The Haunted History of Arcadia University
You can learn about the ghosts rumored to haunt campus by signing up for an SCR ghost tour, happening through Saturday, Nov. 19, or by reading Haunted History of Philadelphia by Arcadia alum Josh Hitchens ’07.
Arcadia University’s campus has long been believed to be haunted. Grey Towers Castle in particular is the subject of various ghost stories, but students have also reported paranormal activity elsewhere on campus, including in Heinz Hall, Dilworth Hall, Murphy Hall, and the Spruance Fine Arts Center.
A new book by Josh Hitchens ’07, Haunted History of Philadelphia, documents the origin stories of some of the most well-known campus hauntings. Hitchens asserts from the get-go that, “Although we know a bit about the family who built Grey Towers Castle, there is little in the way of behind-the-scenes details in existing historical records.”
The documented facts that could fuel ghost stories include the fire that destroyed the original castle, Rosedale Hall, not long after its owners the Harrisons renovated it; the construction of Heinz Hall on top of an old cemetery (Kat Bleiweiss ’21, a former president of the Society for Castle Restoration (SCR), said the bodies had to be exhumed and relocated); the untimely death of the Harrisons’ oldest daughter; and the death of George Harrison himself by heart attack inside the castle.
Most of the oft-repeated tales, though, are based on hearsay.
“There’s kind of everything,” Bleiweiss said in a 2020 podcast interview (below) with Nathalia Jara ’24, Elias Vazquez ’20, and Sophia Birks ’20. “There’s little boys without faces, there’s stories of star-crossed lovers, there’s suicides. There’s also the ghosts of the Harrison children that are just staying there because that was where they grew up and that was where they were happy as children. There’s ghosts of Mr. and Mrs. Harrison. There’s quite a smorgasbord of spirits.”
The figure of a woman dressed in clothing from another time whom people have spotted around campus? That’s the ghost of Abigail, a young aristocrat and friend of the Harrisons who supposedly jumped to her death from the castle after her parents spoiled her plan to elope with a stableboy named Toby.
“It is said today that if you are a student walking along this bridge at night, the streetlights will flicker on either side,” said Bleiweiss in an SCR ghost tour posted to YouTube in 2020. “We believe that that is Abigail and Toby trying to find each other in the afterlife.”
SCR’s members give ghost tours every year but were forced to do so virtually in 2020 due to the pandemic. Many of the rumored hauntings included in the tours also appear in Hitchens’ book.
For example, both give credence to the assertion that if you’re dancing with someone in the Laura Minerva Korman Mirror Room at night and see a reflection of the Harrisons in the mirror, you’ll marry the person you’re dancing with.
Hitchens writes of two young boys whose ghosts haunt Murphy and Dilworth Halls. This was echoed by Bleiweiss in that podcast interview.
“There’s two boys around campus, and the first one lives in Heinz, and he is a little boy named Max, and he likes to torment roommates by moving furniture or playing with their phones. And so, there are stories of [students who] go to bed and they wake up and there’s pictures of them sleeping on their phones even though their phones were dead.” The phantom photographer is believed to be Max, who–according to Hitchens–is also to blame for showers and lights in Heinz turning on by themselves.
Arcadia’s SCR ghost tours run through Saturday, Nov. 19. Sign up at least 24 hours in advance of your desired time here. Please note that dates are added weekly to the sign-up page.