The Strange Attacks on the Kongsle Family

Kongsle Family Mystery
During the evening of September 2nd, 1959, Alberta Bowman was bringing an apple pie over to her friend and neighbor 62-year-old widow Pearl Kongsle. When she arrived at Kongsle’s porch she noticed a brown paper bag with a straw sticking upwards out of it. She attempted to pick it up, but found it to be heavy and left it be.   Bowman did notice the sound of something inside of it rolling as she lifted. She told Kongsle about the item and Kongsle and another friend, Edith Friedman, went to look at it. The ladies stared at the package for nearly a minute before it suddenly exploded. Kongsle was killed instantly and the other two ladies received minor wounds from the blast.

The police had little to go on. Three weeks before the tragedy several sticks of dynamite had been found lying around the yard at Pearl’s brother-in-law Elmer and Johanna Kongsle’s’s home. The investigators there found no blasting caps or fuses to go along with the sticks.

Adding to the mystery is the fact that Elmer’s daughter Betty and her husband Maj. Robert Baker were poisoned to death at an Army hospital about eight months prior to Pearl’s sudden end. Botulism from a recent Mexican vacation was at first blamed, but the food was tested and was clean – plus their children had eaten it as well and suffered no ill effects.

The only lead the police could go on was Pearl’s neighbor telling them that three boys had sped away from neighborhood shortly after the “bomb” went off at the Kongsle’s. The crime scene left little actual residue from the explosive, and TNT, gunpowder and dynamite sticks were ruled out as possible materials used. Nitrate was found on the women’s clothing, which investigators linked to possibly having been extracted from dynamite. The rest of the explosive device was destroyed in the blast, minus three small pieces of glass that may have been part of the explosive.

The investigators never solved this case, and it remains cold in the backlog files of the Seattle police department.

Pearl Harbor Horror
Battleship USS West Virginia sunk and burning at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. In background is the battleship USS Tennessee.

The attack on Pearl Harbor has spawned hundreds of books, dozens of movies and remains a pivotal moment in American history. Three of the men who survived the initial attack of the Hawaiian islands went on to succumb to death in an unfathomable manner. Ronald Endicott, Clifford Olds and Louis “Buddy” Costin were all on the U.S.S. West Virginia when Japanese ammunition and explosives bombarded it. The ship sustained severe damage and ended up sinking into the muddy banks of Pearl Harbor. Fires burned from it for the next 30 hours. The sunken ship was pouring out oil and that caused the waters to be too unstable to risk any sort of rescue effort for the men who remained trapped on board. If anyone survived the bombing, they were now underwater and most, if not all, were believed to be dead.

Rescue and clean up crews patrolling the area began to hear banging coming from the ship. At first they thought it was just loose rigging being whipped into the ship’s hull from the wind. The following morning it became obvious that men were still alive and signaling for help, entombed in a dark metal hell. The men on the surface knew the situation was helpless. If they cut a hole to get to the men the ship would flood and the men would drown. If a torch were used to slice open the ship, then the oily water would most certainly start up ablaze once more.

The marines on duty could not bear to hear the banging. Even those trained to endure battle did not want to imagine what the men below were going through. The banging went on for hours on end at times. The men on duty during the quiet evenings had it the worst, as they had few distractions from the sounds compared to the hustling daytime clean up efforts.

It would not be until six-months later that the U.S.S. West Virginia was breached. Inside, the salvage crew found the room where the three men had managed to survive in. Flashlight batteries were scattered around the room, as were empty ration containers. The three bodies left one final clue to their last days as a calendar was marked off showing the men defied the odds for sixteen days before dying.

The Navy never told their families what happened to them. It took other soldiers to spread their story. Some of the men’s siblings found the story to be so disheartening that they never subjected their own parents to the truth. Two of the men were buried in Hawaii. Olds’ body was returned to his home on the mainland and buried there. All of their headstones state their death as being on December 7th, 1941.

One of the men’s brothers enlisted in the Navy after finding out about their sibling’s fate. He ended up serving in the same fleet as the U.S.S. West Virginia once it was patched up and commissioned for battle once again.

The salvage crews also found a watch in Costin’s locker and figured out it had been earmarked for his mother. Despite the watch being broken and waterlogged the Navy sent it to her anyway as a keepsake. Mrs. Costin had it repaired and wore it for the next forty-plus years until she died in 1985.

Thanks for reading! I’ll be back with more cases soon!

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Written by Andrew Lutzke

The grumpy old man of, lover of wrasslin' and true crimes.

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