Pittsburgh's Most Haunted Places
Haunted Locations You Can Actually Visit
Michael Blaha’s Flowers
A mere few blocks from the ScareHouse on Bridge Street in Etna, sits Michael Blaha’s flowers. Known as one of Pittsburgh’s oldest flower shops, Michael Blaha’s Flower shop has existed for over 100 years.
The haunting of the flower shop may be rooted in the shops sorted past. It is believed that the flower shop has served many different purposes, serving as a hotel, restaurant, tavern, and most infamously, as a bordello.
The story goes that one of the women working as a prostitute has an illegitimate child named Peter. Peter was very mischievous and was often kept inside to keep him out of trouble. Tragically, Peter set off some firecrackers inside which started a fire. Peter was not able to escape a reportedly died of smoke inhalation. Proof of the fire can be seen in old reports and in the burn marks on the third and fourth floors of the building.
When the flower shop operated as an antiques shop from 1977-1982 the owners reported toys and items being thrown around the store and rearranged, the owners even reported being touched by the spirit. After the flower shop was redecorated destructive activity from Peter ceased. However, Peter continued to move objects around the store. Occasionally toys and items disappear only to be found in odd places days later. A tenant of one of the upstairs apartments even reported that she would sometimes feel her bed rocking. When she wouldb
Recently activity by the mischievous spirit Peter seems to have subsided.
The Pittsburgh Playhouse
The Pittsburgh Playhouse, on Craft Avenue in Oakland was built in 1934, since that time the building has had many lives. The building is rumored to have served many purposes such as a synagogue, a club/speakeasy, a brothel, a church, and a restaurant. Clearly this building has seen a vibrant history drawing in all walks of life. With this in mind it’s not hard to believe that some of these old tenants may feel connected to the theater and chose to remain amongst the actors.
The theater is rumored to have many ghostly tenants with very particular characteristics and name. A disembodied voice named Weeping Eleanor, can be heard sobbing at night. It is believed that she lived in a row house which caught on fire, taking the lives of her and her daughter. This is now the site of the theater’s dressing rooms, which is where Eleanor can still be heard weeping over the loss of her daughter.
The next ghost, the Lady in White had a devastating experience in the theater which has led to her connection to the building. The story goes that the Lady in White had just been married in the church at the theater and was celebrating her reception at the restaurant downstairs when she discovered her husband having a tryst with one of the ladies of the upstairs bordello. Devastated and enraged the Lady in White shot them both then committed suicide by jumping from the balcony. She can still be seen pacing the balcony in her wedding dress, gun in hand.
John Johns, a prominent stage actor at the Playhouse in the 1950's, also calls the theater his home. He suffered a heart attack while at the downstairs restaurant and was carried to his dressing room, #7, where he died. Since then, people hear disembodied footsteps climbing the stairway to room #7, always stopping just short of the door. Johns himself still watches over the rehearsals of current productions, he’s rumored to even interact with actors. Johns occasionally appears dancing on stage with the Lady in White, perhaps they found love in the afterlife.
The next ghost is more ominous then the first three, Gorgeous George. However, don’t let the name fool you, his claim to fame is that he has a green, oozing face. He is rumored to tap people on the shoulder and watch their shock when they turn and see his rotting face. As soon as he appears he then vanishes with his maniacal laughter trailing behind.
The last, and possibly most infamous ghost of the theater, is the Bouncing Red Meanie or the Bouncing Red Loony. The Meanie made his debut to the Pittsburgh Playhouse stage with the fanfare expected of an illustrious actor.
On Halloween Night, 1974, a group of students held a séance to try to reach the ghosts of the Playhouse. However they did not meet the ghosts they had expected. When they looked to the stage they saw a man with a gray face dressed completely in red, pacing back and forth. Each time he crossed the stage he got faster until he was pacing so fervently that he rose in the air and began bouncing of the walls! As that happened, every phone in the theater began ringing. The students then turned to see the auditorium completely filled with people dressed in turn of the century outfits. A spotlight then appeared on the Bouncing Red Meanie who faced the crowd as the ghostly audience broke into silent applause. The Bouncing Red Meanie manifests himself now either as a man or a red ball of light, and chases people at alarming speeds.
Lawrenceville Branch of the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh
The land on which the library stands was used as a cemetery from 1814 to 1879. At this time Lawrenceville became incorporated into the city of Pittsburgh and land for a school was needed. This meant that the 450 bodies buried in the cemetery would have to be exhumed and relocated.
The families of the people buried in the cemetery were contacted to claim the remains of their loved ones. As grisly and depressing as this situation must have been, what is even more disheartening is that only 70 bodies were claimed and moved to new cemeteries. The school board promised to move the remaining 380 bodies to a small plot of land on the premises where they would not be disturbed.
Unfortunately when construction of the school began in 1881 the construction workers were greeted with an unpleasant surprise. As the workers began to dig the foundation for the school they found bones, and pieces of caskets and clothing. As would be expected, the city was outraged, lawsuits were filed and it was agreed that the remaining bodies would be put in a mass grave on land. To this day the unclaimed exhumed bodies remain in the mass grave; one has to wonder the unrest this would cause for the deceased.
In 1898 the Lawrenceville Library was also built on the property. During construction a damaged tombstone was discovered and stored in the library basement. Today the tombstone is prominently displayed in the library as a piece of history. It was long a mystery who the tombstone belonged to however a local historian did some research and discovered that the partially-visible engraving actually spelled out "IN MEMORY OF HENRY SNOWDEN who departed Dec. 7th 1830, aged 1 year & 3 mon." Upon further research they found that Henry had been one of the 70 bodies claimed and relocated in a new cemetery.
Though Henry may be at rest, there remain stories of a child roaming the library at night. Its experiences such as these that keep many janitors from working in the building at night. Though many librarians claim they have not experienced paranormal activity at the library, one has to be curious about the unrest the 380 bodies in a mass grave on the libraries property.
The mansion was built in 1898 by Alexander Byers along Ridge Avenue also known as “Millionaires Row”. The house was made into two wings one for Alexander Byers, his wife and their children occupied one side, while his daughter Maude and her husband, John Lyon, and their children lived on the other.
Maude and John’s children were often left in the care of a nanny. One unfortunate day in 1902 the nanny fell asleep while watching their four year old daughter. The child crawled on top of a skylight and fell to her death when the window gave way.
The next day, racked with grief, the nanny hung herself in the same stairwell where the young girl perished. Before she jumped the nanny wrote “please, don’t blame me” in the dust on the stairwell. In one version of the story when the body was discovered the ghost of the little girl was seen watching the nanny as she swung above the steps.
Since that fateful day there have been many sighting of the little girl in the Mansion. People also often hear crying which is most often attributed to the nanny. The nanny has also been spotted, running up the stairs or walking hand-in-hand with the little girl who seemed to have been reunited in the afterlife.
Another gruesome ghost story reports that a loud thud can also be heard in the mansion which many believe is the sound of the little girl’s body falling. It’s even been reported that every time the house is cleaned, the nanny's message is seen again, scrawled in the dust.
The 90-room mansion is now Byers Hall, serving as Community College of Allegheny County's student union building and administrative offices. When CCAC removed the skylight in 1990, sightings of the granddaughter ceased, however the nanny is still sighted in the mansion. Perhaps she still resides in the mansion due to her guilty conscience.
The Shiloh Grill
High on Mount Washington sits a restaurant that is popular with both the living and the dead, the Shiloh Grill. The story behind the haunting of the Shiloh Grill is so intriguing that it was even made into a movie, "Mrs. Soffel" with Hollywood A-listers Diane Keaton and Mel Gibson in the leads.
The story goes that Kate Soffel, the wife of the warden of the Allegheny County Jail, fell in love with a prisoner on death row and helped him and his brother escape and she went with them, leaving husband and four children behind. In a shootout with the police the brothers were killed, and Mrs. Soffel was captured.
100 years after the scandal Mrs. Soffel still roams her old home, she has appeared in the dining room mirror wearing a white flowing dress, and she’s been seen peering out windows. Voices of a man and woman can also be heard in the room that was once the Soffel’s bedroom. The smell of cigarette smoke is often smelled inside the old bedroom as well.
Staff have also seen a man in a blue suit standing at the top of the stairs, which is thought to be Mr. Soffel. Mrs. Soffel’s not the only ghost in there: in the basement, there is the ghost of some other woman, dressed black nightgown. Strangely people associate this ghost with the smell of oranges you also can't see her from the waist down, and she never leaves the basement. The ladies restroom is also visited by ghost of Shiloh Grill. Ladies high heels can be heard clicking across the floor and stall doors can be heard opening and shutting.
The strange experiences at the Shiloh Grill have been encountered by patrons and staff, alike. Is it Mr. and Mrs. Soffel haunting their old home? Are the brothers roaming the home in search of Mrs. Soffel? Whatever the case, patrons to Shiloh Grill may have more in store for them then a dining experience.
Depreciation Lands Museum
Tucked away in Allison Park is a piece of land untouched by time, Depreciation Lands Museum. The property brings the history of settlers to life with costumed demonstrators and a small recreated village. However the land also contains a Covenanter Church and its cemetery from 1837, and the Armstrong's log cabin that was built in 1803. The museum website states "...A Village Where History is Real Life”, however it is rumored that demonstrators may not be the only living history on the property, there’s also the Deacon.
The deacon has been making appearances in 1973, when the church was being restored. Workers said they saw a tall old man dressed in a long black coat, trousers and boots. Due to his attire they named him the Deacon.
Unlike most ghost stories the Deacon is not a vengeful or frightening spirit, on the contrary he seems protective and helpful! One of the first stories associated with the Deacon are of him helping a worker in the church. She was having a tough time fitting a window in its frame and was shaving the wood to get a snug fit. She believed that she had saw the Deacon out of the corner of her eye, but never could catch sight on him. The woman reportedly said something along the lines of “Don't just stand there. The least you can do is help me." At that moment her knife sliced the frame perfectly and the window slid into place. Coincidence?
A little later in the restoration process a worker was on a ladder painting the frame around the stairwell. Other workers reported that the ladder slipped off the wall, then just stopped in mid-air and returned to a safe spot on the wall! Another time there was a group of Girl Scouts spending the night in sleeping bags in a utility room on the museum grounds. In the middle of the night the original plaster ceiling crashed through the newer dropped ceiling and its lowered light fixtures, right above where the Girl Scouts were sleeping! Not only weren't any of the scouts hurt by the collapsing ceiling, but many never even woke up!
It seems as though the Deacon had never left the grounds of his old church and continues to care for his “parishioners”. Take a visit to the Depreciation Lands Museum and keep an eye out for a man in a long black coat, trousers, and boots- he may not be another demonstrator.
The National Aviary
The land upon which The National Aviary now sits on, originally was part of the land that once sat under Western State Penitentiary, built in 1826, and torn down in 1882. During the Civil War, 118 confederate soldiers and officers, captured from the Morgan's Raid attack that happened just a few miles from Pittsburgh, were held here, from 1863-1864. The treatment of the prisoners was considered very humane, however 6 men died here, probably of their wounds, and one was killed, trying to escape.
After this the prison was torn down, a plant conservatory was built on part of the old prison property. The plant conservatory burned down around 1927-'29 because of a gas explosion in 1952, Pittsburgh again had money to rebuild the indoor gardens, adding birds as well. By the 1980s, it became just an Aviary. During the 1990s the aviary exhibit was expanded to 25,000 square feet and was given the title The National Aviary by the federal government.
Though the Aviary no longer resembles the penitentiary it seems that some of the prisoners are still roaming the halls. In the early morning, and after closing, shadows have been seen by staff. Footsteps and unexplained bangs are also heard throughout the building. Staff also report feeling as though they are being watched as they care for the birds. One staff member even witnessed a radio turning itself on in the kitchen!
Not many paranormal investigators have been able to investigate the aviary however one such group had remarkable findings! The International Parapsychology Research Foundation, INC with the use of Frank’s Box contacted a spirit who confessed to turning on the radio. This male voice also said that 6 others were with him (the prisoners who died on the premises) and he went on to name the other staff members of the aviary! The voice also reported that he and the other spirits love the birds. Apparently The National Aviary is not only an attraction to the living of Pittsburgh, but also the deceased.