American Folklore

American Folklore: Pennsylvania

American Folklore: Pennsylvania

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One of the original thirteen British colonies in North America, Pennsylvania became the official second state of the new United States of America in 1787 by being the second colony to ratify the new Constitution. A number of Native American tribes had land in the Pennsylvania area prior to European colonization and had for centuries, and perhaps millennia, prior to the arrival of the Europeans. When the Europeans came in the 1600s, the Dutch and the English were the first to arrive, with each claiming land on either side of the Delaware River. Sweden also later established a colony in Pennsylvania. Eventually, the Dutch and Swedish settlers departed or assimilated into the English colony, and the area became a sole holding of the British, before becoming a state after the American Revolution.

Pennsylvania has some interesting folklore associated with it. This is thanks to its long history of human habitation and varied cultural background. Some of the people to have lived there (and some still do to this day) include Native Americans, Quakers, the Amish, Mennonites, Dutch, Swedish, and English settlers, and more. Here are some of the highlights of the folklore of Pennsylvania.

The Hag of Lake Erie

While there are untold numbers of deepwater lakes and rivers in the world that have resident monsters living in them (Loch Ness, Lake Champlain, etc.), only a few have witches or other supernatural creatures associated with them… maybe only one. If there is only one, it is the Storm Hag of Lake Erie. Lake Erie borders Pennsylvania and is one of the Great Lakes all of which are known for random, violent, and often inexplicable storms that form over them. Almost since the beginning of European settlement, sailors on Lake Erie have blamed these storms on the Storm Hg.

The Storm Hag has been described as a grotesquely appearing demon or witch that lives below the surface of the lake. The Hag supposedly sings quietly before she rises from the waters. When she rises, she shoots lighting out of her mouth and screams magical screams that can swallow entire ships along with their crews. Many ship disappearances on the lake have been attributed to the lake Hag. In fact, she can supposedly still be heard screaming on the lake to this day and is still blamed by some on storms and shipwrecks on Lake Erie.

The Ghost of Washington Park

Washington Park in Philadelphia is a lovely place that is terrific for picnics, walks, and weekends out for families and couples alike. However, it was not always this nice. In the 1700s, it was used as a potter’s field… a place for unidentified people and those who could not afford a regular funeral or burial to be placed after they crossed over. Vagrants, unidentified visitors to the town, and others were deposited here for their eternal resting places. It upped its creepy factor after the American Revolution when there was a yellow fever epidemic in the area, and it became the location of a mass grave for the victims of it.

Sometime shortly after the epidemic, the ghost of a young Quaker woman named Leah began being seen there, with the supposed mission of protecting those whose earthly remains were placed there from grave robbers, which is something she also did when she was alive. She supposedly still wanders the park today and has been spotted by many modern people, including one police officer. Interestingly, most public parks in Philadelphia host homeless people sleeping on park benches every night… with the exception of haunted Washington Park.

A Famous Ghost at the General Wayne Inn

The General Wayne Inn has been host to quite a few famous historical figures as guests during its storied past, including George Washington. Some guests liked it so much, they came back after crossing over. It is now a place of frequent sightings of the ghost of Edgar Allan Poe, who enjoyed staying there when he was alive. People today still report seeing his ghost walk the halls of the place.



Even without the ghosts, the General Wayne Inn has a past that almost just begs for it to be haunted. In 1996, it was currently co-owned by James E. Webb and Guy Sileo, who were best friends. However, when they stumbled upon challenging financial times, Guy shot and killed James on the third floor of the inn, and was later sentenced to life in prison for the crime (after trying to pin the crime on his mistress). His mistress, who was twenty years old at the time this all occurred, later killed herself after all the stress and trauma of the crime in which she was indirectly involved.

One of the Most Haunted Forts in America

Fort Mifflin is one of the most haunted forts in America, if not one of the most haunted places. It was used as a fort in both the American Revolution and the Civil War. It is said to be heavily haunted by the ghost of Elizabeth Pratt, who is also referred to as the Screaming Woman. In fact, police have been called to the fort a lot because of the sounds of screams that sometimes come from the fort.

Elizabeth Pratt was estranged from her only daughter. When that daughter died during a typhoid fever epidemic in the 1800s, before the two could reconcile with each other, Elizabeth hanged herself at the fort. Her ghost has supposedly been at the fort since then.

The Legend of Congelier Mansion

While the mansion is no longer there, it at one time had the reputation of being one of the most haunted mansions in America, and its legend still lingers in Pennsylvania’s folklore. Located in Pittsburg, it was the site of a brutal murder in 1871, when the mistress of the house discovered her husband having an affair with their maid. She stabbed her husband and cut off the maid’s head in the house. After that, the mansion was vacant until 1891, though people walking by often said they could hear screams coming from inside the house. In 1891, it was purchased by a doctor, who was soon discovered to be performing disturbing experiments on both dead and living people there.

The house became associated with a string of unexplained deaths over the years, and Thomas Edison even went there to test a machine he had built for communicating with ghosts and the spirits of others who had crossed over. Eventually, the house was destroyed in a 1927 gas explosion. However, its legend is still present in Pittsburg.


About the author

Ancestral Findings

Will founded Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has been involved in genealogy research for over 24 years. The excitement begin when he started investigating the meaning of his surname. Check out, Why He Loves Genealogy and follow his Photography Podcast.