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The Snake-Child of Chambersburg

Shippensburg Chronicle, May 21, 1896

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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?

Franc…

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 place…

The Lutz Axe Murder

A small two-story house standing at the corner of Franklin and Montgomery streets in West Pittston presents a humble appearance. Simple in design and white in color, it is remarkable only because it is so unremarkable. A local resident may drive by the house every day for years without ever noticing it, or thinking about it. Certainly, from its understated appearance, nobody would ever guess that this humble house was the home of John Lutz, who, in 1899, committed of the most heinous murders in the history of Luzerne County.

The tiny house at the corner of Franklin and Montgomery is, in fact, a murder house. It is the scene of a gruesome crime that took place more than a century ago. What you are about to read is the story of that house and the killer who lived inside.

On November 29, 1899, John Lutz came home to his 31-year-old wife, Augusta, and their five young children. Lutz, who was nearly ten years older than his wife, was said to have been suffering from feelings of jealousy. Th…