The immediate neighborhood of St. Peter’s Church (built in 1761) on Third and Pine Streets were in a state of intense excitement for several days in October 1880 due to the alleged appearance of a ghost. The crowd surrounding the graveyard was so great at one time that it was necessary to call the police department to preserve order.
Late one night while people were strolling passed the graveyard they were startled by seeing a white apparition standing at the head of a newly made grave. Soon the word of the ghost spread in every direction. The next afternoon the crowd grew so large that assistance from the police was required. People made desperate attempts to get into the graveyard and were promptly ordered out. About 10:00 in the evening a shriek from a woman renewed the excitement. She held up her hands and shouted, “I’ve seen the ghost!” She repeated her declaration several times in a frenzied manner and pointed in the direction of a newly-made grave on the left side of the pathway that led toward the Fourth Street entrance.
A shiver seemed to circulate through the crowd as all eyes followed the woman’s finger, and murmurings of “Yes…see…there it is!” “Look, look! It is moving about!” Fearful statements of “The Lord have mercy on us” were heard. Someone yelling, “It is coming this way” caused the crowd to fall back, and in the confusion that ensued, the ghost disappeared.
A young man employed at the grocery store on Second and Union saw the ghost. It came out of the grave surrounded by a brilliant radiance. He could not distinguish the form clearly, the light about it being so strong and variety of color, that it dazzled him. He was intelligent, yet of modest demeanor, and was very unwilling to say much more in the matter.
A young woman named Ellen was positive she saw the ghost, too. It was dressed in white. It did not come out of the earth suddenly, as several other people had stated. The earth opened on both sides as if pushed away by an invisible power, and the ghost gradually rose up. She was positive that it raised its left arm, and pointed in the direction of the church building. It was surrounded by a radiance that dazzled her so much that she had to shut her eyes, and when she opened them, the ghost had disappeared.
A middle-aged woman also claimed to have seen the ghost. It came from the grave slowly, the earth giving way without any assistance. She could not distinguish the figure, though it seemed like that of a child. It was robed in white. The radiance around it was very strong, but she continued looking until the ghost disappeared. The disappearance was very sudden, almost like a flash of lightening.
An elderly and respectable gentleman stated he had seen the ghost in St. Peter’s graveyard. “I am not superstitious and do not believe in spiritualism, but I saw the ghost as plain as day. It was a ghost—a resurrection of the dead. The brilliancy surrounding the ghost was so great that I could not distinguish any object around me.”
Another young man named George was among the crowd gathering at the cemetery. He said he was walking home from a meeting and was startled by a white figure arising from among the graves and hovering over the tombstones. After his initial fright had calmed down, he decided to investigate the matter and crossed over to the other side of the street. As he placed his hands on the fence railing preparing to climb over, the object disappeared. He said it looked like a white robed child with eyes of fire. He first thought it might be a white dog or goat, but its sudden and mysterious disappearance dismissed all such ideas. He was confident that it was a genuine ghost.
There are reports of an apparition seen at 9:00 PM standing over five unmarked grave, each of a Native American Chief. Spectators have reported seeing a horse-drawn carriage in the cemetery, the vision of a Native Americans pacing through the grounds, and an African American dressed in colonial garb. What will you see when you visit that landmark cemetery?
St. Peter’s Episcopal Church
313 Pine Street
Philidelphia, PA 19106