Peggy Ann Bradnick recounts kidnapping
Survivor shares details at Sunday night event
REEDSVILLE – Kidnapping survivor Peggy Ann Jackson, formerly known as Peggy Ann Bradnick, shared her story at the Reedsville Evangelical Lutheran Church Sunday night.
Pastor Carla Volland introduced Jackson, comparing her story to that of Habakkuk, who continually asks God, “Why?”
Volland said experiencing pain, suffering and death are life lessons, and with God, one may approach them with confidence rather than fear.
“I don’t know why the Lord works the way He does,” Jackson continued.
She explained the events of her kidnapping and her thought process during the time.
William Hollenbaugh, of Mifflintown, was incarcerated for petty crimes from age 16 through 42. He attempted to escape jail several times but was caught and returned. After his final release from jail, Hollenbaugh found his way to Shade Gap. Jackson said she was not aware of anyone new coming to the area. She never spoke to him and never gave him a second glance.
“I learned quickly that he was deranged and unstable,” she said. “Some people just don’t get the same upbringing and nurturing, and I’ve forgiven him for that.”
Jackson said one day in 1966, when she was 17 years old, she got off the bus with her siblings and was held at gunpoint by Hollenbaugh, who forced her to accompany him to the woods. She said she was only wearing a red velvet jumper with little white sandals that were purchased at the hardware store in Mount Union.
After her abduction, Jackson said she could hear her father yelling for her, but she was unable to respond lest Hollenbaugh kill her.
“That was one of the hardest things, not being able to answer him,” she said. “We were always taught to answer our parents.” Jackson said she was terrified not only for herself but also for her family, as she was the primary caretaker of her five siblings after school. Both her parents worked.
“He had no communication skills,” Jackson said. “He used abusive and horrible language and was not someone to fight back to. He was a killer.”
She described him as animal-like. He spit in her face and physically abused her with smacks, punches and knife pokes, as well as kept her chained to him. Jackson said on the second day, Hollenbaugh removed his mask and became irate when she couldn’t identify him. She said she was severely beaten.
“I realized no one ever loved him or visited him in jail,” she reflected. “There was nothing or nobody to recognize that he was alive. What if no one loved you? Would you still be the same person?”
Throughout her eight days with Hollenbaugh, Jackson said she was taken to water to drink a handful of times. Hollenbaugh kept a grip on the back of her hair to lower her head into the water and decided when she had had enough. Jackson recalled being given peas from a can. Hollenbaugh placed peas on a knife blade and placed the knife blade down her throat, twisting it around.
“I could feel it moving,” she said. “He told me if I didn’t swallow he would cut off my head.”
Jackson said during her time with Hollenbaugh she enduring a lot of pain but learned a lot about herself.
“I felt God was testing me to find out where I was going as a young woman,” she said. “I heard voices after two days, and I prayed they were not voices from inside my own head. I had serious wounds but I felt no pain.” Jackson attributed the voices and the painless wounds to God’s power.
During their time together, Hollenbaugh forced Jackson to rob a house with him. Hollenbaugh took a gun and two apples, giving one to Jackson. She returned it, saying she could not eat it because it was not hers. The pair also stopped by Hollenbaugh’s cabin to feed his dogs. An officer assigned to watch the house was asleep in his vehicle, so he did not see them.
Over 1,000 people, including federal, state and local law enforcement; national guard and volunteers, were searching for Jackson. FBI agent Terry Anderson approached Hollenbaugh and Jackson six days into the abduction. Hollenbaugh fatally shot agent Anderson.
Shortly after, Hollenbaugh and Jackson happened upon Deputy Sheriff Francis Sharpe, who was emerging from a wash house. Hollenbaugh shot Sharpe in the stomach, then forced Sharpe to drive him and Jackson to the Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“There was blood everywhere,” Jackson said. “And [Hollenbaugh] wanted to go back to Mifflintown. I think we can agree that you can’t get to Mifflintown from the turnpike.”
Jackson said they were stopped by many officers in vehicles, with gunshots being fired.
She said the next thing she knew was that Hollenbaugh had her out of the car and clearing a fence leading to a field on a farm. While traversing the field, Hollenbaugh was shot by both Larry Rubeck, who lived on the farm, and by State Trooper Grant Mixell, whose shot was fatal. Jackson said the chain that tied her to Hollenbaugh disappeared. She received confirmation from multiple officers that they did, in fact, see a chain connecting her to Hollenbaugh.
“I believe, to this day, God took that chain and it freed me to start the life I am able to live today,” she said.
Jackson was treated for blistered feet and dehydration. She retraced the path of the abduction with the police two weeks after she was released from the hospital. Jackson also had a police escort to, from and during school until the school year ended three weeks later.
“I’ve never had nightmares or trouble sleeping,” she said. “I’ve never had counseling. Once God enters your life, you have no reason to fear. Everything will be good for you.”