Top 7 Historical Haunts in Montgomery County
The scent of pipe tobacco … gunpowder … iron … ash. The creak of old floorboards … The touch of a draft against the back of your neck. Montgomery County plays host to dozens of historical buildings. In fact, there's nowhere better to go than Pennsylvania for a taste of American history. But that cultural capital brings a spate of unexplainable events: a swish of skirts on the stairs, a doorknob rattling in the middle of the night, a child's voice on the wind.
Is historic Montco truly haunted? We'll leave that to the experts. In the meantime, we compiled a list of the most intriguing reports of paranormal activity in Montco.
- Selma Mansion
Selma Mansion was originally built in Norristown sometime between 1800 and 1815 by General Andrew Porter. The land later passed into the hands of the Knox family, three of whose four children died in early childhood. Colonel Thomas P. Knox, a state senator, died at Selma Farm in 1879 at the age of 70. The mansion was passed on to Joseph Fornance and Ellen Knox, the only surviving descendent of Thomas P. Knox. She gave birth to three children, Joseph, Eleanor and Lois. In 1893, 10 year old Eleanor passed away. For the next century, the building moved between families, until it was abandoned in 1983.
Local ghost detectives now believe the house is haunted by the Knox children. The Norristown Preservation Society has hosted Ghost Tours and Witches Teas at Selma Mansion, and as recently as 2017, the building played host to National Ghost Hunting Day.
- Rising Sun Inn
Rising Sun Inn in Telford, Pa, was built in 1739. Under the name Gerhart's Tavern, the building played an essential role in the 1777 movement of the Liberty Bell and as a stop on the Underground Railroad. Nowadays, visitors to the inn claim it is haunted by Scary Mary, a former innkeeper there.
In fact, reports of paranormal activity prompted the owner to contact the City Lights Paranormal Society in 2010. The team that came to investigate the claims caught strange voices and ghostly appearances on film. In 2012, the building was featured on My Ghost Story on A&E.
- General Wayne Inn
Known throughout its 300-year history by several different names, including William Penn Inn, Wayside Inn, Tunis Ordinary and Streepers Tavern, the General Wayne Inn in Merion, Pa, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Named after "Mad Anthony" Wayne, the inn played host to prominent figures including George Washington, the Marquis de Lafayette and Edgar Allen Poe. In 1970, prominent New Jersey mediums attested that the building was haunted by several spirits, including Hessian soldiers.
The inn closed in 2004 after facing financial difficulties and, in 2005, converted into a community center and synagogue.
- Valley Forge National Historical Park
Valley Forge Park is the location of George Washington's notorious winter encampment during the Revolutionary War. Approximately 2,000 soldiers died at the hands of Mother Nature at Valley Forge, despite no actual combat taking place. The Continental Army's time at Valley Forge has come to symbolize the perseverance and sacrifice of Americans in that time.
While official events at the park include historical reenactments, some visitors insist that they see ghostly figures of military men among the park's rolling hills and dogwood trees. Perhaps some of the soldiers couldn't shake that perseverance that came to define them, and still linger on the lands, waiting for the battle that never came …
- Graeme Park and the Keith House
Graeme Park in Horsham, Pa, is a National Historic Landmark that made its entrance on the American stage die before reaching adulthood. Against his will, Graeme's daughter Elizabeth married Henry Hugh Fergusson, a British Loyalist during the American Revolution. After America gained its independence, Fergusson returned to England, abandoning his wife in her fight with the colonial government and the Confiscation Act of 1778. Elizabeth lived in the mansion until 1791, when she sold it to Dr. William Smith. Later, in 1801, the mansion was sold again to the Penrose family, where it stayed until Welsh Strawbridge purchased it in 1920. Today, the Keith House and Graeme Park are property of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Supposedly, visitors have reported seeing a servant named Gretta, who had died in a fire on the grounds, and Elizabeth's ghost roaming Graeme Park over the years. The stories focus on Elizabeth's presence on the staircase: footsteps, voices and rustling skirts moving up and down the stairs. Other reports of paranormal activity involve the scent of pipe tobacco, clattering pots, unexplained voices and floating orbs. Today, the Friends of Graeme Park host Haunted Lantern Tours during Halloween season.
- Paoli Battlefield Historical Park
In 1777, British troops used bayonets to kill 53 and wound over 100 Americans led by General Anthony Wayne at Paoli, Pa. The surprise attack came to be known as the Paoli Massacre, a key rallying cry against British abuses during the Revolutionary War. (General "Mad Anthony" Wayne gained his nickname for conducting a similar attack in retaliation against the British in 1779.)
Nowadays, the Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund hosts paranormal tours to investigate nine "hotspots" of paranormal activity on the grounds.
- Abington Presbyterian Church
The Abington Presbyterian Church in Abington, Pa, was founded in 1714 by a group of 70 worshipers. The grounds of Abington Cemetery were used by American soldiers during the Revolutionary War to resist raiding British troops. As a result of the poverty and distress of the Revolutionary War, the church community suffered, and the new Rev. William Tennent spearheaded the effort to deconstruct the old church and build a new one across the street. On October 6, 1895, the church burned down in a fire.
Some ghost hunters attest that the church is haunted by a child who stands in the windows, disturbed by the movement of the cemetery from one side of the road to the other. Now, the Old York Road Historical Society hosts Halloween Cemetery Crawls at this location.
Whether it's mysterious smells, unexplained sounds, or ghostly apparitions — Montgomery County certainly seems to be a center for paranormal activity. As Halloween approaches, it might be worth going out to investigate some of these reports. Just be considerate of the locations' hours of operation and willingness to host visitors. For your own safety, don't trespass. Consider joining one of the seasonal ghost hunting tours hosted by Montco's various historical societies.