Episode 20: H. H. Philly

Happy New Year, Twisters!  Yeah, about that break I was going to take this week…… I just couldn’t stay away!  And I have a break coming up in mid to late January because of some cross over episodes with other podcasters and interviews I’m hosting so I couldn’t skip a week now when I’ll have to skip one later this month.

So what are we talking about today?  I want to tell you the story of an infamous serial killer, probably one of the most notorious and prolific serial killers in American history.  No, I’m not talking about Gary Heidnick.  I told you I don’t want to talk about him yet.  I want to tell you the story of H.H. Holmes.  Now you’re probably thinking WTF?  He’s not a Philly serial killer.  Maybe not, but there is a significant Philadelphia connection, in fact it was a crime he committed right here in TwistedPhilly that stopped his reign of terror, scams and bigamy. And it was in Philadelphia where he spent the last year of his life, incarcerated at the old Moyamensing Prison.  It was here in Philadelphia where he stood on the scaffolding and spoke his last words before a noose slipped around his neck.  And it was here in Philadelphia where suspicious deaths surrounded many of the players associated with Holmes and his trial for almost 20 years.

This is a history lesson about the life and eventual death of H.H. Holmes which you may not yet have heard.  And you know me, I love taking a walk down the twisted path of history, especially when we’re walking those streets in Philadelphia.

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H. H. Holmes in 1895, “Accused of more crimes than any other man living.”

Moyamensin Prison, where Holmes spent the last year of his life in South Philadelphia, PA.  The prison was closed in 1963, and torn down in 1968


Episode 19: Merry Chirstmas, Ya Filthy Animals

So….. what’s this episode about?  Is it true crime?  Is it some haunted history or a weird, twisted legend?  Is it about New Years in Philly?  No. Nope, nada.  This episode is twisted but it has very little to do with Philly other than the fact that your host – moi – is in Philly.  One of my most favorite activities this time of year, besides all the events and spots I mentioned in our holiday happenings episode – is to watch horror movies, Christmas horror movies to be exact.

Yeah, I have loads of favorite Christmas movies but everyone talks about those.  I want to talk about my favorite Christmas horror movies.  So before you give me shit like “this isn’t a movie podcast, what are you doing?”  You’re right, this isn’t a movie podcast, but I can’t think of anything more twisted than films that take what many consider the most wonderful, magical time of year and blend that with blood and guts and monsters and gore!  The juxtaposition of the two – beautiful jolly old man in a red suit and an ax or creepy old Christmas legend that grows legs and becomes more than fairy tales.  Mmmmm delicious!  It’s like a big old plate of Christmas cookies!  Which, if you follow me on Twitter, you’ve seen that I’ve been a baking fool this week.  Yes I bake, and I say fuck a lot.  I’m a complex woman.  In this episode I share stories from my favorite Christmas horror movies and tell you why I love them as much as I do. 

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Episode 18: ‘Twas the Murder Before Christmas

‘Twas the murder before Christmas and all through Middletown, in the Wholaver house no one made a sound.

That morning mom Jean rose early and packed the car for a trip to her parents who lived a bit far.

Daughter Vicky was 20, and Izzy a teen, still asleep in their beds, in slumber, in dreams.

Their plans had been set for later that night, a Christmas Eve dinner that ended in fright.

Jean and her girls never showed at her parents, no one knew they were victims of behavior abhorrent.

Before sun up that day, while Jean’s girls were still sleeping, estranged husband and father Ernie came creeping

What motive, what reason, a holiday tale so chilling

I’ll tell you that tale right here on TwistedPhilly.

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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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Episode 16: TwistedPhilly Holiday Happenings

Pull yourselves out of your tryptophan coma and listen up, twisters!  Today, November 24, isn’t just Thanksgiving.  It’s the 3-month anniversary of TwistedPhilly!  This is a special anniversary episode for me, an opportunity to say thank you to each and every one of you for joining me on this twisted journey.  And since the winter holidays are upon us, I’d like to share with all of you some of my favorite Philly holiday activities. 

So cut yourself another slice of pie, pour another cup of coffee and curl up next to the fire as we talk about some of the best places to see spectacular light shows, Christmas trees, shopping and shows.  And remember, you don’t have to celebrate Christmas to decorate a tree.

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Episode 15: PART 2 – Ms. Rambo

To recap part one, Sylvia Seegrist was a resident of Springfield, Pennsylvania, a suburb about 10 miles outside the city of Philadelphia.  On Wednesday, October 30, 1985, Sylvia brought an automatic rifle to the Springfield mall and in a span of less than 15 minutes killed 3 people, and seriously wounded 7 others. 

Sylvia had been diagnosed with Schizophrenia in 1975 when she was just 15 years old. And over the next ten years Sylvia was institutionalized a dozen times.  In the years leading up to the massacre at the Springfield Mall, Sylvia’s behavior continued to decline.  She was frequently escorted out of local businesses for intimidating and scaring patrons.  She ranted and raved about the government, the system and often made threats against society.  There were more instances than I can count when Sylvia expressed her desires to hurt other people. 

In part 2 we review Sylvia’s trial and incarceration, and take a deeper look at the mental health system with help from TwistedPhilly listener Jen.  Too often cases like these are sensationalized to focus only on the violent crimes, when we also need to consider the needs for mental health support in preventing stories like Sylvia’s.  Help keep this show going. Subscribe on iTunes, leave a review and let me know what you’d like to hear!

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Episode 14: PART 1 – Ms. Rambo


Since starting the podcast I’ve been sucked into so many memories of childhood, and my teens and 20s.  As I research true crime cases I’m taken back to places where I grew up, places where I hung out on weekends with friends.  In a way that’s making me feel older, because these places have changed so much over the past 20 or 30 years, and at the same time it reconnects me to my past, and makes me think about being a teenager again.

And if there are any spots that remind me of being a teenager it’s the Granite Run Mall and the Springfield mall.  Both malls opened in 1974, when I was about 5 years old.  I don’t remember a time when they weren’t there.  Springfield is about 10 miles outside of Philly, and the mall opened so long ago the original anchor stores were Bamburgers and John Wannamakers. 

Why am I talking about malls?  Because I’m going to tell you the tale of a spree killing that took place at the Springfield Mall in 1985, when I Was 16 and hanging out at these malls damn near every weekend.  This is the story of Sylvia Seegrist, who locals called Ms. Rambo, a disturbed young woman who was often seen marching in them all ranting and yelling, not making any sense, someone that we thought was the local crazy girl and it turned out she was much more disturbed than any of us realized. On Wednesday, October 30, 1985, while parents were putting finishing touches on Halloween costumes, and making last minute grocery store runs for candy, Sylvia Seegrist was preparing to unleash her demons in a local mall.  Before the day was out, three people were dead, and seven more seriously inured. 

In Part 1 we learn who is Sylvia Seegrist, and what pushed her to become a spree killer. 

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Episode 13: Here Chickie, Chickie, Chickie

Many of the episodes I’ve told so far are big stories – big Philly locations, big Philly true crime stories, or at least stories that I think are big. I’m always researching episode topics, and thinking about the types of stories I want to share with you. 

I love a good legend.  I’m one of those people who believe the legends hold some element of truth to –  obviously I don’t believe in unicorns today, but is it possible that hundreds or even thousands of years ago there was some weird horse like creature with a horn on it’s head?  Sure I think that’s possible.

Recently I’d been researching some Philly and Pennsylvania legends, trying to pick something that might be a little less well known when I stumbled upon a legend I knew – but It wasn’t familiar to me because of where the legend originates, it was familiar to me because I heard this story when I Was about 6 years old.  And I heard happened somewhere else.

This is the story of a crazy, creepy, bizarre park with stories older than many you’ve heard so far, stories of ghosts and princesses, of lost love and hairy little men.  All that weirdness in one spot?  You bet, after all this is Twisted Philly.

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Episode 12: Haunted Halloween Happenings

Helloooooo Twisters, and welcome to a special edition of Twisted Philly  – Haunted Halloween Happenings.

Tonight, or today depending on when you’re listening, we’re going to talk about some of the coolest, creepiest and most things to do in Philly this Halloween season.  Ok, not everything will be terrifying.  I’ve got some great spots that are family friendly for all the little twisters in your life (but still don’t let them listen to this podcast without parental supervision!)

Some of these activities are events I love, or events I’m interested in checking out this year, some will be spooky, scary and twisted, we’ve got some haunted history, and some activities are just plain fun.

Whatever your pleasure this Halloween, you’re sure to find something you’ll love in Twisted Philly.

Episode 11: PART 2 – It’s Just Not Fairley

In Part 2 we go deeper into the investigation of Lisa and Devon Manderach’s murders, and the investigation of Caleb Fairley.

Caleb made a deal with prosecutors – it’s a deal that would lead investigators to Lisa, but is it a deal that would come back to haunt the community?  And how does the community deal with the loss of two beautiful young lives?

We get into the twisted turns of Caleb’s trials and unexpected stories of family members on both sides of this case over the years since Caleb was found guilty almost 20 years ago.

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