Philadelphia, known for its pivotal role in American history, also has a long record of paranormal activity. From historic homes to abandoned prisons, the city is home to numerous spooky stories and eerie legends. If you’re a fan of the supernatural, this list of the top 10 haunted places to visit in Philadelphia is perfect for you. Get ready to explore the city’s dark past, filled with ghostly tales and mysterious happenings, as we take you on a journey through Philadelphia’s haunted hotspots.
Related: Top 10 Famous Haunted Landmarks You Didn’t Know Were Haunted
10 The Bellevue
The Bellevue Hotel offers a unique, spooky experience for those who dare to stay. Located near Philadelphia’s famous landmarks such as Rittenhouse Square, the Art Institute of Philadelphia, and the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, The Bellevue is a ghost hunter’s paradise.
The Bellevue-Stratford, built in 1904 with 1,090 rooms and luxurious Tiffany and Lalique fixtures, was once the pride of Philadelphia. However, its grandeur was overshadowed by tragedy in 1976 when 34 guests died after an American Legion convention. The cause was later found to be a new strain of bacteria in the hotel’s cooling tower, resulting in the disease known as Legionnaires’ disease. Today, the spirits of those former guests are said to haunt the hotel.
Recent guests have reported eerie occurrences such as sudden temperature drops, being pulled by their covers, and even an intense, paralyzing feeling when entering their room.
9 Eastern State Penitentiary
Eastern State Penitentiary was once the most famous and expensive prison in the world, operating from 1829 to 1971. The prison was known for its radical design, which aimed to reform its prisoners through isolation, reflection, and penitence. But today, it is known for its haunted reputation.
The ghostly presence at the former prison is said to stem from the horrific punishments inflicted upon the inmates. Methods such as the water bath, mad chair, iron gag, and “the Hole” have left a lasting imprint in the very fabric of the institution. Its reputation as one of the most haunted places in America has been solidified through numerous TV shows and testimonies from paranormal researchers and visitors.
Reports of eerie voices, ghostly figures, and faces have become synonymous with certain cellblocks, such as Cellblock 12, 6, and 4. In addition, the silhouette of a guard in one of the towers and the repeated accounts of footsteps, wails, and whispers add to the prison’s otherworldly reputation.
Gary Johnson, a lockkeeper, recounts his own harrowing experience in the early 1990s. As he opened an old lock in Cellblock 4, he was suddenly gripped by an overwhelming negative energy that surged out of the cell. Tormented faces appeared on the walls, and one form, in particular, beckoned him forward. To this day, his experience remains one of the most legendary tales associated with the haunted prison.
8 Heidnik’s House of Horrors
Gary Heidnik was known for kidnapping six women and subjecting them to torture, rape, and murder, all inside his Philadelphia home. Two of the women were killed by Heidnik before he was finally arrested. One of the survivors, Jackie Askins, shared her haunting memories of being imprisoned in the musty basement of Heidnik’s home on Marshall Street.
Askins recalls being attacked by Heidnik, stripped of her clothes, and brought to the basement, where she and four other prisoners were kept chained and captive. Heidnik would electric-shock the women in a pit filled with water and subject them to daily rape and beatings. Askins even recounts being forced to dismember one of her fellow captives.
Heidnik’s crimes inspired the character Buffalo Bill in the movie The Silence of the Lambs. He was put to death in 1999, but the house still stands in ruins today. According to locals, the victims who died in that house still haunt it to this day.
7 Elfreth’s Alley
Elfreth’s Alley is a historic street with a rich history dating back to 1703. The street is said to be inhabited by various spirits, including carpenters, glassblowers, and blacksmiths, who once lived there. The most infamous spirit is the “Hanged Man,” a soldier who is rumored to have been executed as a spy during the Revolutionary War.
There are many reported experiences of strange and eerie occurrences in Elfreth’s Alley. Visitors and residents have reported ghostly orbs and apparitions captured in photographs, as well as instances of being choked or suffocated by unseen forces while walking the cobbled path. Some have even reported hearing strange noises, such as footsteps and whispers, coming from the alley at night.
Due to its long history and numerous reports of strange experiences, Elfreth’s Alley is widely considered to be one of the most haunted locations in Philadelphia. Whether you believe in the paranormal or not, there is no denying that this historic street is steeped in mystery and intrigue and is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history and legends of this iconic city.
6 USS Olympia
As soon as the USS Olympia was transformed into a museum ship, tales of its haunted presence began to circulate. People visiting the ship and museum volunteers alike have shared accounts of an eerie, dark figure spotted in the engine room. Some have seen a ghostly apparition drift through the passages, while others have felt the entity reach out and grab them near the ship’s triple-expansion engines.
The engine and boiler rooms are not the only areas that are said to be haunted—strange sightings of ghostly apparitions and shadows have been reported throughout the entire vessel. These shadow figures are known to suddenly materialize from doorways and appear in mirrors before disappearing just as suddenly. Disembodied voices are a common occurrence, with visitors alleging that spirits have whispered directly into their ears.
5 Christ Church Burial Grounds
Over the years, the Christ Church Burial Grounds have become a popular destination for ghost hunters and paranormal enthusiasts. This cemetery dates back to the 1700s and is the final resting place for many notable figures from early American history, including Benjamin Franklin.
People from all over the world come to visit the cemetery in the hopes of having their own paranormal experience. Some claim to have felt strange sensations, such as cold spots or the feeling of being watched, while others report seeing ghostly apparitions or hearing unexplained noises. While some of these experiences can be easily explained by natural causes, others are more difficult to dismiss and continue to fuel the legends of the haunted cemetery.
Despite the lack of scientific evidence, the tales of the haunting at Christ Church Burial Grounds have captured the imagination of people for generations, making it one of the most famous and intriguing haunted places in Philadelphia.
4 The Powel House
The Powel House is said to be haunted by the ghost of its former owner, Elizabeth Willing Powel. According to legend, Elizabeth still haunts the house, appearing as a ghostly figure in the windows and hallways. The house, which was built in 1765, was once one of the grandest homes in Philadelphia and was known for its elegant parties and events.
Despite its historical significance, the Powel House is said to be one of the most haunted places in the city. Some people claim to have heard strange noises and seen ghostly apparitions in the house. Others report feeling an eerie presence in certain rooms. To this day, the Powel House remains a popular destination for ghost hunters and history buffs alike.
3 The Academy of Music
The Academy of Music is said to be haunted by a number of ghosts and spirits. The building, which was built in 1857, is one of the oldest opera houses in the United States and has a rich history of music, dance, and theater. According to legend, the ghost of a young opera singer named Mary ONeal is said to haunt the theater. She is said to have died on stage during a performance, and her ghost is said to still roam the halls of the Academy, appearing as a ghostly apparition in the audience.
Other stories suggest that the ghost of a former theater manager, who died in his private box, still haunts the theater. Many people claim to have seen his ghostly figure sitting in the box, watching the performances below. Despite these legends, the Academy of Music remains a vibrant and active cultural center, hosting a wide range of performances and events.
2 The Philadelphia Zoo
Established in 1859, the Philadelphia Zoo holds the distinction of being America’s first zoo. While it was intended to be a hub for appreciating exotic wildlife, the zoo is also rumored to be haunted.
At the heart of the zoo’s spooky reputation is The Solitude, a building that dates back to 1784 and was once used as a private escape for John Penn, William Penn’s grandson.
Multiple zoo staff members have come forward with tales of ghostly sightings, including apparitions, mysterious music playing in the cryptoporticus, and an attic light that flickers on its own. Other structures on the grounds, such as the Penrose Laboratory, The Shelly Building, and the Treehouse, are also rumored to be haunted.
Come explore the dark secrets of the Philadelphia Zoo and see for yourself if the rumors of paranormal activity are true.
1 The Betsy Ross House
The Betsy Ross House, located in the heart of Philadelphia, is not only a historical gem but also a place of rumored paranormal activity. Built in 1740, this house is renowned for being the birthplace of the first American flag. However, there’s more to the house than its patriotic roots.
According to legend, the ghost of Betsy Ross herself still haunts the premises, with reports of ghostly sightings of her apparition in windows and doorways. Visitors to the house have reported feeling a strange and eerie presence, leading many to believe the house is truly haunted. The ghost of George Ross, Betsy’s late husband, is also said to still wander the halls of the house.
The Betsy Ross House was investigated by the infamous Ghost Hunters, and their investigation had some interesting outcomes. During the investigation, the team captured several disembodied voices throughout the house, including a man moaning from the basement and a muffled voice in the director’s office.
Additionally, guests have reported seeing the ghost of Betsy Ross crying at the foot of a bed in the basement, mourning the loss of her husband and child. It is a must-visit destination for anyone looking to experience the paranormal.