a newspaper man adjusts his pen

Monday, December 3, 2007

This castle is dark and dreary

BROWNSVILLE, Pa. – Nemacolin Castle is a spooky old mansion in southwestern Pennsylvania where upwards of 10 ghosts supposedly roam its halls. It’s no wonder. The 22-room house, most of which dates to the 1850s, has creaky floors, cold drafts and dark furniture befitting of the eccentric Bowman family that lived there for three generations.

While most house museums have to purchase period furnishings unrelated to their occupants, Nemacolin is filled with artifacts that belonged to the Bowmans as far back as 1787 when Jacob Bowman built a trading post on the hill overlooking the Monongahela River in Brownsville.

The rustic trading post still exists, nestled deep among the rest of the rambling house built in the Colonial and Victorian styles of architecture. Tour guides will demonstrate an old iron contraption that puts ruffles into suit collars and a hand cranked vacuum cleaner that touched the hands of the Bowmans or their servants.

When the lights are turned on, you can actually see your aura in a giant diamond backed mirror above a mantle. In a bedroom, the image of the devil appears in the woodgrain on a headboard.

Docents tell ghost stories each Halloween as they lead visitors through the house that is surrounded by a thick stone wall with glass shards embedded the top to ward off visitors. Many children supposedly went home with brush burns and cuts after they ventured over the wall to peek inside the many windows that adorn the brick structure.

Fayette County bought the estate at the west end of Front Street in 1965 after the deaths of the last occupants, Charles and Lelia Bowman, and turned it over the Brownsville Historical Society.

Society members also offer candlelight Christmas tours each December. But, with the lights dimmed low at those times, it’s nearly impossible to appreciate the place and all of its splendor.

Before the sun sets, you can see a lot of chipping paint around the windows and shutters that suggests the historical society needs money for restorations. In some ways though, the neglect makes the place seem all that more spooky and weird.

Click here for more information about tours and events.

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