Philly’s Dark Side


Philadelphia may be our City of Sisterly Love, but this old town has a dark side. For those who prefer something more sinister than the Betsy Ross House, here are a few of Philly’s most macabre attractions.

Logan Circle may look normal—lovely in fact on a sunny afternoon—but until the 19th century it was a site for public executions and burials. You wouldn’t guess from the playful fish spouting water up into the air.

The Edgar Allan Poe House is a National Historic Site and a must for devotees of his work. Poe lived in numerous places in the Northeast, and he’s buried in Baltimore, but Philly saw the most productivity of his career. The living quarters are eerily small and the shadowy basement was his inspiration for The Black Cat. Also published during this time were The Gold-Bug and The Spectacles. Historians surmise that Poe’s Philly years were the happiest of his life, though who knows how upbeat the author of The Tell-Tale Heart could really have been. Admission is free.

The Mütter Museum aims to understand the human body and appreciate its complex beauty. These curators explore medical diagnosis and the treatment of disease through specimens, models, and some gruesome surgical tools from previous centuries. Highlights include an arresting 7’6” human skeleton (the tallest on exhibit in North America), a female torso deformed from corset use (which not only forces your ribs inward, but pushes your heart up and your intestines down), numerous conjoined fetuses, and pieces of Einstein’s brain. Photography is not allowed, but honestly, are you really going to forget this? Admission is $15, which includes their outdoor garden of medicinal plants.

The Penn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology should be your next stop if the Mütter didn’t satisfy you. Penn’s Egyptian mummy exhibit features both humans and animals, and naturally you’ll learn a lot about the grim but spiritual process of burial. Right now, you can also watch conservators restoring mummies in the lab. Admission is normally $15, but only $10 until the end of August.

Christ Church Burial Ground is one of Philly’s most noteworthy cemeteries, and this list would feel incomplete without at least one graveyard. This one’s the permanent home of Benjamin Franklin (whose local influence can be seen all over town) and four other signers of the Declaration of Independence.

Which dark and spooky places of Philadelphia have you wandered into?


About Author

Sarah is the North America Editor for Go! Girl Guides and she wrote the New York City guidebook. Raised in rural Texas on mesquite barbecue and barrel racing, Sarah lived in Indiana for two years before moving to New York by herself. Some of her favorite experiences in North America include snowmachining outside of Anchorage, exploring Caladesi Island off the coast of Florida, touring a Cold War bunker in West Virginia, watching the sun set over Chicago from Lake Michigan, and taking an overnight train from Montreal to Halifax.

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