Charlie Schwab was a lot of things in his lifetime. He was a business tycoon that ran Bethlehem Steel, philanthropist, the force who forged the city of Bethlehem out of four municipalities, theater lover, business wheeler and dealer, union buster, gambler, womanizer and ultimately a rich guy who died broke when the stock market crashed in 1929.
But it's his afterlife that interests us. He's known as "Schwaboo the Ghost" at Penn State and left behind a legacy of haunted houses. He's kind of an oddity in that he was was associated with several haunts during his lifetime, but has chosen not to spend eternity in them.
Maybe the everyday dead people they host are too low brow for a member of the gilded gentry to join with, but it's much more likely that he just didn't have much attachment to the rooms when he was alive. But he sure had a nose for places the otherworlders liked.
The most famous of the buildings is the Hotel Bethlehem. Schwab built it in 1920 so his business clients had a first class hangout when they came a'calling. It was erected on the demolished bones of the Eagle Hotel, and that inn is the root of its spookery.
The Bethlehem is storied to be home to all sorts of paranormal phenomena, from poltergeist annoyances to mists and apparitions. Some spirits are seen regularly, and three are known by name. One is May Yohe, a stage actress who once lived at the Eagle. People have heard her singing and playing the piano while her specter has been reported in the exercise room on the third floor and in the lobby.
Another is Mrs. Brong, an Eagle innkeeper who was noted for going barefoot. Staff and guests have seen her ghost in the restaurant and kitchen, dressed in 1800's attire but sans shoes and stockings, giving her away. Finally, there's Daddy Thomas, an unofficial city welcome wagon type during his life, who resides in the boiler room.
Some as of yet unidentified spirits have been seen, too. They are a lady who is often spotted in the dining room/kitchen area, children playing throughout the hotel and another child on the mezzanine.
And if it's open, don't miss a chance to book Room 932, publicized by the Bethlehem as the "Room with a Boo." A man has been reported popping in on guests occasionally, and EVPs recorded the voice of a spirit named Mary. Paranormal phenomena is commonplace; we particularly like the wallpaper changing color.
Another of his haunted addresses was 114 W Fourth Street in Bethlehem. It was his in-laws' home, and Charlie and his wife Emma stayed there while waiting for their new house to be readied. Later, it was the the residence of Schwab protégé Eugene Gifford Grace, who became president and chairman of Bethlehem Steel.
It's the following act that's the likely source of the spooks, though - Cantelmi’s Funeral Home. No one spoke of spooks there; it was an occupational hazard, so why complain?
But the business that followed, Anna Mia's Restaurant (don't look for; it's been shuttered for over a decade) bore the brunt. The guests and staff heard unexplained music, footsteps, voices and found objects moving from place to place. As for spirits, well, that's up in the air. The owners were said to be fond of their friendly ghost, though others said there were no actual apparitions at the place.
A Moravian College student and her bud investigated rumors of Schwab's haunted barn on his former Bethlehem property after hearing old wives tales concerning its spookiness. They entered the gray, falling-apart shed, and the first thing they noticed was that no sound from the outside penetrated the barn, even though the doors were wide open - and they were as big as, well, barn doors.
Then they felt a cold spot. That was followed by raspy voices warning them to “Get Out” over and over, and they heeded the advice. Whether there's a rational explanation or not we'll never know; the rickety structure has since been demolished.
Ah, but there is one place that the specter of Charlie Schwab is thought to visit. That would be Schwab Auditorium at Penn State, built through a $155,000 donation by the stage-loving Scwab and his wife. It was the first PSU building financed by a private donor, and is still used by the Center for the Performing Arts for chamber music.
Now he wouldn't be the only ghost there; George Atherton, a college president buried outside the auditorium, is reported to be an ethereal visitor, along with a variety of mists and apparitions.
Schwaboo the Ghost's claim to fame: Performers have witnessed a seat in the auditorium go down as if someone were sitting on it, and then later rise, as if the invisible person got up and left. People believe that the unseen patron is Charlie, who loved theater. No report on he he feels now that it's a musical center.
So old Charlie may not be earthbound any longer, but he sure has left a trail of haunts behind him - his hotel, his temporary crib, the barn on his estate, and a college auditorium that we know of. Too bad he wasn't a medium back in the day. Charlie Schwab would have attracted the spirit world like a flower does bees.