Help Me to Find Rinehart’s Circular Staircase

Mary Roberts Rinehart grew up on Pittsburgh’s North Side. She wrote her first novel, The Circular Staircase, in the North Side house pictured at the top of this blog post. (MRR’s old neighborhood now markets itself as Allegheny West and it sits behind Heinz Field.)

(My father-in-law, Dennis Woytek, took this photo when we toured this house on the Old Allegheny Victorian Christmas House Tour several years ago.)

Now, here’s the thing:  I don’t positively know which house actually inspired The Circular Staircase. This novel takes place at a summer home in the countryside.

Now, I have a copy of History of Old Alleghney Township, Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, From Prehistoric Times to c. 1876 by Rev. Reid W. Stewart, Ph.D., self-published in 2005. Stewart claims that this house which inspired The Circular Staircase “stood toward the southern end of River Forest Golf Course in Allegheny Township.” (This is near Freeport, PA.)

Stewart claims that Duncan Karns built this mansion in the 1870’s but that he lost his fortune in oil speculation. Finally, he claims that Mary Roberts Rinehart visited the house before it burned down.

Pittsburgh Sunrise

Good morning!  Here’s the sunrise view from the window closest to my desk at my job in downtown Pittsburgh.

So, many years ago, a woman from my employer’s Manhattan office came to visit my co-workers here in our Pittsburgh office.

(I shall henceforth call her “the Manhattanite” even though she may live in Jersey, for all that I know.)

The Manhattanite looked out of our office’s windows onto downtown Pittsburgh.

( Maybe the Manhattanite looked out of this very window.)

The Manhattanite said, “My, my, my. That’s a regular little city out there!”

Why, yes, it is.

Do outsiders ever damn a place that you love with faint praise?

Murphy’s Law At the Basket Blessing

Holy Saturday morning in my house means a frantic “grocery store hop” in which we visit every store in New Kensington.

You see, families in our traditionally Polish Catholic parish in New Kensington assemble baskets of the food for their first meal on Easter morning. We bring the baskets to church Saturday for a short ceremonial basket blessing by our priest.

Our baskets include very specific foods, including beet horseradish. Every year, we forget to purchase beet horseradish until Easter weekend.

And of course, the store closest to our house is clean out of beet horseradish the morning of Holy Saturday. Because this store is, like, 2 minutes away from the church and other people beat (beet) us to all of  it!

So, we walk into our third store of the morning. We can buy the last remaining bottle on that store’s shelf.

Then we meet up with our in-laws at the church. They tell us similar stories of frenzied dashes to assemble their baskets five minutes before the ceremony.

Then it happens all over again the next Easter.

#TBHT (Throwback Holy Thursday)

This is Jonathan’s family’s collection of pisanka (or pysanka) eggs. Jonathan’s uncle crafted all of these when he still lived right outside of Pittsburgh. (Uncle did the whole “go west, young man” thing when the steel industry collapsed in the 1980’s.)

Jonathan’s Babcia (Polish for grandmother) set these out every Easter.

I mention all this on my blog about Pennsylvania because Jonathan’s family traditions and his family’s Polish and Slovak roots partly wrote PA’s history.

I will post morsels of Easter traditions throughout the holiday weekend. Have a blessed Holy Thursday.

Bow Tunnel

Come see the western entrance to Bow Tunnel.

This former canal tunnel treks under Bow Ridge. The eastern side of this tunnel lies, sealed off, under the water of the Conemaugh River for part of the year.

You can take the West Penn Trail to reach the other side of Bow Ridge on foot. Then proceed two or three more miles to reach the ghost town of Livermore.

You can see this tunnel for yourself at the Tunnelview Historic Site.

Jonathan, his mom Fran, and I visited Tunnelview in February 2016 when I took this photo.  Here is the post that I wrote on our other blog when we returned from that trip.

Finally, here’s a photo that I didn’t post our other blog: the February ice inside Bow Tunnel.

Invade A Ghost Town. Run For Your Life. Do Not Pass Go. Do Not Collect $200.

Have you ever been to Livermore PA?

Me neither. No (living) people reside there now, and most of the town is under the Conemaugh River.

Livermore is (was?) near Blairsville and Saltsburg.  In the 1950’s, the US Army Corps of Engineers built the Conemaugh Dam on the Conemaugh River. This created the Conemaugh Lake and flooded Livermore. The town’s cemetery remains above the river bank.

However, I learned some urban legends about Livermore from a national podcast. I learned about the internet rumor that the town remains flooded from the Johnstown Flood of 1889. That a witch and a ghost train haunt the former town and its cemetery. That on at least one website, thrill-seekers document their trespassing adventures to Livermore.

Also, that at least one group of real-life midnight visitors to the Livermore Cemetery ended up running for their lives from a very real threat.

Here’s the the podcast:

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 from “The Dirtbag Diaries. “

“The Dirtbag Diaries” is podcast about real life outdoor adventures all around the globe. Every year for Halloween, they do a scary story episode. These Halloween stories are all still outdoor adventures. However, in each of the Halloween stories, the narrator ends up terrified (and or fighting for survival) in the course of said adventure. Volume 8, the episode for 2017, was the best yet.

Tales of Terror Vol. 8 includes five stories. The other four stories in Tales of Terror Vol. 8 are also fun to hear. However, the very first story in the episode is the Livermore ghost town episode.

I downloaded both of these from iTunes, but I’m linking here to each podcast’s actual website.