Thinking about visiting a haunted house this weekend, but can’t find a car? You don’t have to go far! Your very own campus is pretty much a haunted house in itself. Read on to find out more about the ghosts that fill the campus of the University of Pittsburgh, and then watch out next time you’re spending time in these locations, especially during this very haunted season.
1. The Prima Ballerina of the William Pitt Union
The ghost of a ballerina haunts the Tansky Family Lounge of the William Pitt Union. This lounge is found to the left when you enter through the front door of the Union, and is filled with comfy couches and chairs. Legend holds that, decades ago, when the Union was still the ritzy Schenley Hotel, the Russian National Ballet came to stay in the hotel for its US tour beginning in Pittsburgh. The prima ballerina, exhausted from the journey from Russia to the US, decided to take a nap in the lounge and accidentally slept through the opening performance. The company’s director, either so incensed by her missing the premiere, or so impressed by the stage presence of her understudy, decided to replace the prima ballerina with the young upstart for the remainder of the tour. The ballerina was so distraught that she took her own life that night, ashamed and humiliated that she would be replaced by the young understudy.
It is now said if you were to ever take a nap or fall asleep for whatever reason in the Tansky Family Lounge, also known as the Red Room, you will always wake up just in time for whatever exam, class, meeting, appointment, etc. you may have missed. The Prima Ballerina haunts the room to make sure you never succumb to her same fate.
2. Harriet of 1201 Bruce Hall
Bruce Hall in Schenley Quad used to be a hotel as well, and a woman named Harriet is said to haunt it. Legend has it that the man who owned the Schenley Hotel was staying with his wife, Harriet, in 1201 of the building. A devoted wife, Harriet was devastated when she discovered that her husband was having an affair. Harriet and her husband’s mistress both committed suicide in 1201 Bruce Hall. One reportedly jumped to her death from the top of the building, while the other hanged herself from the balcony behind the fireplace.
Today, Room 1201 is a large banquet hall used for receptions. Many waitresses and others who have worked in that room over the years have reported strange experiences and unexplained phenomenon. These mysterious occurrences usually happen late at night when few people are present. Spooky noises, moving objects and ghostly footsteps have all been reported. A fully doused log in the fireplace was even said to have re-ignited by itself into a roaring blaze.
Every Christmas, the office of Special Events hangs a stocking for Harriet in 1201.
3. The Grandmother of the Early American Room
Of the twenty-nine nationality rooms in the Cathedral of Learning, only two are not used. The Syrian-Lebanon Room has real gold on the walls, so students aren’t allowed in. But why can we not go into the Early American Room? Many tour guides at Pitt tell families that it isn’t used because there are real artifacts from American wars in the room. This may be true, but there’s also something spooky about the room – it may be haunted by the ghost of Martha Jane Poe, a distant relative of the always-creepy Edgar Allen Poe.
What many people don’t know about the room is that there is a second floor. An enormous fireplace hides a narrow stairwell leading up to a bedroom. Years ago, E. Maxine Bruhns, the director of Pitt’s nationality rooms, donated a quilt that had belonged to Martha Jane Poe, her grandmother. Ever since, eerie things have been happening in the room.
Custodians have tidied the wrinkled quilt, just to turn around a minute later and see it folded down, with an impression in the pillow as if someone had been sleeping there. Tourists have smelled bread baking in the fireplace – but it hasn’t been used since the 1940s. Others have seen a baby cradle rocking, even though no one else was in the room. Ears of dried corn, hung by Ms. Bruhns herself, have fallen to the floor with no explanation. A picture of Martha Jane Poe placed in a drawer for safe-keeping cracked without being touched. And finally, one night, when Ms. Bruhns decided to spend the night to find out if it was haunted once and for all, her stationary water bottle flew off a chair across the room.
Whether any of this is real or not, I sure am glad the Early American Room is not used for classes.
4. The Mason of Alumni Hall
Alumni Hall was built more than a hundred years ago, but Pitt did not own it until 1993. Prior to that, it belonged to the Freemasons of Pittsburgh, a kind of secret society or fraternity, and it was called the Masonic Temple. Today, there seems to be one mason who never left when the building switched hands from the masons to Pitt. He lurks in the shadows and wears a black tuxedo, and sometimes is spotted walking silently up and down the corridors and stairwells.
So there you have it colleigiettes, the ghosts of the University of Pittsburgh! So watch out this Halloween while you’re out visiting frat row, among the sexy cats and Disney princesses you might run into a ghost that isn’t just a costume.
If you want to learn more about the ghost stories at Pitt, check out Paranormal Pitt by M.L. Swayne, available on Amazon!