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The Strange Case of Dr. Schoeppe by Mark Podvia

What started out as a thesis paper for a Masters, turned out to become great material for Author Mark Podvia to use in a historical non-fiction book detailing the strange case of Dr. Paul Schoeppe. In the beginning of the lecture, Mark read the first two paragraphs in his introduction so as to give us all an overview of the general case. And, when a librarian does the research, you can bet that it will done thoroughly!

Going way back to King Henry VIII, it has been documented that his punishment for poisoning another human was to be boiled to death in either a large pot of bubbling wine or water. Where does this fact play into our story? In a time era when doctors were not held in high regard, one of the very seldom good comments on their profession being from Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr., many of them were called to testify for both sides of the court case involving Paul Schoeppe. And the poison he may or may not have administered.

What happened to cause such an international spectacle resulting in the Prussian Minister having a conversation with the Governor of Pennsylvania? It all goes back to a wealthy woman who died in Carlisle and was under the care of a German immigrant doctor by the name of Dr. Paul Schoeppe when she met her maker. Nothing much was second guessed on the death of an ill seventy year old woman. That was, until the doctor tried passing off a check supposedly written out by his deceased patient. And later, when Schoeppe produced a will written in his own hand claiming that he was the sole beneficiary.

Mark Podvia giving his talk on the case.


Thirteen days after she passed, the woman's body was exhumed in the cemetery located in Maryland and an autopsy was conducted upon her body. The discovery of prussic acid in her stomach prompted an investigation and ultimately, into the arrest of the doctor.

The trial was held in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania where the seat of legal power resides in the small town of Carlisle. Being modeled after the original county and seat located in England, it is safe to say that our local town left a lasting imprint on the doctor after he had a residency stay in the prison from 1869 to 1872. Despite the fact that the Commonwealth presented a sloppily prepared case against the defendant, the jury indited Dr. Paul Schoeppe for "murder in the first degree." One would think that a conviction, presided over by Hon. James H. Graham, and an official approval for his death warrant from the state's Attorney General and Governor, that is was the end of the line for Schoeppe. But that is only half the story.

Where did all of Schoeppe's support come from in his great time of need? Did he really commit the murder of the wealthy woman in Carlisle? And perhaps, the biggest mystery of all...what truly happened to Dr. Paul Schoeppe? (I will give you a hint: that was not the only name he went by!)

Discover the strange and bizarre case that not only gave a small town in Pennsylvania international fame for a brief spell, but also one who's implications are still felt to this day within our legislature. If you are interested in history, weird true-life scenarios, and a bit of local mysteries dating back to the civil war era, then this is the book for you!

The book is available to purchase through our online store and also in our physical shop during our business hours.

We were delighted to have Mark Podvia come up from West Virginia to give this talk on our first PROMM night since the end of COVID's terrible reign. Thanks again to Mark for a great evening that was engaging, jaw dropping, and so well informative! We look forward to seeing you again soon.


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