Haunting in Pittsburgh - Is Mad Mike For Real?

A shadowy figure growls at pedestrians in Mount Washington, Pittsburgh. An old, wiry, demented figure can sneak up on you while you are enjoying Pittsburgh's view from Mt. Washington. A dark ghost mumbles gibberish at you, while sitting on a thin tree branch. Sounds too good to be true? Read on! 

It is easier to spin an imaginary ghost story. However, this one is for real, or at least partly real. To learn the story, let us go back to 1877. It was May 20, 1877 and the Duquesne Incline had just opened for the public. It was the best means of transportation up and down Mt. Washington, or at least that's what the owners thought. It can take the workers up and down in 80 seconds and it cost a meager 5 cents. The alternative was taking over 1300 steps. This was especially dangerous during night time, as electric bulbs were not yet in use. 

Above: Over 1300 Steps at Mount Washington were used daily by coal workers before 1877
 However, workers refused to take the incline, and preferred to walk the steps instead. Most of the workers were hard working immigrants, who did not mind taking the steps to save the pennies. 3 months had passed, and less than 100 people took the incline everyday, and the owners had to come up with a plan or go bankrupt.

Above: Duquesne Incline was NOT preferred by workers, who walked up the steps to save 5 cents

So they found a few people who were disabled, and hired them to act as ghosts hiding in the bushes near the steps. They were trained to growl and hiss at people, and were even given incentives if they managed to make unsuspecting pedestrians run or scream. One of their favorite actors was Michael, who had a history of mental illness and was too weak to work anywhere else. He was perfect as he would growl and hiss at people anyway. "Mad Mike", as he was called by the owners would sit on top of a tree branch and scare any pedestrian who took the steps.

Above: Old Frankenstein Actor. Disabled workers were hired to scare pedestrians on Mt. Washington 
 If the worker was a brave man, Mad Mike would jump down from the tree and attack him with a stick. He was part crazy and he took great offense if anyone was not intimidated by him. Within 3 months, the ghost story had spread, and the trick had worked. Workers stopped using the steps, and started using the Duquesne Incline, even during the daytime. Business had picked up, and the owners breathed a sigh of relief. They fired the actors, but Mad Mike threatened to tell publicly about the scare tactic, and blackmailed the owners. Mad Mike was crazy, had no family and had nothing to lose, after all!

 Little is known as to what happened after that. It is not certain that if the owners paid him off, but there has been periodic sightings of Mad Mike till date. In fact, it is rumored that Mad Mike started riding the Duquesne Incline itself, accompanying unfortunate lone riders at night. The story of Mad Mike riding the Duquesne Incline spread like wildfire in 1962, scaring the patrons away. People refused to board the Duquesne incline because of the ghost sightings and the Incline was forced to close in November 1962.  It would later be reopened by a group of benevolent philanthropists.

Above: Railings became useless as Duquesne Incline shut down in November 1962

If you are walking in Mount Washington, you can still hear growls and hisses from the trees, and sometimes a loud thud. Is Mad Mike still jumping down from the trees to scare you? Even if you like going to "Haunted Houses" during Halloween, you don't want this type of scare!

Above: Mad Mike may still lurk on tree branches of Mount Washington

If you are alone on the observation deck of Mount Washington in the dark, he can sneak up on you and scare the hell out of you! At least a dozen ghost sightings have been reported in the last few years. Most sightings describe a wiry, shadowy figure growling. Some even thought it was a werewolf! Is Mad Mike still lurking in the dark, scaring Pittsburghers?

3 comments:

Really spooky, many young couples who stay at the observation deck late night have also complained of someone watching them from trees nearby.

I just left pittsburgh and rode the Duquesne and we saw this ghost! It is real!!! Have a picture to prove it!

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