Juneteenth in the City of Brotherly Love

Episode 108


Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States on June 19, 1865, more than two years after the end of the Civil War.  In honor of this period in American history, I want to share with you a few stories of abolitionist history from Philadelphia. 

The earliest record of anti-slavery support in this country was a petition written by four German immigrants in 1688, founders of the city of Germantown in the northwest section of Philadelphia.  It took 160 years before our country considered their words and fought to end slavery in America.

While Philadelphia may be the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection, not everyone in the north was a true abolitionist.  Not all northerners treated African American’s with respect and dignity.  Even though Pennsylvania had societies dedicated to fighting slavery,  not all freed slaves were welcomed with open arms in the city founded on the beliefs of freedom.

In this episode we’ll talk about prominent abolitionist William Still, a free black man born in New Jersey in the early 1820s who moved to Philadelphia and played a prominent role in changing the lives of free and enslaved black men and women not only here but all over the country.  You’ll learn more about the Johnson House in Gemantown, the only stop on Philadelphia’s underground railroad that’s still accessible today.  

Join me for this special trip back in time where you’ll learn about the good, the bad and the twisted side of Philadelphia history in the fight to end slavery.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Germantown Mennonite Historic Trust
  • The National Park Service
  • The Underground Railroad: Authentic Narratives and First Hand Accounts by William Still (1872; Edited with an introduction by Ian Frederick Finseth)
  • Still Family Library (Temple University)
  • National Underground Railroad Freedom Center
  • Wyoming & Republican Herald, PA, 1834
  • Philadelphia Inquirer Archives
  • US History.org hosted by the Independence Hall Association
  • Mother Bethel AME Church (motherbethel.org)
  • Philadelphia Encyclopedia
  • National Juneteenth Observation Foundation

Thank you to Emmy Cerra forthe music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

Pride in the City of Brotherly Love

Episode 107

On Sunday, June 9, 2019, the city of Philadelphia celebrated pride month with our annual Pride Parade and Festival hosted by Philly Pride Presents. If you follow me on social media, you’ve seen some of the photos of that amazing event. This annual celebration takes considerable effort on the part of so many people in the city, the LGBTQ+ community and their allies.

The theme of this year’s parade was Stonewall 50, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riot in New York in 1969 which was the start lasting changes in the rights of LGBTQ+ persons in America. Years before Stonewall, men and women in Philadelphia held peaceful protests at Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell as reminders of the rights not afforded to gay and lesbian Americans.

This is the story of Philadelphia pride, from the Annual Reminder Days to this year’s incredible pride parade. We’ll talk about the history of the fight for gay rights in Philadelphia and a horrible crime in 2014 which served as the catalyst for changes in Philadelphia’s hate crime laws. Join me on this journey through time as we celebrate pride in the city of brotherly love.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Philadelphia Inquirer Archives and Daily News Archives
  • Philadelphia Gay News
  • LGBT50.org
  • WHYY and PBS
  • The Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia
  • The City of Philadelphia: phila.gov
  • Philly Pride Presents
  • CBS 3 and NBC 10
  • Philadelphia Magazine

Thank you to Emmy Cerra forthe music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396



Special Re-Release: Beyond the Bell Tours First Birthday!

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a first birthday party for Beyond the Bell Tours.  Founded by Haverford College graduates Rebecca and Joey, Beyond the Bell tours is “committed to putting the people back into people’s history” by sharing less well known stories from Philadelphia history which highlight people of color, women, LGBTQ+ and first nation folks.  

In honor of this incredible milestone I am re-releasing my 2018 interview with Rebecca about this incredible tour company and the mission she and Joey started which focuses on inclusive tourism.  

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396



Ghosts of Germantown: Part 2 – Cliveden

Episode 106

The Germantown section of Philadelphia is filled with historic homes, many dating back to the 1700s, and the homestead of one is even older.  If you wander a little further along Germantown Avenue, past Grumblethorpe, you’ll come to rather imposing Georgian home called Cliveden Mansion, built by Pennsylvania Chief Justice Benjamin Chew in the 1760s. Chew and his descendants lived at Cliveden for over 200 years.

Like Grumblethorpe, Cliveden was occupied by the British during the battle of Germantown. Colonel Thomas Musgrave and his tropps used Cliveden as a stronghold. Marksmen from the  40th regiment stood post at second floor windows like snipers, shooting from above.  Washington’s army was told to “reduce” Cliveden – as in reduce it to rubble but neither cannon shots nor fire could bring down the house. 

Cliveden Mansion has a long history in Philadelphia, predating the Revolutionary War, and it’s history is filled with ghost stories. In part 2 of the Ghosts of Germantown you’ll hear the history and hauntings from Cliveden, as well as a few other haunted locations including West Allen’s Lane and Loudoun Mansion.

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Cliveden of the National Trust
  • Johnsonhouse.org
  • The Ancient and Modern Germantown, Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill by S. F. Hotchkin (1889; available online via the Hathi Trust)
  • Philadelphia Inquirer and Inquirer Archives
  • Philly.com
  • USHistory.org
  • VisitPhilly.com
  • Hidden City Philadelphia

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

Ghosts of Germantown: Part 1 – Grumblethorpe

Episode 105

Germantown is a section of Philadelphia bordering the northwest suburbs of the city. Within Germantown is tiny little area called Wister.  That’s a name you’ll hear quite a bit as we spend our time together today because of a very famous old house along Germantown Avenue, built by German immigrant John Wister in 1744.

This 275 year old home has ties to the revolutionary war, science and horticulture.  It’s much more than a house with a funny name; it was occupied by British Brigadier General James Agnew during the Battle of Germantown in 1777.  It’s also the house where he died, leaving blood stains on the parlor floor which are still visible today and the cause of legends about the ghost of General Agnew haunting Grumblethorpe mansion.

This is part one of the Ghosts of Germantown: John Wister’s Big House, or Grumblethorpe, a 275 year old piece of Philadelphia history filled with ghost stories!

Research sources for this episode include:

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

Springtime in Philly

Episode 104

I love putting together tourism episodes! They’re among some of the least twisted episodes in the catalog, and that’s OK because even those of us who love the more strange or unusual side of life enjoy basking in the sunshine and smelling the flowers now and again.

There are so many places and events calling us out into the fresh air, whether it’s relaxing in a hammock at Spruce Street Harbor Park along the Delaware river, the dozens of outdoor pop up beer and wine gardens throughout the city, miniature golf at Franklin Square or the art and music festivals scheduled long into the summer.  You’ve heard me talk about so many of these places and events a few times in the past few years, I’ll revisit a few and share some I may not have mentioned before. I’ll also take you on a tour of some of the most beautiful hidden sections of the city, places that are magical any time of year but especially in springtime.

Make sure you’re wearing comfortable shoes, and bring your appetite, because in Philly, almost every good celebration involves food!

Thank you to Emmy Cerra for the music you hear in almost every episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

Return to Pennhurst: An Interview w/Pennhurst Operations Manager

Episode 103

On April 13, 2019, I had the opportunity to visit Pennhurst State School and Hospital to interview the Operations Manager, Jim.

Jim and I walked the grounds for a time before sitting down to record together. During our tour Jim shared his thoughts with me about Pennhurst’s history, details about a few of the buildings we passed and his thoughts about the treatment of persons with intellectual, developmental or physical disabilities throughout our country’s history.

As you’ll hear in this episode, there is much more happening at Pennhurst than the annual Halloween attraction, Pennhurst Asylum. I appreciated the opportunity to sit down with Jim and learn about what he and the team at Pennhurst do to preserve the campus and promote education. Please join me in welcoming Jim to TwistedPhilly.

Thank you to Emmy Cerra for the music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396



Little Eddie Polec

Episode 102

On Friday night, November 11, 1994, 16 year old Eddie Polec and his younger brother Billy planned on spending a typical evening with their friends in the Fox Chase neighborhood in Philadelphia; hanging out at a local park, hopping between the nearby McDonald’s and Pizza hut, and getting home in time for their 11:30 curfew.

Eddie never made it home that night.  Earlier that month a young woman from the nearby community of Abington, Pennsylvania, had a run in with a few Fox Chase teens, and what began as a soda tossed into her car somehow grew into a horrible rumor she’d been assaulted. At least two dozen teenagers from Abington drove into Fox Chase on November 11 seeking revenge for an event that never happened.  By the end of the night, Eddie Polec paid for their misplaced vengeance with his life.

This is the story of Eddie’s life and his death, it’s the story of his remarkable family, his parents John and Kathy, his siblings, the strength and grace they demonstrated in the face of the most horrific tragedy anyone could experience.  It’s the story of John Polec’s fight against the city of Philadelphia to fix what at the time was an ineffective 911 system that failed his son, the eventual changes implemented by the city that benefit Philadelphia residents even to this day.

Research sources for this episode include:

Thank you to Emmy Cerra forthe music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396



Pennhurst State School and Hospital Part 2: Pennhurst Paranormal with a Little Help from my Friends

Episode 101

In Part 2 of our series about Pennhurst State School and Hospital I’m joined by my good friends Jerry and Tracy Paulley, hosts of the Hillbilly Horror Stories podcast, to discuss paranormal activity at Pennhurst. Jerry and Tracy listen as I share tales of paranormal investigations at Pennhurst, my visit to Pennhurst in August 2018 and their perspectives on paranormal activity here and at other locations.

I’m also joined by a number of amazing friends who graciously shared their thoughts about TwistedPhilly’s 100th episode. It’s a supersized show with so many amazing people who were instrumental in helping me achieve this milestone. I hope you enjoy hearing so many wonderful voices from other hosts who inspire and mentor me, and I hope you’ll give their shows a listen!

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Thank you to Emmy Cerra for most of the music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/



The Shame of Pennsylvania: Pennhurst State School and Hospital Part 1

Episode 100

Pennhurst State School and Hospital was once called the Shame of Pennsylvania.  It sat only about 25 miles outside of Philadelphia yet it may have been a world away considering how few people knew about the decline of the institution, and how that decline impacted the residents. 

In 1903, the state of Pennsylvania approved the creation of the “Eastern State Institution for the Feeble Minded and Epileptic.”  Eventually this facility became known as Pennhurst State School and Hospital, a 1400 acre state owned and state supported institution committed to the “care, treatment, education and vocational training” of children and young adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

Soon after opening in 1908, Pennhurst was plagued by overcrowding that continued throughout the facility’s 80 year operation.  The campus was self sustaining, with independent power grids, a fully functioning farm, everything anyone could want except proper care and support for it’s residents which at one point reached over 3500.  

In 1968, NBC 10 reporter Bill Baldini released a five part series about the conditions at Pennhurst State School and Hospital which forced the public to acknowledge the horrific conditions in which the residents lived; overcrowding was the least of their misery.  Restraints, unnecessary sedatives, physical and emotional abuse were commonplace at Pennhurst.

This is part one of a two part series about Pennhurst State School and Hospital. In this episode we’ll explore Pennhurst’s history, it’s 80 year operation, the children who lived there, why it finally closed down in 1987, and it’s legacy since then.   Part two will be released in a few days, featuring  paranormal stories about Pennhurst.  

Research sources for this episode include:

  • Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News Archives
  • Pennhurst Memorial and Preservation Alliance
  • 1968 NBC 10 Series “Suffer the Little Children” by Bill Baldini
  • Pennhurst the Shame of Pennsylvania
  • Images of America: Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • NPR.org
  • Disability Justice.org – Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • law.justia.com – Halderman v. Pennhurst State School and Hospital
  • PARC v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
  • The ARC.org
  • SpArc Philadelphia sparcphilly.org

Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon! Get access to exclusive content and podcast swag!  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

TwistedPhilly is part of the bPod Studios Network. bPod is dedicated to curating a diverse collection of audio offerings designed to inspire moments of surprise and delight. For more information about podcasts available on bPod Studios Network, check the website at https://bpodstudios.com/

Thank you to Emmy Cerra for most of the music you heard in this episode of TwistedPhilly.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website at emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes. 

Check out the TwistedPhilly merchandise shop.  Tees, bags, mugs, beach towels, multiple designs, colors and styles for the entire family (even onesies for the little twisters.  Onesies also make great dog tees.)   https://twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com/