Posts Tagged ‘unsolved murders’


Some thought that it might be a killer that waited in hiding to pounce on the unsuspecting. Others thought that it was where other killers hid their dead. It was both, and while cautious, the residents of McSherrystown didn’t fear the pits of sand around them, perhaps because the body count accumulated over decades.



This shot of an old sand quarry give you an idea of how the McSherrystown quarries might have looked. Courtesy of http://www.rossbullock.co.uk.

In September 1901, a dead newborn baby was found in one of the sand holes from the quarry in McSherrystown. “The body was wrapped in the sleeve of an undershirt, which was next bound with a cloth and then enclosed in newspaper,” the New Oxford Item reported. A coroner’s inquest determined that the baby had been born alive, but no marks of violence were found on the body. The child may have suffocated in the sand. The parents were never found.


Whether or not the baby was the first person killed by the sand, he was not the last.

In December 1905, the New Oxford Item reported, “The ghastly discovery was made by several school boys, who, on their way home, while passing over the hill, saw a bundle lying in one of the sand holes. A scramble was made for possession of the bundle, and on picking it up the paper covering tore, and the body of a male child rolled to the ground.”

The boys were frightened at first, but they were boys. They quickly recovered and began spreading the story of how they had found a dead body.

The coroner’s inquest was only able to determine that the child had been dead for about a week when he had been found. Once again, the killers were never caught.

The sand holes around the town gave up their secrets reluctantly and then not all of them.

In October 1907, a horse and cart were buried under 20 feet of sand. The driver, Levi Reed, only narrowly escaped the same fate.

Reed had been loading the wagon with rough sand that needed to be put through the crusher to make it finer. “Levi Reed, who was near the horse, felt the tremor as the sand shifted and quickly he succeeded in reaching the edge of the bank, thereby saving himself from being drawn in,” the New Oxford Item reported.

A month later, Reed had another close call in the sand holes, but his partner, John Frock wasn’t so lucky. They had a contract to supply sand for the building of the York and Hanover trolley and were loading a wagon with sand. “They were working at the base of a jagged wall of sand above. Without warning this wall of sand shifted, sliding with force to the bottom of the hole,” the Gettysburg Compiler reported.



This shot of an old quarry shows how close they could be to residential areas. 


The sand buried Frock, and he suffocated. Rescuers dug his body out from beneath two feet of sand.

In 1914, Urban Gouker fell 20 feet into one of the sand holes. He sustained multiple broken bones. He was lucky. At least he lived.

Another resident who was lucky to avoid being killed in the sand holes was William Farley. He was driving his car on Third Street in McSherrystown and failed to make a turn in the road. His car slid off the road and into a sand pit 25 feet below.

“Although the machine, a touring car, landed in an almost perpendicular position, with its radiator buried in a heap of rubbish in the pit, the driver crawled from the automobile apparently unhurt, but later was reported confined to a bed at his home suffering from pains in his head,” the Hanover Evening Sun reported.

In December 1915, the Gettysburg Times reported that residents of McSherrystown had seen the shadowy form of a woman had been seen wandering near the sand holes, supposedly searching for her lost child. The newspaper pointed out that it was a ghost story that circulated from time to time in the area.

“Fictitious as the story is, it, however, recalls the fact that the dead bodies of three infants have been found in these quarries, at various times, within the past twenty years, the last child having been found one Sunday about ten years ago, wrapped in a white sheet,” according to the newspaper.

Besides hiding bodies, the holes were also used as the town dump. This created a fire hazard from time to time as the trash would catch on fire.

In 1930, a group of school boys hit the mother lode in a sand hole when they found cases of unopened beer buried in a hole. It was believed that the beer had been seized in a raid in which law enforcement officers had failed to dispose of the alcohol properly.

The boys, who were ages 7 to 13, found the treasure trove. “One boy had two cases of it in bags. They drank some of it and sold some at five cents a bottle to anyone who cared to take a chance,” according to the Hanover Evening Sun. Some of the boys also imbibed and were drunk when the police found them.

The 1930s also saw the town begin to fill in some of the sand holes, which had fallen into disuse. One area was filled in and turned into a playground. Other areas were partially filled in, which at least reduced the depth that someone might fall. However, some holes remained open even into the late 1940s when one hole was used as a local swimming hole.

It also allowed the sand hole to claim a victim by drowning when an 81-year-old man was accidentally knocked into the hole and died.

When the last hole was filled in, all of the secrets hidden in the sand were covered over, and given the depth of the holes, may never be discovered.

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Author’s Note: I was told this week that this pair of columns, which ran in the Cumberland Times-News last year, won a local column award from the Maryland-Delaware-DC Press Association. Since I like the story, I thought I would share it with those of you who live outside of the Cumberland, Maryland, area.


The Elosser home in Cumberland, Md.

January 1, 1911 was supposed to be a special day in the lives of Charles Twigg and Mary Grace Elosser. It was their wedding day. Unfortunately, the night before was their death day.

The discovery of their bodies on New Year’s Eve 1910 was a shock to everyone who knew them. The young couple was happy and in love.

Twigg was a fruit grower from Keyser, W. Va. He was also a widower whose wife had died four years previously and his infant child had died three years ago. Elosser, who was a young divorcee, had seen her own share of sadness in her life.

“Losing his heart to her in the Indian Summer of the last Autumn, his impetuous wooing soon won her for himself,” the New York Times reported.

On the day he died, Twigg arrived in Cumberland to prepare for his wedding. He purchased a wedding ring for his new bride and train tickets to Florida for their honeymoon. He also bought himself a new suit that he planned on wearing to his wedding.

Errands done, he called his fiancée on the phone.

“She laughingly told him that she was up to her eyes in the work of preparation for their marriage on the next day, and did not have a moment’s time for him that afternoon,” the New York Times reported.

He convinced her to meet with him for just a few minutes, though. Tradition says that it is bad luck for the groom to see the bride before the wedding and so it proved to be for these lovebirds.

“Charlie is the best man that ever lived and I am the happiest girl in the world to get such a treasure,” Elosser told one of her close friends on New Year’s Eve.

Twigg arrived early in the afternoon and the couple met in the parlor. Although they were alone, there were plenty of people in the house. Grace’s mother, Anna Elosser, popped in after half an hour to tell Grace that her seamstress for her gown needed to speak with her on the phone.

Twigg talked to his future mother-in-law until his fiancée returned.

“When Grace returned, Mrs. Elosser left, playfully shaking her finger at the couple as they sat cosily on the divan and warning them that time was too precious to spend in loverlike endearments when there was so much in the way of preparation for the wedding,” the New York Times reported.

An hour later, Anna Elosser interrupted them again to find out what arrangements had been decided on their wedding tour.

Grace’s mother told a New York Times reporter, “I knocked on the door with a smile on my face for when I had been in the parlor before both Grace and Charlie Twigg seemed so supremely happy that I could not but smile at the recollection of it. I gave a short knock and entered without waiting a reply. The doorway though which I entered is on the same wall as that against which was the sofa whereon Grace and Charlie sat. I did not fully enter the room, but merely thrust in my head, saying as I did so, ‘Grace, dear, I want to ask you something. You won’t mind my coming in, will you?’

“And then I stopped. There was a silence in the room, a queer, strange silence. Looking towards the sofa I saw the odd, strange attitudes of my daughter and her betrothed. It looked as though they had fallen asleep, but in a most grotesque position.”

Twigg’s head was resting on Elosser’s shoulder. Her head was tilted back staring upward. Their hands were clasped together.

The young couple were dead, but just what had happened?

I’ll post part II next week. 

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Elizabeth Short’s mug shot when she was arrested for prostitution.

The Black Dahlia murder case is one of the famous unsolved murders from Hollywood, but does it finally have a solution? Steve Hodel, a former LAPD homicide detective thinks his father committed the murder.

It doesn’t come as too big a shock to him. His father, George Hodel, was a prime suspect in the 1947 murder. He was eventually booked in 1949 for incest and child molestation.

Hodel recently spoke to a Pasadena audience explaining the evidence he had against his father.

Elizabeth Short was one of the many young women who came to Hollywood looking to be an actress. In January 1947, the 22-year-old woman was murdered in Leimert Park in Los Angeles. Her body had been sliced in half at the waist and drained of blood. It was a gruesome killing that attracted a lot of attention then and in the years since, but it has remained unsolved.

Steve Hodel says that his father once told him, “What if I did kill the Black Dahlia? They can’t prove it now.’”

He also says that the handwriting in letters written by Short’s killer match his father’s handwriting. He also found a receipt for cement bags that he believes were found at the crime scene.

The police have long thought that the murderer was someone with medical knowledge due to the precision with which she had been cut.

George Hodel was a doctor and with that medical knowledge, he also carved a symbol in Short’s hip that Steve Hodel believes he can link to an artist friend of his father’s.

Over the years, other theories have been posited for a solution to the crime. It has been suggested that murders in 1934 and 1938 in Cleveland may have been committed by the same man. Another theory connects the murder to the 1946 murder of Suzanne Degnan in Chicago.

Check out the story here.

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