Monday, November 28, 2011


 We had a great time at the Lisbon Christmas Parade!  Our theme was Alice in Winterland!  We had a great cast of characters and everyone worked hard on their costumes!!  And the day was so beautiful!   We just hope that the East Liverpool Parade is just as nice! 

The whole crew! 

Will playing Aslyn, the pipe
smoking caterpillar!

Sena played Alice!

Kimberly (me!) played the Mad Hatter!

Alex was our w\White Rabbit and Lisa was the
Door Mouse, Mallyumpkin!

Amber was our White Queen, Jen was the Red Queen, and
Jack was Stayn!

Jon played our March Hare!

Will, Jon, Alex, and Lisa!

Sammi and Briana played
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle

The most important of our crew attending were our cards, who
passed out candy to the crowd!  Great job:
Abbie, Zack, Debbie, Louie, and Pam!!! 

Lindsey(from the Virginia Chapter), Alex, and Brooke!
Thank you Lisbon for having us in your parade!  WE look forward to many other events in that awesome little town! 
Next stop is the East Liverpool Christmas Parade December 3 at 5pm.  We will be doing our Alice in Winterland again!  Thank you Briana and Amber for coming up with this wonderful idea! 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Does Ghost Hunting Make You Any Money?

G12P consists of 23 people, myself included.  We pay for everything we do our of our own pockets.  We pay for the ink to make the posters, the batteries, the film, the gas, anything with a price tag we all pitch in and pay for ourselves.  Our equipment is either owned by each individual crew member, donated to us, or we work our butts off to earn the money to buy it.  Last year we helped Jaycees out with the Haunted Park to earn the money for our camera system for example. 
Much of our equipment we
buy second hand or get them
as gifts for Christmas and Birthdays.
Because almost everything we do is free, sometimes money can be a problem.  When we did the Johnny Appleseed Festival, for example, we invested over $300 to get ready for it.  It was not the CREW MONEY.  That does not exist.  Each person donated money, like Briana bought our Ink for our printer for example, that was $60.  The posters, glue, and tape were $20.  Gas for the truck to pull our parade float was $75.  Decorations for the float were $83.  That does not include going to Lisbon every day the week before to walk the route for the tour or the hours spent on the research for the tour. We made fliers to advertise our tour also.   We charged $5 per person for the tour of Lisbon during the Johnny Appleseed Festival.  We sold only 31 tickets.  We didn't even make $200.  Our Booth was an awesome success, but the tour was a failure.  No other way to put it but bluntly.  I can't even tell you how much we invest for the fundraisers.  In contrast to our own private ventures, we helped Salem Historical Society make over $1000 for the tours we did in Salem in October.  The use of their Trolley was a deciding factor.  The walking tour did not do well, but the trolley tour sold out and cleaned up!!
We are always trying to come up with ways to buy equipment(most of us ask for stuff for birthdays and Christmas) or to alleviate the cost of the investigations we do.  Some of our tours next year we are going to attempt to charge for.   The ultimate goal is to make them better, buy better costumes, and get better equipment.  We also want to go to some conventions (the Bigfoot Convention in Northern Ohio is on our wish list to attend).  Sponsors would be nice and we may look into that possibility for next year. 
We struggle, but we work as a team and that gets things done.

Our booth at Johnny Appleseed
festival in Sept.
 We are always looking for an old building with some history to do some over night stays.  That is a real money maker also.  The problem is getting the use of a building. Anyway,  just wanted you to know we do not make money doing this.  We do this because we love ghost hunting, history, and helping our community.  And did I say we love ghost hunting? 

Friday, November 18, 2011


 Columbiana County had at least two villains who were sentenced to asylums for the criminally insane (in Lima, OH.)  Willis Payne, the Arsonist from East Liverpool who started the Adamant Pottery Fire in 1918, killing two men.  One, David Mumwa, he chopped his head, arms and legs off first.  When asked why he did it, he simply said: "I like to hear them scream."
 In 1917, a man named John Hart murdered his brother-in-law, Frank Lease, who was the Principal for the Salem High School at the time.  While in prison, he felt that he should have special treatment because he didn't commit just any offense like theft, but he was a MURDERER!  He wanted better food, a softer bed, nicer clothes!  He even wrote to people like the Ford Motor Company, asking them to help him out of jail.  Both men were sent to the asylum in Lima, OH.    Often I have said that their fate was worse than even death.   Mental asylums were horrible places.  They could do anything they wanted to you. 
In Columbiana County there was the Old County Home.  It housed the mentally ill, and the homeless as well.  In the basement of one of these building was found chains connected to the wall with shackles and was used to chain the seemingly uncontrollable.  I wonder if they did other things popular for the times?  Here are a few notable practices for mentally ill patients:
1. Water Treatment

Patients were submerged in ice-cold water for extended periods of time. Sometimes they were wrapped in sheets which had been soaked in ice water and restrained.
2. Shock Therapy
Electric shocks were administered to patients submerged in water tanks or, more commonly, directly to the temples by the application of brine-soaked electrodes. A patient held a rubber piece in his mouth to prevent him from biting his tongue off during the convulsions which followed a treatment.
3. Lobotomy (Original)
Patients had their skulls opened and their neural passages separated midway through the brain. This difficult and arduous procedure killed many people, but those who survived did in fact forget many of their depressive or psychotic tendencies. They also forgot a lot of other things,  and many became catatonic, drooling, needing a diaper, etc.  Yet with so many patients, doctors continued using the practice and even worked to streamline the process. 
4. Lobotomy (Trans-Orbital)
Developed by Dr. Walter J. Freeman in the early 1950s, this simpler lobotomy became something of a craze in mental health circles up through the 60s. Dr. Freeman's method involved knocking the patient unconscious with electric shocks, then rolling an eyelid back and inserting a thin metal icepick-like instrument called a leucotome through a tear duct. A mallet was used to tap the instrument the proper depth into the brain. Next it was sawed back and forth to sever the neural receptors. Sometimes this was done in both eyes. There is some evidence that this method actually helped some people with very severe conditions, but much more often the patient had horrible side effects and in many cases ended up catatonic.  Of course, it killed people too.
They could tie you to your chair or bed for days with minimal care like food or water.  The really uncontrollable were put in a straight jacket naked and thown into a room in the basement or, like in the Old County Home, chained to the wall.  Better prison or death in those days than the chambers of horror that were called Mental Institutions.  For more information please check out
The Ridges in Athens ,Ohio!  This is a place G12P would like to visit!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Day Elvis Died Became A Tragic Drama For The Area As Well.....

 When I was working on the Daminger story, one of the people I talked to told me a little boy went missing from that area in the 70's. She said it was the day Elvis died.

Where were you when you heard Elvis died?  I was camping at Vagabond Lodge on East Liverpool Road with my family.  I can remember everyone being sad and some people even crying.  I do not remember hearing anything about Shawn Birch.  I do not remember any of the drama that unfolded in Newell that whole week in fact.  Elvis died.  That was all the chatter I remember.
Shawn had been playing in the play ground by Clark Field on that fateful Tuesday. His mom was at work and he had a sitter. There were hundreds of volunteers searching the area for him. One young man even got bitten by a snake as he searched along the river. Volunteers from New Cumberland,, Lawrenceville, New Manchester, the LaCroft Station of Liverpool Township and many local residents were out looking .

By Thursday, Aug 18, it was believed Shawn had been abducted. They even had a suspect and the search expanded to Mill Creek Hill Cemetery where the suspects car was found (along rt 168 in Hanover Township, PA). Other places he was supposedly seen was at Memorial Park on Irish Ridge Road, and even Hills Parking Lot.(Now Dunham Sports).

Sadly, there were over 200 false reports given at the time they were searching.  How horrible.  By Friday, Aug 19, there was no sign of little Shawn.
Friday night he was finally found about 4 blocks from his home.  He had entered a children's play structure, no doubt built by area children.  It weighed over 300 pounds.  When he went it, in fell in on him and killed him.  Such a sad and horrible ending to such a young life.

Somewhere around this field is where he was found.  No marker.  No remembrance of a little life lost.  Often when a child dies so tragically, everyone feels better if they just try to forget it.  I wish it wasn't like that.  He deserves to be remembered in some way, letting the world know Shawn was here, even for a short while.  Shawn was here. 

Friday, November 11, 2011

The Stage Coach Inn - North Georgetown-Columbiana County

 At our Salem Library Adventure, a nice lady there talked about the Stage Coach Inn in North Georgetown and an old Cemetery.  This past weekend, we visited both.  I am in love with the Stage Coach Inn, and I haven't even eaten there yet!  The building is awesome! 
 Built in 1822 by Samuel Long, it was a favorite Stage Coach Route for travelers from Pittsburgh to the West!  This building looks like it is oozing history!   Rumor has it the second floor is haunted.  I would love to find out!
But for now, I will be content to see what I can discover from a historical view.  I am hoping to get out there for dinner one night.  It was very busy when we stopped to take pictures.  The plaque to the right is on the outside beside the front door, which is where I got my little bit of history so far.  Let you know what else I find!  Do you know any history about this beautiful, tucked away, little awesome piece of Columbiana County History?  Is is rumored to be haunted?  A patron came out while I was taking this picture and started telling me what he knew.  He said it was one of his favorite places to eat, and oh ya, the second floor is haunted.   Hmmm.  Looking for some details now!  if you have any!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Strange Brew Part 2 by Jane Mehaffey

According to testimony and remarks from the attorneys, Mr. Daminger “acted weird” and had “weird ways.” Neighborhood children became frightened and ran home after seeing him reading his “witchcraft book” on his porch one afternoon. Mr. Daminger allegedly showed a young girl what he called “a voodoo doll,” and he indicated that another young girl was going to suffer a heart attack.

There were allegations that Mr. Daminger used his evil powers to seduce his thirteen year-old babysitter Polly who was Mrs. Franczek’s niece. Additional allegations placed him in an “embarrassing situation” with a teen aged girl at “the point” in Newell while his wife was at home.
Mr. Daminger did not deny that he had studied witchcraft. He also admitted that he read fortune telling cards and read instructions from a book on those cards. He had no idea, according to court statements, “that anyone in this day and age would take such things seriously.”
However, there were additional allegations that Mr. Daminger visited cemeteries where he performed “rituals that he himself described as ‘the Black Mass.’ ” Allegedly, he claimed that he could communicate with the dead. It was also said that he often repeated incantations in Latin to call upon spirits.
As tensions mounted in the neighborhood, Mrs. Franczek testified that various plots designed “to run the witch (Mr. Daminger) out of town” were discussed and some were acted upon.
Mrs. Franczek, Mrs. Lora Fabbro, and one other woman went as a delegation to racing officials, known as stewards, at Waterford Park with letters outlining the alleged sexual activities he was suspected of. Evidently this was an attempt to have Mr. Daminger “ruled off the track” so that he could not run his horses there and would be forced to leave the area.
913 Grant Street as it looks
Mr. Daminger’s landlady, Mrs. Ann Juszczak, was pressured by neighbors to evict him from 913 Grant Street. A petition to make him leave town was also drawn up.
Mrs. Franczek testified that the neighbors discussed killing Mr. Daminger and throwing him in the river or burying him in the graveyard. They also considered hiring a man from Youngstown who “had a black belt in karate and could work over anyone for a five dollar bill.” They were told that this expert could do such a good job on Mr. Daminger that there wouldn’t be any marks on the body.
“Just like that,” Mrs. Franczek said, snapping her fingers three times, “he’d be dead.”
Mrs. Franczek also detailed a rather gruesome plot to have Mr. Daminger accused of murdering his landlady. This scheme involved killing a cat and smearing its blood all over one of the landlady’s dresses. Mrs. Jusczak was to hide while Mr. Daminger was blamed for her murder.
“That was a joke,” Mrs. Franczek said, smiling. “We knew it might not work, but we did get a kick out of it.”
The plot did not work because the landlady, who was “completely drunk at the time,” sobered up and wouldn’t go through with the plan.
Mr. Daminger’s attorney pointed out that all these schemes were “in addition to an unbelievable amount of personal harassment suffered by Mr. Daminger by his neighbors.”
People spat on Mr. Daminger and threatened to beat him up. They threw stones at him and at his house. Bonfires were set near his home and cherry bombs were tossed into his yard. People made the sign of the cross when they saw him on the street. A hex sign was posted facing his front door and a cross was put on a tree between his house and the McGrew house.
Another odd event was a candlelight ceremony held at 915 Grant Street, the home of Ron and Ruth Smith. The neighbors gathered there dressed in white, chanting, and carrying candles to “ward off evil spirits.”
But perhaps the most bizarre part of the trial involved Mrs. Franczek’s re-telling of a nighttime trip to Nessly Chapel Cemetery.
Sometime during the summer of 1968, at midnight on a moonlit night, Mrs. Franczek, Mrs. Fabbro, and Mrs. Juszczak accompanied Mr. Daminger to the lonely cemetery behind Nessly Chapel to witness what Mr. Daminger called “the Black Mass.” According to reports, Ron and Ruth Smith were concealed in the trees to watch events unfold.
As they walked from the gate to the cluster of graves, Mr. Daminger spread salt along the path “to ward off evil spirits.” They stopped in front of the Miller stone, and then turned to the right to the Manypenny stone, the marker with the iron rod protruding from it.
Mr. Daminger took off his ring and asked the three women to kiss it. As Mrs. Franczek stated he “took off his ring and we all kissed it. He then placed his ring on top of the stone. He then took a drink from a bottle of wine that we had and poured some wine on the tombstone. He capped the bottle, and placed the bottle on top of the stone too.” (R2)
“The bottle fell off, and he picked it up again, took another drink and put it on the stone again. It fell once again, so he started all over again.” Mrs. Franczek testified that this action was repeated a total of three times.
According to reports, Mr. Daminger grinned broadly while Mrs. Franczek recounted how frightened they were.
“It was moonlight and midnight and we were up in that cemetery and we were scared,” she said.
Mr. Pietranton explained that the bottle moved because his client pulled a string attached to it. The whole ceremony was intended as a practical joke to prove that Mr. Daminger had no occult powers. According to his attorney, Mr. Daminger was not given a chance to explain this joke to the women.
In an interview with one reporter, Mr. Zagula stated that this Black Mass was all about a lot of “hocus pocus by which Mr. Daminger caused a wine bottle to fall from a tombstone in a moonlight, midnight demonstration of his occult powers.”
Before court adjourned, Mr. Pietranton presented a statement dated July 23, 1968. It was directed to Mr. Daminger and was allegedly signed by Mrs. Franczek on behalf of several of the neighbors. It reads:
“Male Witch
You are a male witch and you use your occult powers to get sexual pleasures.
You put little girls under evil spells and then rape them.
You put an evil spell on me and caused me to fall and hurt my ankle.
You put me under a spell so you could make love to me.
You have ruined all the teenaged girls in the neighborhood.”
Mrs. Franczek denied that she had signed the statement.
At the conclusion of her testimony, Judge Pryor adjourned the court until 9:30 a.m. the next day.
The second day of the trial, Tuesday, November 4, 1969, dawned wet and bleak. But after convening court for the day, Judge Pryor met in camera for about one hour with attorneys from both sides. When the judge and the attorneys re-entered the courtroom, Mr. Zagula read the following statement:
“We the undersigned defendants in the above-styled matter do hereby reiterate the denial of the claims of the plaintiff as set forth in our answer heretofore filed herein, except as may have been otherwise indicated by the testimony adduced herein, and declare that we, presently, irrespective of earlier suspicions or statements which may have indicated the contrary, do not believe the plaintiff has committed any crime or immoral act with any female person, minor or adult, for which the plaintiff has charged us with having stated, but which we have denied, and further we do not believe he has any supernatural powers claimed or pretended to be used for any ulterior purpose or profit.
“For any act or conduct on our part which may have caused or contributed to the injury of or damage to his reputation and business we apologize to him, an apology from him for any act or conduct on his part which may have damaged or injured us in our reputations or in any other way, being made simultaneously by the plaintiff herewith.”
Mr. Pietranton moved that the suit be dismissed. Judge Pryor approved the motion and adjourned the court at about 10:30 am.
Mr. Daminger and his wife, who was in court for the proceedings, were pleased. According to one report, Mrs. Daminger, described as a tall, attractive brunette with streaks of gray in her hair, ran to her husband to hug and kiss him. (NR 2) She stated that she was “absolutely pleased that our name has been vindicated.”
“I am elated that we have finally reached a solution in this unbelievable affair,” Mr. Daminger said. “I hope no one ever has to go through what I’ve been through in the past year.”
One reporter asked Mr. Daminger if he would continue to study witchcraft. Holding his book Witchcraft, Magic, and Alchemy, he replied, “Certainly, but it is purely academic study, combined with curiosity.”
And so this strange brew boiled down to nothing with an anti-climactic and rather unsatisfying end. Mr. Zagula summed it up best when he said, “The whole business of gossip and witchcraft simply got out of hand and everybody became involved to a ridiculous degree.”

I hope you enjoyed my account of the Daminger slander lawsuit, more commonly known as the Hancock County Witch Trial. This story was easy to research because it received so much attention and was a relatively recent event. It also helped because I knew the exact dates and the name of the central player. I wish all stories were this easy. I have presented only the facts as reported in the papers from the time. I did not check out the records at the courthouse. If you find anything that is in error or if you have any details to add, please let me know.
There are a couple of things about this lawsuit to note. I have not made an extensive study of witchcraft, but I have read that during the witchcraft trials in Salem, the accused “witches” were suspected of putting evil spells on young girls in the community. There is a similar theme here.
Also, I have read that most people accused of being witches were usually people who were different or who did not fit into the community. Similarly Mr. Daminger was an outsider and he definitely did not fit in
I learned in my research for this trial that in colonial America, people condemned for being witches were usually hanged. The “witches” in the Salem trials were hanged. In Europe, burning was the usual practice for executing people condemned as witches.
I am puzzled, though, about the motivations in this case. Without having been present at the trial and without hearing any testimony from Mr. Daminger or any other witness, it is hard to know what was truly behind all this hoopla. It seems to me that Mr. Daminger was trying to stir up a little excitement and the whole thing got out of hand.
Another thing that puzzles me is why these women agreed to go to the cemetery at midnight with Mr. Daminger when they were supposedly suspicious of him. I guess he put a spell on them.
© 2011 by Jane Mehaffey

Thank you again Jane for your help in finding the details of this story! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

STRANGE BREW-The Hancock County Witch Trial***By Jane Mehaffey

Hancock County, the smallest county in the state of West Virginia, sits atop the state’s northern panhandle. During its 163 year history, Hancock County has seen its share of lawsuits filed in the county’s court system. But an unusual trial occurred in 1969, when 34 year old Frank Daminger, a thoroughbred horse trainer living in the unincorporated community of Newell, sued 10 of his neighbors for slander after they allegedly called him “a warlock and the devil’s consort.” The trial offered up a strange brew of hex, lies, and spooky landscapes that briefly focused national attention on this quiet, rural community.
Frank Daminger, from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, graduated from Lancaster Catholic High School in 1953. Sometime in the late 1960’s he, his wife Katherine, and their two children, aged 3 and 6 at the time of the trial, moved to Newell, West Virginia. Mr. Daminger was a lower tier horse trainer and no doubt settled inNewell because of its proximity to Waterford Park Racetrack. [Now known as Mountaineer.]

Grant Street in Newell where Mr. Daminger
 Although it remains unclear what happened, a conflict soon arose between Mr. Daminger and his neighbors. Accusations, allegations, and odd behavior lead Mr. Daminger to bring a slander suit against ten of his neighbors.
A thirty-five page lawsuit was filed on September 27, 1969. According to pre-trial briefs filed by Mr. Daminger’s attorney Frank A. Pietranton of Weirton, ten of Mr. Daminger’s neighbors publicly called him a “warlock and devil’s consort” who possessed “evil powers of casting spells and hexing.” The neighbors also allegedly accused him of practicing witchcraft and holding ritualistic ceremonies in local cemeteries.
Crew cut and dressed in a conservative dark suit, one newspaper reported that he looked more like an accountant than a warlock. But interestingly, Mr. Daminger did concede in the filing that he had “studied witchcraft for the past 15 years.” Later on during the trial, he was seen reading a book titled Witchcraft, Magic, and Alchemy, a work his neighbors referred to as his “witchcraft book.” At one point during the trial, Mr. Daminger laughed and said that he was reading the book to “find out what I’m accused of.”
The ten defendants in the lawsuit, all residents of Newell, were:

• Thelma Franczek
• John Franczek
• Ruth Smith
• Ronald Smith
• Cathy Six
• Arnold Six
• Margaret McGrew
• Richard McGrew
• Lora Ann Fabbro (Fabro?)
• Jennie LaNeve

Mr. Daminger sought a total of $150,000--$50,000 collectively and $10,000 individually-- for damaging his reputation and ruining his career.
According to Mr. Daminger, in May 1968, these neighbors “entered into a conspiracy” bent on destroying his good name and reputation. Attorneys for the neighbors were Mr. Edward Zagula of Weirton and Mr. William Conklin of Chester. At the time, Mr. Zagula was also the Hancock County Prosecuting Attorney. In pre-trial briefs, the neighbors stated they were innocent of the charges and contended that Mr. Daminger “prayed in Latin and asked the demons to arise and further show these non-believers his power.”
The trial opened in Hancock County Court on Monday morning, November 3, 1969, just three days after Halloween. Presiding was Judge Ralph E. Pryor. Judge Pryor, from Wellsburg, West Virginia, was well respected and known as a fair minded, no nonsense judge. A graduate of Warwood High School and Bethany College, Judge Pryor served with distinction in World War II, receiving the Purple Heart. After the war, he earned his law degree from Harvard University in 1948. From 1952 until 1960, he was the Prosecuting Attorney in Brooke County before winning election as judge of the First Judicial Circuit. He served in that position until his death on July 3, 1972 at the age of 51.
On the morning of the trial, an all male jury of twelve was seated. During the selection process, Judge Pryor asked each potential juror if he believed in witchcraft. Each man denied such a belief. The jurors in the case were:

Albert W. Gardner
Gilbert Ferrelli
Carl G. Tharp
James Hinchee
William Gruber
Willis Hebb
William C. Higginbotham
Lawrence A. Ward
Hugh M. Cunningham
Dale L. Sole
Joseph L. Haynes
Charles O. Thompson

In an unusual move after jury selection, Judge Pryor called a recess. Defense attorney Zagula had requested that the judge, the jury, the attorneys, and their clients take a field trip to visit Nessly Chapel Cemetery where Mr. Daminger was alleged to have taken several neighbors to witness “the Black Mass.”
So, at about 10:30 a.m. the entire court boarded a chartered bus and headed north along WV State Route 2. The first stop on this bus trip was the old cemetery at Nessly Chapel Methodist Church located about four miles from New Cumberland.
Constructed from locally hewn stone, Nessly Chapel is a beautiful Methodist church situated along the highway. Originally built in 1826 and named for an early settler, Jacob Nessly, the church was re-built in 1902. A narrow, poorly paved road twists behind the church leading to the small cemetery where approximately 265 grave markers dot the gently rolling hillside. The graves themselves are located several hundred yards opposite the gate and can be reached by following a faint gravel track in the grass.
Reports from the time of the trial state that the cemetery was surrounded by woods and enclosed by an iron fence. Today there is a bolted gate locking out vehicles, although visitors may enter through spaces between the gate and the signposts. No reports from the time mention the gate. Then, as now, no houses or buildings, not even the road, are visible from the cemetery. [Apparently at one time there was another entrance to the cemetery located directly behind the church. One source told me that this entrance was destroyed in a landslide of some sort.]
At the cemetery, Judge Pryor first pointed out Waterford Park’s water tower which was visible above the trees about one mile away. He then asked the jurors to observe “the general surrounding area and the terrain and whether there are any dwellings or buildings thereon.” He also asked them to note the route a person would take from the entrance gate to the location of one tombstone in particular.
We could not find the stones
mentioned in this article.
That tombstone was old and weathered to the point that the letters were indecipherable. Referred to as the “Miller” stone, it had a rounded top. A forefinger carved from the stone pointed upward to the sky. [According to the cemetery record on the website at Find A Grave, there is only one grave named Miller inNessly Cemetery. That is the stone of a child named Miller, an infant boy who died February 9, 1910. He was the son of E. L. Miller & Florence J. Anderson. It is not clear if this is the same headstone mentioned during the trial.]
Judge Pryor then turned attention to a second grave marker nearby. Protruding from the top of this stone was a three inch iron rod where the stone was broken off. One report identified this as the “Manypenny” headstone. [According to Find A Grave website, there is no grave marked Manypenny in Nessly Cemetery.]
913 Grant Street as it looks
The court once again boarded the bus and headed farther north to the tree lined Grant Street neighborhood in Newell where Mr. Daminger and his neighbors lived. The jury saw Mr. Daminger’s former home, a narrow, yellow painted frame house at 913 Grant Street. By the time of the trial, Mr. Daminger and his family had moved to a mobile home park on Route 8 out of concern for their safety. [possibly Red Barn Trailer Court?]
The jury took note of seven houses where the events had allegedly taken place. A large tree between Mr. Daminger’s former residence and the house next door was also pointed out. 911 Grant Street, the house next door, was identified as the home of defendants Richard and Martha McGrew. Three days after Halloween, the McGrew’s still displayed a three foot high witch riding a broomstick.
I talked to a nice lady on Grant Str.
and she told me this was the
field talked about in in the trial.
The court also toured a large field next to the Homer Laughlin China Company. Referred to as “the point,” it was there, according to the pre-trial briefs, that Mr. Daminger was allegedly seen in “embarrassing situations” with a teen-aged girl from Newell. [Clark Field?] Judge Pryor asked the jury to note the absence of lights at the location.
The court returned to New Cumberland just before noon. Opening statements in the trial were set to begin after a recess for lunch. During the recess, Mr. Daminger said that his attorney, Mr. Pietranton, would be calling twenty-two witnesses and that the defense would present 17 witnesses. Defense attorney Zagula speculated that the trial would last 3-4 days.
Reports about the number of spectators in court that day vary. It seems there were at least fifty spectators, most of whom were women. In addition, an estimated fifteen reporters from the local papers as well from the papers in Wheeling and Pittsburgh were on hand for the proceedings. At the conclusion of the trial, the story was picked up by both the AP and the UPI wire services and appeared in papers all over the country. [Sources have told me that newsmen from the New York papers, as well as journalists from Time and Life magazines came for the trial. I have not yet been able to verify these reports.]
When court reconvened and before opening statements, one of the defendants, Mrs. Jenny LaNeve, was released upon a motion from Mr. Pietranton. Through her attorney, Mr. Conklin, Mrs. LaNeve presented to the court a signed affidavit in which she denied that she had “in any way or at any time slandered Mr. Daminger, but that if she did it was purely unintentional and purely inadvertent.” Mrs. LaNeve also apologized to Mr. Daminger. There were no objections and Mrs. LaNeve was enjoined from any further proceedings.
The first witness called to the stand was Mrs. Thelma Franczek, a thirty-seven year old mother of four. Mrs. Franczek, of 920 Washington Street, was a member of the Newell Block Mothers, a group formed to protect the neighborhood children because of the lack of a police department in the community.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Zagula said the he “had no wish to revisit the Salem trials of 1693.” Nevertheless, during Mrs. Franczek’s testimony a number of strange details came to light.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


One of the strangest stories we found about the area comes from Newell, West Virginia.  It started with one of our crew members, who had an experience with a man claiming to be Frank Daminger.  This crew member was given a coin by Mr. Daminger and was told it would serve as protection should they decide to ever go back into Nessly Chapel Cemetery.  Despite our efforts, we could not find an explanation of what the coin means.   About three weeks ago this truly awesome lady named Jane Mehaffey sent me a story she did recently about the 1969 Witch Trial called Strange Brew. I will be printing it in two parts.  Mike and I went out and took pictures of the areas talked about in the story and I will be including those with the article.  Even today the whole affair is something of a mystery.  No one knows to this day how Mr. Daminger caused the wine bottle to fall from the tomb stone.....Wait, I am getting ahead of the story here.    :)

Sunday, November 6, 2011


This picture was taken in 1895.

Both of these pics are the same area.  This one
taken in 2011.

To my total delight, we found FERNWOOD!  Well, what is left of it anyway.  Of course, we passed it right up and went off into the wilderness for an hour. That was funny.  We ended up following the old P.L.and W. Railroad tracks for a while.  Back in the middle of nowhere(where I intend to go if there is ever a Zombie Apocalypse), we finally started to run out of  daylight, so we decided to go back.

And that is when we discovered this.  The remains of a chimney.  That and this brick lined hole in the ground is all that remains of a place where President William McKinley once spent his leisure time.

We took plenty of pics of the area.  There is an old road that is still very visible to follow to get back there. I am excited to go back and just follow the road.  I am hoping it leads to the two locks back in there I have not seen yet.  But that is another adventure!  I am looking for more information about Fernwood and will get it on here when I find it.  It will definitely be in the book we are writing!  Oh, that is another story, too! 
Ghosts, Legends, and Old Murders in Columbiana County!  Hopefully coming out in the spring or summer of next year!