Skip to main content

Skull Crushed to Atoms!



Those of you who have a soft spot for the gory and graphic depictions of accidents which often appeared in the newspapers of yesteryear will be interested in the following story about a train accident which took place in Harrisburg in 1839. Though morbid, it is nonetheless fascinating that news reporting from the 19th century was full of such ghastly details.

From the Columbia Democrat, July 6, 1839:

One of the most shocking and heart-rending scenes that was ever witnessed in this neighborhood, was presented to the view of our citizens this morning. Our paper had not been worked off, when the news reached our office that an accident had occurred on the rail-road, at the edge of town, causing the death of two individuals. We repaired immediately thither, and such a sight was exhibited as we never wish to gaze upon again.

Upon the track of the rail-road lay the dead bodies of two females, mangled in the most shocking manner; the skull of one of them being completely crushed to atoms, and the feet of the other taken off just above the ankles. The former was killed instantly. The latter lived about fifteen minutes after the accident, perfectly insensible. Brains and gore were trailed along the road for some distance.


We have not been able to learn the particulars, or the names of the unfortunate persons, who were both decently attired. The cars arrived here from Philadelphia at 6 1/2 o'clock this morning, at which time the accident occurred.


We are not prepared at present to state the cause of the accident and it would be unjust for us to throw censure on any one unless we are perfectly satisfied that censure is merited. We will give all the particulars in our next.

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…

Natalie, Pennsylvania: A Murderer's Paradise

When a miner named Michael Wanzie was murdered in June of 1905, it was evident that something wasn't quite right in the tiny village of Natalie. Although the scenic mountain village had a population of less than two hundred, the slaying of Michael Wanzie was the fourth murder committed in the village in less than a decade.

By 1924 the population had nearly doubled, thanks to a building "boom" that saw the construction of 40 new homes during the preceding year by builders employed by the Colonial Collieries Company, owners of the Natalie Colliery. Twenty of these homes, many of which still stand today, were built by the Evert Construction Company of Kulpmont. In 1923 there were 56 homes in the village, housing 375 residents. By April of 1924 that number would swell to just under 400 residents and 93 homes.

Although the building boom lent a measure of respectability to the village, Natalie was still imbued with a notorious reputation as being one of the most lawless places …

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 …