Forgotten Darkness

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

March 25th, 2021    

85 - Don’t Call It Murder, Call It A Job

In late 1930s Philadelphia, a murder-for-profit ring rivalling the French Affair of the Poisons, run by two cousins named Petrillo, is uncovered.  This is the story of the Poison Ring.

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

Closing music by Soma.


“15 more poisoners face arrest as ring’s toll mounts hourly; crowd threatens Mrs. Favato.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 28, 1939.

“2 more confess poison killings, third admits drowning plot; U.S. May enter investigation.” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 7, 1939.

“3 confess arsenic plot as 7 others deny guilt.” Lancaster New Era, May 25, 1939.

“3rd widow freed in insurance ring.” Reading Times, December 12, 1939.

“Arsenic suspect believed slain to balk justice.” Allentown Morning Call, May 10, 1939.

“Bail is denied in poison case.” Wilmington News Journal, September 7, 1939.

“Beach slayer dies in cell.” Delaware County Daily Times, January 11, 1936.

“Death threats menace son of triple slayer.” Kokomo (IN) Tribune, April 24, 1939.

“Calls uncle, who sent him up, a poisoner.” New York Daily News, February 10, 1939.

“Commutation saves woman from chair.” Latrobe Bulletin, June 20, 1941.

“Completing jury in another poison trial.” Mount Carmel Item, December 13, 1939.

“Convict Swartz for murder of mother in law.” Wilkes-Barre Times-Leader, June 14, 1940.

“'Customer' of murder syndicate starts term.” Scranton Times-Tribune, October 29, 1940.

“Enters guilty plea in mass murders.” Danville Morning News, February 27, 1940.

“Faces 30-year term for husband's poison death.” St. Louis (MO) Star and Times, December 14, 1939.

“Fast hearings stun suspects in poison cases.” Baltimore Sun, May 11, 1939.

“Five police win Inquirer awards for smashing poison ring.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 10, 1939.

“Follow poison murder ring's trail to N.Y.” New York Daily News, May 14, 1939.

“Framed to hide poison deaths, prisoner says.” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 12, 1939.

“Gets 2-20 years in poison deaths.” Reading Times, December 13, 1939.

“G-men to enter probe of Phila. mass murders.” Delaware County Times, May 15, 1939.

“Hold 'death rose;' 12 more indicted.” New York Daily News, May 20, 1939.

“Insurance plot suspect linked with deaths of 3.” Allentown Morning Call, January 9, 1936.

“Jury given case of Reading man in N.J. drowning.” Reading Times, October 13, 1939.

“Kiss of death woman is held without bail.” Bristol Daily Courier, May 19, 1939.

“Last principal jailed in arsenic murder ring.” Scranton Times, December 13, 1945.

“Life sentence given Rodia in drowning case.” Camden Morning Post, October 14, 1939.

“'Love healer' gives up in poison ring probe.” New York Daily News, May 2, 1939.

“Man, woman convicted in murder-for-insurance trials.” Lancaster Intelligencer Journal, September 28, 1939.

“Murder-for-profit ring sets record in American crime.” New York Daily News, May 21, 1939.

“Murder gang used hemlock.” Salt Lake Telegram, May 4, 1939.

“Murder ring doctor makes guilty plea.” Harrisburg Evening News, February 26, 1940.

“Nab long-sought widow in mass-murder probe.” York Gazette and Daily, May 19, 1939.

“Nine New York murders laid to poisoners.” Pittsburgh Press, May 12, 1939.

“Petrillo dies in electric chair.” New Castle News, October 20, 1941.

“Petrillo's boast of arsenic murders revealed by witness.” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 26, 1939.

“Philadelphia police hunt sources of 'witch's brew.'” Racine (WI) Journal-Times, May 13, 1939.

“Poison ring plotted death of Phila. aides.” Camden (NJ) Morning Post, May 3, 1939.

“Poison slayer pleads guilty.” York Daily Record, September 16, 1939.

“Police arrest 2 more widows in poison quiz.” Philadelphia Inquirer, May 6, 1939.

“Quaker city starts arraigning mass-murder suspects.” Baltimore Sun, May 11, 1939.

“Rodio case is given to jury.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 13, 1939.

“Rodio guilty of murder; doctor tries suicide.” Philadelphia Inquirer, October 14, 1939.

“Rose Carilli convicted of manslaughter.” Wilmington Morning News, December 14, 1939.

“Rose Carilli drops fight for freedom.” Wilmington Morning News, January 23, 1940.

“Rose Carina freed in $2500 bail for new murder trial.” Camden Morning Post, January 3, 1940.

“Says Swartz asked facts on poisons.” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 16, 1939.

“Seeress and collegian held in murder probe.” Pottsville Republican and Herald, June 20, 1939.

“Spared from chair.” Carlisle Sentinel, July 1, 1941.

“Survivors got lesser dose to postpone doom.” Camden (NJ) Morning Post, May 3, 1939.

“Suspect brought to N.J. for trial in insurance murder.” Camden Morning Post, June 7, 1939.

“Suspect in mass murders taken in Cleveland.” Carlisle Sentinel, May 17, 1939.

“Swartz insane; trial called off.” Philadelphia Inquirer, December 21, 1939.

“Two more admit their parts in death syndicate.” Sayre Evening Times, April 29, 1939.

“Two offered jobs as executioners expose vast murder corporation.” Racine (WI) Journal-Times, May 13, 1939.

“Two poison ring leaders admit part in deaths.” Harrisburg Evening News, April 29, 1939.

“Wife held in plot to poison husband.” Philadelphia Inquirer, September 28, 1938.

“Wife of former Scranton man is held for murder.” Scranton Times-Tribune, May 12, 1939.

“'Witch' sobs at life term for poison.” Philadelphia Inquirer, April 2, 1940.

“'Witch' swayed mind, wife-poisoner pleads.” Philadelphia Inquirer, March 21, 1940.

“Witness mailed death threats.” Wilmington (DE) News, January 6, 1939.

“Woman, 28, is shot by former suitor during a quarrel.” Brooklyn Eagle, December 14, 1936.

“Woman arrested climaxing probe of arsenic ring.” Wilmington Morning News, September 2, 1939.

“Woman poisoner twice attempts to take life.” Harrisburg Evening News, April 29, 1939.

Young, R.J. “Arsenic and No Lace: The Bizarre Tale of a Philadelphia Murder Ring.” Pennsylvania History 67:3 (Autumn 2000).

Commonwealth v. Petrillo, 12 A.2d 317, 338 Pa. 65 –

Commonwealth v. Petrillo, 16 A.2d 50, 340 Pa. 33 –

Commonwealth v. Petrillo, 19 A.2d 288, 341 Pa. 209 –

Commonwealth v. Giovanetti, 19 A.2d 119, 341 Pa. 345 –

Commonwealth v. Giacobbe, 19 A.2d 71, 341 Pa. 187 –

Philadelphia Poison Ring Murders: a Virtual Cemetery - Find A Grave

March 5th, 2021    

84 - The Phantom Stabber of Bridgeport

From 1925-1927, the city of Bridgeport, Connecticut was terrorized by an individual who came to be known as the “Phantom Stabber.” This unidentified person stabbed at least 25 people, mainly teenage girls. None of his victims were seriously injured, though. But in the wake of the Bridgeport attacks, other cities in Connecticut begin to experience assaults of their own, leading to the question: just how many victims did the Stabber really have?


Part of the Straight Up Strange Network:




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

Closing music by Soma.



Alarming new outbreak of strange stranglers, stabbers and clippers.” Ogden (UT) Standard Examiner, December 18, 1927.

Attacks woman in street; may be phantom stabber.” Hartford Courant, January 4, 1928.

Bridgeport, Conn., 'phantom stabber' gets 25th victim.” Burlington (VT) Free Press, December 8, 1927.

Bridgeport's phantom stabber again active.” New Britain Herald, December 4, 1926.

Bridgeport's phantom stabber is again on rampage, girl attacked.” New Britain Herald, July 26, 1927.

Bridgeport phantom stabber out again.” New Britain Herald, May 31, 1928.

Bridgeport stabber gets 18th victim.” Hartford Courant, January 7, 1927.

Bridgeport woman cut; 'phantom' is suspected.” Hartford Courant, June 1, 1928.

Certain stabber story was hoax.” New Britain Herald, June 5, 1928.

Danbury 'phantom stabber' classed as mental child.” Hartford Courant, September 28, 1929.

Danbury's phantom stabber claims his third victim.” Meriden Record-Journal, May 9, 1929.

Doubt that stabber embraced girl.” Bridgeport Telegram, January 8, 1927.

Ernest Horn, 75, dies.” Bridgeport Post, June 18, 1957.

Fiend stabs boy, escapes in darkness.” Bridgeport Telegram, November 27, 1925.

Girl, face torn in embrace, says stabber attacked her upon street.” Bridgeport Telegram, January 7, 1927.

Girl stabbed at Bridgeport.” Barre (VT) Daily Times, July 26, 1927.

Girls stabbed by 'phantom'.” Meriden Journal, August 14, 1926.

Gripped by terror of the 'phantom stabber'.” Philadelphia Inquirer, February 6, 1927.

Hartford boy not stabber of Bridgeport.” Hartford Courant, February 18, 1928.

Mad stabber flees; posses in manhunt.” New York Daily News, March 21, 1929.

Man could have caught stabber, victim asserts.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 8, 1927.

Man stabs girl and gets away.” Hartford Courant, January 25, 1928.

Man, under cover of fog, stabs woman; wound serious.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 31, 1927.

Man, who struck teacher,, is held pending inquiry.” Bridgeport Telegram, January 6, 1927.

Maniac, missing since March, caught in N.H.” Hartford Courant, November 8, 1929.

Mystery of Bridgeport's 16 stabbed girls.” San Francisco Examiner, December 26, 1926.

News of Southington.” Meriden Journal, January 26, 1928.

'Phantom stabber' again.” Burlington (VT) Free Press, January 7, 1928.

'Phantom stabber' again walks; boy is victim.” Palm Beach (FL) Post, November 28, 1925.

'Phantom stabber' appears in city again, strikes at girl.” Bridgeport Telegram, August 6, 1926.

Phantom stabber escapes.” Cincinnati Enquirer, January 4, 1928.

'Phantom stabber' gets 25th victim, strikes at girl on Pequonnock St.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 8, 1927.

Phantom stabber gets 26th victim.” Burlington (VT) Free Press, December 31, 1927.

Phantom stabber hits again, girl in Stamford is victim.” Meriden Record-Journal, October 17, 1928.

'Phantom stabber' in Bridgeport cuts twenty-third girl.” Hartford Courant, August 28, 1927.

Phantom stabber reappears in Derby, girl is injured.” Bridgeport Telegram, July 1, 1927.

'Phantom stabber' rumor excites women of city.” New Britain Herald, January 11, 1928.

Phantom stabber suspect arrested, held for examination.” Hartford Courant, December 23, 1927.

Phantom stabs girl in Beardsley Park, makes good his 24th escape.” Bridgeport Telegram, September 30, 1927.

Police busy running down phantom stabber rumors.” Meriden Journal, January 19, 1928.

Police close on stabber's trail.” New Britain Herald, December 9, 1927.

Police must be futile, hampered, priest declares.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 9, 1927.

Police reticence on 'stabber' is seen as concealment coup.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 12, 1925.

Police seek two who saw stabber.” Bridgeport Telegram, August 7, 1926.

Tells of attack by stabber here two weeks ago.” Hartford Courant, January 5, 1928.

Tennis star, 14, 24th victim of ghost stabber.” New York Daily News, September 30, 1927.

The phantom stabber.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 9, 1927.

The phantom stabber returns.” Hartford Courant, September 5, 1926.

Stabber again plys his game.” Billings (MT) Gazette, December 31, 1927.

Stabber victims will be called to look at suspect.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 23, 1927.

Stabber wounds two more girls; nearly captured by steeple-jack.” Bridgeport Telegram, August 13, 1926.

Stabber's victim would 'slap him good and hard.'” Bridgeport Telegram, September 30, 1927.

Stabbing fiend lies low as police net is drawn.” Bridgeport Telegram, November 25, 1925.

Stabbing fiend suspect freed of major charge.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 4, 1925.

Stabs girl at entrance of church.” Rutland (VT) News, October 8, 1926.

Two more girls stabbing victims; total now eight.” Bridgeport Telegram, November 24, 1925.

Withdraw all but few men from routine work is Behrens' suggestion.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 9, 1927.

Woman asserts she was stabbed over month ago, police question theory.” Bridgeport Telegram, December 12, 1927.

Levins, Peter. “What has happened to justice? How phantom stabber terrorized Bridgeport in three-year reign.” New York Daily News, April 13, 1930.

History - Bridgeport, CT



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