Local haunts

By on October 31, 2018

The haunting season is upon us. Ghouls, goblins, and ghosts walk the streets of small towns, trick-or-treaters go out to collect goodies. But, what about the real ghosts who walk the ethereal plane between this world and the next and visit some of us unexpectedly?

A haunted piano

Those are the stories that interest Rick Fisher, author of “Ghosts of the River Towns.” A tale he likes to retell involves Marietta’s Railroad House Inn, one of Lancaster County’s most well-known haunted sites. Now a classy, industrial-themed restaurant, the building at 280 W. Front St. once served as a hub for the Pennsylvania Railroad, which brought prominence and prosperity to the small-town. The Railroad House is one of the sites that helped launch Fisher’s career into paranormal activities.

“I met the former owners back in ‘98. They had bought the place and it was kind of rundown,” said Fisher when asked to tell tales of Lancaster County hauntings. “In the ‘60s it was a popular hangout for the hippie movement and in the ‘70s it fell into disrepair.”

Over the years, old and new owners accumulated many stories to tell of haunting experiences in the building.

“When they first moved in there was an old, beat-up piano in one of the rooms,” said Fisher.

During the evenings, when no one was about except for the owners, music — music from a piano — could be heard coming from the otherwise empty room. Half the keys were missing from the disheveled instrument, but the music still played. And when the owners removed the piano from the building entirely, music still filled the space, a haunting resonance of long ago. Yet mysterious music was the least worry for the owners … and visitors to the inn operating as a bed and breakfast.

“In room nine, well, a few women have spent the night in room nine and felt a male presence,” said Fisher, downplaying the creepiness of the fact. “There’s a story of a woman who spent the night there and couldn’t sleep all night because of the presence of a male figure at the foot of her bed.”

Blankets have been pulled off sleeping women in room nine. Wives feel the presence, but husbands do not. Even the sister of a one-time owner knew the building was haunted after spending an evening in the room and vowed to never sleep there again.

Fisher speculates the apparition may be Thomas A. Scott, president of the Pennsylvania Railroad from 1874 to 1880 (and U.S. Assistant Secretary of War during the Civil War).

“He was the owner of the Railroad House in the 1800s,” said Fisher. “He didn’t die there, but some believe he’s still there.”

Perry Street Cellar, in the basement of the Railroad House Inn in Marietta, is considered pretty by some — and pretty scary by others.

Room 220

In Lititz, the haunted room is number 220 — at the General Sutter Inn. Rosemary Ellen Guiley, author of “Ghosthunting Pennsylvania,” highlighted the downtown Lititz hotel and the tales were enough to bring Spirit Society of Pennsylvania founder Kelly Weaver for a visit — twice. During her initial visit Weaver experienced a few abnormalities and it was enough to book a second stay so she could bring her ghosthunting equipment. She hoped to capture electronic voice phenomena and prove the existence of young, otherworldly residents reported to wander the halls of the circa-1764 inn.

Weaver and her husband, John, traveled with their dog, Teddy. Immediately upon entering their room, number 220, something spooked the animal, but the Weavers decided it probably wasn’t anything worth investigating at great length. However, the next morning when the couple decided to go down for breakfast, they left their recording devices running. They returned to the room to find Teddy — described as a usually a happy-go-lucky dog — cowering in the corner, terrified. Confused and concerned the Weavers decided to play back their recording. What it captured sent the couple to seek an early departure from the Inn.

From the recording it is heard that sometime during the breakfast Teddy starts to bark. The barks become uncharacteristically vicious and the Weaver’s hear a spine-chilling laugh in between a few of the barks, as if the dog is being tormented. Hear it for yourself by visiting spiritsocietyofpa.com/laughTedclean.wav.

“It’s the idea that we can’t see things that is more unsettling. We can’t see it and we can’t predict it,” Guiley said.

Despite its vintage charm, many claim the General Sutter Inn in Lititz — in particular, room 220 — is haunted.

 

Taken too soon

Down the street from the Sutter is Linden Hall School for Girls. With over 1,000 paranormal investigations under his belt, Fisher is often brought in as a lecturer by universities, clubs, and special event organizers; he spoke at Linden Hall in 2011.

“After the lecture a lot of the students and staff told me they had experiences there,” said Fisher, who saw his first ghost at the age of nine. “They believe the spirit of Mary Dixon is there.”

Mary Dixon was born in 1863 in Bethlehem. At the age of 13, her mother died and her father sent her to school at Linden Hall. She majored in music and by all accounts was a talented musician. Mary returned home, but at the age of 19 contracted tuberculosis, which is spread from person to person through microscopic droplets released into the air by coughing and sneezing. Although it is contagious, it is not easy to catch … today. In the 19th century, the “white plague” was responsible for an astronomical amount of deaths to young and middle-aged adults.

“Her father was so distraught he wanted to do something to honor his daughter,” said Fisher.

Mr. Dixon spent $25,000 to build a memorial for his daughter at the school she loved so dearly. The Mary Dixon Chapel is still actively used by Linden Hall.

“Some of the girls told me they see Mary Dixon,” said Fisher.

He asked the students how they knew it was Mary. Their response was to point to her portrait hanging on the wall.

 

Does the ghost of student Mary Dixon (above) haunt the chapel named after her on the campus of Linden Hall School for Girls? This photo of the chapel (below)  was taken shortly after its dedication in 1885.

Woman in white

“There is also a woman in white who is seen in the gardens,” said Fisher.

Maybe this is the same woman in white seen walking the streets of Adamstown, the town where headless pigs are seen loitering near an old butcher shop. Probably not. Or, maybe she is running from the ghostly nude man who patrols his property in Manheim. Who knows? The tales of the haunting season are as wide as the imagination, and sometimes even backed up with proof.

Michael C. Upton is a freelance writer specializing in arts and leisure. He welcomes comments at somepromcu@gmail.com and facebook.com/SomebodiesProductions.

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