Since its beginnings as one of America's first cities, Philadelphia has been one of the nation's most important historical sites. Everything there is steeped in patriotic history, including Philadelphia ghost stories. Similar to the ghost stories of Massachusetts, tales of haunted Philadelphia often revolve around figures you hear about in history class. You always knew about Benjamin Franklin's vices - books and women - but did you know he still chases them both even in death? The old city section, where Franklin still reportedly makes appearances, is replete with sites dating back to the American Revolution and even earlier.
Capitalizing on these pieces of Pennsylvania's creepy history, the city offers a variety of ghost tours to residents and visitors. Philadelphia ghost stories take place in a variety of locations, from old cemeteries, to state prisons, insane asylums, even ghostly ships. Many of these scary stories date back to a time before America even existed, and their longevity speaks to Philadelphia's impressive attempts to preserve its history. But along with Ben Franklin, other famous historical figures do their best to make sure their history is still remembered by the living, even if it takes a little spooking.
Screams Emanate From Beneath Byberry Mental HospitalPhoto: Langenheim And Company / Wikimedia Commons
What old city's collection of ghost stories doesn't include a mental hospital? The Byberry Mental Hospital is apparently haunted by various tortured patients who endured horrific treatment within its walls. For more than a century its sordid secrets remained just that, but in 1990 authorities closed it down permanently due to the deplorable living conditions and allegations of abuse against patients. The hospital has a complex series of catacombs beneath it, where most of the paranormal activity takes place. Visitors and researchers enter the catacombs only to emerge minutes later, screaming and crying. Reports of moans and desperate screams continue to frighten anyone who approached the hospital buildings, of which only a few remain.
Never Go Alone To The Bishop White HousePhoto: National Park Service/Public Domain / National Park Service
In American terms, Philadelphia is an old city. Naturally - or perhaps, "supernaturally" - it is expected to have more than the average number of ghosts. So, when visitors learn that the House of Bishop William White is considered absolutely the most haunted place in Old City Philly, they must surely realize the import. Closely guarded, the Bishop house requires visitors to make an appointment to visit.
Bishop White, a Revolutionary patriot, was among a precious few colonial leaders not to flee the city during a yellow fever epidemic. A good guy, kind and compassionate, White administered care to the sick like a saint, and no mysteries surround his death either. Nevertheless, for years park rangers have spoken of feeling very ill-at-ease when patrolling the property and expressly request not to have to work alone there, or to be there at night under any circumstances. Apparently a thin pale man can be seen peering out the library's window, the same place where White passed away. Other spectres include an old housekeeper and a ghostly cat.
Fears And Tears Reported At The Betsy Ross HousePhoto: Prof Reader / Wikimedia Commons
One of the more popular stops in the Old City of Philadelphia is the Betsy Ross House. Historians are actually not sure if the legendary colonial American woman ever lived there, but it's a good story enjoyed by tourists. Whether or not Ross dwelt there in life, her ghost apparently enjoys paying regular visits. Some claim to see Ross sitting in tears at the foot of a bed in the house basement. A tour guide at the house also reported that she'd heard a ghostly "Pardon me" come from the basement kitchen. While it makes sense to be Ross's spirit, another strong candidate could be that of a female gift shop employee who was tragically murdered there some years ago in the middle of a robbery.
The Curious, Studious Ghosts At The American Philosophical SocietyPhoto: Popular Science Monthly / Wikimedia Commons
This ghost story is yet another that stars Philadelphia's most honored Founding Father (and all around gadfly), Benjamin Franklin. His presence continues to be felt all around the city, but perhaps most of all in the old city, where he lived, flirted, politicked, worked, and finally, died. He founded the prestigious American Philosophical Society, whose beautiful buildings still grace the Revolutionary area of Philadelphia. Almost right after Franklin passed away he began showing up in these buildings, moving books and papers around, much to the concern and annoyance of the living folk working there. In the 1880s, supposedly a cleaning woman caught Franklin in the act of shuffling things around, confronted, and then lectured him on how to be a gentleman. In recent years he has shown up in iPhone photos taken by tourists, and will supposedly pinch women's butts.