Peculiar Pittsburgh

Four Pittsburgh ghost stories you haven’t heard yet

Keep reading — if you dare.

The Incline Illustration
MJ Slaby

It’s not enough for it to just be creepy.

Great ghost stories all have a similar format, said Tim Murray, a co-founder of Haunted Pittsburgh. He said the best stories have a surprise ending — like a punch line to a joke.

His business partner, Michelle Smith, agreed: “The stories have to have something to them.”

So as you’re getting ready for Halloween in the ‘Burgh, here are a few tales to tell.

The case of almost evidence

From Lou Ickes, owner of Brillobox in Bloomfield:

It was maybe 3 or 4 a.m. and Brillobox staffers were still in the bar after closing. All of a sudden, a stack of plates flew off the stand in the kitchen.

Weird things — maybe by ghosts? —had happened before, but this time Lou thought he’d have proof.

The bar had just installed cameras, and he could get the footage on his cell phone. So Lou looked for the moment the plates went flying.

Sure enough, there were the plates, not moving, as an employee walked by in the kitchen. And as soon as he was out of the room (and with the rest of the staff) the plates fell.

Lou thought he finally had proof and started showing the video around.

That was, until the video system mysteriously malfunctioned — and the footage was gone.

But that’s not all.

On the second floor of Brillobox, things move and figures of people are spotted, he said. Sometimes staff members —who HATE being up there alone — would hear something after hours and think someone else was there. But nobody is there.

A customer who said she could sense paranormal activity once told Ickes that there were “multiple agitated entitles” on the second floor.

And that’s where Brillobox will host its first Ghost Story Night at 8 p.m. Sunday. Its staff has talked about hosting a ghost story night for a few years since the bar has had a “few incidents” with ghosts, Ickes said. He’s hoping attendees will have their own encounters to share. 

As for the slew of incidents inside the bar, Ickes said as long as no one gets hurt, he’s fine with it.

“I don’t have any choice,” he said.

A childhood roommate

From Tim Murray and Michelle Smith, founders of Haunted Pittsburgh ghost tours:

There once was a girl who grew up in an apartment on Shiloh Street in Mount Washington. When she was in her bedroom, she had a feeling she wasn’t alone.

The girl did puzzles before bed, and in the morning, there would be just a few more pieces in place. And things would disappear, too.

Once, the girl was in her room with a friend and said that a ring she got for her 13th birthday was one of her most prized possessions. She instantly thought: “Now it will disappear.”

The girl slept that night with her hand clutched tight, but the ring disappeared anyway. By the time she was 18, the girl wanted nothing more than to move out — and she did.

A few years ago, the girl, now grown up, had to go back and stay with her mother for a night and slept in her childhood bedroom.

She hoped whatever was in her room was gone, but she could still feel a presence hovering at the foot of her bed. As she went to sleep, she thought “I bet my new cell phone is gone in the morning.”

When she woke up, the phone was still there. 

But a few days later, she was showing a friend pictures of her dog on her phone, and there were six new pictures: all of her sleeping, taken from the foot of the bed.

The woman told that story to Murray and Smith about four or five years ago.

But in most cases, the duo — who are quick to point out that they are researchers, not tour guides and not ghost hunters — find stories around major historical events and people in Pittsburgh.

“There’s a ghost story connected to almost all of them,” Murray said.

From their research, the duo has crafted tours and new book, which came out earlier this month.

And they said that without question, Downtown, given the number of people and events there, and the Allegheny County Jail are the most haunted places in the city.

No more footage

From Brett McGinnis, co-founder and owner of Ghosts N’at Paranormal Adventures:

Once, while on an investigation, Brett turned to talk to another member of the group. He had a video camera in his hand, but wasn’t recording, and he felt a little tug while he was talking.

At first, he thought the camera was hooked on something, maybe his clothes. But then the pulling stopped and the camera slid comfortably back into his hand.

It was in the same building, but at a different time, that Brett turned on a recorder.

When he listed to the playback, a voice said “Die Brett.”

Both of these things happened to McGinnis at the Greene County Historical Society Museum in Waynesburg, Pa.

McGinnis and TJ Porfeli are the founders and owners of Ghosts N’at, which takes groups to places were investigators have been and experienced paranormal activity. (That can be anything from voices to shadow people to even balls of light.)

The museum in Greene County is the most haunted spot that they take groups, McGinnis said. All of the locations are historic, because this is a way of preserving history, just a different way, he said.

Eerie electric

From Eric Kukura, one of owners of The Abbey on Butler Street in Central Lawrenceville:

Eric is not one to believe in ghosts, but if there’s anything that would convince him, it’s the electric at The Abbey on Butler.

When crews were renovating the former funeral home into the coffeehouse/restaurant/bar combo it is now, they constantly blew fuses.

And now the lighting sometimes flickers, unexplainably.

Refinery 29 / Giphy

Kukura said he tries to be mindful that that people in the neighborhood had funerals for their family members at what’s now The Abbey. As a funeral home, the building “saw Pittsburgh’s greatest generation off, try to be respectful of that,” he said.

But it is a former funeral home at Halloween, so The Abbey will have several events for the holiday, starting tonight and including a movie showing and a Sunday brunch with costumes.

Kukura said a customer who could sense paranormal activity told him that the ghosts “liked the renovations, but were just confused” because they couldn’t float around like they did before. He said he’s happy with that description of the ghosts.

“Hopefully, they leave good Yelp reviews,” Kukura joked.