The next time you’re at an Alpha Epsilon Pi frat party, you might want to second guess the eerie basement noises.
What is now known as the Alpha Epsilon Pi house is haunted.
The brownstone mansion at the corner of Broad and Norris streets, which was named haunted by the Tri-County Paranormal Research Society, is now inhabited by the Alpha Phi chapter of the Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity.
Previously, the house was owned by the Alpha Delta chapter of the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity until, in 2006, the chapter dissolved and left the property. During years prior, the residents reported the doors of the house opening inexplicably and said they would wake up at night to find someone standing in their rooms – who would disappear when confronted.
After multiple encounters, one of the fraternity members called Bill Horton, technical director of the Tri-County Paranormal Research Society. The Society then brought its team of paranormal experts to investigate these incidents, who collected a sampling of pictures and EVP recordings. On examining these specimens, they discovered the house to be haunted by the ghost of a young servant girl who was distressed over the recent renovations done to the house.
Laurie Hull, director of the Tri-County Paranormal Research Society, said a ghost is “the disembodied essence of a once living human.” These ghosts can inhabit a number of locations, but nine out of 10 times, the ghost found in a house is that of a person who once lived there.
The current AEPi house was built in 1895 and designed by local Victorian architect Willis Hale for the entrepreneur John Stafford and his wife, Eliza. Stafford made his fortune as a real estate developer in North Philadelphia in the years following the Civil War. He built numerous row-houses in the area during the 1880s and 1890s.
In 1895, Stafford commissioned Hale to build a mansion and carriage house for him and his wife, which was completed May 3, 1895. Hale, a follower of the High Victorian Gothic school, was a popular architect for the elite of the industrial age and was regularly in demand to design homes for the those with “new money” because Hale seemed to understand the entrepreneurs’ desires for homes that would reflect their affluence.
Hale’s most famous works include what is now the Divine Lorraine Hotel and what was the most elaborate mansion in North Philadelphia, built for P.A.B. Widener at Girard and Broad streets.
Since the destruction of the Widener mansion by a fire in 1980, the Stafford mansion is considered one of North Philadelphia’s finest surviving mansions. In 1986, the mansion and the adjacent carriage house located in the rear of the mansion were designated historical sites by the Philadelphia Historical Commission.
However, the carriage house was demolished in 1993 because of deterioration due to years of neglect. Families lived in the Stafford mansion until the 1960s, when the Pi Lambda Phi fraternity purchased it. During Pi Lambda’s ownership, they renovated the property extensively from 2001 to 2002, adding a computer lab, re-doing the wiring and expanding the main bathroom.
According to the Tri-County Paranormal Research Society, during the time of Pi Lambda’s renovations, they stirred up something more than just the dust lying behind the walls. According to the investigation records, shortly afterward, the brothers of the fraternity started reporting the doors in the house opening and closing without explanation and the strange figure standing in their rooms at night.
One brother reported returning to his single-bedroom dwelling everyday to find his door open and objects missing. When he accused his brothers of stealing his stuff, they all denied ever entering his room.
One of the brothers, unable to explain the events occurring in their house, contacted Horton, who brought his team of paranormal experts, including Hull, for an investigation on Aug. 2, 2005. Upon their exploration, investigators heard footsteps going up the third floor on the servant’s staircase.
When the stairwell was searched, no one was found, and the third floor door, which only locks from one side, was locked. When the door was examined, dents were found in the middle of the door, almost as if someone had tried to knock it down. The members of the house denied seeing these dents before or trying to break the door themselves.
During the investigation, the team recorded sound clips of unknown voices, known as Electronic Voice Recordings. The recordings featured a voice of an unknown source saying such things as “Help” and “Please let me go.”
One of the Society’s favorite recordings, members said, occurred when Horton and Hull were exploring the third floor, and Horton said the low temperatures of the house made the hair on his knuckles stand up. At that time, they recorded a voice saying, “Hairy knuckles! Hairy knuckles!”
The team also documented its inquiry through numerous photographs, some of which, taken in the basement of the property, capture a translucent figure standing in the background.
To cap the investigation, the group had conducted a traditional séance and tried to communicate with the ghosts. Hull, who lead the séance, found the main ghost causing noises in the house was the ghost of the servant girl. She was only allowed to use the servant’s staircase because the third floor used to be the servant’s quarters. She expressed that she was unable to turn off the lights because they were different than what she was used to.
When investigated, the spot from which the original light fixture used to hang was found, and when asked, the brothers confirmed the light fixtures had been changed during renovations.
Hull reported that during the séance, “a huge wind had blown through,” caused by the ghosts originating from a neighboring funeral parlor. These ghosts were more likely migrating from the funeral home, which used to be located at 2009 N. Broad St. at Morris Rosenberg’s Son, Inc., before it was relocated.
In 2006, Pi Lambda Phi was dissolved, and in 2008, the house was purchased by the Greek Housing Alliance for $775,000 for the AEPi fraternity.
AEPi moved into the property August 2009, after having its move-in time delayed due to a small fire.
“I have yet to witness a ghost,”AEPi President Steven Brecher, a junior history major, said.
So far, the current inhabitants have not encountered major troubles at the haunted mansion – with the exception of a small mouse problem.
Nadia Elkaddi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.