Thursday, September 28 2023 10:33

Chester County’s Scary Stories and Haunted Tours

Written by Austin Littrell and Mackenzie Taylor

Spooky picks for the season

Since its founding in 1682, Chester County has had a history rife with mystery, chilling stories and creepy sites. Many visitors to our historical grounds have reported supernatural sightings through the centuries.

This October make it a family adventure with the kiddos to visit attractions ranging from Haunted Helicopters at American Helicopter Museum to the more daunting Pennhurst Haunted Asylum, which might have even the bravest ghost hunters quaking. Choose from a wide variety of terrifying local experiences to fill up your spooky season, and be sure to check out these haunted happenings in County Lines country.

Ghostly Stories

Start by gathering around for some classic spine-tingling Chester County ghost stories. These spooky tales and local legends are sure to leave you questioning every noise you hear.

Brandywine Battlefield. Battlefields are often sites of ghostly activity. So, it’s no surprise to find an eerie vibe at Thornbury Farm in Chadds Ford, the site of the final engagement in the bloody Battle of Brandywine. The Revolutionary War battle there saw hundreds of soldiers lose their lives when Washington’s troops fought the British Army in the largest single-day land battle of that war.

The property has mass graves of fallen soldiers, and the 1709 farmhouse is said to be home to a ghostly wounded soldier, phantom horses and a crying child. Many soldiers who died during the battle are supposedly buried on the property, and their ghosts are said to have never left. 1491 Baltimore Pk., Chadds Ford.

General “Mad Anthony” Wayne’s grave at St. David’s Episcopal Church

The Ghost of General “Mad Anthony” Wayne. There’s always been an aura of mystery around General Anthony Wayne. A Revolutionary War hero and Founding Father, the general was perhaps better known as “Mad Anthony” for his daring and fiery personality. Wayne was born in Paoli on January 1, 1745 and died in 1796 in Erie, PA, where he was buried … for a while, at least.

Twelve years after Anthony’s passing, his son, Isaac, decided to move his father to the family plot in St. David’s graveyard back in Chester County. Isaac collected his father’s bones, reburied the rest of his body and belongings in Erie, and set off on his 400-mile journey home. Upon arriving in Wayne, Isaac was shocked to find some of his father’s bones had fallen out of the wagon along the way. Pennsylvania roads weren’t much smoother in the 1800s, it seems.

Legend has it that on Wayne’s birthday every New Year’s Day, the general’s ghost rises and travels across the state in search of his missing bones. Onlookers claim to have seen a man in colonial garb riding a horse with “fire-flashing hoofs.” Wayne’s ghost has been spotted close to where the Battle of Brandywine took place and near Valley Forge. People say he appears fierce and determined. Mad, you might say.

The Lincoln Room

The Lincoln Room. No, it’s not Lincoln’s ghost that haunts The Lincoln Room in West Chester. Before closing as a tea room a few years ago, The Lincoln Room had a long history, dating back to the late 18th century, when it sat across the street from the old West Chester jail, the root of its haunting.

A horse thief named John Tully was caught and sentenced to 60 days in that jail. As part of his punishment, Tully’s ears were cut off. Tully began screaming so loudly that he became a nuisance, so he was moved across the street to the Lincoln Room. His cries turned to unusual laughter before his eventual death. According to local legend, you can still hear his ghost scream and laugh in the dead of night. Stroll by some night and listen for yourself. If you dare. 28 W. Market St., West Chester.

Pennhurst Asylum

Pennhurst Asylum. An asylum … need we say more? Located in Spring City, Pennhurst Asylum opened in 1908 as the State Institution for Epileptics and Feeble Minded, a live-in facility for disabled individuals. Over 10,000 patients entered Pennhurst during its nearly 80 years of operation. Parents saw it as a place where their children would receive the care they needed, but they were seriously mistaken.

Sadly, too many of the patients were neglected and abused by the staff. The most vulnerable victims were often tortured for misbehaving. The institution was eventually forced to close its doors in 1987, after the broadcast of an exposé, “Suffer the Little Children,” and after it was found guilty of violating patients’ constitutional rights.

Today, property caretakers believe the buildings and underground tunnels to be haunted by angry spirits of victims who suffered and died there. Footsteps, cries and slamming doors can be heard when no one is around, and some report seeing the spirit of a little girl roaming the grounds. Each Halloween season, Pennhurst is a booming attraction for Spring City, with tours of the facility being offered to the public. Bridge & Church Sts., Spring City.

The Twin Tunnels. Tunnels can be scary on the best of nights, but the Twin Tunnels found along Valley Creek Road in Downingtown are considered some of the most haunted tunnels in the world. Legend says you can hear the cries of a baby along with the whispering of its mother, who is said to have hanged herself and then dropped the babe in her arms to its death. The tunnels under the railroad tracks are the site of several other deaths, suicides and even an unsolved murder. Locals advise that you not visit the location at night … when the ghosts are most active. Valley Creek Rd., Downingtown.

Terrifying Events

Want to experience hair-raising fun for yourself? Here’s just a sample of eerie events to attend during this spooky season.

Chilling West Chester: A Dark History Walking Tour. True tales of terror drawn from the archives — of murder, mischief and misadventure. Check out Chester County History Center’s seasonal offering, “Chilling West Chester: A Dark History” haunted walking tour. The tour features macabre stories of West Chester’s past, from killers to imprisonments to tragedies, while visiting notable landmarks in the Borough. Each year, the History Center hosts several 90-minute, 1.5-mile walks during October. Check their website for details. $18. Adults only. 225 N. High St., West Chester.

Bates Motel Haunted House, Hayride and Trail

Bates Motel Haunted House and Escape Room. Want the spooky sensations without the jumps, scares and screams? Then the Bates Motel Escape Room will get you in the Halloween spirit while testing your critical thinking skills. With hidden panels, levers, secret messages and much more, this escape room will test your group’s communication and problem-solving skills. Or, if you’re searching for that adrenaline rush with plenty of shocks and surprises, stop by the legendary Bates Motel Haunted House, Hayride and Trail. The hayride has been featured on the Travel Channel and rated as the #1 Haunted Attraction in America by CNN Travel, USA Today and other national publications. All attractions are jam-packed with terror and mayhem to scare the season festivities in you. Timed tickets. Escape Room, $29.95. 540 E. Union St., West Chester. Haunted House, starting at $40. 1835 N. Middletown Rd., Glen Mills.

Haunted Helicopters at the American Helicopter Museum

Haunted Helicopters. Celebrate this scary season with the entire family at the American Helicopter Museum’s Haunted Helicopters exhibit. This kid-friendly event typically features tons of helicopters and exhibits dressed up in costumes (scary and silly alike), a scavenger hunt in the museum and a prize at the end for those crafty kiddos who find it. Check the museum’s plans for this year’s event on their website, and prep your best Halloween costume in the meantime. Oct. 30. 1220 American Blvd., West Chester.

West Chester Haunted History Tour

Paoli Battlefield Paranormal Tour. What’s spookier than a historic battlefield? Perhaps a nighttime tour of “hot spots” of paranormal activity. Join the Paoli Battlefield Reservation Fund on a private tour of the grounds, led by Interstate Paranormal Research. Cameras, recorders and supernatural equipment are not only allowed but highly encouraged. Get ready to witness the eerie site where 53 soldiers were buried after a devastating midnight bayonet and sword attack by the British. Oct. 14 & 21, 7 p.m. $45. Monument & Wayne Aves., Malvern.

West Chester Haunted History Tour. Some say every house in West Chester is haunted. To see if you agree, take a Haunted History of Chester County lantern-lit walking tour across the heart of the Borough. Follow the guide who leads you on a 90-minute, one-mile journey through the haunted streets of town while sharing ghostly and strange stories. Check their website for tour dates and to learn more about what’s lurking in the shadows of this historic town. $10–$20. Corner of High & Market Sts., West Chester.