Chris Pirt has a hard and fast rule when it comes to the house he knows so well on Coyle Curtain Road outside Monongahela.
“You’ll never catch me in there alone at night, especially the top floor,” he explains one warm afternoon outside the four-story mansion constructed of stones imported from Italy. “We have a buddy system here.”
Getting a chill up your spine in an old house you own and know intimately would only seem likely if the furnace has conked out in the middle of winter or the windows need to be insulated. But not every house is the Demon House, a 150-year-old landmark in Carroll Township that is said to actually be haunted. Things that go bump in the night there might be an otherworldly visitor and not just vibrating water pipes or a roof shingle flapping in the wind.
Legends have long swirled around the 17-room abode, set back off the road and located near medical offices and a West Penn Power facility. Once dubbed the Emerald Mansion, it was originally the home of a family that stood atop Monongahela’s social and economic life. Despite the home’s elegance, it was said to have been built over a burial ground of some sort. Another story has it that one of its owners disappeared in the 1890s, never to be seen or heard from again.
The structure “has a history that is layered in horrors and lost souls, and until now, kept secret by the mansion itself,” its website states.
Pirt elaborates by claiming that “a lot of the things that happened here were closed to the public. We do know there were multiple deaths here, but we don’t know the nature of them.”
Pirt and his wife, Veronica, are now the owners of the mansion, and rather than communing with the wayward spirits said to wander the property on their own, they open it up at the beginning of September as the Demon House haunted attraction. It operates on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays in September and October, and wraps up Friday, Nov. 2 and Saturday, Nov. 3.
Now in its 18th season as a Halloween diversion, Demon House has a leg up over the bumper crop of other ghoulish draws because of “the atmosphere that we create,” Pirt says. “We use the house as a backdrop. It’s a solid, spooky atmosphere.” All told, about 10,000 to 15,000 people are expected to visit Demon House during the 28 days it’s open during the Halloween season.
Pirt, 43, has been involved with Demon House for several years, and has long been fascinated by the macabre. He’s a horror movie buff, and there are sculptures of fabled movie monsters such as Frankenstein and the Creature from the Black Lagoon on the property. People who visit Demon House will be able to linger on the property after they visit the house and watch horror films such as the 1968 version of “The Night of the Living Dead” in an outdoor theater.
Before Pirt took the reins of Demon House, it was dubbed the McCue Family Estate, named for its owner, Billy McCue, a Brentwood native who invested more than $1 million in the house. A veteran of the film and television industries, he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2007, “The house has a different look from most others in the area. It’s old and stately and was built to last with a lot of high-quality construction material.”
For more information, visit demonhouse.com.