Sunday, October 18, 2009
There are a lot of ghost stories floating about this time of year. Everyone has a favorite, and while some are legends and some are blarney, there really are things that go bump in the night. There’s also something about sitting around a roaring fire with a cup of hot apple cider on a chilly, rainy night that makes us want to share a tale or two.
Being a writer and a wee story teller myself, I crave these ghostly tales and hang on their every word. Maybe it’s my passion for the thrill and love of a good suspense, but my flesh gets all tingly when I hear one of these otherworldly tales. And here’s one guaranteed to cause shivers to dance down your spine.
A few years ago, I was taking a night class at the local college. One night after class while waiting for my ride, the guard patrolling the grounds struck up a conversation with me about the former glory days of the campus. The halls dominating the college are the renovated mansions of some of the founding fathers of Pittsburgh as Andrew Carnegie and Andrew Mellon. Curious, I asked the guard if she had the same section each night or if a different one was assigned. As the crisp fall air swooshed through the surrounding oaks, she told me a chilling tale about Byers Hall.
“No way will I set foot in that building,” she shuffled her feet nervously, leaves crunching beneath her feet. “Never again. That hall is haunted.”
“Haunted?” I asked, never hearing this tale before. “How so?”
The guard proceeded to tell me that one night she was in the hall, all alone, when she heard the floorboard creaking from the second floor. Then she heard a toilet flush and the sound of running water. A little startled, but not spooked, she figured it was one of the other guards using the rest room. But just then, the steps creaked, followed by the pitter patter of footsteps. Then she felt a draft so cold she gasped. Heart pounding, she fled, never to return. Feeling stupid and keeping her ghostly experience to herself, it wasn’t until one of the other guards spoke of a similar experience. And pretty soon, another. And before long, the history of the manor was unveiled. But there were no records…and three different stories have evolved.
The Byers were an extremely wealthy family and had all the luxuries to complement their fortune. Butlers, maids and a nanny for the children. One night while out to dinner, the nanny was home alone with her young charge. The manor had a skylight on the second floor and the nanny left the child unattended for a little while. In her absence, the child climbed the steps to the skylight and walked across it, breaking the glass and falling to her death. When the Byers returned home that evening, they supposedly found the nanny hanging from the rafters, her body dangling over the stairway while the cold air swooshed through the broken window. According to legend, the ghostly image of the child lay at her feet.
Another legend has it Lady Byer came home one evening and found her husband with a woman of the evening. She supposedly was so distraught she took her life in the elevator and her ghost haunts the mansion.
Yet another twist to the tale is the nanny hung herself in the tower window after her charge fell through the stained glass skylight. On the night she committed suicide, the image of her ghost is said to swing back and forth in the tower like a pendulum.
Whatever the case, there is something otherworldly in Byers Hall. Some say when a person takes his or her own life, the spirit lingers, trying to find peace. Tell me your ghost story.