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Showing posts from 2017

Remembering Chief Fireway: The Last Susquehannock

From Teedyuscung and Tamanend to Cornplanter and Shikellamy, the names of illustrious Native American chiefs are familiar to many Pennsylvanians. These and the names of other iconic tribal leaders grace our mountains, streams, townships and schools. Sadly, there is one name that has been all but forgotten, and it is a name you will not find on any monument or high school sports stadium. And though he's only been dead for half a century, Chief Fireway's name ought to be remembered, not just for the numerous contributions he made to Dauphin County, but because he was "The Last Susquehannock".

Born in Perry County in 1899, Chief Fireway spend his early life on the Onandaga Reservation near Syracuse before receiving his education at the Carlisle Indian School. His grandfather, a veteran of the Civil War, fought at Gettysburg and later relocated to a reservation in Oklahoma. Chief Fireway, who could trace his family history back to 1700, spent his entire adult life in the…

Hunter finds petrified corpse of Satan

An interesting story from the Lebanon Daily News from July 31, 1917.

The Ghost of Cassie Foster

For many years after her death, the ghost of an eccentric, scrawny widow named Cassie Foster was seen haunting the westernmost stretch of White Deer Valley near Elimsport. Supposedly, she was unable to rest in peace because she was buried in the wrong grave.

The earliest accounts of posthumous Cassie Foster sightings are from 1902, just a few years after her emaciated body was found inside the primitive hovel she called home, at the foot of the mountain that divides Elimsport from Collomsville.

Cassie first arrived in Pennsylvania after the untimely death of her husband, who was a wealthy farmer in the Midwest. She settled in White Deer Valley and purchased twenty acres of timber land, upon which she built herself a two-story log cabin. A lover of nature and wildlife, Cassie shared her home with a flock of pigeons, which she had trained to roost upon the foot of her bed. She also kept several snakes as pets; one, a four-foot-long blacksnake and another a deadly copperhead which she had…

Can you solve the Dauphin County "Ring of Trees" mystery?

Clark's Valley in Dauphin County contains some of the most stunning natural scenery in all of Pennsylvania, making it a popular destination for anglers, hunters, hikers and outdoors enthusiasts. Sandwiched between Clark's Valley Road (Rt. 325) and Williamstown lies the eastern tip of Jefferson Township. This area of pristine, rugged wilderness features large swaths of Weiser State Forest and State Gamelands #210, and is traversed by Greenland Road. This mostly unpaved road extends from Powells Valley Road in Dauphin County all the way to Porter Township in Schuylkill County, emerging from the hilly wilderness in the vicinity of Bendigo Airport.

Numerous dirt roads and trails intersect Greenland Road, and there are probably hundreds of outdoorsmen who know each path and trail like the palms of their own hands. Hopefully one of them might be able to solve a peculiar modern mystery. It is a mystery that probably has a most mundane explanation, but it is still a mystery nonetheles…

Legends of "The Pinnacle" at Blue Mountain

Anyone who has ever spent time hiking in the Blue Mountains has undoubtedly paid a visit to the mountain peak known as "The Pinnacle". This craggy peak, the highest point in Berks County, has been known for centuries by many different names; to early Pennsylvania Dutch settlers it was known as "Zinne-kup" (or Zinne-kop), which, loosely translated, means "merlon head" (in medieval architecture, merlons are those crenelated tops of castles, giving them that distinctive castle-like appearance). To the native Lenape, the boulder-capped summit was known as "Kanteele", or "battlement".

With so much history attached to this unique geological feature, it only stands to reason that the Pinnacle is steeped in legend and myth. It has been said to have been the gathering place of witches, the site of ancient Indian human sacrifices and the home of restless, wandering ghosts. Many have claimed to have seen unexplained sights and to have heard unexp…

The Luzerne County Love Cult Murder of 1931

One of the most peculiar crimes in the history of Pennsylvania occurred in 1931 with the slaying of a reclusive elderly spinster from Forty Fort named Minnie Dilley. While most murders in our state's history were carried out by drunken thugs, heartless outlaws and seasoned criminals, Miss Dilley's slayer was a young female college graduate and the daughter of a minister. Stranger still, the unfortunate elderly victim was said to have belonged to a bizarre sex cult.

A media sensation was created on Wednesday, April 8, when a beautiful 29-year-old woman named Frances Thomsen confessed to the brutal bludgeoning and attempted decapitation of Minnie Dilley, a 76-year-old spinster from Luzerne County. The confessed killer, who graduated from the prestigious halls of Wellesley College, was a mother to three young children and a beloved school teacher. She had once lived across the street from the victim.

But what strange series of events had led to this heinous, ghastly crime?

Frances …

Ghost of strangled boy once haunted historic cabin in Jumonville

Just east of Uniontown, in Fayette County, is Jumonville, famous for its 60-foot-tall cross which protrudes from the top of Dunbar's Knob. Built in 1950, the enormous cross is visible from a distance of fifty miles on a clear day, and can be seen from three states. Jumonville is also home to a Methodist retreat center, which sits on the site of an old orphan's school that was created by the state of Pennsylvania to care for the children of Civil War soldiers killed in battle.

In the late 19th century there was another point of interest that made Jumonville famous-- a  mountain shack haunted by the ghost of a boy who was strangled to death.

In early January of 1896 the surrounding towns and villages were buzzing with rumors of a peculiar haunted cabin in the woods near Jumonville, and a party of volunteers decided to pay a visit to the shack and see if the rumors and legends were true. Many volunteered, but as the appointed day of the investigation grew nearer, most of the folks…

A peculiar haunting in Lewisburg

After Elizabeth Searles passed away on August 9, 1889, her body was taken to the undertaker. But strange things began to happen once the undertaker, William Ginter, attempted to embalm her body. The following strange story appeared in the August 16, 1889 edition of the Carlisle Sentinel.


Head severed by circular saw

The suicide of Hugh Malone, from the Dec. 2, 1911 edition of the Wilkes-Barre Times Leader.

A Shenandoah cemetery suicide

The above clipping is from the September 19, 1921 edition of the Mount Carmel Item. Below is another clipping of the same event, from the September 22, 1921 edition of the Pittston Gazette.


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 Great Pocket Knife Duel of 1909

From the September 7, 1909 edition of the Wilkes-Barre Time Leader.

The strange journey of a human skull

This strange story appeared in the Altoona Tribune on Nov. 7, 1895. I'm not quite sure which part of the story is more unusual-- that a man found a human skull and thought, "Neato! I gotta show this to my wife!" or that the wife tossed out the skull like it was a carton of spoiled milk. Either way, you can't help but feel a little bit sorry for the poor skeleton. So much for resting in peace.