The Penn Wells Hotel is a nice-looking, stately hotel in downtown Wellsboro, in the heart of the Pine Creek Valley and the PA Grand Canyon Landscape. It’s an old building in a very scenic community, and it’s worth visiting.
But is it haunted?
That seems to depend on who you ask.
There are stories about the Penn Wells Hotel, and some reviews online mention incidents that could be tied to ghosts. Other people will say that it’s not haunted, and much of the staff is happy to tell stories while also mentioning that they’ve never experienced anything themselves.
My son Paul and I stopped in one day recently to investigate. We spoke to a friendly employee named Tom, who said that he’d heard the stories and had guests ask questions, but never had an experience while on duty.
“Of course, I’m a skeptic,” he said. “People have reported hearing piano music, and claimed the place to be haunted, but I’ve never seen anything.”
While I talked to Tom, who was happy to tell me about the history of the building, I slipped an EMF detector to Paul and told him to check the lobby area. He found a rise in electromagnetic fields that could perhaps indicate ghosts.
Photo: Paul, Lou’s son, accompanied the paranormal investigation at Penn Wells Hotel.
The hotel was built in 1869 by Albert Pitkin Cone, a local attorney. The location had been a hotel called the United States House, owned by Hobart Graves, until it burned down. Cone bought the property and built the Penn Wells Hotel, which opened in 1870. After Cone’s death in 1872, the place went through several owners and several names. A destructive fire struck the hotel in March of 1906, and though the visitors evacuated, the hotel had to remove the fourth floor and operate as a three-story building.
Some of the online reviews mention ghosts, one saying simply that the hotel reminded them of a haunted house. Another very positive review mentioned that the visitor heard unexplained music playing during the night, which seems to be a common theme among reports at the hotel.
“How about you?” I called out to a maid walking through the lobby. “Have you experienced any ghosts in this place?”
“Nope,” she said, and got into an elevator quickly in case I turned out to be a lunatic.
It is worth noting that there are no records of fatalities within the hotel. No dramatic, violent deaths, no horrible accidents. However, it’s also true that ghosts do not necessarily have to be haunting the location where they died.
Some ghosts are known to haunt places they liked, or walk roads that they often walked in life. Some seem to follow the people they cared about, and that could explain the music at the Penn Wells Hotel.
Photo: The Penn Wells Hotel in Wellsboro, taken by Lou Bernard.
Albert Cone had a daughter, Frances. She died in a fire on February 24, 1855, at three and a half years old. Her mother died in 1864, at age 37. Both are buried in the Wellsboro Cemetery, and even though they died before the hotel was ever built, it’s a possibility that their ghosts followed Cone to his new hotel. An article in the newspaper said about Frances, “Deceased was an unusually interesting and intelligent child, and though but about four years of age, in language and deportment might have passed for twice that age.”
Maybe little Frances and her mother are the ghosts. Maybe they’re making music, keeping themselves entertained in the hotel. If the hotel is haunted at all. I suppose you’ll have to visit Wellsboro, and find out for yourself.
“Ghosts of the PA Wilds” describes a series of ghost stories from the region written by historian Lou Bernard, who also revels in folklore and the paranormal. Each Monday of October, and leading right to Halloween, the PA Wilds Are Calling blog will feature a new ghost story to celebrate the spooktacular season upon us.
Know of another good PA Wilds ghost story worth investigating and sharing? Let us know in the comment section below!