Part 1: The Twisted Tale of Charles Wawsen

This story has a little something for everyone: whether you like stories about true crime, revenge, unrequited love, redemption, superstition, insanity, ghosts, or crazy people, there’s something here for you!

Charles Wawsen left his native Poland in 1900, around the age of 43. Wawsen was a bachelor, and he set off for South America, possibly for adventure, probably to earn money. He worked as a farmhand in Argentina for six years before immigrating once again, this time to Shenandoah, Pennsylvania. He acquired a job working in a mine, and befriended some other Polish immigrants there. They told him of a girl they knew back in the old country by the name of Mary Bolinsky. Now nearing 50, Wawsen rather liked the idea of bringing over a wife from Poland, and through her friends, he arranged with Mary to pay her fare to the United States.

Wawsen really liked Mary, who was a good deal younger than him. Mary liked him too, but she liked a lot of the men she saw. According to the Republican and Herald, other men, including one of Wawsen’s brothers, were “enamored of the girl, and paid attention to her, the great preponderance of young men over girls in Shenandoah making this usual before a girl promises to marry.”

The picturesque town of Shenandoah, PA, circa 1900

 

Mary became a little cooler toward Wawsen, and he resented it. He was sure these men were warning Mary that he was too old for her and was no doubt less fun to be with. Nevertheless, he still hung around Mary’s door. Jealous, Charles Wawsen accused her of spending $600 of his money with another man, and Mary’s coolness toward him became ice cold. She said she didn’t want anything more to do with him.

Wawsen considered this, and decided his best move at this point was to ask Mary to sign a wedding contract. Shockingly, she refused. Charles informed her that she had promised to marry him, and he had purchased her fare to the United States, and he would kill her if she didn’t go through with it now. He then departed, happily assuming they were aligned on his plan to be married that weekend.

During the week, Wawsen informed his friends he would be marrying Miss Bolinsky over the weekend. Apparently, their last conversation had not given him the slightest indication that Mary was not excited about the idea. When Saturday came, Wawsen shaved, put on his best clothes, and went to his betrothed’s home. “Will you go to church with me to be married?” he asked her, offering his arm.

Mary, now convinced Wawsen wasn’t getting the message, decided to communicate in a more direct way. “I’m not going to marry you,” she told him. She further informed him that she planned to marry his brother, because he was younger and she liked him better. Wawsen stared at her, not understanding what he was hearing. Only after Mary repeated this several times did he say if she didn’t marry him, she wasn’t going to marry anybody. He underlined his point by reaching into his pocket and pulling out a revolver.

Mary shrieked and bolted past him. She turned into a nearby saloon, and was disappearing into a back room as Wawsen came in the front, wielding the gun. He shot at her twice, but both shots missed. Fortunately, one hit the chandelier and another hit the ceiling. Wawsen, undeterred, flew to the back room in hot pursuit and shot Mary, fatally wounding her as she tried to leave through the back door. Wawsen turned the gun on himself, intending to shoot himself in the heart. The gun misfired, and Wawsen fled.

Plenty of people saw what happened and knew of his history with Mary Bolinsky, and he was quickly apprehended by a posse, who brought him back to town, where Mary lay conscious but dying. It would be up to her to name her killer.

Go to Part 2

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