Pennsylvania Oddities

Pennsylvania Oddities

Author and "historian of the macabre" Marlin Bressi explores true crime, unsolved mysteries, haunted places, and strange history from around the Keystone State. Based on the Pennsylvania Oddities blog and book series by Sunbury Press. New episodes on the 1st and 15th of every month (Note: There will be no new episodes in August; new episodes will return September 1). Be sure to visit the Pennsylvania Oddities blog for hundreds of astonishing true stories from every corner of the spookiest state in America! Support this podcast: https://podcasters.spotify.com/pod/show/paoddities/support

Episodes

February 14, 2024 21 mins

Warning: This episode contains graphic depictions which some listeners may find disturbing. On February 14, 1891, Edward McMillan of Exeter Township committed one of the most revolting murders in the history of Luzerne County-- a crime which, according to one newspaper reporter, outshone Jack the Ripper in terms of sheer brutality.

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On Friday, June 28, 1929, William Kennedy was building a new fence on his farm near York Springs when the circling of vultures led to shocking discovery on the banks of Bermudian Creek, about a hundred yards from the old Gettysburg-Harrisburg highway. It was the badly-decomposed body of a woman lying face-down in the mud. The victim, a 27-year-old deaf mute and mother of four from Harrisburg named Carrie Shellenberger Weiss, hadn&#...

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January 15, 2024 20 mins

Lined with quaint shops and historic buildings, Annville is one of the most charming towns in the Lebanon Valley. However, in 1887, Annville became the scene of horror after 60-year-old William Showers committed two of the most sensational murders in the county's history on the outskirts of town.


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January 1, 2024 18 mins

Penn State Altoona, built on the site of a defunct amusement park, has a dark secret. At the center of the campus is a pond, the remnant of the warming dam which once fed Ivyside Park's massive swimming pool. There is one particularly sad tragedy associated with this pool-- a tragedy involving a distraught mother who drowned herself and her children one spring evening in 1930.

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December 15, 2023 14 mins

In February of 1900, a tiny, middle-aged German tramp found himself confined to a steel cell in the basement of the Lebanon city hall. He had been brought to Lebanon from the Berks County, where he had been picked up on a vagrancy charge. This was nothing out of the ordinary for 50-year-old Leopold Rowe, who had been drifting from town to town for the past ten years of his life. Rowe was no stranger to county jails and small-town l...

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December 1, 2023 16 mins

In 1915, a group of boys skating on a frozen swamp discovered a headless body entombed in ice. All signs pointed to foul play, but who was the victim?

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November 15, 2023 15 mins

Over one thousand criminals have paid for their crimes in Pennsylvania with their lives. But one man, Lorenzo Savage, holds the distinction of being the only voodoo doctor executed by the Commonwealth.

The story seems like a tale ripped from the pages of a dime-store novel: A lovelorn nurse is brutally slain, her body found outside an abandoned mansion. In her hand detectives find an arrangement of playing cards, which they soon le...

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November 2, 2023 9 mins

In Lebanon County there exists a place known to locals as Ghost Hollow. For more than a century, strange things have happened near this rural stretch between Shaefferstown and Newmanstown. In 1876, a teenage girl lost her life in a horrific carriage accident just outside the tiny village of Millbach. According to those who witnessed the entire incident, something "otherworldly" was to blame. 


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October 15, 2023 12 mins

Every Halloween, children's thoughts turn to black cats, goblins and ghouls. For most, it is a joyful occasion, a chance to indulge in all things delightfully wicked. From magic potions to witches on broomsticks, the imagery is often lighthearted and playful because Halloween monsters are just make-believe. But tragically, in October of 1954, one little girl discovered that some monsters are real.


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One of America's most successful serial killers was Martha Grinder, an Allegheny County woman who rose to notoriety in the years following the Civil War as "The Poisoner of Gray's Alley". What made Martha Grinder so successful in playing her deadly game, aside from the fact that she killed indiscriminately for years before getting caught, was that she appeared beyond reproach-- for Martha was adored by her neighbo...

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September 15, 2023 10 mins

The historical record shows that 1,043 criminals are known to have been executed in Pennsylvania, beginning with the hanging of Derek Jonson in Bucks County in 1693 and ending with the lethal injection of Philadelphia serial killer Gary Michael Heidnik in 1999. Of these 1,043 persons who paid the ultimate price for their crimes, only one was a clergyman-- Cyriacus Spangenberg.


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September 1, 2023 32 mins

Two young lovers, killed by a single sniper's bullet. For 99 years, the Lamb's Gap Murders have perplexed law enforcement. Who killed Harry Ganster and Leah Ellenberger in May of 1924? Moonshiners? A jealous ex-lover? Or was it a murder-suicide? At various times, all of these explanations seemed to fit. The problem, however, is that none of these explanations fit perfectly.

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With Guest Host Ashley Bemis. In April of 1875, the most sensational murder trial in the history of Fulton County took place. Charged with one of the most shocking crimes imaginable were Mary Mellott and her husband Daniel, a Civil War veteran who was known throughout Buck Valley as "Wolf Dan" on account of his disfigured face.


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July 15, 2023 13 mins

The McKean County township of Wetmore once boasted an architectural gem of a mansion with a dark and mysterious past. Rumored to the inhabited by maleficent spirits, the "Haunted House of Wetmore", as it was known to folks in Kane and surrounding towns, was erected in the early 20th century by a businessman who had something of a fire problem-- that is to say that every building he owned was destroyed by a bizarre series ...

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In the backwoods of Cumberland County live some of the kindest, gentlest souls you could imagine; decent, God-fearing folks who'd gladly give you the shirt off their own back or drive you into town if you should happen to run out of gas on a lonesome country road. But the backwoods of Cumberland County have also been the home to some of the most depraved and reprehensible folks who ever trod God's green earth. One example i...

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June 15, 2023 14 mins

In 1911, witchcraft hysteria spread across central Pennsylvania, with dozens of superstitious citizens swearing out complaints against men and women accused of being hex or "pow-wow" doctors, but one bizarre story of Schuylkill County made newspaper headlines across the commonwealth. Alleging that her father, Howell Thomas of Tumbling Run, died as the result of a hex placed upon him, Mary Isabelle Thomas went to the press...

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June 1, 2023 22 mins

In 1862, the residents of Providence Township in Lackawanna County decided to establish a poor farm for those who were impoverished, handicapped, elderly, and otherwise unable to work and care for themselves. This facility, which was then known as the Hillside Home, also provided housing and treatment for the mentally ill. In 1943, the name was changed to the Clarks Summit State Hospital, which continues to operate to this day.

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In March of 1928, William Ward and his young wife, Catherine Ward, occupied the second floor of a Pittsburgh duplex with their two children, three-year-old Billy and eight-month-old Dorothy Mae. Once, the Wards had a been a happy family with all-American dreams of white picket fences and a garage to park their car. But everything changed one cold, dreary Thursday morning in March.


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On February 14, 1928, seven-year-old Lawrence McCall went to school at the No. 5  Mine schoolhouse in Springfield Township, near the Mercer-Lawrence county line. It was Valentine's Day and the teacher, Miss Ebba Widing, had planned a special presentation and all the parents were invited. Sadly, for the twenty pupils in attendance, this Valentine's Day would forever be remembered with horror, because on this particular day ...

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During the early 20th century, James Black Spahr was a popular member of the Chambersburg borough council. Unlike many politicians, Spahr genuinely cared about his community and those who called it home, and his many years of public service were unblemished by scandal. A devout Christian and family man, he didn't seem to have an enemy in the world. But on December 3, 1909, the beloved public figure made a horrifying discovery... so...

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