There's no shortage of haunted places to visit in Pennsylvania, but these are six of the most ghastly must-visit paranormal hotspots. Beginning in Philadelphia at Eastern State Penitentiary, arguably one of America's most haunted abandoned prisons, this adventure will take you to hotels with guests from other realms and one of the world's creepiest abandoned asylums. This trip is pure nightmare fuel.
Eastern State Penitentiary (ESP) has a fascinating history as what was then (when it was built in 1829) one of the most high-tech prisons, boasting a wheel-inspired design. Each inmate was in separate confinement and had running water. Today, it's kept in a state of protected ruin, and puts on all kinds of tours which delve into the prison's history, its famous inmates (including Al Capone!), art installations, and more. But, as you wander the church-inspired halls, you'll probably get a sense that some inmates never left here, even after the prison was shut down... by many accounts, the prison is haunted. Even before ESP was closed in the 1970s, rumors of strange incidents had haunted the penitentiary. Pay special attention to cell 12, where people claim to hear laughing and strange voices; cell 6, where shadowy figures move against the walls; and cell 4, where ghostly faces have been known to appear.
Another bone-chillingly haunted old building to visit is Pennhurst Asylum. It operates as a haunted house during the Halloween season, but since it's a former asylum for the insane that's long been controversial for its sometimes-brutal practices, it has some real-life spooks and scares as well. If you're really dedicated to ghost hunting, you can rent out the place and do some investigating on your own... if you dare!
Hex Hollow (also called Rehmeyer's Hollow) is more commonly known as Spring Valley County Park, but the legend of why it sometimes gets called Hex Hollow is pretty crazy. Pennsylvania is known for being a melting pot of religions, and in many areas, the lore of Quakers, German "Dutch" immigrants, Anabaptists, and Native Americans melded into a distinctive culture, where "pow-wow" (or folk) magic was believed and feared.
The legendary incident at Hex Hollow started in 1928, when Nellie Noll, who claimed to be a witch, told John Blymire that he had been cursed by Nelson Rehmeyer, who Nellie claimed was also a witch. Blymire and two friends (who were swept up in the witch-curse hysteria) broke into Rehmeyer's house, hoping to find and destroy his folk magic spell book. They never found the book, but they did encounter Rehmeyer himself, who they murdered, hoping that would lift the curse. The ensuing murder trial garnered national attention, and even today, you can find ghost-hunters and folklore buffs exploring Rehmeyer's house, which is still standing at the park.
If magic and tortured souls don't give you the heebie-jeebies, then maybe a trip to Devil's Den will. As the site of the bloodiest battle of the Civil War, it's no surprise that Gettysburg is reportedly a paranormal hotspot, and if you're exploring the grounds in search of ghosts, Devil's Den is one of your best bets. This rocky outcropping on the field was a great place for both Union and Confederate soldiers to fire on enemies and dodge bullets and cannonballs. It changed hands several times throughout the battle, so Devil's Den saw quite a bit of action. Cameras and electronic equipment have been known to die instantly and malfunction around the rocks and boulders here, and some claim to have seen the ghost of a man in a floppy hat and butternut-colored shirt. For the record, this describes the clothing worn by a Texas regiment which, at one point during the battle, captured Devil's Den.
If you're brave enough to stay the night in a haunted B&B, you'll want to check out the Farnsworth House Inn in Gettysburg, which dates back to 1810. During the Civil War, the building, which was owned by the Sweeney family, was occupied by both Confederates (who used attic windows to snipe soldiers off Cemetery Hill) and Union soldiers. You can still see more than 100 bullet holes left in the building from the battle.
You can take a haunted tour of the building, hear ghost stories in the basement, or even stay in a haunted room in the older part of the Inn (the rooms in the newer addition experience less paranormal activity). Mysterious harp music can be heard coming from the attic, phantom footsteps fall on the staircase, shadows lurk in empty corners, and strange spirits sit on the beds and grab the cooks in the restaurant.
The Heisey Museum has some pretty cool artifacts, including a working Edison Victrola, Civil War and Samurai weapons, and documents signed by countless historical figures, but the old building is also home to at least three ghosts. The museum curators are more than happy to tell you a tale or two to send shivers down your spine!
Altoona's Mishler Theatre brings some awesome, old-school vibes, as well as a possible haunting, making it an essential stop on any Pennsylvania ghost hunt. It was built by Isaac Charles Mishler in 1906 ... and had to be rebuilt in 1907 after it caught fire. It was saved from the wrecking ball in 1965, and got updates in the 1970s and 1990s. But one thing that hasn't changed in all these years? The fact that Isaac Charles Mishler still roams the offices and catwalks, cigar in hand. Some even claim to see puffs of cigar smoke floating up from the seats in the auditorium. Bring your camera when you visit as well; you may catch a picture of Mr. Mishler if you're lucky.
Horror fans will undoubtedly be familiar with the next stop on the trip; the cemetery where the beginning of George A. Romero's 1968 cult classic "The Night of the Living Dead" was filmed. It's actually the Evans City Cemetery. The low-budget movie was shot entirely in and around this remote part of Pennsylvania, outside Pittsburgh. A highlight is the grave of Nicholas Kramer, which Barbra hides behind as Johnny fights off her reanimated attacker. If you happen to see anyone wandering the well-maintained but quiet cemetery, it's less likely that they're a zombie, and more likely that they're either a caretaker or a cop on patrol. As long as you're respectful during your visit, they won't give you any problems. Unless, y'know, they actually are undead and out for human flesh.
The Living Dead Museum, in the heart of Evans City, is more than just a tribute to Romero's film; it's also dedicated to the history of cinematic and pop culture zombies. It's not a huge museum, but it's filled with interactive displays, memorabilia, props, video footage, and more. Plus, they've curated a top-notch zombie-themed gift shop, so don't leave without stocking up on souvenirs.
From Civil War spirits and legendary witches to the inmates of one of the country's spookiest jails and the living dead, there are plenty of scares to be had across Pennsylvania. Whether you're brave enough to spend the night in a haunted inn, or you're just looking for a ghost story or two, there's a haunt for you. Happy ghost hunting!
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