Episode 17: Arsenic, Incorporated

Twisters I present to you – Arsenic Incorporated, the story of the South Philly Poison Ring.  We are going back in time, something you know I love to do.  I’d say we’re going back to a simpler time but dodging a poison ring doesn’t sound all that simple.  In the 1930s Philadelphia, like the rest of the country, was suffering from the great depression.  While the rest of the country was at a 15% unemployment rate, Philly was doing much worse at 25% unemployment.  There were about 2million residents in the city of Philadelphia then so we’re talking about a half million people out of a job.  That’s a lot of stressed out, desperate people in one city.

In desperate times some people see an opportunity.  The dregs of humanity are attracted people’s desperation.  The scum of the earth looks at people’s misfortune as an open door to take advantage of their fellow man, and woman, and Philly was rife with opportunity to scam, bamboozle, swindle and steal. 

Enter the Petrillo cousins, stage left…. Dun dun dun…  What began as two men trying to make a buck, running insurance scams and counterfeiting money, quickly became the largest poison ring in history.  The Petrillo cousins business was murder, and business was good.  With help from Dr. Morris Bolber – a faith healer, and Carina Favato – sometimes referred to as a marriage consultant, other times referred to as a witch, 16 people were eventually arrested for the murders of over 50 immigrant Philadelphians between 1932 and 1938.  This is by far one of the most sordid stories of TwistedPhilly’s history. 

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