March 16 - March 19 , 2023

Interview | Appalachian – James Wosochlo

fdiff March 30, 2022 7 min read



James Wosochlo is a passionate historian from Pennsylvania. He has a love for all things outdoors and now resides in Colorado. James has added local historical facts into each chapter of Appalachian. He has authored the book  “Appalachian: Schaumboch’s Tavern”, a novel based on America’s first Undocumented Serial Killer. The film Appalachian is based on that book.


James, The content instantly reminds its viewers of “The Silence of the Lambs’ “. Matthias Schaumboch is very much like Hannibal as they both are attracted towards human flesh. What do you think of cannibalism in modern times?

Writing the novel Appalachian instantly reminded me of Hannibal Lecter, a methodical serial killer whom of which well thought out his murders but was an insane individual.  The novel reminds me of two films. “Silence of the Lambs” and “The Revenant”.  Living outwest for a short time, I noticed a local crime of modern day cannibalism in Manassa, Colorado of 2021.  The individual and acomplesces murdered five individuals and barried them, eating parts of 3 woman victims. It was a horrible crime pressed by drugs and the thought was to absorb the power from the victims. Sad fact is that in the past and even today about cannibalism, one reason was to perform cannibalism to survive grave starvation.  The second and most common of today is to somehow in belief of absorbing the power, or power over a victim that is cannibalized. 


How much of the source was available? How tough was it to collect the data?

There was actually a number of source materials found in small amounts in local historical books and records.  Mathias was never caught and admitted his murders on his death bed when dieing of dementia.  Only later when the property was sold, did the next owners find the remains of many victims in the drinking water wells. Margaret Schaumboch stated she had no knowledge of the crimes and no evidence was found to connect her to them.  So, in the late 1800’s, such crimes were swept under the rug and forgotten.  Being a historian, I came across the story and was amazed this happened so close to where I grew up. I am actually very surprised to be the first individual to write a novel about Mathias. It was extremely fun to do. 


James, which part of the film did you enjoy shooting the most?

The water well scene, when William Turner (Actor Andros Spears) discovered the well was full of human skulls and some human bones. One could imagine the shock of realizing the rumors he heard growing up as a boy were actually true. And he was the individual to discover the truth and was responsible to bring that to the world.  Gives me goosebumps to think of the feeling he had when he first saw the skulls.


How was the experience of shooting Appalachian?

It was fun to shoot Appalachian on my family farm.  I hand made the well with my wife and son the day prior to shooting and I have knowledge of that time in history to know how to use the long rifle and tools of that time. I actually had so much fun shooting it,


James, you also played Matthias in the film. How was the experience?

A true fact is that Mathias was a large man and an intimidating looking one. Research revealed he would run out of the tavern and yell at onlookers or people passing by.  Apparently dementia was setting in earlier in his life before his death.  I wanted to play the part because it was hard to find an actor to put themselves in that frame of mind Mathias was in. Writing the novel, I found myself acting out parts in my mind to write events happening in the novel.  I researched the history and I was about his size, so it felt right to play the part.  It was fun, very fun.  I wanted potential readers to see the same man in the Book Short Film that was portrayed in the novel.


James, you seem to be a very adventurous person. Tell us how those adventures inspire you to go on?

True, I am adventurous, I lived and grew up in the forest of Pennsylvania.  As a boy I fished and collected native artifacts as I farmed the property three miles from the actual location of the tavern in the novel.  I enjoy the outdoors, nature and exploring new places.  I also have knowledge of outdoor survival and those skills helped me tremendously to write the many ways an individual could meet their demise in the wilderness in the novel. In each chapter is actual true history and historical facts.  Examples are snake oil remedy medicine, poisonous and edible mushrooms, dentistry of that time and gold teeth fillings, local problems with the local Irish organized crime of the coal mines referred to as the Molly Mcquires, etc.  I was able to interject this into the novel being an historian.


 It’d be great if you could tell us what’s the difference between writing a book and directing a movie?

Writing the novel Appalachian was fun to see the film in my mind being written out on paper.  When it came to directing the film, I already had the images in my mind that fit the images I had when I wrote the novel so it was easy to direct.  The one thing about Appalachian if film rights are sold, It would be nice to say or hear from those who read the novel and see the film to say, “The book is just as good as the film”.  Many times I hear how fans of famous authors state that, “The book is better than the film.”  And that is because a director sees or portrays a different image then a author and or does not have detailed information which takes away from a story when converted to film.   It was like I already lived it writing the novel and now I need to have the actors relive it when directing Appalachian. 


Which quality of this story attracted you to make a movie about him? Why Matthias Schaumboch of all people?

In 1850 to 1859, Matthias was America’s first serial killer, however he was able to get away with his crimes and was never caught by authorities.  Matthias admitted this on his death bed and these crimes went undocumented and pasted into history.  H.H. Holmes was the first documented serial killer and he commited his crimes in 1898.  This was the perfect opportunity to write a novel based on true events that no other author had ever done. Matthias Schaumboch was America’s first UNDOCUMENTED serial killer.   The only two items in the novel that are fictionual is the son “Ben” I made up because there was no records of Mathias and Margaret having children and the methods of the murders because Mathias did not document how he murdered his victims. The research came from locals at that time that accounted for the rumors and some of the remains found down the water wells of which were bones, some butchered and cooked. 


Lastly James, I’d like to know, after Matthias Schaumboch, which intriguing character do you wish to explore next?

I would like to explore Jacob Gerhardt, He was the individual that built Schaumboch’s Tavern in 1789. He was a survivor of the French Indian Wars in the 1750’s of which his entire family was slaughtered by raiding natives fighting for the French against the British. As a boy he grew up in the valley below on the family farm and was able to escape the slaughter by hiding under his bed and escaping out a window as the home was burning down around him.  Jacob made it to the neighboring farm where he was taken in by fortified settlers along the Appalachian Trail.  After the war, Jacob returned to the family farm but was never right mentally after the massacre of his family.  He built the tavern and secluded himself from society after that occurrence, finally living like a lonely hermit there after.  The tavern was sold to another owner prior to Mathias and Margaret Schaumboch who bought the property in 1850.  This Novel will be a prequel to Appalachian. “The Bloody Summer of 1752”

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