The Haunted Wedding Dress - Baker Mansion in Altoona, PA
A Wedding Dress in a room at Baker Mansion is said to be haunted by the daughter of the man who owned this house. Elias Baker built Baker Mansion in 1849. He was a very proud and snobby man and dominated his family. When his daughter Anna fell in love with a local steelworker, Elias told her she was forbidden to marry the man because he was lower class. Heartbroken Anna never did get married and died an old maid in 1914.
When Baker Mansion was turned into a museum, a wedding dress was put on display in Anna’s old room. Over the years, the wedding dress has gained a reputation for being haunted. Numerous visitors claim to have seen the wedding dress move within its glass case. On nights with a full moon the dress quakes violently in it’s glass case, sometimes threatening to shatter the display. They say that it is Anna’s ghost shaking the exhibit, enraged at the sight of a wedding gown because she never got to wear one.
The ghosts of both Elias and his daughter Anna have reportedly been spotted in the house by startled staff and visitors. Elias himself is alleged to haunt Baker Mansion’s dining room. A woman in black has reportedly been seen roving around on the third floor. There have been other stories of ghostly figures seen reflected in mirrors around the old stone house. Anna’s brother, David baker, was killed in a steamboat accident in the winter of 1852. People have heard screams coming from the basement ice room where the dead body of David was stored until the frozen ground thawed enough to give him a proper burial.
Disastrous endings can only result from a disgruntled bride-to-be whose angry, over-protective and powerful father has sent her intended love interest off packing, where he is never to be seen again. And where happiness once lived in the existence of a planned fairytale wedding with the most extravagant wedding dress that money can buy, and the possibility of dreams coming true through true love is now darkened by sadness and gloom that now encompasses the once overjoyed and very much in love Anna Baker once her father took matters into his own hands and ended that entire affair.
The very wealthy ironmaster Elias Baker only allowed for the very best things to touch and surround his family, and when his second to youngest daughter decided to marry, Elias couldn’t have been more pleased until he discovered who the intended groom was. Screams and yelling could be heard for miles away as he and his beautiful daughter hashed it out and finally ended the escalated argument with unfavorable results as to what was to come. Anna was stubborn and didn’t care about fancy houses, jewels, fine clothing and the best that money could buy; she only wished to marry the very ruggedly handsome low paid iron worker that labored for her father from sun-up to sundown at his prosperous Alleghany Furnace that offered some of the finest iron works in the area for the times.
Elias Baker and his cousin Roland Diller purchased the dying blast furnace, located in Blair County, in 1836 and turned it into a profitable business. Elias bought out his cousin’s share in 1844 just as the furnace was at its peak, bringing in a mega fortune that allowed Elias to contract Robert Cary Long, Jr., Baltimore’s first native-born professionally-trained architect. A master in all the prevalent styles of the day, he built the family a massive Greek-revival style mansion, completed at the cost of $15,000, a hefty sum for 1849.Tthe interior of the mansion is nothing short of exquisite with decorative black walnut woodwork, massive fireplaces made from Italian marble, and imported hand-carved oak furniture from Belgium. The exterior shows off decorative iron work fitting for an ironmaster. Sadly Elias was in a state of financial ruins before the mansion was complete due to falling iron prices and high end details that he felt the mansion must possess at any cost.
Elias’s wife Hetty understood love and all that it entailed, but her husband’s strong convictions about whom his daughter should or should not marry prevailed over any belief that she herself carried. Anna was in love with only one man and if she couldn’t marry him she would marry no one. Anna remained single for the rest of her life and she held a deep bitterness towards her father that caused health ailments along with a sadness that was evident to anyone that dared to look at or speak to the once strikingly beautiful spinster.
The extravagant wedding dress that Anna had chosen for her very own wedding day with detailing fit for a princess was going to worn by another woman from a prominent family. Elizabeth Bell is rumored to have mocked Anna for never having been married, and she not only wore Anna’s wedding dress on her special day, it has now become known as the “haunted Bell wedding dress”. Elizabeth Bell Dysart was the daughter of the prominent business man Edward Bell who founded and gave his name to the nearby town of Bellwood. The famously haunted wedding dress remains on display behind protective glass in Anna Baker’s old bedroom as part of the Blair County Historical Society’s museum in the Baker Mansion.
Anna Baker died in 1914 with a heavy heart over her lost love and grief stricken that she was never able to forgive her father. It is believed that Anna was determined to claim her dress back after death by wearing it in eternity, and apparently she got her wish, because because ever since her passing the dress has been moving and swaying as if a proud bride-to-be were standing in front of a looking glass admiring its beauty. Visitors to the Historical Society always study the glass encased dress for possible reasons for its movement and many claim that the historical floorboards under the display could be weak or loose, causing the case to swivel a bit, making the dress sway. Other people speculate that drafts are the reason for the unexplained haunted dress to move on its own.
The Historical Society decided to conduct their own study into the reasons why the wedding dress never remains still and concluded that after hidden cameras picked up obvious and deliberate movement while no one else was in the room that Anna Baker’s spirit lives on and she has come to reclaim her dress. However the ghost and spirit sightings does end here. People have claimed to see an older female spirit dressed in a heavy black dress walking slowly up the stairs. Most believe that this particular ghost is none other then the matriarch of the Baker family, Anna’s mother Hetty. The apparition of a male dressed in a uniform that is reminiscent of a steamboat crew member has been seen near the cellar. This spirit is believed to be Anna’s older brother David whose frozen lifeless body remained in the basement until the ground thawed so that he could receive a proper burial after being killed in a boating accident in 1852.
Visitors to the museum along with several staff members have seen the ghosts of both Elias and Anna Baker. The bitter old maid has been lurking in the parlor and in the bedrooms on the second floor. Elias prefers to haunt the diningroom area, and Anna’s brother Sylvester enjoys banging his cane on the floor. This ghost is nothing short of cantankerous and bangs away until he is noticed, and then he simply vanishes into thin air. Spectral forms and orbs have been caught on video when their obvious forms have reflected in the mirrors located in the mansion. Cold spots, moving furniture, eerie and unexplainable odors and footsteps are all a part of the paranormal activity living at the mansion.
A mystical music box plays at random hours, especially when no one is in the room. A police guard dog once brought along when the security system went berserk growled and carried on at absolutely nothing, at least nothing that the human eye could detect. Witnesses walking past the mansion late at night have reported ghosts that have absolutely no connection to the Baker family as they appear to be from an entirely different era according to the garments that they are seen wearing. Visiting the mansion during a full moon reaps excellent benfits to ghost chasers, paranormal investigators and anyone who enjoys a good scare.
The wedding dress and the Baker ghosts are all now a permanant part of the Blair County Historical Society after they leased the building in 1922 and opened it up to the public as a museum. Years of fundraising and strong community support allowed the county to purchase the Baker mansion in 1941. The Baker Mansion Museum is happy to share with the public a piece of history through guided tours that offer visitors a glimpse at exquisite period furnished rooms, historic exhibits covering transportation and the Civil War. Visitors will also learn about the liesurely activities that people enjoyed during a very different time in history.