Ghost Stories

Harrisburg State Hospital

On the surface, Harrisburg State Hospital appears to be a perfect ghost repository. It was built in 1851 and was known as the Pennsylvania State Lunatic Hospital up until 1921 when it changed its name to Harrisburg State Hospital.

As if being an asylum from the 1800s wasn’t enough, it also has underground tunnels, a morgue, and a cemetery that was moved. The first cemetery established on the hospital grounds was removed in 1927 when the hospital renovated. At the time, the cemetery contained about 230 bodies. It is unclear where these bodies went, but according to City on the Hill (a website devoted to the history of the hospital located at hsh.thomas-industriesinc.com) they may have been moved to the second cemetery established on the grounds.

What the hospital seemingly lacks is the sketchy history that other haunted asylums boast. Harrisburg State Hospital wasn’t known for its abuses but instead for its progressiveness. It was known as the “City on the Hill” because it was virtually self-sufficient with its own farm, power plant and stores.

Still, 150 years of history as a hospital is enough to leave a few ghosts behind when the hospital closed in 2006.  Ghostly reports include the full spectrum of ghostly activities: screams, shadowy figures, disembodied footsteps, unexplained noises, and moving objects. The two areas of the hospital that are supposed to be most haunted are the morgue and the network of tunnels underneath the hospital. According to the website pahauntedhouses.com, “blood-like stains” randomly appear, found on the floor of the exam room in the morgue, without any discernable cause. Meanwhile, in the tunnels, shadowy figures are the norm.

John G. Sabol featured the hospital in his book Haunting Archaeologies:  The Still Unexcavated Fields. Sabol stated that when he worked in the office building, his MP3 player would increase in volume without him touching it. He writes that “This could only happen if the toggle control is moved. When that happens, a blue light illuminates the dial (indicative of a change in volume). I have seen the dial light and heard the volume increase simultaneously without touching the MP3 myself!”

The ghostly history of the hospital was enough to get it featured on an episode of Ghost Lab in 2010. The episode featured a lot of “Did you hear that?” commentary regarding things not audible to the viewing audience and a couple of sketchy EVPs that some of the team members admitted they couldn’t understand. It was then decided that the EVPs was that of a woman saying “Peter” and “Annie.”

As required by the laws of TV ghost investigations, the investigators returned to the site so they could yell demands at the ghosts. The demands were enough to get the “ghost” to whisper a third name one they claimed was that of a former employee who was still living. For some odd reason, the woman refused to answer the phone when they called, and we never learn why a “ghost” might be saying her name.

One other interesting thing to note about the hospital is that it was used as the setting of the 1999 movie Girl, Interrupted. In fact, the administration sign that still hangs is leftover from the movie.

Today, some of the buildings are being used as office space. Permission is required to explore the buildings. The property is managed by the Department of General Services and is accessible from Cameron Street and Elmerton Avenue.

 

Oyster Mill Playhouse

1001 Oyster Mill Road, Camp Hill

At Oyster Mill Playhouse, they have as much activity offstage as they do on, as at least 5 ghosts roam its corridors. The most innocuous is the couple who once owned the farmhouse turned playhouse. They prefer to sit and watch rehearsals from the top row. Those who have been rude enough to attempt to occupy their seats during this time may be asked to leave. People report being tapped on the head whenever they sit in one of these two seats. People have also reported seeing the couple sitting in “their” seats.

Kathie Spacht was one person asked to leave when she sat in the wrong seat. According to an article on pennlive.com, she was tapped on the head three times while she was sitting in the claimed seat. Spacht also saw the little girl who haunts the costume racks of the building. The girl is described as wearing a long blue dress with blonde hair.

But not all the ghosts are so innocent. The last two ghosts—both men—seem more ominous. One is reported to be a mill worker who died in a fire and the other a mysterious man.

People have reported hearing voices and pictures randomly falling off a wall. After cast members lock up for the night, they report seeing lights on in the building. When they go back in to turn them off, they discover all the lights were not left on. Or if they were, someone (or something) turned them off before they could get to them.

In 2012, CBS 21 News anchor Tanya Foster investigated. During the investigation, they reported recordings of a voice telling them to “Get out.” They also interviewed paranormal investigator, Giulio Marchi, who told them he felt invisible hands strangle him until he passed out.

 

Frankenberger Tavern

217 E. Main St., Mechanicsburg

Believed to be the oldest building in Mechanicsburg, Frankenberger Tavern has stood since 1801. It was shortly after it was built that it’s first (and only) ghost took up residence. Believed to be a cattle drover who drank too much and foolishly bragged in the tavern about a recent windfall of $300, he was supposedly found the following morning in the herb garden outside, dead, with his money stolen.

History has no record of any man dying at the tavern and no one was ever prosecuted for such a murder. There is a record of a William Quigley being beaten by seven men at the tavern. But Quigley didn’t die until a year later, and then of natural causes.

So who is the man who seems to reside on the second floor of the log building? Many have reported seeing him peeking out the window when the building is supposed to be empty. In 2013, Jean Capello, a former owner of the building, told The Sentinel about an incident involving her children. They were exploring the loft when the door closed on its own. The old-fashioned latch design should have prevented this from happening.

Today, the building has been moved from its original location to 217 E. Main Street in Mechanicsburg where it has been preserved by the Mechanicsburg Museum Society.

 

Carlisle Barracks,

Carlisle

The Carlisle Barracks tumultuous history are enough to have collected several ghosts through the years. Starting with the Hessian soldiers who are said to haunt the Hessian Powder Magazine Museum. This is the only remaining building of what was once a major logistics base during the Revolutionary War. According to legend—but not historical documents—the building was built by Hessian soldiers captured by George Washington during his famous raid on Trenton on December 26, 1776.

Allen Campbell is one of many who has had ghostly experiences here. He even wrote a book about it: Ghosts at Carlisle Barracks Army War College. According to Campbell, people have reported hearing moaning, clanging and similar sounds coming from the building.

In 1933, human remains were found near this building. Coins, uniform buttons and clothing fragments identified the remains as soldiers that belonged to the Seventh Royal Fusiliers who were captured during the Battle of Trenton. Perhaps they are upset that their graves were not only unmarked but disturbed.

Another ghostly legend is connected to the Carlisle Indian School cemetery, another cemetery that has a disturbed history for two reasons. The first is the reason it existed at all. In the cemetery are Native American children who died while attending the Carlisle Indian Industrial School.

Open from 1879 to 1918, the Carlisle Indian Industrial School was the first non-reservation boarding school in the country. Founded by Captain Richard Henry Pratt, the mission of the school was “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.” The children were stripped of their identity and heritage in an attempt to assimilate them into mainstream culture. In the process, at least 200 died while at the school, never given the opportunity to return home.

One such child is buried under a stone that reads “Lucy Pretty Eagle Sioux May 9 1884.” Lucy arrived at the school on November 14, 1883. Her name is actually “Take the Tail.” Pretty Eagle was her father and Lucy was the name given to her. Her Student Record Card listed her age as 10 years old. Other reports put her age at 16 or even 18. So much about her is unknown, although people claim she is the ghost that haunts Cohen Apartments.

Stories tell of a ghost that slams doors, turns pictures toward the wall, moves beds and even ties the laces of tennis shoes. Legend was expounded by stating that “Lucy” was not dead when she was buried, but in a self-induced trance or suffering from epilepsy.

However, Take the Tail never lived in Cohen Apartments, which used to be the teachers’ quarters. Her former residence no longer stands. Neither does her original grave. She—and the other children—were originally buried near the athletic fields. The cemetery was moved in 1927. The horrors the children endured are enough to cause nightmares, if not ghosts. But it is doubtful that it is the girl buried under the grave reading Lucy. (For more on Lucy’s story, check out A Broken Flute: The Native Experience in Books for Children edited by Doris Seale and Beverly Slapin.)

Another Native American ghost—and former student of the school—is that of the Olympic gold medalist Jim Thorpe. His ghost is said to be heard playing basketball with his former teammates in Thorpe Hall, which used to be the gymnasium for the school. His spirit has been seen and not just heard at Letort View Community Center along with the ghosts of a man wearing farmers’ clothes and a well-dressed female, who may have also been a student at the school. The cellar of the Center is reportedly so haunted, it has earned the nickname “Purgatory.”

On Barracks’ Flower Road, a woman in an old-fashioned green dress wanders in and out of houses. Maybe she is looking for the baby who is heard crying at Washington Hall Guest House or she could be going to hear the ghostly band music reported heard on the grounds. Other ghosts include Revolutionary soldiers seen walking across Thorpe Field, a Union soldier who has repeatedly broken the framed print of Civil War Major General J.E.B. Stuart and a young girl with black hair who shows up on rainy nights near the spot where she fell to her death.

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