|Grave of Hummel's victims, at Christ Lutheran Stone Church Cemetery near Allenwood.|
Of all the murder trials that have occurred in the history of Lycoming County, few became as famous as the murder of trial of William Abram Hummel. In the fall of 1899, Hummel, a rag peddler from the borough of Montgomery, was arrested for the gruesome murder of his new wife and her three children. The murder trial became a national sensation, and Hummel was sentenced to death by hanging.
According to newspaper accounts of the day, neighbors found the bodies of two of the children inside Hummel's barn beneath a stack of hay; the heads of the children had been crushed. The body of Mrs. Hummel was found in the outhouse. One article reported that the body of the third child was located with the aid of a spiritualist; the medium instructed authorities to dig in the horse barn- where the corpse was later found.
Hummel was hunted down by an angry mob and arrested, in spite of his claims that the children were still alive.
The shocking story took a bizarre twist in June of 1900, when newspapers reported that Hummel had decided to sell his corpse to a traveling sideshow. One report appeared in the June 6, 1900 edition of the Scranton Tribune:
Murderer Sells Body to Showman
Williamsport, Pa. June 4- A gruesome contract has been made by Murderer Hummel, who dies tonight. He has sold his body to a showman for a new suit in which to be hanged, a coffin, and a burial place. The showman expects to exhibit the body at museums.
Another article, which appeared in the Bloomsburg Columbian, reported that Hummel's body was purchased by George H. Bubb of the Lycoming Opera House in Williamsport. According to Bubb, the killer's body would be buried on the farm of Hummel's brother-in-law, Joseph Moon, in Black Hole Valley.
But the story gets even more bizarre....
Shortly after Hummel's death, newspapers began to report that the ghost of the murdered woman was haunting the countryside:
The alleged nightly appearance of a figure in black- presumably a woman- on the road between Montgomery and Clintonville, near the graves of the murdered wife and children of William Hummel, has caused much excitement among the superstitious people in the vicinity who believe it is the ghost of the murdered woman. (The Bloomsburg Columbian, November 7, 1901)
According to Vol. XVI of Now and Then- a magazine published by the Muncy Historical Society- William Hummel was married four times. His first wife allegedly disappeared without a trace, and Hummel deserted his second and third wives.
(More information about the Hummel murder can be found here.)