Philadelphia Legends: The Historic Grumblethorpe

Philadelphia is known for its historical sites such as the Liberty Bell and Penn’s Landing, however, the city also has many spooky urban legends that date back to the early 1700’s. As a resident of the city and an enthusiast of anything that claims to be haunted, I sought out some of the legends that are rooted in Philly. Among many of the legends that I discovered one of the most interesting was right in my backyard, the Grumblethorpe in historic Germantown.

This house was built in 1744 by wine importer John Wister, as his summer house. After it was built the house was dubbed “John Wister’s Big House” because of its grandeur and multiple stories, but it later became known for something much more sinister. In September of 1777 the house was occupied by soldiers during the Revolutionary War. James Agnew, a British general, took the house as his residency during the war and shortly after he was killed at the house during the Battle of Germantown. Agnew was wounded in battle and he died while in the parlor of the house and it is said that you can still feel his presence lurking in the house.

Another legend surrounding the Grumblethorpe, is the continued presence of the Wister’s ward, Justinia. The Wister’s used the house as their primary residence during the time when Yellow Fever was at its highest, and they took in Justinia after her parents died of the fever. Justinia was a caring soul and she was known for making bread on every Friday night to give to the poor on Saturdays. At times when walking through the house you can smell freshly baked bread in the air and feel the warmth that emits from her kind spirit which is still attached to Grumblethorpe.

The Grumblethorpe is open to the public, and with admission you can see the historic home that harbors so much local mysticism. There’s something about anticipation that really lets the imagination run wild. Although I don’t claim to have made any spiritual connections myself I did feel that there is a level of spookiness in the air that you can sense while touring the home, which may or may not be due to the fact that I knew of legends before I visited the site. Whether you believe in the possibility of an afterlife or not, the home is great to visit. Especially the beautiful garden that is located on the property. If you know of any haunted locations in Philly or have visited the Grumblethorpe tell us about it in the comments!

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