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Museums plan Halloween 'ghost tours' this weekend

| Saturday, Oct. 27, 2012, 11:49 a.m.

Two local museums will capture the Halloween spirit this weekend with historic and haunting activities. Fort Ligonier and the Compass Inn, both with rich histories, will conduct ghost tours and share some of the paranormal experiences that have been documented at each location.

The restored and reconstructed 18th-century Fort Ligonier, which was the scene of many bloody battles, will feature a presentation by Dr. Walter Powell, of Gettysburg. Powell and his sister, Cassandra Fell, authored ‘Ghosts and Legends of Fort Ligonier.'

“It will be like “Night at the Museum” with a twist,” said Powell, who has been affiliated with Fort Ligonier for 35 years as a battle re-enactor during Fort Ligonier Days.

Powell will share stories from his recently expanded version of the book. He will also discuss some of the true-life experiences that some fort workers and visitors have had, such as office furniture moving by itself, the feeling of being followed by the eyes of historical figures in photographs and the appearance of a woman, thought to be Phoebe St. Clair, wife of Major Gen. Arthur St Clair, in the parlor.

Powell said he had his own haunting experience on the fort grounds in 2008. Dressed in his soldier gear, Powell and several other soldiers were photographed during a re-enactment. Upon looking at the picture, the image of a ghostly officer was also visible in the photo, he said.

Tours will be offered at 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Tuesday at Fort Ligonier.

The one-hour tour will begin in the museum with a brief overview and then continue outside, where injured soldiers or the fort's former commander, Archibald Blaine. could make a ghostly appearance.

Museum doors will open one-half hour before each tour and copies of Powell's book will be available for purchase in the gift shop.

Powell will be signing copies of his book before and after each tour. The event will occur rain or shine and it is recommended to dress for outside conditions.

Admission is $8 for non-members; $5 for members of the Fort Ligonier Association; $5 for children age 8-16; children of association members will receive free admission. Advance reservations are suggested, as space is limited. To make a reservation or for more information, call 724-238-9701 or visit or

“Fort Ligonier is a wonderful place and it can always use support from the public,” said Powell, “I'm hoping the tour will generate interest in the fort and allow people who may have experienced paranormal activity there to share their experiences.”

Scary story winners announced Tuesday

The winners of Fort Ligonier's Scary Story contest will be announced at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at the fort. The writing contest was initiated by Mary Manges, the fort's director of education. The contest was open to Ligonier students in grades four through 12. Submissions were divided into three categories: 4th – 6th grade, 7th – 9th, and 10th – 12th. Stories had to occur at Fort Ligonier and include two people from history.

“We went with the scary theme in order to coincide with the ghosts and legends event,” said Manges. “With over 200 entries, the contest was definitely a success. We're really excited about the turn out.”

First place winners from each division will be chosen by members of the English education department of Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Each winner will receive a $50 gift certificate for the Fort Ligonier Museum gift shop, free tickets for the Ghosts and Legends tour and a gift card for a free meal at Chick-Fil-A. Winners will also be invited to read their stories.

Compass Inn features haunted storytelling

The Compass Inn in Laughlintown will feature a Haunted Halloween Storytelling event 6 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 5 to 8 p.m. Sunday. Visitors will hear spooky Halloween tales of the Ligonier Valley, as told by area resident Marianne McAuliffe. McAuliffe is a member of the National Storytelling Network and will share stories for all ages.

“The first thing people want to know when they come to the Compass Inn for a tour is ‘Is it haunted?'” said Jim Koontz of Ligonier Township, the inn's curator and innkeeper.

The event is in its eighth year. This year, a tour of the buildings will be included.

“We thought it would be fun to do something different,” said Koontz.

Koontz said it is interesting to see what some of the guests detect. A young boy who toured the inn with his family insisted there was a little girl under the table in the kitchen. Individuals working at the inn said they often hear footsteps.

Koontz said several mediums did a walk through at the inn recently and kept notes of their observations and things they could smell, hear or feel.

In the building that housed blacksmithing equipment, one woman said she sensed animals flying in the air. Koontz confirmed that the room had been used to shoe horses and there was a harness of sorts that lifted the horse up into the air to complete the job. Paranormal investigators from Enlightened Paranormal Investigative Consultants of Pittsburgh also did a walk through the buildings and said they detected spirits residing upstairs.

While Koontz said he has never physically seen anything at the Compass Inn, he admits he has had several unsettling experiences. Items in the home are identified by number on a small white tag. When placing silverware on a table, he would placed them tag side down and come in the next morning to find several of the items flipped tag side up. Koontz also said he would lock the windows, which had to be done from the inside, with an old fashioned pin lock and would return to find them unlocked.

Reservations are not needed for this event. The cost is $4 for adults, children under 12 are $1. For more information, contact the Compass Inn at 724-238-4983.

Cami DiBattista is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.

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