Philip Sying Physick is often known for his contributions to medical science and his innovations that brought about the modern age of medicine. Often cited as the “father of American surgery,” Physick received his license to practice medicine in 1790. But what started as a landmark career was eventually destined to end in tragedy. Philip Physick died in Philadelphia putting an end to the long career of a brilliant doctor. But the story of the Physick house would center around his wife, who would die shortly after a strange tree was cut down during the couples’ divorce the same year.
The newly licensed Doctor Physick found himself dealing with an understandably emotional Mrs. Physick as the divorce proceedings went along. And medical wisdom at the time indicated that an individual in the grips of hysteria should be given a dose of one of the powerful calming medications at the time. Often these medicines did more to harm patients than they did to soothe or help them. It is unknown if this was the case with Mrs. Physick when the doctor prescribed her opium to calm her nerves, but she did die shortly afterward.
But the events leading up to her death were quite strange in themselves. Not only was Mrs. Physick increasingly distressed about her quickly deteriorating home life, she found herself spending more and more time with a strange tree that grew in the back yard. Often leaving an argument or missing an engagement to spand more time sitting beneath this tree which was a source of comfort for her, historians recall one incident where she was distressed when the doctor decided to cut the tree down. It’s unknown the details behind this act, but it clearly distressed her when it happened. Shortly afterward Mrs. Physick died.
But for years afterward, and leading up to even this day she would be seen in the yard kneeling over the area where the tree was cut down still weeping for it. As time wore on the paranormal events would come and go in waves – reportedly happening on the anniversary of her death or when renovations were going on within the Physick house itself. The house would eventually become a museum, which would allow visitors a look into the house’s history and the life of Physick himself.
But all throughout this time the ghost would occasionally appear once again showing the same grief and distress. Since then visitors have speculated and wondered. Is she really weeping for a tree? Or something else? Residual hauntings are often said to be connected to emotional events that follow people not only through their lives but on into death as well. Paranormal investigators have mentioned that a person’s emotions can be burned into a place in time or space like a photograph and then follow the area for several years afterward. And it seems the case of the Physick House might be a perfect example of that.