Philadelphia’s colonial history leaves behind remnants of the past to haunt historic sites.
Philadelphia has a rich history, but it comes with some baggage–paranormal baggage.
Young people who enjoy television programs or movies exploring the supernatural should take advantage of the haunted sites throughout the city.
The Original Ghost Tour
The Original Ghost Tour is a simple way to get a crash course in Philadelphia’s haunted history.
“It’s a neat way to preserve the folklore and history,” said Eileen Reeser, a tour guide with 15 years experience. “That’s what we like about doing these tours. You’re kind of sharing some of this history, but its through ghost stories.”
The Original Ghost Tour offers a candlelit walking tour as well as a 20-site trolley tour.
Even for a veteran like Reeser, bumping shoulders with the supernatural can be unpredictable.
“The creepiest thing that happened on the nightly walking tour I used to give was in [the] St. Peter’s Church graveyard,” Reeser said. “We tell the story of the woman who haunts it. One of the customers took a picture during the story and this thing was in the background of the picture–half of the group ran out of the cemetery.”
Ghost-hunting opportunities are also available. Participants are supplied with electromagnetic field meters.
“On the ghost hunting tours, I know a lot of the guys had experiences in the Powel house,” Reeser said.
Samuel Powel was the last Philadelphia mayor under British rule, and the first Philadelphia mayor after the Revolution.
“They have a few different ghost stories associated with property,” Reeser said. “During the tour they’ve had some unusual things happen. Mainly, after the group has left the tour, they can still hear people in the ballroom. They think they are still partying, because they have given great parties there.”
Betsy Ross House
Philadelphia’s haunted sites attract more than just first-time ghost chasers.
The Betsy Ross House at 239 Arch St. was featured on the season five premiere of the television show “Ghost Hunters.” A common ghost tale attached to the house involves a security guard who was shot outside the location in 1980.
“To be honest, I wasn’t expecting them to find anything,” said Lisa Moulder, director of the Betsy Ross House who worked closely with the ghost hunters and was on the March 2009 episode.
“I had heard stories, but I’ve been working for the Betsy Ross House since 2000 and I have never experienced anything there,” Moulder added.
However, Moulder’s skepticism of a supernatural presence in the house significantly decreased after the show’s investigation.
“I was pretty shocked to hear the recordings they had gotten,” Moulder said. “Particularly the ones from the room next to my office–that freaked me out.”
Although Moulder’s main goal is to legitimize the historical value of the Betsy Ross House, she believes being featured on “Ghost Hunters” benefited the house.
“People who would have never visited the house otherwise suddenly had an interest,” Moulder said.
In the 18th Century, the City Tavern was the Saturday dining spot for members of the Second Continental Congress. It was also where Paul Revere rode to announce that the British government was closing the Boston port.
Today, it’s rumored to be where ghosts reside.
The original building burned down in 1854 during a wedding reception. The young bride who perished during the fire is said to haunt the building, which was rebuilt in 1973.
According to Reeser, the bride is not the only spirit that haunts the City Tavern.
“We did get first hand accounts from employees at City Tavern around 12 to 15 years ago,” Reeser said. “We’ve heard from people that a ghost of a man appears in the backyard. The spirit of the woman is on the top floor.”
Edgar Allan Poe House
Although Poe is often associated with Baltimore, his time in Philadelphia is not to be forgotten. It’s where he wrote some of his most chilling tales, such as “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Masque of Red Death.”
Adam Duncan, of the house’s Public Affairs Office, said Halloween is an opportune time for a visit to Poe’s former residence.
“A lot of people identify Edgar Allan Poe with Halloween, especially his darker stories,” Duncan said. “I think it’s a natural connection between the two.”
Although there are no known ghost stories connected to the house, the idea that Poe haunts the city of Philadelphia is well-known.
“They say they’ve seen his spirits up by the Fairmount Water Works,” Reeser said.
She added that Poe is believed to have contemplated suicide there.
His spirit’s connection to the city may be within reason. According to Reeser, Poe mysteriously spent two weeks in Philadelphia near the date of his death.
“Poe is a big part of Philadelphia, and Philadelphia is a big part of Edgar Allan Poe,” Duncan said.
Whether one is a supernatural skeptic or a bona fide believer, Philadelphia is rich with historical sites fitting for a Halloween season visit.
“Not everyone wants to hear a history lessons, especially younger kids,” Reeser said. “But when they’re walking away talking about the ghost stories, they’re actually talking about history. It makes history a little more fun.”
Information regarding The Original Ghost Tour can be found on ghosttour.com. College Night Ghost Hunt is every Thursday in October.
Jenelle Janci can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.