Grand Midway Hotel
1303 Midway Avenue
Windber, PA 15963
About two hours east of Pittsburgh and just south of Johnstown resides the small town of Windber, PA. In that town, one of the oldest buildings, and still active businesses in the small coal town, the Grand Midway Hotel stands as an ominous and macabre monument to the history of the town. The building was once the lone central station stop for coal miners and working immigrants who made their way into the town looking for work. Over time, the station morphed into a brothel, a funeral home, a bar/restaurant, and even a reception hall for weddings. Currently, the hotel holds 32 full furnished rooms and is host to local artwork and a coffee shop. Modern day events include many of those paranormal themed due to the plethora of spirits that are said to still reside in the old building.
Not much is known about the original construction of the building. Based upon local articles and reports, the building has been around since the late 1880’s. The building was used as a central train station for the town, especially when the town was booming with coal miners. The town of Windber’s main source of income and economic was in fact the coal mines. However, when the industry began to decline, the train bypassed the town, leaving the old station abandoned.
By the late 1920’s, the station was converted into a secret brothel which lead to debauchery and illegal activities. This time period witnessed many altercations, some of which ultimately ended in deaths. After its’ departure from a brothel, the building was renovated into a funeral parlor. This only lasted about ten years, oddly enough then transformed into a wedding and reception venue; quite the departure from a brothel and funeral home.
By the late 1950’s, the building again fell into disrepair until a local family, the Timko’s, purchased the property and transformed it into a bar/restaurant known as the Midway Café. This venture too only lasted about ten years, being re-designed as a Kaleidoscope Bar by the 1960’s which lasted until the late 1990’s.
Come the year 2000, the building was put up for sale on eBay of all places. A group headed by Blair Murphy took a leap of faith and purchased the building, renovating it and living in it for over a year. They finally opened it’s doors as an Air B’n’B’ in 2001 and decorated the old station with local artwork and it currently serves as a popular stop for traveling artists. With this newly renovated design and contemporary business plan, the hotel has brought in many events since its’ re-imagination from everything from art shows to paranormal conventions. However, the hotel is a private residence to Blair even though he occasionally opens the doors to act as a coffee shop for locals. Oddly enough, upon the opening of Grand Midway Hotel, the trains began running through the town once more, truly bringing things full circle for the small town.
The hotel boasts some interesting, disturbing, and macabre artwork. This is no more evident than the over-sized and world record holding Ouija Board that has been designed and installed on the roof of the building, truly paying homage to the odd and curious happenings which occur throughout the building. To add to the anomalies, a large Universe Card from a tarot card deck has been painted on the ceiling of the dining room by Blair himself.
Much of this artwork was said to be inspired by the tragic past of the old train station. Even though there haven’t been written records of many of the deaths and unfortunate acts that were committed here, local legend and myths have held up to the test of time.
Perhaps the saddest, and most well-known incident occurred in 1911 during a 4th of July celebration. A young girl, 18 years old, Martha Selinsky was enjoying a fireworks performance on the second-floor porch with a group of people when she was struck by an arrant steel pipe that was thrown into the air during one of the fireworks launches. The shards of pipe hurled into her neck, severing her jugular vein and rupturing her spinal cord. She was pronounced dead in under ten minutes. Unfortunately, the majority of the town was unaware of the incident and continued celebrating into the night, even in and around the Midway Hotel. This accident was covered up by the local firehouse until recently as they were afraid that the death of Martha would result in criminal neglect charges to some of the volunteers.
Another terrifying event is rumored to be the death of a young girl. The names have been hidden away and the murder investigation was never official, but the story tells of a father who killed his daughter and buried her under the steps in the basement. This was spurred from the unexpected death of his wife and his following alcoholism. The man disappeared from the hotel abruptly and was never found.
There are numerous accounts of paranormal activity, ever since the death of Martha in 1911. Even when Martha’s niece, named after her, slept in the old hotel, she saw a young lady walking the hallways and standing over her bed when she was a young girl. Without any knowledge of the death of Martha, the young girl seemingly knew information that only the deceased Martha’s close family and friends would know. There have been sightings of a woman in the window, just staring out into nothingness, not moving. These reports have stemmed from anyone from the postal service to neighbors to kids Trick R’ Treating. Upon visiting, some guests have odd sensations about the upper balcony; which was removed in the past and doesn’t even exist anymore. Martha seems to the most intriguing spirit in the building. Guests from all over will ask about her as she is the most active and strongest spirit in the entire Grand Midway Hotel.
There are apparent spirits of former coal workers who may be attached to the building as well. One well known story tells of a guest who brought flowers into the building and placed them in the dining room was seemingly followed home by something otherworldly. The next morning, after she flew home to California, the guest was awoken by a tall man covered in soot, clad in overalls, and a mining helmet standing at the foot of her bed. Even though she was immediately frightened, she explained that the man seemed calm and nice and said “Thank you” as if thanking her for the flowers before he disappeared into thin air.
During the renovations in 2000, Blair and his friends noticed a man walking down the second-floor hallway. They followed him but he turned a corner and disappeared. The next time this man was seen was at night during a paranormal investigation when the man walked toward the research group, paused, and apologized for getting in their way. Upon asking the owners if they had someone in the house with them, they realized there was no one else in the building with them. After renovations were complete, and the first hotel resident was in the process of moving in. Aimee Kast noticed a man in the second-floor hallway even though she was told the building was empty. She dropped her belongings and ran out of the building, refusing to go back in until the owners went with her. She explained the man as tall, covered in soot, and dressed in overalls.
After these sightings, the owners had begun to bring in mediums. One of the mediums, Sydney Mulligan, explained a man who lurked inside the building and likes to mess with guests. She described a man who would dress in an old fashion type suit and held a job in the hotel. He was explained to have a friend with him who was from Philadelphia. During these visits, the mediums felt a presence in the basement, that of a child. They believed that this child was buried somewhere in the basement.
Ever since the mediums began taking readings in the hotel, these spirits have been more active. They have been said to slam doors, move and throw books around the study, and even push furniture around the rooms.
The apparition of a little girl has been reported in both the basement and on the third floor. It was mainly women who experienced this girl and they explained that she was playful and wanted attention. This girl will climb up and bounce on furniture, tug on pant legs, and even play in curtains. She has also been seen playing hide and seek in the basement. It is unsure if this is the little girl who has also been heard crying on audio devices, but whoever’s spirit is heard sobbing, they will be quieted by another phantom voice singing a lullaby to them; this has mainly been heard on the third floor.
In the bar area, another child has been noticed in the past. Chairs will move in and out on their own, silverware has been strewn about, and bar glasses have been thrown around and smashed.
Reports of a phantom bouncing ball have been reported on the third floor. Guests staying on the second floor have been kept awake by the noises of what sounds like a ball bouncing above them. As they venture upstairs to pinpoint the noise, they realize the noise is echoing from a sealed old storage room, completely full of old furniture and garbage. Some guests staying on the third floor will also claim not only that they hear the bouncing ball, but they will also feel a ball hit them with no ball in sight.
Aside from Martha, the other notorious apparition is that of the Professor. He was nicknamed this after many investigators and mediums claimed that an older, scholarly man wonders the halls and simply studies the guests. He has been seen staring at bookshelves and is even known to move and rearrange books on occasion.
After all these claims and stories, medium visits and paranormal investigations, the owners truly believed that they housed a plethora of spirits, and these entities have most likely been active for over a century.