Episode 28: I Put a Spell On You

Recently I realized it’s been quite a while since I’ve told any Pennsylvania ghost stories – I think it’s been since Haunted Hill which was the third episode?And there are so many from around Philadelphia and all over Pennsylvania.  I’ve told you  I believe in ghosts – or maybe spirits is the right word.  That sounds better.  So it’s time to sit around a warm fire, bundle up under a blanket, turn off the lights and let’s get our ghost stories on!  I share some of my own experiences with spirits, and twisted tales of witchcraft, murder and hauntings .  Follow TwistedPhilly on social media: Facebook – TwistedPhilly Podcast and TwistedPhilly Discussion Group. Twitter @Twisted_Philly.  As always, thanks to Emmy Cerra for the music in this episode.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website – emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes.   Want to sponsor TwistedPhilly?  Go to www.patreon.com and search for TwistedPhilly or click the following link – https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396 

Rehmeyer’s Hollow & Nelson Rehmeyer

                         

 

 

 

My First 1 Star Review

TwistedPhilly received a one star review this week.  I received a one star review.  The first.

I’m not the first podcast host to receive a one star review, nor will I be the last.

I don’t expect everyone to love this show, and I respect the comments listeners share when they don’t enjoy TwistedPhilly.  Primarily those comments have been attributed to the profanity.  I don’t love every podcast I try, and I respect the efforts hosts put forth even if I choose not to listen.

But this one was different.  It was different because the review was specifically about the Grace Packer episodes. And it was about me personally; that I made these episodes about me and talked more about myself than I did the victim.  That broke my heart.

I’ve never told the story of an active case.  I’ve never told a story about something in real time and Grace Packer’s story is as close to real time as it gets.  I want to tell Grace’s story through the people I meet who knew her, or knew of her, or didn’t know her at all but are members of the suburban Philadelphia community whom were touched by her story.  And I’m one of them.

Through the podcast and social media I not only met the women who founded On Gracie’s Wings, I’ve become friends with them. And yes, as the reviewer points out, I wanted to help them.  Telling their story, the story of how I met them and their willingness to welcome me into their world, is also part of Gracie’s story.

And yet, I am willing to consider the critical assessments of this reviewer.  Is there something I can do differently in the next episode about Grace Packer to make sure she is the priority, or the board of On Gracie’s Wings is the priority?

I know there may be people in the suburban Philadelphia community who may not like these episodes because they are connected in one way or another to Grace Packer.  And I’m genuinely trying to be mindful of those concerns.

Maybe this listener was surprised at my editorial style, something with which long time listeners are quite familiar.  I don’t only stick to the facts, although I’m trying to put less opinions in the Grace Packer episodes. Something I said triggered a negative emotional response for this listener and for that I’m sorry.  She doesn’t know me personally, none of you do, so she has no background with me to use as a compass for determining if I’m a genuine person, something she questioned – and something I’m not going to defend.

These episodes are important to me because Grace’s story touched me in a way I cannot explain.  The women who founded On Gracie’s Wings touched me.   Some of you have responded positively about Grace’s story and for that I am most grateful.  And for Nancy39967, I appreciate you taking the time to tell me how you feel.  You’ve definitely given me something to consider.  Through my work with On Gracie’s Wings, I’ve become part of this and that won’t change.

Thank you for your continued support.

 

For the Love of Gracie: Sadness and Hope

When the news broke about Grace Packer’s death it was worse than anything any of us could have imagined.  First, it was shocking to realize she hadn’t been missing.  It was disturbing to think Sara Packer knew since the moment she walked into Abington police station and reported Grace missing, Grace Packer was dead. You couldn’t get away from the news.  You couldn’t hide from the details of how Grace Packer died, how she spent the last hours of her life. 

How do we know what happened to Gracie?  Jacob Sullivan admitted what he did. On December 30, 2016, emergency services personnel were called to their bottom floor apartment in a house in Horsham PA.  Katherine Allbright, the third of their threesome, found Jacob Sullivan unconscious.  He was taken to a Abington hospital and before the dust settled back home, Katherine was driving Sara Packer to the same hospital because later that same day she found Sara also unconscious.  The two of them had taken pills as part of a suicide pact.  While he was in Abington hospital Jacob Sullivan broke down and told both his family and hospital staff he and Sara killed Grace Packer.  Abington hospital saved Jacob Sullivan’s life  and then called Abington police and told detectives about Sullivan’s admissions.  Jacob Sullivan told the story all over again, this time to Abington detectives.  Both he and Sara Packer were arrested shortly thereafter.  Bucks County District Attorney Matthew Weintraub asked Who will remember Grace Packer?  Who will now speak for Grace Packer?  We will. And that’s what I want to do too, speak for Grace Packer, help give her the voice in death that she didn’t have in life.  And I’m not the only one.  You can find out more about the charity started in Grace Packer’s honor – On Gracie’s Wings – by joining the Facebook page of the same name.  You can also donate to the Go Fund Me page – the Abington Loves Grace Packer Memorial Fund.  This organization founded by a few Abington mothers has already funded two scholarships in Grace’s name for the 2017/2018 school year.

 

 

 

 

For the Love of Gracie: What We Knew

For the Love of Gracie is a special presentation from the TwistedPhilly Podcast covering the life and tragic death of Abington, Pennsylvania, teenager Grace Packer.  This series will follow the investigation into Grace Packer’s disappearance and homicide, while sharing stories from people who knew Grace, and the community that came together in love to preserve Grace Packer’s memory.  This series may at times contain mature subject matter and is not intended for young listeners.  (Although there is less profanity than you’ll typically find in TwistedPhilly.)

On Monday, July 11, 2016, Grace’s adoptive mother Sara Packer walked into the Abington police department a little before 7PM and filed a missing person’s report. Sara is Grace’s adoptive mother.  Grace was born in August 2001 in Norristown, PennsylvaniaWhen Grace was barely three, she and her siblings were removed from her parental home and placed into foster care in Berks County.  And that’s how Grace and her brother wound up in the care of Sara Packer. Grace, her brother and sister were fostered with Sara and her ex husband David Packer, and by 2007 the packers filed to adopt Grace and Josh. The adoption was approved in March 2007.  Grace was missing for almost 5 months when the Montgomery, Bucks and Luzerne counties held a joint press conference on December 22 announcing Grace Packer’s remains had been found on Halloween.  It took weeks to identify her body because she’d been dismembered.  Soon after that her adoptive mother and her mother’s boyfriend, Jacob Sullivan, were charged with her murder. 

In this first special presentation about Grace Packer we review what transpired between July 11 and December 31, 2016, how her mother Sara Packer hid her death for months, pretending to be a concerned parent searching for a missing child, when all the while she knew Grace was never coming home.  You can find out more about the charity – On Gracie’s Wings – by joining the Facebook page of the same name.  You can also donate to the Go Fund Me Page – the Abington Loves Grace Memorial Fund.  This organization founded by local moms from Abington township, has already funded two scholarships in Grace’s name for the 2017/2018 school year.   TwistedPhilly is also selling t-shirts to support the fund.  You can find the design For the Love of Gracie on our merchandise site at twistedphillypodcast.threadless.com.  All profits from the sale of that design will be donated to the charity On Gracie’s Wings.  Thanks for listening.  “Go on hitch a ride on the back of a butterfly, there’s no better way to fly.”  Special thanks to Emmy Cerra for the music you heard in this episode.  You can download Emmy’s music on iTunes or find out more information about her at emmycerra.com  

On Gracie’s Wings – https://www.facebook.com/groups/807076019431507/

Episode 27: These are a Few of My Favorite Things

Actually, it’s my most favorite thing, my most favorite building in Philadelphia: City Hall.

This is my self-indulgent episode, the 6 month special episode for me, because it’s the story of the largest municipal building in the country and what was destined to be the largest building in the world when it was constructed, but we never quite got there.

City Hall cost $25m to build, over $7b in today’s economy.  And it would have cost just as much to tear it down, which is exactly what the city wanted to do over 50 years ago because they thought it was a eyesore.  To me, it’s nothing short of magnificent, rich with history and turmoil, and seedy stories like you’d never believe.

I love this building so much, and it’s history, I made it my logo.  That’s dedication (some would say obsession but I tell those people to STFU!)

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Thanks for listening!

City Hall under construction

The artist and his muse; Calder and the head of William Penn

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Calder’s statue of William Penn as it stood in the courtyard before it’s final resting place atop the clock tower

Epsode 26: Heidnik’s House of Horrors

I cannot believe I’ve been doing this for 6 months already, and at the same time I cannot believe it’s only been 6 months.When I launched TwistedPhilly I wanted to share stories that meant something to me, stories that I loved or stories that scared me, stories that made me consider another perspective, sometimes stories that make me mad as hell or even make me cry, but all of them about this city and state, many of them about the city of brotherly love and sisterly affection.  Yes, I’m getting my intro updated to reflect that too, it’s just not ready yet.

This is a tale listeners have been requesting since day one.  It has history, it has true crime, it has some seriously dark twisted shit and there’s even some movie trivia in here too.  There’s even a little personal anecdote in here that’s twisted in it’s own right. It’s a story I wanted to wait to tell until I had a number of episodes under my belt because I didn’t want to start with a big boy out of the gate – This my friends is the story of Gary Heidnik. Gary was one of the most notorious serial rapists, serial torturers and murderers in the United States in the late 80s and certainly he was the boogey man here in Philadelphia.  Gary was eventually caught and arrested in 1987, and there is a mother load of horrific events leading up to his capture.  On March 24, 1987, Philadelphia police received a call from a hysterical woman telling a wild, unbelievable story.  Her name was Josephina Rivera.  She claimed she’d been held hostage for over four months in a dirty house in North Philadelphia, chained in a pit with other women, at least two of whom were dead.  They’d been shackled, beaten, raped every day, tortured and electrocuted.  Gary Heidnik’s house of horrors began with Josephina Rivera.  And it ended with Josephina Rivera. 

Follow me on social media: Twitter @Twisted_Philly and Facebook TwistedPhilly Podcast.  Join the twisted discussion on Facebook  – TwistedPhilly Discussion Group.  You can also help contribute to production and research costs by becoming a patron and getting access to exclusive Patreon only content. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

 

 

Episode 25: The Good Doctor – Part 2

(If you haven’t listened to part one, go back and listen to that first.)

The good doctor is the story of Doctor Lois Farquharson. Lois was a psychiatrist at Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry in 1971 when her girlfriend, Gloria Burnette, murdered their neighbor, Dr. Leon Weingrad who was also a colleague of Lois’ at the hospital.

Weingrad made life difficult for Lois and Gloria, in part because of his disdain for their relationship.  Whether they were at home or at work, Weingrad spread his negativity about Lois and Gloria, including complaining to their superiors at Byberry about their romantic relationship and Lois Farquharson’s abilities as a psychiatrist.

Although Gloria Burnette is the one who pulled the trigger, not once but three times, killing Leon Weingrad in the parking lot of their Society Hill Towers apartment complex, Lois is the one who was sentenced to life.  Lynne Abraham, who was an assistant district attorney at the time, argued that Lois was the mastermind behind the murder scheme, and treated Gloria like a puppet.  And although Gloria initially told police Lois had nothing to do with the murders, she testified against Lois in exchange for a lighter sentence, then recanted her testimony admitting she made it up for leniency.  And it didn’t matter.

Lois Farquharson was convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.  Not conspiracy to commit murder, man slaughter, or even second degree murder.  Murder in the first degree.  And in Pennsylvania a life sentence means there is no possibility for parole.  In 2016 Lois Farquharson was the oldest living female inmate serving a life sentence, until she passed away in early January, 2017, at the age of 91.

Through my research about Lois Farquharson’s case I learned about organizations in Pennsylvania that promote education and awareness about rehabilitation and reconstruction within our prisons, and advocate for improved qualities of life for inmates serving life sentences.

This is what I love most about hosting this show – unexplored territory.  I’d never head of Reconstruction, Inc., or the Fight for Lifer’s before researching Lois Farquharson’s case.  I’d seen the video of the lady lifers, it was something I watched when I was perusing other Ted Ex videos and it’s a beautiful, powerful song, but I hadn’t given it much more thought than that.

Like the story about Sylvia Seegirst, my thoughts and opinions become open to other options.  I’m not trying to change your mind about the prison system in Pennsylvania, or any other state for that matter.  I’m not trying to get you to reconsider how you feel about inmates serving life in prison.  I’ve never lost someone to gun violence, murder, or at the hands of someone else.  So it’s easy for me in a way to be open minded to perspectives I hadn’t considered.   I’m not suggesting every inmate serving a life sentence in our country, and especially Pennsylvania, deserves compassionate release, or special treatment, or a pardon.  I am suggesting there may be more to the stories we see in the headlines – not every story, not every inmate, but some, even if it’s just one.  And in the case of this story, it was one person, Lois Farquharson – who lead me to learn more.   For more information about the organizations I share in this episode, please click the links below:  http://www.reconstructioninc.org/    

http://www.reconstructioninc.org/programs/fight-for-lifers/

Follow TwistedPhilly on Social Media: Twitter @Twisted_Philly and Facebook TwistedPhilly Podcast.  Support TwistedPhilly on Patreon and get access to exclusive patron only content: https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

Episode 24: The Good Doctor – Part 1

In some ways Philadelphia in 1971 wasn’t all that different from Philadelphia today. Well, the Flyers were totally different in the 70s than they are today. You could find kids playing kickball in the streets, streets littered with trash and abandoned cars.  Depending on which neighborhood you visit, those streets don’t look much different in 2017.

Back in the 70s state hospitals were still very much in business.  And in Philadelphia, one of the largest employers in the city was the Philadelphia State Hospital at Byberry, or just Byberry as the locals called it.

Dr. Lois Farquharson was a psychiatrist working at Byberry. She and her partner, Gloria Burnette, had recently moved to Philadelphia from New Jersey and shortly after Lois took up residency as a doctor at Byberry she got Gloria a job there as an aide.  Although Philadelphia celebrated our first Pride Parade in the summer of 1972, the culture of the city wasn’t entirely accepting of LGBTQ.  Lois and Gloria were subjected to scrutiny, even harassment, especially by a colleague, Dr. Leon Weingrad.  Weingrad was also their neighbor at the upscale Society Hill Towers.

One hot summer day in August, 1971, Gloria had enough.  She followed Dr. Weingrad through the parking lot of their apartment complex and shot him three times at close range.  But it was Lois who did the time; Lois who wasn’t at the scene, Lois whom Gloria insisted was innocent of this crime.  Gloria pulled the trigger, but Lois was sentenced to life in prison.

Lois Farquharson was 48 years old when she entered Muncy Correctional Institute for Women back in 1973.  And she was 91 when she passed away in January 2017, denied appeals and denied pardons, even as recently as 2014 when she was88 years old.

Why was this woman sentenced to life in prison when someone else planned the murder and pulled the trigger?  In part one we discuss the relationship between Gloria, Lois and Leon, the trials and Lois’ time at Muncy.  Next week in part two we talk with someone form the Fight for Lifers group, an organization associated with Reconstruction, Inc., dedicated to improving the quality of life for inmates serving life sentences in Pennsylvania.

Follow us on social media:  Twitter @Twisted_Philly and Facebook Twisted Philly Podcast.  Want to support the show?  Make a donation on Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4093396

Thanks to Emmy Cerra for the music in this episode.  You can find out more about Emmy on her website – emmycerra.com – and download her music on iTunes.

In Memory of Lois Farquharson, and in tribute to the Lady Lifers.

Bonus Episode: Toto, I Have a Feeling We’re Not in TwistedPhilly Anymore

As you may have guessed from the episode title, Toto I I have a feeling we’re not in TwistedPhilly anymore, we aren’t.

Well, technically we are, or at least I am, but last weekend I was not.  I was in upstate New York at the Snowtown Film Festival.  It was a much needed long weekend filed with creativity and making new friends, in beautiful, and freaking cold, Watertown New York.  I went to the festival for a couple of reasons.  I wanted to see Captain Fantastic on a big screen, I wanted to see Captain Fantastic on a big screen, and not only did I get to see this beautiful, powerful quirky film that makes you think and question your logic and view of society as a parent and as a human being, but I was in the same room as Viggo Mortensen. 

I was also super psyched to spend the weekend watching independent short films by unique, talented writers and directors, actors.   One of the films that caught my attention when I saw the lineup was Garrow.  It’s a short film, it’s chapter one of what will eventually become a longer film, about Robert Garrow, a serial rapist and murderer from upstate New York.  Granted, Robert Garrow isn’t from Philadelphia, or Pennsylvania but TwistedPhilly was on the road, and there was no way I was passing up the opportunity to talk with the production company of Garrow if I could.

I spent close to an hour with Lori Kelly, Garrow writer and director, also the writer, director and producer of the film Mineville about New York Iron Ore miners, and writer of Silent but Deadly, a dark horror comedy.  With Lori was the producer Joel Plue, who is also an actor, a writer, partnered with Lori on the films I mentioned, and is Lori’s son.  Plus I got to meet two cast members, Angus Andrews who portrays young Robert Garrow and Richard Waddingham, as Garrow’s father.  Please join me for a different kind of TwistedPhilly tale, one that take place out of state filled with beautiful scenery, creative new friends and a serial killer twisted enough to find a home in this podcast  You can find out more about Garrow, the film, on Facebook at  https://www.facebook.com/garrowfilm/ and you can support the film by visiting the Go Fund Me site and making a contribution at https://www.gofundme.com/garrow.  And you can watch Chapter 1 on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU92bqUhjWc

 

Episode 23: Me, Myself and Irene

This week I had the absolute pleasure of sitting down with Philly author and public relations expert Irene Levy Baker, author of 100 Things To Do In Philly Before You Die.  And this is a very family friendly episode; nothing spooky, creepy or macabre, or too grown up for little one’s ears.  Ok well, we do talk about one ghost story……

This book is an absolute gem, filled with the best of the best restaurants, museums, concert halls, everything that’s wonderful about the city of Brotherly Love.  Leveraging her experience providing tours for travel writers, whom are not easily impressed, Irene presents the gems of our city – some hidden, and some well known but not the way Irene knows them – creating a guide book that’s great for visitors,  and equally as wonderful for Philly natives.

Yours truly found a few spots which not only had I never visited, I never even knew existed.  Yes, I’m hanging my head in shame.  Irene Levy Baker is funny and smart, curious and charming and I know you’ll love her as much as I do.

Irene is offering a special bonus for TwistedPhilly listeners.  When you order her book on her website – http://www.100thingstodoinphiladelphia.com/ – Irene will autograph your copy before mailing.  Thank you for such a great opportunity for our listeners!

You can also follow Irene on Twitter @100Philly

Special thanks to Emmy Cerra for the music in this episode.  You can find out more about Emmy at www.emmycerra.com and download her music on iTunes.

And that dessert over which we went gaga?  Its the  Salted Caramel Budino at Barbuzzo.   http://www.barbuzzo.com/