Friday, June 4, 2010

Haunted Places: The Pittsburgh Aviary

 The National Aviary, located in the Northside section of Pittsburgh, is a great place to visit if you love birds.  They have a large variety and "free fly areas" where you can walk through where the birds are free to roam, not in cages.  My favorite memory of the Aviary is from a 6th or 7th grade field trip where a large bird chased our science teacher all over one of the free fly areas!

I recently came across some information that the Aviary is haunted!  Being a life long Pittsburgh resident I was shocked I had never heard this so I did some research.  Very interesting story involving Civil War history and Confederate prisoners of war held in Pittsburgh.  So animals, ghosts and history--makes me happy as a vampire in a blood bank!

The Aviary is built over the former site of the Pittsburgh Western Penitentiary.  During the Civil War of group of Confederate soldiers were captured in Lisbon, Ohio.  They were brought to Pittsburgh as Prisoners of War and housed at the Penitentiary.  The story is that many died due to horrible conditions and now their ghosts wander the halls of the Aviary.

I like to check out the history behind ghost stories to see if the historical facts match up with the story.  The Confederate soldiers were kept in this location but it appears the conditions were better than most POW facilities during the Civil War.  From letters written by the soldiers themselves and inspection reports by doctors it appears the men were fairly well fed and had somewhat clean living conditions.  However about five of the soldiers did die while held there.  The causes of death included smallpox, gastric ailments, and dysentery.  Types of things you would expect from a Civil War POW prison.  So I guess it is hard to say how good the conditions were at the prison.  Regardless those five prisoners were buried in Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh.  So they were never returned home.  If you would like to read a more detailed history you can go to the Lawrenceville Historical Society.  There you can read the actual letters from the prisoners and the names of the Confederates held in the prison.

The Aviary also has a special event centered around this story every Halloween.  It is called Haunted Aviary    which is an adults only event where you can wander the halls of the Aviary in semi-darkness, hear ghost stories, and eat!  You can also learn more about the regular programs and other special events through this link.  I certainly recommend a visit if you are in Pittsburgh.  I can't guarantee you will see Confederate soldiers but you will see lots of really neat birds.


  1. Raven,

    Thanks for following me; I followed you.

    I love spooky and eerie stuff too!

    It is nice to know that there is a haunted aviary in Pittsburgh; I will probably go there one day when I go on a road trip across America with my friends and family.


  2. This is an amazing post for fun lovers.

  3. I have always loved the Pittsburgh Aviary and Birds. The fact it could be haunted makes it even more interesting.