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Dear Darkling Goes to Philadelphia: A Travel Guide

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A few stand-by destinations come to mind when those of us with a love for the strange, unusual, mystical, and macabre set out to plan a trip. Salem has its witches, Los Angeles is rife with death and murder, and New Orleans is teeming with ghosts. These cities are darkling destinations for a reason, but they’re by no means the only places where a wanderlusting weirdo can find a bit of the bizarre.

When someone mentions Philadelphia, your mind probably wanders to thoughts of Rocky, Benjamin Franklin, and the Liberty Bell, but the “City of Brotherly Love” actually holds quite a bit for the dark at heart to do. We’ve gathered up some of our favorite Philly haunts, complete with strange history, antiques & oddities, and of course, food.


Laurel Hill Cemetery


Image Credit: @haleighmoon

Overlooking the Schuylkill River, Laurel Hill is 78 acres of rolling hills, beautiful greenery, and of course, years and years of graves, memorials, and mausoleums. The second landscaped cemetery in the United States (the first being Mount Auburn in Cambridge, MA) has committed itself to preserving history and providing education. They hold regular events, from “Ghosts Among Our Graves” to “The Art of Laurel Hill”, and even have movies and yoga all throughout the summer. Even if you’re not attending one of their many events, Laurel Hill is the perfect place for a picnic. Laurel Hill Cemetery//3822 Ridge Avenue

Edgar Allan Poe House


Image Credit: Trip Advisor

Edgar Allen Poe lived in Philadelphia for several years in several locations. This is the only one still in existence and has been turned into a museum of his life and works, including exhibits on Poe’s literary contributions, a reading room, and a raven sculpture. In the one year that he lived in this brick-red house in the Spring Garden neighborhood, he wrote The Black Cat. The basement of his former home is eerily similar to that described in the story, and is thought to have been the inspiration. Edgar Allen Poe House//532 N. 7th Street

Eastern State Penitentiary


Image Credit: Lily Landes Courtesy of: Mental Floss

Eastern State Penitentiary is a truly eerie piece of Philadelphia history. This famous prison, which now stands in a state of ruin, serves as a reminder of the strict system that once existed within its walls. An audio tour, narrated by Steve Buscemi, walks you through the expansive wagon-wheel design, telling stories of solitary confinement, attempted prison breaks, and infamous inmates such as Al Capone. The site not only focuses on the prison’s historical significance, but also provides context for current issues in our prison system. While rumors of ghosts and hauntings at Eastern State may or may not be true, it’s hard to deny the energy that still echoes through its quiet halls. Eastern State Penitentiary//2027 Fairmount Avenue


The Tasty


Image Credit: The Tasty

Finding a good diner in Philly is a fairly easy task, but for those of us who prefer a plant-based diet, french fries alone can get a little old. That’s where The Tasty comes in. With an emphasis on breakfast food, this traditional diner serves all your old favorites, but everything is vegan, and everything is good. With a menu consisting of pancakes and omelets, a vegan take on the famous Philly cheesesteak, housemade donuts, and so much more, The Tasty draws crowds of vegan, vegetarians, and meat-eaters alike. The Tasty//1401 S. 12th Street

Blackbird Pizzeria


Image Credit: Flying Kite Media

If you like pizza, and we sincerely hope you all do, you must pay a visit to Blackbird. Boasting a vast and fully vegan menu, these pizzas are piled with cheese, veggies, and Blackbird’s housemade seitan. Possibly even better than their pizza? The wings. Blackbird Pizzeria//507 S. 6th Street

Tattooed Mom


Image Credit: Tattooed Mom

Tattooed Mom on South Street is a celebration of all that is weird. Drawing a crowd of punks, vegans, artists, and normies alike, this bar is colorful, kitschy, and cool, with a sideshow circus exterior, retro decor, comfy eclectic couches, vegan and regular food, and plenty of beer. Upstairs is an ever growing and evolving celebration of 20 years of street art; every surface is covered in layers of wheat pastes, stickers, and graffiti, and serves as a meeting and event space for everything from political organization to drag shows. Tattooed Mom//530 South Street


The Mütter Museum


Image Credit: PhillyVoice

Not for the faint of heart, but a must see for those with a love for science, the macabre, and the many ways the two intersect, the Mutter Museum boasts a massive collection of medical history. Beautifully displayed in a cabinet museum setting, the walls of the Mutter are lined with diseased and deformed specimens, medical models, and historical instruments. A collection of skulls gaze down upon you, illustrating the many ways their previous owners had died. Feast your eyes on a giant’s skeleton, the famous Soap Lady, and an exhibit of”Siamese twins” Chang & Eng. All that is beautiful and mysterious about the human body can be seen here, and a visit to Philadelphia is not complete without a stop. The Mütter Museum//19 S. 22nd Street

The Wagner Free Institute


Image Credit: New Criterion

Remaining virtually untouched since the mid-nineteenth century, the Wagner Free Institute is a very special kind of natural history museum. Created to provide free science education to the city of Philadelphia, the beautiful mahogany cabinets are filled with all manner of natural specimen, from birds and mammals to insects to rocks and minerals. Because the museum has been preserved much as it was, stepping inside is to be transported to the Victorian era; the original curator’s handwritten labels still remain and events and classes are held in the original lecture hall. The taxidermy may be wonky and the information may not be entirely accurate, but that only adds to the museum’s charm. The Wagner Free Institute//1700 West Montgomery Avenue


The Strange & Unusual Oddities Parlour


Image Credit: @haleighmoon

Walking into The Strange and Unusual feels like walking into your dream home. The walls are lined with taxidermy, religious relics, bone art, and antique mirrors. Gothic furniture fills the space, accented with oddities and strange findings from yesteryear. And the best part? It isn’t all pretentiously overpriced. Of course some of their larger taxidermy pieces will still cost you a pretty penny, but the owners pride themselves on their belief that all manner off strange, from collectibles and specimens to skulls and unusual jewels, should be accessible, welcoming, and affordable. The Strange and Unusual//523 S. 4th Street

Passional Boutique & Sexploratorium

Image Credit: @sexploratorium

Kink witches rejoice, because this two story boutique, comprised of Passional and Sexploratorium, is your one stop shop for leather, whips, rope, mesh, and more. In other words, it’s a dream come true. As you enter the ground floor, Passional, you are greeted with all manner of lingerie, harnesses, corsets, leather, and latex. This portion of the store fulfills your aesthetic needs. Venture upstairs and you’re met with the solution to more salacious requirements. The back half offers your standard sex shop fare; vibrators, dildos, butt plugs, and sexy games. The rest of Sexploratorium boasts an extensive kink and BDSM section, from high end whips, floggers, paddles, and canes to an extensive rope selection to resources on Dom/sub dynamics and safe play, and so so much more. The store also offers a full calendar of events and classes taught by experienced sex educators. Most importantly, the shop is incredibly queer friendly, with many of their resources and classes centering around queer community.  Passional Boutique//317 South Street

Anastacia’s Antiques

Image Credit: @anastaciasphilly

“I want to live here” is a common phrases uttered by visitors of Anastacia’s. Owners Anastacia Fahnestock and Scott Evans bonded over a love for the darkness of the Victorian era and its accompanying aesthetic. While this shared love began as a personal sanctuary to study their growing collection, it soon led to the creation of a store. With an ever changing curation of antiques to peruse, and having never forgotten the importance of sanctuary, the store has become a destination for all those who crave oddity, and for many it is more than a place to shop. It’s a place to get lost in time, spend hours, and see what beauty and mystery you discover. Anastacia’s Antiques//617 Bainbridge Street


Image Credit: West Philly Local

With five locations all over Philly each boasting extensive collections, Jinxed is the ultimate source for antiques, and at incredibly affordable prices. From beautiful velvet couches and ornate mirrors to tiny trinkets and treasures, you are sure to leave with a bounty whenever you visit. They also preview and sell a large selection of their finds through their Instagram, meaning you can snag that perfect piece before you even get there. Jinxed//Multiple locations

Toile Atelier


Image Credit: @toileatelier

At Dear Darkling we really value slow fashion; handmade, unique, and artisan made pieces holds so much more value, meaning, and love than what is fast, cheap, and usually readily available. It is for this reason that we are glad that Toile exists. The owner and designer, Bianca De Pietro, not only sells her own line, but also offers a curated selection of local designers and artists, including a few favorites such as Agashi and Cozen NYC. Custom pieces and tailoring is also available. One thing is certain; when you leave Toile, you’ll be leaving with something unique. Toile Atelier//1333 Frankford Avenue


The Convent Philly


Image Credit: @theconventphilly

For many darklings, art is very much like a religious experience. The organizers and creators at The Convent Philly understand this, and have created a space for artists do display their weird and wonderful work. The gallery has regular art shows and events, as well as occasional classes and concerts. Many familar names have graced the Convent’s walls, such as Poison Apple Printshop and Caitlin McCormack. If you miss a show or just can’t wait for your forthcoming trip, all of the art displayed is available for purchase through their website. The Convent Philly//1648 E. Berks Street

Philadelphia Magic Gardens


Image Credit: NARM Association

From the mind of Isaiah Zagar, a labyrinth of bottles, tiles, glass, statues, bicycle wheels, and other found objects has formed to become a massive art installation. Zagar has been beautifying the South Street neighborhood with his unique mosaics since the 1960s, and his work can still be found hidden all throughout the surrounding area. He began his work on what is now the Magic Gardens in 1994, and worked for eight years before the owner of the lot discovered what Zagar had been doing and threatened to demolish it. The community rallied around him, in support of his ever-growing project, and the artwork was saved. It is now a center for art education, workshops, concerts, events, and more than anything, magic. Philadelphia Magic Gardens//1020 South Street



Image Credit: Amberella

If you go in search of Amberella’s work, be sure you’re wearing sensible shoes, because you’ll be taking to the streets. Probably best known for her Goth Hearts series, Amber’s work can be found on walls, doors, and sidewalks all over Philadelphia. Her work is largely centered around body image, social justice, and feminism, drawing on her own experiences and feelings. She uses her very public art as social commentary, emotional connection, and activism. Amberalla//Everywhere




Image Credit: @sophireaptress

Sophireaptress designs are darkling staples. Unique leggings in mesh, velvet, and leather are her specialty, pairing perfectly with cozy, flowing black pieces, all designed and handmade by Sophi in Philadelphia. Sophireaptress

Blood Milk


Image Credit: @mourningveil

Blood Milk is perhaps the most ubiquitous brand in the darkling community. Deeply routed in mourning tradition and spiritualism, Jess creates jewelry that is not only wearable art, but psychic armor, and all of that magic happens in Philadelphia. If you happen to be there this weekend, be sure to visit Tattooed Mom for Blood Milk’s second Night Market, featuring a few of the aforementioned Philly faves, as well as a great selection of other dark and witchy vendors. Blood Milk

Featured image courtesy of Amberella.

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About The Author

Haleigh is a lover of all things dark and magical. She works in fashion, and is the co-founder of Babe Coven. Follow her on IG to keep up with her latest darkling musings and desires, her all black everything wardrobe, and no shortage of cat photos.

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