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…
To the casual observer, the borough of Marion Heights is a sleepy coal mining town, one of hundreds of similar soot-stained villages dotting the landscape of the Coal Region. Prior to 1901, this borough of less than a thousand souls didn't even exist, and back then the village went by the name of Kaiser.
I grew up in Kulpmont, just a stone's throw away from Marion Heights, and the tiny village always fascinated me. Being a descendant of Italian immigrants who toiled in various mines throughout the Coal Region, I used to love the stories my grandfather and other older relatives told me as a child. Often, these stories revolved around the "gang warfare" which pervaded the region throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
These clashes were the result of various ethnic groups who settled in the Coal Region, arriving from places like Italy, Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, and Serbia. Being strangers in a strange land, they banded together and formed fraternal clu…
When most Pennsylvanians think of coal region history, their minds invariably turn to the Molly Maguires, Yuengling beer, pierogies, and the Pottsville Maroons professional football team. However, there is a side of coal region history that is seldom discussed; a dark, violent side that resembles something out of a Martin Scorsese movie starring Robert DeNiro and Joe Pesci.
Many Pennsylvanians would be surprised to learn that, during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Northumberland County was a haven of organized crime, a place where gunshots rang out as regularly as church bells, leaving in their wake a blood-smeared trail of terror. Perhaps the most chilling mob murder in the county took place in early 1939, not far from the curve on Brennan's Farm Road in Kulpmont.
A Gruesome Discovery
On the morning of Thursday, March 2, 1939, two brothers from Marion Heights, Paul and Mickey Mall, set out from their Melrose Street home in order to engage in some bootleg mining at Brennan…