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History in the Making - A Ghost Story Comes to Life

Updated on July 26, 2013

There's something strange brewing in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Behind a normal suburban cul-de-sac, twin brothers Bill and Frank Watson are working hard to revive some old ghosts and allow their stories to be heard.

Every ghost story has a background. Every sighting is paired with tales of how death occurred and why the person's spirit stays with us. Interestingly enough, the ghost sought by the Watson's only have half their story told. The brothers aim to tell the world the other half of the story – and consequently, the truth.

An Irish Falling Out

When the railroad was coming through Pennsylvania, there were a number of immigrant Irish workers who helped to build bridges and miles of rail. Sadly, a cholera outbreak claimed the lives of many of these men; most succumbed without witnessing an end to their hard work.

Only a month after the mass deaths, a man walking home from a local bar swore to seeing the ghosts of the men dancing alongside the road in 1909. The men were buried in a mass grave near a railroad bridge, and this witness claims that the ghosts were seen under that bridge. He claims to have witnessed a blue and green fire above the mass grave which gave him a terrible scare. The mass grave has since been labeled “Duffy's Cut”.

The Watson brothers have heard this ghost story every Thanksgiving since they were young boys. They decided to search for the mass grave and found its location thanks to the paperwork their grandfather passed on to them. The railroad had documented the mass grave and deaths due to cholera in their paper files.

The Search Begins

The twins found the grave but their search wasn't over. They were fueled by their grandfather's insistence that foul play was afoot. No one knows what would lead the Watsons' grandfather to suspect foul play in the case but the twins truly believed the deaths weren't caused by cholera.

As the twins began to dig, they gained notoriety through lectures and conversations with interested parties. They eventually grabbed the attention of Tim Bechtel, a geophysicist at the University of Pennsylvania. He contacted the brothers and offered to help them with their search. Mr. Bechtel was a blessing in disguise. He asked the brothers to stop digging and he brought in his earth scan equipment.

Shooting electrical currents through the ground told the now team of investigators exactly where to dig. The currents move freely through the earth but stop if they reach an object, such as a human bone. The team began to dig again and discovered air bubbles above the coffins.

A Team Built and Dedicated

The team was excited to make this discovery. This meant that there were some sort of animal remains under the surface of the Earth. Some of Betchel's students were enlisted to help with the dig, and at 2 PM in the afternoon, one of the students excitedly presented what could only be a human jawbone.

The team needed to expand so they enlisted the help of Janet Monge, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania. The team was complete with a circle of individuals dedicated to discovering the truth about these deaths.

Learn More About Anthropology Here

"That's Not Cholera!"

When Monge began her examination, she did not suspect foul play. However, as more human bones came to her offices, she changed her mind. She found evidence on a skull of either a gun or ax which had been used on the victim before death. She found suspicious wounds on another skull and now believes some sort of foul play caused the deaths of these individuals.

Cholera did not take these men – perhaps they did have cholera, but it did not kill some of them. The research continues and it is undetermined how many men will be found, but it is certain that at least two of them died due to foul play. This mystery pulls up more questions than answers, but as research continues, the team hopes to uncover the truth.

Telling Their Story

The Watson brothers want to tell the story of these men. They feel that the men were chasing the American dream and were struck down in their heyday. The scientists in this case are fascinated in the mystery while the brothers remain engrossed in bringing justice to the victims.

The brothers hope to use DNA to match victims to living relatives. They hope to produce enough evidence to write the stories of each man in the grave and share it with the world. As Frank Watson stated in an interview with CNN, “Every human being deserves to be remembered.”

A History of Cholera


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