Kidnapping victim tells her story

BELLWOOD – Peggy Ann Bradnick, now Jackson, said she only had one thing to eat during her eight-day-long 1966 kidnapping at the hands of William Hollenbaugh: three peas force-fed to her from a rusty knife.

Jackson said Hollenbaugh lined the peas up along the knife’s blade and forced it into her mouth.

“‘Swallow it, blue eyes, or you’ll die,’ he said,” Jackson told a crowd at the Bellwood-Antis Public Library on Monday night.

Mary Brunner, president of the Bellwood-Antis Historical Society, which hosted the talk, said she’s invited Jackson to Bellwood for three years in a row, and each year she hears something new about the famous kidnapping.

Jackson’s ordeal has been the source material for the 1991 film “Cry in the Wild: The Taking of Peggy Ann” and the song “Eight Days at Sha-De Gap.”

Brunner said Monday night’s crowd was the “largest ever” for the Historical Society’s evenings with Jackson.

Hollenbaugh kidnapped Jackson as soon as she got off the school bus in Shade Gap, Huntingdon County, on May 11, 1966. Hollenbaugh and the then-17-year-old spent eight days in the mountains near her hometown evading police.

Jackson said that Hollenbaugh, who was shot and killed by police to end the massive manhunt, sought to reach the Pennsylvania Turnpike and shoot at passersby.

When she asked him why he wanted to kill people, Hollenbaugh told her he thought other people were worthless, Jackson said.

“He said, ‘Dead is dead,'” Jackson said. “‘They’re just like animals, no different.'”

Hollenbaugh, known in the community as “The Bicycle Man” or “Bicycle Pete,” had “terrorized” the people of Shade Gap before her kidnapping, Jackson said, by robbing homes and shooting at residents. He told Jackson he’d spent three years watching her before taking her, she said.

And though he may have had murderous goals, Jackson said Hollenbaugh’s reasons for taking her were more innocent, and he never sexually assaulted her or even saw her without her clothes.

“This man was totally obsessed with having someone to be his friend,” Jackson said, “but the problem was that William Hollenbaugh didn’t know how to have a friend.”

Jackson said she holds no animosity toward Hollenbaugh for her eight-day captivity, but she said that she will never forget that he took life while she was with him. Hollenbaugh shot and killed all four of his dogs, she said, and on the fifth day after he kidnapped her, he killed FBI agent Terry Anderson.

Though she didn’t have it easy after the kidnapping – she lost her father and her first husband to cancer – Jackson said she is thankful that the ordeal strengthened her belief in God.

“Sometimes tragedy brings more tragedy down the road,” Jackson said, “but it also brings you closer to God.”

Mirror Staff Writer Paige Minemyer is at 946-7535.