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Pittsburgh's Congelier Mansion:
The Least-Haunted House in America

© 2017 - Stephanie Hoover, All Rights Reserved

Ridge Avenue sign
Ridge Avenue as it looks today.

Anyone who has Googled "Pennsylvania haunted houses" has encountered tales of the Congelier "Mansion" formerly located at 1129 Ridge Avenue in Pittsburgh. In good, old, haunted house fashion it is sometimes referred to as the most haunted house in America and even "the house that hell built."

The plot lines vary a bit but the primary gist of the myth involves a rich carpetbagger named Charles W. Congelier (who theoretically built the mansion), his wife Lyda, and a maid named Essie. Supposedly, in 1871, Lyda discovered that her husband and the maid were having an affair. She stabbed Charles to death just before decapitating Essie. From here forward, things get really scary with railroad workers driven out of the house by a ghostly woman's screams, and a Dr. Brunrichter performing experiments on the severed heads of young women.

In one grand, final twist, an heir of Charles W. Congelier somehow gets hold of the house and dies there on November 15, 1927 when it mysteriously explodes.

Now, let's consider the true facts of the matter:

• There are no Congeliers listed in any 1871 Pittsburgh public records that CIM reviewed.
• There are no newspaper accounts of a horrific murder - or headless corpses - at 1129 Ridge Avenue.
• There was a Charles W. Springer who lived at 1101 Ridge Avenue in the early 1900s. Perhaps mistaken identity... or sheer coincidence?
• An explosion at a nearby gas facility presumably caused damage to buildings on Ridge Avenue, and in fact caused damage over a several mile radius. As a result, many structures were torn down.
• This explosion did not happen on November 15, 1927 - that was instead the date that the Associated Press story detailing the accident was filed. It actually happened November 14, 1927.
• A Marie Congelier [see exclusive family interview below] was killed indirectly by the blast. She was standing over a washtub in her basement when a shard of flying glass cut a main artery in her leg. She left behind five children whom the AP story reported would be cared for by relatives. The newspaper does NOT say, however, if Marie lived at 1129 Ridge Avenue.
• In 1929 the residents of 1129 Ridge Avenue were documented as a barber named John Congelier and his wife Louise. No further mentions of the Congeliers were found after this 1929 entry.

In October 2013, CIM editors were contacted by Jeff Steigerwald whose mother-in-law, Nancy McConnell, is the grand-daughter of the above-mentioned Marie Congelier. From this exclusive family interview we learn the following first-hand facts:

• The family's name did not originate as Congelier but rather as Cancelliere. This change was prompted by the difficulty in pronouncing and spelling the actual surname.
• "Marie's" true name was actually Mary and she was just 29 years old at the time of her death.
• The Congelier home suffered no destruction from the explosion other than the shattered windows which produced the shard of glass that killed Mary.
• The John and Louise in the 1929 city directory were the family members who assumed the role of raising Mary's five children.
• When Louise took on the task of raising these children she was herself but a child at only 17 years old.
• The family moved from the Ridge Avenue home in the late 1950s.

CIM thanks Jeff and Nancy for helping to further debunk and demystify the story of the Congelier Mansion.