Terror in the Corn
Charles and Mildred Wells were twins born on October 31st, 1851 in East Bridge, New York. Raised by their father after the death of their mother the two were trained as morticians to take over the family business. The twins abruptly left East Bridge when their father died under suspicious circumstances. When the twins arrived in 1875, Erie was a booming coal mining town with a large transient population of coal miners. Saloons and business sprung up along Briggs and Kattell street catering to this thriving town and its inhabitants. It was into this newly formed community that Charles and Mildred setup Wells funeral home and later that year opened Wells Hotel, catering to the weary traveller or transient miner looking for a drink and a cheap room.
So many men came and went through Erie it was easy for these two to carry out their macabre games of torture and death. They used a series of tunnels from the hotel to the mortuary and from the mortuary to the corn fields. Here the twins would delight in stalking their prey through the corn, striking from the shadows and quickly retreating. They loved to toy with their hapless victims, a quick blade to the leg another to the arm, like a symphony of terror they would slowly, and methodically terrorize them until they collapsed broken both physically and mentally. An excerpt from Mildred’s journal gives a glimpse of the depravity of these two and their macabre games;
“September 18, 1888. His name is Daniel, from the instant I saw him I knew he was our next guest. He was so polite, just like mother had been. Yes mam and no mam, may I please have another, on and on he went about how good the steak was that I cooked for him. His smile and effervescent demeanor wore on me like an old rope swing on a tree limb, with each thank you and please it wore deeper and deeper. If only he knew what we had planned for him, soon enough that smile would be gone, soon enough he would be in our little game, soon enough he would know terror, just like mother did.
September 19, 1888. Last night was the best game yet and I am almost too excited to even write about it. Charles has taken to calling our little game, Terror in the Corn. He always did have a flair for the dramatic but I had to admit the name fit, especially in light of last night. The masks we had fashioned added to the game and oh how Daniel ran for his life, as we darted in and out of the corn, poking and prodding him as he blindly tried to escape. I delighted in his screams of terror, and how his please took on the sweet ring of sincerity as he begged to be set free. I can still see the look in his eyes when I removed my mask and he realized that the woman who had cooked his steak last night, the woman he had been so nice and polite too was now the instrument of his terror and demise, that these were going to be his last few minutes on this earth, I joyfully watched as the last few sparks of life left his eyes…I laughed aloud as I wondered if he really liked the steak I cooked him or not.”
The flood of 1890 revealed the tunnels that the Wells had used to carry out their mad games and an investigation into the Wells was started, however before any formal charges could be filed the twins escaped into the night and have not been heard from since. No one knows the exact number of men and women that the Wells may have subjected to their evil machinations but conservative estimates put it at well over fifty.