Share This Page

Boo crew scares up ghosts of city past

Their goal is to not only tickle your palate, but also tingle your spine.

In a spooky twist on the dinner theater concept, a nascent group meeting regularly at a South Side eatery serves up Pittsburgh's most chilling ghost stories while the waitstaff serves the Bolognese alla Belegrade.

Haunted Pittsburgh isn't the looney-driven lark you might expect. It's the result of meticulous research into the purported supernatural ties of some of the city's most famous figures and places.

"Pittsburgh has a fascinating ghostly history, and we don't think it's ever been properly told," said Michelle Smith, a Downtown attorney.

Haunted Pittsburgh ( www.hauntedpittsburghtours.com ) is the brainchild of Smith and fellow attorney Tim Murray, founder of the Carbolic Smoke Ball Web site.

Although the Carbolic site features fake news items, none of the tales told at the Gypsy Cafe's "ghost dinners" are the creation of Murray's imagination.

"Michelle and I spent literally years collecting the great Pittsburgh ghost stories," he said.

One tale on Haunted Pittsburgh's macabre menu involves 19th century industrialist Henry Clay Frick, once dubbed "America's most hated man" by people who didn't much like him.

Frick narrowly survived an assassination attempt in 1892, when anarchist Andrew Berkman entered his office. Despite firing at near point-blank range, Berkman managed to only wound Frick by hitting him twice in the neck.

Berkman blamed sunlight streaming through windows for his poor shooting. "But the windows faced north, so there wouldn't have been any sunlight coming through them at that time of day," Smith said.

Years later, "Frick revealed that at the time of the assassination attempt, the ghost of his late 6-year-old daughter appeared to him."

Frick believed it was the apparition's luminescence that blinded Berkman and saved him.

"And Frick was known as a pretty level-headed businessman," Smith said.

The local boo crew entertains with other tales, as well:

• The ghost that supposedly haunts the 10th floor of the Downtown Macy's department store (let's hope it stays out of the changing rooms)

• The premonition of disaster one of Roberto Clemente's sons had before the late Pirates star boarded his ill-fated flight on Dec. 31, 1972

• The wraith said to watch over Fallingwater, the world-famous Fayette County home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright for the Edgar Kaufmann family

Haunted Pittsburgh hopes soon to begin walking tours of some of South Side's ghostly spots, as well as Christmas-themed ghost dinners when the holiday approaches.

"Most other major cities have those type of tours and haunted storytelling events, so we think there's a void to be filled here," Smith said.

Maybe so, although that doesn't necessarily guarantee Haunted Pittsburgh a large turnout at the next ghost dinner July 29.

It is, after all, the dead of summer.

Additional Information:

Books

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.