Seated above the Monongahela River in the small town of Brownsville, PA, Nemacolin Castle overlooks the small, bustling town. It was a perfect location to act as both a trading post and a family home. The structure has been added to over the years since its’ original construction, and perhaps that’s part of the appeal for living and dead alike. The building captures the best of the Revolution era colonial style as well as the Victorian era styles. It has been up-kept and maintained to its’ original beauty and grandeur and continues to watch over the land that once sat untouched by human hands and will do so for years to come.
Much like the rest of the country, the land the Nemacolin Castle currently occupies once belonged to the Native Americans. The name of the castle itself was derived from a Native American Shawnee chief who was said to help settlers explore the area and pass through.
In 1789, the land was settled and occupied by the first generation of the Bowman family, Jacob. Jacob was a merchant who migrated from Hagerstown, Maryland. The castle was originally constructed as a trading post. The name of the trading post was Redstone, named after the Redstone Creek. It was used as a middle ground for the Nemacolin Trail, which connected the Potomac River and Ohio River.
After Jacob passed away in 1847, the building was passed down to his son Nelson, who began to add on to the structure. Nelson’s wife also updated the castle to a more Victorian style rather than the bare bones Colonial style. The couple had six children, but only 2 survived through childhood.
Throughout the Civil War era, the Nemacolin Castle was supposedly a stop along the Underground Railroad. With its’ 22 public rooms, several concealed and hidden rooms, and even secret passages throughout the castle, it’s very believable that these runaway slaves could hide here without anyone knowing.
Charles Bowman inherited the house from his father, Nelson, after he passed on in 1892. Charles and his wife, Leila, passed along the castle, via their deed, to the Brownsville Historical Society in 1959. The society took ownership in the early 1960’s and has maintained the castle ever since. The castle has even been furnished to appear as though you’re stepping right into those early Victorian years when you visit.
The history of the castle is a little more than convoluted. With all of the guests and tradesmen who have passed through the homestead ever since it was established, it’s difficult to document anything more than the owners and their families who resided during their three-generation run.
Throughout the years, many different spirits have been reported by both the staff and visitors alike. Aside from the visible entities, there have been footsteps, laughter, barking, and even the creaking of a rocking chair heard. A shadow person has also been spotted downstairs on the first floor and the basement.
No one is sure how they got their names, possibly through some EVP sessions but a few of the more common spirits appear throughout the house only to disappear into thin air. Elizabeth and Mary are two of those very entities. Elizabeth appears in a white proper dress and runs through the house, (even screaming on occasion) while Mary, a young girl, appears in a white nightgown with curly hair. Jacob Bowman has also appeared to visitors in both the library and the basement, disappearing as quickly as he appears.
The upper floors bring about the most hauntings however. These hauntings haven’t been named nor identified. In the second floor hallway, an older woman with slicked back hair and wearing a dark dress has been seen roaming, as if she was lost. Another young girl (younger than Mary) has been spotted in the nursery, she seems to be enjoying herself and the attention she gets. Even when she cannot be seen, her joyful and playful chuckling can be heard echoing in the nursery. A woman clad in purple has been documented in the small bedroom on the second floor. It is reported that some people have a difficult time breathing and pains in their chests when visiting this room. Down in the basement, dark shadow figures have been reported crawling on the floors, walls, and ceilings.
One of the more well documented cases was actually triggered by security motion sensors. Police were actually called to the castle at the risk of a breaking and entering. Upon their arrival, they noticed a young girl in the upstairs window waving out to them. The police were concerned that she was locked in and needed help. Once the owners were called to unlock the door, no one could be found.
Aside from the visible paranormal experiences, noises, movements, and scents are quite common. Footsteps will often be heard in the hallways on the upper floors, a dogs barking and yelping can be heard in the foyer area, and cupboards have been known to open and close on their own. In the Bishop’s Room, the rocking chair can be heard squeaking and the rug can be seen being pulled under the legs. The smells of a thick cologne come and go even when no one is around, and the scent of a light perfume has been noticed when on the upper floors.
Many visitors and investigators who spend some time at Nemacolin Castle have felt uneasy or unsettled in some rooms (the basement and library in particular) whereas they feel at home and welcomed in others, like the nursery. Orbs have been captured by some and voices can be heard even without any devices or technology, in particular, on the second floor. Some people have felt like they were being watched or followed, others have even felt a tug at their legs as if a child was trying to get their attention, some have even felt a cold, almost wet tap on their hands like a dog sniffing the unknown guest.
Based on the location and the folklore of Native Americans, the castle has actually been considered a gateway to the other side. This would explain why the spirits seem lost and that they did not necessarily parish on the grounds. However, being that the same entities appear to many different people in the same way, this may debunk this theory.