Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Most Haunted House In America...Not


image by Daniele Montella

Renowned as the “Most Haunted House in America”, the alleged history of the Congelier House is enough to turn anyone's blood cold.

The story goes that 1129 Ridge Avenue was home to Charles & Lydia Congelier, who built the house in the 1860's, and their maid, Essie. The tale begins in 1871. That's when Lydia found out Charles was having an affair with the maid, and ended it by stabbing Charles to death, beheading Essie, and driving herself insane.

The house sat vacant for the next two decades. It was remodeled to become a dorm for railroad workers in 1892, but they wouldn't stay in the house, claiming to hear the sobbing and screaming of a woman. Then it gets interesting.

Around the turn of the century, Dr. Adolph Brunrichter moved in. His maids didn't end up lovers, but cadavers. He beheaded them and then did experiments to keep the heads alive, which apparently he could do for short periods of time.

On August 12, 1901, the neighbors heard a scream and saw a red flash come from the house, blowing out all the windows. The good doctor vamoosed, and police found a decomposed body strapped to a bed and five headless corpses buried in the basement.

Needless to say, the house again remained unoccupied for awhile. Equitable Gas later fixed it up to use as a dorm for its' Italian workforce. They experienced many odd happenings, but wrote them off to hooliganism from the American workers they had displaced, at a lower wage. Then one night two of them were found in the basement, one with a board impaled through him and the other hanging from a joist.

Local police claimed it was an accident – one man fell going down the steps and speared himself on a propped up board, and the other strangled himself in the dark cellar on some loose wiring.

Naturally enough, the house was empty again. In 1920, Thomas Edison allegedly visited the home. He was interested in building a machine to communicate with the dead. The results aren't recorded, but its' said that he left the house as a great believer in the afterlife.

In 1927, police arrested a drunk who claimed to be Dr. Brunrichter. He regaled them with tales of orgies, demonic possession, torture and murder, and wrote “What Satan hath wrought let man beware” in his own blood on the wall of his psychiatric ward. The media called him the “Pittsburgh Spookman”, but officials couldn't figure out if was indeed the doctor or just an imaginative alcoholic, so they let him go, never to be seen again.

That same year, a huge gas tank was being built near the current site of the Carnegie Science Center. It blew, and the ensuing explosion rocked buildings within a 20 mile radius. The Congelier House disappeared from the face of the earth, leaving nothing behind but an 85 foot deep crater. People said Satan himself pulled the ill fated house into the depths of hell.

It's also been said that on occasion a spectral house appears on the site, shimmering and then disappearing again to the netherworld. This was all documented in Richard Winer & Nancy Osborne's book Haunted Houses.

Alas, like most good stories, this one has its' debunker, too. Troy Taylor rebutted the Congelier House claim to evil immortality in his article Dead Men Do Tell Tales: The House On Ridge Avenue, found on the Prairieghosts site.

First, he can find no record of a Charles Congelier living in Pittsburgh or of Lydia's murderous ways, which one would expect to fill the local rags of the era. Next, he says the modest rowhouse was built in the 1880's, totally screwing up the original timeline.

Marie Congelier owned & lived in the house (at least the family name was right), and no trace of the evil Dr. Brunrichter has ever turned up, either as a tenant or a mad scientist. Ditto for the railroaders. They never roomed at the Congelier house.

Marie says that Edison never visited her humble home, and one would assume she'd remember if the Wizard of Menlo Park came calling. He also found that no reports of any deaths, accidental or otherwise, existed from the Ridge Street address. He couldn't find any mention of the “Pittsburgh Spookman” in the papers.

Finally, the gas explosion didn't send the house straight to hell, but only shattered a few windows. The house was eventually razed to make room for a highway interchange. Marie, by the way, died the morning of the gas explosion, not from the blast, but from an accidental cut. She bled to death en route to the hospital, the only known death recorded of someone from the Congelier House. Thanks for ruining a nice spooky tale, Troy.

2 comments: said...

Haunting to the spirits of the dead and the effect of violent or tragic events in the building's past such as murder, accidental death, or suicide

Stephanie Hoover said...

This case has been completely debunked: