Skip to main content

289 Dead Nuns Rise From The Grave! (Kinda)


Holy Family Convent, as it appeared around the turn of the 20th century


With a population of just under five thousand, the sleepy town of Danville, in Pennsylvania's Susquehanna Valley region, is generally the last place one would expect to find nearly three hundred dead nuns rising from the grave, but thanks to the unstoppable forces of progress, that is exactly what's happening in the tiny county seat of Montour County.

As visitors approach the tiny but historic town, which was once the cornerstone of the state's iron mining industry, gigantic glass and concrete buildings loom in the shadows of Montour Ridge, sprawled across the base of the mountain and giving visitors to Danville the impression of a miniature city skyline.  These buildings belong to Geisinger Medical Center, which has grown from a small local hospital built in 1915 to one of America's most expansive healthcare systems.  Today, Geisinger is Montour County's largest employer, with thousands of doctors, nurses, and administrative personnel who oversee the medical needs of 2.6 million people from 44 Pennsylvania counties.

Aerial view of Geisinger Medical Center


Not far away from the titanic medical center is the Holy Family Convent, which has been owned and occupied for the last 115 years by the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity.  The convent is home to 60 retired nuns, most of whom will be relocated to the order's mother house in New Jersey, because the property now belongs to Geisinger System Services, which purchased the 19-acre Holy Family Convent property in early January for $4.5 million.

Geisinger plans to renovate the six-story building for office use, which will create good-paying information technology jobs for up to 400 people, in an economically-depressed region of rural Pennsylvania where citizens haven't had much to cheer about since 1972, when the devastating floodwaters of Hurricane Agnes began to subside after inundating much of Danville.  In the decades since Agnes, the Susquehanna Valley has struggled to recover and, even today, high-paying jobs are hard to come by.  Normally, the addition of 400 jobs would be terrific news for an impoverished community of under five thousand souls, but lost somewhere in the story are the remains of 289 deceased members of the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity which currently reside behind the convent.  Who will be responsible for the daunting task of re-interring these remains?

Four companies submitted proposals to the Society of the Sisters of Christian Charity, and the contract for the job has been awarded to the Brady Funeral Home, reports the Shamokin News Item.  Brady Funeral Home will have the unenviable and challenging task of relocating the graves of the 289 sisters- which were buried between 1927 and 1947- from the convent grounds to St. Joseph's Cemetery in Danville.  This task will be especially daunting since Geisinger plans to occupy the office space by fall.


Written by JOTB Contributor Marlin Bressi, who was, incidentally, born at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville.

Popular posts from this blog

The Hunt for the Osage River Monster

It's spring of 1844 in St. Clair County, Missouri. A mile or so from the banks of the muddy Osage River a pioneer settler named Matthew Arbuckle is plowing his field when he hears a banshee-like wail in the distance, coming from the direction of the river. Shrill and unearthly, the demonic howl fills the farmer with terror. Wasting no time, he unhitches his plow, jumps on the back of his horse and heads for the hills.

One hour later Arbuckle arrives in Papinville, a town fifteen miles from his farm. The exhausted horse is white with foam; its rider white with terror. In a gasping voice he tells of making an escape from an awful monster. Although he had not seen the beast, he had heard its voice, from which he could tell that it was a monster of immense proportions.

Those who heard Arbuckle's story were bewildered, and those who did not know the pioneer personally could tell, just by the bloodless pallor of his trembling skin, that the man was not telling a lie. Whatever terrify…

The Ticking Tombstone of Landenberg

If you look closely at a map of Pennsylvania, you'll see an anomalous semi-circular border at the extreme southeastern part of the state. This circle, known officially as the "Twelve Mile Circle", serves as the border between the Keystone State and Delaware. Much of the strange circle is surrounded by Chester County, one of the three original Pennsylvania counties created by William Penn in 1682. While there are many historical points of interest in Chester County, few are strange or as steeped in legend as the Ticking Tombstone.

Near the London Tract Meeting House in Landenberg is an old graveyard which contains a tombstone which is said to make eerie ticking noises, much like the ticking of a pocketwatch. Landenberg locals claim that the ticking is the result of two very famous surveyors who arrived in town during the 1760s- Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon.  A young child supposedly swallowed a valuable pocketwatch owned by Mason and later died, and the boy's head…

The Incest Capital of the World?

At the far eastern edge of Kentucky, nestled in Appalachia, resides Letcher County. In spite of its isolation and poverty (approximately 30% of the county's population lives below the poverty line), Letcher County has managed to grow at an impressive rate, from a population of just 9,172 in 1900 to a present-day population of nearly 25,000. However, even if Letcher County tripled or quadrupled its present population, there's still a pretty good chance that virtually all of the county's inhabitants would be related to each other-- thanks to one particularly fertile family whose astounding rate of reproduction can put even the friskiest rabbit to shame.

Around the year 1900, Letcher County was the home of a man by the name of Jason L. Webb, who made national headlines for having the one of the largest families in the world. According to newspaper reports of the era, Jason had 19 children, 175 grandchildren, and 100 great-grandchildren. Perhaps even more impressive was his b…