This will be an ever evolving story as so many people continue to stop by and share stories about this “interesting” woman who was the last person to live in the home. I love to hear stories about her so if you have one, please feel free to share. I will have more blogs throughout that cover some of the stories in more detail. Trust me, some of them are roll on the floor funny and some are a little spooky…
Whenever we hear stories from long time locals of the Littleton area most refer to Airlie/Samuel T. Thorne house as instead, “Bianca Brown’s house”. Bianca was the last person to live in the house (and some locals say haunts it) and from what I can best tell she left in the early 90s. The stories that go with her and this house are often “weird”, always comical and most even a little sinister. so I find it easy to believe what was said in that, “She will be remembered for her “larger than life” personality”. We have been told she was a holocaust survivor. I am mostly German and studied German for 6 years so that fascinated me and made me want to learn more about her, and bot did I learn more…
According to her obituary in the Lake Gaston Gazette, Bianca Brown passed January 8th 2013 after a brief illness. From what I have read online, it seemed she had emphysema prior to passing.
Ms. Bianca M. Brown, a longtime resident of Airlie, N.C., and more recently, Virginia Beach, Va., and Boynton Beach, Fla., peacefully passed away Tuesday, Jan. 8, following a brief illness.
Ms. Brown immigrated to the United States from Germany, becoming a U.S. citizen in 1957. Following her careers in the arts, business and journalism, she moved to North Carolina’s beautiful countryside.
In a side note from her obituary, I found it interesting that “Ms. Brown also had a great concern for the education of young people in Halifax County” and that the memorials were directed to be sent to Heifer International (ending hunger and poverty) and The Salvation Army. I will write more on that connection to my life in another blog post.
I learned from several people that her first husband was a military veteran and I am still trying to wrap my head around his “suicide” death, as the stories are certainly all over the board. For those curious, his death was by hanging and not in the house, it was from a tree near the rear of the property. We have spoken with one of the rescue workers and a family member of another rescue worker who removed him from the tree. 😱
There are rumors that float around that she may or may not have had another husband who ended in a similar fate, but I am still piecing those stories together.
Where it gets interesting (as though it wasn’t already interesting) is that she eventually married a man by the name of Frank Wetzel, one of America’s longest-serving inmates, who eventually died in prison in 2012, just before Bianca’s death. Frank Wetzel, who was best known for the 1957 murder of Highway Patrol troopers W.L. Reese and J.T. Brown, served two life sentences. Even at that time, with less media coverage, his trial was said to have had over 800 daily attendees. Once described by a North Carolina corrections officer as “the most potentially dangerous convict in the entire state prison system,” Wetzel died, aged 90, of Alzheimer’s Disease. His brother William, a “new York mobster” convicted of a prison murder, went to the gas chamber in Mississippi two months after the Reese-Brown killings. I put links to some of the news stories about him below.
Decades after his conviction for the murders, while Wetzel was incarcerated, a reporter from the Daily Journal named Jeff Holland met a lady named Bianca who came into the Daily Journal to pick up newspapers. She told Holland she had placed a display ad to collect information about Wetzel that could help him be freed. She called herself Wetzel’s daughter, but as time went by Holland learned that she was involved with Wetzel and later married him despite him being sentenced to life behind bars.
Bianca Brown-Wetzel, who married Frank Wetzel while in prison in 1982. She said in interviews and media articles I have read that she had spent over $100,000 trying to free him. It seems from the condition of the house that she focuses all her efforts and finances on working to free her husband. We have heard several stories about times that her and her daughter (Wetzel’s step-daughter) would chain themselves to a tree in the front yard and have hunger protests to gather awareness for their cause.
How she was rumored to have funded his defense is entirely another story needing it’s own blog and more confirmation, but boy or boy, Bianca’s sure left her mark on the community and thoughts of her still put a smile on many of their faces. Even if the smile is an awkward, we might still be afraid of her grin, the stories always come with a chuckle or even a belly laugh.
One common thread is a lot of dogs ended up being found by her that she kept in her dog pen and would call the owners to retrieve. She also had a pretty interesting evening wear collection she liked to answer the door, a healthy supply of pistols and she liked to invite men in for whiskey. 😱 I’ve decided if she’s still haunting the place, she makes great built-in security!
Stories about Frank Wetzel, last known husband to Bianca Brown-Wetzel
1957 Murders Leave Lingering Mystery Despite a Conviction : Justice: Frank Wetzel is either a cold-blooded killer or a political prisoner. Or is he? There are at least three ways to look at this case.