Sunday, May 12, 2013

The Haunting at Duffy’s Cut

The Watson twins eagerly anticipated Thanksgiving every year for their grandfather, a retired Pennsylvania Railroad worker shared his favorite ghost story with them. 

His story was a harrowing version of ghosts who appeared in the woods near the railroad tracks in a suburb of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The boys listened with rapt attention as their grandfather described how a large group of Irish immigrants who had all died in a Cholera epidemic were seen glowing brightly and dancing on their graves in an area called Duffy’s Cut *.

Up until their grandfather died, Frank and Bill Watson thought the story they had heard for many years was just a local legend. But within the papers they inherited from their grandfather was an old document that was marked private by the Pennsylvania Railroad Company. 

In 1837 there actually had been a cholera epidemic that had killed fifty-seven Irish immigrants. They were all buried in the woods in an area near the railroad tracks called Duffy’s Cut thirty miles from Philadelphia. The file also mentioned the story had been covered-up.

This document also included eyewitness accounts from people who had seen some unusual sights in the woods. One man as he walked home from a tavern in late September of 1919 saw something he later agreed was hard to imagine. Before him were green ghosts dancing in a mist. This witness swore in a written report that he saw spirits of the dead Irishmen, who had died in the Cholera epidemic.

“A-dancing around the big trench where they were buried: its true, mister, it was awful. They looked as if they were kind of green and blue fire, and they were hopping and bobbing on their graves…”

The document also mentioned that the locals felt the Irishmen haunted the place because they were buried without the benefit of clergy. 

It dawned on the Watson twins that the legend that was based on this ghost story might just be real. Within the old papers, there were clues as to where these immigrant graves were located. 

So in 2002, the brothers started to search. One clue led them to where the original railroad bridge once stood. They first uncovered an old shanty, and then in 2005, they found an old pipe with an Irish flag on it. This encouraged them to continue.

Realizing they had too much territory to cover the brothers requested help from the University of Pennsylvania, in 2009. 

A geophysicist from this school used equipment to scan the area. He sent out electrical currents into the ground to determine if items might be buried beneath the surface. This saved time and money since the brothers now had a better idea of where to dig.

At first, one human bone was found then seven skeletons were unearthed. Four human skulls were found as well. With these bones, a forensic expert was able to start putting the various pieces together. 

To the surprise of all, she found that these men and one woman had died not of Cholera but from several sharp blows to the head. Bullet wounds and ax nicks were found in the four skulls recovered.

The Irishmen at Duffy’s Cut probably were suffering from Cholera, but it appeared they all were murdered. It is now believed that these Irish railroad workers who had only been in the country for six weeks at the time Cholera broke out were probably killed out of ignorance. 

Some feel a local vigilante group killed them **, afraid the Cholera would spread. 

The Watson brothers now became even more motivated to make sure these Irish worker's story became known. The twin’s formed "The Duffy Project" their goal is to preserve the memories of these 57 Irish immigrants who came for the American Dream and instead lost their lives.

In March of 2012, the remains of five men and one woman were given a respectable burial, a West Laurel Hill Cemetery in Bala Cynwyd, Pennsylvania. 

The Amtrak Railroad who owns the property today would not issue additional permits for more digging at the tracks near Malvern, PA, since the next site they wanted to dig was too near the train tracks.

* It is called Duffy's Cut because the man who brought these Irishmen and women to work in the area was named Philip Duffy. Duffy was an Irish contractor whose task was to hire men and build this section of the railroad--he was not liked by the 57 immigrants. His contract with the railroad made him a wealthy man. 

** It is speculated that a local vigilante group who met near the Irish immigrant's Shantytown did not like the Catholic Irish immigrants, so they attacked and murdered them--hence the cover-up. For years afterward, Irish railroad workers told their story, including the part about the unsettled ghosts, in hopes that the truth would come out.

The Chester County Paranormal Society (CCPRS) received permission to do EVP sessions with a Franks Box at Duffy's Cut. They found some ghosts remain in the area. The following link is to a page where you can listen to their results. Here is a sample:

Question: Do you know Duffy?
Answer: Yeah, the devil
Question: What about those homes up there?
Answer: Cursed
Question: Are you with God?

Duffy's Cut EVP's

The following link is to a 55 minute PBS video that tells these Irish immigrants story in-depth.

Death On The Railroad

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