Titusville is full of old houses. Built with hand-hewn timbers and leaded glass, stately homes sprang up on frontages where horse-drawn carriages sped by on packed dirt streets. After the oil boom, houses in different styles of Victorian architecture popped up across town, many of which are still standing today. These houses have withstood more than a hundred years of life. Residents come and go, but the houses stand as silent witnesses to heartbreak and happiness.
Through houses, we find families. Lost to history, but waiting to be found, these families have much to tell us about the homes in which we live. Residents have reported spooky occurrences and feelings that just aren’t quite right. Ready to explore haunted Titusville with us? Read on!
The first house we are looking at this Halloween season is 321 North Perry Street. This home was constructed in 1868 with four other “French Cottages” in the area. All of the homes made use of the Mansard style, with a downward-sloping roof. The intention of the designers was that the first floor would be used by the purchasing family and the second floor would house the servants’ quarters. These houses were purchased by wealthy families and their beauty has stood the test of time.
The first family to own the home at what was originally 103 North Perry were the Pierces. Rexford and Clarissa Pierce were in their mid-fifties when they purchased the home on Perry Street. Rexford was born in Massachusetts and married Clarissa Sturtevant in 1842 in Vermont. Eventually settling in Titusville to capitalize on the lumber business’s involvement with oil, the Pierces had no idea the heartbreak that would befall them here.
Before the birth of their sons, George and Edmund, the couple lost two babies infancy. Then George came along and due to problems no one could ever anticipate, he was developmentally challenged from birth. After the birth of their son Edmund, the couple had two more children, Mary and John. Though they endured their struggles, it seemed that life was finally rewarding them. But fate was not through with the Pierce family.
In 1882, Mary Pierce was a successful twenty-four-year-old woman. She had excelled in school and had enrolled at Allegheny College. In the midst of her junior year of schooling, Mary began to feel ill. It was January, and not unusual to not feel well while slogging through the depths of winter. But Mary’s illness was different. She was coughing up blood and desperately weak. The family sent her to Florida to recuperate, but she continued to decline. She returned to her home in Titusville and after a short while, Mary died of tuberculosis. Her family was heartbroken. And yet, there was more.
Just over one year later, in February 1883, a torrential downpour struck the city of Titusville. Melted snow and heavy rainwater caused immense flooding that impaired bridges and roads across town. Nineteen-year-old John Pierce was out with his friends, Ephraim and Will, during the thick of it. Despite the desperate pleas of onlookers to stop, the trio attempted to cross the South Franklin Street bridge that was beginning to break loose from its footing. Just as the boys reached the middle of the bridge, it collapsed. Pierce, Ephraim Robinson, and Will Bartholemew were thrown into icy Oil Creek. The Titusville Herald reported that, “The first two named sank almost immediately. Pierce came to the surface of the water once and crying ‘Save me!’ went down, to be seen no more. Robinson is supposed to have been struck by a piece of the bridge, for his body was not seen after the waters had enclosed him in their icy embrace.” Bartholemew grabbed onto a log and floated down the creek until people were able to throw him a rope and pull him to shore. Robinson’s body was recovered a week later, while the Pierce family languished in agony for months until his body was finally found after the spring thaw in April.
With all this immense tragedy, the “hearts of the parents were will nigh broken.” Though none of the Pierces died in the home on 321 North Perry, the home undoubtedly witness their great suffering in burying four children. After the Pierces sold the home in 1899, it was lovingly cared for by the Thompson family, E. Frank and Anna, and then Kirk and Aileen, for almost eighty years. After 1978, it changed hands often, but residents reported the odd things they experienced while inside.
One family remembered how their dog would sleep at the top of the stairs and begin barking in the middle of the night. When they rose to see what was wrong, the dog was seemingly barking at nothing. Residents also said that they had eerie feelings while being in the upstairs and that sometimes basement doors would suddenly be unlocked and left ajar. One local even remembered how their “neighbor drove by the house one day and saw a little boy standing in the doorway behind the screen door. She thought it was our friend’s son, but it turned out that he was already at school that day.”
321 North Perry is currently vacant and up for sale. We can’t wait to see what the next hundred years have in store for this property that has kept its secrets.
The second home in our haunted history is 208 North First Street; currently owned by Carolyne Frycke. This stately home was built around 1911 in a lot that was parceled between many homes on the street. The most prolific owners of the home were the Gerards. Wallace C., Martha, and Raymond Gerard lived in the home from April 1926 until September 1973. Wallace and Martha were both born in the area and lived here their entire lives. They had a son, Raymond, in July 1918 and raised him in the home.
Wallace worked for the Post Office for thirty-three years and eventually, the couple retired into post work life. During that time, Raymond entered the United States Marine Corps and served in Okinawa during World War II. After returning home, Raymond worked for Cyclops and lived just down the street from his parents with his wife, Alma McDonald. The hiking trail at Drake Well and Oil Creek State Park is named for him, the Gerard Trail, for all his work with the outdoors. While none of the Gerards died in the home, some visitors report having an uneasy feeling, including a child who would refer to an unseen presence as the “glass lady.”
Finally, a home a little outside the Titusville boundary has struck an eerie feeling into residents for generations. About six miles beyond the city limits in Diamond, there is a home on Meadville road next to a cemetery, but that is the least scary part of the property, so say previous residents. A former resident reported that she “would hear voices whispering my name when I overslept, see people shaped shadows out of the corners of my eyes, dream of flying through my house and really be able to feel all the textures of the walls and ceiling in my sleep.” If that wasn’t scary enough, “One summer my cousin and I were running around outside in the rain,” she said. “It was starting to storm and at the same time we both heard ‘GET ON THE PORCH!’ in a loud woman’s voice that seemed to come from everywhere and inside our heads at the same time. We both looked at each other and took off for the porch.” Just after the girls landed back on the porch, lightening struck the yard. An invisible presence might just have saved their lives that day.
Spooky things are all around us. We live in an historic place that is swimming with stories, both old and new, that are enough to make you wonder about the great beyond. Unlike today, it was the norm in the Victorian era for people to die in their homes, not in hospitals or nursing facilities. People lived and died in the same place, often leaving their family to ponder the whereabouts of their mortal soul. Next time you are walking around your house, stop to think about who lived there before. What were they like. What did they endure. What broke their hearts and gave them joy. For you never know what your house has witnessed, just like it is now witnessing you.