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Arts & Culture

Philadelphia’s Most Haunted Places

October 22, 2012 7:00 AM

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(Credit: Betsy Ross House)

(Credit: Betsy Ross House)

Philadelphia is one of the nation’s oldest cities, so it’s inevitable some of its iconic spots would carry a little lore. There are many tour groups in the city that provide haunted Philadelphia tours, but if you’re looking to organize such an outing for yourself, the following list of places is a great way to start.
Eastern State Penitentiary
2027 Fairmount Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19130
(215) 236-3300
www.easternstate.org

Price: $12 adults/$10 seniors/$8 children and students/free to members

Any list of haunted places in Philadelphia has to start with Eastern State Penitentiary. Built in 1829, Eastern State Penitentiary was designed by Benjamin Franklin and was the nation’s first penitentiary. All prisoners were held in solitary confinement and even exercised alone in individual yards. This use of solitary confinement was widely believed to have caused mental illness among inmates, and while solitary confinement was soon abandoned due to overcrowding, the castle-like building was still used as a prison until 1970. Because the prison was abandoned in 1971, rumors of strange happenings abound. The prison now houses a museum and a seasonal haunted house, and visitors have reported hearing footsteps in the yards, strange noises and the wails of prisoners.

The Academy of Music
240 S. Broad St.
Philadelphia, PA 19102
(215) 893-1900
www.academyofmusic.org

Click here for events/ticketing

Built in 1857, the Academy of Music is the United States’ oldest still-operating grand opera house. Ulysses S. Grant was nominated for his second term in its hall in 1872, and Grover Cleveland held an extravagant party there in 1886 for his new bride. In the upper balconies, visitors have reported strange events, including a “man in black” who is said to haunt this area of the hall. Moreover, female visitors who sit next to an empty seat have reported feeling the presence of a person sitting down next to them. Some have even reported being pinched or feeling their hair being pulled.

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The Betsy Ross House
239 Arch St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(877) 462-1776
www.historicphiladelphia.org

Click here for tickets

Elizabeth Ross, known by friends as “Betsy,” was born in 1752. No one knows if she truly designed the first American flag, but you are sure to experience something interesting if you visit The Betsy Ross House. Her first marriage to John Ross was cut short when her husband was killed by the explosion of an ammunition cache he was guarding. Ross married twice more, but the name from her first marriage is what she is remembered by. She ultimately had five daughters with her third husband, one of whom died, and the house that they reportedly lived in is a popular tourist spot in Philadelphia. Visitors to the house have reported seeing the ghost of Betsy Ross crying at the foot of a bed in the basement. Voices in the house have also been reported.

City Tavern
138 S. Second St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 413-1443
www.citytavern.com

Click here for reservations

The original City Tavern was built in 1773, but the current building is a reconstruction of the original structure, which was destroyed in a fire in the 19th-century that reportedly began during preparations for a wedding. Though the groom and his attendants tried to save the bride and her bridesmaids, many of the bridal party perished in the fire. City Tavern continues to host weddings, and attendees at these events have reportedly seen the face of a woman in wedding photos taken in the building. In the pictures, she wears what looks like a wedding gown.

Powel House
244 S. Third St.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
(215) 627-0364
www.philalandmarks.org

Click here for events/ticketing

The Powel House is named for Samuel Powel, the last mayor of Philadelphia under British rule and the city’s first mayor after the Revolution. Sightings of ghosts in the house go back to the 1960s. Reportedly, people have seen General Lafayette and other ghosts of the Continental Army on the house’s main staircase. Moreover, a ghost of a young woman in a purple and cream gown has been seen in the drawing room, and some have speculated she is the ghost of Peggy Shippen, wife of Benedict Arnold, because Shippen wore a gown similar to the one seen to the last party she attended at the house.

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Katherine Ernst is a full-time novelist and freelance writer in Montgomery County. Follow her activity on her blog at katherineernstwrites.com. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.
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