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.
Growing up, I was very familiar with the history of the Hastings Mansion. Stories were whispered among my classmates about the spirits which roamed the mansion which stands at the corner of North Allegheny and Lamb Streets in Bellefonte. The mansion takes its name from Governor Daniel Hastings who had called the place home after serving his term as governor of Pennsylvania from 1895 to 1899.
In the 1890s, the Red Lion Inn, which was built in the 1860s, was purchased by Governor Hastings and he had the mansion expanded, adding a south wing and a portico. The portico, which still graces the front of the mansion, was designed in the style of Pennsylvania’s Old State Capitol Building which burned on February 2, 1897.
When Hastings returned to Bellefonte after his term of governor were over, he settled into his home and resumed civilian life. Hastings was no stranger to Bellefonte – although he was born near Salona, Clinton County, Hastings had spent the majority of his life here, serving as Principal of the Bellefonte High School and Superintendent of Bellefonte Borough Schools from 1867 to 1875; was editor of the Bellefonte Republican; was a member of the Centre County Bar beginning in 1875; was a member of the Bellefonte School Board; and served on the Penn State Board of Trustees. Hastings died in 1903 of pneumonia and was buried in nearby Union Cemetery.
Over the years, there have been numerous stories about paranormal activity connected to the mansion and if all the stories are true, the Hastings Mansion may possibly be the most haunted building within the boundaries of Bellefonte. There are stories of strange sounds, mysterious lights, and objects moving on their own, all being common stories regarding haunted houses. The first stories I can remember hearing about the mansion involved ghost lights seen in the windows of the upper floors of the mansion.
But the hauntings of the Hastings Mansion is more than lights, noises, and moving objects.
The most famous haunting of the Hasting Mansion 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 claim the lady in white is a death omen; those who have had the misfortune of seeing her have experienced a death in their family within days of the sighting. The first reported sighting involves the female spirit and a night watchman who worked for the Red Lion Inn. One night while on duty, the night watchman saw the young lady gliding towards him; she disappeared leaving the man in wonder and dismay about what he had just witnessed. A couple days later he received word his brother, or in some versions it was his parent or some other relative, had died. An interesting twist in modern retellings of this legend states the night watchman actually worked for Governor Hastings and the person who died was a relation to Hastings.
The phantom lady is not the only ghost known to haunt the third floor. The ghost of a phantom watchman still makes his rounds. The unidentified spirit has been heard walking the corridor 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 intertwined with the legend of the young bride. Some claim the night watchman died soon after witnessing the young woman dressed in white.
Another story involves a young child that has been spotted 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 involves possessed grandfather clock. According to word of mouth, the clock’s face was built with a realistic human face. Legend stated 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.
While these are the stories that have been whispered over the years, I cannot help but wonder what other stories haunt the historic mansion and are waiting to be told.