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Ghosts of the University of Pittsburgh

By Notyourbroom - Own work, CC BY 3.0,
Cathedral of Learning – University of Pittsburgh. Image by Bill Price – Wikipedia

The University of Pittsburgh obtained its school charter on Feb. 28, 1787 from the Pennsylvania Legislature and is located in the Oakland section of the city of Pittsburgh. The campus and grounds comprise about 132 acres. At the college is Bruce Hall, a dormitory building, and 1201 Bruce Hall which was, many years prior, the Penthouse Suite of the previous Schenley Apartments.

1201 Bruce Hall has been the site of local paranormal activity which include weird frosty drafts that cause kitchen cabinet doors to open, then close to the astonishment of by standers. Elevators will arrive to the twelfth floor without passengers pushing the buttons. On other occasions the sounds of footsteps, voices when no-one ought be there and students that report a strange feeling of being watched are some of the spooky phenomena that have been accounted for.

Bruce hall - Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh
Bruce Hall – Courtesy of University of Pittsburgh

Many patrons believe the ghostly effects are from at least two spirits who were the wife and the mistress of the man who owned the Schenley in the 1920’s; both of these women committed suicide in 1201 Bruce Hall. One woman was said to have hanged herself in the balcony behind the fireplace and the other woman jumped off the building. From that point forward, understudies and cooking staff have reported listening to unexplained strides in the stairwells, and an immaterial lady’s voice. Some say there were the times the chimney mysteriously reignited itself, and napkins on a dinner table all of a sudden unfurled themselves.

There are at least two other haunted sites at the University of Pittsburgh. The first  is the what remains of the former childhood house of Mary Elizabeth Croghan Schenley (1826-1903);  a famous philanthropist to the city of Pittsburgh. This was the Greek Revival Ballroom and once part of the William Croghan Jr. mansion built  around 1830. The ball room and an adjoining parlor was intended for his daughter Mary. However Mary secretly eloped at the age of 15 with Captain Edward Schenley of the British Army, nearly three times her senior and set sail to England much to disgrace of her father. The couple stayed overseas despite the attempts of Croghan to relocate the family to the Pittsburgh mansion. It is claimed that the polluted air of heavy industrialized Pittsburgh prohibited young Mary from returning as she had asthma. William Croghan died in 1850 and Mary inherited his estimated $ 50 million dollar fortune. She donated gifts of land that ultimately became the sites for West Penn Hospital, the Western PA Institute for the Blind, the Newsboys Home, and Schenley Park. The historic Fort Pit Block House, built during the French & Indian war in 1764  was also a Mary Schenley donation.

Eventually the property Croghan’s mansion was built on was sold to William Miller, a wealthy steel manufacturer and torn down. In the 1940’s the ballroom and parlor with all the  lavish settings were relocated to the Cathedral of Learning at the University and renamed the Schenely-Croghan Room.

Schenely-Croghan Room
Schenely-Croghan Room
Mary Schenley
           Mary Schenley – Wikipedia

There, a beautiful crystal chandelier  at times, sways for no apparent reason; some people believe ghostly hands push it around. It is rumored that a false fireplace chamber exists in which the apparition of Mary Schenley lives.

Lastly, in one of the 23 nationality rooms of the Cathedral of Learning-the Early American Room, different college understudies have asserted, for a long time, that an apparition roams around the premises. The ghost of Martha Jane Poe, a relative to Edgar Allen Poe is said to mischievously  unravel bed covers and even rocks an old rocking chair still located in the room.

Source of material: the book “Ghost Stories of Pittsburgh and Allegheny County” by Beth E. Trapani and Charles J. Adams III. Exeter House Books 1994.

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