Any city as old as Pittsburgh has its share of ghosts. As fans of both history and things that go bump in the night, Fox and I were delighted to discover that one local organization could serve our interest in both: Haunted Pittsburgh offers a wonderful ghost tour of downtown, sharing tales of the mysterious and macabre with the backdrop of the city skyline.
The week after Halloween, Fox and I caught their very last tour for the year. We convened one brisk evening outside the City-County Building on Grant St; Fox and I were the first to arrive. But soon, a small group of a little over a dozen had gathered, at which point our tour guide, Haydn, promised to take us not to Pittsburgh’s North Side or South Side, but rather to its dark side.
And so the walking tour began! One early stop was right outside the old Allegheny County Jail. There Haydn told us stories about famed criminals, and also Kate Soffel, a warden’s wife who, one dark night, knocked out her husband and helped two inmate brothers escape.
From an underpass near the former site of the Civic Arena, our intrepid guide told us the tale of a ghostly judge — and even more chillingly, about an attempted terrorist attack in 1974 during which the 29th floor of this building, the Gulf Tower, was bombed with dynamite. Fortunately, no new ghosts were made in the incident.
You might not know this spot at first glance, but if you know us (and have x-ray vision), you’d know that this is the back of the building that once housed one of our old favorite haunts, Papa J’s (RIP). In a past life, Papa J’s was Tramps; in a past-past life, it was a boarding house; and in a past-past-past life, it was a brothel, which, without giving anything away, is where the ghosts originated.
Near the end of the tour, we parked ourselves near the Monongahela River, with the glittery lights of Station Square and Mt Washington in the distance, to hear two of Haydn’s best: the story of a bed that may or may not have presaged the assassinations of three different US presidents, and…well, the other tale was a true spine-tingler of the highest order, and I wouldn’t dare spoil it for you.
We heard a half dozen other terrific stories on top of the ones I mentioned, so I highly suggest that next fall, you put a Haunted Pittsburgh Ghost Tour on your to-do list. The whole thing takes about two hours, and tickets were only $15! It’s an absolute steal, and even a Pittsburgh-phile such as myself was able to learn quite a bit!