Baker Mansion

Site Visit #292

1986 Blair Co Baker Mansion Oct 29 1986

Wednesday, October 29, 1986

We entered the Mansion’s driveway on Oct. 29, 1986 at 9:00 a.m., and the yard, trees and building exterior were dressed for Halloween. Ghosts, goblins and witches abounded; wet, fallen leaves and a darkened sky created a somber mood. We awaited the Curator’s arrival.

Baker Mansion houses the newspaper collection of the Blair County Historical Society, Altoona, PA. The impressive structure was built in 1846 by Elias Baker, and was to be a home surpassed by none. It sits atop a small hill and is truly awesome.

The Curator arrived. We exchanged formalities while her husband unlocked the door for us. The windows were all barred and shuttered; the building was closed for the season.

Mrs. Emerson – exuberant, vocal and enthusiastic — quickly oriented us to the stunning interior and its magnificent treasures. We climbed the stairs to the third floor and entered the newspaper room; we knew immediately we would not be finished in the 6 hours scheduled. Papers were housed on shelves on all four walls, almost from floor to ceiling.

Since we would need the entire day to catalog their holdings, she would literally “lock us in” and return later to let us out.

As she prepared to leave the quiet, dark, heavily furnished building, Sue jokingly asked, “The house isn’t haunted, is it”? Too much Halloween, I decided. Mrs. Emerson’s answer brought us up short.

“If you hear any thing, don’t pay it no never mind”. And she left, locking the door behind her.

“She didn’t say it wasn’t haunted”! We were slightly uneasy.

We began work – there was so much to do, we went quickly and could concentrate on little else.

Baker Vignette 1

Baker Vignette 2

At 6:00 p.m., Sylva Emerson returned to release us. We were almost done. Thirty more minutes. The Emersons waited patiently.

As we began packing to leave, Sylva turned to us and asked, “Did you hear anything while you were here”?

What was she getting at?

We mentioned the “knocking’ noice. “That was probably Sylvester Clemson Clinton Baker, resident ghost, walking the second floor”. She had heard him on numerous occasions before, and there was no cause for alarm. He limped and walked with a cane while he lived, so his walk is readily identifiable. And thus began the telling of haunt tales known to have occurred in one of the “Nine Most Haunted Houses in America”, so stated in Life magazine, Nov. 1980 (Cronkite).

Sylva told us of chairs that moved across the double parlor, witnessed by local police; of a wedding gown in an airtight, sealed glass case that sways and moves its sleeves and slippers, in front of witnesses; of fog-like forms seen through camera lenses but unseen to the naked eye; of “presences” and “energy sources” felt by psychics called in to investigate; of objects moving mysteriously from one place to another. And the list goes on.

“How could you leave us here all day, alone, knowing all this”? We were incredulous.

“Oh”, said Mr. Emerson, “the spirits are all friendly. No evil spirits have been felt here so you were quite safe”. As we were leaving through the front door, we declined their generous offer to stay there the night.


See Baker Mansion:

Articles related to story:

Baughman, Jon. “Historic Items, Supernatural Permeate Altoona Landmark.” Broad Top Bulletin 26 October 1983.

Cronkite, Walter. “The Private Life of Walter Cronkite: Terrifying Tales of 9 Haunted Houses.” Life November (1980): 152.

Miller, William. “The Lady in the Big House.” Blair County Shoppers Guide, Duncansville 29 April 1981: 2, 4.

Mulhollem, Jeff. “Evidence Mounts, Many Agree: Something Haunts the Mansion.” Altoona Mirror 14 July 1980: 24.



Wednesday, October 29, 1986

Left Huntingdon and headed for Baker Mansion, Blair Co. home of the Blair Co. Historical Society.

Arrived by 9:00 a.m. – waited for the Emerson’s to show up. Finally, 9:20 they came.

Curator, Mrs. Sylva Emerson, showed us around the beautiful old mansion (built 1846).

Third floor [was] where the newspaper collection was kept. Mrs. Emerson stayed w/us most of the morning. There was no heat, so after several hours our hands were almost too cold to write.

Around NOON – we went for lunch and then back to the Mansion.

Mr. and Mrs. Emerson were there – they were going to lock us in until we finished.

Before they left I asked whether the Mansion was haunted or not (I am not sure why I asked – we’ve been in about 200+ institutions and had never asked).

Anyway, Mrs. Emerson answered “if we hear anything – just no never mind”. Then they locked us in and left.

Beck and I climbed the 3rd flight of stairs and wondered about her answer – could it be haunted — she didn’t say it wasn’t.

Anyway – we started to work cataloging and LDRing the tons of volumes and single issues.

All of a sudden we heard a noise like someone chopping something. My heart stopped. I looked at Beck and she looked at me. Beck ran to the window [to see] if she could see someone outside. I turned to look down the stairway – nothing.

I told Beck to just forget it – ‘cause we would both scare ourselves silly.

So we soon forgot the noise and continued our work.

We worked steady and we were nowhere close to finishing. Beck decided to call the Altoona Public Library to cancel our visit.

We called Mrs. Emerson a couple times throughout the day to let her know of our progress. Around 6:30pm we finished!

Mr. and Mrs. Emerson had come around 6pm to answer a reference question and to see if we were alright and to see if anything had happened.

Beck and I started packing our things and as we were going downstairs, Mrs. Emerson told us that the Baker Mansion was one of the nine MOST HAUNTED HOUSES in the United States!

For the next hour or so Mr. and Mrs. Emerson told us of the strange happenings that have occurred.

I couldn’t believe it! We had been locked in all day!

Beck and I left Baker Mansion and drove to the Holiday Inn for a room and dinner.

Long day!!!

1986 Other Oct 29 1986 Blair CHS Baker Mansion
Newspapers in the attic at Blair County Historical Society.

Beck and I figured that the titles we had seen at the Blair Co. Historical Society were about all we were going to see. Seems the Rental Library in Hollidaysburg (where we are NOT going) has tons of local papers.

[But that’s another story…]

Worked in room organizing what we had cataloged and LDRed.

(Saw 79 titles at Baker Mansion)


Thank you letter from Becky to the Emersons, following our site visit…

Baker Mansion 11-13-86 letter



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