Ghostly tales abound along the Lincoln Highway
When Roberta Smith locks the Compass Inn at the end of the work day, she always remembers to say good night to those ghostly visitors who might be staying behind.
“Yes, I do believe there are spirits on the property, but I believe they are good spirits,” said Smith, who is the program coordinator at the 18th century inn, located along Route 30 in Laughlintown. “I tell them good night when I leave and good morning when I arrive. I think they are just going about their business.”
Smith and other Compass Inn docents and volunteers were at the inn last weekend to tell tales about this experience and other ghostly encounters at the Halloween Hauntings candlelight tour of the grounds.
Smith said she includes bidding farewell at various locations throughout her nightly lock down routine.
“If I do not say good night, I usually have problems getting the lock to work,” she said.
Another part of her routine is closing the shutters on all the windows and securing the shutter pins.
“The shutter pins are out when I come in the next morning, when I know that I put them in the previous night,” she said.
Smith said it is not unusual to hear footsteps in the parlor or kitchen on the first floor when she is with visitors on the second floor, knowing they are the only people in the building at the time. She said she finds the bathroom doors open in the morning after locking them at night.
“I’ve ruled out everything for these occurrences,” Smith said. “I’ve second guessed myself, checked to see if cleaning people may have opened bathrooms or maybe someone was walking across the front porch.”
Former innkeeper Jim Koontz has also discovered the shutter pins undone. He also said artifacts displayed on tables would be moved overnight.
“I would be certain to lock the shutters, but when I came back the next morning one or two would be hanging loose. You can’t access the pins from the outside,” Koontz said. “Often knives and forks would be turned over on the table.”
Koontz said a paranormal group performed an investigation on the property in 2012. The psychic mediums reported young boys giggling in the loft of the blacksmith shop. Koontz said the boys who helped the blacksmith would sleep in the loft area.
After one school group toured the inn, a student wrote a letter saying he enjoyed the tour but was frightened by the little girl under the kitchen table.
According to Koontz, no one at the inn was portraying a young girl on the tour.
He did say that one of the original owner’s daughters was scalded by boiling water in the kitchen and later died from her injuries.
Smith said it is not unusual to smell pipe tobacco smoke or whiskey in the parlour or the smell of a burning fire in the fire place where there is no fire burning.
A reenactor once reported seeing a man dressed like a frontiersman sitting on the front porch. The inn has never had chairs on the front porch.
The inn is not the only historic museum to experience supernatural phenomenon. A few miles down the Lincoln Highway, at Fort Ligonier, mysterious incidents can only be explained away as ghostly.
“Ghosts and Legends of Fort Ligonier,” a book written by Cassandra Fell and Dr. Walter L. Powell questions the possibilities of lingering spirits at the reconstructed fort and museum galleries. After all, the fort was the scene of countless tragedies during the French and Indian War period.
One story tells of visitors who claim to see the eyes of the portraits of Sir John Ligonier and Sir John St. Clair moving in the Gallery of Portraits in the museum.
A museum employee reported seeing the image of Phoebe St. Clair standing in the parlour in a yellow silk dress and the sounds of someone entertaining in the St. Clair room at the museum. When the employee was shown St. Clair’s wedding dress, she claimed it was the same dress.
“I always get a strange feeling when I walk by the St. Clair room,” said employee Candace Gross, who has worked as a secretary at the fort for 15 years. “I get the feeling of a presence, but it doesn’t spook me. It makes me want to know more about it.”
Gross said visitors and other employees said they heard knocking, bagpipes playing or glasses clinking. Gross said the encounters were more frequent during the renovation of the museum several years ago.
To learn more about the legends of Fort Ligonier, the book is available at the fort’s gift shop.
After the Lincoln Highway Corridor Group purchased the Kingston House near Latrobe to house the Lincoln Highway Experience Museum, they were approached by members of Ghost Research in Pennsylvania to investigate the historic stone house built by Alexander Johnston in 1815.
Olga Herbert the group’s executive director participated in the investigation with members of GRIP.
“I was more receptive that I thought I would be,” said Herbert of the scientific experience involving five teams armed with sensory recorders. “We explored each room in an orderly way and returned to the front entryway to share our experiences.”
Herbert say three spirits were detected in the house. An image of a female was discovered in Herbert’s office.
“They said she was looking towards Ligonier,” she said.
A man and a boy were identified on the third floor and a female was believed to be in a first floor office.
“They sensed her name started with ‘M’,” said Herbert. “Here at the office, we have named her Mae. When something goes missing in the building, we say Mae took it.”
When descendants of the Johnston family visited the house months later, an elderly woman walked into that same room and said this must have been Mimi’s room.
More tales about the haunted Lincoln Highway are available in two books, “Ghosts of the Lincoln Highway,” by Bruce Carlson and “Route 30 Pennsylvania’s Haunted Highway” by New Florence author Ed Kelemen. The books are available at The Lincoln Highway Experience Museum gift shop and Second Chapter Books.
Deborah A. Brehun is a staff editor for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-238-2111 or [email protected].