Monday, October 19, 2009


2009-2010 nominee for
"Blackened Gold Award"


Fresh on the heels of our recent story, "Pittsburgh, America's Most Haunted City?" comes this very special edition of, "PITTSBURGH:THRU THE LENS OF GARY GAYDA". Gary's instructions from his managing editor on that day were simple, basic and yet...terrifying. "Parker, go out and photograph for our readers the scariest, creepiest place you can find in Pittsburgh... and don't come back, Parker, without a story we can splash across page one!!!"

Not only did he accomplish said mission, he even did one better! Completely unbeknownst until he hit the dark room, while photographing the former Morganza Reform School and Western State mental hospital at Southpointe, Gary not only managed to bottle the essence of this scary building but he captured one of those images that might make him famous some day. It's scary stuff, enough to make your hair stand up or make you quit drinking for good, so in that case, view these with extreme cautionBut in addition to the photos, our crack research department here has also included in this story some of the actual admittance reports of the kids who were incarcerated at Morganza! These records are from the late 1890s and even though these people are now, more than likely, long-deceased, we have deleted their names so that their great- grandchildren might not be needlessly offended. Hey, we all did stupid stuff when we were kids, right?... Well maybe not as bad as some of these kids!

Morganza closed in 1967 then reverted to  Western State Mental Hospital until its' closure decades later. My good buddy Ken recently told me that he used to go there for lunch sometimes because, "He was a state employee and you could go through the cafeteria line there for just a buck back in the 70s". Great idea Ken, but wouldn't McDonalds have been quicker? Are you sure that you didn't have to wear a straightjacket to get in that line? Hmmmm.

These great shots are available for purchase from our staff photographer Peter Par...(ah, make that Gary Gayda) by emailing him directly at Give him at least a day though, the guy's pretty traumatized right now.

So here now is our Halloween season, in depth, real photojournalism, special report... Don't say we didn't warn you!



ABOVE: Anybody who travels along I-79 south of Pittsburgh has no doubt seen this creepy building a million times. What are they waiting for to tear it down, an engraved invitation?

4:40 pm Complaint made before Daniel K. Cameron, Justice of the Peace of Fayette County, by Rosa XXXXXXXXXX and Pasquale XXXXXXXXX of Dunbar, Pa., mother and stepfather of Vittorio XXXXXXXXXXX. Pasquale XXXXXXXX deposes that his stepson, Vittorio XXXXXXXXXXXX, aged 10 years, had become incorrigible and cannot be controlled by him or his mother. Said son will not stay home, runs away and stays for days and nights. Said son quarrels with and fights his mother, has stoned his mother, uses profane language, boasts that he don't have to and will not obey his parents, is given to falsehoods. Said son having with a knife in his hand tried to cut a little girl but was prevented from doing so by the mother of said girl. Parents request that he be committed to reform school. Joseph Sandy a near neighbor; testimony the same. Filomena Buttellier: a few days ago he tried to kill my little girl aged 10 years. He tried to cut her with a knife. When I tried to stop him from cutting the girl, he abused me. He fights nearly every day with neighbors' children. I live very close to them. Additional Comments: Notes made at the reform school upon the boy's admission: Vittorio XXXXXXX No. 5571. Division A. Cannot speak English. Description: Height 4 ft. 1/2; weight 62 pounds. Dark hair, light brown eyes, dark complexion. 3 vaccine marks on left arm. Scar over spine. COMMENTARY: This kid was hell on wheels.

#23    "A BUILDING WITH 10,000 TALES"

ABOVE: This foreboding building is separate from the main facility. It was used to isolate the most dangerous of the mentally insane who were kept here after Morganza was closed. No surprise then that Building 22 has particularly hostile spirits now residing there.

Complaint made before T.H. Trailer, Justice of the Peace, by James XXXXXXXXX of Georges Township, father of Mary XXXXXXXXXX. She is incorrigible & disobedient. She will lead to harm younger members of the family. Minor was born May 23, 1877. (Rest of form not completed) Different version of same form: William H. Price of Georges Twp. complaintant. B.B. XXXXXXXXXX of Georges Twp. deposes: her parents are unable to prevent her immoral conduct. Her indecent conduct annoys the neighbors. E.H. XXXXXXXXXXXX deposes the same. J.P. Cannon deposes that he/she knows Mary XXXXXXXXXXX, lives in the same neighborhood. I know her conduct is of bad repute, that she is immoral, incorrigible & uncontrollable by her parents. Additional Comments: Notes taken at time of the girl's arrival at Pennsylvania Reform School, Morganza, Pa. Mary XXXXXXXXX Father, James XXXXXXXXXSr. is a wood chopper and lives at Haytentown. Sent here for associating with bad companions. Description: Height 5'2 1/2"; weight 133 pounds. Light hair, brown eyes, high cheek bones, small mouth, scar on left side of neck; ears pierced. Age: 18 years March 1897; received Feb. 1, 1897. Born: Penna., parentage American. Presbyterian. Neither parents intemperate; parents do not own property. 2 older brothers, 3 younger brothers; 2 younger sisters. Illiterate. Swears, lies. Does not steal or use tobacco. Is not intemperate. Has not been arrested before. COMMENTARY: She's just a crazy chick, so lighten up a little!  


ABOVE: What is it about black and white photos that automatically makes them so creepy? I don't think you'd catch me trick-or-treating here.

Complaint made before William H. Miller, Justice of the Peace, by Lizzie XXXXXXXX of Uniontown, mother of Laurie XXXXXXXXXXX, who will be eleven years old July 4, 1897. He will not go to school, he used bad language, he is not truthful, he is disobedient, stays out at night and is beyond my control. Charles M. Fee, Constable of 2nd Ward, Uniontown Boro, deposes that he has known Laurie XXXXXXXXXX for 2 years. He is a bad boy, swears, chews tobacco, won't go to school, keeps bad company. John R. Crawford of Uniontown Boro deposes that he has known of Laurie XXXXXXXXXX being arrested several times. He runs the streets and keeps bad company. Additional Comments: Notes taken at time of the boy's arrival at Pennsylvania Reform School, Morganza, Pa. Laurie XXXXXXXXX No. 5328. Father Ed XXXXXXXXXX, a coal miner, deserted family when boy was small. Mother, Mrs. Lizzie XXXXXXXXXX is a washerwoman living on Race Street, Uniontown, Pa. Sent here for going out at night; disobedience. Description: Height 4' 6"; weight 61 pounds. Brown hair and eyes, fair complexion; scar on back of head, dimple in chin. One vaccination left arm. Spot in India ink near base of right thumb. Age: 11 on July 4, 1897; received May 25, 1897. Born: Penna., parentage American. Methodist. Mother not intemperate, does not own property. 1 younger brother, 1 younger sister. Can read & write. Swears, lies. Does not steal or use tobacco. Is not intemperate. Has been arrested before, twice. COMMENTARY: Laurie is a boy! What do you expect this kid to do with a name like Laurie? Get into fights all the time, that's what!


ABOVE: Here's a set of stairs straight out of "The Addams Family." These are a lawsuit waiting to happen, for sure. The last thing the Commonwealth needs is another needless expense. The governor should have these repaired immediately!

Complaint made before J.M. Springer, Justice of the Peace, by Fred XXXXXXX of Belle Vernon, father of Ralph XXXXXX. Incorrigibility. Stole a horse. The man got his horse again and refused to prosecute. John Manown & Samuel Elmer testified to the truth of the father's statement. Additional Comments: Notes made at Pennsylvania Reform School at Morganza at the time of the boy's arrival: Ralph XXXXXXX, No. 5338, Division B. Parents living at Naomi (Belle Vernon P.O.), Fayette Co., Pa. Father Fred XXXXXX a driver in coal mines. Sent here for running away from home. Description: Height 4' 5 1/2", weight 67 pounds. Dark brown hair, gray eyes, dark complexion. Scar from burn over spine small of back; one vaccination on left arm. Age: 10 on May __, 1897; received June 21, 1897. Born Penna., parentage German. Presbyterian. Parents not intemperate, do now own property. 2 younger brothers, 1 younger sister. Illiterate. Does not swear, lie, steal or use tobacco. Is not intemperate, has not been arrested before. COMMENTARY: You steal a horse, you go to Morganza, it's that simple.


ABOVE: With a backdrop of broken windows behind it, the former entryway of the state hospital still bears the proud insignia of the State of Pennsylvania. Yeah, we should all be proud of this...
Complaint made before James Echard, Justice of the Peace, by Samuel XXXXXXX of Connellsville, the next friend of Arthur T. XXXXXX, a minor. I am the stepfather of Arthur T. XXXXXX, and his mother is dead. Uncontrollable, given to lying, stealing. Stays from home against my wishes, sometimes out all night. Pays no attention to my wishes except when he is in my immediate presence. I am compelled by reason of my labor to be away from home much time. Infant was born May __, 1888. M.H. Ream of Connellsville deposes: I live quite a while lately in the same house with Samuel XXXXXXX. Arthur T. XXXXXXX is a bad boy, given to telling untruths, staying from home against the wishes of Mr. XXXXXX. Generally uncontrollable, inclined to take things belonging to others. J.A. Lyon deposes: I am in the general merchandise business. Arthur comes to my store occasionally, and I caught him in an attempt to carry away goods clandestinely, and he acknowledged that he stole them. Additional Comments: Notes made at Pennsylvania Reform School at Morganza at the time of the boy's arrival: Arthur T. XXXXXXX, No. 5708, division A. Parents dead. Has been living with stepfather, Samuel XXXXXXX, a shoemaker living at XXXX East Main St., Connellsville, Pa. Sent here for running away from home, disobedience, etc. Description: Height 4' 2 1/2", weight 57 pounds. Brown hair & eyes; medium complexion; freckled; small features. Large scars from burns on left upper arm. Age: 11 on May 18, 1899. Received June 28, 1899. Born in Maryland, American parentage. Methodist. Father intemperate. Parents own property. 2 younger half sisters. Can read & write. Does not swear. Lies, steals, uses tobacco. Is not intemperate, has not been arrested before. COMMENTARY: This kid's 11 years old,four feet tall and he's staying out all night. I'd say he's off to an impressive start! What's with all these burn marks these kids have? 


ABOVE: You'd have a hard time convincing me to get any closer than this.

Complaint made before James Echard, Justice of the Peace, by Joseph XXXXXX, the father of Otto XXXXXXX, a minor. Otto uncontrollable, will not go to school, stays from home for days and nights at a time, lies, steals, associates with bad company. Otto born Jan. 24, 1884. Anna Lukas deposes that she has known Otto for five or six years, testifies to the same as the father. He has obtained money from me by falsely representing it was for his mother. Henry Trump has known Otto XXXXXXXX several years. He has stolen from me & others, tells lies, will not go to school, etc. (signed by mark) Additional Comments: Notes made at Pennsylvania Reform School at Morganza at the time of the boy's arrival: Otto XXXXXXXXX No. 5657, Division E. Parents living at Connellsville, Pa. Father Jos. XXXXXXXX a farmer. Sent here for not going to school and breaking into a car at Connellsville & stealing some whiskey. Description: Height 5' 3 1/2", weight 115 pounds. Dark hair, brown eyes, dark complexion, pit above right eye, scar on left thumb. Age: 15 on Jan. 24, 1899; received Feb. 22, 1899. Born: Austria; Austrian parentage. Catholic. Parents not intemperate; parents own property. 1 older brother, 2 older sisters. Can read & write. Swears, lies, steals.
COMMENTARY: He's 15, breaking into cars and stealing whisky. With a first name like Otto, he just has to be tough. I wonder if he met Laurie at Morganza?

#28     "BELFRY"

ABOVE: In its' day, this was a very grand structure, but today's not its' day. It should either be torn down or advertised as a haunted house.

Complaint made before James Echard, Justice of the Peace, by C.H. XXXXXX of Connellsville, father of Clyde XXXXXXX, a minor born Dec. 13, 1885. Uncontrollable, will not go to school, stays from home at improper hours, is untruthful and given to stealing, and deceiving his parents and others. Wm. O. Cropp deposes the same. Frank Campbell, Humane agent, deposes that he has known Clyde XXXXXX several years; tells lies, steals, will not go to school and associates with people unsuitable for one of his years. Additional Comments: Notes made at Pennsylvania Reform School at Morganza at the time of the boy's arrival: Clyde XXXXXXX No. 5671, Division D. Parents living. Father C.H. XXXXXXXX (sic) a butcher living on Pittsburgh St., Connellsville, Pa. Sent here for not going to school. Description: Height 4' 11 3/4", weight 95 pounds. Brown hair, light blue eyes, dark complexion, pug nose, broad scar from a cut near outer corner of left eye. Scar on top of head, two toes off right foot. Age: 13 on Dec. 13, 1899; received Mar. 30, 1899. Born Penna., American parentage. Parents not intemperate, parents own property. 1 older sister, 2 younger sisters. Can read & write. Swears, lies. steals, uses tobacco. Is not intemperate, has been arrested before. Intra-institutional note dated Pennsylvania Reform School, Apr. 7, 1899: The boy appears to be all right. He is beginning to take part in play with the other boys. He is ordinarily bright in school work. I see no indication of having ruined his mind by cigarettes as the mother intimates. At first he cried a good deal and wanted to talk to his mother by telephone, and I did not think that was customary and did not know whether you wished to establish a precedent like that. He has not cried for several days and appears to be taking an interest both in work and play. His health is good. (signed) L.B. Prowell
COMMENTARY: For being 11 years old, he has scars and is missing two toes. By comparison, I still have all ten of my toes and I'm 44 years older than Clyde! For a little guy he's already had a hard life.


ABOVE: Yes this is a great place for a photographer to kick back his feet and relax a while. But this was the only interior shot that was taken on this day. The sense of foreboding was suffocating Gary Gayda. He had to get out-fast!

Complaint made before Joseph H. Wilson, Justice of the Peace of Fayette County, by Annabell XXXXXXXXXX of Dunbar, mother of Charles E. XXXXXXXX aged 16. Her son is beyond her control, is vicious and extremely immoral. He frequently gets into trouble on various charges, gets intoxicated, associates with bad company. Charles born Nov. 18, 1882. A.C. Demeau, Constable, deposes that he has known Charles XXXXXXXXX and family for ten years or more. He is known in the town as a common thief. Have had him in custody several times on various charges. Have several times found him with stolen property in his possession. Have caught him in the act, and he has confessed to me. Have seen him drunk several times. I know his mother, his only parent, cannot control him. Timothy Joy of Dunbar deposes that on the night of June 10, 1899 at Dunbar I was robbed of a gold filled watch and some other articles valued at twenty dollars. On June 15, Charles XXXXXX was charged and arrested for the larceny of said watch and confessed that he in company with XXXXXXXX took and sold the said watch. I do not wish to prosecute the case in court and I am content that he be committed to the Pennsylvania Reform School. (signed by his mark) Additional form filled out by A.C. Demeau, the Constable. Additional Comments: Notes made at Pennsylvania Reform School at Morganza at the time of the boy's arrival: Charles E. XXXXXXXX. Father dead. Mother, Mrs. Anna Bell XXXXX Sent here for stealing, getting drunk, etc. Description: 5" 1/2"; weight 110 pounds. Brown hair, blue eyes, medium complexion, two scars on right side of head. Out-turned lower lip. Age: 17 on Nov. 18, 1899; received June 20, 1899. Born: Penna., parentage American. Methodist. Mother not intemperate, does not own property. 3 older brothers, 2 older sisters, 1 younger sister. Illiterate. Swears, lies, steals. Does not use tobacco. Is intemperate. Has not been arrested before. COMMENTARY: Charley, you can get away with all kinds of juvenile delinquency, but steal a gold watch and be prepared for a trip to Morganza!


So our intrepid photographer beats a path out of Morganza, but then, inexplicably, he turns around to take one last shot and gets the picture of a lifetime...


ABOVE: Look closely at the photo above. Upon developing his pictures, Gary Gayda suddenly breaks into a cold sweat. Then the awful memories come flooding back to him: His overall sense of foreboding, the anxiety he felt in "The Ghost's Lounge", the sudden cold air that he felt on his neck as he hurriedly left the building, the sense of relief he felt once he was out of there. But what made him turn and take this picture at the last minute and better yet, who was the figure dressed in a black, 1900s-style, floor-length dress that appeared in this shot when the place was completely deserted??? We asked Gary Gayda for a killer picture, but we never expected him to produce one featuring the supernatural! Take his advice: Stay away from Morganza. It is an evil place with enough bad karma to sink a battleship. But if you like having the hair stand up on the back of your neck...