Along the Way: Haunted Hastings Mansion

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Hastings Mansion, Bellefonte

Please note: This is private property, so please be respectful of the land owner and please, no trespassing. The building can be viewed from Allegheny Street.

One of the most interesting historic buildings in Bellefonte is the Hastings Mansion located at the corner of North Allegheny and Lamb Streets. The mansion takes its name from Governor Daniel Hastings who had called the place home after serving his term as governor of Pennsylvania (1895 to 1899).

In the 1890s, the former Red Lion Inn was purchased by Governor Hastings and he had the mansion expanded, adding a south wing and a portico. The portico that makes up the grand front of the mansion was designed in the style of Pennsylvania’s Old State Capitol Building which burned on February 2, 1897.

When Daniel Hastings returned to Bellefonte after his terms of governor were over, he settled into his home and resumed civilian life. Hastings was no stranger to Bellefonte. Though he was born near Salona, Hastings had spent the majority of his life here, serving as Principal of the Bellefonte High School and Superintendent of Bellefonte Borough Schools (1867-75), was editor of the Bellefonte Republican, joined the Centre County Bar (1875), and served as a member of both the Bellefonte School Board and Penn State Board of Trustees. Hastings died in 1903 of pneumonia and is buried in nearby Union Cemetery along Howard Street.

Over the years, there have been numerous stories about paranormal activity connected to the mansion. Growing up, I would often hear others talking about the ghosts that haunted the mansion and if all the stories are true, the Hastings Mansion may possibly be the most haunted building within the boundaries of Bellefonte, if not Centre County. There are stories of strange sounds, mysterious lights, and objects moving on their own, all being common stories regarding haunted houses, but the Hastings Mansion has a handful of spirits that have been spotted.

The most famous of the Hasting Mansion stories involves the spirit of a young woman in a wedding dress who haunts the third floor of the building. The identity of the young lady has never been discovered, but most versions of her story state she died on her wedding night while the mansion was still the Red Lion Inn.

Rumors say the lady in white is a death omen; those who had the misfortune of seeing her have experienced a death in their family within days of the sighting. The original story involves the spirit and a night watchman. One night while on duty, the night watchman saw the young lady coming towards him; she disappeared leaving the man in wonder and dismay about what he had just witnessed. A couple days later he received word that his brother, or in some versions it was a parent or some other relative, had died.

This young lady is not the only ghost known to haunt the third floor. The ghost of a phantom watchman still makes his rounds. The unidentified ghost has been heard walking with heavy footsteps and pausing to check each door, testing each door knob to make sure it was locked and the room was secure.

Interestingly, the story of the phantom watchman has become mixed with the story of the young bride with many people asking: “Was this the night watchman who saw the ghost of the young bride?” Some claim that the man died soon after witnessing the young woman dressed in white.

Another ghost that has been spotted is a young child playing on the stairs. Once noticed, the child immediately vanishes. Though sightings of the child are rare, the sound of the child playing is commonly reported.

The most interesting story to come from the Hastings Mansion is the story about an old grandfather clock that has since disappeared into history. The clock’s face was built with a realistic human face. Legend maintains that if a person stared into the eyes of the human-like face along enough, the clock face would come to life and wink at the person. The clock seems to have disappeared into history – if it existed at all – but I cannot help but wonder if it still exists in storage somewhere awaiting another human to stare into its eyes.

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