Hauntingly PENNSYLVANIA, Where History and Hauntings Meet

Columbia Market House:
The DPRT Case File

© 2016 - All Rights Reserved

I nvestigators from the Dover Paranormal Research Team share their case notes on another reportedly actively location: the Columbia Market House in Lancaster County.

The Columbia Market House was built circa 1869. Columbia, Pennsylvania was then a central hub for traffic heading west. The railroad passed through town, a ferry transported passengers and wagons across the river, and later a bridge was built across the Susquehanna River for foot and automobile traffic. Columbia was also a stop-over for canal boats carrying goods and supplies to villages along the river bank.

The market house is a unique design, approximately 80-feet wide and 118-feet long. Its brick construction is supported by arched wood trusses 80-feet tall which carry the dome-shaped roof. Vendors sold wares from both indoor and outdoor stands. A cellar running the length of the front of the market house served to store goods the farmers brought to the market. This cellar contained seven rooms and each had an access door from the street above through which sellers could easily drop produce and other items. When the local jail house became over-crowded the townspeople converted the market house cellar into seven jail cells, one cell for women and six for men. One of the six was a "maximum security cell," the walls and ceiling of which were lined with steel plates. Cells were secured with heavy wooden doors outfitted with small windows so guards could check on prisoners.

These cells were furnished with nothing but a straw-filled sack for use as a mattress. There were no sanitary facilities, no lighting, and no electricity until sometime in the 1960's. The only illumination was what little daylight filtered through the access door leading to the street above. Like the vendors before them, guards sometimes dropped prisoners from the street down to the jail cell. It is said that a constable known as Big John was dropped into his cell and died there from injuries sustained in the fall.

Through the years the Columbia dungeons became the subject of many stories of hauntings. Prisoners often reported being tormented throughout the night by spectral visitors.

Dover Paranormal Research Team received permission to conduct a serious of investigations in the Columbia Market House and dungeon in an attempt to uncover and document paranormal activity. Other teams have investigated the Market House, but DPRT wanted to experience the landmark first-hand. These are some of DPRT's findings, in the words of former case manager Tom Miles:


We heard a rumor about the spirit of a little girl in the market house. No one seems to know who she is, where she came from, or how she died. Our first investigation took place on a hot July evening. Our first sign of the little girl came as we headed down to the dungeons. We all thought we heard a voice but because of the commotion in making our way through the building we couldn't be sure. But our voice recorders caught an EVP of a little girl saying "Follow Me!" Later in the evening we caught a second EVP of a little girl singing a song.

While setting up a camera in the Columbia Market House, something caught the corner of my eye. I saw a little girl watching me. When I looked directly at her she disappeared. It happened so quickly I could not get a complete description of her, but she was there.

Our next investigation happened in August. I asked "Can you tell me your name?" The evidence revealed an EVP response that sounded like "Jessica." Could this be the little girl I saw?

Our third investigation occurred in September. As we conducted an EVP session there came from above us a very distinct voice. Our mouths dropped open and we simultaneously asked the same question: "Did you hear that?" The voice we heard was a little girl saying "No Daddy No!" One of our recorders was very close to where the voice came from. After a little cleaning of background noise we could clearly hear "No Daddy, Don't Drowned Me!"

Our forth investigation happened on a chilly October evening and, at least at the beginning, things were very quiet. But then we heard the little girl again. Although not as clear as her other communication, she got our attention once more. Over the week of Halloween, we revealed the evidence collected at the Columbia Market House publicly. During that reveal the little girl continued to surprise us. In the dungeon we caught an EVP in which she seems to be saying "I'm not drowning."


As you descend down the steep, eerie stairs into the dungeon you can feel the air getting cooler and damper. The farther down you go the mustier the air becomes. When you hit the bottom of the stairs you feel like you've gone back in time. You are standing in a long, dark, dimly lite hallway. At the far end there is a massive wooden door. Along the right side of the hallway there are six doors leading into cells. There is a seventh cell beyond the door at the end of the hall. As you enter this maximum security cell you pass through a heavy wooden door and step down onto a dirt floor. The room is approximately ten feet wide by fifteen feet deep. The ceiling is arched and at the top of the wall there are tie rods that run from one side of the dungeon to the other to help hold the building together. At the far wall there is a small opening to the street level but it's covered by a steel plate. This is where overnight guests of the dungeon would be dropped. They fell nearly ten feet to the floor below. Names are carved into many of the wooden cell doors and in some cells you can still see the writing prisoners left on the walls.

Most of our EVP's were caught while we were recreating what it might have been like to be locked up in a cell. Many of these EVP's were short and to the point like this one caught during a Ghost Box session. The voice simply said "Get Out!" During our public evidence reveal we had a group of students from the local high school helping with the Dungeon Tours. In between tours the kids would talk among themselves. Apparently one of the dungeon residents grew tired of these visitors because he told them to "Leave."

During one of the EVP sessions, Donna (one of our investigators) said "Tell me your name." She received the answer "Paul."

Cell three proved to be the most active cell in the dungeons. An interesting EVP instructed us to "Go Help, See Donna."

We did several Ghost Box sessions in the dungeon area and the most popular response from the residents was "Get Out" which we caught several times. Another EVP was captured while two investigators were speaking to one another: "Caught a Rat."

The Columbia Historic Market House and Dungeons is certainly filled with history, some of it visible and some of it not. All of it, however, is worthy of investigation - even if only as a customer. 💀

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