“DID THE CIA ORCHESTRATE THE JONESTOWN MASSACRE?” and More Terrifying True Horror Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Was the Unidentified Cape Cod Murder Victim an Extra in Jaws? Horror author Joe Hill thinks so. (Murder On The Set of Jaws) *** Of the many mysterious and ominous places on earth, many bodies of water are said to be cursed, haunted, or both. For whatever reason these lakes have drawn about them tales of misfortune, terror, and death, and they continue to elude rational answers. I’ll share some of the strangest. (Cursed Lakes) *** At the dawn of the 20th Century Ambrose Bierce was one of the most famous writers in America. And then he mysteriously vanished. (The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce) *** Charles Willey experienced hundreds of fires on his property in the summer of 1948 – but how did they start? (The Macomb Firestarter) *** Two men interested in the same woman – all three spending a day together. Not a good plan from the start. Add a bit of alcohol and you just may have a powder keg ready to explode. (Rum, Jealously, and Murder) *** Over the course of just two years, Christopher Duntsch operated on 38 patients in the Dallas area, leaving 31 paralyzed or seriously injured and two of them dead. It’s no wonder he was given the morbid nickname of “Dr. Death”. (Doctor Death) *** A child’s game of hide-and-seek turns to terror. (The House At The Front) *** In the Outback of Queensland, Australia, ghostly orbs of light have been frightening people for centuries. What do we know about the mystery of the orbs and what are some of the theories about what they could be? (The Min Min Orbs) *** Are extraterrestrials secretly watching over us and saving us from our own destruction? (Our Alien Protectors) *** Was the mass suicide at Jim Jones’ commune in Guyana in 1978 a CIA mind control experiment? (Welcome to Jonestown)
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Note: Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“Welcome to Jonestown”: https://tinyurl.com/urb3ka9
“Cursed Lakes” by Brent Swancer: https://tinyurl.com/vx9d5kx
“Murder On The Set Of Jaws” by Orrin Grey for The Line Up: https://tinyurl.com/yx4mjry4
“The Disappearance of Ambrose Bierce” by John Davis: https://tinyurl.com/u5m8229
“The Macomb Firestarter” by Troy Taylor: https://tinyurl.com/ug42z53
“The House At The Front” by AakanKSha: https://tinyurl.com/qvsm6ch
“Our Alien Protectors”: https://tinyurl.com/solj3fx *** CNN Press Conference: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BAvqaVQNEk4 *** CNN Interview from “Larry King LIVE”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=273jcsMQu3M
“The Min Min Orbs” by Kimberly Lin: https://tinyurl.com/tk8x73b
“Doctor Death” by Caroline Redmond: https://tinyurl.com/ycg9q264
“Rum, Jealousy, and Murder” by Robert Wilhelm: https://tinyurl.com/y8gbgwow
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46 *** How to escape eternal darkness: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2IYmodFKDaM
WELCOME TO JONESTOWN
Everyone was welcome at the People’s Temple. Young and old, black and white, over 900 of them lived together at an idealistic socialist commune in the jungles of Guyana called Jonestown. By November 1978, they were all dead.
Captured in one of the most chilling audiotapes ever recorded, Jonestown’s eponymous leader, charismatic preacher Jim Jones, could be heard urging his followers to commit an act of what he called ‘revolutionary suicide’.
Each member was to drink a cyanide concoction out of paper cups full of soft drink kool-aid. Jonestown residents, largely consisting of blacks, women and children, seemingly obeyed their leader. Within 5 minutes, their bodies fell to the earth, dead.
Jones would die too, apparently from a self-inflicted bullet to the head. 913 Americans perished in all, thousands of miles from home, their socialist paradise in the jungle turned into the blackest nightmare imaginable.
It remains the worst mass death of its kind in modern history. But what Jim Jones labelled revolutionary suicide, others regard as mass murder.
Over 200 young children were injected or forced to drink the poison, effectively murdered by their own parents and carers. Other residents were been held against their will or had become brainwashed by Jones’ constant night and day preaching.
That at least some of the deaths were murder is obvious, but was something even more sinister at work? Dark suspicions that the events of Jonestown were some kind of CIA mind control experiment began to circulate.
Born during the Great Depression in 1931, Jones’ grew up in a broken and troubled home. His father was a Ku Klux Klansman, something that would have a deep and abiding effect on Jones’ politics for the rest of his life.
Neglected by his parents, the young Jim Jones was taken under the wing of the local pentecostal ministry and would be greatly influenced by the fire and brimstone preachers he witnessed giving sermons at the church.
Inspired by their example, Jones would develop his own brand of grandiloquent oratory. But with this came a sadistic tendency to use his skills to manipulate and bully others, a key factor in the tragedy that would unfold many years later at Jonestown.
Long repelled by his father’s racism, Jones gravitated towards black audiences, finding them particularly receptive to sermons in which Jones would advocate racial equality and rail against the injustices of capitalism.
That highlighted the strange dichotomy of the Reverend Jim Jones — he was an atheist. In fact, he was actively hostile to religion and would tear up and decry the bible at his sermons. For Jones, the ecclesiastical trappings were simply a vehicle for his political and social campaigning.
The absurdity of a man who hated religion forming his own church is perhaps somewhat lost to history, yet that’s exactly what Jones did in 1956. But then the People’s Temple wasn’t really a church at all, it was a cult, with Jim Jones as its god.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, the People’s Temple would spawn dozens of branches around California with thousands of followers and a largely black congregation. As this was the height of the civil rights movement in America, Jones’ church and influence amongst black voters lent him the political power he always craved.
But it seems, it wasn’t just politicians who took an interest in the People’s Temple. In the 1960s, the CIA opened a secret file on Jim Jones. The agency has always refused to explain what their interest was in Jones, and they would later inexplicably claim the file was empty.
It was clear the interest was far from routine with the news that the CIA’s internal Office of Security had also vetted Jones, something that would normally be done for those selected to work for the agency. Was Jones a CIA agent?
Extra weight was given to the possibility by the revelation that Jones’ childhood friend and long-time associate, former police chief Dan Mitrione, worked throughout the 1960s for a secret CIA front organisation who specialised in torture and assassination.
By the 1970s, the People’s Temple was flourishing, but the controversies over Jones’ Church also grew. Allegations of sexual abuse, torture and brainwashing caused a major scandal that made national headlines and even drew the attention of congress.
In reaction, the increasingly paranoid Jones dismissed the attacks as an orchestrated campaign against him. Taking the most extreme action, in 1977 he relocated his entire ministry to a settlement in Guyana, South America, he christened Jonestown.
Ostensibly an agricultural commune, Jonestown was more like a prison camp, with armed guards patrolling its perimeter. Although now far away from media scrutiny in America, the stories of braining washing and torture persisted. Those who managed to escape Jonestown even reported many of its members were been held against their will.
The American government had to act. Accompanied by an NBC camera crew and reporters, US Congressman Leo Ryan led a party to Guyana to inspect conditions at Jonestown. 4 Members of the group would not leave Guyana alive.
Although superficially cordial, Ryan’s visit was tense. Whilst an increasingly rambling and incoherent Jim Jones dismissed any suggestions of impropriety, several members of the commune slipped Ryan notes begging him to help them escape.
Seemingly realising Jonestown was doomed, Jones apparently ordered a team of gunmen to follow the congressional party to at the airstrip. On November 18th, 1978, Ryan, 2 NBC reporters and a cameraman were shot dead as they were preparing to board their plane.
Shortly after, Jones enacted the very last of his ‘White Nights’. This was how the preacher described the suicide drills he would regularly conduct at Jonestown. He had already prepared his congregation for the possibility of what he called ‘revolutionary suicide’, as a protest against the injustices of the world.
Claiming that troops would soon arrive and take their children, Jones told his flock that suicide was the only way out. Remarkably, most of them accepted what the leader had ordered. Within a couple of hours, almost everyone was dead, including Jones. Only a handful who hid or feigned death to avoid drinking the cyanide laced kool-aid made it out alive.
But could over 900 people really have agreed to commit suicide at once? The Guyanese pathologist Dr. Leslie Mootoo was the first to examine the bodies. Shockingly, he concluded most of the residents had actually been murdered.
There was also an inexplicable discrepancy in the body count. The Guyanese had found 408 bodies, but later, when the Americans arrived, this was revised to a mind-boggling 913, along with some unconvincing explanations for the disparity.
Along with these problems, there were troubling details about Jonestown itself. Vast quantities of antipsychotic drugs were found at the site, far in excess of what would normally be needed for 900 people. The camp also hosted a sophisticated hospital, and Jonestown residents were reportedly given medical assessments on an almost daily basis.
Clearly, whatever Jonestown was, it was no ordinary agricultural commune. Was it, as some have suggested, actually a mind control operation? Were the bizarre stories of brainwashing and suicide rehearsals actually part of some sinister medical experiment?
Congressman Leo Ryan’s family certainly believed so. They filed a lawsuit 2 years later alleging that Jonestown was an extension of a clandestine CIA mind control operation called MK ULTRA.
It’s existence revealed only 3 years earlier by the Senate’s Church committee, MK ULTRA was a vast illegal operation that included experiments on unwitting human subjects, the surreptitious administration of mind altering drugs, torture and sensory deprivation.
All of these unedifying activities were also reported to have occurred at Jonestown. Had the CIA secretly continued their mind control experiments under the guise of the Peoples Temple?
Jonestown had CIA connections right from the beginning. Founded in the mid-1970s, its location in Guyana was once a CIA training camp for mercenaries as part of their covert operations in Angola.
George Phillip Blakey, a pivotal figure in the forming of the Jonestown community, placed a $650,000 down-payment on the land in 1973. It was Blakey, more than anyone, who was eventually responsible for the People’s Temple relocating to Guyana, far from the scrutiny of the US Authorities.
Blakey was also an agent of the CIA, involved with their clandestine activities in Angola. Although a member of the Jonestown community, Blakey conveniently absented himself on the day of the massacre. Blakey was also married to another Temple member called Deborah Layton, who would also play a key role in the tragedy.
Layton was one of the first Jonestown defectors to expose what was really happening at the commune, and her allegations that Jones was running a suicide cult did much to fix the idea in the public mind, leading directly to Congressman Ryan’s visit. It would be Deborah Layton’s brother Larry who would murder Ryan on the airstrip at Port Kaituma.
The pair’s father, Dr Laurence Laird Layton, was a senior scientist in the US National security establishment, who for many years worked on their top-secret chemical and biological warfare programs. Whilst not a member of the Peoples Temple, Dr Layton was an important early fundraiser for Jonestown.
George Phillip Blakey, his wife Deborah and her brother Larry all had privileged backgrounds and were born into wealthy families. That they would be involved in a backbreaking agricultural commune consisting almost entirely of poor black people is odd in itself.
But the fact all 3 of these People’s Temple members would play such pivotal roles in precipitating the Jonestown tragedy, yet survive unscathed, is deeply suspicious. Whilst it’s only speculation they were participants in some kind of CIA operation, a more solid link to the agency can be found in the figure of Richard Dwyer.
U.S. embassy official Richard Dwyer accompanied Congressman Leo Ryan on his visit to Jonestown. Neither Ryan or anyone else in the party were aware that Dwyer was also a CIA agent or that the nearby Guyanese capital Georgetown housed a CIA station.
Dwyer’s exact role in the Jonestown massacre has long been a source of mystery. On the infamous ‘death tape’, where Jim Jones can be heard urging his followers to commit suicide, he refers to Dwyer on several occasions, asking an unknown cult member to “get Dwyer out of here before something happens to him”.
But according to Dwyer’s own account, he was not there. He remained at Port Kaituma in the aftermath of the shooting at the airstrip. Whether Dwyer is lying about this or not, someone at the CIA knew exactly what was unfolding at Jonestown long before the Guyanese army first found the bodies.
In the early hours of the 19th of November, before the grisly events had been discovered, the CIA’s NOIWON secure radio channel reported ‘mass suicides’ at Jonestown. Whether it was Dwyer or not, the CIA were surely present at Jonestown during or shortly after the tragedy, as there was no other way they could possibly have known anything had occurred at the commune, let alone a mass suicide.
Officially the CIA have always denied any part in the events of Jonestown, or any connection with Jim Jones, but evidently this is a lie. And what’s particularly interesting about their curious early certainty that the tragedy was a mass suicide is it is directly contradicted by the medical professional who first studied the bodies.
As we have seen, the CIA was keen to report the tragedy as a mass suicide before the bodies had even been discovered. The media would soon follow suit and push the mass suicide story and to this day this is still how Jonestown is most often portrayed.
Incredibly, only 7 autopsies were ever conducted out of the 913 victims and even those weren’t conclusive. All of the bodies had been left out in the heat for so long they had become heavily decomposed, destroying much of the evidence and clumsy embalming meant it was impossible to reliably determine the cause of death.
The determination that the dead had died of cyanide poisoning was largely circumstantial, based on the cyanide crystals that were found in Jonestown’s medical supplies, and syringes and bottles containing the poison. No trace could be found in the vats of kool-aid though, the substance thought of have broken down in the days after the massacre.
Dr Leslie Mootoo, Guyana’s most senior pathologist, was the first medical professional to examine the bodies. Mootoo and his staff methodically examined scores of bodies and came to a surprising conclusion. According to Mootoo, most of the victims had actually been murdered.
83 of the 100 adult bodies he examined had needle puncture marks between their shoulders. As they clearly would not administer the drug themselves in this way, Mootoo concluded they had been held down and forcibly injected.
Bottles containing lethal potassium cyanide but labelled as Valium were found scattered on the ground, leading Mootoo to suspect many victims had been tricked into taking the poison, thinking they were tranquilizers.
Dozens of the bodies had also clearly been shot, and some killed with crossbows. All in all, Mootoo determined some 80–90% of the victims had been murdered. Despite this, the mass suicide story was still the one pushed by the American government and the media.
Once back in the US, many of the bodies were illegally cremated before their relatives could see the remains, whilst hundreds of others remained unidentified.
With no known eyewitnesses to the deaths and less than 1% of the bodies having been autopsied, it was essentially impossible to determine what really happened at Jonestown. Even the evidence and samples Dr Mootoo had meticulously gathered at the crime scene vanished in transit to the United States.
And then there was the astonishing discrepancy in the body count. The Guyanese Army counted the number of victims as 408. Days later when the US Army arrived, this number was progressively revised upwards — 775, 800, 869, 910, 912, eventually settling at the grim total of 913.
The US Army initially claimed the discrepancy was because the Guyanese could not count, an insulting suggestion that was quickly retracted. They would then say some of the bodies had fallen on top of others and covered them. But many wondered how 408 corpses could cover 505 bodies, especially when at least 80 of the initial 408 were children.
Even the 913 figure seemed odd. Estimates of the population of Jonestown were in the 1100–1200 range, not including those known to be elsewhere, meaning at least a 100 of its members had seemingly vanished without trace.
Like members of his family, Congressman Leo Ryan’s chief of staff Joseph Holsinger suspected CIA involvement at Jonestown. In 1980, Holsinger was made aware of a study undertaken at the University of Berkley called ‘The Penal Colony’ that gave him the darkest of suspicions.
The Berkeley paper detailed how the CIA’s mind-control program, code-named MK-ULTRA, supposedly terminated in 1973, had actually continued, moving from hospitals and government facilities to religious cults. Cults, Holsinger concluded, like Jonestown.
For Holsinger, several things about Jonestown simply did not make sense. One was the staggering quantities of pharmaceutical drugs found at the commune. For a humble agricultural community of 1200 people, most of whom worked 16 hour days for meagre food rations, the numbers defied explanation.
Amongst the drugs found at Jonestown were Quaaludes, Valium, morphine, Demerol, truth serum sodium pentothal, chloral hydrate, thallium and an incredible 11,000 doses of Thorazine, an antipsychotic. Many of the substance were noted for their mood-altering and hallucinogenic properties, exactly the kind of drugs the CIA had employed in their MK Ultra experiments.
The parallels between MK Ultra and Jonestown did not end there. The widespread accounts of the abuses at the commune — sensory deprivation, torture, punishment beatings, sexual humiliation and brain-washing, were all exactly the kind of things the CIA had been studying in MK Ultra.
Was the People’s Temple in Jonestown actually an offshoot of the CIA’s mind control projects, as the Berkeley paper suggested?
If it was, it might explain how a socialist cooperative in the middle of the Guyanese jungle acquired such vast quantities of mood altering drugs. Or how the CIA knew about the ‘mass suicide’ there before it had even been discovered.
Either way, it’s obvious that brainwashing was at work at Jonestown, even if just from the pulpit of Jim Jones himself. Whilst travelling in Brazil in the 1960s, Jones studied the mind control techniques used by voodoo cults and religions such as Santería and clearly used what he had learnt throughout his time with the People’s Temple.
Some authors have speculated he did so under the wing of the CIA. Also in Brazil at the same time, very close by to where Jones was living, was CIA torture specialist and childhood friend Dan Mitrione. Was Mitrione Jones’ case officer as many suspected? And could Jones’ trip have been a fact finding mission for MK ULTRA?
A 44-minute audio tape, dubbed the ‘death tape’, exists which records the meeting Jones called in which he ordered the mass suicide. In it, Jones tells his congregation, as he had done many times before, that troops were going to come and destroy their community.
“One of the people on that plane is gonna shoot the pilot, I know that. I didn’t plan it but I know it’s going to happen. They’re gonna shoot that pilot and down comes the plane into the jungle and we had better not have any of our children left when its over, because they’ll parachute in here on us”, Jones is heard to say.
“So my opinion is that you be kind to children and be kind to seniors and take the potion like they used to take in ancient Greece and step over quietly because we are not committing suicide; it’s a revolutionary act”.
After a brief period of dissent early in the tape, where alternatives to suicide are suggested by some Temple members, most of those present then seem to accept Jones’ orders. Indeed the tape is quite notable for the calm and rational manner in which the community accepts their fate.
If any of the alternative theories about Jonestown are true, they are not recorded on this tape. However, the extant tape clearly contains numerous gaps and excisions, which suggests it was either edited ‘live’ for some reason or that events depicted that do not fit the suicide theory were edited out at a later date.
More than 30 years on, the Jonestown massacre remains one of the strangest and most disturbing events in modern history. And with not a single witness to the deaths remaining to tell the tale, we’ll probably never know what really happened.
What we do know is that hundreds of society’s poorest and most disadvantaged people, mainly women and children, travelled far from home looking for salvation, only to find death of the most banal and senseless kind.
MURDER ON THE SET OF JAWS
She was found on July 26, 1974, lying face down on a beach towel in the dunes near Provincetown, Massachusetts. Her hands were missing, and small piles of pine needles were left in their place. Her head had been crushed and nearly nearly severed from her body, possibly with some sort of military entrenching tool. Police suggested she could have died weeks before the July 26 discovery. With no clear way to identify her, the victim soon became known as “the Lady of the Dunes.”
Who she is, why she was slain so brutally, and who ended her life are all mysteries that remain unsolved to this day. When she was discovered, police conducted extensive searches of the surrounding dunes, combed through missing person files, and compared tire tracks found near the scene to those of countless vehicles. Yet they found nothing to explain the murder of the Lady of the Dunes.
What do we know about her? Sadly, precious little. She was anywhere between 20 and 49 years of age, a more precise identification made impossible by the condition of the body. Though she had dental work, including expensive crowns done in what police called “the New York style,” consultations with dentists have failed to yield any clues. Some of her teeth were removed, along with both of her hands and one forearm. Her nearly-severed head was cushioned on a pair of carefully folded Wrangler jeans and a blue bandanna.
She was laid to rest later in 1974, but has been exhumed several times in the years since. Facial reconstruction was performed in 1979; her body was exhumed in 1980 and again in 2000 for DNA testing. In 2010, her skull, which hadn’t been re-interred with the rest of her body, was put through a CT scanner in order to produce more accurate facial reconstructions.
In 2004, serial killer Hadden Clark confessed to the murder of the Lady of the Dunes, saying that he had evidence that the police needed buried in his grandfather’s garden. Clark, however, suffers from paranoid schizophrenia, and authorities doubt the veracity of his claims to this and several other murders.
Over the years, police as well as amateur sleuths have pursued and put forth a wide variety of possible leads in the case. At one time, it was thought that the Lady of the Dunes may have been another victim of serial killer Tony Costa, but Costa was convicted of his crimes in 1970 and hanged himself in his cell in May of 1974, before the Lady was killed. Others attribute her death to notorious mobster Whitey Bulger, who was known to have removed some of his victims’ teeth, but no connection between the Lady and Bulger has ever been established.
Other leads have also been followed, including a number of missing persons roughly matching the age and description of the Lady of the Dunes. All of these leads have ultimately been ruled out. While investigators both professional and amateur have maintained a continued interest in the slaying, the case of the Lady of the Dunes has been cold since the 1970s.
In August of 2015, Joe Hill, son of the famous horror novelist Stephen King, and no slouch of a horror writer himself, came forward with a new theory. He had been reading about the case in Deborah Halber’s book The Skeleton Crew: How Amateur Sleuths Are Solving America’s Coldest Cases. Then he watched Jaws. At exactly 54 minutes and 2 seconds into the film, Hill noticed something strange: Among the crowd, on the far left side of the screen, stood a female extra dressed in jeans, a white t-shirt, and a blue bandana. She bore a “striking similarity” to the reconstructed images of the Lady of the Dunes.
“What if the young murder victim no one has ever been able to identify has been seen by hundreds of millions of people in a beloved summer classic and they didn’t even know they were looking at her?” Hill asks, in his August 2015 blog post. “What if the ghost of the Lady of the Dunes haunts Jaws?”
What if? Jaws was filming near Martha’s Vineyard, not far from Provincetown, in June of 1974, before the Lady of the Dunes met her untimely end. The film was a big deal in the area, and attracted plenty of attention. Many locals showed up for the film’s large crowd scenes. It is entirely possible that the Lady of the Dunes was one of them. Extras were not tracked as carefully back then as they are today, and there is perhaps no way to know for sure who all those people were. Like so many things about the case, it provides another tantalizing mystery, rather than a tidy solution.
“I create fiction for a living,” Hill points out in his own post, and he has later said that he initially thought that was all it was: “You’re telling yourself a ghost story.” But the theory has stuck around, and was recently given new legs when it appeared again on the Wondery podcast Inside Jaws, which explores the history and making of the film.
Whether the woman Hill spotted in that brief crowd scene in Jaws turns out to be the Lady of the Dunes, the theory has generated plenty of fresh interest in the case. And as the lead investigator for the Provincetown Police told People magazine, “Anything that generates interest is always good.”
Looking at tales of the strange and paranormal, it sometimes seems that the world is full of places that are infused with forces beyond our understanding, and at times even sinister powers that roil and thrum under the surface. One such type of mysterious and ominous place are the numerous lakes of our planet that by all accounts seem to be cursed, haunted, or both. For whatever reason these lakes have drawn about them tales of misfortune, terror, and death, and they continue to elude rational answers. Here are some of the strangest.
The United States is home to several supposedly cursed lakes, with one of the most notorious located in the state of New Jersey. Clinton Township, in Hunterdon County, New Jersey, is home to the popular fishing and recreation spot Round Valley Reservoir, which at 2,350 acres (8 km2) in area and up to 180 feet (55 m) deep, is New Jersey’s largest and deepest manmade lake, and is the second largest lake in the state, period. The reservoir was created in 1960 by the New Jersey Water Authority, which flooded a circular valley- hence the reservoir’s name- surrounded by Cushetunk Mountain, after constructing two large dams. Originally formed to provide water to central New Jersey, namely communities in Bergen and Essex Counties, Round Valley Reservoir was opened to fishing and other outdoor activities in 1972.
It is important to stress that this is by no means some remote, secluded locale out in the middle of nowhere. The lake is insanely popular, with it and the scenic surrounding wilderness areas of the Round Valley Recreation Area offering SCUBA facilities, boating, fishing, camping, hiking, and biking trails, as well as various other outdoor activities and clear blue waters drawing in droves of visitors. Yet even as the myriad crowds of visitors enjoy the lake and its many activities there is a lesser known underbelly to it all, which has caused the reservoir to accrue a sinister reputation as being cursed.
For years there have been persistent reports of people mysteriously drowning or even vanishing without a trace at Round Valley Reservoir, with over 30 deaths and disappearances in the area since 1971. Drownings are probably to be expected when so many people gather at a lake, often with alcohol involved, but what is peculiar is not only the high rate of such occurrences, but also the mysterious circumstances that surround them and the fact that many of the bodies of these suspected drownings have never been found.
One eerie facet of some of these disappearances and drownings is that they very often happen under very clear conditions and with calm water. One of the first famous cases of a mysterious disappearance in the reservoir occurred on May 4, 1973, when Thomas Trimblett, 23, and his brother-in-law Christopher Zajaczowski, 22, were out on the lake fishing in a 12-foot aluminum boat. It was calm, clear, and with no waves, perfect fishing weather. According to witnesses, at some point their boat inexplicably capsized for no discernible reason, and the two men went under to never be seen again. Extensive search and rescue efforts to find the two only turned up the boat, an oar, some fishing tackle, and two, unused life jackets. The two bodies have never been found.
In another strange case, on Oct. 22, 1993, Jeffrey Moore, 27, and friend Raymond Barr were out on the lake for a relaxing day of fishing when their boat inexplicably capsized in clear, calm conditions and in full view of other boaters in the vicinity, who themselves had experienced no problems. One of the nearby boaters rushed to the rescue and managed to pull Barr from the water, but Moore was nowhere to be found despite a frantic search of the area. Moore’s body has never been recovered and there has never been any trace of what became of him. He seems to have been just swallowed up by the lake.
Other vanishings and strange deaths are Craig Stier, 18, and Andrew Fasanella, 20, who were last seen traveling along the north shoreline of the reservoir in a canoe and seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth. Again the weather was clear, and strangely no witnesses remember seeing them in any kind of trouble. A few days after they were reported missing, their empty canoe washed up on shore showing no damage or signs of struggle, yet the bodies have never been found. On March 14, 1989, a John Kubu, 37, and his friend Albert Lawson both vanished while on a fishing trip on the lake in calm conditions. Although Lawson’s body was eventually recovered in 1993, the body of Kubu remains at large. There have been so many strange occurrences like this that the lake is sometimes referred to as the “Bermuda Triangle of New Jersey.”
Making things odder is that surviving swimmers who have nearly drowned or people who have fallen overboard in the reservoir have had some strange stories to tell about their experiences. Many witnesses have told of feeling as if they had been held or pulled under the water by some unseen force, sometimes even described as feeling like hands grasping at them. Boaters who have fallen into the water have reported the sensation of not being able to get back aboard their vessels due to this phenomenon, and swimmers in shallow water right near shore have claimed to have been locked into place and unable to reach the shore, inexorably drawn further away by some unknown force. This matches up with witnesses to drownings or vanishings here who have often reported that the victims seemed unable to get to their boat or to shore despite calm waters, eventually being dragged under to die or disappear altogether.
Such strange tales have led to the persistent rumor that the lake is in fact cursed, although why this manmade reservoir should be infused with such negative energy depends on who you ask. One idea is that the lake was built over Native American sacred grounds or burial grounds, while another is that the curse has to do with a submerged town under the lake, the vestiges of a community forced out in order to commence the creation of the reservoir. Still others think that the ghosts of drowning victims haunt the lake and try to pull others down to the same watery fate.
The most rational explanation is probably that it is due to the sudden winds the area is known for, as well as the surprisingly cold water in the lake and the fact that the lake is almost a perfect circle, creating an optical illusion wherein swimmers may think they are closer to land than they really are. The high winds that rush down the circular valley are also known to create sudden rogue waves that pop up and dissipate at a moment’s notice. Whether it is ancient curses, ghosts, or environmental and geographical factors at work here, Round Valley Reservoir has gained quite the reputation for being a mysterious and uncommonly lethal lake.
Also in the United States is the manmade Lake Sidney Lanier, also simply known as Lake Lanier, situated in the U.S. state of Georgia. Construction of the lake began in 1950, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began more or less flooding a portion of the foothills of the North Georgia Mountains along the Chattahoochee River in order to provide the city of Atlanta with hydroelectricity, flood control and water supply. In the process of the creation of the lake whole towns were relocated before being buried underwater, as well as flooding pristine wilderness and even cemeteries. Many of the structures that would be inundated were simply left as is, so that if one were to walk along the lake’s bottom one would find submerged towns complete with roads, walls, and houses all eerily intact; abandoned underwater ghost towns inhabited only by fish and perhaps ghosts of the past. Even the ferries that were put out of business by the lake’s creation were simply abandoned to become rusting hulks littering the bottom and the shore.
It is perhaps this tumultuous history that has led to the supposed curse of Lake Lanier, which has been fueled by an usually high rate of deaths by drowning, freak accidents, and unsolved crimes. Over the years, there have been an inordinate amount of deaths associated with the lake, ranging from boating accidents, drownings, and even a fair number of drivers who have lost control of their vehicles to go careening off of roads to crash into the water. Every year nearly a dozen people die, and some years have been even worse than others, with 2011 alone seeing 17 deaths.
Many of the drowning cases are somewhat odd in that they have happened very close to shore with strong swimmers and in calm conditions, which considering the history of the lake have given rise to rumors that Lake Lanier is somehow haunted or cursed. As with Round Valley Reservoir, there have been those who have described unseen hands pulling at them from below or even scarier the sensation of something covering their mouth to prevent them from breathing. There are various stories of boats hitting something in the water only for it to turn out there was nothing there, boats or other watercraft capsizing for no apparent reason, and sudden, dangerous rogue waves that seem to come from nowhere without warning to maraud across the surface before vanishing as suddenly as they formed.
The reputation of the lake as a death trap has become quite well-known, and as with Round Valley Reservoir there are a variety of theories put forward, ranging from ghosts, to Indian curses, to giant catfish the size of small cars rumored to lurk in the depths. Again, it most likely has to do with the location’s blooming popularity and the sheer number of people engaging in recreation and water sports, with a lot of partiers drinking heavily and few safety precautions observed, but the number of fatalities is still above the norm even for a popular resort like Lake Lanier and it does not explain the strange phenomena reported. Whether the lake’s dark reputation and its many accidents are due to some sinister curse or something else is anyone’s guess.
Moving outside of the United States, the continent of Africa has its fair share of supposedly cursed lakes as well. One is Lake Fundudzi, which lies in in the Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa’s northernmost Limpopo Province. This is a place sacred to the region’s native Venda peoples, and its very formation is wreathed in legend. The lake was created when the Mutale River was blocked off by a freak landslide, which has been credited in myth as the doing of a curse that was inflicted upon a local for not offering assistance to a passing leper. This landslide and subsequent flooding apparently wrought great tragedy, killing scores of people and inundating entire villages, the screams of which can supposedly still be heard echoing in the wind.
Further legends have been attributed to the lake, such as that it harbors an angry serpent god that has the habit of beating upon the rocks like a drum, and the color of the lake is said to reflect his mood. This god is also said to explain that while three rivers flow into Lake Fundudzi, it strangely never overflows. Indeed, the lake’s water levels have long been a mystery, rising or falling seemingly independent of external factors such as rain or river input.
Talk of curses comes from the various drownings that have occurred here over the centuries, as well as the strange water levels and in particular that no one seems to be able to successfully develop the area. One developer sought to turn the area into a resort only to experience a sudden swelling of water and flooding from the lake as construction was underway. The developer then apparently moved to another area and tried again, only to have its efforts foiled by mysterious floods and rising waters that seemed to come from nowhere, totally submerging the construction site. Yet, when the project was scrapped the waters returned to normal, without any further incidents.
Interestingly, the curse of Lake Fundudzi only seems to affect outsiders, with no locals known to have been subjected to its wrath. Indeed, the locals claim that although crocodiles inhabit these waters they will casually ignore any from the area, while attacking foreigners. Is this all folklore and spooky stories, or is there something more at work here? Also in Africa is Otjikoto Lake of Namibia, which is a small lake with a diameter of only 102 meters (335 ft) and an average depth of 45 meters (148 ft), and is only one of two permanent natural lakes in the entire country. Although it is mostly shallow, there are areas that drop off into dizzying depths that have yet to be determined, with possibly vast underwater cavern systems. Indeed, according to legend the lake is bottomless, and the home to all manner of supernatural creatures, which reportedly have the habit of grabbing anyone who enters to pull them down to their doom.
Lake Otjikoto has a colorful history as well. During World War I, the Germans used the lake as a dumping ground for all manner of discarded war materials including cannons, firearms, ammunition, and countless others, which was all unceremoniously thrown into the lake before their surrender in 1915, in order to keep the enemy from using them. While this is all true, and much of this World War I ordinance and equipment can still be seen rather well-preserved in these depths, if rumors are correct, the Germans also dumped other things they didn’t want found as well, including a vast treasure of 6 million gold marks.
The stories of such a large treasure lying at the bottom of this relatively small lake has proven to be irresistible to numerous treasure hunters, which has also proven that perhaps the myths that the lake is a cursed place full of vengeful spirits as well. Many would-be treasure hunters are said to have met their fates in the lake, often very experienced and seasoned divers, further enforcing the idea that the lake claims those who would challenge it. So many people have died trying to get to the treasure that the lake has gained a reputation for being a cursed death trap, and it was the focus of an episode of the Travel Channel’s Expedition Unknown, with Josh Gates. Whether the tales of this lake’s cursed treasure are real are not is up or debate.
Moving over to China we have Poyang Lake, which sits within rural Jiangxi Province. China’s largest freshwater lake, Poyang Lake had a violent birth, created when the Gan River backed up to flood the countryside, dramatically swallowing Poyang County and Haihun County, creating a mass exodus of people looking to escape the relentless invasion of the growing lake and its hungry waters. Many people are said to have died in this relentless flooding, and that was just the beginning.
In 1363, Poyang Lake was the scene of perhaps the largest and bloodiest naval engagement in history, when the massive fleets of the Ming and Han dynasties clashed here during the final days of China’s Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty, in what would come to be known as the Battle of Lake Poyang. The intense battle made heavy use of the relatively new technology of firearms and gunpowder for warfare, as hulking floating fortresses called tower ships lurched at and battered each other in ferocious naval combat. In the aftermath of the fierce battle the Ming would emerge victorious, take control of the country, and the leader Zhu Yuanzhang would become the first emperor of the powerful Ming Dynasty.
It is perhaps this dark history of death and despair that has contributed to the strange and rather sinister forces said to imbue its waters, which mostly take the form of swallowing up ships without a trace, earning it suitably grim nicknames such as “The Waters of Death” or “The Place of Death” by locals. One of the strangest such disappearances occurred during World War II, when the Japanese invasion and occupation of China was in full swing.
On April 16, 1945, an enormous, 2,000 ton Japanese cargo vessel, the Kobe Maru, along with around 200 troops, was making its way across the lake near Laoye Temple, loaded with stolen treasure, precious artifacts and loot when it inexplicably sank under totally clear conditions. In the wake of this mysterious sinking, the Japanese Navy allegedly sent a salvage team of seven divers to go recover the ship’s valuable cargo, yet only one of the divers survived. When the lone diver was retrieved, he was allegedly speechless and overcome with terror by something he had seen down in the depths. The diver is said to have never divulged what had happened, and indeed is reported as having been rendered morose, unresponsive, and driven insane by the mysterious ordeal. None of the other divers or indeed any of the crew or even a scrap of the Kobe Maru were ever seen again.
When the war ended, the Chinese government went about trying to salvage the ship, hoping to regain some of the precious antiques and relics that had been stolen from them by the Japanese. The Chinese hired the American salvage expert Edward Boer to find the wreckage, but not only did he fail to find any sign whatsoever of the wreck after an exhaustive one-month search, but several divers are said to have disappeared without a trace in the process. Making this whole case more bizarre is that the ship is estimated to have sunk in only 30 feet of water in the mostly shallow lake.
Boer himself remained quiet about the whole search decades later, when he published a rather strange account in the United Nation Environment News. Over the span of the article, the events depicted become increasingly more bizarre. Boer claims that as he was diving with his team there was a blindingly bright light that stabbed up from the murk below, followed by an ear piercing, unearthly screeching sound. He explained that the lake itself seemed to be shaking and that they were being pulled in by some unseen force. Boer would claim that he had managed to pull free of the strange vortex sucking them in, and when he reached a distance witnessed in horror as his team dissolved away into a pulsating bright light on the lake bottom.
This is far from the only weirdness associated with the lake, and it supposedly claimed around 200 vessels during the 1960s to the 1980s alone, with their wreckage or estimated 1,600 crew and passengers never seen again. The few who have managed to come back to tell the tales are often beset with lost memories, lost time, profound disorientation, and chronic mental illness, even stark raving insanity. Boats have continued to go missing at Lake Poyang even up into the present day.
In 2001 a large cargo ship carrying sand was suddenly swamped by a sudden large wave in otherwise calm conditions and sank without a trace. One particularly strange recent case comes from March of 2010, when a huge, 1,000 ton vessel suddenly sank on a clear, calm day near shore for no discernible reason. Its wreckage was never located.
The strangest thing about these disappearances, besides the sheer number of them and the calm conditions under which they typically occur, is that in a relatively shallow lake with an average depth of only 8.4 metres (28 ft) there should be easily found wreckage and remnants of these ships all over the place, yet there are none, despite numerous expeditions that have scoured the bottom here looking for signs of them. Despite all of the supposed missing ships, very little wreckage and no bodies have ever been found, as if the lake has just digested them.
In addition to ships and divers being swallowed up by the lake, there have been other curious disappearances and oddities here as well. In 1977, three dams were built here, with the largest being 2,000 feet long, 165 feet wide, and 50 feet high. One day this enormous dam is said to have just disappeared, leaving not a scrap behind. Another bizarre case is that of a salvage diver named Shen Dahai, who vanished while unsuccessfully searching for wrecks on the bottom. Reports allege that his body was found the following day floating about in Changba Shan Lake, which is odd considering this lake is 15km away and in no way connected to Poyang Lake. Adding to these mysteries are countless reports of sudden rogue tidal waves, strange roving whirlpools, underwater lights, UFOs, spontaneous violent lightning storms that abate as abruptly as they started, and mysterious shadowy lake monsters.
Of course theories abound. For some this is merely the work of the lake’s many treacherous sandbars, but then why are there no wrecks? Others have blamed spontaneous inter-dimensional portals, strange vortices, earthbound black holes, unexplained magnetic anomalies, freak lightning strikes, supernatural forces, or of course alien abduction. Many of the more fringe theories on the disappearances of Poyang Lake point to its location upon the 30 degree north latitude. This is significant because there are many ancient places of importance that are also located here, such as the Pyramids of Egypt, as well as other notorious places of mysterious vanishings that lie along roughly the same latitude, such as the infamous Bermuda Triangle itself. The answers remain a mystery.
There are certainly more inland bodies of water like this, with their own supposed hauntings and curses, and I may come back to this topic again to cover more. It is interesting that some of these places are crowded and well-visited, or have their ominous reputations masked by the natural splendor of their surroundings, showing that some “evil” places may at first not appear to be so. What lies under the surface of these enigmatic lakes? Is there something supernatural at work here or is there some rational explanation? While we search for answers, it is certainly unsettling to know that as people go about swimming and boating in these waters the waters themselves may be circling, scheming, and looking for new prey.
At the dawn of the 20th Century Ambrose Bierce was one of the most famous writers in America. Even today, his “Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” is known to readers and media viewers of all ages. He wrote famously for the Hearst newspapers throughout his journalism career which began after his bloody experiences during the Civil War. Indeed, his short stories from that violent combat, in particular, “What I saw at Shiloh” are considered some of the most impressionable and powerful war writings by any American.
After the war he traveled throughout the American West, first as a soldier, then as a journalist for numerous papers which carried his tales of our burgeoning, opening frontier. Bierce’s stories captured the essence of life in mining camps, roaring San Francisco, and a host of other places. His articles were known, and craved, by a new reading public. He famously wrote “The Devil’s Dictionary,” which with wit and ingenious twists railed against all manner of verbal frauds. As an investigative journalist he pursued hoaxes, political con men and wrong doers relentlessly. Often, his stories were what today we’d call horror stories, psychological thrillers, and mysteries. It is his lifelong interest in mystery that brings him to our attention.
He wrote a series of horrifying short stories toward the end of the nineteenth century on the theme of disappearance. Disappearance without a clue was a theme of dread. It was suggestive of death itself, a virtually taboo question in those Victorian times. In a story with the benign title, “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field”, a Selma, Alabama, antebellum plantation owner, one Williamson, discussed a horse trade with his neighbor, Armour Wren. After a short talk, Williamson departed across a nearby field. And disappeared. Three witnesses saw him, and the sworn testimony was recorded, except of course for the young black servant whose testimony wasn’t considered.
In “An Unfinished Race” James Worson wagered he could run forty miles and back. His British neighbors took him up on his drunken bet, and followed at no less than several yards in a cart. At one point, he pitched forward, and was gone. The three credible witnesses could never account for what transpired. In “Charles Ashmore’s Trail,” young Charles Ashmore of Quincy, Illinois, vanished one snowy evening as he went to get water from the family spring outside. After desperate searches, no one found a trace of him, whose tracks simply stopped in the deep snow. Only his mother, then occasionally others in his family heard the faint but clear voice of Charles. He seemed to call, apparently from a distance not clearly defined, irregularly, for some months thereafter. Then nothing.
In “Staley Fleming’s Hallucination”, the man Fleming believes he’s ‘a bit loony,’ and tells a doctor. He claims to see a fierce dog in his room at night. After professional preparations at Fleming’s home, the doctor agrees to stay the night. After a shriek, the doctor discovers the complainant dead of an apparent vicious dog bite to the neck. Reference is made to a strange document which avers that as flesh has a spirit, so a spirit can take on flesh, the better to do violence to the living. Bierce records more stories in a similar vein, each more bizarre than the other, but each with a sense of dread that a person can vanish, and no one can account for where, or why.
These well read works would have been the hallmark of a great fiction writer, which certainly Bierce was. And yet a story happened later that was certainly not fiction. It happened to Ambrose Bierce. Bierce, the great journalist, who had exposed corruption in Washington DC, where he stopped a railroad magnate from fleecing the American public, was sent where the stories were. Or he would go there himself. After touring his old Civil War battlefields in 1913, the 71 year old departed for Mexico. The civil war in Mexico was at its brutal height. He went over the border to investigate, and became an observer with Pancho Villa’s revolutionaries. After many adventures, about which he communicated, he wrote in a letter from Chihuahua, Mexico, to a long time friend in America, “As to me, I leave here tomorrow for an unknown destination.” That was the last anyone ever heard of Ambrose Bierce.
Like Amelia Earhart, many, many theories flourished to explain what happened. Was he executed? Little evidence for that. Had he died in some lost mining cabin, as another of his fictions of years before suggested. In his short story “The Night Doings at Deadman’s” suggested a wayward man goes to a lonely cabin at an abandoned mine to hide his murder of a Chinese laborer. Yet, Bierce if anything was a hero. His actions during the Civil War were recognized when he saved a fellow soldier by carrying him, under enemy fire, to safety. He retired a major in good standing with the Army, and was indeed a topographer, so his getting lost is also doubtful. So what happened to Ambrose Bierce, whose date of death is still unknown. The mystery is still to be solved, even after all these years.
OUR ALIEN PROTECTORS
Are extraterrestrials watching over us—and if so, what could their intentions be?
Some might laugh even at the mention of aliens—despite the high statistical likelihood of there being advanced life somewhere else in the universe—but what you’re about to hear are testimonies from military personnel across the globe who claim to have seen UFO’s with their own eyes.
And the reason they give for being visited will leave you in awe…
Here is a clip of United States Air Force Lieutenant Robert Jacobs being interviewed by Larry King on CNN:
But Jacobs’ isn’t the only member of the military to witness a UFO.
According to Collective-Evolution:
“Another incident occurred at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, and is one of the most remarkable events in this history of UFO encounters with the military. This occurred in March of 1967 at a base that was responsible for a large amount of nuclear weapons. Witnesses here saw a red, glowing UFO hovering just outside the front gate. After that happened, all of the nuclear missiles shut down, and went completely dead. Captain Robert Salas, one of the men involved in the incident, gave his testimony at the Citizens Hearing on Disclosure that took place a few years ago, where a number of academics, politicians, and ex-military gathered in front of several congresspeople to discuss the matter and what happened there.”
With all of these incidents occurring near or directly above nuclear missile sites, one must ask the question: are these UFOs attempting to hinder human nuclear experimentation to prevent apocalyptic destruction?
Well, it’s a theory that’s also been proposed by a high-ranking officer named Colonel Ross Derdickson who spent the majority of his career working on and near nuclear weapons sites.
According to Dedrickson, he received numerous “reports of visits by UFOs over the storage facilities…”
He added: “We observed the UFOs were very much interested in the facilities (nuclear weapons manufacturing facilities) that were visiting…A couple of nuclear weapons that were sent out into space were destroyed by the extraterrestrials. And that is their (extraterrestrials) major concern, to preserve the integrity of the Earth because it affects their own system… There was one incident when we exploded a nuclear weapon over the pacific…and the disturbance that it caused because it shut out communications entirely over the pacific base for a number of hours in which no radio transmission was available at any time… This was one of the things that the extraterrestrials later I learned were highly concerned about because it affected our ionosphere and, in fact, space-craft were unable to operate because of the pollution in the magnetic field, which they depended upon. At the very end of the 70s and early 80s, we attempted to put a nuclear weapon on the moon and explode it for scientific measurements and other things (assess scientific data, reaction and so forth..), which was not acceptable to the extraterrestrials… They destroyed the weapon before it got to the moon….The idea of any explosion in space by any Earth government was not acceptable to the extraterrestrials, and that has been demonstrated by extraterrestrials over and over.”
The testimonials that have been taken along these lines is extraordinary. From that same Citizens Hearing on Disclosure broadcast on CNN, here is UFO researcher, Robert Hastings:
Retired United States Air Force Captain, Bruce Fenstermacher:
And again, UFO Researcher Robert Hastings:
So could it be that extraterrestrials are trying to warn—or flat out prevent humans from using nuclear weapons because we simply cannot be trusted with such massive power? At this point, and given all of the testimony, it would not be surprising. In fact, at this point, we could probably use a little protection from ourselves. We don’t seem to be doing all that well on our own.
THE MACOMB FIRESTARTER!
On August 14, 1948, a barn burned to the ground on the farmer of Charles Willey, who lived outside of Macomb, Illinois. Such an event would not seem to be much cause for alarm except for the fact that the source of the fire has never truly been explained – plus, it was just one of hundreds of fires that broke out on his property in the summer of 1948. The only person connected to each of those fires seemed to be his niece, a teenager named Wanet, who may have been starting them with her mind!
Following her parents’ bitter divorce, Wanet and her father moved to the Willey farm. Wanet was unhappy and disturbed and emotions were running high that summer, which may have been the reason for the mysterious fires. They began on August 7. At the time, the residents of the farm included Willey, his wife, his brother-in-law and Wanet’s father, Arthur McNeil and McNeil’s two children, Arthur Jr., 8, and Wanet, who had recently turned 13.
The first fire began, not as a blaze, but as a small brown spot that appeared on the wallpaper in the living room of the Willey farm house. That first spot was followed by another and then another. The spots would appear, spread out several inches as they smoldered and then, when they became hot enough, the spots burst into flames. The brown spots occurred day after day, leaving the family confused and befuddled. Willey called on several of his neighbors to investigate but they were as mystified as he was. However, many of them stayed on the property, crowding into the house and even sleeping on the floor in an attempt to help keep watch over the situation. Pans and buckets were filled with water and placed all over the house and each time one of the small fires broke out, it was quickly dowsed. Regardless, the fires kept popping up in front of the startled witnesses. As word spread, friends and neighbors came to help but could find no cause for them. Macomb’s Fire Chief, Fred Wilson, was just as confused as everyone else.
In the days that followed, fires also appeared outside of the house on the front porch. Curtains were ignited in several of the rooms, an ironing board burst into flame and a cloth that was lying on a bed burned so hot that it turned into ash. Chief Wilson had never seen anything like it before. Charles Willey contacted his insurance company and their investigators were just as confused. Deputy State Fire Marshal, John Burgard, was contacted by Chief Wilson and he too came to the Willey farm. He was also confused by the strange events. “Nobody has ever heard anything like this,” he announced to the press, “but I saw it with my own eyes”.
In the week that followed, more than 200 fires broke out at the house, an average of nearly 20 each day. Finally, on Saturday, August 14, one of the blazes raged out of control and before the Macomb fire department could be summoned with trucks, the entire Willey farm house was consumed. Charles Willey drove posts into the ground and made a tent shelter for he and his wife, while McNeil and the children moved into the garage. The next day, while the Willey’s were milking cows in the barnyard, the barn burst into flames and destroyed the building.
Two days later, on Tuesday, several fires broke out on the walls of the milk house, which was being used as a kitchen and dining room for the family. On Thursday morning, there were two more fires and a box that was filled with newspapers was found burning in the chicken house. A few minutes later, Mrs. Willey opened a cupboard door in the milk house and discovered more newspapers smoldering on a shelf inside. There had been no one else in the building and the cabinet had not been opened. There was no logical reason for the newspapers to have caught fire.
Later that day, at about 6:00 p.m., the farm’s second barn caught fire. The blaze burned so hot that the entire building was destroyed in less than a half hour. Firefighters who arrived on the scene were unable to get close to the inferno.
Only six small outhouses remained on the farm, so the family escaped to a nearby vacant house. Regardless, the fires continued. The United States Air Force even got involved in the mystery. They suggested that the fires could be caused by some sort of directed radiation, presumably from the Russians, but could offer no further assistance.
By the end of the following week, the farm was swarming with spectators, curiosity-seekers, official and self-appointed investigators, and reporters. Over 1,000 people came to the farm on August 22 alone. Theorists and curiosity-seekers posed their own theories and explanations. They ran the gamut from fly spray to radio waves, underground gas pockets, flying saucers and more. The authorities had a more down-to-earth explanation in mind. They suspected arson. They realized that they could not solve the riddle as to how fires could appear before the eyes of reliable witnesses, but things were getting out of hand on the Willey farm. An explanation needed to be discovered, and quickly.
On August 30, the mystery was publicly announced “solved”. The arsonist, according to officials, was Wanet McNeil, the slight, red-haired niece of Charles Willey. They claimed that she was starting the fires with kitchen matches when no one was looking, ignoring the witness reports of fires that sprang up from nowhere, including on the ceiling. Apparently, this little girl possessed some pretty amazing skills, along with a seemingly endless supply of matches – even though she was never witnessed holding any matches. After hours of “intense questioning,” she allegedly confessed. She stated that she was unhappy, didn’t like the farm, wanted to see her mother and most telling, that she didn’t have pretty clothes. The mystery was solved! This was in spite of the fact that witnesses to the fires had seen them appear on walls, floors and furniture, all when Wanet was not even in the room.
This explanation pleased the authorities but not all of the reporters who were present seemed convinced. The hundreds of paranormal investigators who have examined the case over the years have not been reassured either. One columnist from a Peoria newspaper, who had covered the case from the beginning, stated quite frankly that he did not believe the so-called “confession”. Neither did noted researcher of the unexplained Vincent Gaddis, who wrote about the case. He was convinced the case was a perfect example of poltergeist phenomena.
What really happened on the Willey Farm? We will probably never know because the story just went away after that. Wanet was taken to Chicago for examination at the Illinois Juvenile Hospital but was found to be mentally normal by Dr. Sophie Schroeder, a psychiatrist. “She’s a nice little kid caught in the middle of a broken home,” she reported. She was later turned over to her grandmother and spent the rest of her teenage years untroubled by mysterious brown spots that appeared, spread and burst into flames.
The insurance company paid Willey for the damage done to his home and farm and the farm house was later rebuilt. Arthur McNeil and his son moved back in with the Willey’s for a time before eventually moving out of state.
Fire officials abandoned the case after the “confession” cleared up the mystery for them but privately, many of those involved continued to question what really occurred on the Willey farm for years afterward. Fire Chief Fred Wilson talked about the case for quite some time and later retired from his position convinced that something unexplainable had taken place.
The reporters who descended on the Willey farm all received closure for the stories, whether they believed the conclusion or not, and the general public was given a solution that could not have possibly been the truth. Not surprisingly, the case is still listed as “unexplained” today.
THE HOUSE AT THE FRONT
This is one incident which happened way back when I was a kid, around 7 years of age. I grew up at my maternal grandmother’s place. There were few kids in my neighborhood and we all used to play in the evening and continued to do so until someone from our respective homes would come and take us away. The incident is of one such evening.
In front of my house there was an empty house. As far as I remember, once a family used to live there. They were a married couple and the wife was expecting. They gave birth to a boy. After few months the boy died and they also soon after left the home.
No one came to stay in that home after that and hence it was vacant. The house had a small wall as its boundary to the veranda and the veranda was connected to the main entrance of the house. At the back side of the house was a mini garden or you can say a lawn. But that wasn’t a lawn anymore. Those were like wild grass which had popped out everywhere at the backyard. In that backyard was a small storeroom which was locked from outside and had just one grilled window.
One evening we friends decided to play hide and seek. One of us started counting and the other began to hide. I went into that house to hide. I went to the backyard thinking that no one would guess I am there. Few minutes passed and no one came searching for me so I began to roam around and went near that storeroom and tried to peek through the window. All I could see was darkness.
After few seconds I decided to walk back and it was then when I saw a faint light in that room. I focused and that light became bright and all of a sudden I saw a shadow passing by. I screamed and ran and was busted by my friend who was searching for the hidden ones.
He told me to stay at the front of the house while he was searching for the others. I was too scared to stay alone. I was in shock and didn’t utter a single word. After few minutes all of us gathered at a single place. I was still quiet and when they asked me the reason I told them everything. A few of them were scared but rest of them laughed. I kept mum.
Then me and one of my friend discovered something lying on the veranda. When we had a close look it were two earthen pots of very small size like, approximately of a tennis ball’s size, and a red cloth was wrapped on their openings/mouth. We didn’t knew what it was. I tried to open it but my friends started scaring me and I left it.
I came back home and told everything to my grandmother and she scolded me for having gone there. She asked e to not to go to that place ever again. I told her everything except for the fact that I had brought with me one of those pots. At night I just tried to open it, but it won’t. I kept it by my pillow side and slept. I had horrendous nightmares that night and next morning I woke up with a high fever.
My grandmother discovered that pot and immediately got rid of it. She didn’t scold me as I was not well but what I remember next was that we had a ‘puja’ conducted in our house and something was tied on my hand and I was told to not to take it off. I was well again and after a couple of days started playing with my friends again.
One friend told me that her mom told that those pots were evil as somebody performs black magic. I didn’t knew what black magic was neither did my friend but we knew that whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
We never went to that house again. Today there is a whole new house constructed at that place and I heard that a family moved in there but they also moved out of there after the elder of their family passed away.
I don’t know what is there that still exists and neither do I exactly know what it was back then.
MIN MIN ORBS
In the Outback of Queensland, Australia, ghostly orbs of light have been frightening people for centuries. Local residents call them Min Min lights, named after the early settlement and hotel in Boulia. Seemingly persistent one moment, but fleeting the next, the lights follow travelers far across the land and seem to have an intelligence about them. The town of Boulia has become somewhat famous for the ghost lights. Oral traditions of Aboriginal people recorded them as having existed even before the colonization of Europeans in Australia. What do we know about the mystery of the orbs and what are some of the theories about what they could be?
Europeans first documented the Min Min lights in 1838. They are usually described as fuzzy disks or glowing football-shaped orbs that can grow in size, get brighter or dimmer, take on different colors, and move about. They hover about three feet above the ground and are often mistaken for the lights of an oncoming vehicle. But, unlike vehicle lights, these phantom lights of Boulia often appear to follow or approach travelers, whether they are on foot, on horseback or driving a car. Sometimes they stand still, while at other times they seem to chase the observer or bob up and down as if they’re dancing. Thousands of people have seen them over the years, and many of them reported it as a frightening or “spooky” experience.
The Sydney Morning Herald published an interesting story of an eyewitness account of these lights on January 25, 1947. The article began with the tale of the shady Min Min Hotel, which was once notorious for selling drugs and modified alcohol to the workers who would stop for a drink. Some of the men would stay at the hotel, while others passed through. Numerous men died there, either from the drugs and tainted alcohol, deadly brawls, or hoodlums murdered them for money. Those men were buried behind the hotel. But there was a fire in the early 1900s that burned the hotel down, and the only thing that remained was the graveyard. A short time after the fire, a stockman on horseback was passing through and he encountered the bizarre light. He rode to the police station and this is what he reported: ” I saw a strange glow appear right in the middle of the cemetery. I looked at it amazed. The glow got bigger, till it was about the size of a water-melon. I couldn’t believe my eyes as I saw it hovering over the ground. And then I broke into a cold sweat, for it started to come towards me.”
The stockman continued to tell the sergeant that he tried to ride away, but the light kept following him until he got to the edge of the town. The officer just smiled unbelievingly at his story. However, since the stockman’s encounter, thousands more have witnessed the lights.
It is unclear when Aboriginal people of Australia began seeing the Min Min lights. Oral traditions make it difficult to maintain a clear timelines of events. Some of the oldest stories of the Boulia region indicate that the increase in lights was associated with the killing of Aboriginal Australians by Europeans. Aboriginal people believed the lights came from their graveyards as the spirits of their dead ancestors who were perhaps unrestful because they felt the injustice of their murders. The Aborigines feared the lights, and believed that they could take someone’s life.
There are other theories about the lights. One idea suggests that they are the result of gaseous releases from the earth, such as those often seen at graveyards. Others propose glowing insects like fireflies may cause the illuminations. Fringe theorists support the UFO and paranormal avenues (ghosts, spirits, fairies).
Jack Pettigrew is Emeritus Professor of Physiology and Director of the Vision, Touch and Hearing Research Centre at the University of Queensland. While he was studying a nocturnal bird, he had an experience with the Min Min light. During his first encounter, he initially assumed it was the planet Venus. However, he observed that the light approached the horizon but never set below it, like a normal planet would as the earth rotated.
On another occasion, Professor Pettigrew was driving at night with some colleagues when they saw the mysterious phenomenon. At first, they thought the lights were the shining eyes of a cat maybe 50 meters away. When they stopped the car, though, the lights continued to hover in front of them. The mystery only deepened when the scientists tried to track the lights to their source, which they calculated to be over 300 kilometers away, beyond the horizon.
Professor Pettigrew hypothesized that the Min Min lights are a type of mirage, or a Fata Morgana. A temperature inversion causes these types of mirages, in which a layer of warm air traps a layer of dense cold air underneath it. When light passes through the two layers, refraction occurs. In other words, the light bends. Since it is optically difficult for humans to identify bent light, it is easy for someone to believe that the light originates from where it appears to be. In a Fata Morgana, the image appears to be floating above the horizon or close in front of them, and this can be quite frightening for many people. Pedigrew stated: “Wonderful during the day, such Fata Morgana can be terrifying at night when a single light source gives no hint that it is actually part of a mirage emanating from a great distance. Even hardened Outback observers can break down when they are unable to interpret the unusual optical properties of the light in terms of their own, very different, past experiences.”
Professor Pettigrew conducted an experiment in which he created his own type of phantom light phenomenon. He chose a night with the right weather conditions and drove about 10 kilometers. Six witnesses saw the car lights floating above the horizon. Many other people saw an even more spectacular Fata Morgana the following morning when they saw a whole mountain range floating above the ground.
Phenomena of phantom lights aren’t unique to Australia. Many other countries have stories about floating orbs and therefore have many names for them: “ghost lights,” “fairy lights,” “will-o’-the-wisp,” and “ignis fatuus.” Will-o’-the-wisp are ghost lights that were observed and named by people of the ancient Celtic lands of Europe: Ireland, Scotland, England, Wales. Unlike the min min lights, the will-o’-wisps appear mostly around wet grounds such as bogs and swamps. Some people believe them to be fairies or spirits, and because the lights resemble a disembodied lantern moving through the darkness, the story of the jack-o’-lantern is related to the will-o’-the-wisp.
In Mexico there is a type of light similar to the ghost orbs of Boulia that locals believe are the souls of witches. They call these brujas. In the South American countries of Argentina and Uruguay the ghost lights are called luz mala, meaning evil light. Luz mala is a rural phenomenon, similar to the min min lights, however, the residents dread them and have incorporated them into many myths.
Magic exists when something defies our understanding. There are many people in the Boulia region who want to keep that magic alive, however, science doesn’t necessarily negate the beauty or wonder of the Min Min lights. Aboriginal people of Australia first described this enduring mystery long ago. Hence, it is clear that many people of the region now identify with the lights. Whatever they may be, they have become an attraction for people who come from all over to get a glimpse of the famous lights of the Australian outback.
RUM, JEALOUSY, & MURDER
George Widman and Thomas Brownlee accompanied a young lady name Miss Norris on an excursion up the Hudson River from Yonkers, New York to Newberg, aboard the steamer Grand Republic on Sunday, October 5, 1879. Widman, a 25-year-old carpenter, and Brownlee, a 27-year-old blacksmith were good friends, members of the same hose company of the Yonkers fire department. Widman was a steady man with quiet, temperate habits; Brownlee was a hard drinker known to become quarrelsome when drunk.
As the trip progressed, it became clear the Miss Norris favored the attention of Widman, who had taken her to the circus the previous Friday. Brownlee drank heavily on the boat and expressed his feelings toward Widman in very intemperate language.
When the boat returned to Yonkers the two men were seen walking down the Main Street together and there appeared to be no ill-will between them. About twenty minutes later, Brownlee pulled a leather case from his pocket. He opened the case, drew out a five-shot pistol, and fired at Widman hitting him in the groin, severing two arteries. Widman cried out in pain while falling to the sidewalk.
The shot drew the attention of Roundsman Woodruff who rushed to the scene and found Brownlee trying to rouse Widman. George Widman was rushed to St. John’s Hospital but died on the way. Brownlee was arrested for murder. There had been two witnesses to the shooting so there was no question that Brownlee was the killer, but he claimed the shot was accidental.
The pistol recently acquired by Brownlee had an interesting history. It had originally belonged to Roundsman Woodruff and fell out of his pocket, still in its leather case, as he climbed a fence while perusing a criminal. Before Woodruff realized it was gone, James Douglas found it on the ground and turned a quick profit when he sold it to Brownlee for $2. After shooting Widman, Brownlee threw it into a stagnant pond near the road, only the leather case remained.
There were two theories of why Brownlee shot his friend. The first was jealousy over Widman winning the affection of Miss Norris. The second theory, considered more likely, was his anger that Widman had not come to his aid when he got into a drunken altercation with a stranger on board the boat.
Whatever the trigger, the root cause of Brownlee’s action was alcohol. He maintained that the shooting was accidental and at his trial the following March the defense contended that he was “unconscious from the effects of liquor.” Thomas Brownlee was found guilty of second-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison.
From 2011 to 2013, dozens of patients in the Dallas area woke up after their surgeries with horrible pain, numbness and, paralysis. Even worse, some of the patients never got the chance to wake up. And it’s all because of one surgeon named Christopher Duntsch — a.k.a. “Dr. Death.”
Duntsch’s career started off bright. He graduated from a top-tier medical school, was running research labs and completed a residency program for neurosurgery. However, things soon went south.
Now, a new podcast called Dr. Death is breaking down the deranged surgeon’s criminal acts and shows how drug abuse and blinding overconfidence led to big trouble for the patients who found themselves underneath the spiraling doctor’s knife.
Christopher Duntsch was born in Montana in 1971 and raised alongside his three siblings in an affluent suburb of Memphis, Tenn. His father was a missionary and physical therapist and his mother was a school teacher.
Duntsch received his undergraduate degree from the University of Memphis and stayed in town to receive an M.D. and Ph.D. from the University of Tennessee Health Center. According to D Magazine, Duntsch did so well in medical school that he was allowed to join the prestigious Alpha Omega Medical Honor Society.
He did his surgical residency at the University of Tennessee in Memphis, spending five years studying neurosurgery and a year studying general surgery. During this time, he ran two successful labs and raised millions of dollars in grant funding, according to Rolling Stone.
However, it wouldn’t be long until Duntsch’s seemingly perfect career began to unravel.
Around 2006 and 2007, Duntsch began to become unhinged. According to Megan Kane, an ex-girlfriend of one of Duntsch’s friends, she saw him eat a paper blotter of LSD and take prescription painkillers on his birthday.
She also said that he kept a pile of cocaine on his dresser in his home office. Kane also recalled a cocaine- and LSD-fueled night of partying between her, her ex-boyfriend, and Duntsch where, after the end of their all-night party, she saw Duntsch put on his lab coat and go to work.
According to D Magazine, a doctor at the hospital where Duntsch worked said that Duntsch had been sent to an impaired physician program after he refused to take a drug test. Despite this refusal, Duntsch was allowed to finish his residency.
Duntsch focused on his research for a while but was recruited from Memphis to join the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute in North Dallas in the summer of 2011.
After he arrived in town, he secured a deal with the Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano and was given surgical rights at the hospital.
Over the course of two years, Christopher Duntsch a.k.a. Dr. Death operated on 38 patients in the Dallas area. Of those 38, 31 were left paralyzed or seriously injured and two of them died from surgical complications.
Through it all, one way Duntsch was able to lure patient after patient under his knife was his extreme confidence.
Dr. Mark Hoyle, a surgeon who worked with Duntsch during one of his botched procedures, told D Magazine that he would make extremely arrogant announcements such as: “Everybody is doing it wrong. I’m the only clean minimally invasive guy in the whole state.”
Before working with him, Dr. Hoyle said that he didn’t know how to feel about his fellow surgeon.
“I thought he was either really, really good, or he’s just really, really arrogant and thought he was good,” Hoyle said.
He performed only one surgery with the Minimally Invasive Spine Institute. Duntsch was fired after he performed a surgery and immediately left for Las Vegas, leaving no one to look after his patient.
He might have been fired from the Institute but was still a surgeon at Baylor Plano. One of the patients who suffered disastrous consequences was Jerry Summers, the boyfriend of Megan Kane and a friend of Duntsch.
In February 2012, he went under the knife for an elective spinal fusion surgery. When he woke up, he was a quadriplegic with incomplete paralysis. According to Rolling Stone, this means that Summers could still feel pain, but was unable to move from the neck down.
Duntsch had his surgical rights temporarily suspended after his botched surgery on Summers and his first patient back was 55-year-old Kellie Martin.
After a fall in her kitchen, Martin had experienced chronic back pain and sought out surgery to alleviate it. Martin would become Duntsch’s first casualty when she bled out in intensive care unit after her relatively common procedure.
Following his blunders, Duntsch resigned from Baylor Plano in April 2012 before they could fire him. He was then brought on board at the Dallas Medical Center where he continued his carnage.
His very first operation at the hospital would once again turn deadly. Floella Brown went under his knife in July 2012 and shortly after her surgery, she suffered a massive stroke caused by Duntsch slicing her vertebral artery during surgery.
The day that Brown suffered her stroke, Duntsch operated again. This time on 53-year-old Mary Efurd.
She came in to have two vertebrae fused, but when she woke up she experienced severe pain and couldn’t stand. A CT scan would later reveal that Efurd’s nerve root had been amputated, there were several screw holes nowhere near where they were supposed to be, and one screw had been lodged in another nerve root.
Dr. Death was fired before the end of his first week for the damage he’d inflicted on Brown and Efurd.
After several more months of botched surgeries, Duntsch finally lost his surgical privileges altogether in June 2013 after two physicians complained to the Texas Medical Board.
In July 2015, a grand jury indicted Dr. Death on five counts of aggravated assault and one count of harming an elderly person, his patient Mary Efurd, according to Rolling Stone.
Christopher Duntsch was sentenced to life in prison in February 2017 for his heinous acts. He is currently appealing this sentence.