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Haunted Harrisburg Mansion

I’m not sure if I’ve ever explicitly shared my beliefs of the other-worldly or the paranormal; you know, the spirits, ghosts, apparitions, and beings that we share space with. If you couldn’t tell by that weighty statement, I am not a very good materialist. In fact, I think materialism is a piss poor excuse of a worldview that only survives because of the greedy, short-sighted capitalists who think they run this realm. But enough about that, let’s start the story.

On September 14th, 2019 my brother married his other half at the John Harris – Simon Cameron Mansion in downtown Harrisburg. In addition to being the most authentic and genuinely happy wedding I have ever attended, I also had one of the most amazing paranormal encounters I have ever experienced. Even recollecting now, it seems to real to be real.

But first, some abbreviated backstory. The venue was a house built in 1766 by John Harris, Jr., who’s father was one of the first European immigrants to the locale. The house took its current disjointed form after its numerous owners added their own set of tone deaf renovations. I could go deeper into the history of the house and it’s eccentric owners, one of which was the infamous Simon Cameron, but I think I’ll stick to the paranormal bits. If you want to know more about the house and its history, check out the Dauphin County Historical Society.

After a beautiful, love-filled ceremony, complete with calls to the cardinal directions, elementals and local spirits to bless the union, and a few hours of snapping candids at the reception, I decided to venture upstairs for a break from party’s buzz. I guess it goes without saying, but I was photographing the wedding for my brother. I shot everything but the ceremony. Because well, I was in it. Sitting at the top of the stairs was a gigantic music box. I’m calling it gigantic because its the biggest hand-cranked music box I have ever seen. I mean, it has it’s own waist-tall legs which are mounted to the floor. I’m sure there’s a proper name for it, but I can’t find it on the DCHS’s page and I can’t be bothered to look.

A Love Filled Wedding

I had already been upstairs earlier in the day when I first arrived, but this was the first time I was there after dark. Upon arriving on the second floor I realized I was the only person up there. Despite the loud music thumping in the parlor below, it was eerily quiet and calm upstairs. I made a left at the top of the stairs and headed to the only open door on the east side of the house. The room was at the end of the hallway, well lit and contained varying plates, vessels, and cups. I snapped a photo, didn’t give it a second glance, and left the room.

I passed the stairs and music box and headed down the long hallway to the other side of the house. There were open two doors. One opened to a bedroom and one opened to a craft room. Both rooms had their fair share of creepy dolls and were connected to one another by an ornate, seemingly out of place bathroom. As I entered into the bathroom from the craft room I felt a pressure on the top of my head and the hair stood up on my arms. I closed my eyes and the image of a woman in the bathroom flashed before me. Not so distinct that I saw details, I more or less “felt” it. It was so all subtle that the skeptic in me could explain it away by attributing it to an active imagination. And as you can see in the photos, the house looks haunted as fuck, and this imagination only needs a spark to start a wildfire.

While standing in the bathroom and admiring the craftsmanship of it, I got a feeling like I missed something down at the other end of the hallway. It was as if I needed to go back down there and investigate. I exited the bathroom through the bedroom and made my way back to the east side of the house. As I approached the open door at the end of the hallway, the door of the room with the plates and stuff, I heard the sound of a turning doorknob. I looked left just in time to see a once closed door creak open. As I stared at the thin sliver of black between the door and the jam, all the hair on my body stood on end. Never breaking sight with the blackness, I slowly took three steps backwards, turned around and scurried down the stairs to the presumed safety of larger numbers.

A Ghost Story for the Ages

I told everyone what just happened. I was met with disbelief, raised eyebrows and more than a few genuine “holy shits”. Wait, I forgot to tell you an important piece of the puzzle. Earlier in the day while my brother and father were setting up for the wedding, they witnessed an open, latched door close twice. The door was held in place by a hook, which was attached to the wall. The hook fit into an eyelet on the back of the door. In both instances the hook remained in the downward position after the door was closed.

As the guests dwindled and filtered out to the neighboring bars, only close family was left in the mansion helping to clean up. As I walked by the bottom of the stairs I heard chimes, or music, or something playing. I looked at the litany of clocks sitting at the bottom of the stairs, and while not noting the time, I noticed it wasn’t on the hour or the half hour. I continued to listen. The music was coming from the top of the stairs. I called my brother, the groom, over to see if he could hear it. As he walked towards me his bride, Jess, came walking down the stairs.

“It just started playing as I walked down the stairs.”, or something similar, it’s a paraphrase. As the three of us stood in astonishment at the base of the stairs, more of our family gathered around and listened to the music box play. One of the employees of the mansion, an older gentlemen, stood there with us and said he has never experienced something so brazen. He also informed us that the music box must be cranked in order to play. He also told us that a paranormal group had investigated the mansion and confirmed multiple presences residing in the house, primarily a mother and her young daughter. For five minutes we all stood there dumbfounded and amazed at what we were witnessing. Eventually the reality of how much work needed to be done sunk in and we started to scatter. Just as we disbanded the music stopped playing, as if on cue.

Haunted Mansion in Harrisburg

Either the John Harris Simon Cameron Mansion is one of the most haunted, I really dislike that word, place I have ever been, or Jamie and Adam rigged the shit out of that old house and turned it into a Disney attraction. Maybe we’ll never know what really went on there that night, but I have a strong feeling the culprits no longer pay taxes.

Picture of thingsdoneframed


Anthony Beaston is a film editor, photographer, designer and writer living just outside of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.