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Mysterious Britain & Ireland Domesday Census

In 1086 William the Conqueror commissioned a survey to to find out what or how much each landholder had in land and livestock, and what it was worth. The record of this survey became known as the Domesday Book and was invaluable when it came to setting taxation.

To celebrate the 10th Anniversary of Mysterious Britain & Ireland we are launching our own survey of hauntings, folklore, legends and strange experiences,though we are not restricting ours to England and its Shires.

We intend to provide a database where our registered members can post information about cases they have come across, regardless where abouts in the world they are.

How Do I Get Involved?
Simple. Whenever you find information regarding something of interest, stick it up on our Mysterious Britain & Ireland Worldwide Domesday Survey pages in our Forum. This information could be from books, websites, newspapers, television programmes, local knowledge or from personal experience.

Try to make the information as detailed as possible and please do quote your information source.

Even the smallest amount of detail is worth submitting as other users can  expand upon each item with their own comments.

In time we hope write up each case and add them to the Gazetteer.

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Re: Mysterious Britain & Ireland Domesday Census

Hello Ladies & Gents;

I am a new member of your organization with the assumed moniker of Punkinhead. I chose this name in tribute to the American film "Pumpkinhead", the story of a backwoods demon of vengence. Give it a look if you get the opportunity.

Anyway, this is a story that I have heard bandied around the town since I was a child ... many moons ago. It is the story of The Original Most Haunted House in America, located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I must preface this story by telling you that I have copied and pasted this story from the website of "International Parapsychology Research Foundation". see their website at <>.

I assume you are looking for members to write articles for this organizations use, and I am being remiss by sending someone else's tale, but it's such a rip roaring gullywasher that I thought your members would get a real CHARGE out of it. So, without further ado, We're Off!

Pittsburgh Haunts: The Congelier Mansion
By Brian Schill

The House That the Devil Built

A story with more twists, turns and pure demonic depth than the Amityville Horror has hidden for decades, lying away in what was the peaceful Manchester neighborhood on Pittsburgh’s North Side. Even from its earliest beginnings there was something “not right” about the Congolier Mansion that would soon manifest itself – in blood.

During the late 1860’s Charles Wright Congelier made a fortune for himself in Texas during the reconstruction period following the American Civil War. In the Old South men such as Congolier were referred to as “carpetbaggers” – someone who made a small fortune by preying on the broken economy in the former Confederacy. Congolier, a man turned profiteer by greed, amassed a considerable amount of wealth and left Texas by way of a river steam boat, taking with him his Mexican wife, Lyda, and Mexican servant girl, Essie. Their riverboat docked in Pittsburgh to take on coal for the next leg of the trip, but Congolier found that he liked the area and decided to stay.

Soon, Congolier found a lot for the construction of his home and, before long, building commenced on his brick and mortar mansion which was considered to be one of the finest houses in the area. He chose one of the most beautiful areas in the city – a place that offered a breathtaking overlook of where the Allegheny and Monongahela Rivers meet to form the Ohio. It didn’t take for Congolier to become a respected member of the local business community and his new home was the showcase for many social gatherings. However, slightly more than two years after the magnificent home was completed – in 1871 – the parties would come to an end as shroud of darkness was beginning to take the mansion into its dark caress.

During mid-winter of 1871, after the cold and snow had comfortably settled upon the region, Charles found that living in a spacious mansion could afford him some time here and there to engage in some “extracurricular activity” outside of his marriage arrangement. It took several months for Lyda to figure things out, but, when three people reside in the same house for a lengthy period it would only have been a matter of time anyway – sooner or later – the affair would have been discovered, and besides, secrets do not like to be kept.

One afternoon, sometime before the New Year Lyda rang the servant’s bell, but Essie did not respond. After a second and, eventually, a third ring Lyda went to find Essie. After looking in most of the areas in the house where she may have been cleaning Lyda finally decided to check Essie’s quarters. As Lyda made her way down the hallway she heard lustful sounds emanating from behind the maid’s door. She was painfully aware of what was happening – in that moment she knew what she had to do. She went downstairs and calmly took the first two convenient weapons she could find in the kitchen – a butcher knife and a meat cleaver.

Lyda’s calm demeanor soon gave way to anger, then, as she was ascending the steps to the upstairs, anger turned to a screaming, uncontrolled rage. Charles and Essie knew that their affair had been discovered in the midst of the act. Both scrambled to put on what ever disheveled clothing they could manage to quickly scoop up off of the floor. Charles, still half disrobed, continued to dress as he hurriedly tried to exit Essie’s room and think of an excuse, but, as he crossed the threshold he was met soundly with a cleaver to the forehead. As he crumpled to the floor Lyda began stabbing him with the butcher knife – 30 times in all – before she went to work on the screaming Essie.

Several days after “the incident” took place a family friend stopped by the house. He knocked on the door several times before trying the latch. To his surprise it was unlocked, so, in the interest of the well being of the family he peered inside. As he leaned into the foyer he heard a creaking sound in the parlor. As he went further into the darkened house to investigate he was relieved to find the sound he heard was only Lyda sitting in her favorite rocking chair in front of one of the large bay windows in the parlor. As he approached he explained that he knocked and that when no one responded he merely wanted to make sure everything was alright. If it had not been for the creaking of the rocking chair the silence would have been deafening. He approached, only slightly closer, and again asked Lyda if she was ok, if he could do anything for her. He was close enough to hear that Lyda was singing under her breath – singing a lullaby – and holding a blanket swathed bundle, but, the Congolier’s had no children.

Lyda held the bundle close, rocking it gently as she sang. It seemed as if the family friend was not even in the room, no one else was in the house and nothing else was going on in the world. He moved a bit closer and again asked if everything was alright, but obviously enough, by the glassy look in her eyes there was something that was very, very wrong. He asked if he could see the child, and, as he slowly unwrapped the pink blanket a chill of morbid horror rushed through his body as Essie’s head tumbled to the floor. The man fled from the house and alerted authorities who promptly went to the Congolier residence and arrested Lyda upon finding that she and had murdered both her husband and their maid in a most brutal manner. Eventually Lyda was found to be “deranged” and was placed in the care of Dixmont State Hospital, a mental health care facility that was located in present day Kilbuck Township just outside of Pittsburgh, for the rest of her life.

For more than two decades after the gruesome double murder the house at 1129 Ridge Avenue remained vacant. In 1892 its rotting opulence was remodeled to accommodate railway workers who labored in the nearby train yards. It seemed that the men who lived in the house were very transient, moving in and then moving right back out in a very short period of time. After a while the housing supervisor became curious and began to ask questions. Most of the men, not wanting to be thought of as superstitious or cowards, didn’t say much as to why their stay at the house was so short, but, a few did talk. The tales that they recounted were filled with incidents of a spectral woman sobbing or screaming on the stairway, cold drafts moving about, sounds of a rocking chair creaking in the parlor, shadowy figures moving about the rooms and hallways, voices mumbling incoherently and loud “thuds” as if someone had fallen down upstairs. By 1895 the house was abandon once again.

Five years later, around 1900, the property was purchased by Dr. Adolph C. Brunrichter to be used as his private residence. Outside of his practice the doctor kept to himself and was rarely seen by his neighbors. Things were not to remain quiet for long. On August 12, 1901 the family who lived in the house beside the mansion heard – and felt – an explosion that rocked the neighborhood. All of the windows were blown out of the mansion, the sidewalks were cracked and thick smoke was pouring out of several of the windows. Something in the old Congolier mansion had exploded – perhaps a gas line.
Out of curiosity neighbors wanted to investigate but erring on the side of caution they kept their distance out of fear of another explosion.

By the time the police and fire department had arrived a small crowd had gathered outside of the home. Many assumed that Dr. Brunrichter was still inside and a contingent of fire fighters braved their way in to find him. Brunrichter was nowhere to be found, but what the fire fighters did find sent them scattering back into the street. Several of the upstairs bedrooms had been turned into experimental labs where the good doctor left several of his female victim’s naked corpses rotting on the beds. For each of the bodies found, each was missing its head. The heads were later found in another room that was set up as a makeshift laboratory where the ol’ doc was experimenting with the severed heads in an attempt to keep them alive through the use of bizarre electrical equipment after decapitation. During one of his experiments some ozone had built up in one of the laboratories and a fault in the electrical equipment created the arc that caused the blast. In all, the corpses of five women, and their heads, were removed from the house – two from upstairs “labs” and three from under the dirt floor in the basement.

Now, no one was willing to even go near the house – it had an “evil” reputation, and it would again sit vacant for a period of years before being purchased by the Equitable Gas Company. The Congolier house, along with several others in the area, were remodeled, this time for immigrant workers of primarily Italian descent who were working as replacement laborers for the higher wage men that Equitable had laid off as a cost cutting measure. These men, like the railroad workers before them, experienced many strange events in the house, but, to allay their fears the executives at Equitable told the men that the American workers that they were replacing were playing pranks on them to scare them off. This seemed to work…for a little while.

On one particular evening 14 of the men were seated around the dining room table eating pasta and drinking some homemade wine. They were talking, laughing and making crude humor as working men do at the end of a long day. One of the men got up, gathered the dishes to clear the table and made his way to the kitchen. Several minutes went by and the man’s brother, wondering where he had gotten off to, went to find him. Looking around in the kitchen it seemed that nothing was amiss, but the basement door was open. Upon descending the rickety wooden stairs to the basement the light mood of the evening turned tragic and the man found his brother and another of the workers dead – his brother hanging from a rafter and the other man impaled by a board that was driven through his chest and sticking out of his back. The official police report stated that the first man had tripped on the stairs and fallen onto the board and the second man had accidentally become entangled in some electrical wiring that was not properly fastened to the joists overhead. The “official” report, however, was not enough to keep the men in the house – especially with all of the other unexplainable events that had already taken place.

From about 1915 the house again sat vacant waiting for its next victim, but that time would never come. Although the house would be unable to claim another victim, in late 1920 scientist and inventor Thomas Edison came to study the house and, fueled by his experiences at the house, Edison was now determined to build a device with which he could communicate with the dead. Unfortunately, Edison died before the invention could be completed. Years after Edison’s visit, in September of 1927, a drunk was arrested in New York and somewhere in the midst of his alcoholic daze the disheveled lunatic made claims of once being a most eminent doctor - Dr. Adolph Brunrichter. He began by explaining that he was a physician who worked diligently to prolong life, but because of the nature of his experiments he could only make progress by ending the lives of his test subjects. He also told police that many years earlier he purchased a large house in Pittsburgh which he used to entice young women who anticipated an evening of romance. Instead of romance though, they were beheaded and then used in various experiments in an attempt to keep the severed heads alive. The man rambled on to the police at length about the gruesome, blood filled orgies, demonic possession, torture and murder that had occurred in the house – as well as the previously unknown location of several graves of other women who were not discovered in the basement of the house. The police, however, were not able to establish a positive ID on the man and thusly were forced to relegate his “confession” to the ramblings of a deranged but harmless drunk with delusions of grandeur.

Less than 2 months later, on Monday, November 14, 1927, a 5,000,000 cubic foot natural gas containment tank and several smaller containment tanks, owned by the Equitable Gas Company, erupted into a ball of fire in an explosion that was felt throughout Allegheny County. The force of the blast damaged many of the brick and steel buildings nearby, shattered windows throughout the downtown area and caused massive damage to the Equitable Gas operations, refinement and storage facility. Estimates of this disaster were tallied at 28 killed, six hundred injured, nearly one hundred missing and one structure destroyed. The irony of the situation is that the only building that was damaged beyond repair, the only one that was completely destroyed, sat blocks away at 1129 Ridge Avenue – the Congolier Mansion. With its reign of horror over and only a smoldering crater left as a reminder, no other structure has ever been built on that site – a site that I can see from the Route 65 / I-279 interchange every day when I drive by while on my way to work. Every day I wonder…if the land could talk what other macabre stories would it tell? But, perhaps, like everyone else, I am better off not knowing. Some things are better left alone.

But Wait…There’s More!

As many of you who are familiar with my work know, I often say that truth is stranger than fiction. That is not the case here. The story you just read is almost entirely a complete fabrication made of up several decades worth of urban legends. Everyone loves a good ghost story and this tale is a prime example. This story is a perfect example of why research prior to a paranormal investigation is so crucial. Had I simply listened to the legends surrounding the Congolier Mansion I would have been sorely disappointed should I have attempted to perform an investigation at the vacant site. Like most urban legends this story is a clever blending of fact and fiction. The names, dates and locations seem to provide a concrete foundation for the story and tend to add an air of authenticity but, when I researched these events, they simply didn’t check out.

Problems with this story exist from the outset. The house was built in the 1880’s not the 1860’s as the story traditionally claims, so from the beginning we have a two decade differential in the basic timeline. Census records, land and real estate transfers and so forth do not even exist for anyone named Charles Wright Congolier, Lyda Congolier or the maid, Essie. They never existed; they were pure fabrications of someone’s creative mind. Additionally, there are no police records indicating that there was ever anything so much as a domestic dispute much less a double murder that occurred at 1129 Ridge Avenue. Records from the Dixmont State Hospital, who throughout its operation required rigorous documentation of all patients, also provided negative evidence against the Congolier Mansion story as no one by the name of Congolier was ever admitted to the hospital.

As for Dr. Adolph Brunrichter, well, he never existed either. This is reinforced by a check of both the Pittsburgh Police crime files and the national crime database archive files which yielded no information on anyone of that name or even close to that name. No explosions ever took place at the house, there were no bodies, secret graves or laboratories that ever existed at the house either and with that, the stories of murder and torture to this point in the timeline are completely discredited.

As for Edison’s 1920 visit, well, we all know that he had a lab in Menlo Park, New Jersey and that he was interested in communication with the dead but there is no evidence that he ever visited Pittsburgh in the timeframe suggested by the story and, even if he had, he certainly did not visit the Congolier Mansion during that period. If he had, he would not have found an abandon stone mansion possessed of evil, what he would have found was the home of Marie Congolier and her family. Surely, the descendents of the Congolier family would have some recollection of the visit, even if it was merely passed on by word of mouth from one generation to the next, but according to the family no such visit ever took place. Also, the “Congolier Mansion” only became such after the Congolier family moved in – during the1920s, not in the 1860’s as the story leads you to believe.

The only death even remotely associated with events at the house was on the morning of November 14, 1927 when the Equitable Gas Company containment tank exploded. The percussion from he blast shattered windows throughout the downtown Pittsburgh area and the Congolier home was no exception. In an unfortunate turn of events Mrs. Marie Congolier was hit by a shard of glass from a nearby window and, although she was rushed to the hospital she died en route from a laceration to her neck that severed her carotid artery. The house survived the blast and, with only minor damage, was repaired. It was not pulled down into the 9th circle of Hell like the story insinuates, it stood on that site for years to come only being demolished when the area was being redeveloped for Heinz Field and the new Route 65 / I-279 interchange.

The moral of the story: as paranormal investigators we must research our cases thoroughly, if we do not we cease to be investigators and become mere storytellers, but than again, everyone loves a good ghost story!


There! Now wasn't that worth the read?

There are several re-tellings of this story and even some refudiations on the web, many can be found by searching for "dr. adolph c. brunrichter" in google or your favorite search engine. Here is one of my favorite alternate tellings at this site
<> Be sure to check out the links at the bottom of the page...more good stuff!

Happy Haunts, Punkinhead



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