Friday, August 20, 2010


Pottsville Republican Headlines

Here is an interesting story from 1934..actually the case was pretty famous and made national news.

Pottsville Republican March 19, 1934

Mrs. Susan Mummey, 64, of Ferndale, near Ringtown was shot and killed at her home early Saturday evening by an assailant who fired a shotgun at her through a first floor window.
The murder was not reported until daylight Sunday morning when her adopted daughter “Totty” and a boarder Jacob Rice telephoned for a Ringtown doctor who in turn notified the Tamaqua detail of the State Police.
The killing is surrounded by what the police term an element of mystery, coupled with genuine fear upon the part of the residents of the section that they too may be made a victim of the killer’s bullets.
Buried behind the actual details of the killing are all the elements of a mountain feud and deep rooted hatred that has cropped to the surface time and time again during the past decade or more that has marked the appearance in the county courts of several trivial cases which only served to fire the hatred of the persons into the flame of what reached the proportions of a “Hill Billy Feud.”.
Mrs. Mummery and her family lived in deadly fear that something would happen and they hid behind a reserve of fear and determination to keep their troubles to themselves.
County Detective Buono said the killing bore all the ear marks of a “killer” hatred that finally culminated in one attempt to shoot the woman as she was in the house alone, and was followed by a successful when the person who did the shooting fired directly at the woman from the window as her adopted daughter stood beside her, holding a lamp.
The blast of the shotgun was sufficient to extinguish the oil lamp and the two survivors waited until dawn until they gained sufficient courage to venture out of the house.
According to County Detectives Louis D., Buono, and John I. Ferns who are investigating the crime. The shooting occurred at 8 o’clock Saturday evening the bullet a pumpkin ball fired from a 12 gauge shotgun entered the front window of the living room. Shattering the window glass in its course. It struck the victim in the right side passing through the lung and heart and finally lodging in the stomach. The woman was bending over a couch at the time with her daughter ministering to a lame foot of Rice.
Chief Detective Buono said this morning that there was no question the women had been the victim of an assassin’s bullet and the police hoped to get the killer.
The Mummey house is located two and a half miles north of Ringtown and was occupied by the dead woman, Rice and the adopted daughter “Totty”. Totty is a victim of spinal meningitis is a cripple and Rice was suffering from an injured foot. Both were so thoroughly frightened that they feared to go out side of the house dreading they to would be shot. And it was daylight before Rice ventured out and made his way to a neighbor’s home. Where he was given an auto ride to Ringtown.
The police announced today that Mrs. Mummey had been threatened upon numerous occasions and they are convinced she was deliberately shot.
One suspect a resident of the section was taken into custody and is being grilled by the police, who refused to revel his identity.

Pottsville Republican March 22, 1934




Albert Shinsky 24, of 215 E. Lloyd St, Shenandoah, confessed early this morning that he shot and killed Mrs. Susan Mummey, age 63, of Ferndale, near Ringtown. He says he did so free himself from a spell she had cast upon him seven years ago as he worked in a field a cross from the Mummey farm. The youth is a clean cut, intelligent chap in all except his hallucinations except that he has been hexed as he calls it.
This morning in his cell he told a member of the republican staff. He told a weird and unbelievable story asserting that he felt hex spell leave his body immediately after when Mrs. Mummey died.
Shinsky said he tramped over two miles to the house and how at last he wanted to rid himself of the hex.
In her coffin Detective Bunon said she looked like a million dollars, explain that the golden hair of the elderly woman framed an attractively peaceful face.
“Yes I thought she would look nice with her eyes closed,” said Shinsky, “but ,Oh those eyes when she looked at you! I could not stand them.”
Several times during the examination he suddenly stopped talking looked straight ahead fixedly at the wall, then his face became clouded with the most grotesque grimaces as though of fear and pain. He appeared to be in the throes of an epileptic fit. In about eight minutes he came out of the spell and was weak., but apparently normal otherwise. He explained that whenever he saw some sharp object he could not take his eyes from it, and then it developed into a huge black cat with flaming eyes which snarled and spat at him, and continually threatened. He said he could not take his eyes from it. And in the face of the cat he could see the face of the woman he accused of hexing him.
It started seven years ago, he said, when he was working on the farm. Mrs. Mummey with whom they had been having trouble over the land, came to the fence near where he was working and stood looking fixedly at him. A cold perspiration came over him. He felt a hand drop heavily across his shoulders. He could not work. He went back to the house, and since then he has been bewitched.
For years he dreaded to climb the stairs to his bedroom, for, unless he trod evenly on each step, the cat sprang out at him. So it was that he has climbed into his room for years over the shed in the back of the house, and in through the window.
“Those eyes!” he repeatedly murmured half to himself, “Oh, those eyes, oh how I wanted to have them closed! I could not stand them!”
Prior to the actual killing, Shinsky stated he on numerous occasions visited the Mummey home with the intention to kill her. Each time he drew close to the home her spell became stronger and each time he went away afraid that in killing her he was apt to bring dire results to himself.
For seven years he thus suffered. He visited pow wow doctors, seven in number, each of whom gave him very little help, with the exception of one. A pow wow doctor in Hazelton seemed to have been the only one that could give him relief. This man urged him to repeat “God The Father ,God the Son, and God The Holy Ghost” each time the spell seemed to move him.
This was the only help where he visited at night by a great big black cat with piercing green eyes that he said had a face resembling that of Mrs. Mummey’s. As he lay in bed this black cat visited him. It slowly crawled thru his closed bed room window and towards his bed. There it would rest itself on the side of his bed and claw at his side. It was painful torture and continued until he could gather strength enough to utter “God the Father, etc.”
Once a month and sometimes more often, this huge black cat would visit him and make it impossible for him to sleep. He would become ice cold, so cold that he had to get out of his bed and run around and around in his room to keep warm.
After a visit from the cat he would be completely lost and bewildered. He was actually helpless and unable to work. He complained to his parents and brothers and sister, but they claimed that it was his imagination and he was to lazy to work. They tried to help him but no matter what they would do it all proved useless.
When first stricken with this spell he was forced to quit his job as a miner at West Shenandoah Colliery. This, he had to do because he was without physical power and unable to do a days work. After a short vacation at home during which time he rested hoping that might help him regain his strength he went to Newark to work.
Figuring that separating himself many hundreds of miles fro Mrs. Mummey might help him, he accepted a position with the Western Electric Company of Newark. He had a responsible position there, but after


The scene of the Mummey killing is in the heart of a region that was one of the earliest settlements of Schuylkill County and one which owes practically all of its early blood to Berks county immigration among which class is found much of the old “Hex” folk lore. In the foothills of the Mahantongo mountain range extending from the Susquehanna to the Lehigh, the North Union Twp. Tracts are directly in the territory of “Line Mountain” so called because it marked the southern boundary of Indian settlements and the northern early treaty arrangements for the white man incursion in what is originally labeled as Impenetrable wilderness.
In the Northeastern corner of Schuylkill county near the headwaters of both the Little A Schuylkill and the Catawissa, the early migrations made their way into what is now Union Twp. And settled with saw mills and grist mills the chief means of occupation.
Residents of the territory say evidence of the “Witchcraft” days still abound. “Hex” markings are to be found at intervals and the county detectives have been regaled with stories of spells and counter spells being placed on the cows, horses, mules chickens and other farm attributes.
It was a spell of this type that Shinsky claims was cast upon him as he worked on his farm and which caused him the eight years of visitations by the Hex Cat” and culminated in murder.
The detectives working on the case class the general conditions as one of illiteracy mixed with a wealth of folk lore and a combination of the early Dutch beliefs and the “Hill Billies” of the Southern Appalachian chain.
The case is the second one of its type to develop in Schuylkill county the famous “Hex Cat” case of the Tumbling Run Valley also an early trail of the settlers, causing much attention a quarter of a century ago. This case was marked chiefly by arson outbreaks or threats of arson and “silver” Bullets” were molded to ward off the visit of the evil animals. The site of this outbreak to this day is known as the Hex Cat and is abandoned.


Pottsville..September 28, 1911

Feline Blamed For Casting Spell Over Family
While Hex Tales From Tumbling Run Have Created Derision, the Authorities Are Suprised at Number of Weird Complaints

In the gray of the early morning a score of the more intrepid farmers of Tumbling Run Valley and a few interested ones, on invitations given by Miss Mary Isabella Thomas, who alleges that a “hex” or witch has placed a spell on the family through the machinations of a relative living in Orwigsburg, watched in vain for the appearance at the farm house of the black cat, which the young woman says has assumed gigantic shape, at times reaching the maximum height of four feet. They waited with a gun loaded with a gold bullet, but the feline for the first time in many weeks failed to put in an appearance.
Spirit Frightened Away
Some of her waiting guests believe the evil spirit was frightened away by reason of the fact that they carried Bibles, crucifixes, and talismans to break witches’ spells. Miss Thomas says that the big cat will surely appear some morning, and then either she or her uncle will shoot it with the golden bullet. They have great faith in the precious metal messenger of death, although lead bullets tailed them on other occasions. Miss Thomas has taken up her residence with a neighbor, and the haunted farmhouse has been deserted.
Since she made public her statements that a “hex” is following the family, she has had five offers of marriage. She has decided to accept none of them. Mrs. Sarah Potts has offered to give her sister, Mary, a home with her, despite the fact that she is named by the latter as being the author of the family’s misfortunes. Miss Thomas still possesses charms sent to her by a California witch doctor, and she says that she will guard them closely for future use.

Farmers Wrought Up
The farmers of the Tumbling Run Valley are greatly wrought up over this mysterious “hex” case and want the strange affair thoroughly sifted to the bottom. The Republican, of Pottsville, the largest daily, in an editorial asks for an investigation.
While the “hex” stories from Tumbling Run have created derision and laughter in Pottsville, the authorities were surprised at the number of weird complaints which came in from that vicinity. One farmer, who has brought a large quantity of milk from the Tumbling Run Valley for many years, declares that the fresh fluid was discolored as he brought it to market. There were also three automobile accidents in that vicinity.


carolyn c holland said...

I'm seeking info on a coal miner's death. Perhaps you could help lead me to resource. I may be visiting Minersville/Schuylkill County on the morning of Oct. 12, 2010.

Anonymous said...

i cant believe john o'hara never used this

Anonymous said...

John I. Ferns, one of the detectives in this case, was my grandfather. He talked about it many times. Truth is stranger than fiction.

Joe Palubinsky said...

It is old family story passed down to us that my great grandmother was the one who initially hid Shinsky and ditched his boots and shotgun in a local pond .

Joe Palubinsky said...

Family stories handed down to us by grandfather, Joseph M. Knipe and my mother, Yvonne Knipe Palubinsky stated that my Great Uncle Peg Knipe and my great grandmother,helped Shinsky after the incident by hiding him and ditching his shotgun and boots in a local pond .