A Penn State ghost story: Mont Alto's Wiestling Hall

October 27, 2015

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — The University Park campus has its fair share of ghost stories, but Penn State's other campuses also have their tales to tell.

Take Mont Alto, for one. The 1908 graduating class of what was then known as the Pennsylvania State Forest Academy at Mont Alto — established in 1903 as one of the first public forestry schools in the nation — gathered in 1907 for a formal class photograph. They posed in front of the campus' Wiestling Hall, mounted on their horses (which academy students until the late 1920s were required to bring for transportation and fighting forest fires).

The building, constructed in 1807, once served as a manor for Col. George Wiestling, one of the area's wealthiest iron masters and a Civil War veteran. Col. Wiestling died in 1891, 12 years before the forest academy's establishment.

When the picture was developed, some claimed to see the image of a human figure standing in the background, as if observing the students on their horses. Some believed that this was the ghost of Col. Wiestling, watching over the students. Some said he was wearing a semi-military uniform with a badge on his cap that is reflecting the sunlight. (See the circled portion of the close-up photograph to see if you can make out the colonel.)

In 1929 the academy became part of the then-Pennsylvania State College — and Penn State's first official location outside of University Park. Wiestling Hall went on to serve as a dormitory, dining hall, classroom and administrative headquarters. Today it is the oldest building in the Penn State system.

Many students and staff say the ghost of Col. Wiestling still haunts his former home, with reports of unusual noises, unexplained footsteps, and doors banging open, among other unnerving experiences. The 1911 murder in the house of Sarah Hurley Matheny, who worked in the dining hall, also may have left a ghostly presence, they say. If you are brave enough, visit Wiestling Hall — and maybe see for yourself.

Wiestling Hall today

Wiestling Hall as it appears today on the Mont Alto campus. The building has served as a dormitory, dining hall, classroom, administrative headquarters and possibly home to two ghosts.

IMAGE: Penn State

 

  • Close up of area purported to show a ghost

    A close up of the 1907 image purported to show a human figure wearing a semi-military uniform with a badge on his cap that is reflecting the sunlight. Col. Wiestling died in 1891, 12 years before the forest academy's establishment.

    IMAGE: Penn State

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Last Updated November 17, 2015