It was December of 1940. The Wentling family was going about their day. Twelve-year-old Reuben “Ronald” Wentling had just changed into his Boy Scout uniform to attend his meeting that night. This was interrupted by the arrival of Frank Dearolph, a relative who lived nearby.
Mental illness seems to have run in the Dearolph family. Many years previously, in 1912, Dearolph’s father had killed his wife and daughter before killing himself, leaving Frank as the only survivor. Dearolph appeared to have blamed Reuben Wentling Senior for the crime; according to a 1940 article in the News-Herald, Wentling was the one who found the bodies and reported the crime. Reuben’s sister was married to Frank Dearolph’s father.
The evening was said to have begun peacefully, with Dearolph having dinner with the Wentlings. What happened next was never fully clarified, but an argument seems to have escalated. Dearolph shot young Ronald in the head. Ronald died immediately as the rest of the family fled.
Dearolph pursued them, shooting Reuben Senior in the left side. The family ran upstairs, climbed through a window and onto the porch roof, where they climbed down and ran for help. They made it to the farm of Herman Fritz, about a quarter of a mile away. Fritz notified some neighbors, and local merchant Clyde Garris telephoned the Clarion County sheriff.
Reuben was rushed to the nearest hospital, where he died the next day. After a search, Dearolph was found and arrested. In jail, he was said to be “quite relieved” and ate and slept as if he didn’t have a care in the world. He was sentenced to life imprisonment at his trial in October of 1941.
“Ghosts of the PA Wilds” describes a series of ghost stories from the region written by historian Lou Bernard, who also revels in folklore and the paranormal. Each Sunday of October, and leading right to Halloween, the PA Wilds Are Calling blog will feature a new ghost story to celebrate the spooktacular season upon us.
Know of another good PA Wilds ghost story worth investigating and sharing? Let us know in the comment section below!