Mar 04, 2020 I Paul Seaburn

A Mysterious Unexplained Smell Has Returned to Pennsylvania

Elton John sings of living and breathing Philadelphia freedom, but residents of Delaware Country, Pennsylvania – which borders Philadelphia – are chokingly humming “The Bitch is Back” and the bitch in this case is a mysterious stench that comes and goes without warning, baffling officials as nose-holding Pennsylvanians demand answers. Can they wait until Saturday night to start fighting or is it time to follow the yellow brick road to a sweet-smelling town in Kansas and get some freedom from this almost-in-Philadelphia smell?

“There’s no nice way to say it. Delco smells. For months, a mysterious fuel-like stench has plagued the 200-square-mile county, aggravating residents and confounding government officials. It emerges at unpredictable times, travels between towns, then evaporates as quickly as it arrived, disappearing for days or weeks before returning. Some compare the elusive odor to gasoline; others liken it to sulfur. No one knows where it’s coming from.”

While the mysterious Delaware County (Delco for short) fumes are back in the news, they’re old odors to many residents who have been complaining about them to authorities for months, as the mid-January story from The Philadelphia Inquirer states. Before you ask, they’ve already checked for fuel spills, fires, smoke, pipeline leaks, sewage, illegal dumping, dead fish in the Delaware River and anything else that could generate oily or sulfur-like aromas from southwest of Philadelphia International Airport to north of Marcus Hook to communities along I-95 to as far away as New Castle County, Delaware. Before you suggest these things take time, Chester Fire Commissioner William C. Rigby sauys he’s been getting reports since summer 2019 and the Chester Community Charter School was evacuated in October 2019 when the pungent odors were spread by the ventilation system.

“No one has been able to figure out where it’s coming from. If there is a company that is polluting and not reporting what happened they must be held accountable.”

Most people would agree with State Representative Leanne Krueger (D-161), especially in an election year, yet the mysterious smell has been coming and going for months without end or explanation. Tim Boyce, director of emergency services for Delaware County, seems to blame the wind for dissipating and/or moving the smell from its source by the time his crews get to the reported site. An Odor Investigation Task Force made up of various agencies from Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware, hasn’t found anything either. That stinks of a cover-up, especially in an industrialized and heavily pipelined area like Delaware County, but even the most intrepid Erin Brockovich wannabes have turned up nothing … at least nothing that has been leaked to the always-leak-absorbent media.


No one seems to be ready for that option, but this mystery carries a whiff of the strange trumpet sounds, hums and other unexplained noises heard around the world. Has humanity ignored those signs sent from somewhere (aliens, underground humanoids, heavenly beings) so often that the senders have been forced to try something stronger? That’s not the strangest conspiracy theory you’ve heard recently, is it?

In the meantime, residents of Delaware County, Pennsylvania, who have been holding their breath for months have one thing to be thankful for … it’s a great way to avoid catching the coronavirus.

And Sir Elton is hoping someone starts saving some lives tonight or soon before everyone starts attending a funeral for a friend.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

Join MU Plus+ and get exclusive shows and extensions & much more! Subscribe Today!