The Irish Pennsylvania Ghost
at Horseshoe Curve


The World Famous Horseshoe Curve is home to an Irish Pennsylvania Ghost, it's one of Altoona's best-kept secrets. In fact the legend is called, "The Secret".

John Hunter Orr recently wrote a story in our local newspaper about an Irish girl from the mid 1800s and how you can see this fair colleen. John Hunter Orr once taught Russian and English at Altoona Area High School. He has teamed up with our famous local artist, Joe Servello, to tell the local legends of our most popular Pennsylvania ghosts. Joe Servello is also known for his famous paintings of The White Lady of Wopsy.

photo of the view of The World Famous Horseshoe Curve

Building Altoona's world famous Horseshoe Curve was no easy feat. Irish immigrants came to Central Pennsylvania to find work and found themselves laboring high in the Allegheny Mountains in the 1850s. If you ever get the chance to visit this "8th Manmade Wonder of the World" you too will be amazed at what these Irish immigrants accomplished with only a picks, shovels, powder and mules.

It took two backbreaking years to get the line up the Allegheny Plateau heading west toward Johnstown. Even now, over 150 years later, if you stand at the top of the Horseshoe Curve on a densely foggy night you can almost hear the sounds of these Irish immigrants singing one of their favorite tunes while working on the Curve.



The Secret
Reported by John Hunter Orr


photo of the trains rounding the Horseshoe Curve Drive with me late tonight up 40th Street in Altoona, up the road northeast of Burgoon Run near Kittanning Trail, the old Indian path of the Seneca and Lenni-Lenape.

Come with me tonight up past Lake Altoona to our world famous Horseshoe Curve, where I will share with you a secret of long ago when the Irish laborers from counties Antrim, Cork and Mayo pushed west the railroad line. In 1852, hundreds of men with nothing but picks, shovels, powder and mules began their quest to build the curve. For two years they broke their backs getting the line up and onto the Allegheny Plateau heading west toward Johnstown.

Now draw near the double culverts cut through the high fill that holds the curving tracks above. One culvert hold Glen White Run. The other holds our road where the air like smoke from Irish clay pipes. Some nights one can hear over the noisy stream bits of long ago song from an Irish crew working the Curve.

"In eighteen hundred and fifty two/ We left the old world for the new/ To work upon the railroad."

photo of the haunted tunnel at the Horseshoe Curve On the Altoona side, the down mountainside, of those sandstone tunnels can sometimes be seen at midnight a beautiful young Irish girl dressed in white standing forlorn by a low stone wall near a tall Norway spruce.

Some say she stand there hoping to see her beau, one of her fellow countrymen, a young man who lost his life in a barroom brawl late one night after working high up on the curve.

Listen carefully now, and I will tell you how to see this fair colleen.

Drive up past the three reservoirs to the tunnel seven minutes before midnight. Arrive only on the night of a full moon.

Proceed only when there is a precipitation present (rain, sleet, snow, or mist). Drive through the tunnel heading uphill.

Turn around 50 yards on the other side using a pull-off.

Face downhill with the car in neutral and the engine running.

Be sure no other cars are present (obey traffic signals).

Synchronize your watches.

Keep totally silent.

Begin the drive forward entering the tunnel exactly at midnight.

Turn off your car lights as you enter. (Do this at your own risk.)

Drive slowly and cautiously.

Beep your horn three times in the tunnel.

Upon exiting the tunnel see immediately on the right the young Irish lass in white. Look for her sitting on the wall or standing by the first spruce tree. If she is not there, look for her just beyond where half a dozen other spruces stand along a fence.

Some have seen the girl; most have not. I can tell you she is often there, for I know her.

John Hunter Orr



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I hope you enjoyed the legend of our Irish Pennsylvania Ghost. There are many Pennsylvania legends and ghostly tales. Many ghost hunters and ghost enthusiast have come to the area to try to debunk the many haunted legends, but none have been able to.

Check back often because I'm always adding new legends, ghostly tales and haunted places to explore. Who knows, maybe one day you too will come to the area and be introduced to a famous Pennsylvania ghost.






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