Interactive Dinner-Theater Revisits 1911 Trial

WHEELING — An interactive dinner-theater event will recreate the 1911 trial of Laura Farnsworth Schenk, a Wheeling woman charged with poisoning her wealthy husband.

The dinner-theater program will be held at Centre Cup Coffee, 2201 Market St., beginning at 6 p.m. Feb. 23. Seating is limited; reservations are required. For more information and reservations, call Centre Cup Coffee at 304-233-0085.

Local researchers Judi Hendrickson and Jeanne Finstein have studied records of the trial, finding newspaper reports from around the country and as far away as New Zealand. They have taken key excerpts from trial reports to stage an evening that will give attendees a glimpse into Wheeling’s society life during a golden era. As nearly as possible, actual testimony — as reported in the newspaper — will be used.

The actual trial lasted more than three weeks, so testimony has been consolidated. Those attending the dinner will be given scripted roles as witnesses or will serve as jurors, deciding the fate of the accused — the wife of Wheeling pork-packer millionaire John Schenk.

Mrs. Schenk’s trial was held in Wheeling in January 1911. It was called “the most famous of all cases ever tried in any court in West Virginia.”

Banner headlines in the local paper began a few weeks before the trial. Headlines in the Wheeling Register on Nov. 10, 1910 read, “Wife Charged with Poisoning Husband, Who May Not Live” and “Most Sensational Crime in the History of the State Alleged Against Mrs. Laura Farnsworth Schenk.”