Hauntings stretch way beyond abandoned places and haunted houses. It seems that spirits can attach themselves to pretty much anything nowadays. There are haunted dolls, cars, jewelry, and even haunted paintings, making it all very bizarre, indeed. Among these is the strange tale of what seems to be an actual haunted wedding dress, and it has gone down to be a very unusual tale.
Our story here starts in Altoona, Blair County, Pennsylvania, where in the mid-1800s a wealthy owner of an iron foundry by the name of Elias Baker lived in an elegant Greek-revival style mansion along with his wife, Hetty, their two sons David and Sylvester, and their daughter Anna. They were powerful members of the community, their children having everything they could possibly want, but one thing Anna wanted that she was apparently denied was love. She fell in love with a simple steel worker in town and the two made plans to marry, but the family patriarch, Elias, wanted nothing to do with it since he considered him to be too low class for his little girl. According to the story, he forbade the marriage and told Anna she was never to see her lover again.
Well, young, foolhardy lovers being what they are, the couple did not listen, and Anna and her boyfriend continued on with their plans to wed, even purchasing an elegant wedding dress for the occasion. However, the authoritarian father eventually got his way, sabotaging the marriage by actually buying out the steel mill where the young suitor worked and ensuring that Anna swore she would never marry for the rest of her life, even forgoing dating anyone after her father’s death in 1849. She would allegedly try to rekindle her flame with the steel worker, only to find out that in the meantime he had married someone else. Anna would go on to live a life as a recluse, constantly locked in her room with that unused wedding dress hanging in the closet, and she would supposedly sort of lose her mind over time, devolving into madness and putting on the dress to dance around alone or act like she was having a wedding, to the point that most of the house servants avoided her. She would eventually sadly die in that room a lonely spinster in 1914, but it would seem that something of her remained in that house, in particular within that dress.
In later years the Baker Mansion would be turned into a museum for Blair Country Historical Society in 1941, with Anna’s room being preserved as it was and the wedding dress put into a glass case for display, and it is from here when various strange phenomena would begin to make themselves known. During the time when it was on display, it was reported that the case in which it was kept would on occasion begin to shake violently for no discernible reason, and this was frequently captured on cameras set up in the room. It would also be found in different positions, and most spectacularly of all was that the dress was sometimes claimed to be seen actually walking around and moving of its own accord, usually on nights of the full moon. On numerous occasions the dress would also be seen to sway back and forth, even though there could be found no drafts coming up through the floorboards or from the walls. This mysterious movement would often be joined by the music box in the room playing on its own, and it is all very creepy, indeed.
On top of this, staff and visitors alike also reported furniture moving on its own and seeing apparitions, such as Anna’s ghost in the reflection of the glass case or the room’s mirror, and other spirits have been seen lurking about as well, including that of an old lady in a black dress thought to be Hetty Baker, as well as a shadowy man thought to be Anna’s father, Elias. There are even reports that Anna’s brother David prowls the premises. There were also complaints from visitors that looking at the dress caused hallucinations and various physical ailments such as headaches, dizziness, and nausea, to the point that spooked museum staff took to draping the glass case with a cloth in order to control the perceived effects.
It would eventually come to pass that the museum would remove the dress from permanent display, although they cited the reasons for this as being to preserve it from the deteriorating effects of sunlight and air pollutants rather than pesky hauntings. The story of the haunted wedding dress of Anna Baker has continued to make the rounds, but there has been some amount of skepticism aimed at it, painting it as a sort of urban legend and nothing more paranormal than perhaps some drafts coming up through the floor. Noted skeptic and paranormal party pooper Joe Nickell has written of his take on the dress:
I investigated the site in June 1993. I found that as deliciously spine-tingling as the ghost tale was, and it was shamelessly promoted for publicity purposes, the staff and management were skeptical of it. I was told (not for attribution) that a former curator probably “started the whole ghost business,” that it was she who had witnessed the swaying dress as well as other phenomena, including a bedcover that reportedly became mysteriously rumpled. That is not to say, however, that the old wedding dress does not actually appear to move supernaturally on occasion. According to my tour guide, Jim Kennedy, the display case rests on loose boards, and a heavy person or group of people walking up to it can cause the dress to suddenly appear animated. That can also happen if the guide accidentally bumps the case while viewers’ attention is focused on the gown. Kennedy added that by merely staring at the dress some people could become convinced that it actually moved. Having worked in the house for a few years, Kennedy said he had never personally experienced anything he would attribute to a ghost. “I don’t believe the place is haunted at all,” he told me. Still the claims persist, repeated in various ghostly guides that are big on mystery mongering and short on investigation.
There indeed have been many who have stood by the tale of the Baker haunted dress, and the main idea here seems to be that the angst and sadness that Anna felt have somehow imprinted themselves onto the fabric to imbue them with a certain paranormal power. There is also the idea that she was so obsessed with that dress in life that she simply can’t let go of it even in death. Of course, this could also all be just lore blooming up around an object with a spooky history, but it is all still an intriguing tale of one of the weirdest supposedly haunted objects there is.