It’s a cold, blustery October day in Pennsylvania, a few weeks before Halloween. Lori and I enter Hotel Saxonburg under a swinging sign that proudly reads: Fine Dining & Elegant Rooms Since 1832. The 200-year old hotel has charm, history, and an unsettling reputation for being haunted. We are about to spend the night here – completely alone! (Cue scary clap of thunder.)
When I started this blog, I wanted to include some of my 2020 travel adventures. The year looked promising with trips to Budapest, Vienna, Bratislava, and Alaska planned. Not to ruin the ending, but – all canceled.
Never fear, however! I dug up a story from my past with special significance as Halloween is only a few days away. A haunted hotel, paired with a windy, snow-blown night. What could be better? I hope you enjoy.
Lori and I were in Saxonburg, PA, to take a food tour. It was a birthday present from Lori, who knows me well. Mix food with a little history, and I’m pretty darn happy.
A brief history before I continue – Saxonburg was founded by John Augustus Roebling.
He was an engineer turned farmer who wanted to build a German settlement in the western part of Pennsylvania. It was a bad time to be a farmer, and the Panic of 1837 pushed Roebling back into engineering, where his claim to fame was designing the Brooklyn Bridge.
Unfortunately, he didn’t live to see it built. He died from tetanus after his toes were crushed by a ferry and then amputated—a scary story in itself.
Back to Hotel Saxonburg.
We are led up the stairs to our elegant room by the friendly manager. The hotel’s second floor consists of six bedrooms, each decorated to preserve an 1800’s feel. Historic? Yes. A little creepy? You bet!
As we walk down the corridor to our room, I notice that each room’s door is wide open, giving us a view of the dark interiors. Each room looks like it would have nearly 200 years ago. I half expect to see guests sitting on the antique beds, dressed in 1800’s garb, but they are empty.
We then receive news that makes my blood turn cold and raises the hair on the back of my neck. There is a communal bathroom. (Cue scary clap of thunder.)
The manager tells us that we will be the only guests in the hotel during the night. And once the bar staff leaves at 2 am, we will be all alone in the building.
We spend the evening dining out and then return to the hotel bar where a friend’s band is playing – a strange coincidence. All of our cares melt away as we enjoy the festive atmosphere in the warm, cozy room.
The band finishes up about midnight, and the bar starts to empty. We decide to call it a night and walk up the stairs to our room. I try to suppress the thoughts that keep entering my head – rumor has it that the Hotel Saxonburg is haunted.
Throughout the years, there have been eerie reports of objects moving mysteriously, names being called by an unknown voice, and ghostly sightings of people dressed in clothing from the 1800s. The hotel has even been the subject of an investigation by Steel Town Paranormal. The following video was filmed in the Hotel Saxonburg as the group tried to unearth evidence of a paranormal presence. Trust me. You have to watch this, and it’s less than 90 seconds long.
Terrifying! After watching this video, we made sure to keep flirtation to a minimum during our trip and create an especially dour atmosphere.
Late in the evening, one of the scariest moments of our stay occurs. Lori exits the bathroom after getting ready for bed and walks across the hall to our room. She feels a presence. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a dark figure in one of the empty hotel rooms, slowly rocking back and forth in an antique chair. A blood-curdling scream rises in the back of her throat until she realizes it’s just me messing with her. Ha! Sorry, Lori.
I awake at three in the morning, and I am greeted by silence. The buzz from downstairs is gone. We are the only souls, I mean people, left in the hotel.
The silence is all-encompassing, and I have to go to the bathroom.
I arise from the warm bed and shuffle toward the door. I stumble into a chair that has been wedged under the doorknob. I later find out this was Lori’s work, but at the moment, my sleepy mind wonders if this was a ghostly act.
I am in the bathroom, and I look out the window. Snow is building up on the frame, and wind rattles the glass. There is a dripping sound from an unknown source.
I wash my hands, turn off the light, and enter the hallway.
My eyes struggle to adjust to the darkness.
There’s a light switch somewhere, but I can’t find it.
The floorboards creak.
The wind’s howl intensifies.
I cross the hall and reach out for the doorknob to our room.
To my right is the long hall filled with open doors.
I don’t believe in spirits, ghosts, or apparitions, but…
If I was ever going to have a run-in, it would be now.
My heartbeat picks up.
I slowly turn my head.
And glance down the hall.
I sigh with relief and enter our room, climb into bed, and drift off to sleep.
The Hotel Saxonburg may be haunted, but we were spared during our stay. However, the hotel is on the creepy side when you’re the only guests in a 200-year-old building on a windy, snowy night. I will always look back fondly on our trip to Saxonburg. And while I won’t avoid haunted hotels in the future, I will do my best to avoid repeating the most terrifying part of our adventure – booking a room with a communal bathroom! (Cue scary clap of thunder.)
I hope everyone has a – Happy Halloween!
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David Tuzzolino, CFA, CFP®, is the Founder and CEO of PathBridge Financial, a firm that specializes in providing comprehensive financial planning and investment management services for clients that are nearing retirement and love to travel.