The striking three-story building known as General Wayne Inn is located near the city of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. Designed in the style of a 1700s English coaching inn, it was first established as The Wayside Inn in 1704 by a Quaker named Robert Jones, serving people traveling on the road between Philadelphia and Radner.
The inn passed through the hands of various proprietors, including Anthony Tunis in 1746 – who named it Tunis Ordinary; and Abraham Streeper in 1776 – who re-named it Streeper’s Tavern.
Over the years, it became a general store, coach stop and post office – where Benjamin Franklin is believed to have served as Postmaster in the Colonial period. It finally became the General Wayne Inn in 1793, by way of tribute to a local Revolutionary war hero, General ‘Mad’ Anthony Wayne.
Many Revolution battles were fought in the vicinity of the inn, due to its location near Merion Station. It famously boasts a number of important patriots among its guests, including General George Washington and Marquis de la Fayette, as well as the British Redcoats and their hired Hessian soldiers.
During the 1800s, the inn offered a fine dining experience to holidaying Philadelphians. One famous regular visitor was Edgar Allen Poe, who allegedly wrote some of his most notable published works there in the 1840s. He scratched his initials on a window, which is no longer there; but some claim to have seen the figure of the writer, still sitting in his favourite seat.
The inn mainly continued operating as a restaurant for centuries, though not always with great success. The name of General Wayne Inn is still emblazoned on the side of the building, but after being bought by a local Jewish Synagogue in 2005, it is currently used as a Chabad facility.
Underneath the building’s façade of stucco and paint, the original stone and timber structure still exists. Inside there are wood beam ceilings and paneling, with a large dining room frequently used as a meeting room over the years – including by ghost hunters.
The Ghosts of General Wayne Inn
The General Wayne Inn is believed to be haunted by seventeen different spirits, most of whom date back to the time of the Revolution. When proprietor Barton Johnson bought the inn in 1970, he was aware of its ghostly reputation, having grown up in the local area of Merion.
Mr. Johnson was keen to uncover the truth about his inn’s hauntings, so in 1972 he organized a séance with the help of well-known New Jersey psychics, Bill and Jean Quinn. At this event, the Quinns reportedly made contact with some of the building’s ghostly residents.
At least eight of these spirits were thought to be Hessian soldiers who met their deaths in or around the building. During the Revolution, the inn was controlled by Hessians for a short while. Details on how these soldiers died are inconsistent, but there have been many reports of sightings, particularly in the inn’s basement.
According to one story, revolutionaries managed to build a secret tunnel connecting the General Wayne Inn’s cellar to a nearby field. A young Hessian soldier was sent to the cellar for wine during a victory celebration one evening, then ambushed and murdered by revolutionaries. His body was buried in the tunnel, and centuries later the spirit of the young soldier was still thought to visit the inn.
Wilhelm was another soldier who allegedly appeared at the 1972 séance, claiming he had been buried in his underwear. His uniform and boots were removed by his superior officer when he died, and Wilhelm had been looking for them since, hoping for a more dignified burial at last.
The 1972 Seance Repercussions
Among several other soldier ghosts was Ludwig, who appeared several times to a man named Michael Benio in 1976. Ludwig claimed he was buried in the walls of the cellar at the General Wayne Inn, and desperately wanted a consecrated burial. Mr. Johnson allowed the cellar to be dug out, and some reports claim remains were found – but others disagree. Either way, the hauntings by Ludwig allegedly came to an end.
There were other spirits who made their presence felt at the 1972 séance. Two young women appeared, who seemed anxious about being accused of stealing; there was also a young boy, crying as he looked for his mother, a figure in period dress and a native American.
Other ghostly occurrences were of a more mischievous kind. Several young women reported feeling the sensation of someone blowing on their neck while they sat at the bar. Of course, no-one was there, and many believe the ghosts of Hessian soldiers might be responsible.
Mr. Johnson even left a tape recorder running in the restaurant one evening, after everyone had retired for the night. He claimed to hear clear sounds of barstools swiveling on the recording, along with voices and even drinks being poured.