Dark In The Park

 

DREAMLAND PARK

 

Dreamland Park was a small amusement park located on Pricetown Road in Ruscombmanor Township, Pennsylvania.  It closed in the 1950s, although remains of the park still exist.  The park, which was a short drive from Reading, was operated by Ralph Kreitz, a man who ran many illegal gaming establishments in the 30s and 40s.  

Dreamland Park was very small and only featured a band theater, a roller rink, a midget car race track, a few rides and picnic groves.  More important to the locals were the card games and gambling devices that Kreitz had set up in the park's clubhouse.

The Fleetwood Historical Museum has a Dreamland Park souvenir plate in its collection.  The museum is located in the old Fleetwood High School and is open Monday and Friday mornings till noon.

Although I have researched this park extensively, I have been unable to locate any pictures of the park while it was in operation.  I also have been unable to find the exact date in which it opened, although I believe it to be in the early 30s.  

Click on the thumbnails below to see aerial photographs of Dreamland Park from the late 60s.  Although these pictures were taken several years after the park had been closed, most of the buildings are still intact.  The source of the photographs is unknown.  

Park Buildings

Race Track

Carousel Building

Locally, the park is still remembered for two gruesome murders that took place there after it closed.  On August 13th of 1969, two teens, Marilyn H. Sheckler, 18, of Westmoreland County and Glenn W. Eckert, 20, of Robesonia, were murdered in the woods surrounding the park by two members of the Pagan motorcycle gang.

[Marilyn Sheckler] [Glenn Eckert]
Marilyn H. Sheckler, left and Glenn Eckert, right.  These pictures were published in the Reading Eagle newspaper after their bodies were discovered.

The couple had driven to a location along Skyline Drive that overlooks Reading, PA during the early morning hours of August 13th.  It was there that two Pagan gang members entered Eckert's car and forced him to drive to a train station in Leesport.  They then abandoned Eckert's car and forced the two into a box truck owned by the motorcycle gang.  It was in the truck that the two gang members along with two other gang members took turns raping the girl as they drove around the dark Pricetown roads.  At approximately 2 a.m., the four gang members returned to Dreamland Park and forced the two teens into the woods.  Just inside the woods, Eckert was shot to death and Sheckler was beaten to death in the head with a rock.  The bodies were hastily covered by rocks and debris by the gang members.  

[searching park for evidence]
The Pennsylvania state police using a mine-detector to search for evidence around the location where the bodies of the two teens were found.  This picture was published in the Reading Eagle.

On October 23rd of 1969, the police finally found the bodies of the teens in the woods around the park after an exhaustive search.  The case went to trial in 1970 and two of the bikers, Leroy S. Stoltzfus Jr., 21,  and Robert Martinolich, 22, were convicted of murdering the teens during two separate trials.  Stoltzfus and Martinolich both received life sentences in separate state prisons.  On March 28, 2010,  Leroy Stoltzfus died at the Select Specialty Hospital at Conemaugh Memorial Medical Center in Johnstown.   Stoltzfus was 61 and had served 40 years in prison.  Officials said that he had been hospitalized for a lengthy period prior to his death and died from natural causes.  Robert Martinolich is still serving his life sentence at the State Correctional Institution - Laurel Highlands in Somerset, PA. He is 63 years old

[Martinolich and Stoltzfus]

Robert Martinolich, left, and Leroy S. Stoltzfus Jr., right, being escorted to their preliminary arraignment by police officers.  They were eventually convicted of the murder of Glenn Eckert and Marilyn Sheckler.  This picture was published in the Reading Eagle.

The other two bikers who were involved, James M. Eways and Harlin E. Bailey, were not charged for the murders because they turned state evidence against Stoltzfus and Martinolich.  They were, however, charged for raping Sheckler, but the charges were eventually dropped because the prosecutor did not have enough evidence to go to trial.  

[Eways and Bailey]
James M. Eways, left, and Harlan Bailey, right, at the time of the Dreamland Park murders.  They took part in the abduction of Glenn Eckert and Marilyn Sheckler and the rape of Sheckler, but were not charged because they turned state evidence against Martinolich and Stoltzfus.  This picture was published in the Reading Eagle.

After reading many newspaper articles describing the accounts of the trial, I am uncertain of who actually murdered the two teens.  Although Stoltzfus and Martinolich were convicted, they both denied killing the teens.  They accused Eways and Bailey as being the actual murderers.  There was no physical evidence to link any one of the bikers as being the actual murderer and the only witnesses were the bikers themselves.  It was essentially one biker's word against the other.  

[current pic of Eways]

Current picture of James M. Eways published in the Reading Eagle during his 1996 murder trial.

James Eways eventually did do some time in State prison for an unrelated incident that occurred in the mid-nineties.  After the Dreamland Park incident, Eways became a prominent businessman in the Reading area and was president of Mast Engineering Inc. located on Fifth and Walnut Streets.  In the early nineties, Eways moved into a former chapel converted into a house located in Wernersville.  The area of his home was the source of local folklore and frequently attracted teenage curiosity seekers.  In the early morning hours of June 15th, 1996, five teens were driving up and down the street outside Eways' home shouting threats and obscenities.  The teens also shined a flashlight into Eways' windows as they drove by.  Eways eventually came out of his house with a .357 Magnum and fired two shots.  One shot went through the passenger window of the teens' car and hit 17 year old Michael A. Abate, III in the head.  The teen died about 20 hours later in the hospital.

[Michael A. Abate, III]

Michael A. Abate, III, 17, Ephrata, died one day before his 18th birthday after being shot by James M. Eways.  This picture was published in the Reading Eagle.

At first, Eways denied shooting the teen, but eventually he confessed to firing the fatal shot.  He was arrested and charged with first and third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter, involuntary manslaughter, aggravated assault, simple assault and recklessly endangering another person.  Eways defense was that he only wanted to scare the teens and his gun accidentally went off.  The case finally went to trial in September of 1996.  The trial was moved to Erie, PA at the request of Eways' attorney because of pretrial publicity in Berks County and because many people still associated Eways with the Dreamland Park murders.  On October 1st, 1996, after seven hours of deliberations, the Erie County Court jury acquitted Eways of first and third-degree murder, voluntary manslaughter and aggravated assault.  He was convicted of involuntary manslaughter and five counts of recklessly endangering another person.  Eways was ordered to state prison for 2-to-5 years as a result of the verdict, the maximum sentence for involuntary manslaughter.  The judge allowed Eways to remain free on $500,000 bail pending an appeal of his conviction, but Eways was imprisoned September 3, 1998 when his appeals were exhausted.  Eways spent the entire five years in prison and was released in September of 2003.  He currently lives in the same Wernersville house in which the shooting occurred.

[James Eways]
James M. Eways after his 1995 arraignment for the murder of Michael Abate.  This picture, taken by John A. Secoges, was published in the Reading Eagle.

Nancy DiSanta, a former Berk's County resident, sent us several pictures of Dreamland Park from August of 1992.  Although some of the buildings had collapsed, several remains were still identifiable.  Click on the picture below to look at her photos.

[1992 Dreamland Park pictures]

In the summer of 2004, I took a trip to the site of Dreamland Park to see what remains.  The property was owned by someone who rents out some of the buildings for housing.  Next to the rental properties was the woods which still contained many of the original structures from the park.  Because I had not seen any pictures of the park when it was operating, I was unable to tell what the different buildings were.  The park was very eerie and many strange insect noises could be heard.  Here are some pictures that I took during that visit to Dreamland Park.

Please note that many of the buildings in the park are in a dangerous state of deterioration and that the owner has several "no trespassing" signs posted.  Also, the various tenets living across from the park will call the police if they see any sightseers.  For these reasons, we discourage any trips to the park.

[park road sign]
The Dreamland Park Drive sign that marks the entrance to the park along Pricetown Road.
[park entrance road]
The road that leads into the park.
[park building]
One of the old park buildings.  I'm unsure what was inside this building.
[park building]
One of the larger park buildings.  This was the theater that showcased local country bands.
[park building]
The remains of the carousel house.
[inside of park building]
Inside the carousel house.  As you can see, the roof has collapsed.  According to a local resident, the roof collapsed as a result of a large snow storm in 1996.  3 1/2 feet of snow was too much for the old structure to support.
[inside of park building]
Another picture of the inside of the carousel.  Many of the buildings were built with these glass blocks.
[orbs of light]
After getting back home from my trip to Dreamland Park, I looked at the pictures I took on my digital camera only to find this odd picture in-between some of the other pictures of the buildings.  My digital camera displays a preview of each picture after the shutter release is pressed, so I should have remembered taking this shot, but I didn't.  It just somehow mysteriously appeared with the other pictures.  It appears to be two orbs of light....possibly a sign from Marilyn Sheckler and Glenn Eckert. 

 

A book was recently published about the Dreamland Park murders and the Michael Abate slaying.  It features a photograph from our website on the cover.  Click for more details.

 

[Dreamland Park Murders]

 

If you have any information or pictures of Dreamland Park, please email us.  We would love to add some more content to this article.

 

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2004 Dark in the Park.  This site was created by Bill and Seph Cherkasky.