The Underground Concourse in Philadelphia

One of the questions I’m frequently asked on tour is if I’ve had any personal experiences with ghosts. Since I usually present as a skeptic and I never have enough time between stops to tell a proper story, I usually tell people I’m about as psychically inclined as a glass doorknob. What most people don’t understand is that glass (especially mirrors) is one of the most conductive materials to supernatural entities .

I live in New Jersey and work in Philadelphia so my daily commute sees me on the Patco, travelling over the Delaware River. This provides one of the most beautiful views in the city most days of the year, but especially on rainy days in the early spring when the river is swelled with ice melt and the water is a like a blanket being overrun with tiny ants. From the bridge looking out at the city and down at the rippling water, it seems like every rain drop is a mini-meteor wrecking havoc on a glassy reflection of the sky.

On these rainy days, I disembark the train earlier than I normally would at 12-13 Locust and travel through the city underground to Market Street where I work. The maze of concrete, tile, and echoes, I travel is called The Concourse.

The Concourse is a veritable underground city. There are connections to other underground public transportation, a panoply of food shops and stores. There’s even a post office.

It was built in sometime in the 1900s for the same purpose it exists today, to give pedestrians a path to avoid weather. During the Cold War, when everyone lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation, these underground tunnels were prepared as bomb shelters, with some places having up to forty years of supplies laid away.

A police officer I once fell into conversation with told me about several deaths that happened in the Concourse over the years.  During the winter, it’s a haven for the homeless who often makes them victims of both cold and the cruelty of man.

The officer spoke to me about the ghost of a sleeping man that he and others have occasionally noticed.  He is curled up by a column at the Locust Street section of The Concourse and more than once this police officer has tried to wake this man only to have their hands pass through him and have the body disappear.  He and other have seen pedestrians simply walk through the sleeping man without seeing him.  The ghost sleeps through rush hour, construction, and even being run through by one of the cleaning zambonis all without waking.

A more lively spirit haunts the hallways closer to Market Street, where there are the most shops.  Usually there are buskers around during rush hour, providing guitar, violin, or accordion music to pep up weary travelers. Many of the shop owners and regular foot-commuters talk about a phantom musician. A dedicated artist who plays his music until you drop a coin into his cup.  Then he smiles and disappears.

The most frightening part of The Concourse for me, especially on my walk home at night, comes closer to the 18th and Market side.

Like all travelers using The Concourse at 18th and Market, I enter the underground through the BNY Mellon Center. The inside of this hallways looks more like an Asian fusion restaurant than a business place with it swirling green marble and arching ceiling. At the bottom of a steep narrow escalator, foot-commuters encounter a long hallway with a newsstand store, a bagel place, and a few other such businesses, before this long hallway eventually leads to an old timey barbershop, which I’ve been told dates back to the time the Concourse was first opened.

The hallway leads past several blacked out windows. I don’t know their story; they could be offices or restaurants blocking the unpleasant view of a dirty hallway and loading dock that’s a loitering place for the homeless. It could be a black paper to hide unsightly empty stores. I think one of them might lead to a combination casino and steakhouse. In the year and a half since I’ve been traveling this path, I’ve never seen a change in those dark paned windows.

I do know they are incredibly haunted.

Often when I pass these reflections I notice something unusual. There seems to be more people reflecting in the glass than there are in the hallway. Sometimes it’s more subtle than others. There are five people in the hallway- two in front of you, for example, two behind. If you happen to look at the accidental mirrors of the dark windows, you’ll see six figures, someone who’s not in your peripheral vision walking just behind you.

Other times it’s more obvious. Many nights as I’ve gone through that hallway, I will be alone or with one other person a meter or so in front of me and I will notice a flood of shadows reflecting in that glass. Like a reflection of this hallway during the rush hours before… or maybe a rush years and years ago.

It’s an uncanny feeling and makes a person think twice before going into the Concourse alone. But the ghosts sometimes are not content to make a person simply feel uneasy.

One dreary night, late in the autumn, when the chill of the coming winter permeated even under the earth, I had the distinct displeasure of walking this hallway completely alone. I was listening to music, concertedly not looking at the windows, trying not to bother any spirits lest they should bother me. You know sensible ghost tour guide behavior. Very uncharacteristic for me.

I began to hear a banging at the glass. It surprised me enough to look, just for an instant. I saw a person, a woman I think, banging her fists on the window of the close store. But remember, there’s black paper in front of that window, so she was able to fit between the paper and the glass in order for me to see her. She was trapped and murderously angry, determined to break the glass between us.

I ran the rest of the hallway, the banging following me the entire length of those reflective windows. When I reached the opening of the hallway, where there are more restaurants and stores and the comforting sounds of other people, even automated ones, I was stopped by a police officer.

It’s very awkward to explain why you are running from a sound no one else heard and a thing no one else saw.

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