Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Haunted Crime Scenes

Crime Against Innocence

In Jim Thorpe, Pennsylvania, once known as Mauch Chunk, the English and Welsh Protestants owned the coal mines, but it was the Irish Catholic laborers who worked them. They worked long hours and suffered frequent accidents, making barely enough money to survive. They also had to pay for their own gear, a further insult.

During the mid-1800s, anger against the mining companies and their representatives grew into a secret society of violent Irishmen known as the Molly Maguires. They performed acts of sabotage, which cost the company time and money. Thus, when Frank B. Gowan became head of the Reading Railroad Company in 1869, he decided to destroy the unions, and that meant taking on the Molly Maguires. To break them, he hired Allen Pinkerton, who planted an agent among the Mollies. He gathered evidence that solved several murders in the area, and seven of the Mollies involved were arrested in 1877 and placed in the county jail.

Alexander Campbell, portrait
Alexander Campbell, portrait

Alexander Campbell was one of them. While he admitted to being an accessory because he was present to a murder, the court found him guilty of murder in the first degree. He continued to insist on his innocence, even as they dragged him from cell #17. Before he was physically removed, he placed his hand against the wall and stated that its mark would remain visible there as proof of the truth. "This is the hand of an innocent man!" he exclaimed. But guilty or not, he was to serve as an example to anyone else who thought about membership in the Mollies, so he was summarily hanged.

According to the legend, as recounted in Weird Pennsylvania, after over a century and several coats of paint on that wall, the handprint is still visible to this day. Supposedly, each time there is an attempt to cover it up, within a few days it mysteriously reappears to remind people of the tragedy of executing an innocent man — especially in the name of greed. It can be seen on tours of the Old Jail Museum, housed in the former Carbon County Jail. Reportedly, some high-tech equipment occasionally fails when trying to capture the image.

Feuds and violence appear to breed ghosts — or at least, ghost stories — and sometimes indirect victims are the ones who suffer.

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