Timothy Murray, Michelle Smith, Haydn Thomas
Synopsis: Many believe American industrialist Henry Clay Frick still inhabits Clayton, one of the last surviving homes on Millionaires’ Row. The spirit of Kate Soffel lingers at the Allegheny County Jail, where she helped plot the escape of the Biddle brothers and fell in love in the process. The Duquesne Incline in 1877 employed teens disguised as ghosts to boost business. However, an authentic sinister entity is said to haunt the nearby Monongahela Incline without compensation. Join the Haunted Pittsburgh team as it explores ghostly encounters in the Steel City.
The trouble with history is that sometimes you come across so much of the same repeated stories that, whenever you find an absolute gem, you know you’re going to spend the next few weeks – or months – learning everything you can about it. The other trouble, is that sometimes you read so much of the same stuff that nothing is new anymore.
I just got off a twelve hour shift at work. I don’t know if any of what I said made sense in the above paragraph, but let me explain what I mean. Every Pittsburgh/Southwest PA long time resident knows the names Frick, Carnegie and Forbes. They know places like Latrobe, Lawrenceville, and the South Side. But what they may not know are stories like those presented in Haunted Pittsburgh by Timothy Murray, Michelle Smith and Haydn Thomas.
One of the cool things about Pittsburgh is that it has always – and I mean always – been a melting pot. As one industry (tech) continues to move in and take over the old (coal and steel), we’re seeing a movement that’s the complete opposite of what’s happening further Midwest. Folks are leaving Western states like California, and the Pittsburgh region is projected to reach 1.8 million residents by 2024, almost back to where it was at the height of the Steel era in the 1970s. How insane is that? Haunted Pittsburgh gives not only insight into some significant events, but includes little twists as well. Here are just a few from the book’s First Fifty Pages.
Chapter One: Ghosts and Steel
From Henry Clay Frick himself to the tragedy in Johnstown, this chapter highlights several tales surrounding several pivotal. Naturally, since I visited Johnstown for my birthday a few years ago, this one piqued my interest more than others.
The authors include an abridged history of the events that took place on May 31st, 1889. A combination of decisions made by those who ran the club at the man-made lake and the effects of Mother Nature led to the disaster. The dam burst in the middle of the afternoon, and the sound was, for lack of a better word, deafening. The initial devastation would be felt by Johnstown residents for years to come, many feel that the town as a whole is haunted by those lost on that day.
I can safely say that I encountered no spirits or visitors from another realm during my stay, but then again, I also wasn’t looking. We visited the old club house (closed due to the time), and saw where the lake once filled the huge mountainous valley. I can see why those considered “Pittsburgh’s Elite” would want to vacation there, and why spirits – if they truly do exist – would want to stay.
Chapter Two: Haunted Houses
For as long as I can remember, I’ve asked myself this question: “Would it be fun to live in a haunted house?” I often thought my Grandma Redman’s house to be haunted. It was built in the early 1900s and I used to sleep over there all the time. In the weeks after her passing, I even house sat during that first month of summer to help my parents take care of things. However, I do believe any noises I may have heard were just accentuated by my over-active imagination. Is this example from Haunted Pittsburgh also a figment? I don’t know…
According to Chapter Two: Haunted Houses, there’s a house that has a kind of “full circle” history. A family was brutally massacred (some may compare it to that of the Lizzie Borden situation), and it was later discovered that death and murder both took place long before that family’s murder in 1969. And, as way back as the 1920s, one individual could be connected to the happenings in that house.
Do you still want to own a haunted house?
Chapter Three: Western Pennsylvania Weird
For this third and final example, let’s take a look at an event from Chapter Three: Western Pennsylvania Weird. We all know there’s recorded history and history not recorded for the safety of those involved. Those whose names they don’t want associated with an event too “weird” at the time to comprehend.
You would think that one such as I – a fan of Star Trek – could appreciate a UFO story. This, unfortunately, is not the case. I prefer rational explanations and thorough research, and even Haunted Pittsburgh‘s authors point this out:
“Of course, skepticism runs high with any report of a UFO sighting. But that same night, a man driving in the North Side stopped his car to report that he, too, saw ‘a peculiar thing I can’t explain.”
This supposedly happened in 1978, back when my parents were just turning twenty-one. The man quoted above doesn’t have his name mentioned, and I couldn’t blame him given the time. However, another witness did want to be known, and his job was, surprise surprise, in the field of astronomy.
As luck would have it, it turns out I’m not as enthralled by supernatural happenings as I used to be. From my early teens into my college years, I love books like Goosebumps and shows like Ghost Adventures, So Weird, Are You Afraid of the Dark and Supernatural. Now, in my adult years, I can appreciate where tales come from and how they develop over time.
Do I believe in such things? I’m not entirely sure. But, if I believe a God exists, just as I do factual findings from scientific evidence on things like geology, geography and biology, then how can I discount something just because it’s never actually happened to me? I don’t think I’m going to go ghost hunting any time soon (I value my sleep way too much!), but I absolutely can appreciate those who’ve found their passion in it. Just so long as their goal isn’t to tempt the devil himself.
What I can believe in is history, and sharing it with those who may not know it. All those folks moving into this new economic boom Pennsylvania’s seeing? They’re going to start exploring all the things the city of Pittsburgh has to offer. My only hope is they’ll also learn all the things that brought us to 2022.
Did I continue on reading Haunted Pittsburgh? It was fun for a little while, and kind of makes me want to seek some of these places out. I even read to page 132. But I do believe it is time to return it via my Libby app and move on to the next nonfiction title about Pittsburgh.