The Ghost at The Funeral
by Lou Bernard
It’s almost a cliché in ghost stories: The ghost appears after his own death to point the finger at his murderer. Though it’s been done a million times, it makes an exciting story.
It’s even more exciting as an actual historical event, one that happened in a place nearby.
Let me tell you about the ghost of Vincent James Sesto.
Sesto was a railroad employee who lived in Mill Hall. He had a wife, and a friend named Frank Dominick who rented a room from them. On January 13, 1905, Sesto stood up from dinner and announced he was going for a walk.
A few hours later, the conductor of a railroad train spotted something lying on the tracks. He thought it was a bundle of some sort, and stopped the train to look it over, and get it off the tracks.
It turned out to be the body of Vincent James Sesto, covered in blood.
Initially, he was thought to have been hit by a train. When the coroner opened his shirt and found three bullet holes, the police went back to take a further look. They found traces of blood on the ground, and a handkerchief with the letter F on it.
Sesto had been a popular man in the Italian community in the county. Many Italians flooded into his funeral, which was held at the Saint Agnes Church in Lock Haven.
The Clinton Republican reported on the funeral, and the odd things that happened there. They did it very matter-of-factly, as if they dealt with possible paranormal activity all the time. They said,”Several incidents occurred in the church and at the burial of James Sesto that aroused their suspicions.”
The paper reported,”As the casket was being carried out of the church a small cross dropped from the altar to the floor. This was followed a few seconds later by one of the iron pillars supporting the gallery toppling over.”
Most shocking of all, when they got to the cemetery, they began lowering the casket into the grave. One of the straps wound around the leg of a pallbearer, almost dragging him into the grave. “That pall bearer was Frank Dominick, who, it is said, insisted upon being one of the pall bearers,” reported the Republican.
It appeared very much that the ghost of Sesto was pointing at Frank Dominick. This was about all the evidence that the local people needed to accuse Dominick of the murder of Sesto. The Italian friends and family demanded that Dominick be arrested. The police had somewhat stronger evidence, and took Dominick to jail. When they searched the house, they found a small gun, and a shoe and undershirt covered with blood. They also found that Dominick had a deep cut on one hand.
Dominick refused to speak to the police—He only spoke Italian, so the police hired an interpreter, but it was pointless. Dominick refused to talk, and hired local attorney W.C. Kress. At the end of January, the hearing was held in front of Alderman E.K. Parsons, in a room crowded with local Italians. Kress argued that the handkerchief could have been anyone’s, as long as they had an F in their name. He argued that the blood could have come from Dominick himself, from his wound—DNA hadn’t been invented yet.
Most damaging to the case, Sesto’s wife testified in Dominick’s favor. She said that he’d been cutting wood when he’d hurt his hand, and that’s where the blood came from.
Dominick was released, due to lack of evidence.
The ghost of Vincent James Sesto never did get his justice. Frank Dominick left town, and the killer was never sent to prison. Sesto is still buried in Saint Agnes Cemetery.
And his ghost may still be at large. Never having received the revenge he demanded, Sesto’s restless spirit may still be haunting the lonely grave, crying out for his killer’s punishment.