Midstate Memories: Babes in the Woods

David Smith has written a book entitled “The Babes in the Woods Story.”  The book tells about the events surrounding the deaths of three young girls found on South Mountain in Penn Township in 1934.  Associated with this are the deaths of two adults found near Altoona at the same time.  The story is told as it was reported in newspapers in November and December of 1934.  The deaths remained a mystery for nearly a week and attracted attention of newspapers from across the country including New York, Chicago, and Salt Lake City.

The deaths of the three girls and the two adults were eventually linked.  They were a family group from California who had been traveling for seven days in a 1929 Pontiac.  The group included the father, Elmo Noakes, his two children, Cordelia and Dewilla, his step daughter, Norma and his 18-year-old niece, Winifred.  The book describes what was learned about the five deaths, their trip and the reasons for coming east.  Although the deaths of the three girls were assumed at the time to be the result of suffocation, this was never actually proven.  All five members of the family are buried in Westminster Cemetery in Carlisle.

The book goes on to examine why the story has continued to draw interest over the past 80 years.  The story was not discussed by family members in Utah and California for more than 65 years.  Current family members are now talking about the events and were interviewed for the book.  They contributed to the story with details about the history of the family and their understanding of the events.

There will be a book signing on Saturday, February 13, at the gift shop of the Cumberland County Historical Society. For more information, visit their website or call 717-249-7610.

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