“AMERICAN SEA MONSTERS” and More Dark True Stories! (PLUS BLOOPERS!) #WeirdDarkness

“AMERICAN SEA MONSTERS” and More Dark True Stories! (PLUS BLOOPERS!) #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““AMERICAN SEA MONSTERS” and More Dark True Stories! (PLUS BLOOPERS!) #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: When you think of monsters in America, you probably think of Bigfoot in the American Northwest – or perhaps the Chupacabra in the South. Maybe you think of Dogman in the upper Midwest. But people don’t typically think of the American lakes and shores, where we have our own collection of monsters and sea serpents. (American Sea Monsters) *** As the saying goes – don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. But once in a while the punishment goes far beyond what the crime calls for. (Cruel and Unusual Punishments) *** Marilyn Monroe was found dead of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962. And while the facts of her death are shocking, her troubling childhood wasn’t pretty either. We’ll look at the life and death of this Hollywood bombshell. (The Troubled Life And Shocking Death of Marilyn Monroe) *** We’ll take a look at, not the very first serial killer – but the first serial killer FAMILY in America! The bloody Benders! (America’s First Serial Killer Family)

“American Sea Monsters” by Charles M. Skinner, posted at LegendsOfAmerica.com:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ycy9tdes
“Cruel and Unusual Punishments” by Jonathan Hastad for ListVerse.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/y994jmsf
“The Troubled Life And Shocking Death of Marilyn Monroe” by Margarita Hirapetian: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/55bv7naw, and Kelly Kreiss: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/432bykfc for Ranker.com
“America’s First Serial Killer Family” by Miss Celania for MentalFloss.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yz7mbn7v
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.

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Originally aired: January, 2021


DISCLAIMER: Ads heard during the podcast that are not in my voice are placed by third party agencies outside of my control and should not imply an endorsement by Weird Darkness or myself. *** Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.


Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
As the saying goes – don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. But once in a while the punishment goes far beyond what the crime calls for. (Cruel and Unusual Punishments)
Marilyn Monroe was found dead of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962. And while the facts of her death are shocking, her troubling childhood wasn’t pretty either. We’ll look at the life and death of this Hollywood bombshell. (The Troubled Life And Shocking Death of Marilyn Monroe)
We’ll take a look at, not the very first serial killer – but the first serial killer FAMILY in America! The bloody Benders! (America’s First Serial Killer Family)
When you think of monsters in America, you probably think of Bigfoot in the American Northwest – or perhaps the Chupacabra in the South. Maybe you think of Dogman in the upper Midwest. But people don’t typically think of the American lakes and shores, where we have our own collection of monsters and sea serpents. (American Sea Monsters)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, to connect with me on social media, and more!
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!


The following article was written by Charles Skinner back in 1896 – you have to love the color language he uses when relating the tales of sea serpents and lake monsters in America. Here is the article:

The remarkable sea serpent has been reported at so many points, and by so many witnesses not addicted to fish tales nor liquor, that there ought to be some reason for him.

He has been especially numerous off the New England coast. He was sighted off Cape Ann, Massachusettsin 1817, and several times off Nahant, Massachusetts. Though alarming in appearance — for he has a hundred feet of body, a shaggy head, and goggle eyes — he is of lamb-like disposition and has never justified the attempts that have been made to kill or capture him. Rewards were at one time offered to the seafaring men who might catch him, and revenue cutters cruising about Massachusetts Bay were ordered to keep a lookout for him and have a gun double shotted for action. One fisherman emptied the contents of a ducking gun into the serpent’s head, as he supposed, but the creature playfully wriggled a few fathoms of its tail and made off.

John Josselyn, a gentleman, reported that when he stirred about this neighborhood in 1638 an enormous reptile was seen “coiled up on a rock at Cape Ann.” He would have fired at him but for the earnest dissuasion of his Indian guide, who declared that ill luck would come of the attempt. The sea-serpent sometimes shows amphibious tendencies and occasionally leaves the sea for fresh water. Two of them were seen in Devil’s Lake, Wisconsin by four men in 1892. They confessed, however, that they were fishing at the time. The snakes had fins and were a matter of 50 feet long. When one of these reptiles found the other in his vicinage he raised his head six feet above the water and fell upon him tooth and nail — if he had nails. In their struggles, these unpleasant neighbors made such waves that the fishermen’s boat was nearly upset.

Even the humble Wabash River has its terror, for at Huntington, Indiana, three truthful damsels of the town saw its waters churned by a tail that splashed from side to side, while far ahead was the prow of the animal — a leonine skull, with whiskers, and as large as the head of a boy of a dozen years. As if realizing what kind of a report was going to be made about him, the monster was overcome with bashfulness at the sight of the maidens and sank from view.

In April 1890, a water-snake was reported in one of the Twin Lakes, in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, but the eye-witnesses of his sports let him off with a length of 25 feet.

Sysladobosis Lake, in Maine, has a snake with a head like a dog’s, but it is hardly worth mentioning because it is only eight feet long — hardly longer than the name of the lake. More enterprise is shown across the border, for Skiff Lake, New Brunswick has a similar snake 30 feet long.

In Cotton Mather’s time a double-headed snake was found at Newbury, Massachusetts, — it had a head at each end, — and before it was killed it showed its evil disposition by chasing and striking at the lad who first met it.

A snake haunts Wolf Pond, Pennsylvania, that is an alleged relic of the Silurian age (416.0 to 443.7 million years ago.) It was last seen in September 1887, when it unrolled 30 feet of itself before the eyes of an alarmed spectator — again a fisherman. The beholder struck him with a pole, and in revenge, the serpent capsized his boat; but he forbore to eat his enemy, and, diving to the bottom, disappeared. The creature had a black body, about six inches thick, ringed with dingy-yellow bands, and a mottled-green head, long and pointed, like a pike’s.

Silver Lake, near Gainesville, New York, was in 1855 reported to be the lair of a great serpent, and old settlers declared that he still comes to the surface now and then.

Santa Barbara Island, off the California coast, was, for a long time, the supposed headquarters of swimming and flying monsters and sirens, and no Mexican would pass in hearing of the yells and screams and strange songs without crossing himself and begging the captain to give the rock a wide berth. But, the noise is all the noise of cats. A shipwrecked tabby peopled the place many years ago, and her numerous progeny live there on dead fish and on the eggs and chicks of sea-fowl.

Spirit Canyon, a rocky gorge that extends for three miles along Big Sioux River, Iowa, was hewn through the stone by a spirit that took the form of a dragon. Such were its size and ferocity that the Indians avoided the place, lest they should fall victims to its ire.

The Huron tribe believed in a monster serpent — Okniont — who wore a horn on his head that could pierce trees, rocks, and hills. A piece of this horn was an amulet of great value, for it insured good luck.

The Zuni tell of a plumed serpent that lives in the water of sacred springs, and they dare not destroy the venomous creatures that infest the plains of Arizona because, to them, the killing of a snake means a reduction in their slender water supply. The gods were not so kind to the snakes as men were, for the agatized trees of Chalcedony Park, in Arizona, are held to be arrows shot by the angry deities at the monsters who vexed this region.

Indians living on the shore of Canandaigua Lake, New York, tamed a pretty spotted snake and fed and petted it until it took a deer at a meal. It grew so large that it eventually encircled the camp and began to prey on its keepers. Vainly they tried to kill the creature, until a small boy took an arrow of red willow, anointed it with the blood of a young woman, and shot it from a basswood bow at the creature’s heart. It did not enter at once; it merely stuck to the scales. But presently it began to bore and twist its way into the serpent’s body. The serpent rolled into the lake and made it foam in its agony. It swallowed water and vomited it up again, with men dead and alive, before it died.

The monster Amhuluk, whose home is a lake near Forked Mountain, Oregon, had but one passion — to catch and drown all things, and when you look into the lake you see that he has even drowned the sky in it, and has made the trees stand upside down in the water. Wherever he set his feet the ground would soften. As three children were digging roots at the edge of the water he fell on them and impaled two of them on his horns, the eldest only contriving to escape. When this boy reached home his body was full of blotches, and the father suspected how it was, yet he went to the lake at once. The bodies of the children came out of the mud at his feet to meet him, but went down again and emerged later across the water. They led him on in this way until he came to the place where they were drowned. A fog now began to steam up from the water, but through it he could see the little ones lifted on the monster’s horns, and hear them cry, “We have changed our bodies.” Five times they came up and spoke to him, and five times he raised a dismal cry and begged them to return, but they could not. Next morning he saw them rise through the fog again, and, building a camp, he stayed there and mourned for several days. For five days they showed themselves, but after that, they went down and he saw and heard no more of them. Ambuluk had taken the children and they would live with him forever after.

Crater Lake, Oregon, was a haunt of water-devils who dragged into it and drowned all who ventured near. Only within a few years could Indians be persuaded to go to it as guides. Its discoverers saw in it the work of the Great Spirit, but could not guess its meaning. All but one of these Klamath stole away after they had looked into its circular basin and sheer walls. He fancied that if it was a home of gods they might have some message for men, so camping on the brink of the lofty cliffs he waited. In his sleep, a vision came to him, and he heard voices but could neither make out appearances nor distinguish a word. Every night this dream was repeated. He finally went down to the lake and bathed, and instantly found his strength increased and saw that the people of his dreams were the genii of the waters — whether good or bad he could not guess. One day he caught a fish for food. A thousand water-devils came to the surface, on the instant, and seized him. They carried him to a rock on the north side of the lake, that stands two thousand feet above the water, and from that they dashed him down, gathering the remains of his shattered body below and devouring them. Since that taste, they have been eager for men’s blood. The rock on the south side of the lake, called the Phantom Ship, is believed by the Indians to be a destructive monster, innocent as it looks in the daytime.

So with Rock Lake, in Washington. A hideous reptile sports about its waters and gulps down everything that it finds in or on them. Only, in 1853 a band of Indians, who had fled hither for security against the soldiers, were overtaken by this creature, lashed to death, and eaten.

The Indians of LouisianaMississippi, and Texas believed that the King Snake, or God Snake, lived in the Gulf of Mexico. It slept in a cavern of pure crystal at the bottom, and its head, being shaped from a solid emerald, lighted the ocean for leagues when it arose near the surface.

Similar to this is the belief of the Cherokee in the kings of rattlesnakes, “bright old inhabitants” of the mountains that grew to a mighty size, and drew to themselves every creature that they looked upon. Each wore a crown of carbuncle of dazzling brightness.

The Indians avoided Klamath Lake because it was haunted by a monster that was half dragon, half hippopotamus.

Hutton Lake, Wyoming, is the home of a serpent queen, whose breathing may be seen in the bubbles that well up in the center. She is constantly watching for her lover but takes all men who come in her way to her grotto beneath the water when she finds that they are not the one she has expected, and there they become her slaves. To lure victims into the lake she sets there a decoy of a beautiful red swan, and should the hunter kill this bird he will become possessed of divine power. Should he see “the woman,” as the serpent queen is called, he will never live to tell of it, unless he has seen her from a hiding-place near the shore — for so surely as he is noticed by this Diana of the depths, so surely will her spies, the land snakes, sting him to death. In appearance, she is a lovely girl in all but her face, and that is shaped like the head of a monster snake. Her name is never spoken by the Indians, for fear that it will cost them their lives.

Michael Pauw, brave fisherman of Paterson, New Jersey, hero of the fight with the biggest snapping-turtle in Dover Slank, wearer of a scar on his seat of honor as memento of the conflict, member of the Kersey Reds — he whose presence of mind was shown in holding out a chip of St. Nicholas’s staff when he met the nine witches of the rocks capering in the mists of Passaic Falls — gave battle from a boat to a monster that had ascended to the cataract. One of the Kersey Reds, leaning out too far, fell astride of the horny beast, and was carried at express speed, roaring with fright, until unhorsed by a projecting rock, up which he scrambled to safety. Falling to work with bayonets and staves, the company dispatched the creature and dragged it to shore. One Dutchman — who was quite a traveler, having been as far from home as Albany — said that the thing was what the Van Rensselaers cut up for beef and that he believed they called it a sturgeon.


Up next… Marilyn Monroe was found dead of a drug overdose on August 5, 1962. And while the facts of her death are shocking, her troubling childhood wasn’t pretty either. We’ll look at the life and death of this Hollywood bombshell, when Weird Darkness returns.



Marilyn Monroe died of a barbiturate overdose. Her body was discovered on August 5, 1962, in her home at 12305 Fifth Helena Drive in Brentwood, CA. Since then, her tragic demise has been the subject of some of the most enduring conspiracy theories in history – including that she was one of many historical suicides that were actually murder. Yet, the actual details of her passing are just as shocking and interesting as the stories bandied about by conspiracy theorists.

Whether you believe she was a celebrity MK Ultra victim or not, knowing how Marilyn Monroe really died and the many strange details that surround it might just surprise you more than even the most plausible conspiracy.

According to the coroner’s report, Marilyn Monroe overdosed on Nembutal pills. However, no pills were found in her stomach. The deputy coroner, Dr. Thomas Noguchi, later explained the lack of pills as a result of Monroe’s long history of substance abuse. The pills in her stomach were digested more quickly than they would have been by someone who wasn’t an addict.

Yet, the fact that no pills were found in her stomach has been used by conspiracy theorists through the years to support their theory that perhaps she did not die of an overdose at all, but instead was assassinated by the CIA, FBI, or her own housekeeper.

Dr. Thomas Noguchi was tasked with the autopsy, but he wasn’t exactly given a complete picture. According to him, when he received Marilyn Monroe’s body in the morgue, the samples from her stomach and intestines had been destroyed. This affected toxicology reports, which made Dr. Noguchi believe people would think she’d been assassinated.

He also discovered that, while other organs had been sent to the toxicology labs, tests were never done. The only parts of Monroe’s body that were put to complete toxicology tests were samples of her blood and her liver.

Sgt. Jack Clemmons of the Los Angeles Police Department was the first officer to arrive on the scene of Marilyn Monroe’s passing. Later, in his own writings of the event, he recalled that Monroe’s housekeeper Eunice Murray was running the washing machine when he arrived. He also noted that Murray was acting strangely and was evasive when questioned.

Detective Sgt. Robert E. Byron, who arrived on the scene a few minutes after Clemmons, also noted in his report that Murray was acting like an unreliable witness. He wrote: “It is officer’s opinion that Mrs. Murray was vague and possibly evasive in answering questions pertaining to the activities of Miss Monroe during this time.”

Conspiracy theorists have used Murray’s behavior that tragic night as proof that there was something inappropriate and fishy going on, and that perhaps the housekeeper knew more than she was letting on.

Marilyn Monroe spoke to several people on the phone the night she passed. Among them was Peter Lawford, an old friend of the actress and the brother-in-law of John F. Kennedy. According to Lawford, Monroe seemed to be under the influence of drugs. He also claimed she told him: “Say goodbye to Pat, say goodbye to the president, and say goodbye to yourself, because you’re a nice guy.”

Lawford became extremely worried about Monroe, and phoned several people to check up on her. When he was unable to reach Dr. Ralph Greenson, Lawford called Monroe’s lawyer Milton A. Rudin, who in turn reached out to Monroe’s housekeeper, who told him that Monroe was fine.

This message, however, has further fueled conspiracy theories that perhaps John F. Kennedy and the government were somehow involved in Monroe’s demise.

Norman Mailer’s biography of Marilyn Monroe was one of the first to suggest that foul play was a factor in Monroe’s passing. In the 1960s, a self-published biography by Frank A. Capell made claims that Monroe was murdered as part of a communist conspiracy, but it wasn’t until Mailer’s account was published in 1973 that the conspiracy theories really took hold.

Mailer was the first to suggest Monroe had an affair with Robert F. Kennedy, and that her involvement with him led to her demise. He was savaged by critics for his implications and later admitted: “I’d say it was ten to one that [Monroe’s death] was an accidental suicide.”

When questioned as to why he felt the need to bring RFK into it, he said: “I needed money very badly.”

Following Mailer’s accusations against RFK, biographer Robert F. Slatzer in 1975 further argued that Monroe was killed by RFK, then the attorney general, because she threatened to go public with government secrets RFK had confided in her.

Also in 1975, journalist Anthony Scaduto published an article alleging Monroe was ordered to be killed by the Kennedy brothers, and that she kept a “red diary” where she supposedly stored secret government information the Kennedys had confided in her.

Monroe took a phone call from Joe DiMaggio Jr. between 7:00 pm and 7:15 pm and by all accounts had a happy conversation with the 20-year-old, during which DiMaggio Jr. told her that he’d just broken up with a young woman Monroe disliked. Housekeeper Eunice Murray also later confirmed that Monroe was “happy, gay, alert – anything but depressed” during the talk.

Monroe took her last call of the night from Peter Lawford about half an hour later at 7:40 pm or 7:45 pm, during which Lawford noted she sounded slurred and barely audible.

The coroner later observed: “Monroe was laughing and chatting on the telephone with Joe DiMaggio’s son, Joe Junior. Yet – and this was one of the strangest facts of the case – not thirty minutes after this happy conversation, Marilyn Monroe was dying.”

The police weren’t notified of the tragedy until after Marilyn Monroe’s psychiatrist Dr. Ralph Greenson and physician Dr. Hyman Engelberg had visited her home. The Los Angeles Police Department was called around 4:25 am, almost an hour and a half from when Monroe was supposedly found unresponsive by her housekeeper. During that time Eunice Murray, Dr. Greenson, and Dr. Engelberg were alone at the scene.

When Sgt. Jack Clemmons inquired as to why police hadn’t been notified earlier, the doctors said they needed permission from 20th Century Fox’s publicity department before they could alert law enforcement.

Following the many conspiracy theories published in the 1970s, District Attorney John Van de Kamp ordered a review of the actress’s passing in 1982. It spanned 29 pages and took three-and-a-half months to prepare.

After a thorough investigation Van de Kamp found that there was no foul play in Monroe’s death, noting: “Based on the evidence available to us, it appears that her death could have been a suicide or a result of an accidental drug overdose. It is possible that while her ingestion of a lethal quantity of barbiturates was voluntary, she may have been in such a state of emotional confusion that she lacked a clearly formed purpose.”

The district attorney added that no further inquiry was planned into Monroe’s demise and that reopening the case was unnecessary.

Eunice Murray initially told Sgt. Jack Clemmons that she phoned Dr. Ralph Greenson around midnight. She later said she first called the doctor at 3 am. Peter Lawford, who persisted in trying to check up on Marilyn Monroe after their earlier conversation, claimed he’d been told that she died around midnight. Milton Rudin, her attorney, also said he’d been told she died around midnight, by Dr. Greenson himself.

These discrepancies in time have been interpreted as proof that Dr. Greenson and Murray staged a cover-up of the actress’s passing between midnight and when the police were finally called at 4:25 am.

Joe DiMaggio and Marilyn Monroe originally married on January 14, 1954, but their marriage only lasted a short 274 days – they divorced in October 1954. They remained friends through the years, and when Monroe was admitted into a psychiatric hospital in 1961, she turned to DiMaggio to secure her release.

Some reports indicated the pair was due to remarry shortly after Monroe passed away. Following her untimely demise, DiMaggio sent roses to her grave several times a week until he passed in 1999.

Joe DiMaggio was left devastated by Marilyn Monroe’s death. He arranged the star’s funeral as a very private ceremony with most of her prominent Hollywood friends excluded. People like Frank Sinatra and Peter Lawford were deliberately not invited by DiMaggio, who believed that her Hollywood friends and acquaintances had reduced her to the state that led to her untimely demise. Only 30 of Monroe’s closest friends and relatives, including her half-sister Berniece Baker Miracle, were invited.

Monroe was buried in a green Emilio Pucci dress, and her longtime makeup artist Whitey Snyder made up her face for the last time.

In her will, Monroe said she wanted the bulk of her estate to go to Lee Strasberg, her acting coach. Monroe instructed him to give some of her personal effects to close friends and family, as well as maintain her publicity rights and film investments. But, according to some of her friends, he never did. And when he died in 1982, his wife Anna Strasberg licensed Monroe’s likeness and put her personal belongings on display.

The real problems, though, began when Anna Strasberg started selling off belongings that were supposed to go to Monroe’s loved ones. Anna Strasberg made an estimated $20 million to $30 million off Monroe’s legacy. Despite several lawsuits to stop this, Anna Strasberg was eventually allowed to keep Monroe’s rights – and belongings – as part of her former husband’s estate.


While Marilyn Monroe’s image graced the covers of magazines, movie posters, and film screens for much of the latter half of the 20th century, the true story of her childhood is far less romantic than the Hollywood starlet’s reputation may lead you to believe. Born to a mother with undiagnosed schizophrenia and an essentially nonexistent father, Norma Jeane Baker (who would later change her name to the well-known moniker Marilyn Monroe) spent much of her childhood and adolescence moving between orphanages and foster homes, seeking out any semblance of familial stability she could find.

In Marilyn Monroe’s early years, there were few signs to suggest she would one day become a beloved Hollywood icon. The star of films like Some Like It Hot and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Monroe created an image for herself based not on her tragic upbringing but her ability to mesmerize audiences with her beauty, wit, and charm. Though her demons never ceased to follow her, Monroe was able to leave behind her troubled childhood and, at least for a short time, bask in the spotlight of international adoration.

Norma Jeane Baker was born to Gladys Baker on June 1, 1926, but her time with her mother was short-lived. Baker, who struggled with undiagnosed mental health issues as well as financial difficulties, gave up her daughter to a foster home only two weeks after giving birth.

The foster home was located in Hawthorne, CA, and run by Ida and Wayne Bolender, a kind, religious couple. It was Baker’s hope that she would be better able to maintain a long-term relationship with her newborn daughter by making this sacrifice right away, as she had already lost custody of two children, Jackie and Berniece, from a previous marriage. Norma Jeane ended up living with the Bolenders for most of the first seven years of her life.

When Norma Jeane was in the foster home in which she’d been living since just after her birth, she found herself in perhaps the closest semblance of a family unit she would have until her adolescence. However, this time of stability was also fraught with difficulties primarily having to do with her mother’s mental health.

One such instance occurred when Baker arrived unexpectedly at the foster home in a manic state requesting to take her daughter back home to Hollywood with her. When Norma Jeane’s foster parents Ida and Wayne Bolender refused, sensing the unpredictability of Baker’s state of mind, Baker proceeded to lock Ida out of the house, hide Norma Jeane, all of 3 years old, in a duffel bag, and attempt to escape with her. The attempt was unsuccessful, and the Bolenders retained custody of Norma Jeane.

According to her birth certificate, Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson, and later baptized Norma Jeane Baker) was born to Gladys Baker Mortenson and Edward Mortenson at Los Angeles General Hospital on June 1, 1926. But as with many things in the future star’s life, even these details were unreliable at best.

Despite his name being on her birth certificate, there is little evidence to suggest that Mortenson was Norma Jeane’s biological father. Though he had once been married to Baker, the pair had separated before the pregnancy.

Throughout her life, Norma Jeane struggled to confirm the true identity of her father. Many believe it was C. Stanley Gifford, whom Baker had worked with while employed as a film cutter at Consolidated Film Industries prior to Norma Jeane’s birth. However, Gifford repeatedly denied being Norma Jeane’s father. Despite numerous attempts on her part to meet with him during her adult life, Gifford refused to speak with her.

Though Norma Jeane spent the first seven years of her childhood living in a foster home in a Los Angeles suburb, she still remained in contact with her mother, Gladys Baker. After numerous failed attempts at regaining custody of her daughter, Baker finally managed to convince Ida Bolender, the foster mother, that she was stable enough to care for Norma Jeane again.

After Baker received a bank loan to help her buy a home in Hollywood, she and Norma Jeane were finally able to live together under the same roof for the first time.

The arrangement didn’t last long. A short time after the two were reunited, Baker learned that her son, Jackie, and her grandfather had both passed. This, along with mounting financial strain, precipitated a breakdown so dramatic, the authorities had to be called. Shortly after this event, Baker was institutionalized and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia; Norma Jeane became a ward of the state and was sent to live in another foster home.

Following the diagnosis and institutionalization of her mother, Norma Jeane found herself yet again moving between unstable homes. After shifting between a few different residences, Norma Jeane went to live with her mother’s friend, Grace McKee, who in turn became her new legal guardian for a time. But after only two years’ time, McKee got married to Doc Goddard and could no longer afford to care for Norma Jeane.

At this point, Norma Jeane found herself at the Los Angeles Orphans Home Society. In an interview, she remembered her reaction to being brought to the orphanage: “I began to cry, ‘Please, please don’t make me go inside. I’m not an orphan, my mother’s not [deceased]. I’m not an orphan – it’s just that she’s sick in the hospital and can’t take care of me. Please don’t make me live in an orphans’ home.’”

Goddard (née McKee) later returned to get Norma Jeane, who had spent two years in the orphanage, and tried to include her in her family with her new husband and his children. Ultimately, this failed and Norma Jeane continued moving from foster home to foster home. These homes included those of her great-aunt Olive and Ana Lower. By age 16, having spent the last eight years shifting between homes, she ended up back in the care of the Goddards.

Though Gladys Baker gave up custody of Norma Jeane shortly after her birth due to financial strain, she was determined to maintain a relationship with her daughter. She made frequent visits to the Bolenders’ home in Hawthorne, CA, to spend time with Norma Jeane. On a few occasions, she was permitted to take her daughter back to her Hollywood apartment for the evening.

During this time, Baker was working at Consolidated Film Industries trying to save money to readopt her daughter.

By the time she was 15, Norma Jeane was living with the Goddards and attending Van Nuys High School, enjoying some of the most normal and stable months of her life. However, when the Goddards determined they would be moving to West Virginia – and that Norma Jeane would not be able to go with them – she decided she would do whatever it took to avoid going back into the foster care system or another orphanage.

With Grace Goddard’s blessing and guidance, Norma Jeane decided to marry her 21-year-old boyfriend, Jim Dougherty, in order to avoid being placed in another home when the Goddards left town. After the two were officially engaged, Norma Jeane dropped out of high school. Just a few weeks after Norma Jeane’s 16th birthday, she and Dougherty were married.

It wasn’t just that Norma Jeane was raised without a father, or that she spent much of her adolescence jumping between foster homes due to her mother’s inability to care for her. In fact, many of the struggles she endured during childhood and adolescence were present long before she was born.

Throughout her life, Norma Jeane’s mother, Gladys Baker, suffered from bouts of mania that have been attributed to either depression or paranoid schizophrenia. And she was far from alone; each member of her own immediate family had, at one point or another, been diagnosed with various mental illnesses and institutionalized. Baker’s parents, Otis and Delia Monroe, had both been institutionalized at the end of their lives, and her brother, Marion, was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia.

Because of this legacy of mental health struggles on her mother’s side, Norma Jeane spent much of her life concerned that she, too, would suffer the same unstable fate.

Between the ages of 8 and 16, Norma Jeane shifted between numerous homes and guardians before finally marrying and becoming emancipated from the foster care system. During this volatile period, however, she did find herself with one guardian who provided her with some semblance of normalcy. When Grace Goddard could no longer care for her, she sent Norma Jeane to live with Grace’s aunt – Ana Lower, or “Aunt Ana.”

Lucky for Norma Jeane, Aunt Ana turned out to be one of the kindest caregivers she’d had. Aunt Ana was also a member of the Christian Science Church and began instructing Norma Jeane in its teachings. It was at this point that Norma Jeane became a dedicated Christian Scientist before eventually parting from the church some eight years later.

After her mother’s breakdown and subsequent institutionalization, Norma Jeane saw her mom only rarely. During one of their meetings, Baker revealed to Norma Jeane the name of her half-sister, Berniece – one of the two other children Baker had before giving birth to Norma Jeane.

This information appeared to give Norma Jeane a newfound hope at having a family connection, and she began writing to Berniece, who lived in Kentucky. This eventually became one of the longest-lasting relationships in Norma Jeane’s life.

Due to a severe lack of consistency in her home and family life, Norma Jeane found other ways to cope with and make sense of her situation. And in many cases, this led to exaggerated – if not entirely fabricated – stories about her life and family.

This habit manifested early on in the form of the presumed identity of her father. Her birth father, who was never part of her life and has never been officially identified, remained a ghost to her for much of her life, despite the fact that she desperately wanted to meet him. To deal with these feelings of loss, she began to associate a picture she once found in her mother’s room of the famous actor Clark Gable, which led her to begin telling classmates that he was in fact her father.

Later, when her career was in full swing, she began stating in interviews that both of her parents had perished when she was young, and that this was what had led to her upbringing in orphanages and foster homes. Though her father’s whereabouts were never confirmed, her mother was still alive during this time.


When Weird Darkness returns…

As the saying goes – don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. But once in a while the punishment goes far beyond what the crime calls for. (Cruel and Unusual Punishments)

Plus, we’ll take a look at, not the very first serial killer – but the first serial killer FAMILY in America! The bloody Benders! (America’s First Serial Killer Family)

Coming up!



The justice system was founded on the principle that every crime or injustice has a fitting punishment. In ancient and modern societies, punishments ensure that wrongdoers pay for their crimes. In most cases, these punishments included, and still include, paying fines and carrying out set tasks to make restitution. Worst-case scenario, public execution aimed to teach a lesson and deter future offenders. But in a few cases, especially in the Medieval era, punishments were so severe that they scared everyone that learned of and saw them.

***In the middle ages, Norsemen and Scandinavian Vikings raided monasteries and coastal cities, inspiring fear for their bold exploits. As the most vicious raiding warriors, Vikings traveled worldwide seeking booty, killing, and taking victims as slaves. But while their reputation abroad was fierce, Vikings were a civilized community with set rules for punishing wrongdoers back home.

The Blood Eagle is one of the most famous Norse execution traditions that is still just as shocking to date. A son carried out the Blood Eagle against a person who murdered their father.

In the Blood Eagle, the executioner opened the offender’s back. The ribs were separated from the backbone and twisted upwards to resemble wings. Then, the executioner pulled out the lungs and draped them over the wings, after which the executioner added salt to the wound for maximum pain. The pain inflicted by the ritual punishment was unimaginable, and offenders eventually succumbed to their injuries.

***Chinese history is full of tales of mighty empires, exploits, and triumphs that made the nation great. However, there is one brutal practice from the ancient Chinese that is frightening to fathom. The punishment was called Lingchi or Slow Slicing. It was reserved for major crimes like treason and mass murder.

As the name suggests, lingchi, also known as “Death by a Thousand Cuts,” was a brutal punishment where the executioner took their time killing a lawbreaker. After being tied to a post, the condemned was cut into portions. Then, bit by bit, the executioner removed segments to reveal underlying tissue.

Since Chinese law never specified a particular approach for conducting the punishment, it varied from one region to another. In some places, the accused suffered over 3,000 cuts, while in others, the process took a few cuts and time. Either way, time varied depending on the officials and how much pity they felt for the accused.

***Elephants are majestic and proud creatures, and while different cultures revere them, others found new ways to make them useful in society. Unfortunately, “useful” in this case means a tool of punishment. And while elephants are majestic, they are also very large and strong. Executioners made sure “death by elephant” was as dramatic as possible.

In South and Southeast Asia, elephants trampled the accused to death. In India, punishment by an elephant is known as Gunga Rao. It was reserved for people who committed major crimes like rebellion, tax evasion, and theft. In these cases, the elephants crushed the accused methodically, starting from the lower limbs and moving upwards. In Thailand, the punishment had more flair as the elephants were trained to toss the accused in the air. In Vietnam, wrongdoers were tied to a stake, and the elephant charged at them, crushing them in the process.

***Cannons were powerful weapons used by armies to crush their enemies from long distances and break down walls when needed. In Punjab, troops used cannons to execute rebellious personalities and inspire fear under British control. Though effective, it was an unpopular approach.

In this ruthless style of punishment, victims had their hands and feet tied to the front of cannons, with their buttocks covering the mouth of the cannon. When the executioner fired the cannon, the accused died on the spot, leaving only pieces behind. Since the technique was brutally raw, everyone near the cannon was covered with blood and guts each time it was fired.

***Sailing was an exciting and rewarding career choice back when water travel was the only way to move around the globe. But you best stay on your boss’s good side. To punish disloyalty, captains used a method called Keelhauling.

Keelhauling was a punishment perfected by the Dutch army, one that could be meted at any time while at sea. The punishment, which could be fatal or not, required that the offender be tied with rope, after which the captain dragged them underwater from the ship’s left to the right side.

The punishment was severe since while being dragged under the ship, the keel or ship’s bottom could tear the person apart, and in most cases, they would drown. Yet, if one survived keelhauling, the torture left them with horrible scars that marked them for life.

***As cruel punishments go, drawing and quartering are the most unusual techniques ever, ones that struck fear into spectators. In this punishment, the executioner ties the victim to a horse. The horse drags them to the gallows, where the execution will happen.

At the gallows, they are then hung, beheaded, or disemboweled. The quartering involved splitting the accused in fours by tying the body to two strong horses. The stallions are forced to run in opposite directions, tearing the body into pieces in a most dramatic fashion.

The spectacle associated with this punishment was to provide ultimate humiliation to the wrongdoer and great entertainment to onlookers. The punishment was popular since it was rare and used sparingly, reserved for those guilty of treason.

***Boiling is a process associated with cooking or even industrial processes, but in the 1500s, executioners used it for punishment. In this execution method, prisoners were placed in large containers filled with boiling water, oil, wax, and even wine. They were left there until they died.

Death by boiling drew out the victim’s suffering for as long as possible. The Roman Emperor Nero was a boiling champion. Under his reign, many early Christians, then considered rebellious, were boiled in oil.

In England, during Henry VIII’s rule, boiling was a punishment for those guilty of treason or killing their husbands or masters with poison. Since death by boiling was fascinating, it was done in public where a huge metal container was set on a massive fire as citizens watched a human be boiled alive. The process for one person could take as long as two hours.

***Fans of Medieval films and shows like “Game of Thrones” know the torture by rats punishment method all too well. Governments used this punishment to coerce confessions or teach the victim a lesson. A victim is tied down, and an upside-down bucket is put upon their bare stomach or chest. Then, a hungry or even diseased rat is thrown inside the bucket.

The executioner heats up the bucket with the rat inside. As the rat realizes it’s trapped, it starts nibbling the victim’s flesh to escape. Often, the frenzied rat eats its way into the flesh while looking for a way out, and in the process, it causes unimaginable pain and stress.

While surviving the punishment was possible, it left the sufferer with wounds that took a lot of time to heal. While rats are innocent rodents, creative executioners found ways to make them lethal weapons.

***Families are the most important social units, and in Roman society, parricides or the killing of parents or near relatives attracted severe punishments. The standard punishment for parricide among Romans was called Poena Cullei, which translates to Sewn in a Bag.

Executioners first beat the condemned with rods until they were weak and bleeding. Then, the individuals were sown in a leather sack with a rooster, snake, monkey, and dog. This unique combination guaranteed that there would be chaos within the leather sack.

As if that wasn’t enough, executioners then threw the enclosed sack into the sea. If the accused didn’t die from being attacked by the animals, drowning in the sea completed the job. In cruelty and severity, this is one ugly punishment!

***And… ancient peoples had lots of creative methods to kill people guilty—or accused without evidence—of murdering royalty. But, no other punishment method surpasses scaphism, also known as The Boats. You could call it bittersweet—you’ll get the joke in a minute.

Scaphism involved the trapping of an individual between two small boats or tree trunks. The executioner would bind them to ensure they couldn’t free themselves. For scaphism to work properly, executioners chose to put the victims in swamps. Still, water is home to many bugs and small animals—perfect for torture.

The next step of the punishment was a little strange. The victim was force-fed with milk and honey—this is where the bittersweet joke comes in—a mixture that was intended to cause diarrhea. Executioners applied the remaining mixture to the accused’s exposed skin to attract wild animals, insects, and rats. Most times, the accused died from being eaten alive, exposure, dehydration, and their wounds.

Kinda makes you thankful for hangings, shooting squads, the electric chair, and lethal injection – doesn’t isn’t?


In 1870, a group of new families moved to the wind-ravaged plains near what would become Cherryvale, Kansas. They were Spiritualists, a religion that was foreign to the homesteaders already in the new state, but locals tended to accept newcomers without asking too many questions. Two of the families moved away within a year, discouraged by the difficult conditions, and the others kept to themselves. But the Benders were different.

At first, they appeared be a normal family. John Bender, Sr., and his troupe settled near the Great Osage Trail (later known as the Santa Fe Trail) over which innumerable travelers passed on their way to the West. The older Bender, called “Pa,” made a claim for 160 acres in what is now Labette County. His son John (sometimes called Thomas) claimed a smaller parcel that adjoined Pa’s land, but never lived on or worked it. The Benders also included “Ma” and a daughter named Kate, who advertised herself as Spiritualist medium and healer. Ma and Pa reportedly mostly spoke German, although the younger Benders spoke fluent English.

The group soon built a one-room home equipped with a canvas curtainthat divided the space into two areas. The front was a public inn and store, and the family quarters were in the back. Travelers on the trail were welcome to refresh themselves with a meal and resupply their wagons with liquor, tobacco, horse feed, gunpowder, and food. Kate, who was reportedly attractive and outgoing, also drew customers to the inn with her supposed psychic and healing abilities. These men, who usually traveled alone, often spent the night.

The trail was a dangerous place, and there were many reasons for travelers to go missing on their way out West—bandits, accidents, conflicts with Native Americans, disease. But over the course of several years, more and more people went missing around the time they passed through Labette County. It usually took time for such disappearances to draw attention—mail and news traveled slowly—but that all changed in March 1873 after a well-known physician from Independence, Kansas, named Dr. William York seemingly disappeared after getting off the trainat Cherryvale. Dr. York had two powerful brothers who were determined to find out what happened to him: Colonel Edward York and Kansas Senator Alexander York.

Colonel York led an investigation in Labette County. When questioned, the Benders denied all knowledge of York’s disappearance, although Ma Bender “flew into a violent passion,” in the words of The Weekly Kansas Chief, when asked about a report of a woman who had been threatened with pistols and knives at their inn. Ma defended herself by claiming that the visitor had been a witch, a “bad and wicked woman, whom she would kill if ever she came near them again.”

Around the same time, the township held a meeting at the Harmony Grove schoolhouse; both male Benders were in attendance. The townsfolk decided to search every homestead for evidence of the missing—but the weather turned bad, and it was several days before a search could begin.

Eventually, a neighbor noticed starving farm animals wandering the Bender property. When he investigated the inn, he found it empty: The Benders had fled. The volunteers who later arrived for the search noted that the Benders’ wagon was gone; little else had been taken from the home besides food and clothing.

Though the house was empty, all else seemed normal—until someone opened a trap door in the floor. What they found beneath it was chilling.

The trap door, located behind the curtain in the Benders’ private quarters, led to a foul-smelling cellar, which was drenched with blood. Horrified, the group lifted up the cabin from its foundations and dug into the ground, yet found nothing. The investigation then turned to the garden, which was freshly plowed; neighbors recalled that the garden always seemed freshly plowed.

Working through the night, the volunteers first unearthed York’s body. The back of his head had been smashed, and his throat slit. Soon, they found more bodies with similar injuries. Accounts differ about the number of bodies excavated from the site, but totals hover around a dozen. In all, the Benders may have committed as many as 21 murders. Their terrible work garnered the family only a few thousand dollars and some livestock.

Investigators later pieced together the group’s modus operandi. It’s believed that guests at the inn were urged to sit against the separating curtain, and while dining, would be hit on the head with a hammer from behind the curtain. Their body was then dropped into the trap door to the cellar, where one of the Benders slit their unfortunate victim’s throat before stripping the body of its valuables.

One man, a Mr. Wetzell, heard this theory and remembered a time when he had been at the inn and declined to sit in the designated spot near the curtain. His decision had caused Ma Bender to become angry and abusive toward him, and when he saw the male Benders emerge from behind the cloth, he and his companion decided to leave. A traveler named William Pickering told an almost identical story.

The crimes created a sensation in the newspapers, drawing journalists and curiosity-seekers from all over the country. “Altogether the murders are without a parallel,” read an account reprinted in The Chicago Tribune. TheMinneapolis Star-Tribune reported over 3000 people at the crime scene, with more trains arriving. A book published in Philadelphia soon after the murders were discovered, The Five Fiends, or, The Bender Hotel Horror in Kansas, described how “large numbers of people arrived upon the scene, who had heard of the … diabolical acts of bloody murder and rapacious robbery. Hardened men were moved to tears.” The house in which the murders took place was disassembled and carried away piece by piece by souvenir seekers.

Senator York offered a $1000 reward for the Benders, and the governor chipped in another $2000, but the reward was never claimed. In the years following the sensational crimes, several women were arrested as Ma or Kate, but none were positively identified. A number of vigilante groups claimed to have found the Benders and murdered them, but none brought back proof. The older Benders were allegedly seen on their way to St. Louis by way of Kansas City, and the younger Benders were supposedly seen heading to an outlaw colony on the border of Texas and New Mexico, but no one knows what ultimately became of them.

Investigators were likely hampered by the group’s deceit: None of the Benders were actually named Bender, and the only members who were likely related were Ma and her daughter Kate. “Pa” was reportedly born John Flickinger in the early 1800s in either Germany or the Netherlands. “Ma” is said to have been born Almira Meik, and her first husband named Griffith, with whom she had 12 children. Ma was married several times before marrying Pa, but each husband before him reportedly died of head wounds. Her daughter Kate was born Eliza Griffith. John Bender, Jr.’s real name was John Gebhardt, and many who knew them in Kansas said he was Kate’s husband, not her brother.

Today, nothing remains to indicate the exact location where the Bender house stood, although there is a historical marker at a nearby rest area. Though rumors still surround the case—some say Ma murdered Pa over stolen property soon after they fled, others that Pa committed suicide in Lake Michigan in 1884—after 140 years, we will probably never know what really happened to the Bloody Benders.


Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can also email me anytime with your questions or comments through the website at WeirdDarkness.com. That’s also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for the newsletter to win monthly prizes, find my other podcast “Church of the Undead”, and more.
All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“American Sea Monsters” by Charles M. Skinner, posted at LegendsOfAmerica.com
“Cruel and Unusual Punishments” by Jonathan Hastad for ListVerse.com
“The Troubled Life And Shocking Death of Marilyn Monroe” by Margarita Hirapetian and Kelly Kreiss for Ranker.com
“America’s First Serial Killer Family” by Miss Celania for MentalFloss.com
Again, you can find link to all of these stories in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” — Romans 12:21
And a final thought… “When reason ends, then anger begins. Therefore, anger is a sign of weakness.” – Dalai Lama XIV
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.


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