On a Wednesday evening in April 1862, a figure dressed in black was observed walking slowly along the brick top of St. Peter’s tower. The Philadelphia Inquirer reported on April 4, two days after the event, that “a large crowd soon gathered, expecting the individual to fall every moment.”

“Notwithstanding the great excitement in the street, the figure continued his lonely walk, apparently unconscious of what was going on below.”

The newspaper reported that the more conservative viewers thought it was probably the bell ringer or even a prankish child. “But further testimony tells us that no human being could have climbed to that portion of the steeple, because the door leading to the belfry had not been opened since October 1861, six months before.”

Police were summoned. They discovered that the door, the only access to the steeple, was locked and covered with cobwebs.

Some saw the man in black as the creation of someone using an optical device and projecting the shadow of a man on the steeple. They could not, however, explain how this figure could have traveled around the steeple, not only on one side.

It was the first and last report of a ghost at St. Peter’s.


Designed by William Strickland, the memorial for Benjamin Carr (d. 1831) features a tripod honoring Apollo, the god of music, though with a funeral urn instead of a cauldron. Carr set up a music publishing company in Philadelphia soon after arriving from England in 1793 and issued the first edition of “Hail Columbia.” (Later, the family’s Baltimore business first published “The Star Spangled Banner.”) Carr was also a popular composer, as well as an organist at both St. Peter’s and St. Augustine’s Roman Catholic Church. He was further a cofounder of the Musical Fund Society, which commissioned the monument (and which still contributes to Philadelphia’s musical life). The epitaph on his monument reads: “A distinguished professor of music, charitable, without ostentation, faithful and true in his friendships. To the intelligence of a man he united the simplicity of a child.”

The annual meeting is held on the patronal feast day (Confession of Peter) in January.

An osage orange tree, thought to be a descendant of seeds or cuttings sent to Thomas Jefferson by Lewis and Clark, is one of seven growing in the churchyard. Jefferson sent the seeds to Philadelphia nurseryman Bernard McMahon, a St. Peter's Church neighbor.

The 18th Century

The 19th Century

The 20th Century

The People of St. Peter's

The Choir

Mission and Outreach

Did You Know?

The Next 250

The Hero of Tripoli

The Book