St Clair Cemetery, Mt Lebanon, Allegheny Co, PA

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Wednesday, January 02, 2013

Wordless Wednesday: Freak Found in Pittsburgh

Thirty-three articles are now available on the Allegheny County Poor House.  After reading these articles, you may discover more of an understanding of the sad plight of people who were abandoned, neglected, or poor in our nation's past.  Some of the stories have a "ho hum" quality in their tale, but other stories have the ability to shock in today's world and values. 

An example of a shocking story at Marshalsea from the June 28, 1904 Pittsburgh Press follows. I suspect many readers will be left speechless and heartbroken after reading the tale of the unknown male.

Found Freak In Empty Room
Long Haired Idiot Boy Abandoned by Showmen Who Meant to Exhibit Him
Will Go to Marshalsea

Abandoned by men who sought to profit by its mental and physical deformities a male freak, about 18 years, was discovered yesterday afternoon in the third floor of the rooming house at 545 Second avenue. About the time of the discovery was made by Mrs. Annie Dropple, the landlady, Superintendent of Police Wallace received an anonymous communication from the men who had left the freak, telling him where it could be found.

The case is the most heartless in the history of the local police department, and for a time the authorities were puzzled as to what steps to take. Finally it was decided to send the freak to Homeopathic hospital until this morning, when it will be taken to the city home at Marshalsea.

About 10 o'clock Sunday morning two well dressed men called at Mrs. Dropple's boarding house and asked if they might rent a room. She informed them that there was but one vacant room in the house and that it was furnished with only a bed and mattress.

"That's all right. We have traveled about 100 miles and are very tired. We are going to show at the Swissvale carnival next week," said one of the strangers as he passed upstairs. Two hours later the men left the house and Mrs. Dropple did not see them return. It was learned last night, however, that about midnight neighbors say a closed carriage drive to the door. Two men alighted and between the carried a long, closely wrapped bundle into the house, while the carriage drove rapidly away. This was the last seen of the strangers.

About 10 o'clock yesterday morning Mrs. Dropple went to the third floor front room which she had rented to the strangers. They were nowhere to be seen, but on the bed lay the form of a half animal, half man continually beating its head on the mattress. She fled in a fright and at once notified Patrolman McCready, who investigated and then notified the police.

Capt. Bartley went to the house in company with Superintendent of Detectives McQuaide and Detectives Kelly and Cole. The officers found the freak still beating its head against the bed. It was beyond all doubt the most pitiable specimen of a human being imaginable. It had the face and long hair of a woman, while the trunk of its body was distorted and splotched with patches of long wiry hair. Its limbs were about the thickness of a man's wrist and were bent and twisted. It was about 5 feet 6 inches in height and weighed about 100 pounds. On the bed beside its head was a piece of meat which had evidently been left for it by the men who abandoned it. At 10 o'clock last night it was removed to Homeopathic hospital.

The being was bereft of reason and could not talk. Judging by all indications, Superintendent McQuaide stated that the freak had evidently been exhibited throughout the country as a missing link of wild man, and this theory was confirmed upon returning to central police station where Superintendent Wallace had just received a mysterious letter which explained the matter. The letter read:

Chief of Police, Pittsburgh, sir, at 545 Second street you will find in the third floor front an unfortunate boy who is foolish and who is singularly marked and possesses peculiar characteristics. He is entirely harmless and helpless because he knows no more than an animal. I was here with him with the intention of putting him with a carnival, but they refused to do as they agreed. I have been compelled to abandon him to be put in a home by the proper authorities. He has no living father or mother, he has no friends. I have kept him until I broke and cannot do so longer,

The letter was unsigned and bore the postmark of the Pittsburgh postoffice. The police are making an effort to learn the identity of the men.

To read more of the articles, go to and click on the Poor House articles.

Ahh, genealogy.  History.  Sometimes, it just breaks my heart to read it. 

©2013 AS Eldredge

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