William Tell prank gone horribly wrong

Ask most folks who live in the coal region where Diamondtown is and they'll probably have no clue. But ask anyone who lives anywhere between Pottsville and Shamokin (especially an old-timer) where Diamondtown is and they'll tell you it's right next to Mt. Carmel. No, not that clump of houses to the west of Mt. Carmel (that would be Dooleyville and Connorsville). Not to the northeast of Mt. Carmel (that would be Atlas) and not to the south of Mt. Carmel (that would be Merrian).

Diamondtown, as everyone knows, was the home of Homiak's Bar, the fabled watering hole of the post-war era where (according to my grandfather) air hoses concealed in the floor blew up girl's dresses and you could enjoy a lobster dinner for under a buck.

Diamondtown was also the home of Harvey Wessner, who died in 1929 after 125 hours of unconsciousness, after his best friend whacked him in the skull with a baseball bat while attempting to knock a hat from Wessner's head.

Here's the original newspaper account of the incident, which appeared in the Shamokin News-Dispatch on April 8, 1929.

William Tell Prank Results in Man's Death

Unconscious for 125 hours, the result of having been struck on the head with a baseball bat, Harvey Wessner, 44, of Diamondtown, near Mt. Carmel, died at the Ashland State Hospital at 11:30 Saturday night without regaining consciousness.

The death of Wessner came as the tragic termination of a William Tell escapade that was enacted at the Wessner home on Easter Sunday night while the Diamondtown man was entertaining a number of friends.
There had been considerable clowning during the course of the evening and the climax came when Wessner placed a derby hat crosswise on his head and announced that Harvey Lindermuth, 28, of Mt. Carmel, a close friend, would proceed to knock the hat from his head without touching the skull.

Lindermuth took the swing, but his aim was low and the heavy club struck Wessner a sickening blow along the side of the head. A moment later the unfortunate man sank unconscious to the floor. 

At the direction of a physician the injured man was rushed to the Ashland Hospital where it was ascertained that he had suffered a fractured skull. Wessner was unconscious when admitted to the hospital and despite heroic efforts of the surgeons he continued in a state of coma, growing steadily weaker until Saturday night when death ensued.

It became evident to the hospital doctors Saturday morning that he could not long survive and members of the Wessner family were summoned to his bedside.

Following the removal of the injured man to the hospital early last Monday morning, Lindermuth, the wielder of the bat which inflicted the fatal injury, surrendered to the Mt. Carmel police. He has been a prisoner in the county jail ever since, awaiting the outcome of Wessner's injuries.

Official information today was to the effect that Lindermuth would probably be charged with manslaughter as a result of Wessner's death.

Investigation by the Mt. Carmel authorities has revealed the fact that the two men were the best of friends and that there was absolutely no reason why Lindermuth should have struck Wessner with deliberate or murderous intent. One fact has been established and that is that the men at the Wessner home had been drinking quite freely and that Lindermuth was well under the influence of intoxicants at the time he struck Wessner.

Coroner J.K. Fisher of Sunbury is making an investigation of the circumstances surrounding the tragedy, and announced today that he will hold a formal inquest some time this week.

Wessner was married and is survived by his wife and eight stepchildren.


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