Mythical Monday:  The Ghosts of Baker Mansion by Mae Clair

Today, I’m shining the Mythical Monday spotlight on an infamous residence located within my home state of Pennsylvania. The Baker Mansion is a Greek Revival-style house, located in Altoona. Built in 1849 for Elias Baker, a prominent local ironmaster, this twenty-eight room home has a colorful assortment of ghosts residing within.

Baker Mansion in Altoona Pennsylvania

Baker Mansion in Altoona, Pennsylvania. Image by Pubdog (Own work) [Public domain or CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

Most of the attention goes to Anna, Elias’s daughter. A beautiful girl by all accounts, Anna fell in love with one of her father’s workers. The young man presented Anna with an engagement ring but when the happy couple shared the news with her father, Elias flew into a rage and drove off Anna’s suitor. A rich, powerful man, it’s believed Elias thought the poor boy unworthy, of lower breeding.

Heartbroken and bitter, Anna vowed if she couldn’t marry the man she loved, she would become a spinster. True to her word, she died single and alone in 1914. Many say she remained angry at her father all of her life for stealing her single chance at happiness. Perhaps that’s why her ghost haunts the home he prized, with particular attachment to a wedding dress displayed in her bedroom.

In 1922, the Blair County Historical Society made the mansion their headquarters and turned it into a museum. One of the items placed on display was an antique wedding dress worn by Elizabeth Bell, the daughter of another wealthy ironmaster.  Although the dress has since been removed to preserve the fragile fabric, over the years it gained a reputation for being “haunted.” Sealed in a glass case, the skirts of the gown were often seen swaying as if to the stroll of a woman’s light gait. Other times, witnesses observed the dress rocking violently, the case shaken so badly it was feared the glass would shatter.

Some speculate Anna’s ghost is at fault for these outbursts, reacting to the presence of a gown she never had a chance to wear. But Anna isn’t the only ghost haunting Baker Mansion. Her brother, David, once a crew member on a steamboat, prowls the basement.

Why there?

In the winter of 1852, David met his end in a steamboat accident. Because the ground was frozen, his body was stored in the cellar until the soil thawed enough for him to be buried. Some visitors have reported hearing chill screams coming from the basement; others tell of seeing a man in a steamboat uniform lurking in the shadows.

And then there is Hetty, Elias’ wife. An older woman dressed in black has often been seen on the stairs and roving about the third floor hallways. Many think this particular phantom is Elias’ wife. The ironmaster himself is known to make occasional appearances in the dining room. Ghostly figure descending steps

Finally, Anna’s brother Sylvester prefers to linger in the parlor where he died of a heart attack. Legend says he stood up from the sofa to retire one evening, suffered a fatal heart attack and collapsed. Pressure pads under the carpet—part of a security system installed in the 1980s—have been activated in that area when no one is present. The spot where Sylvester collapsed has even been crushed, as if someone had fallen on it.

Once, when a police officer responded to an alarm with his K-9 German Shepherd, the dog reacted as if sensing an unseen presence in the parlor. As trained, it immediately began sniffing and searching for a prowler but when the dog reached the parlor, it froze in the doorway, quickly turned, and fled from the house. This highly trained service animal could not be coaxed back inside.

Cold spots, moving furniture, knocking raps, orbs reflected in mirrors, even a music box that randomly plays and stops—all these events and more have plagued the Baker Mansion. Listed as one of the nine most haunted houses in America by Life Magazine in 1981, it continues to draw interested visitors and those hoping to experience a shiver of the supernatural.

Have you ever visited a haunted house? As much as I enjoy mythical stories, I wouldn’t want to set foot in one! How about you?

18 thoughts on “Mythical Monday:  The Ghosts of Baker Mansion by Mae Clair

  1. Great post! You know, Mae, after you read and commented on my post about Spooks in Dracula’s country, that I am highly interested in such topics. Paranormal and extraterrestrial existence are my favorite. I recall having read a while ago a list of the most haunted objects. The wedding dress that dances on its own, you mention in your interesting post, was somewhere at the top of the list. I do believe in the presence of ghosts as spirits that are looking for vengeance or imprisoned on earth for bad things they did during life. I visited years ago the haunted house we have in my town – Braila –Romania. I went, together with my pupils, to the elderly people living in the house that is now an old people’s home and took them some gifts for Christmas. As we were a relatively large group I can’t say I noticed anything odd, but it’s a well known fact the house is haunted by the poor woman killed by her old, jealous husband, many years ago.

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    • Carmen, how nice that you took gifts to those elderly residents. I wonder if they ever noticed anything unusual within the walls of that home. I think the elderly (like children and animals) are more apt to glimpse apparitions, as if they’re closer to that world.

      And yes, the haunted wedding dress of Baker Mansion has quite a history. I believe there have been TV shows that touched on it, and many articles. Apparently, Life Magazine had a number of problems when trying to photograph the dress in 1981. Malfunctions and problems they couldn’t explain!

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  2. What a busy house. So much psychic disturbance must generate a lot of energy there. Yes, I’ve visited several buildings that are said to be haunted and I have smelled the trace of cigar smoke left by one ghost at the Station Hotel in Dudley, England. I didn’t see the gentleman and thankfully he didn’t pinch me as he has a reputation for doing to female guests.
    I think the most difficult place I’ve visited is the dungeon at Warwick Castle, it is overwhelming and I couldn’t stay in there very long. I was glad to leave it and see the sun.

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    • Oh, Daisy, you are far braver than I am.

      I stayed in a haunted hotel once (but only because I found out it was haunted AFTER I booked my reservation) but I don’t think I could ever set foot in a dungeon . . . especially if there was any chance of lingering spirits. I’d much rather chase the Mothman than cross paths with a being from the spirit world.

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  3. You just knew you would get my attention with this post, didn’t you! Very interesting and very creepy… In answer to your question, I have visited haunted houses and I actually lived in one for awhile. The ghost had a habit of turning on the t. v. (no remotes back then, just a pull out knob) and rocking in the rocking chair…

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    • Yes, I thought of you as I was writing this one, my friend 🙂 And I forgot that you had lived in a haunted house. The TV would freak me out. And the rocking chair? Waaaay too creepy for me! I probably wouldn’t have lasted a night. I am such a wuss, LOL.

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  4. Fascinating post! The house is beautiful. I hope the spirits get some happiness there. As a kid one of my friends had a two story house purported to be haunted. For some reason, her bedroom was painted black. Another room was bright red. When I stayed overnight at her house, I didn’t see anything incorporeal, but her mother got a big bang out of creeping down the stairs to scare us. Yes, I would like to visit a haunted house, or castle in particular, as long as the spirits stay there and don’t accompany me out.

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    • Flossie, you hit precisely on the reason why I won’t visit any place reputed to be haunted. I don’t want an unwelcome guest following me home!

      Your friend’s mother sounds like she had a lot of fun that night you slept over. My brother and his friends once did something simliar to me and several of my girlfriends, completely freaking us out by scratching on the second floor window of my bedroom with a tree branch. It was night and we were in the middle of attempting a seance. Talk about a bunch of twittering frightened girls!

      I do hope Anna and her young man were able to connect in the afterlife.I felt so badly reading her story.

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  5. *Shivers* I love haunted house tales, but don’t every want to experience one. A great Haunted House read, if anyone is looking, is Jennifer Crusie’s Maybe This Time. I imagine the house in that story to be a lot like the one you feature here:-)

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    • They definitely kept it all in the family. The only Baker who isn’t there is a younger sister who died as a child or a baby, I believe. Weird that not one of the adult Bakers chose to move on, if all these stories are true.

      Nice to see you visit, Kitt! Thanks for commenting 🙂

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  6. Good morning! Yesterday was so busy that I didn’t get a chance to pop, my weekly stop. I’m fascinated by ghosts, but I’m a scaredy-cat and would never stay somewhere I knew was haunted. Some folk get a buzz off of it, but not me. I might go check out in a group tour or something during the day. Ha! There is a haunted hotel in the small town I live in. It was vacant for years, but has just recently been bought to be opened again. The funny thing is, they bought over a year ago and nothing has happened. A tiny bit of construction on the outside, but all the same lace curtains are hainging in the windows. Maybe they are having trouble with ghosts?

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    • I don’t mind late, Cd, LOL! I hope today is a bit less chaotic for you.

      I’m a scaredy-cat too. I don’t think I’d visit a reputed haunt even with a group of people, because I just KNOW whatever thingie lurked there would single me out! Interesting about the haunted hotel in your area. Maybe the current “residents” ARE giving that construction company grief!

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  7. Yikes. I don’t think I’ll be visiting Baker Mansion anytime soon. Anna’s story is very sad, that she chose to spend her her life alone rather than marrying someone other than her true love..
    I can’t recall visiting a haunted house, but I’ve been to The Old Cork Gaol in the city a few times, and there’s definitely an eerie stillness to the place that could make you easily imagine ghosts wandering down the dark hallways of the closed off cell blocks.

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