In 2014, the butt of many Pennsylvania-related jokes was that the top Google autocomplete search for the Keystone State was “Why is Pennsylvania so haunted?” Indeed, when you look at the spookiest places in America, PA stands out. If we had to guess, it'd probably have something to do with the state’s roots as one of the 13 (!) original colonies, and its role in many of early American history’s major moments, from the revolution on down to the Civil War. Even in a state so overrun by reports of the supernatural, though, some places stand out as hot spots of eerie activity -- or at least, reports of eerie activity -- which is why we’ve catalogued 13 of PA’s most notorious haunted locales.
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Philadelphia When it opened in 1829, Eastern State aimed to inspire penitence in its inmates through solitary confinement. With its 142-year history, the prison has become a ghost-hunting hotspot with numerous claims of paranormal sightings, including voices, figures, and visions of both guards and inmates. Even now, independent groups organize spirit-hunting expeditions within its grand, crumbling walls -- expeditions that you can easily be a part of.
Wilkes-Barre Referred to as Wilkes-Barre’s own Amityville Horror by local publications and even by the couple who investigated the real Amityville house, this house is supposedly haunted. Built by industrialist Augustus Laning in 1860 (or thereabouts), the residential property saw a number of deaths over the years, including the tragic loss of Laning’s own nephew in a barn fire. In addition to reports of bangs, shrieks, and moans, ghosts are said to appear -- including a well-dressed, cane-wielding translucent man -- as well as bodily scratches on inhabitants of the house.
Gettysburg During the second day of the Battle of Gettysburg in the Civil War, soldiers took part in intense fighting among the boulders, hills, and valleys. One of the most notable ghosts of this area is a barefoot soldier with torn clothing, a floppy hat, and long hair claiming, “What you’re looking for is over there,” as he points toward nearby Plum Run, also a scene of battle. Others report zapped electronics batteries and ghostly soldiers staged in battle.
Altoona Originally opened in 1906, the Mishler Theatre is named after its owner, Isaac Mishler, a Lancaster-born businessman who purchased a handful of other theaters in the area before opening his own. Many have said that the late owner of this theater wanders around the space and into a wall where his office used to be, all the while leaving trails of cigar smoke. Legend also tells of a young girl who visited the theater often while her mother worked there, and befriended a figure who wore strange hats and told her of his love for the theater -- although to be fair, that’s a creepy story even without the supernatural angle.
Spring City Originally named the “Eastern Pennsylvania Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic,” the understaffed hospital’s lack of funding, patient overcrowding, unsanitary conditions, and reports of resident abuse led to its eventual closing in 1987, after operating for nearly 80 years. Among the ground’s buildings, paranormal experts have reportedly found apparitions of nurses, children, unknown voices, and unexplained marks and scratches.
Harrisburg The Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital (as it was formerly known) was the first public asylum in Pennsylvania, opening in 1851 and operating until 2006. Though electroshock therapy was used in the 1930s, no reports of widespread abuse were noted -- still, noises and screams can be heard throughout the grounds and in the underground tunnels beneath the buildings. Ghost hunters for the Discovery Channel show Ghost Lab heard voices even uttering full names.
Gettysburg In July 1863, General Robert E. Lee and his Confederate troops retreated over this bridge at the end of the Battle of Gettysburg just a few days after Union soldiers made their way across in pursuit. Some say three Confederate soldiers were hung from the bridge after deserting the battle, and their ghosts still haunt the structure. Other visitors claim to have heard the sounds of war or seen apparitions and orbs in their photographs.
Connellsville Built in 1901 on a graveyard whose inhabitants weren’t properly relocated, visitors to this library have been known to hear footsteps and see items knocked off shelves. Another theory goes that a former librarian who had an apartment on the building’s top floor makes her presence known if she doesn’t approve of changes within the library. At one point, the library prominently displayed a photo that purportedly showed apparitions hanging around the front desk.
Philadelphia With roles in major military battles dating back to the Revolutionary War, the ghosts of many soldiers (one of which supposedly gives tours) are said to haunt this fort. The ghost of a lamplighter, a Civil War prisoner, the voice of a screaming woman (the “Wailing Woman,” said to be mourning the loss of soldiers in the revolution), and the sounds of the blacksmith shop can be seen and heard.
New Castle A home for the elderly, homeless, or people with mental illness, Hill View Manor experienced a number of deaths over the years, including several by suicide. Many have claimed to see full-bodied apparitions, shadows, and flickering lights, or hear mysterious screams and bangs. It’s not uncommon to hear disembodied voices or slamming doors, and to see unknown figures roaming through the halls. Both public and private groups continue to hunt for ghosts here.
Pittsburgh In 1902, the warden’s wife fell in love with an inmate and helped him and his brother escape. They were eventually killed in a shootout days later, but the woman’s ghost still hangs around, shuffling papers and brushing past guards. Also, prisoners on death row in 1907 reported seeing a murder reenacted every night, tormented by a former inmate who had committed suicide. The warden took their pleas to heart and moved the inmates to a new part of the prison.
Gettysburg Built in 1862, this Civil War-era home (now a bed and breakfast) saw use as a field hospital during the Battle of Gettysburg, and was a site for some truly gruesome amputations and surgeries. It’s now said that ghosts from the battle haunt the grounds, resulting in some misplaced doilies within the house and serious feelings of sadness -- sadness that, presumably, stems from those tragically misplaced doilies.