Monday, March 12, 2018

Madness and Mistaken Identity at the Weston State Hospital

The Trans-Allegheny Lunatic Asylum, also known as the Weston State Hospital, has been a fascination of mine for years. Obviously, I'm a sucker for the paranormal aspects of the old haunted hospital, but I enjoy the non-spooky history as well. I'm in the process of documenting as many former patients as I can find, and sharing their stories. Through this, I'm hoping to have a strong database of potential ghost suspects, but more importantly, I feel that these people deserve recognition. They deserve to have their lives remembered, and not just be a statistic. 

One such person with a pretty strange story to be told is a Croatian immigrant named George Marzic. His story appeared in numerous newspapers at the time, but this transcription comes from the 29 December 1936 edition of the Charleston Daily Mail



Woman Finds Relative Is In Institution, Recovering; Dead Man Is Unknown; Records Found in Error

Benwood, Dec. 29 (UP)---Mrs. Amanda Kurl learned today that the "brother" she buried six years ago is alive and well.  

The almost incredible story of the "death" and the "burial" of George Marzic, 52, ended with the realization that Marzic still lives and that the identity of the man buried under his name in 1931 may never be known.

Marzic, a Croat, was sent to the state hospital at Weston, W.Va., in 1929.  On May 9, 1931, hospital officials notified Mrs. Kurl her brother had died.

The body was brought to Benwood for burial.

Marzic's friends went to his bier and wept.  Some were amazed because George did not "look like himself" but they dismissed it with "well, he has been sick a long time."

Did Not Doubt Identity
"I was sure it was George," said Mrs. Kurl.  "His face was a little thinner, I thought, but I had no doubt." 

Mrs. Kurl paid $237 to a Benwood mortician. And on the day of the funeral she went to St. John's Catholic church and wept while a priest celebrated requiem mass. 

Several days ago, Mrs. Kurl was notified by officials of the state hospital that her brother had recovered. She was dumbfounded as she read a letter from Dr. J.E. Offner, hospital superintendent, which said in part:

"Only recently this patient's mind has cleared and he now claims to be George Marzic. We are now almost thoroughly convinced that the man Marzic is living."

Mrs. Kurl disbelieved until friends investigated and proved beyond doubt that her brother still lives.

Tests Are Made
Nick Rumora wrote to George Marzic at the Weston State Hospital, asked him a number of personal questions in the Croatian language. Marzic replied---in the Croatian language.

Mrs. Kurl remained unconvinced. 

Police Chief Pat J. Scully, Rumora, Antone Fabyanic, lifelong friends of Marzic, went to Weston.  They walked into the hospital unannounced.

Someone called their name. It was Marzic.

When Scully informed Mrs. Kurl of this, she was convinced. 

Scully said hospital officials could not explain the error and could learn nothing of the identity of the man who was buried. Marzic, it is said, will remain in the hospital until doctors make sure his sudden recovery is not temporary.

Still Legally Dead
George Marzic is legally dead, according to reports in the division of vital statistics of the state health department.

A report that Marzic died May 9, 1931, is on file in the division's offices, but the bureau has a rule that detailed information cannot be given out except upon payment of a 50 cent fee for making out a certified copy.  For that reason, other details in the bureau's possession could not be learned.

"Never heard of it," said M.D. Carrico, member of the state board of control, when informed that Marzic is actually alive now, despite the reports. Dr. C. Denham was superintendent of the institution in 1931. 

Theresa's Note: What is even more interesting about this case, is that when you go to the WV State Archives' website, George Marzic still has his 9 May 1931 death certificate on file! It makes me wonder what actually happened to George...and whether or not he did die in 1931. 

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