:10
The days are shorter, the wind grows colder, and the spirits come out to play. Some real ghouls and phantoms out there call the Steel City their home. From Oakland to the North Shore and the rural towns beyond, the Pittsburgh area has as many ghost stories to share as any other town.
“Nobody can actually scientifically prove a place is haunted,” said Tom White, Gumberg Library archivist and author of Ghosts of Southwestern Pennsylvania. According to White, much of the so-called paranormal evidence is “circumstantial evidence”.
But some believe there to be haunted areas in Pittsburgh.
The Cathedral of Learning is one of the most recognizable buildings in the city. The building is commonly said to have the interior of the gothic revival-style skyscraper reminds them of Hogwarts Castle. Much like Hogwarts, that there are ghosts that call the cathedral their home. There have been multiple first hand reports of strange happenings in the cathedral’s Early American Room, one of the many nationality rooms.
According to E. Maxine Bruhns, director of the nationality rooms, the ghost of her grandmother and cousin of Edgar Allan Poe, Martha Jane Poe is haunting the Early American Room. Shortly after Bruhns donated the wedding quilt of her late grandmother, around 1978 according to White’s Ghosts of Southwestern Pennsylvania, to be used in the early American room that strange things started happening. Late one night in 1985 a custodian noticed the bed’s quilt had been turned up, an odd thing since the room was only used for display. The custodian remade the bed and as he was leaving heard an odd swishing noise. He turned around to find the sheets turned up again and the depression of a head on the bed’s pillow, according to the book.
After multiple stories of strange things happening in the room got spread around the department, Bruhns decided to investigate for herself.
“I’m going up to see if it’s really grandma,” Bruhns said.
Not long after the custodian’s account, Bruhns went into the room by herself on the night of her grandmother’s wedding anniversary and wearing her old wedding ring in hopes of a response from the other side. She sat on the bed and waited for something. It wasn’t long until she heard two quick swishing sounds and a loud bang. She turned around to find the sheets moved and her water bottle had fallen from her bag. This was enough proof for her and she returned home only to find her basement had flooded.
“That really scared the bejesus out of me,” Bruhns said.
There have also been reports of the crib within in the room, designed to resemble the home of early 18th century settlers, mysteriously rocking and a strange smell of freshly baked bread coming from the room, according to Bruhns. Those interested in hearing more stories of grandma Martha’s ghost and visiting the room for themselves can attend ghost watch in the Early American room on Halloween eventing from 6 to 8 p.m. The event is being organized by the nationality rooms department.
Another of the Cathedral’s haunted rooms is the Croghan-Schenley Ballroom. The ballroom was built as a part of the Croghan picnic house in the 1830’s and donated to the University in 1955. The room was dismantled and rebuilt in its nearly identical form inside the cathedral.
Colonel William Croghan Jr. had originally constructed the ballroom for the coming-out party of his young daughter Mary. Before she could use the ballroom she was sent away to boarding school where she eloped with William Schenley. Due to her scandalous marriage, Mary was never able to use the ballroom and is now believed to haunt the ballroom for this reason. Though the room remains locked while not in use, the staff has often reported finding the furniture rearranged and the chandelier moving eerily on its own. The Cathedral has also been the site for many suicides and attempted suicides whose victims are said to haunt the upper floors of the structure, according to Ghosts of Southwestern Pennsylvania.
La Roche College is also known for an alleged spirit that stalks its grounds at night. The small liberal arts college is located in North Hills and is believed to be haunted by the spirit of a blind nun. She is said to walk late at night around a shallow man-made pond that was the site of her death, according to Ghosts.
One of the oldest known haunts of the area is the North Shore. Back when Fort Duquesne still stood at the point it is said that the Indians referred to the North Shore as “the dark place” and would use the area for burials. Several stories of hauntings in the area exist, though very few carry much credibility; even for a ghost story, according to White’s book Forgotten Tales of Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh is a city filled with old haunts and legends. For an inside look into many of these, self-proclaimed ghost-hunters can attend one of Haunted Pittsburgh’s many guided tours. They have walking ghost tours of Downtown, Oakland, and the Duquesne Incline. Tickets to any of their tours can be ordered online at www.hauntedpittsburghtours.com