Sometime in June of 1832, some 57 Irish immigrant railroad workers were brought to Chester County, PA to help construct the Pennsylvania railroad. A cholera outbreak caused all of them to perish, and the workers were subsequently buried in a mass grave/ditch near Malvern, PA. At least until 2004, there was thought to be nothing else to the story than that.
In the past 10 years or so, the remains of seven bodies have been uncovered, and a close examination of the corpses revealed other contributing factors to the deaths besides cholera. Blunt force trauma and bullet wounds were evident on the bodies, bringing a whole new perspective to the fate of these workers over 180 years ago. Speculation seems to suggest that their deaths were due not just to cholera itself, but a combination of that and point-blank execution. Fear of the immigrants spreading the condition outside their contained area prompted the murders by local residents. Of course, the anti-Irish sentiment of that era didn’t help matters.
Its a hell of a story, and it seems as though some VERY tight secrecy over the years has prevented this event from growing into a legend, or at least igniting some creepy ghost stories. We only found out about the murder aspect recently, so there was never a chance to build up any tales of vengeful ghostly railworkers. Can you imagine if there had been a longer span of time in which the REAL story had been out there, what kind of haunted hearsay would have developed over the years? I cant help but think of John Carpenter’s “The Fog”, in which a seafaring leper colony was deliberately steered off course into a rocky shelf which destroyed their boat and killed everyone on board. The leper boat intended to land and settle near a sleepy CA coastal town. The leaders of that town weren’t so thrilled about this idea, and flashed a bogus lighthouse signal towards the boat on a foggy, stormy night. Unbeknownst to those aboard, they were being guided towards a shipwreck. 200 years later, the lepers would come back in ghoulish form to exact vengeance on the descendants of those responsible for the wreck.
I have not been to the actual burial site, but I intend to soon and I’ll be back with a full report. A historic marker was placed right near the burial site which, from pictures, appears to be a nondescript section beside the track. From what Ive seen, it doesn’t come off as too spooky-looking, but we will see.
Malvern, PA, its time to consider what 2032 may bring on the bicentennial of this tragedy. Its still a long way off, but it is never too soon to prepare.