Home Investigations

Sagamore Hotel, Sagamore, Pa.
By Jon McClintock, AMG Investigator

AMG investigators Al and Jo Brindza discovered the faded lily when scouting for potential haunts in the hills, valleys and hollows of the Alleghenies. They happened across this century-old hotel - flanked by cookie-cutter company houses in what was once one of the most productive coal mining boomtowns in Pennsylvania.

Very little of the four-story building (the cellar counts) has changed in 101 years…including, it seems, some of the residents. Our first visit, in June 2002, was a fairly quick walkthrough, just a week before owner Aaron Dunbar was to be married. We were summoned for the long-overdue follow-up when Aaron's wife experienced dreams and odd feelings around a particular room on the third floor. I operated the Digital IR camcorder in 2002, capturing a half-dozen of the biggest, tantalizing orbs we've ever seen interacting with us. The same videotape would yield two EVP's, complementing several possible EVP's on audiotape. I rewound the tape on-scene to share with all one particular orb, a ball of light that came from behind a stage, made a 90-degree turn and headed straight for me. Seen here, as captured in one frame of the original video, is the orb as it approached and rose toward me, before veering off. I never witnessed such purposeful movement - or such exquisite agony a moment later when I discovered I WAS TAPING OVER THE "MONEY SHOT!" Fortunately I'd used the camcorder's still-picture feature to capture the frame above and others.

We were just 15 minutes into a walkthrough when digital stills, the camcorder and Al's psychic senses had us hooked; this place has some very active entities. As if to confirm the fact, a shot snapped as Al approached the original hardwood floor ballroom revealed our very own Canary was being watched - and it wasn't Sylvester the cat eyeing Tweetie.] We resolved to return as soon as convenient, and I set out to do research. I was intrigued that an important relic of a town that is near nothing was still functional - and apparently haunted.

I am indebted to Eileen Mountjoy Cooper, whose coal-era research articles on the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) web site are a vital resource and glimpse back into that other era. By the turn of the 20th century, the company-owned mining town was firmly established as a way of life for thousands of western Pennsylvania coal miners. The talk of the county was about expansion - more train tracks - the direction of which could spell prosperity for many. Mountjoy Cooper writes: "Some early residents claim the community was named in honor of a New York state Indian chief, while others believe, since the town was founded during the administration of Theodore Roosevelt, that it was named after the President's home, "Sagamore Hill."

About the same time, a William Hayes built a sixty-room hotel, known as Hotel #19. There, on the site of the future town, the company doctor, officials and construction foremen lived well while the latest boomtown was erected. The Sagamore mines employed 806 men and produced an average of 600,000 tons of coal yearly by 1913. Most of the men made over $100 a month, so the community was popular as the industry lured more immigrants to the region. The word spread, and soon the partially completed town bulged with new arrivals.

While most memories of Sagamore are pleasant ones, the community, of course, had its share of tragedy and violence. Accidents in the mines were a common occurrence. Sagamore had its share of violence. The action at Sagamore predates the mine. On the hotel's opening date in l903, a group of rowdy workmen "had a big fight and tore the whole front off!" according to one observer. There were frequent fistfights as well as an occasional shooting. On paydays when the drinks flowed freely, there seemed to be a fight going on in every corner. Hand-to-hand combat threatened to erupt between two rival ethnic groups. Hotel personnel sent for state mounted cavalry troops who arrived in time to prevent fatalities.

The mines reached maximum production during World War I, and the boom continued unto the early l920's, when 1,600 men worked at Sagamore and the total population of the town reached 3,000. A major shutdown of the mines occurred in 1924; the U.M.W.A. campaigned for safety, and many families simply left town or were evicted to make room for "scabs." Union men at Sagamore were among the last in District 2 to surrender their charter. Most of the original settlers of Sagamore were gone in a year. The union returned briefly and improved conditions for Sagamore miners, but the town never fully recovered from the 1924 shutdown. A brief revitalization occurred at Sagamore in 1943 because of the demand for coal for WWII. Of the original company buildings, only the Sagamore Hotel still stands.

The Dunbar's now oversee a family-friendly tavern, but echoes of the past remain. Substantial renovations have eliminated the century-old ballroom and the basement level, where miners would shower after a shift, is used for storage. Mary Dunbar believes a former apartment on the 2nd floor has active paranormal energy.

Al's account

The impressions I was receiving from the second floor corner apartment were somewhat confusing to me since I was only getting sporadic flashes of the events that occurred years ago. As we entered the kitchen I was picking up on a little girl entity out on the fire escape sobbing uncontrollably and peering in through the window, it was cold at the time (winter)?

I could picture her breath fogging the glass as she tried to get in. Inside an argument was going on between a man and a woman. I’m assuming the woman was the little girls mother. The man was very angry, almost to the point of being violent. He had a rugged type- face with a buzz cut hair style similar to a state cop or someone in the military. I was getting the impression the little girl was not his and he had no- patience’s for her. Both the little girl and mother were very afraid of this man.

There are rumors of “who” the man and little girl are but at this time have not been confirmed. I would consider this a residual haunting, an imprint in time of an emotionally charge area. If I had to guess the time I would say late 1940s or 50s by the way the people were dressed. Quite a few people who lived at the hotel over the years reported hearing the little girl running in the hallway upstairs, some heard a ball bouncing, at times they would hear laughing even crying. Perhaps with further investigating we will find the answer.

We never expected two years to pass before we revisited a fascinating (but purposefully anonymous) relic from the era of King Coal. But things happen for a reason, so now we can tell you about Sagamore, a gem tucked-away in Armstrong County. The town's hotel, still houses more "guests" than are registered.

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