Ghost House: Nabbing a Strip District Two-fer!

outline of 2-story "ghost house", Pittsburgh, PA

Ghost house (East), Strip District

We’d been after this pair for a while and yeah, we bagged them. It was a ghost house hunter’s ultimate score–side-by-side impressions of the same disappeared structure left right (and left/right) next to each other. With a little imagination even a dime store gum shoe could put the pieces together. The whole picture is right there in front of you, guilty as the day is long.

Cruise down Penn Ave. from the Strip to town and you can’t miss the western-facing member of this pair. She’s a platinum figure built like a brick (row)house, answering to this mathematician’s favorite dimensions: 24′ x 24′ x 36′. The dirty gray, ruffled skirt told us everything we needed to know about how the last century had treated her. Centered in what must have been one lovely attic space is an intriguing 1936, tattooed in red and beginning to flake away.

Her old man didn’t have the same distinction but the outlines were all there. The bruises across his midsection told us the block had been around him more than a few times and he could give as good as he got. On top of his pointy head sat a bonus ghost sign so far gone it’s now just a blur.

outline of 2-story "ghost house", Pittsburgh, PA

Ghost house (West), Strip District

Even though we’ve been down this particular stretch of road a zillion times, it was never quite the right time to make the grab. Some bozo would leave a car right in my shot [“Get out of the way, you bozo!”] or some dude would be parallel-parked on Penn Ave. and throw off the foto shui (look it up) of the bigger scene [“Beat it, pal!”].

But who’s this blogger kidding? These pictures ain’t for the museum, and they’re not getting pinned up in some teenage hair-farmer’s gym locker. No: we’re here to put this couple up on the blog wall faster than you can say “son now here’s some little something”.

Catching ghosts turns about to be a lot like nabbing bad guys. You order up some take-out coffees [“Black for me; two creams for my partner.”], get giant sandwiches from a place called Sal’s [“That bastard owes me!”], and then you wait [“I’ll take first watch. You get some shuteye.”].

And wait we did. Days, weeks–hell, it was months sitting on these perps. Just biding our time until they made a move. Oh, and what move they made. Another perfect, glorious, unseasonably warm November day; the sky so deep and blue it looked like the water from the prow of a skipjack off Dewey Beach. Me: all the time in the world to set ’em up and knock ’em down. Yeah, The Orbit got the collar. Put it in the books, Jack.

4-story brick building with outline of 2-story "ghost house", Pittsburgh, PA

Bonus (unreadable) ghost sign above the ghost house!

A Tiny Castle in The Strip District

homemade model of a castle mounted to a brick wall

A tiny castle on a wall in an alley in the Strip District

Man, can The Orbit ever haunt some alleys. Some days it seems like all the good stuff turns up in them. It was that way recently when this blogger found himself headed home from downtown, rolling through Spring Way (the long alley between Liberty and Penn in the Strip District). There I was, minding my own business*, not a care in the world**, when something quite literally popped-out from the brick wall high over head causing one citizen-journalist to nearly eject himself from his bicycle seat with the hasty application of a desperately in-need-of-repair set of brakes.

What could possibly demand this kind of reckless photo-pseudo-journalism? Well, the astute reader has probably already divined that there was a mysterious red castle fixed to a painted piece of wood and screwed to the wall. The piece is high over head (I’d say maybe twelve or fifteen feet off the ground?)–so unnaturally out-of-sight and out-of-mind that less reputable bloggers and side-street walkers wouldn’t even have noticed its presence.

Ha! It’s this kind of attention-to-detail that hopes to land Pittsburgh Orbit as your go-to news source. Look no further! But where was I? Oh, yeah–the castle.

We have very few clues to tell us what this is all about. I’m calling it a castle, but it could just as easily be a prison, maybe a school, or some other institutional building with turrets and large porticos. The model has what appears to be a flag of Mexico affixed to the high central parapet, but it’s up too high to make a positive ID. There’s also a dramatic helipad with a tiny yellow chopper seated in place.

homemade model of a castle mounted to a brick wall

In context: the tiny castle affixed above window/door height

“Real” castles may last for hundreds (thousands!) of years, but this objet d’art d’alley will not. It’s made of some combination of particle board, foam, paper, and paint and is already showing some serious deterioration. I doubt it will make it through more than one harsh Pittsburgh winter—and that’s assuming the man doesn’t take it down before then.

Getting there: For all these reasons, if you want to see the tiny castle, you shouldn’t wait too long. Those headed to Penn-Mac for their Fiore Sardo or to Stan’s Market for cheap peppers this long holiday weekend should take the extra couple minutes to walk around the corner. The castle is located in Spring Way on the block between 21st and 22nd Streets, approximately behind Luke Wholey’s Wild Alaskan Grill. Look up.

homemade model of a castle mounted to a brick wall

Note: An Orbit apology for the photo quality here, which does not meet our usual standards, but it’s the best we could do under the circumstances. The piece was so high I had to get way back to snap it and the ol’ camera phone just doesn’t do too well with the zoom.

* Nebbing into every possible window, conversation, open loading dock, etc.
** Skating on the thin ice of crippling self-doubt, guilt, and regret