Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Henry W. Shoemaker, Part VI: The Gorilla

In 1922, Shoemaker wrote Allegheny Episodes, which contained a tale called "The Gorilla". The tale, a story of murder and revenge, was a fictionalized account based on actual incidents which took place in the early 1920s in Pennsylvania and Maryland. These events are chronicled by Chad Arment.

The first incident, and apparently the one Shoemaker's story was based on, took place in December, 1920 when Samuel Bolig, 13, was attacked by a "gorilla" on his father's farm in Globe Mills (Snyder County), and his knee dislocated in the attack. It was said that the gorilla was an escapee from a circus in Williamsport. It was later reported that no other inhabitants of the area had reported sightings of the ape.

However, as an article on the case in the North American BioFortean Review reveals, a whole flap of sightings surfaced in 1921 from Adams County and surrounding areas.

1. Gettysburg (Adams County), January 19: The gorilla was spied sitting on a rock at Mount Rock. The only Mount Rock I could find is in Cumberland County, but it is described as very close to Gettysburg.

2. Idaville (Adams County), January 20: An animal described by some as a gorilla and by some as a kangaroo (shades of the Dorlan Devil) was pursued on Snyder's Hill and also on Pike Hill. It fled towards Cumberland County. Several hams were stolen from William Chamberlain's smokehouse and attributed to the gorilla.

3. Sunnyside (Cumberland County), January 24: Another sighting. A hunt was launched.

4. Waynesboro (Franklin County), January 26: Harry Shindledecker saw the gorilla near the baseball fields on Chestnut Street.

5. Rouzerville (Franklin County), January 26: The animal was seen by Henry Needy crouched at his brother's farm. Needy and two others hunted the gorilla, which they cornered at Mike Lookabaugh's farm, but it escaped. At one point, the hunters killed a black dog which they took to be the gorilla. The newspaper reported that Rouzerville had not known such excitement "since Lee's battered and disorganized legions came thundering down the mountain after the Battle of Gettysburg".

6. Monterey (Franklin County), January 26: In the evening, the animal was seen near the golf course on Mentzer's Gap Road by William Flohr and Maurice Molesworth. It was described as being about five feet tall. It approached them on all fours and made gurgling sounds.

7. Chambersburg (Franklin County), January 27: The gorilla was seen by Paul Gonder, who was gathering wood near Black's Gap.

8. Pen Mar (Franklin County), January 30: John Simmons saw the gorilla in broad daylight.

9. Rouzerville (Franklin County), February 2: The gorilla was seen crouching alongside s fence making a gurgling sound.

10. Franklintown (York County), February 9: Abraham Lau shot at what he thought was the gorilla and found he had shot his neighbor's mule.

11. Jack's Mountain (Adams County), February 9: Harvey Minnich and Frank Rodgers saw the gorilla as they were returning from York to Waynesboro.

A few weeks later, the editors of the Waynesboro Press ran another story of a supposed gorilla killed by William Quimby, a farmer in Queen Anne's County, Maryland. The encounter supposedly took place at Willoughby, a widely-dispersed handful of farms south of Starr and right on the southern border of the county. This story was apparently meant to close the case of the Pennsylvania gorilla, but it is unclear what, if anything, this case had to do with the Pennsylvania ones.


  1. My holiday gift to blogs I follow is to tell them what I love about their blogs.

    I really enjoy your blog because you find the most interesting information, really do your research, and present it in an easy to read, thorough way. I always finished reading your posts feeling more informed. Thanks.

  2. Thanks for the compliments!

    At some point in the future I may have more to add about the last bit. I've only ever heard accounts of the Maryland kill from Pennsylvania papers but the town in question is very near Centreville. As fate would have it, I know someone from Centreville, so at some point I might get to check the more local papers for any follow-ups or more information.