Skip to main content

Unsolved Mystery: The Skeleton of Mocanaqua

The old Mocanaqua breaker


In 1884, the bleached bones of a skeleton wearing the tattered remnants of an army uniform was found beneath the outcropping of rocks above present-day Lee Road.  The skeleton has never been identified.  Could it have been the skeleton of a deserter from the Union army?  Or perhaps a cave-dwelling hermit who had once fought in the Civil War?  Unfortunately, it seems to be a mystery that will remain unsolved until the end of time.  Here's the newspaper article about the skeleton, as it appeared in the August 8, 1884, edition of the Bloomsburg Columbian:

A man named Michael Boylan, a resident of Teasdale City, was looking for young foxes Sunday afternoon at the foot of the high rocks along the road leading from Shickshinny to Wanamie.  Under an overhanging crag, in sight of the road, he came upon the bleached skeleton of a man.  Mr. Boylan made known his discovery and quite a crowd collected.  Mr. F.D. Yaple, who was returning from Nanticoke about this time, saw the bones, secured a knife, bunch of keys and a briar pipe and brought them to town.  On Monday it became known that the skeleton had been found and many conjectures and wild stories were set afloat as to who was the owner of the abandoned bones.  In company with M.E. Walker, H.S. Clark and C.F. Stackhouse, an Echo representative, visited the spot to investigate.

The place is about two miles back upon the mountain from the Mocanaqua breaker.  When first found the bones were in their regular order with the shoes upon the feet, face upward.  The only portion of the clothing recognizable was a piece of soldier overcoat.  The large and small army buttons were confirming evidence that he wore a coat of that kind.  Several large buttons, such as are worn on drawers, and a small undershirt button were found among the decayed clothing.  The leather facings for a pair of mittens went further to confirm the belief that whoever the man may be his body was clad for winter weather at the time of his death.


Among other effects found were a razor and strop, shaving mug, satchel frame securely locked, and two bottles, one a pocket flask and the other a two-ounce vial such as laudanum is usually sold in.  The man must have been 6 feet tall, with a low, receding forehead.  His right leg had been broken at one time at the thigh.  How long the bones had lain exposed is not known.  Their bleached condition would indicate several years.  It is remarkable that they were not found before from their close proximity to the road
.

Popular posts from this blog

Mount Carmel's Mysterious Suicide Cell

Tucked away at the head of North Oak Street in Mount Carmel is a quaint shop housed in a tiny historic brick building. The Shop at Oak & Avenue is a must-see destination for visitors, offering an impressive variety of gifts and handmade jewelry. It is a gem in an otherwise drab coal town whose glory days faded away with the demise of the steam locomotive and the trolley.

While this quaint small town gift shop gives off a pleasant appearance, the history of the building-- one of the oldest in the borough-- is tinged with horror and death. For this tiny building, erected in the 1880s, served as Mount Carmel's first city hall and jail, and this jail had a rather dark distinction of being the site of the cursed and mysterious "suicide cell".

History records six suicides taking place in the basement cell, along with scores of other attempted suicides. For a reason that has defied explanation, this tiny jail in this tiny town seems to bring out the darkest demons lurking wi…

The True Story of Shamokin's Famous "Mystery Head"

Hardly a week goes by that I don't receive an email from a Pennsylvania Oddities reader asking me to write about the Shamokin "mystery head"-- yes, the very same human head, complete with curly hair and mustache, that was put on display in the window of the Farrow Funeral Home (presumably to show off the establishment's embalming abilities) and later displayed at a local mining museum. The head belonged to an unidentified murder victim whose headless body was found in the woods near the Hickory Ridge colliery in 1904, and the head has been a source of local pride and urban legend ever since.

I've resisted the urge to write about the "mystery head" for a few reasons. Having grown up in the area, I heard about it so many times that the story has worn thin. Secondly, the erroneous local legends and false claims are probably a lot more entertaining than the actual truth about the "mystery head". These local legends run the gamut from plausible to …

Mount Carmel's Night of Terror: The Strantz & Yorkavage Crime Spree of 1937

On the evening of April 9, 1937, two bandits with their guns blazing left a trail of carnage through the sooty streets of Mount Carmel and Shamokin. For one of the gunmen, the trail came to a bloody end in Diamondtown after a shootout with police. For the other gunman, the trail led to the electric chair at Rockview State Penitentiary, with 2,000 volts of electricity coursing through his body.



The Ballad of Joe Cabbage and Wild Wally

A reunion of sorts took place in January of 1937, after Joseph Yorkavage was paroled from the Northumberland County Prison in Sunbury. Known to his friends as "Joe Cabbage", the notorious ruffian was released on the 25th and, oddly enough, this was the very same day Yorkavage's best friend, Walter Strantz, was paroled from the infamous Eastern State penitentiary in Philadelphia.

Back in 1919, "Joe Cabbage" was one of three men who staged a failed train robbery in Centralia. The three men dynamited the tracks and then hid in the bus…