Delaware December 02, 2017
9 Horrifying Delaware Stories You Didn’t Learn About In History Class
Most of the time, when you hear about Delaware history, you hear about war heroes, colonial surveys, railroad towns, and of course, the elaborate estates of the Du Ponts. However, not all of our history is peaceful and calm. these horrifying Delaware stories prove that even the smallest of states can hold big, dark secrets. How many of these stories had you heard?
1. The Horrors of Patty Cannon
Patty Cannon lived in the Seaford area in the early 1800s. She was an illegal slave trader, involved in the kidnapping and torturing of both free and slave African Americans, and sending them to southern slave markets. She became notorious for her illegal activity, including murder, crime, and theft, and striking fear into the hearts of Americans. In 1829, she was arrested on charges of murder. When she arrived to be held in jail in Georgetown, she took poison and killed herself in the cell. In a weird twist, she was buried outside and eventually exhumed when the land was undergoing renovation. A police officer took her skull as a souvenir, and you can visit it (if you dare) at the Dover Public Library.
2. The Haunted Happenings at Woodburn
Woodburn, the Governor's Mansion, is one of the most haunted places in Delaware. It was the home of a Quaker man named Dan Cowgill. When Cowgill owned the spot, it was a stop on the Underground Railroad. One night, a group of slave raiders came to the mansion. As they were chased away, one caught himself in a tree and hanged until his death.
Read more about the Ghosts of Woodburn here
3. The Delmar Fires
The border town of Delmar was an important railroad town in the late 1800s. Unfortunately, it's also the unluckiest town in the state. Nearly everything burned to the ground in 1892, leaving 300 people homeless and burning one body so badly that it could not be identified. After the smoke cleared, they rebuilt — only to have a similar fire race through the town just a decade later.
Read more about the Strange History of Delmar here
4. The Murder at Lums Pond
Did you know your favorite state park was once the site of a gruesome murder? If you travel the swamp trail alone, you might hear the screams of the young runaway who was raped and killed here in the 1870s — she still haunts these woods.
Read more about Haunted Lums Pond here
5. Terror at Fort Delaware
Most of us know that Fort Delaware was home to Confederate soldiers during the Civil War, but did you know about the horrific conditions they faced? Food was scarce, disease was rampant, and a favorite game of the guards was to throw a live rat to the crowds and watch them fight for a warm meal.
Read more about Terror at Fort Delaware here
6. U-Boats, off the coast of Delaware.
Delaware's forts were an important part of the harbor defense protecting the ports of Wilmington and Philadelphia. But you might not realize how close the Germans got to the American coasts in the 1940s. The American government kept many of these reports quiet, but German U-Boats sank many merchant ships off of the coast of Delaware. In just one instance, a Panamanian United Fruit Company ship "San Gil" was hit by a torpedo. When the ship was evacuated to lifeboats, the U-Boat surfaced and fired shots at the lifeboats and ships. When the shells did not sink the ship, they put it into its grave with another torpedo. The survivors of the attack were brought to Lewes for treatment. Oddly enough, this sort of thing was a fairly regular occurrence until the end of the war.
7. A Collision in the Canal
In the 1970s, two tankers collided in the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. 5 people died, 40 were injured, and a 23,000-ton tanker exploded, split in half, and sunk. The other caught fire... with a cargo of over 150,000 barrels of gasoline. The crew abandoned her (smartly) and she burned on a nearby sandbar. All of this excitement on the C&D canal! For locals, it was like watching a horrific movie scene unfold as the explosions rocked the area and oil darkened the murky waters.
8. The Newark McDonald's Explosion
You might remember this one — in 1976, one of the most horrifying Delaware stories unfolded right on Main Street in Newark. Commuters and students were lining up for their early morning breakfast when a gigantic explosion destroyed the building. 23 people were injured, but somehow there were no deaths. The restaurant had to be torn down after it lost an entire wall, most of a second wall, the roof, and many of the windows and doors. All of this thanks to a gas leak in the kitchen. Can you imagine being there at the time?
9. The Route 40 Killer
Finally, the most recent of these horrifying Delaware stories unfolded in the late 1980s. The sleepy town of Bear was jolted awake when a serial killer was on the loose, killing women that he picked up along Route 40. It took a year — and several deaths — before police were able to break open the case and arrest Brian Pennell. Locals are still stunned by the evil behavior of a local man that was fairly well known.
Read more about the modern Delaware serial killer here
These sad, scary stories are a reminder to be thankful for each good, peaceful day that we have in our home state.