The creaky doors, bleak hallways and spooky rooms of old buildings create the perfect setting for ghost stories and scary movies, but can thrill-seeking guests find more than just a fictional tale? Check out these haunted and historic hot spots in Pennsylvania, and be ready for some bizarre encounters with the supernatural.
Eastern State Penitentiary - Philadelphia and its Countryside
In 1829, the first prisoner walked through the doors of Eastern State Penitentiary. It closed its doors as a penitentiary in 1971, and now lies deteriorated and empty. It is said that the lingering spirits of the isolated prisoners still haunt the cell blocks of this National Historic Landmark, making it one of America’s most haunted prisons. Today, that same intrigue remains and guests can experience the haunted prison on a tour or at special events offered year round. New for 2014, visitors can witness “The Big Graph,” a massive infographic structure illustrating incarceration rates over 120 years, as well as trends in U.S. corrections policies.
Farnsworth House Tavern
Deemed by the Travel Channel as “one of the most haunted inns in America,” this creepy inn takes much pride in its history and ghost lore. During the infamous and bloody battle of Gettysburg, sharpshooters used to hide in the attic of the Farnsworth house and shoot through the windows. Today, the ghosts of those same soldiers, and their victims, have yet to rest in peace. To continue the haunted experience, visitors can take a walk-through of this haunted location, as well as the streets of Gettysburg, to experience looming spirits for themselves.
Carbon County Old Jail - Upstate PA
In June 1877, one of the leaders of the famous Molly Maguires, a secret union of coal miners, was sentenced to his death at the Carbon County Jail. It is said that on his way to be executed, he slammed his hand on the wall and pronounced he didn’t commit the crime. He went on to proclaim that his handprint will remain as proof of his innocence. Years later, after cleaning, repainting and even remodeling, the handprint still remains. To this day visitors can walk the cold hallways of the jail and view the mysterious handprint in cell 17. On the first three Saturdays in October, the Old Jail hosts ghost tours of the property.
Hotel Bethlehem - Lehigh Valley
The Hotel Bethlehem dates back to 1741, and stories of the supernatural amongst old rooms and corridors of the hotel are plentiful. Ghosts are said to invade the hotel, including Mary Yohe, once the hotel’s piano player; Daddy Thomas, an always gracious host; or former landlady Mrs. Brong, who appears to kitchen staff in death as she did in life – with no shoes or stockings. Guests can even rent Room 932 – the “Room with a Boo” – for a chance at meeting some of the hotel’s “special” guests.
Jean Bonnet Tavern - The Alleghenies
With numerous paranormal happenings reported by both guests and staff, it is no wonder visitors to the Jean Bonnet Tavern might experience more than just the charming atmosphere and excellent dining. A strange man in the bar after hours, doors being opened and closed, and the sensation of being touched when no one is around are some of the many so-called paranormal encounters experienced at this haunted hot spot packed with history and stories dating back to the 1760s. In 2013, Smarter Travel named the Tavern as one of America’s most haunted restaurants and bars.
Conneaut Lake Park - Pennsylvania Great Lakes Region
Conneaut Lake Park is packed with the gleeful screams of children by day, but at night, other eerie sounds tend to take center stage. The nostalgic Hotel Conneaut is said to hold haunted surprises around every corner. Legend has it that the historic location is home to the spirits of a dancing couple and a haunted bride named Elizabeth. During the fall, guests can face the “13 Levels of Fear” at the haunted amusement park.
Jennie Wade House - Dutch Country Roads
Visit the Jennie Wade House in Gettysburg to learn the story of 20-year-old Jennie Wade, fiancée to Corporal "Jack" Skelly, and the only civilian casualty during the Battle of Gettysburg. You'll get a first-hand look at the kitchen door still peppered full of bullet holes. During the Ghost Tour, visitors will take a 90-minute waking tour, stopping at four locations before entering the Jennie Wade House.
Fulton Theatre - Dutch Country Roads
Located in the heart of downtown Lancaster, this National Historic Landmark’s haunted legends of the “Woman in White” and other apparitions have even scared its own actors from completing an overnight stay in the theater. One of the most mysterious Fulton stories is the tale of a strange old man who was seen in the restricted section of the balcony. When questioned, he replied that he was watching his granddaughter in a production. The attendant later learned that both of the young actress’ grandfathers had been dead for years.
Bates Motel - Philadelphia and its Countryside
Check into the Bates Motel for the most incredible display of terror and mayhem. Considered one of the best haunted houses in America, the motel is filled with high tech special effects and lighting, taking Halloween to a new level. The Bates Motel is one of three attractions at Arasapha Farm, which also features a Haunted Corn Maze and a 25-minute Haunted Hayride.
Cathedral of Learning - Pittsburgh and its Countryside
Looming over the University of Pittsburgh is the Gothic Revival tower known as the Cathedral of Learning. The building was constructed to be more than just a schoolhouse; it was to be a symbol of the life and spirit of Pittsburgh. A decades-old tale asserts the Early American Room is haunted, with furniture moving on its own, the smell of fresh bread baking in the brick fireplace (which hasn’t been used since the 1940s), cold spots and candles suddenly flaring. As one of the only classrooms not in use in the Cathedral, this room is available for tours.
Mishler Theatre - The Alleghenies
The uncovered testimony of a teenage girl claims “the ghost of Issac Mishler haunts this beautiful building.” Madeline Letsche befriended the founder of the Altoona Historic Mishler Theatre when her mother, Laura, would help with theatre productions. Over the years, many stage crew members, actors, office workers and visitors have heard, seen, and even felt Issac Mishler’s presence.
Pennhurst Asylum - Philadelphia and its Countryside
Head to the Pennhurst Asylum to send chills down your spine. The hospital themed walk-through attraction features items and artifacts that were part of the original state school. The attraction combines high tech animatronics, digital sound and motivated actors, as well as fine detail and realism. While visiting, guests will brave the Dungeon of Lost Souls, the Tunnel Terror and then Ghost Hunt.