October 17, 2012
Rumored haunted sites and eerie historical properties are not a hard thing to come by here in one of the oldest cities in the country.
If you have an interest in the supernatural and don’t have a clue where to start, we’re here to help. Whether you’re looking to learn some local history, grab dinner or stay overnight while getting spooked, we think you’ll find yourself a thrilling haunted adventure in Philadelphia.
Just in time for Halloween, we present our guide to some of the most legendary spooktacular spots in Philadelphia.
Let us know your favorite haunts in the comments.
Haunted Historical Philadelphia
• Eastern State Penitentiary: During the fall, Eastern State Penitentiary hosts the internationally famous “Terror Behind the Walls” haunted attraction, but the spirits linger here year round. Take a guided tour any day of the week and experience the history of one of the country’s oldest and most brutal former prisons. Today it is considered to be one of the most haunted places on earth.
• Independence Hall: Take a good long look at the eerie faces lurking in the architecture of the walls of Independence Hall; open your eyes and your mind a little further and you just might see the spirits of historical cool guys Benedict Arnold and Benjamin Franklin — you wouldn’t be the first.
• Elfreth’s Alley: Take a walk down the nation’s oldest residential street and you could catch a ghostly glimpse of one of the some 3,000 people who have lived on along this eerie alley way. There are rumors that a soldier was hanged on Elfreth’s Alley and several visitors have even been able to nab what they consider to be photo evidence of paranormal activity.
• Pennsylvania Hospital: Rumor has it that the spirit of William Penn comes alive from the lawn statue outside of the Pennsylvania Hospital and walks the hospital halls. Check it out on a full moon for your best chance at testing this theory.
• The Powel House: Legend says that a respected historian and his wife both claimed to have seen ghosts of the Continental Army including General Layayette and even the spirit of the lovely Peggy Shippen, the wife of Benedict Arnold, back in the 1960s. Ghost tours continue to investigate paranormal activity that’s still happening today. Learn more.
• The Philadelphia Zoo: The oldest zoo in America harbors more than 1,300 animals and, allegedly, a few non-living friends. The John Penn house is said to be haunted by the spirit of a woman in a long dress who stands at the top of the staircase and the Treehouse Building and The Pennrose Building have said to major paranormal activity going on that just might physically move you — poltergeist style.
Our complete Guide to Haunted Philadelphia continues below. See what place is haunted by the ghost of a 12-year-old girl, where you can see non-living Native American Chiefs roaming around and more.
• Edgar Allan Poe House: American literature’s most beloved teller of dark and mysterious tales spent several years expounding on evil thoughts in the Edgar Allan Poe House in Philadelphia. While you can stop by this spot on one of the city’s ghost tours, come on your own so you can stay and conjure the spirit of Poe, which is said to still linger here.
• Academy of Music: Stars like Frank Sinatra, Duke Ellington and Lynn Fontanne performed here, legendary former presidents like Ulysses S. Grant, Grover Cleveland and Richard Nixon celebrated within these walls and the ghosts of the bygone days still linger at the Philadelphia Academy of Music. Women have reported sensing invisible companions who have left imprints on neighboring theater seats and even pinched and pulled their hair. One man saw a mysterious black figure appear and disappear before his eyes. The stories come from the upper balconies, so we recommend you take a visit and sit upstairs.
• Pennhurst: The history of the abandoned former insane asylum alone will give you the heebeegeebees — it was formerly named Pennhurst Home for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic. Yikes. You can poke around the place (which opened in 1908) at your own risk any time of the year, but during the fall months, Pennhurst hosts several spooky tours that take you through the building and even underground through the 900-foot tunnel beneath the facility.
• Betsy Ross House: The ghost of the famous flag-maker is rumored to be wandering the halls of this historic house in Old City. Having dealt with the loss of a husband and several children in her lifetime, visitors say this could be why she’s often seen and heard crying in her old homestead. Find out about taking a tour here.
• First National Bank: America’s first national bank was established by the first U.S. treasurer Alexander Hamilton in 1795. Hamilton died from wounds he got in a deadly fight and left his surviving wife and children with a stack of debt and a haunting spirit. Even several years later when the bank finally reopened, the new owner had to request a priest come bless the place. Even despite this blessing, the ghost of Hamilton still lingers.
• Loudoun Mansion: The other most haunted mansion of Germantown Avenue, Loudoun, was built in 1801 atop the site of the Battle of Germantown. There are at least five ghosts of dead soldiers said to haunt the grounds that are known to be burial grounds for war casualties. Mischievous spirits of several of the former house residents have been seen by visitors throughout this creepy-looking mansion.
• Cliveden: This historic site was a host to the Battle of Germantown in 1777 where about 57 Americans met their fate. Over the years, there have been regular seances that have been known to conjure the spirit of Samuel Chew Jr., former resident of the house. The list of ghostly encounters doesn’t end there, though; take a tour and find out for yourself.
• Van Sant Covered Bridge: Rumored to be one of the most haunted locations in all of Pennsylvania, this Solebury, PA bridge was built in 1875, is 86 feet long and rumored to be filled with spirits of the colonial times. Located nearby Washington’s Crossing Historic Park, this spooky spot is at least worth a drive-through ghost encounter, even if you’re too chicken to get out and take a walk. Read what the Philadelphia Area Paranormal Society has to say about the place.
• Bishop White House: This 3rd and Walnut Street building was the former residence of Bishop White, the chaplain to the Second Constitutional Convention and the U.S. Senate in the late 1700s. During the Yellow Fever epidemic of 1793, Bishop lost one of five house residents and likely many more from within his ministry and charity clientele. See if you can feel the eerie, phantom sensations the rangers have gotten from walking through the place at dark.
• Historic Waynesborough: Hannah Wayne, one of the decendants of Revolutionary War General Anthony Wayne, died when she accidentally caught herself on fire inside this house. Legend says that she threw a candlestick out of a window to try to call for help and visitors claim to hear the shattering glass still today. Tours are available year-round at the Waynesborough house.
• Fort Mifflin: Named by the History Channel and the Travel Channel to be one of the most haunted sites in the world, Fort Mifflin was the site of a major Revolutionary War battle in which many soldiers on both sides lost their lives. Call (215) 685-4167 to request a private ghost investigation. Halloween special: Every year the fort hosts a “Sleep with the Ghost” event where, yes, you stay for an entire night of freaky encounters. This year’s will be on October 28.
• Grumblethorpe House: Germantown Avenue has a haunted adventure waiting for you at the Grumblethorpe House, the former summer home of the Wister family. The house continues to be haunted by the bloody spirit of British General James Agnew who was fatally wounded and died in the house during the Battle of Germantown. If the legends don’t creep you out, the still-visible blood stain on the floor might do the trick. Learn more ghost stories and how to arrange for a tour here.
• Laurel Hill Cemetery: Everyone’s favorite local graveyard has events year round, including movie screenings out on the tombs and paranormal investigations. One could argue that any cemetery could be haunted, but Laurel Hill is one of the oldest in the country and is filled with legendary “hot spots” of paranormal activity. Around Halloween time, there are dozens of cool tours, but you can take a walk through any time you dare.
• Lemon Hill Mansion: There have been several strange happenings at this Fairmount Park historic mansion, some of them more “fruity” than others, but some legitimately scary ones, too. Two police officers had a frightening encounter with a woman who disappeared right in front of their eyes, for one. And if the local legend about the haunting smell holds true, you might even leave Lemon Hill Mansion smelling ripe like the fruit it’s named after.
• St. Peter’s Church Cemetery: People have claimed they’ve seen a horse and carriage charging across the cemetery lawn — that’s one heck of a ghost-sighting. Not sure if we can promise that you’ll see that here or not, but we don’t think you’re likely to see it anywhere else. Also keep your eyes peeled for non-living Native American Chiefs roaming around. Oh, and there’s the colonial African American ghost, too. Check it out on your own or visit with the Spirits of ’76 tours.
• The Grave of Benjamin Franklin: Ben Franklin’s Christ Church Cemetery burial grounds are said to be haunted by the spirit of the old man who once said, “”A penny saved is twopence dear,” who reportedly steals pocket change and even throws pennies at visitors.
Get Spooked While You Sleep
• Bucksville House Bed & Breakfast: Many a spirit has been encountered within the walls of the Bucksville House, some of which have been confirmed by psychics and even the Ghost Hunter’s Alliance of Philadelphia. Mysterious noises, disappearing objects, cold spots and actual ghost sightings are among the legends of this creepy guest house.
• Cornerstone Bed & Breakfast: All sorts of spooky stories have come from this place; that’s why they work with Philadelphia Ghost Tours. Get a package and receive complimentary breakfast at the Cornerstone plus complimentary tickets for two for the Ghost Tour of Philadelphia candlelight walking tour.
• The Pennsbury Inn: This Chadds Ford bed and breakfast also has a reputation for haunted encounters. Historians say the many trapped doors were used for hiding slaves. Be sure to check these out and ask about the tunnels that run underground from the backyard to the other side of Route 1.
• Black Bass Hotel: The former innkeeper of the Black Bass, Old Hans, was stabbed to death during a bar fight back in the day, and it’s been rumored that blood pools randomly surface on the tavern floor — just one of the spooky stories that have come out of this place.
• Wedgwood Inn: Located in the notoriously haunted town of New Hope, the Wedgwood Inn has an eerie legend looming about its halls. Allegedly the place is haunted by the ghost of a 12-year-old slave girl named Sarah. At least three different times, 12-year-old girls who stayed at the Inn on separate dates claim they encountered Sarah and were told her story of hiding and escaping from slavery.
Get Spooked While You Eat
• The Logan Inn: This New Hope retreat offers a four-course, $35 gourmet prix-fixe meal that will blow your mind. Enjoy your roast beef aged prime rib while you wait for the ghost of the old Revolutionary War soldier to take his common stroll through the main dining room. Stay the night at the Logan, too, if you dare.
• City Tavern: Serving up all of the culinary tradition of the colonials, City Tavern also regularly dishes out some frightening spirits of the bygone era they aim to keep hold of. So look out, you might end up getting served by the former waiter that’s supposedly always on the job.
• The Moshulu: One of the world’s biggest and oldest four-mast sailing ships still in the water, the Moshulu is said to be haunted by “The Lantern Ghost” by employees who often open the restaurant to find lanterns burning on the table even after being extinguished. 28 people died on board the Moshulu while it was still at sea and three in the more recent past — this might have something to do with the trick lanterns, murmurs and hysterical laughter the owner and staff have heard.
“Bare Bones” Ghost Hunting
• Ghost Tours of Philadelphia: Offering year-round tours of the haunted places of Philadelphia, both on foot or by trolley, this is the most popular ghost hunting tour of the city including stories about Independence Hall, Washington Square and Edgar Allan Poe’s old dwelling in Old City. Check for pricing and reservations.
• Ghost Tours of New Hope: Adi-Kent Thomas Jeffrey, the creator of these ghost tours, felt so compelled by the paranormal of New Hope that he wrote three books on it. Experience his take on the encounters with the infamous phantom hitchhiker and much more every Friday and Saturday up to the week of October 31 on the lantern-led walk through the eerie town of New Hope. Click here for directions and more information.
• Murder, Mystery, & Mayhem Tour: More than just a collection of ghost stories, this tour lets you in on the “unspoken secrets” of haunted Philadelphia. While taking the guided bus tour of the city, you will learn about actual historic events that will make your skin crawl. Reserve a spot with Philly Tours for any Wednesday through Sunday all through October and the first week of November.
• Second Annual Frankford Haunted History Tour: The Frankford CDC wants you to embark on a walking tour of the haunted halls of Frankford’s historic buildings on Saturday, October 27. Park at Frankford Friends Meeting House at 4 p.m. and enjoy refreshments before and after the horrifying history lesson — they promise it’s going to be even better than last year.
• Spirits of ‘76 Ghost Tour: Experience the ominous aura of the 20 most haunted places in Philadelphia including Carpenters’ Hall, the Benjamin Franklin Rush House and Old Pine Street Church and Cemetery as you walk the creepy cobblestone streets at night. Plan a Spirit of ’76 Tour any day you dare.
• Ghosts of the Great Road: Historic Germantown in conjunction with the Museum of the Macabre present Ghosts of the Great Road on October 13, 19 and 26. These interactive, walking ghost tours explore the allegedly haunted cultural sites on the streets of Germantown. You can be a part of the real, live paranormal investigation and get a slice of history from the historically-dressed guide. On October 26, don’t miss the special Halloween version called Colonial Compound, named after one of Philadelphia’s most haunted neighborhoods, beginning promptly at 5:30 p.m. at Upsala Mansion.
• Ghosthunting 101 at Elfreth’s Alley: Join the Elfreth’s Alley Museum and the Oakford Paranormal Society for a special investigation of the three-century-year-old alley, Saturday, October 20, 8-9:30 p.m. Get hands-on training with state-of-the-art equipment led by an expert team. Nearly 3,000 people have lived on Elfreth’s Alley, so chances are, some of their spirits remain. Do you dare?
Other Eerie Attractions
• The Mutter Museum: Philadelphia’s notorious Mutter Museum will satisfy all of your gruesome curiosities with its fascinating exhibit of frightening abnormal anatomical formations. Ancient body parts encased in jars, death casts and diseased organs are just a few examples of what kinds of creepy collections to expect. We’re not sure if there are any spirits lingering or ghosts involved, but we can guarantee that these bone-chilling exhibits will give you the hee-bee-gee-bees.
• Museum of Mourning Art: Those with a fascination with death and mourning look no further than this morbid museum. The Museum of Mourning Art features a horse-drawn hearse, a 400-year-old guide to getting to heaven, and art and fashions decorated with emblems of death, angels, crossed bones and lambs. They even have a lock of George Washington’s hair along with an informative breakdown of the mourning of his death.
• Bucks County Rosicrucian Garden: Visitors need special permission to explore this mysterious site of some really perplexing things, but on a small street between Quakertown and Dublin, you can find the Rosicrucian church gardens where two unexplained pyramids lie. The mystery behind them goes back hundred of years and no one quite knows what goes on in the gardens, but people in robes have been seen and heard chanting during worship ceremonies that allegedly began from an order that started in Germany in the 1600s. See if you can get in and get the story.
• “Nuke Town”: This ghost town known as Frick’s Lock, a.k.a. “Nuke Town,” is located near the Limerick Nuclear power plant off of Route 724 near Spring City in Chester County. Almost a dozen abandoned houses lie boarded and abandoned and will make you feel like you’ve landed upon the zombie apocalypse. Take a walk and and imagine the walking dead — it won’t be hard to do.