Scouts perform flag retirement ceremony at Betsy Ross House

 The Betsy Ross House is said to be haunted. 

As Halloween creeps up on us, I looked for “Philadelphia ghosts” online. Haunting the computer was a site called “25 Most Haunted Attractions in Philadelphia” and another that offers “16 Most Haunted Locations in Philadelphia.”

They provide a creepy Halloween column, although “attractions” seems hardly the right word.

I won’t give addresses for the sites. If you’re interested, look them up.

The first list begins alphabetically with the Academy of Music. It says that women in upper balconies have seen impressions made on empty seats by invisible companions. I was a bit disappointed that the list began with phantom posteriors.

Next came the American Philosophical Society, where the list discredits itself early by claiming that Benjamin Franklin’s statue in the library climbs down and dances on Fifth Street. There are also reports that Ben’s spirit wanders the 230-year-old building with an armful of books, which is more like Ben.

Then comes the Betsy Ross House. The list says Betsy is often seen wandering and crying. It doesn’t say why.

Nor is it specific about who haunts Bishop White’s house. He was the first Episcopal bishop in Pennsylvania, in the 1780s.

Christ Church Burial Ground and the City Tavern come next, also with no good specifics. Like much of the list, they’re just places that seem like they should be haunted.

About Cliveden in Germantown, the list says that séances have conjured up the spirit of Samuel Chew Jr., the owner. You’d expect ghosts of British and American soldiers killed in the 1777 battle.

The list rambles on with feeble claims of hauntings on the Cruiser Olympia and in Eastern State Penitentiary, the Edgar Allan Poe House, Elfreth’s Alley and even the First Bank of the United States.

It says little about Fort Mifflin, which should have a good supply of ghosts from the 1777 bombardment.

It also isn’t clear up if British Gen. James Agnew’s ghost shows up in Grumblethorp, where he died from his wound at the Battle of Germantown. But you can still see his blood stains on the floor.

At the Hill-Physick House, Dr. Phillip Syng Physick’s estranged wife, Elizabeth, does the haunting. He is called the Father of American Surgery, and also introduced the first carbonated soft drink.

Independence Hall and Laurel Hill Cemetery can be expected to have celebrity ghosts. On the Moshulu sailing ship, lanterns on the restaurant tables supposedly re-light after employees extinguished them.

The Mutter Medical Museum is an obvious candidate for haunting. The house of John Penn, William’s grandson, now surrounded by the Zoo, occasionally has ghostly women visiting.

Pennhurst Asylum, far from Philly, has been in unfortunate news lately, as, like Eastern State Pen, it is turned into a Halloween fun house, the height of bad taste.

The Marquis de Lafayette and Peggy Shippen (Benedict Arnold’s lady) have been seen in the Powel House. I can’t imagine why.

St. Peter’s Church has supposedly had deceased Native American chiefs and a Colonial African American on the premises.

The Van Sant Covered Bridge claims lots of ghosts but is way out in Bucks County and shouldn’t be on this list.

Fallen 18th century soldiers and 1783 yellow fever victims buried in Franklin Square occasionally do some haunting.

That’s the 24-site list. The 16-ghost list has only one that is different, Baleroy, a 32-room mansion in Chestnut Hill. Lights go on and off sometimes, and Thomas Jefferson appears occasionally. The place was built in 1911, so what’s Tom doing there?

Is that enough ghosts for you?

(Visit columnist Jim Smart’s web site at

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