In 1888, Adam Volkovitch was hung for the murder of his childhood friend, shortly after his execution his tormented spirit is said to have returned to the prison in which he was held.
It was a normal Friday afternoon in August of 1887 when a well-dressed stranger turned up in the village of Miner's Mills, approximately three miles from Wilkes-Barre, a confident looking gentlemen boasting an impressive gold pocket watch and chain.
The well-to-do stranger walked into a local tavern that was owned by a man named Fenton and asked if anyone had directions to the home of Adam Volkovitch, explaining that he was an old childhood friend who he had come to visit.
The mystery man was welcomed with open arms by Volkovitch and for the rest of the weekend both of the men were seen out and about all around Wilkes-Barre, drinking, laughing and have a great time. Volkovitch introduced the man to those who knew him as his old childhood friend called Stanislaus Bioski.
It was late on the Saturday night when Volkovitch is said to have persuaded his old friend to come with him on a walk down the railroad tracks towards Pittston. The two walked together, talking about old times and laughing and joking, just as you would expect with old friends catching up.
However, it is believed that just after midnight when the pair were approximately a mile and a half above Miner's Mills, Volkovitch suddenly changed, it is said that he drew his gun and shot Bioski three times in the head, before robbing him of his clothes, wallet and gold pocket watch and then leaving him for dead on the train tracks.
A train engineer named Charles Vanwhy found Bioski several hours later and somehow still clinging to life. He was quickly taken to the Wilkes-Barre hospital where he underwent treatment but subsequently died from his injuries on Tuesday, August 16.
The police investigating the case discovered the gun used in the shooting and traced Volkovitch to Jersey City, they caught up with him and arrested him for murder five days later.
Volkovitch confessed to the murder straight away, however, he claimed that he had only shot Bioski in self defence, and stated that it was Bioski who had attempted to kill him. The police held him in custody before his trial which began on the 19th of September 1887. From the start of the trial the evidence against Volkovitch was overwhelming, the police had the murder weapon, his own confession as well as the last words of Bioski, it didn't take long before the jury was convinced that Bioski had simply been killed for his money in what appeared to be a brutal robbery.
One person did testify in the defence of Volkovitch, and that was his wife, she made the claim to the court that Bioski had attempted to seduce her and made an effort to convince her to murder her husband and run away with him. The jury paid little attention to her statement and voted 11 to 1 for murder in the first degree.
Adam Volkovitch was found guilty and was sentenced to death by the way of hanging.
The judge residing over the case, Charles E. Rice, refused the request from the defence of holding a re-trial, Volkovitch's attorney did make an appeal to Governor Beaver to stay the execution, however, his request was denied. Adam Volkovitch was set to be hanged on Tuesday, April 3, 1888.
People flocked from all around and gathered in morbid anticipation to witness the hanging, huge crowds congregated and around two hundred people were allowed to enter the prison yard, including members of the jury, the press and Sheriff Search and his deputies.
The announcement that the gallows were ready came at 11:05 am, and Sheriff Search and his men went into the cell of Volkovitch and bound his arms before leading him on his final journey, his walk to the gallows.
Father Ydoski said a few words to assist Volkovitch with his passing before a black hood was pulled over his head, and within a few tense moments it was all over, Volkovitch was hung, the crowds quickly started to disperse and make their way home, leaving the wife of Volkovitch to say her final goodbyes.
This was the end of the story of Adam Volkovitch, or at least that is what everyone thought, what happened next however, told a different story.
It was less than a month since the execution before strange happenings were said to fall upon the prison in which Volkovitch was held prior to his hanging.
On May 4, 1888 an edition of the Bloomsburg Columbian
“A dispatch from Wilkes-Barre dated last Friday says: The inmates of the Luzerne County Prison are much terrified by a report that the ghost of Adam Volkovitch, the executed murderer, is haunting the cell which he occupied.
“A Hungarian prisoner recently confined in this cell aroused the inhabitants of the jail last night by his shrieks of terror and informed the night watchman that Volkovitch had just entered the cell and approached the bed upon which he lay.”
Another report in the Bloomsburg Columbian followed on May 11, 1888.
“Wilkes-Barre, May 8.– The ghost of Volkovitch, who was executed April 3, seems to be wandering around the corridors of the jail to the great alarm of some of the more timid and superstitious inmates. About 10 o’clock last night, while Warden Brockway and Deputy Smith were sitting in the main office, they were suddenly surprised by loud cries from the corridor in which the long-term prisoners are kept.
Upon arriving in the corridor the discovery was made that a prisoner named John Jones was nearly crazy with fright over the alleged visitations of murderer Volkovitch’s ghost at the door of his cell. Discovering that he could not be quieted, the warden ordered his removal to another cell.
Not long after, watchman McDonald was again aroused by alarming cries proceeding from Jones’ new quarters. He went to him and found cold beads of perspiration standing out on his forehead and his limbs quaking violently. He asserted that Volkovitch’s ghost had again appeared to him. He was taken into another cell with his brother, who is also confined in the jail.
In the meantime his companion in the first cell called for McDonald, and with his face showing signs of alarm he said that he had been disturbed by mysterious noises and the rising up and down of the cover of the little table in his quarters. Another man also testified to having seen the ghost. All the prisoners were more or less excited over the event, and but few of them slept after the disturbance occurred.”
It would appear apparent that the spirit of Adam Volkovitch was not resting, was he unsettled because he was actually innocent and his claim of self defence was the truth? Or was Volkovitch tormented by the behaviour of his wife following on from his public execution, she was said to have moved on from his death extremely quickly. A snippet in the Bloomsburg Columbian that was published just two-weeks after the execution of Volkovitch.
“Mrs. Volkovitch, the wife of the murderer who was hanged at Wilkes-Barre Tuesday of last week, eloped Friday night with a butcher named Tradesky. They went to Pittsburg where they will be married. The Polish people of Wilkes-Barre are indignant at the woman’s conduct.”
So was Volkovitch protesting his innocence or was the presumed disloyalty of his newly widowed wife what made him return to the prison corridors so soon after his death? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.