National Aviary

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Past Confederate POWs or inmates now love
this marvelous place; they find peace and enjoyment.

Being dead means that spirits can get in for free!



The National Aviary is home to many species of birds; a zoo for our feathered friends. Over 600 birds of more than 200 different species have a safe haven here. The breeding program at The National Aviary has been quite successful in increasing the numbers of rare or endangered birds, scarcely found in their natural habitat.

It has a variety of buildings of various shapes and sizes, as throughout the years new buildings have been added. Some birds, like the condors have an outside space as well. Throughout the Aviary, the birds can fly free in their spaces, and visitors can walk through these same spaces.

The National Aviary has many special opportunities, interactive encounters, daily events and educational programs for all ages, providing something for everyone.

They try really hard to promote the welfare of birds, and offer a lot to their members and the general public.



The land upon which The National Avery now sits on, originally was part of the land that once sat under Western State Penitentiary, built in 1826, and torn down in 1882, when a new prison was built a few blocks over. Western State Penitentiary was a smaller, kinder version of its sister prison, the infamously violent Eastern State Penitentiary. Western State Penitentiary was probably built for lesser, non-violent criminals. During the Civil War, 118 confederate soldiers and officers, captured from the Morgan’s Raid attack that happened just a few miles from Pittsburgh, were held here, from 1863-1864. While their treatment there was considered very good by many; much better than what their counterparts in other Union prison of War camps received (Fort Pulaski), 6 men died here, probably of their wounds, and one was killed, trying to escape.

After this old, out-dated prison was torn down, the citizens of Pittsburgh wanted a plant conservatory on part of the old prison property. While the plant conservatory burned down around 1927-’29 because of a gas explosion, the desire to have one still burned on. In 1952, Pittsburgh again had money to rebuild the indoor gardens, adding birds as well. By the 1980s, it became just an Aviary, concentrating in boasting the numbers of endangered species. The Aviary was saved from closure in the early 1990s by a private corporation, made up of concerned bird lovers, who raised funds to save this facility, and opened it up as a private aviary, no longer supported by city funds.

During the 1990s, under private control, additions of buildings were added, expanding the original aviary exhibit space to 25,000 square feet. It became such a grand aviary, that the federal government gave it an honorary title; The National Aviary. It’s no wonder! Their many achievements are listed on their website; “With world-first avian breeding’s, numerous education awards, internationally recognized field research and conservation programs, a world-class avian veterinary program that is breaking new ground in preventative care, and multiple opportunities for interactive experiences, the National Aviary has grown from simply presenting its collection in attractive settings to realizing its responsibility to celebrate, protect and preserve birds for the perpetuation of the web of life.”



Sometimes entities are tied to the land where they died, not just the building. Perhaps they died with unfinished business, or don’t want to accept their sudden death. So when the original building is torn down, or a building is built on top of the land they are attached to, they feel free to move into the new space and building.

Sometimes entities attach themselves to special places that they enjoyed while alive, choosing to spend their after-life there.



Spirits of Prisoners and/or Bird Lovers

In the early morning, and after closing, shadows have been seen, footsteps have been heard, and loud bangs coming from the basement ring in the staff’s ears.

Staff have the feeling of being watched, as they go about their duties, caring for the birds.

Unseen spirit presences have been sensed in the hallways, and in the atrium’s as well.

In the kitchen where staff prepare the birds’ food for their diet, the radio turned itself on and off in front of a female staff member.


A huge probably so! Though no EVPs have been made public via the internet, Guiley’s results, and the many personal experiences reported over the years seem to point to spirit entities who enjoy the National Aviary, and appreciate the living’s efforts to care for the birds.

Only a few paranormal investigations have been allowed.

Rosemary Ellen Guiley attended one such paranormal investigation, led by the International Parapsychology Research Foundation, INC. She brought along her Frank’s Box and contacted spirits in the kitchen where staff prepare the various diets for the birds. A” lead communicator “male spirit fessed up to turning on and off the radio to get the female staff person’s attention.

This male entity said that 6 others were with him, and he went on to name the other staff members who worked there.

He further expressed how all of the spirits there loved the birds, and often would follow the staff around watching them as they took care of the birds.



National Aviary
700 Arch Street
Pittsburgh, PA
(412) 323-7235 

The National Aviary can be found in downtown Pittsburgh, near the old fort site, south of W. North Street, and North of the Baseball stadium. It sits along the east side of West Park, with many old trees and greenery. It is directly across from Allegheny Center. Arch Street is the north entrance. The southern entrance is Ridge Street, between W. Ohio Street and West Commons.



  • Ghost Hunting Pennsylvania
    by Rosemary Ellen Guiley
    Clerisy Press, 2009

Our Haunted Paranormal Stories are Written by Julie Carr

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