Also called the “the house the devil built,” the Congolier Mansion sits in the Manchester area of Pittsburgh. This house has a creepy history and is often called the most haunted house in America. Although some historians debate the veracity of the facts surrounding the mansion’s history, the legend has become a part of Pennsylvania’s history, and we’re sharing the version of the story that most agree is true.
According to the legend, a carpetbagger by the name of Charles Congolier made his way to Pittsburgh in the 1860s, where he built the beautiful mansion located at 1129 Ridge Avenue. After completion, he happily moved into the house with his wife Lyda and their maid Essie.
The couple was very happy in their new home until Lyda learned that her husband was carrying on a passionate affair with the maid. As soon as she found out about the infidelity, she stabbed her husband to death and decapitated the maid’s head with a meat cleaver.
Days went by before the grisly deed was discovered: A friend went to the house for a visit only to find Lyda singing lullabies to the maid’s severed head.
As you can imagine, once the neighborhood learned about what had gone on in the Congolier mansion, the house wouldn’t sell no matter how low the asking price. It remained empty, abandoned, for the next 20 years.
It was a railroad company that finally purchased the house in 1892. The company converted the mansion into separate apartments to house all the railroad workers.
The railroad workers were not happy living in the haunted mansion, where they reported strange activity and even stranger noises. Most eventually refused to live there, and the company put the house up for sale again.
In 1900 the home was purchased by Dr. Adolph C. Brunrichter, a recent immigrant to America. He was a very reclusive man who never socialized with the neighbors and was never seen leaving his home.
On the night of August 12, 1901 neighbors heard a woman screaming and then an explosion of light inside the Congolier house. All the windows in the house shattered.
When police arrived on the scene, they found the decomposing body of a young woman strapped to a bed inside the home. And that’s not all. They also found five headless young women buried in the basement.
What they learned is that the doctor had been experimenting to keep the young women alive after severing their heads. Even stranger than the gruesome experiments that he left behind, Dr. Brunrichter was nowhere to be found after the explosion. He simply vanished.
It took years before anyone would buy the property. Again, it was bought up by a company, the Equitable Gas Company, to house company workers. Just as the previous tenants had complained, these immigrant workers also heard strange noises. They, however, dismissed all things strange as pranks from neighbors.
Suddenly, one night two of the workers were found dead in the basement. One of the workers was hanging from a rafter and the other had a board driven through his chest like a stake.
The men appeared to have been murdered, but police could find no leads. Needless to say, the other surviving workers left the home right away.
Years later, on November 14, 1927, a fire erupted from a natural gas storage tank some workers had been trying to repair. Other gas tanks also began exploding. The Congolier House, which was two blocks from the site of the explosions, was completely destroyed, leaving nothing but a giant crater in its place.
Everyone in the neighborhood believed that the house was evil and it had been sent back to hell from whence it came.
Legend has it that Thomas Edison visited the house in the 1920s. Another visitor, a well known psychic of the era, Julia Murray also came to see what all the fuss was about.