Ghost Stories from the
Cathedral of Learning
- Strange noises have been reported in the corridors
- Objects, including furniture, have been moved by unseen forces in the Early American Room
- Dark shadows have been running around corners
- Cold spots have been reported in the Early American Room
- An apparition has been seen in the Croghan-Schenley Ballroom
History of Pittsburgh’s
Across the sprawling University of Pittsburgh campus, there’s one building that quite literally stands out from the crowd. The Cathedral of Learning, is a 42-story Gothic Revival skyscraper. It has loomed large over the city for nearly a hundred years.
Still home to classrooms and offices, many people pass through the Cathedral’s halls every day.
But some say, when things are quiet, you can meet the ghosts lingering within.
Whether it’s odd sounds from afar or close encounters with apparitions, spooky stories are well-known around the Cathedral. There may just be a ghostly tale for every floor of this haunted skyscraper.
Timeline of Cathedral of Learning's History
Swipe or use timeline points to see Cathedral of Learning through the years
The vision for what would become the Cathedral of Learning began in the early 1920s. University of Pittsburgh’s then-Chancellor, James Bowman, hoped to create a grand symbol of both education and the city. And for this purpose, he chose a skyscraper.
While Bowman first voiced his idea in 1921, work didn’t begin for a few more years. In 1925, a fundraising drive began for the building. Bowman sold individual bricks in the skyscraper for a dime each. In no time, 97,000 had been sold. It wasn’t long until the Cathedral became reality.
After a groundbreaking ceremony in 1926, construction on the Cathedral began. It took the rest of the decade to finish, with the last girder going in just days before the 1929 stock market crash. But, the outcome was worth it: A 42-story skyscraper, a true emblem for the university and the city. After a few more years of work, the Cathedral of Learning greeted students for the first time in 1931.
But the skyscraper’s rollout wasn’t perfect. Just a year later in 1932, a large fire caused an estimated $5,000 in damage.
With the fire damage repaired, workers placed the last stones for the Cathedral in 1934. A formal dedication for the building was held in 1937, capping over a decade of construction. Estimators figured the final cost of the tower to be between $8-10 million. With building work finally over, the skyscraper’s use quickly expanded.
Across the rest of the decade, the School of Law moved in and Nationality Rooms opened for the first time. By the 1940s, it was the imposing university cornerstone Bowman had always hoped for.
Since first opening to classes in the 1930s, the Cathedral of Learning has been one of Pittsburgh’s defining landmarks. The skyscraper was added to National Register of Historic Places in 1975. With that, and the expanded Nationality Rooms program, the building soon became a local historic attraction.
But some say the artifacts and themed rooms in the tower may have lured more than just history buffs. Some say hauntings also linger the Cathedral’s stone-lined halls.
Ghosts in the Early American Room?
The Cathedral of Learning has several paranormal hotspots within. One of the most well-known haunted rooms is the Early American Room on the third floor. The room is infamous for its ghostly activity, reportedly stemming from donated quilts. The story goes that Martha Jane Poe McDaniel donated her quilts to the room to adorn artifacts. Now her spirit remains attached to them.
One early ghost story from the room happened when a worker used the quilts to make a bed in the room. They turned away for a moment, only to turn back to find the bed slept in.
The quilt was messed up, and the pillow looked like it was holding a head that wasn’t there.
Skyscraper Shadow Figures
Elsewhere, on the Cathedral’s first floor, is a haunted ballroom. The Croghan-Schenley Ballroom is said to be home to a shadowy apparition. Those who’ve seen this ghost say it is that of Mary Schenley, one of the room’s namesakes.
While she is most often seen in the ballroom, Mary’s specter has also been reported in an attached room. But Schenley’s shadow isn’t the only one you might seen around the skyscraper.
Shifting shadows have been reported throughout the Cathedral’s maze of long corridors. Most report the shadow figures in the building are only seen as they are darting around corners.
Along with these strange shadows, unexplained sounds echo through the halls. Could these distant sounds be caused by phantoms running the halls?
Cathedral of Learning:
Eerie & Educational
While the halls of the Cathedral of Learning are dedicated to education, you can schedule tours of some rooms. This includes the Early American Room, part of the building’s series of Nationality Rooms.
These tours don’t focus on the hauntings, but you can still explore some of the reportedly haunted spaces. And, they’re a great way to learn something new about national cultures as well.
Just keep a close eye on the Early American Room’s bed during your tour. You might just spot a ghost getting some rest after a day of disappearing around corners.