There isn’t much that is more frightening than a haunting for those who have experienced one. To be at the mercy of supernatural forces that one cannot see or touch, or even fully understand, can be a truly life-changing, traumatic event. Yet even more terrifying are those cases that go beyond a mere haunting, to encompass malevolent forces of a decidedly more demonic nature. One such case allegedly occurred in a quiet town in Pennsylvania, where a family had their peaceful life in the house of their dreams turned into a nightmare, plagued by a vicious demon that crawled out from some realm of the damned.
In December of 1988 a Bob Cranmer and his family bought the house of their dreams, a beautiful 105-year-old Victorian house in a quiet neighborhood at 3406 Brownsville Road in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which Bob had long wanted to live in. They allegedly got it at an unbelievably good price as well, with the seller taking their initial low offer without any bidding ensuing, and all things told they were all very excited when they finally moved in. It was almost too good to be true, and it perhaps was, as it would soon become very apparent to them that something was very off about the place, and this would go on to evolve into a perilous experience in supernatural terror.
According to Cranmer, things had gotten rather odd before they had even fully moved in, with him finding his young son crying inexplicably on the stairs one day as they were looking around the property. At the time he had written it off as just a minor episode, but things got steadily more bizarre after the move was completed. This began with a simple, unshakable feeling of being watched at all times, and an indefinable sense that something just wasn’t right, despite the fact that the house looked on the surface to be very normal. It was a sense that something weird was roiling and churning under the charming veneer, and everyone felt it. Cranmer would say of this strange and ominous foreboding:
From the first, Lesa and I always had the feeling that we were not alone in that house, that we were being watched by someone, or something. I can remember the sensation so clearly. We felt surrounded by the past, as if we were almost living in it, that we were only temporary ‘visitors,’ tolerated for the time being—who would eventually be expelled.
This soon graduated to actual paranormal activity, which started off quite innocuously enough, such as lights turning on and off by themselves, objects strangely misplaced, and other small oddities like a pull-chain for a hanging light always found wound around the light rather than in a hanging position. It was strange, but all such minor anomalies that they could almost be written off as their imagination playing games with them, but it became a lot more frightening when this intensified to loud banging on the floor and walls and anomalous footsteps roaming through the house when no one was there. Even scarier still were instances when items were found smashed or broken, including a bent out of shape crucifix that was found dumped on the floor as if tossed there.
In addition to this, there seemed to be something very wrong with a room in the house they called “The Blue Room,” so named because it possessed blue wallpaper and a blue rug, but according to the children who slept there it also possessed some sort of malevolent supernatural force. Indeed, on many occasions the children absolutely refused to sleep in the room, or at times even go near it, complaining that there was something bad in there, and whatever this presence was began to make itself visible as a shadowy entity wreathed in what looked like a black mist and usually followed around by a foul stench, at first sighted solely within the confines of the Blue Room.
One of the most frightening encounters with this strange apparition was when Cranmer’s son in law saw a hulking shadow form looming over one of the children’s beds, after which it had scurried away into a darkened crawlspace to vanish, and on another occasion Cranmer’s grandson saw it and broke down crying, upon which the inconsolable child screamed “Monster, monster will get me!” This would go on for years, and according to Cranmer this entity would become bolder and more violent as time went on. It would appear in other areas of the house and could even be heard crawling through the walls and crawlspaces of the home at night. Additionally, everyone in the family began experiencing rather ferocious attacks from unseen hands, especially in the vicinity of The Blue Room, that would leave scratches and bruises, in one case even a massive set of claw marks on the chest of one of the sons.
Cranmer became convinced that this was no mere ghost, but rather a demon, which he calls “Molech,”and he tried reading the bible and putting up religious imagery to ward it off, but this seemed to make the entity absolutely furious. Cranmer claims that it would rip the Bible from his hands, scratch at his neck, destroy rosaries, and twist and warp crucifixes, further convincing him that this was a demonic force to be reckoned with. It also seemed to absolutely loathe the film The Passion of the Christ, turning off the TV and raising a ruckus whenever it was on. Family members who wore crucifixes in a vain attempt to keep the apparition at bay would sometimes find them removed from their bodies or even folded in half as if they “had been placed in a vise and bent with pliers.” Making it all even creepier was that a hidden room was found behind a wall, obviously at one point sealed up for reasons unknown, and when they opened up the partition hiding it there were found various toys from the Cranmer children, although how they had gotten in there was inexplicable.
This went on for years, with the situation taking its mental toll on the family, until finally Cranmer realized that he needed help, and reached out to the Catholic Church with his problem. Over the course of two years a procession of Bishops and priests would visit the home to carry out exorcisms and masses, in many cases witnessing the paranormal activity themselves, and there were also paranormal investigators who visited the home. Most notably was the investigator Ryan Buell from A&E’s Paranormal State, who would claim during his investigation that he had seen a crucifix bent in half right before his eyes and that he had also witnessed blood appear on the walls. One of the priests who visited the home also reported blood flowing down the stairs when he attempted to douse them with holy water. It would not be until 2006 that the house was finally deemed to be clear of its demonic presence, after which Cranmer would continue living there and pen a 2014 book chronicling his experiences there, called The Demon of Brownsville Road, the publication of which he says was fraught with setbacks and difficulties, as if something did not want it to be written.
During his research of the area, Cranmer claims that he discovered several sinister details of the home that serve to somewhat illuminate why it is so evil. In his book he writes that a massacre had occurred on the land back in the 1700s when a settler woman and her children were mercilessly slaughtered by Native Americans and that the bodies had been buried where the house stands. He also claims that an immigrant laborer who had helped build the house had cursed it because the owner had owed him money, and that a doctor had once operated in the home carrying out illegal abortions. All of this further shrouds the house in darkness as an ominous place with a dark past, and a place where a demon would seem right at home. Indeed, Cranmer has remained convinced that it was a demon, and not a ghost, saying:
A ghost, if you believe in them, is generally the soul of a person who passed on in some tragic event or something. A demon is actually the opposite of an angel. The existence of this thing manifested itself in a much different way than a ghost would. A ghost is generally reliving some type of event that took place during a life. Sometimes they can interact with people that are alive. In our case, this was a demonic, evil, malicious, malevolent spirit that interacted with us on a regular basis and it wanted to hurt us. It wanted to drive us out of the house. There was no pretense of it being some kind of a lost soul.
Cranmer’s book was very popular upon release, earning him various interviews and TV appearances, and was widely touted as one of the most harrowing real hauntings on record, yet there has been quite a lot of skepticism aimed at the account as well. While some of the facts outlined in the book add up, the main problem is that some of the people who had lived in the home before the Cranmers moved in, or in some cases their descendants, have denied there having ever been any sort of strange paranormal activity in the house. This seems rather odd considering if the house’s history was so grim as to attract to itself a demon or hauntings, then this should have been going on for decades. Yet there was nothing unusual at all reported. One former resident named Karen Dwyer, who lived at the house for 7 years in the 1950s and 60s, has said:
My mother never said anything about the house being haunted. My grandmother never said anything about the house being haunted. And my grandfather never said anything about the house being haunted. If he wants to go and write it from 1988 and go forward, do it; I don’t care. But if you want to lie about other people and things that happened before that, well no, that’s not right.
This caused many critics to accuse Cranmer of fabricating the whole thing, of trying to pass off a work of fiction as a real account for the publicity and fame, but Cranmer fired back by accusing these people of hiding the truth in order to save their own reputations, and also to aid in selling the house, as no one would want to buy a home with such a history of hauntings. Cranmer has said of this:
People are always concerned that they can be held legally liable if they do not reveal to buyers problems of a spiritual nature with a house, - which I discovered is not the case in Pennsylvania. Their reactions are obviously intended to cover up the deception used in selling the house, both in 1979 and 1988. The house was not officially sold in 1941 by the original owners, but was purchased via a Sheriff's sale. The house sat empty then for an extended period and became known as the haunted house by the local children who ventured into it.
Cranmer has also defended himself by claiming that there is one woman he spoke to, a Barbara Wagner, who told him there had indeed been substantial paranormal activity at the house before it was sold to the Cranmers, and a neighborhood man also confirmed that it was known as a haunted place. There was yet another elderly witness he spoke to who had been just a toddler when she lived there, but who could clearly remember having shoes thrown at her by unseen hands. Even in the face of skepticism and criticism, Cranmer has been adamant that his tale is a true and accurate depiction of events, and has even gone on record as offering to take a lie detector test if those disputing his claims do it as well.
In the meantime, Cranmer has had a rough go of things since the release of his book. In 2015 his son David died, and that same year his wife spiraled into a deep depression, resulting in the disintegration of their marriage. Through it all he has continued to stand by his account of these events, resolutely defying naysayers, and continues to do interviews and appearances about his experiences at that evil house, where he still lives. We are left to ponder many questions. What really happened to Bob Cranmer and his family at that sinister house? How much of the experiences he tells of in his book are based on factual events and how much is fabricated? If all of this really did happen, then what was it and what did it want? Was this a case of ghosts, poltergeists, or as Cranmer himself believes, an actual demon? Why did this supernatural activity gravitate towards this place and what role did its macabre history play in it all? These are questions that still evade adequate answers, and the case of the Brownsville Demon remains an unsolved curiosity.