Brentwood man chronicles battle with haunted house
Bob Cranmer said a blood-like substance was splattered across the walls of his century-old home on Brownsville Road.
Furniture moved on its own. Paintings turned on their sides. Crucifixes were bent and rosary beads were destroyed.
It took faith, an exorcism of the home and a final Mass performed in the basement to rid the house of the evil that resided there for years, according to the family. Now, less than a decade later, Cranmer, 58, has written a book chronicling his family's experiences.
“The Demon of Brownsville Road,” was released on Aug. 5 by Berkley/Penguin group, based in New York.
“I had to write this book because it's true,” Cranmer, said. “Good and evil exists and whether you want to believe it or not is kind of irrelevant.”
Cranmer, who grew up in Brentwood, always admired the home at 3406 Brownsville Road. When he and his family moved back to Brentwood in 1988, the home was on the market and they bought it. Almost immediately they knew something wasn't right, said Cranmer, who served on Brentwood Council and as an Allegheny County commissioner in the 1990s. He also is the president and CEO of Cranmer Consultants, which offers lobbying and other services.
“The house was cold. It didn't have a homey feel to it,” Cranmer's wife, Lesa, 53, said. The house, built in 1909, was designated as a landmark in 1994 by Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation.
Strange things started happening. Bob Cranmer would come home from work to find a chain in the closet, repeatedly wrapped around the light, he said.
In 2004, the increased activity began to “burst out in our face,” Cranmer said.
A “pillar of stench” would move around the home, Cranmer said, and when he splashed it with holy water, it would move. “This stench would move and you could only smell it when you were right next to it,” Cranmer said.
The family sought answers.
“When this started to unmask itself, you want to do something,” Cranmer said. “Who you gonna call? I can't call Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. There are no ‘Ghostbusters,' you know?”
The Penn State Paranormal Research Society, affiliated with the university, inspected the house and found a closed space under the stairwell where items from the house had been hidden.
“It could pass through walls,” Cranmer said. “It could take things in there.”
The activity went in cycles, Cranmer said. “We found ways to push back at it, to make its existence difficult,” he said.
That was done with the help of the Roman Catholic Church, even though the Cranmers at the time were not Catholic, he said.
There was an “infestation” of the home by a “demonic spirit,” said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, spokesman with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh, who was brought in to help rid the home of evil. There also was “oppression,” where the demonic spirit was going after “the people in the house to break down their spirit, break down their faith,” in an attempt to get in, he said.
“We trusted the priests who were in there,” Lengwin said.
An exorcist came from New York to help rid the home of the demonic spirit, Lengwin said.
It took more than two years of fighting with the presence and close work with the Diocese to rid the house of the evil, Cranmer said.
The experience took a toll on the family. The couple's four children, all of whom are now grown, were affected, Cranmer said, each in their own way.
“It was pretty crazy – the end,” Cranmer said. “It didn't end with some big clap of thunder. It ended with this thing defeated.”
The home was featured on the Discovery Channel's “Exorcist Files” in 2011.
Cranmer said he suspected the troubles with the home are tied to the land. Cranmer said he found that a woman and her three children likely were killed and buried by American Indians in the late 1700s near the property.
The Cranmers considered moving, but Lesa Cranmer said selling the home was not an option. This was their fight to win, she said.
“Bob, with his military background, he just doesn't back down. That's not in his vocabulary,” she said.
As for the house, the Cranmers still live there, incident-free since the final Mass on Feb. 24, 2006. They don't think the house would sell even if they tried.
“Who knows, maybe we'll turn this place into a bed and breakfast?” Cranmer said. “But I certainly don't want ‘Ghostbusters' or people coming here to do séances. … We fought a battle to get that stuff out. We're not going to invite it back in again.”
“The Demon of Brownsville Road” is available on Amazon for $8.99 and at Barnes & Noble for $9.99. Details, visit www.demonofbrownsville.com/
Stephanie Hacke is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5818 or [email protected].