In an exclusive interview with Villain Media, author James Wosochlo talked about twisted true story behind Appalachian: Schaumboch’s Tavern. Readers will want to know about the writing process and research behind this shocking tale of murder.
PLOT: Secrets of devious deeds that were carefully hidden behind the walls of a tavern owned by Matthias Schaumboch.
In his two-room tavern, Matthias confessed on his deathbed to murdering eleven to fourteen people before he lost count. Rumors had already abounded as locals whispered about Matthias killing lonely travelers for valuables and then dismembering the bodies. There were even rumors of Matthias feeding his victims to unknowing guests at Schaumboch’s Tavern.
Now available to own, author James Wosochlo spoke about the inspiration behind Appalachian: Schaumboch’s Tavern. Join us as we head towards the writer’s studio to discuss the craft of storytelling.
VILLAIN MEDIA: What was the moment that inspired you to write Appalachian: Schaumboch’s Tavern?
JAMES WOSOCHLO JR.: I am a historian and I love history. I did not learn of these occurrences on the mountain south of my family farm till just recently. I found out about Mathias Schaumboch when talking to an associate at the local fire company in conversation. When I began to look into the history of Mathias, I also found out more about the tavern itself; how it was built by Jacob Garhart in 1789. His entire family was killed by Native American’s allied to the French in the French Indian War. He escaped the slaughter as the Native Americans burned down the house as he was hiding under the bed and escaped out the window to a neighboring farm. Two owners later in 1850 is when Mathias and Margaret Schaumboch purchased the tavern.
It was soon after that the atrocities began to happen at the tavern of missing peddlers and travelers became noticed and Mathias was selling horses and items in the lower towns on both sides of the mountain. I found it amazing that he was never caught. He almost was but no evidence came about and charges [were] dropped. It was not until his death bed confession of 11 to 14 people did he mention anything of it. He was cunning and insane at the same time.
VM: What was your writing process like for Appalachian: Schaumboch’s Tavern?
JW: Each chapter has true history in it, from the snake oil remedies to the Molly Mcquires that ruled the anthracite coal mines of the day. Even the history of gold fillings for teeth came about in the story. I grew up in this area and have a good knowledge of the area and history since I was involved with many archaeology societies in this area of Pennsylvania.
However, there was no record of how Mathias murdered his victims. For that reason, the book is rated historical fiction. I had to make up each individual murder of which allowed me to be creative. But to dispatch that many individuals and not be caught ever, Mathias had to be cunning, intelligent, and choose his victims well so that no one would miss.
He also had to have these behavior traits while suffering from dementia. He was like a Hannibal Lector. It was also said and proved that some of the remains found in the wells were cut and cooked. Rumors of individual accounts stated that the pork sausage just didn’t taste right, so that added to the novel perfectly with the chapter Ham and Bean; for it is said that Mathias fed some of his victims to unknowing travelers that stayed at the tavern.
VM; What interested you about Schaumboch’s Tavern and Matthias Schaumboch, who is alleged to have murdered at least 11 traveling salesman and hucksters?
JW: The fact that this man was very cunning and smart to commit unknown amounts of murders and not be caught. This also happened not more than 2 miles from where I grew up. Mathias had to be intelligent and insane at the same time like the Silence of the Lambs films because cannibalism, cunning murders happened there.
Rumors spread but no one did anything and he was able to escape justice. The death bed confession was amazing too because locals played it off that he was insane when he died. It must have been a shock to find the remains of all the victims in the drinking wells on the property. It was like an 1800’s Silence of the Lambs film in real life. I love those films!
VM: How much research did you feel was necessary to write your narrative?
JW: Research was limited but I even found that the last name was different in some research. Schaumboch vs Schaumbocher was the difference in the names. It was also unknown the amount of victims because that varied in the research. There were a lot of accounts that were put down on record and I had to take most into account in research because there was no actual proof in the rumors that were recorded when I did research.
But the true fact was that he was caught selling Civil War surplus and selling it in the town of Reading, PA. These items were seen for sale from a peddler that went missing weeks later that went north past the tavern. Mathias was almost caught when authorities went to investigate, but found no evidence or the body of the traveler.
They thought he simply moved on and paid Mathias with the surplus instead of money. So charges were dropped. But the fact was that human remains were found in all four drinking wells after his death bed confession and investigation found remains scattered throughout the mountain side of Hawk Mountain, the Appalachian Trail as referred to today.
VM: Tell me about William and Anne Turner, who were the next inhabitants of the house. Like Schaumboch, the Turners maintained the tavern as a business.
JW: Research states that they did continue to have customers at the tavern. They were young when they purchased the tavern and made the grizzly discovery. They did not sell the land because no one had interest, but later in the future, it became a tourist attraction in later years and business was steady. Now the tavern is a private residence and Hawk Mountain requests that no one was to trespass.
VM: How did Appalachian: Schaumboch’s Tavern change you as a storyteller?
JW: Loved the opportunity to tell a story based on true events. In doing so, I was able to add true history into each chapter. The historical facts are like hidden easter eggs throughout the novel. I actually enjoyed writing this. Believe it or not, it is my first novel. It is selling well and the reviews on Amazon Books are 5 stars.
VM: What are you working on now?
JW: At this time I am finishing up on “Unexhumed,” it is a fictitious novel about a Philadelphia ghost story. I have readers actually waiting for it to be released. Though it is a fiction novel, I have again true history written into it.
Buildings of Philadelphia and historical accounts that happened are in the novel. It is about a rich ship building tycoon in Philadelphia that murders his wife in the 1870s and later is killed.
He finds himself haunting his home that he made him murder his wife. He haunts the house for many years till 2022 when a single mother buys the home. She finds the home so familiar and falls in love with her home right away.
Later she notices things happening and strange accounts occur in the home. It is then when she researches the home and finds out that in a past life, she was the murdered wife in the home. It becomes a battle between her and the ghost to keep the home and her very soul.
Readers can find out more and get a copy here:
[Writer’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity.]
By Jorge Solis