Forgotten Darkness

Strange things are lost and forgotten in obscure corners of the newspaper.

September 23rd, 2019    

51 - Murder Swamp and the Bodies in the Boxcars

From the 1920s until the 1940s, parts of western Pennsylvania were plagued by reports of beheaded and dissected bodies.  Police believed they might have been the work of a notorious American serial killer...

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Opening music from "Dark Child" by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (

Closing music by Soma.


“Another victim of mad butcher.” Uniontown Morning Herald, November 4, 1940.

“Car inspector locates head this morning.” New Castle News, October 19, 1939.

“Cleveland torso slayer suspected in Pittsburgh case.” Kane Republican, May 3, 1940.

“Coroner's jury probes murder.” New Castle News, July 20, 1921.

“Detective finds missing head this afternoon.” New Castle News, October 8, 1925.

“Detectives check railroad route of 3 death cars.” Kane Republican, May 4, 1940.

“Headless bodies found in swamp.” Warren Tribune, October 19, 1925.

“Headless bodies of three men found in R.R. yard in Pittsburgh.” York Gazette and Daily, May 4, 1940.

“Headless body of girl found at New Castle.” Shamokin News-Dispatch, October 14, 1939.

“Headless body of slain girl found in Murder Swamp.” Danville Morning News, October 14, 1939.

“Mad butcher victim found at New Castle.” Franklin News-Herald, November 5, 1940.

“Manhunt for mad butcher.” Warren Times-Mirror, May 4, 1940.

“Murderer of Mrs. Emma Jackson near Ellwood still at large.” New Castle News, March 18, 1921.

“Mystery of headless body baffles authorities.” New Castle News, October 7, 1925.

“New Castle Junction car reveals mystery.” New Castle News, July 2, 1936.

“No solution to headless body mystery as yet,” New Castle News, October 16, 1939.

“Organize search for new victims of head-chopper.” Harrisburg Telegraph, October 19, 1925.

“Reported identification of one of marsh victims investigated by sheriff.” New Castle News, October 21, 1925.

“Second skull found.” New Castle News, October 19, 1925.

“Seek method of identifying man in murder case.” New Castle News, October 20, 1939.

“Seeks fiend hiding in swamp.” Buffalo (NY) Courier, October 18, 1925.

“Shred of burnt shirt 'headless murder' clue.” Harrisburg Telegraph, October 21, 1939.

“Swamp reveals new mystery as body is found.” New Castle News, October 16, 1934.

Badal, James Jessen. In the Wake of the Butcher: Cleveland's Torso Murders. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2001.

—. Hell's Wasteland: The Pennsylvania Torso Murders. Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 2013.

Catalog of Copyright Entries: Part 3, Musical Compositions. Washington, DC: United States Government Printing Office, 1941.

Hazen, Aaron L. 20th Century History of New Castle and Lawrence County. Chicago: Richmond-Arnold Publishing, 1908.

September 16th, 2019    

50 - The Murder of L. Sealey Houk

The story of the murder of L. Sealey Houk and the arrest of Rocco Racco, as told in a reading from "Pinkertons Write History of the Houk Case for the Herald," New Castle Herald, October 3, 1908.

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Opening music from "Dark Child" by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (

Closing music by Soma.

September 9th, 2019    

49 - The Phantoms of ‘52

The highways of the Midwestern United States were home to two unidentified individuals known as “phantoms” in 1952. Well, one individual and one that very well may have been mass hysteria. These are the stories of the 40 Phantom that haunted Ohio's roadways, terrified truck drivers, and resembled something from a Misfits song or Rob Zombie video; and the Blue Phantom, who took potshots at Illinois motorists (maybe), are featured.

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Opening music from "Dark Child" by Kevin MacLeod ( License: CC BY (

Closing music by Soma.

SOURCES – 40 Phantom

Zanesville Times-Recorder, March 29, 1952.

“Columbus man is victim; stolen auto recovered.”  Newark Advocate, March 4, 1952.

“Frightened drivers glimpse Route 40 phantom in area.”  Salem News, March 27, 1952.

“Green phantom blamed in wreck; gagster fined.”  East Liverpool Evening Review, March 29, 1952.

“Green phantom fails to show after calls.”  Salem News, March 31, 1952.

“Highway ghost phones warning of tonight's run.”  East Liverpool Evening Review, March 28, 1952.

“Highway phantom calls his shot.”  Zanesville Times-Recorder, March 29, 1952.

“His name is Legion.”  Marion Star, March 19, 1952.

“Jury visits highway crime scene,”  Newark Advocate, April 29, 1952.

“Lausche refuses to intervene in Louis Angel case.”  Newark Advocate, January 23, 1953.

“Legion enter chase for phantom gunman.”  Raleigh Register (Beckley, WV), February 19, 1952.

“Marshall challenges phantom.”  Zanesville Times-Recorder, March 20, 1952.

“Mystery gunman clue uncovered,”  Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, February 14, 1952.

“Pawnbroker says he lent Angel $20 on murder gun.”  Lancaster Eagle-Gazette, May 1, 1952.

“Phantom gunman sought by police.” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, February 1, 1952.

“Phantom dares Ohio sheriff.” Anderson (IN) Herald, March 16, 1952.

“Phantom does as boasted, haunts Rt. 7.” Salem News, March 29, 1952.

“Phantom driver scares truckers on Ohio highway.” New Philadelphia Daily Times, March 7, 1952.

“Phantom seen again.” Mansfield News-Journal, March 20, 1952.

“Phantom skeleton may be dancing now on Route 7.” East Liverpool Evening Review, March 13, 1952.

“Route 40 phantom chases 4 drivers near West Point.” East Liverpool Evening Review, March 27, 1952.

“Route 40 phantom frightens auto, truck drivers in Ohio.” Cumberland (MD) Evening Times, March 7, 1952.

“Rt. 40 phantom utilizes green smoke screen.” Salem News, March 20, 1952.

“Takes latest scientific gadgets for successful ghost these days.” Zanesville Times-Recorder, March 15, 1952.

“Terror on a highway.” Kansas City (MO) Times, March 7, 1952.

“Who's scared? Er, how much for bullet-proof windows?” Charleston (WV) Daily Mail, February 15, 1952.

SOURCES – Blue Phantom

“Blue phantom fires at three motorists Sunday, police hear.” Dixon Evening Telegraph, June 9, 1952.

“Blue phantom gunman's raiding continues in Illinois.” Tucson (AZ) Daily Citizen, June 7, 1952.

“Blue phantom gunman sought for shooting at motorists.” Denton (TX) Record-Chronicle, June 9, 1952.

“Blue phantom on prowl in Fairview – with water gun.” Decatur Daily Review, June 13, 1952.

“Blue phantom reports spread to Indiana.” Mattoon Journal-Gazette, June 10, 1952.

“Blue phantom sniper fires on motorists from fast car.” Mount Vernon Register-News, May 31, 1952.

“Boy, 16, adds to confusion in mystery shooting.” St. Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat, June 1, 1952.

“Bullet near body hampers inquiry.” Joplin (MO) Globe, June 1, 1952.

“Canton man released.” Edwardsville Intelligencer, June 12, 1952.

“Car which backfires may be phantom.” Bloomington Pantagraph, June 15, 1952.

“Drive to grab blue phantom intensified.” Mattoon Journal Gazette, June 9, 1952.

“Gunman sought near Decatur.” Decatur Herald, June 17, 1952.

“He sees the blue phantom.” Dixon Evening Telegraph, June 6, 1952.

“Holbrook tells of gunman on Route 128.” Decatur Daily Review, June 7, 1952.

“Monticello lion, move over.” Decatur Daily Review, June 11, 1952.

“Officers' car hit by gunfire from phantom.” Decatur Herald, June 16, 1952.

“One blue phantom scare was youth with rubber gun.” Mount Vernon Register-News, June 12, 1952.

“Phantom gunman continues Midwest sniping attacks.” Medford (OR) Mail Tribune, June 8, 1952.

“Phantom gunman, or the weather?” Decatur Herald, June 12, 1952.

“Phantom reported, say 3 cars shot at on highway.” Jacksonville Daily Journal, June 15, 1952.

“Phantom shooting here this noon.” Decatur Daily Review, June 2, 1952.

“Phantom sniper uses blanks now.” Terre Haute (IN) Tribune, June 14, 1952.

“Phantom snipes at 5 more drivers.” Carroll (IA) Daily Times-Herald, June 7, 1952.

“Phantom strikes,” Decatur Herald, June 17, 1952.

“Police on alert but doubt stories of blue phantom.” Jacksonville Daily Journal, June 11, 1952.

“Police take to air in hunt for blue phantom.” Mount Vernon Register-News, June 7, 1952.

“Raack shooting suspect fires on third motorist.” St. Louis (MO) Globe-Democrat, June 2, 1952.

“State police halt cars to hunt phantom.” Columbia City (IN) Commercial-Mail, June 3, 1952.

“Wabash subway shot renews phantom chase.” Decatur Herald, June 20, 1952.

Bartholomew, Robert and Hilary Evans. Outbreak! The Encyclopedia of Extraordinary Social Behavior. San Antonio: Anomalist Books, 2009.


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