Thursday, June 19, 2014

Haunted Hot Spots of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

BY LARISSA MRYKALO

Easter State Penitentiary 
As we prepare for our Paranormal Pop Culture "Paranormal City" panel at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con, we decided to take a look at our favorite haunted hots spots in the City of Brotherly Love

1. Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
215-236-3300

History
Considered the first true penitentiary, ESU opened on October 25, 1829 in the heart of the city. Its system of incarceration was considered revolutionary and the goal was to rehabilitate each inmate via the “Pennsylvania System.” Prisoners were separated from others and this was thought to be beneficial, however, this seclusion drove many mad. The unique design of the building not only depicted its goal of penance but included the “eye of God” in the center…indicating His ever watchful eye and presence in their lives. Overcrowding thanks to their system of solitary confinement eventually led to its closure in 1971.Its most notable inmate is Al Capone and his “luxurious” cell can be visited on a tour. ESU is also famous for its seasonal attraction, Terror Behind the Walls. Click here for more history.

Claims
This infamous site has been investigated by many and featured on “Ghost Hunters” and “Ghost Adventures.” Aside from the many claims from paranormal investigators that range from EVPs to being grabbed, Al Capone himself was said to be haunted by the ghost of Jimmy Clark after the infamous St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

2. Betsy Ross House
239 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-686-1252

History
Considered to be the “Birthplace of the American Flag,” this historic home offers a look into not only the home but the life of this famous seamstress who we all learned about in elementary school. Located on 239 Arch Street, this landmark was built in 1740. Ross lived there after her first husband, John Ross, passed away from 1776 to 1779.

Claims
The Betsy Ross House caught the attention of Syfy’s “Ghost Hunters” and they investigated back in Season Five. In 1980, a security guard was shot and left for dead and is said to still be hanging out. Disembodied voices are said to permeate the old building as well. Can you hear the click of Betsy’s knitting needles as well? Check it out for yourself and be sure to let us know!

3. City Tavern
138 S. 2nd St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-413-1443

History
Construction on this historic tavern was completed in 1773 and even served as an unofficial meeting place for the First Continental Congress in the summer of 1774. John Adams even referred to it as "the most genteel tavern in America." The tavern was partially destroyed by a fire in 1834 and was demolished in 1854 only to be rebuilt and restored for the 1976 bicentennial. Usually reconstruction not only stirs up business, but also ghosts.

Claims
Like any good old tavern, this one is not only haunted by the spirits with which we wash down a nice meal but also those of former patrons, employees and guests. The main claims are that the City Tavern is visited by the ghosts of a former waiter who died during a fight in the bar and a young bride who died in the fire.

4. Independence Hall
520 Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 965-2305

History
Birthed in 1732 (the same year as George Washington) after originally being know as the Pennsylvania State House, Independence Hall houses a staggering amount of US history. Both the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution were both signed here thus beginning the unification of our nation. In addition, Abraham Lincoln's coffin rested in the Assembly Room in the east wing of Independence Hall.

Claims
With such a rich history, why would some of the famous men who've wandered the building ever want to leave? Claims of Ben Franklin and Benedict Arnold manifesting themselves have been documented, as well a security guard claiming to see an apparition dressed in 18th century garb.

5. Fort Mifflin
Fort Mifflin & Hog Island Roads
Philadelphia, PA 19153
215-685-4167

History
This US National Landmark was originally called Fort Island Battery or the Mud Island Fort and is located strategically on the Delaware River. In autumn of 1777, the British Army destroyed and took over the fort, however in 1794, the United States Army worked to rebuild and garrison Fort Mifflin through the 19th century. It even housed prisoners during the Civil War and was eventually decommission and returned to the city in 1962. It's mainly know for its involvement in the American Revolution and is currently our country's only completely intact Revolutionary War battlefield.

Claims
The claims of paranormal activity at the Fort are numerous and have been featured on "Ghost Hunters" in their fourth season. One of the more famous claims is that of The Screaming Woman. The screaming has been so loud that the local police have been called on this mysterious lady who is labeled as Elizabeth Pratt. Also reported are; a "Faceless Man" in Casemate #5, A blacksmith named Jacob Sauer who likes to close doors, and a ghost ship docked near the fort. Casemate #11 is where Grant Wilson of "Ghost Hunters" claims he saw that mysterious face of the blond-haired man appear in front of him. You can click here for more claims and info on the haunted happenings at the Fort.

6. St. Peter's Church
313 Pine St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
215-925-5968

History
Part of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, this National Historic Landmark opened in 1761 and welcomes you to visit not only its church but its graveyard as well.  This currently active place of worship served boasts spiritual visits from the United States Founding Fathers during the period of the Continental Congresses.

Claims
The most common claim of ghostly activity is that St. Peter's graveyard is where a "supposed phantom, who many say can be seen every night at 9 p.m., protects the spirits of the five Indian chiefs buried there."

7. Baleroy Mansion
111 West Mermaid Lane
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19118
215-242-4976

History
Located in the Chestnut Hill section of the city, this 32-room mansion has earned the title of one of the "Most Haunted Home in America" thanks to the numerous ghosts who haunt the premises. It was built in 1911 and contains many items/artifacts that were owned by such notables as Napoleon Bonaparte and Thomas Jefferson. The first owner, a carpenter, was said to have murdered his wife in the home. The mansion also possesses a "death chair" that's located in the "blue" room and we all know from watch such shows as "Haunted Collector" that spirits can take hold of items.

The last owner was George Meade Easby who lived there from childhood. He is a "direct descendant of seven signers of the Declaration of Independence and the great-grandson of General George Meade who defeated General Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Gettysburg during the Civil War." He was said to have named the mansion "Baleroy" most likely after Balleroy, France.

Claims
Claims of hauntings are numerous and include George Meade Easby experiencing several ghosts going from room-to-room including his first experience at age six with his brother, Steven in the outer courtyard fountain. Reports are that when the boys would look into and make faces in the water in a fountain and their images would look back at them. However, one time, instead of their own images, George witnessed Steven's image as a skeleton. Steven died soon thereafter and this haunted George until his own death in 2005.

Phantom footsteps, flying objects, blue mists and numerous other occurrences have made Baleroy Mansion a sought after haunt by paranormal investigators across the country.

8. The Mütter Museum
19 S 22nd St
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 563-3737

History
According to the site VisitPhilly.com, this macabre museum has a rich history steeped in learning, "Philadelphia physician Thomas Mütter donated $30,000 and his 1,700-item personal museum of bones, plaster casts, medical illustrations and other pathological artifacts to the College of Physicians of Philadelphia. The College has continued to add to the collection since it opened as a museum in 1863. The Mütter collection moved into its current building, which boasts grand marble and oak halls, in 1908."

No doubt a dark and creepy place that invites visitors to be "disturbingly informed," some of the cool things you can check out include: The Hyrtal Skull Collection; The Soap Lady; original Siamese Twins, Chang & Eng; Civil War amputation kits; a giant colon; stillborn fetuses; and, well...lots and lots of skeletons.

Claims
The most common claims at this Museum of Scientific Oddities revolve around feelings of unease and dizziness but that could be most likely due to the contents of the museum. According to The Travel Channel, the museum ranks #7  on the list of creepiest places on Earth.

9. The Philadelphia Zoo
3400 W Girard Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19104
History
America's First Zoo opened July 1, 1874. According to the official site, it still has some of the original features, for example, "The Frank Furness Victorian gates and gatehouses, and the Zoo's location, are the same today as they were on the day it opened. One of its assets, then and now, is John Penn's home, The Solitude, which sat on the land chosen for the Zoo. John Penn was the grandson of William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. The Solitude is considered to be Philadelphia's most precise and elegant expression of neoclassical style." The zoo currently houses more than 1,300 rare and endangered animals, but according to many, including Syfy's "Ghost Hunters," there are more than animals and tourists roaming the grounds.

Claims
According to the episode of "Ghost Hunters," staff reports include, "disembodied voices, footsteps, apparitions and faces peeking through windows and misty shadows." This seems to concur with other accounts that include full-bodied apparitions, poltergeist activity and "a female apparition in a long white dress who stands at the top of the staircase in the John Penn House."

10. The Legend of the Hag of Pine Street
Society Hill
Pine Street Between Sixth and Seventh Streets

History/Claims
It's been reported that an elderly woman that died in her home on Pine Street between Sixth and Seventh Streets in Philadelphia still haunts the streets of Society Hill. Claims are that she is "either glaring out of her home's window or yelling and swiping her cane at young people."
Labeled as the "Hag of Pine Street," people passing by the location have reported seeing "the forlorn apparition gazing from the window and weird screams and groans were often reported coming from the house." It's also reported that, "The house remained vacant for many years due to the terrifying hag legend, but one owner, a lady named Betsy Bassett, allegedly drove the malignant spirit from the place by enlisting a voodoo priest."

Local Honorable Mention
Pennhurst in 1934

Pennhurst Asylum
100 Commonweath Drive
Spring City, PA

History
Originally known as "Eastern Pennsylvania State Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic" and established in 1908, Pennhurst is located in Chester County, PA and was created with the best intentions to house the physically and mentally challenged citizens of this area of Pennsylvania. The campus spans several acres and housed thousands of these individuals, so many that it lead to overcrowding and abuse of patients not only by other patients but by staff.

The locally-produced 1968 documentary, "Suffer the Little Children" exposed this abuse. The asylum was eventually closed in 1987 but is currently opened for tours and an annual Halloween haunted attraction.

Claims
The numerous and often heartbreaking claims of paranormal activity at Pennhurst has drawn the attention of several television shows, including "Ghost Hunters," "Ghost Adventures," and the History Channel's "Haunted History." The cruelty and neglect of the patients is said to have conjured up activity that includes; slamming doors, being physically touched/pushed, EVPs, footsteps, disembodied sounds that involve crying and vomiting, and apparitions of children.

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