Episode 277:

Live at the Fox Theater in Detroit, MI (2019)

The Rattle Run Church Murder


The Murder of Tina Biggar


Episode 277: Live at the Fox Theater in Detroit, MI (2019)

On this week’s former Fan Cult exclusive episode, Karen and Georgia cover the Rattle Run Church murder and the murder of Tina Biggar.

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The Rattle Run Church Murder

The Rattle Run Church Murder Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Randy Fath on Unsplash 

Other Images

Cover image by @chelseamarief

The "Rattle Run Methodist Church" (via The Times Herald Port Huron, Michigan, March 28, 1937)

Reverend John H. Carmichael (via Detroit Free Press Detroit, Michigan, January 12, 1909)

Gideon Browning & His Wife (via lhaasdav.com)

"Murder Tragedy of 28 Years Ago Causes Razing of Church" (via The Times Herald Port Huron, Michigan, March 28, 1937)


"Reverend John Haviland Carmichael was pastor of three Methodist churches located in Rattle Run, Adair and China. He lived the pious life that a respected minister should, with a wife and three kids to make the family home life a complete picture.

On the morning of January 5, 1909, Carmichael got on his horse & buggy and told his wife he was heading out to the Rattle Run Church to take care of some business.

Later that day, Myron Brown entered the Rattle Run church to keep warm while waiting to keep an appointment. Once inside, he saw the place was covered in blood.....all over the floor, communion table, pews, pulpit, etc. along with bits & pieces of clothing soaked in blood.

After authorities were notified and entered the church, they smelled a disgusting foul odor emanating from the church's two furnaces...upon opening the furnaces, they found parts of a dismembered torso in each one. Was this what was left of the reverend? The next day, the reverend's horse was found tied to a tree 20 miles away.

Townspeople began noticing that not just the reverend, but another man was missing: Gideon Browning. The two men had been seen conversing; supposedly, the reverend wanted Browning as an agent to help sell & promote a book he wrote. It was NOT a book that you would expect from a minister. According to the reverend's wife, the book manuscript was "lurid" and "trashy." She was quoted as saying, “I saw.....a few sheets. I don’t remember what they said, but I felt called on to tell him he should not write such things. But he persisted.”

As authorities sifted through the remaining body parts, they found enough evidence to conclude who the victim was: it was Gideon Browning, chopped to death with a hatchet, dismembered and stuffed into the furnace, thanks to the good reverend.

So what happened?

Once inside the church, Carmichael noticed Browning holding a hatchet and grabbed it; then Browning pulled out two knives and chased Carmichael; Carmichael threw the hatchet which hit Browning. To make sure he finished the job, he then grabbed one of the knives and stabbed with it, then a few more chops from the hatchet and Browning was dead. The reverend switched clothes, cut the body into pieces, threw 'em into the furnaces and fled.

After fleeing to Chicago, guilt got the better of the crazed minister and on January 11, he composed two letters: one to his wife and another to the sheriff in Port Huron, confessing the murder he committed. Then he went to a shed behind the place he was staying, slashed his throat with a jackknife and laid there, eventually freezing to death..."

— Source: 99.1 WFMK article by John Robinson

The Murder of Tina Biggar

The Murder of Tina Biggar Notes:

Header Image Source: Photo by Chris Bair on Unsplash

Other Images:

Tina Biggar (via Detroit News)

Ken Tranchida (via Forensic Files Now)

Ken Tranchida (via Public Police Records)


"Described in the release as a drifter, Tranchida, then 42, was convicted of killing Biggar, a 23-year-old Oakland University student he met through a research project she was working on about prostitution and AIDS that was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Tranchida, now 67, allegedly told police he wanted to "put (Biggar) out of her misery″ from mounting money troubles.

Biggar, who lived in Farmington Hills at the time, disappeared in August 1995, and Tranchida was sentenced to life in prison for her murder in May 1996 in Oakland County. Numerous books have been written about Biggar's life, her relationship with Tranchida and her murder.

Biggar's body was found behind the former home of one of Tranchida's relatives in Southfield. Her car was discovered in Tranchida's possession, said authorities. Tests revealed blood found in the car belonged to Biggar. The young woman died from blows to the head and neck, according to an autopsy..."

— Source: Detroit News article by Oralander Brand-Williams


Karen's Episode Sources

Kevin McQueen Stories archive

Georgia's Episode Sources

Forensic Files 

City Confidential, movie