Friday, February 15, 2008

Seven Days of Terror by Robert A. Waters

FBI Special Agent Terry R. Anderson [pictured] was murdered while searching in rugged mountains for kidnap victim Peggy Ann Bradnick. Anderson was born in Washington, Iowa, in January, 1924. He went to college at Drake University and Notre Dame. He was 42 when he died.

In 1966, Shade Gap, Pennsylvania had a population of 140. A condescending United Press International report described the inhabitants: “This is dungaree country. Half the people are dirt farmers and dirt poor. They—and their people before them—have lived here for decades.” According to the article, even the fact that the Pennsylvania Turnpike ran through the area couldn’t bring civilization to its people.

On the afternoon of May 11, the six Bradnick children stepped off the school-bus to walk down the dirt road to their home. Time Magazine reported, “A masked, rifle-toting man stepped from the woods. Before dragging Peggy into the dense brush, he snapped, ‘I don’t want any sass from you kids. I’m taking this girl.’”

He dragged 17-year-old Peggy Ann Bradnick through the dense forest. He carried a haversack filled with a pistol, bullets, a chain, and a Master lock. The kidnapper and victim eventually came to a tunnel—a culvert that allowed them to pass beneath the Turnpike. After forcing the girl through the tunnel, they came to his cabin.

By that time, a county sheriff had arrived at the Bradnick home. He quickly determined that the girl had indeed been abducted and called in reinforcements. Before dark, hundreds of lawmen, game wardens, and citizen volunteers were scouring the woods. All were armed.

The next day, FBI agents from Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, D.C. arrived to help search for the pretty blue-eyed high school student. The Feds had an Arkansas tracker flown in—he owned three of the best German Shepherd tracking dogs in the country. Agents also identified the suspect.

William Diller Hollenbaugh was known in the community as “Bicycle Pete,” or “Bicycle Bill.” He pedaled an antique red bike all over the area. He always carried “one of his mongrel dogs in the handlebar basket,” according to Time. He lived in the mountains, and had no friends. Most residents didn’t know that he’d spent 13 years in the Fairview State Hospital for the Criminally Insane. Or that he had theft, burglary, and escape convictions. Or that in the past two years, he’d shot at five people driving down the turnpike—he hit two. Or that he was a Peeping Tom.

After six days of the largest manhunt in the Pennsylvania’s history, FBI agent Terry Anderson spotted one of Hollenbaugh’s mongrels. He followed it up a steep ridge. Suddenly, a shot rang out. Anderson was dead before he hit the ground.

Like almost everyone in the nation, the Pennsylvania governor had been following the case. After Anderson was murdered, the governor called out the National Guard. The troops brought along armored personnel carriers, but in the heavy mountains they did little good.

Eight hundred men surrounded the area where Anderson had been shot. Since it was nearly dark, they decided to wait until daylight to continue the search.

Early the next morning, Cambria County Deputy Sheriff Francis Sharpe walked into the outbuilding of a farmhouse. A gunshot felled him. As he bled from a stomach wound, Hollenbaugh ordered Sharpe at gunpoint back to his car. The kidnapper forced Deputy Sharpe into the driver’s seat, then he and Peggy Ann climbed into the backseat.

“Drive,” the kidnapper said, pointing his rifle at Sharpe. The car traveled only a few hundred yards before it came to a cattle gap. It could go no further, so Hollenabugh jumped out, dragging Peggy Ann. They raced toward a farmhouse.

Fifteen-year-old Larry Rubeck was in the hay barn when he saw a car coming up the road. “I ran to the house and got the gun and yelled to my mother, ‘Hit the floor, Mom. That crazy mountain man is on the porch.’”

By this time, a group of state troopers had arrived and were taking positions around the house. Hollenbaugh pulled Peggy Ann up onto the porch. Larry’s shotgun was loaded with a “pumpkin ball,” a slug used for hunting deer. He aimed through a window and fired. The ball blew out Hollenbaugh’s carotid artery. He fell, but was able to squeeze off two errant shots. The troopers then unloaded on him.

Through the chaos, Peggy Ann broke free and fled into the arms of the only reporter on the scene. “Thank God, I’m safe,” she cried. The reporter, Scott Rombach of the Pittsburgh News, had the biggest scoop of his career.

Bicycle Pete suffered several gunshot wounds, but Larry Rubeck was credited with bringing down the kidnapper. “I’m a hunter,” he said. “I’ve killed animals, but I just don’t know how I feel about this...I’m glad the girl is all right and I’m glad it’s over.”

According to Dr. G. T. Lorentz, who examined Peggy Ann, the victim was not sexually assaulted. She spent a week in the hospital recovering from her ordeal. She told a harrowing tale of having been chained to trees at night while her abductor slept and hiding in caves during the day. She was led around with a dog-leash when they traveled. Later, a book was written about the case and a movie was made. A year later, Peggy Ann married and dropped into welcome anonymity.

Hollenbaugh “was a model inmate,” said Dr. John P. Shovelin, superintendent of the state mental hospital. “Shy, [he had] a strong sense of inadequacy, and [was] withdrawn. A troublemaker he was not...Hollenbaugh had what we call simple schizophrenia . This primarily is the type of person who withdraws from social contacts...”

After “the symptoms of his disease had been removed,” Hollenbaugh was sent back to prison where he was quickly released and began his reign of terror on the small community of Shade Gap.


Unknown said...

Larry Rubek was never credited with bringing down the mountain man. The state police would never admit that a 15 year old farm boy put an end to a vicious killer that they could not after 8 days. I grew up in that area and participated in the initial manhunt for Peggy Ann before Terry Anderson was killed and they only allowed police and national guard to finish the manhunt. Peggy Ann now lives outside of the town of Three Springs Pa no more than 15 miles from whee the kidnapping took place.

Unknown said...

I spoke with Peggy Ann last night and she said the mountain man was killed by police not Larry Rubek,she spoke in Shippensburg last night she is a very strong and beautiful woman inside and out.

tinat said...

Ballistic reports clearly showed that Hollenbaugh was killed by State Trooper Grant H. Mixell. I heard Mixell recount the whole episode in detail. I am his daughter.

9CirclesofHell said...

I'm interested in any first- or second-hand accounts of life inside Fairview Hospital for the Criminally Insane between the years 1967 and 1973. If you can help, please let me know at

Thank you!

the bro1 said...

I know her I live 9 miles from her she told me it was the scariest thing she ever encounterd.

Unknown said...

My father took a large search light to help with the search at night. Later years after he became a minister he officiated at the wedding of Peggy' s daughter in shade gap.

Unknown said...

I remember bicycle pete. When he came into town on his bicycle we were all to get up on our porches and not get off until he left. And when he kidnapped Peggy Ann all the parents started taking us kids to school. Noone walked without a grown up. Peggy ann was friends with the girl across from our cottage. We were all really scared for her. Somewhere we have the 45 record that was made called "8 days at shady gap"

Unknown said...

To the troopers daughter, the gun your dad was to use was my father in laws rifle he had the only one registered in the state that would do the job had he told you that? They came to the house to get it and some shells,he did not get to use it as we were told he was killed by the shot gun if i am correct.I never read the book but did watch the movie many years ago.He shot from a helicopter. I would really like to tell Peggy this if I knew how to reach her. You also :-)

Unknown said...

What was the movie called? I've read the book and would like to see more on this. I actually live about twenty or thirty miles south of Shady Gap in Franklin County.

Unknown said...

I have been trying to learn the exact location of Peggy Anne Bradnick's kidnapping and her home at the time. Everything I have read states "near Shade Gap". I travel Rt. 522 quite frequently through the area and would like to visit the exact location of the abduction.

Tracieann said...

Cry in the Wild; the Taking of Peggy Ann. 1991 I know it's been a couple years but, in case you didn't find it by now here it is.