Three Babes In The Woods

Three Babes In The Woods Marker
near the intersection of Pine Tree Drive & Centerville Road (Route 233)
Newville, Pennsylvania
submitted by: “wendyvee”

For parts of my junior and senior years in college, I tended bar at a little mountaintop bar/seafood restaurant called Kahler’s Pine Tree Inn (sadly it burned down some time ago – I really wish that I had some pictures of it). I passed this marker every day on my way to work and often thought about the three little girls who had lost their lives in such tragic circumstances.

On November 24, 1934 three girls [Norma Sedgewick Noakes, 12, Dewilla Noakes, 10, and Cordelia Noakes, 8] were found by local men out scavenging for wood. The girls had been suffocated about 50 feet from the side of the road and left under a battered green blanket. The discovery soon became a local sensation as citizens and law enforcement became obsessed with identifying the children and their murderer.

In the midst of the Great Depression, the father of the girls, Elmo J. Noakes, and his young niece, Winifred Pierce, traveled across the country from Roseville, California with the girls in tow. They were looking for work and a better place to live. That quest ended in desperation. Money and food were scarce and it is believed that Mr. Noakes smothered the starving children (the girls were emaciated and likely hadn’t eaten regularly for quite some before their deaths). Police believed that the girls had been killed on or around November 21st. A brief time after the discovery of the girls, the bodies of Elmo and Winifred were found several counties west of this site — the apparent perpetrator and victim of a a murder/suicide.

Local press reported that several hundred people attended a memorial service and funeral for the girls. Ewing Brothers Funeral Home (which is still in operation in nearby Carlisle, Pennsylvania) donated its services and the Carlisle Post of the American Legion arranged the burial of the sisters at Carlisle’s Westminster Cemetery. Their father and aunt are buried in the same cemetery.

The site where the “Three Babes” were discovered

As with other shocking crimes throughout history, there were (and continue to be) conflicting dates, motivations, and details surrounding the deaths of the little girls. When I worked at the bar, I heard various versions of the story (some wildly embellished) and the accompanying ghost stories that develop as tragedies fade fade over the decades from being news to becoming legend.


>   A version of the The Babes In The Woods story at “Pennsylvania Jack”

>   Images of the grave site via “Find A Grave”

>   Images of a Nebraska newspaper piece near the time of the discovery