william pitt union

 I have twenty-seven days to plan my Halloween costume.  Objectively, this is more than enough time to pull something off.  But with an illustrious history of “hobos” and “ironic” versions of myself behind me, I’m not going to let myself take it easy this year.  For inspiration, I thought I’d begin YB’s new Pittsburgh Legend series with a few Pittsburgh ghost stories.  This week, I give you the first installment of three tales of madness and mystery from Oakland, one of Pittsburgh’s most haunted neighborhoods.

The following story is true.*

Before the University of Pittsburgh called it the William Pitt Union, the red brick building on the corner of Fifth and Bigelow was the Hotel Schenley, a spot so sizzling hot in its day that Pulitzer Prize winning author Willa Cather even used it as an example of Pittsburgh’s swankiest scene.  But the hotel is even more intriguing in real life than in fiction.  When the Russian National Ballet planned their first American tour in the early 20th century, they started in Pittsburgh.  The ballerinas were allowed to settle into their rooms at the hotel and take a short break before leaving for the premier.  But one young woman, the prima ballerina, wandered away from the rest and fell asleep in the hotel’s Tansky Lounge, or, as you may know it, the Red Room.  The Red Room is the picture of classic elegance—marble columns, ornate mirrors, luxurious furniture, and the famous staircase to nowhere.  But unfortunately for the prima ballerina, it was just enough out of the way that no one from her company was able to find her when they were ready to leave.  Furious, the director replaced her with another dancer, who performed to great acclaim and was made principal for the rest of the tour.  Heartbroken, the prima ballerina took her own life that night.  Legend has it that her spirit has remained in the Red Room ever since, watching over anyone who has fallen asleep to makesure that they awake in time for their next appointment and avoid following in her bloody footsteps.

*If you believe in ghosts.

Stay tuned next week for more Pittsburgh ghost stories… if you can handle it.  Because they’re so scary.  What’s that reflected in my computer screen?  Oh, hi, Mom.  (My mom is a ghost.)