Skip to main content

A peculiar haunting in Pittsburgh

Historic photo of Pittsburgh's South Side


In 1889 and 1890, several residents of Pittsburgh's Southside were frightened by the ghostly figures of a man and his dog who reguarly haunted an area near the Allegheny Riverfront Park. The following story appeared in the Pittsburgh Dispatch on April 19, 1890.




A number of people on the Southside are violently excited over the re-appearance of a gruesome apparition which startled many people during August and September of last year. As Mrs. G.M. Groetz, a well-known lady living on Chesham street, was proceeding to her residence by way of Carson and Twenty-third streets, at about 8:30 P.M. Wednesday, she was startled by the rushing past her of a male figure, very short and stout, and draped in a long cloak or overcoat. The strange thing about the figure was that it made no noise whatsoever, although walking in great haste. About a yard behind limped a small black dog, apparently of the terrier breed. The two proceeded in an exact diagonal across the waste patch between Twenty-third and Twenty-fourth streets, disappearing in the direction of the river.

A Sudden Disappearance


Mrs. Goetz became very faint and called for aid. John Ellis, an employe of Main's circus, and Albert Reizinhanger, rushed in pursuit of the figure and overtook man and dog on Twenty-third street near the river. The apparition crossed the railroad tracks and stood for a second on the river bank. Then man and dog disappeared, and no sign could be discovered of their whereabouts.


On Thursday evening as Ellis was attending to the circus horses on Twenty-fourth street, a little boy told him that the same man and dog were passing along Carson. Ellis leaped out on the sidewalk and saw the strange pair some 30 yards ahead. He gave chase, and soon overtook them. Attempting to touch the figure on the shoulder, he avers that his fingers encountered no substance there, and that the apparition did not even turn around. He was dumbfounded, and allowed the vision to pass.


Hit, But Not Hurt


Some of the small boys on the street now began to pelt the dog with stones, but though the animal was apparently hit several times, it neither quickened nor abated its steady pace. Once more the pair disappeared toward the river. When Ellis looked at his watch he found that the vision had appeared at exactly the same time as on the previous night.


Last night quite a crowd collected at Twenty-eighth street, attracted by the reports of ghosts. Surely enough, at 8:30 o'clock man and dog appeared, when an indescribable scene occurred. Women shrieked, strong men turned pale and attempted to retreat. Only two individuals were found plucky enough to accost the apparitions. These were Lieutenant Johnson and Mr. E.H. Devlin, of Allentown. The lieutenant put his arm before the figure, but to all appearances the mysterious thing walked clear through that sinewy member and passed noiselessly on its way. No attempt was made by any of the crowd to follow.


A very large concourse is expected at the spot to-night and a double force of police may have to be placed on duty. No one has as yet been able to discern the features of the mysterious unknown.

Popular posts from this blog

Mount Carmel's Mysterious Suicide Cell

Tucked away at the head of North Oak Street in Mount Carmel is a quaint shop housed in a tiny historic brick building. The Shop at Oak & Avenue is a must-see destination for visitors, offering an impressive variety of gifts and handmade jewelry. It is a gem in an otherwise drab coal town whose glory days faded away with the demise of the steam locomotive and the trolley.

While this quaint small town gift shop gives off a pleasant appearance, the history of the building-- one of the oldest in the borough-- is tinged with horror and death. For this tiny building, erected in the 1880s, served as Mount Carmel's first city hall and jail, and this jail had a rather dark distinction of being the site of the cursed and mysterious "suicide cell".

History records six suicides taking place in the basement cell, along with scores of other attempted suicides. For a reason that has defied explanation, this tiny jail in this tiny town seems to bring out the darkest demons lurking wi…

The True Story of Shamokin's Famous "Mystery Head"

Hardly a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a Pennsylvania Oddities reader asking me to write about the Shamokin "mystery head"-- yes, the very same human head, complete with curly hair and mustache, that was put on display in the window of the Farrow Funeral Home (presumably to show off the establishment's embalming abilities) and later displayed at a local mining museum. The head belonged to an unidentified murder victim whose headless body was found in the woods near the Hickory Ridge colliery in 1904, and the head has been a source of local pride and urban legend ever since.

I've resisted the urge to write about the "mystery head" for a few reasons. Having grown up in the area, I heard about it so many times that the story has worn thin. Secondly, the erroneous local legends and false claims are probably a lot more entertaining than the actual truth about the "mystery head". These local legends run the gamut from plausible to …

Mount Carmel's Night of Terror: The Strantz & Yorkavage Crime Spree of 1937

On the evening of April 9, 1937, two bandits with their guns blazing left a trail of carnage through the sooty streets of Mount Carmel and Shamokin. For one of the gunmen, the trail came to a bloody end in Diamondtown after a shootout with police. For the other gunman, the trail led to the electric chair at Rockview State Penitentiary, with 2,000 volts of electricity coursing through his body.



The Ballad of Joe Cabbage and Wild Wally

A reunion of sorts took place in January of 1937, after Joseph Yorkavage was paroled from the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury. Known to his friends as "Joe Cabbage", the notorious ruffian was released on the 25th and, oddly enough, this was the very same day Yorkavage's best friend, Walter Strantz, was paroled from the infamous Eastern State penitentiary in Philadelphia.

Back in 1919, "Joe Cabbage" was one of three men who staged a failed train robbery in Centralia. The three men dynamited the tracks and then hid in the bus…