Lore Report: “Heirloom” (Episode 139)


[…] There are few places in America with as much historical baggage as the City of Philadelphia. Whether it’s the events that led to the birth of the United States or the centuries of life and death that have played out there ever since, the City of Brotherly Love has become a reminder of a very powerful lesson: you can bury the pain and mistakes of the past and pretend it has all gone away, but you can never keep it from coming back.

From a yellow fever epidemic in 1793 to Revolutionary War battles and beyond, the historically-central and quite populous American city of Philadelphia has been no stranger to mortality. In the latest episode of the Lore podcast, host Aaron Mahnke establishes this prevalence of death (he notes that the city is crammed with an astounding 210 cemeteries) before proceeding to delve into some of the tales of haunting that unsurprisingly have amassed. Mahnke shares some terrific stories of ghostly occurrences at Philadelphia landmarks like Carpenters’ Hall (site of the First Continental Congress) and Fort Mifflin (pictured above). A good chunk of the episode is devoted to Byberry hospital, a mental facility marked by horrid living conditions and the tormenting practices of its staff. The listener senses where this is heading, but all the buildup results in a disappointing payoff: inevitable shutdown leads to the hospital growing rundown, yet the abandoned facility never develops any significant reputation as a haunted locale.

The closing segment (a discussion of a religious group called the Chapter of Perfection) relates an incident more “bizarre” than dark. Throughout the podcast, Mahnke seems reticent to venture too deep into creepiness (I wonder if consciousness of the current coronavirus pandemic caused him to modify the tone of his narrative). This is regrettable, considering that Philadelphia has long served as a quintessential Gothic setting (from the seminal novels of Charles Brockden Brown to the cinematic efforts of M. Night Shyamalan). A promising subject is not done complete justice here, and “Heirloom” ultimately fails to hand down an episode of especial value.


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