Fascinating True Stories From the Flip Side of History

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Mother Loans Her Son to a Stranger

On March 5, 1924, Mrs. Ralph Hall of Big Run, Pennsylvania, went to nearby Clearfield, which lies approximately 25 miles (40.2 km) to the east of Big Run. Mrs. Hall had recently lost a child and desperately wished to adopt another child, so she first went to the County Commissioner’s office in Clearfield, who referred her to the local children’s home.

There she met Mrs. Florence Parker, an assistant at the home. Mrs. Hall told Mrs. Parker that her son 4-year-old Billy bore a strong resemblance to the son that she had lost. Mrs. Hall would spend the remainder of the day playing with young Billy and at the end of the day made a highly unusual request: she asked Mrs. Parker if she could borrow Billy for a few days. Surprisingly, Mrs. Parker agreed to loan out her son.

The deal was quite simple: Mrs. Hall would take Billy back to Big Run with her and then Mrs. Parker would follow a few days later to meet up with them, stay a few days at the Hall home, and then take Billy back home.

Yet, a couple of days after Billy left with Mrs. Hall, Mrs. Parker began to feel as if she had made a terrible decision. An investigation was made and it was soon learned that all of the references that Mrs. Hall had provided were real, but there was one big problem: None of them had ever heard of Mrs. Hall.

Billy Parker had been kidnapped.

A search for the missing boy was soon underway. Billy’s uncle, Dean Reed, was able to trace the kidnappers and Billy to various points within the state, all within a 50-mile (80.5 km) radius of Billy’s Clearfield home. DuBois, Reynoldsville, Indiana, Brookville, and Punxsutawney. At one point, they were sighted in Cleveland, Ohio.

On Saturday, August 9, 1924, five months after Billy had been kidnapped, uncle Dean Reed received a tip that a couple and a young child had been staying at a hunting camp in the mountains of Rockton. After Reed spotted the couple, they were arrested and they lead Reed up into the mountains where he spotted Billy carrying a bundle of wood. Mrs. Hall’s father, Cyrus Fausey, had been watching the boy and was also arrested. All three suspects were placed in the Clearfield jail.

Mrs. Hall’s husband Frank – not Ralph – claimed that the couple had separated four years earlier, after which Mrs. Hall, whose first name was Florence, gave birth to a baby. When the couple reunited, Mrs. Hall told her husband that young Billy was the child that she had given birth to. He claimed that they had taken to the mountains a few weeks prior not to hide but to pick berries and sell them.

On September 30, Florence and Frank Hall were both found guilty of kidnapping. Mrs. Hall received the most severe sentence: an indefinite period of detention at the State Industrial Home at Muncy. Mr. Hall was sent to Western Penitentiary to serve a 3-½ to 7-year term. Cyrus Fausey was released, believing that he had no knowledge of the kidnapping.

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