“THE GIRL BITTEN BY DEVILS” and 4 More Creepy True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: It’s been said that the average person walks past at least sixteen murderers in their lifetime. A chilling thought. But when you know that a serial killer is on the loose, you look at each stranger you meet as a potentially dangerous encounter. And right now in the UK they have a serial killer still at large targeting easy victims… the country’s elderly. (UK’s Senior Citizen Serial Killer) *** While the Spiritualism Movement caught fire in the 1840’s with the Fox Sisters and stayed fairly strong for some time, after the 1920s most of the teachings and those soaking it in began to dwindle. Strangely though, there seems to be a kind of resurging interest in one particular man’s writings here in the 21st century. Many are intrigued by the “secret teachings” of Manly P. Hall. (The Secret Teachings of Manly P. Hall) *** In May, 1987, Kenneth Parks walked into a police station and confessed, “I just killed two people; I’ve just killed my mother‑ and father‑in‑law. I stabbed and beat them to death. It’s all my fault.” Case closed, right? Well no… because it appears he might’ve been sleepwalking when he committed the murders. (The Sleepwalker Defense) *** When the body of Elva Shue was found next to her bed, it was assumed to be an accident. But her spirit refused to rest until someone investigated further. Her ghost was crying murder. (The Ghost That Solved a Murder) *** Clarita Villanueva was orphaned before she was teenager. With no one to care for her, Clarita began living on the streets of Manila, dancing for money and prostituting herself to degenerates. But things were about to get even worse for the poor girl… demonically worse. (The Girl Bitten By Devils)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The Girl Bitten By Devils” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4n7nmhvb
“UK’s Senior Citizen Serial Killer” from LollyTrue Crime for Mystery Confidential: https://tinyurl.com/y4q5u9ga
“The Secret Teachings of Manly P. Hall” by Mitch Horowitz for New Dawn Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4bfj8e5j
“The Ghost That Solved a Murder” by Doug MacGowan for Paranorms.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ever42yx
“The Sleepwalker Defense” by Romeo Vitelli for Providentia: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/76fdt49e
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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
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STORY: THE GIRL BITTEN BY DEVILS==========
In the 1950s, 17-year old Clarita Villanueva had a rather colorful yet strange life. She grew up in the streets of Manila, Philippines, without a father, and from a young age she was already surrounded by the paranormal. In order to make ends meet, her mother, an alleged psychic, would hold seances and fortune telling readings in their hovel of a home, and it was enough to get them by. Tragedy would strike, when at the tender age of 12, Clarita’s mother passed away, leaving her to fend for herself on the dangerous streets. She had no one to guide her or take care of her, so she began walking the streets as a vagrant prostitute and “taxi dancer,” meaning she would perform dances for money. It was not the way a young girl should grow up, yet things were about to get even worse. So would begin one of the strangest paranormal cases ever to hit the Philippines.
By the time she was 17, Clarita knew the streets and her trade very well, and she had taken to hanging out at bars trying to lure men in, and in May of 1953 it seems she approached the wrong guy. Her would be customer turned out to be an undercover policeman, and she was arrested right then and there for vagrancy. Her age didn’t seem to matter, as she was brought to the city’s notorious Bilibid Prison, now known as the Manila City Jail, which is a 300-year-old fortress-like structure steeped in violent history, its walls long permeated by torment and suffering. It also had a reputation for being rather haunted, and it was to this ominous, dank place that Clarita was thrown into one of the gloomy cells to languish awaiting trial. Little did anyone know that as that cage was slammed shut things were about to spiral way out into the weird.
It began with the girl screaming out in utter agony in the middle of the night, her tormented cries echoing throughout the jail to bring the guards running. They found her cowering in her cell, bloodied and sporting bite wounds on her body in places where she could not have inflicted them herself. When asked what had happened, she claimed that she had been attacked by phantom entities, one which she described as “a very big dark man with curly hair all over the body,” and the other a smaller one with “an angelic face and a big mustache.” There was no one else in the cell with her, no way that anyone could have entered and gotten out, and despite the anomalous bite marks the guards just assumed she was having a panic episode and merely left her there in the cell. However, this was not the end of it by a long shot.
Over the next week, Clarita would be relentlessly attacked by these unseen demonic creatures, with other prisoners claiming that they could sometimes see her writhing about and being tossed around her cell during these mysterious attacks, yet the assailants were invisible to them. It was all bizarre enough that it came to the attention of the mayor of Manila, Arsenio Lacson, who had the girl brought to his office to have official medical examiners look at her. As soon as she arrived it could be seen by all present that something very unusual was going on, when she flew into one of her episodes, bucking and writhing as the medical team tried to hold her down. As they did this, they claimed that they could see the indentations of bite marks appearing on Clarita’s skin as they looked on in horror, with some of the bites even inflicted on flesh beneath where the team’s hands covered. Through all of this she screamed that the entities were laughing and taking turns biting her, and no one could explain it at all. Lacson would say, “What it is is beyond me. This is something that goes way back to the dark, dim past.”
When Clarita calmed down and the episode passed, the mayor asked her to try and draw a picture of the things that had attacked her, but she was unable to do so, as every time she tried the pencil would fly from her hand to go rattling across the floor. Some reports even claim that she felt compelled to shove the paper into her mouth and chew it up, with no recollection of why she had done so. Clarita was taken to be examined by psychiatrists and doctors, and while she was found mentally sound, no one could account for how these bite marks were appearing on her body or what was happening to her. In the meantime, the story was starting to hit the news, and she would allegedly have one of her episodes during a press conference attended by hundreds of journalists and medical professionals, and this launched it into the spotlight, before long being splashed all over newspapers even as the bizarre attacks grew in frequency and intensity. Pastor Lester Sumrall, who will come into the story soon, would write of this in his book The True Story of Clarita Villanueva:
“These strange demonic bitings began to occur daily, baffling all who saw it. Dr. Lara, the prison physician, appealed for help through the media and permitted many to view the strange phenomenon. Filipino, Chinese and American doctors, university professors, and other professionals were called in to analyze the situation. The news media soon caught wind of the occurrence and sent reporters out to investigate. The newspapers, radio stations and magazines found it their kind of story and began to publicize it. Even the cartoonists were soon drawing pictures of the entities from Clarita’s descriptions, as the bitings continued day by day. The UPI and other world news services began to report the phenomenon worldwide. In my travels throughout the world, I have not been in any country in which the newspapers did not give this story front-page coverage. Switzerland, France, Germany, England, Canada, the United States – everywhere this strange phenomenon was front-page news at the time.”
As all of this was going on there were those trying to explain it rationally. A Dr. Zaguirre and Dr. Goduco, both from the National Center for Mental Health, concluded that it could all be explained by a nervous disorder known as a ‘hysterical fugue’ or ‘hysteria psychoneurosis,’ which they surmised was causing discoloration of the skin that was merely being mistaken for bite marks. Others tried to chalk it up to an act and magic trick the girl was putting on in order to escape her miserable life and seek attention, but there was still the fact that many had witnessed these bite marks appear, and it could not be explained how she should get such injuries in places where she could not reach, especially since she was kept in a cell by herself under constant observation. The prison doctor would say that the injuries were “the work of some unearthly being.” There were also other sinister and frightening paranormal occurrences orbiting the girl, of which Sumrall would say:
“One doctor accused the girl of putting on an act in order only to get publicity. Clarita gazed at the doctor. With her snake-like eyes she said: ‘You will die’. He didn’t feel anything at the moment, but the following day the doctor expired without even getting sick. He simply died. Fear struck the city when that news was spread about. The girl was not only a harlot, they said, she was also a witch who could speak curses upon human beings and they would die. The chief jailer had a confrontation with the girl. He had kicked her for something she had done wrong while rebelling against him. Clarita looked at the jailer in cold, inhuman hate and said: ‘You will die!’ Within four days the man was dead and buried, the second person to fall victim to her curse.”
By now people were talking about demonic possession, and this is what would ultimately draw Sumrall to the case. After hearing all of the stories, he made his way out to the Philippines and Bilibid Prison to see Clarita for himself, and was immediately aware of how frightened the prison staff was. He then asked the staff to describe her attackers to him, and Sumrall would write:
“Who were these alien entities? The large one, Clarita said, was a monster in size. He was black and very hairy. He had fangs that came down on each side of his mouth, plus a set of buck-teeth all the way around. The doctors verified her description by the teeth marks on her body: buck-teeth solid, all the way around the bite, rather than sharp teeth in the front. The smaller entity was almost like a dwarf. He would climb up her body to bite her upper torso. Both of these spirits liked to bite her where there was a lot of flesh, like the back of her leg, the back of her neck, the fleshy part of her upper arms. They would bite deep into her, leaving ugly, painful bruises.”
Sumrall was fairly sure at this point that he was dealing with some sort of demonic possession, and so he prepared himself to come face to face with Clarita herself. He was granted permission to meet with her, and when she was led into the room things would escalate very quickly, turning into a spiritual brawl between Sumrall and the evil forces accosting Clarita. Sumrall says of this confrontation:
“As Clarita was being led into the room, she looked at them and said nothing, but when she saw me she screamed violently: ‘I hate you!’ Instantly I inserted: ‘I know you hate me. I have come to cast you out’. That was the beginning of the confrontation. There was a raging battle with the girl blaspheming God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Her eyes were burning coals of fire and full of hate. I commanded the evil spirit to loose her. After a three-day confrontation with the devil in her, the miracle of God came upon her. She relaxed, smiled, and said: ‘He’s gone’.”
After this it seems that the case just sort of faded away and was forgotten, and it is unclear just what happened to Clarita after that. It’s all a very spectacular account, and has managed to be written of in countless articles and books since, notably appearing in Fate Magazine and in Frank Edwards’ popular 1954 book Stranger Than Science, but this is part of the problem with it. Over the years the story has been added to and sensationalized to the point that it is difficult to parse out what might be true and what is not. The original report given by Sumrall, which is where most of the available information comes from, is loaded with religious imagery and talk of devils and God, as well as much patting of his own back at how he drove away Satan and saved the poor girl, and so it is unclear how much of his account is even true or not. Even the newspaper reports all add different, sometimes conflicting details, and while here I have given the most common version of events, there are other variations as well, and so we are left to wonder just where fantasy ends and reality begins. What happened to Clarita Villanueva? Were there strange forces out to get her, and if so, why? Was she possessed or under attack by forces beyond our comprehension? We may never know the answers, and it remains a very unusual case and historical oddity.
It’s been said that the average person walks past at least sixteen murderers in their lifetime. A chilling thought. But when you know that a serial killer is on the loose, you look at each stranger you meet as a potentially dangerous encounter. And right now in the UK they have a serial killer still at large targeting easy victims… the country’s elderly. (UK’s Senior Citizen Serial Killer)
While the Spiritualism Movement caught fire in the 1840’s with the Fox Sisters and stayed fairly strong for some time, after the 1920s most of the teachings and those soaking it in began to dwindle. Strangely though, there seems to be a kind of resurging interest in one particular man’s writings here in the 21st century. Many are intrigued by the “secret teachings” of Manly P. Hall. (The Secret Teachings of Manly P. Hall)
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: UK’S SENIOR CITIZEN SERIAL KILLER==========
There are at least three different police forces in The UK that believe they may be seeking a serial killer in connection with the violent deaths of five elderly couples in Northern England.
Stephanie Davies, a senior member of the coroner’s office in Cheshire has compiled a one-hundred-and-seventy-nine page secret report looking at the five murder-suicides in which she suggests that actually the killings were murder, plain and simple and in fact were most likely the work of a serial killer.
The senior coroner says that there are “striking similarities” between the deaths five couples between 1996 and 2011. In all five of the cases it was originally said that the husband “went berserk”, struck his wife on the head, stabbed her, then killed himself. In all of the cases the cases were recorded as murder-suicides by coroners.
On Sunday April 28th 1996 when neighbors tried to visit the couple, there was no reply to the door and the curtains all remained closed, despite it being 11.30am. The neighbors became very concerned and called the police, they had no idea of the gruesome scene that awaited the officers when the entered the house.
78-year-old Beatrice, known to friends as Bea had a breadknife embedded into her forehead, she had been severely bludgeoned with a hammer and her face was partially covered by a pillow. Her devoted husband Howard, 79 was laying next to her with a plastic bag over his head.
The police decided that Howard had killed his wife in a fit-of-rage, then taken his own life. There was indeed a suicide note on the sideboard next to the bed. It seemed that Bea had been quite ill and that Howard had struggled to cope.
But now it has been suggested that, in fact, Howard had been forced to write the note and that the couple has been murdered. There were a great deal of inconsistencies at the crime scene in the Ainsworth house.
Howard had ended his note saying “we have had a good life together” but the words did not match with the heinous and vicious killing and the fact that Bea’s nightdress had been lifted up to her hips, thus showing her most intimate areas. This was clearly not the act of a desperate husband who simply wanted to quickly end his wife’s life, then commit suicide himself.
The report from the couple’s GP makes things all the more confusing, as it indicated that the only illness Beatrice had suffered prior to her death was a stomach bug and that Howard Ainsworth was in relatively good health for his age.
According to the suicide note left by Howard he said that he had given his wife a quantity of sleeping pills and there was a tub containing such tablets on the sideboard, but the toxicology report states that neither of the couple had consumed any tablets prior to death.
Then, just three years later on November 26th 1999, another elderly couple, Donald and Auriel Ward were found lying dead in their bed in Lacey Grove, Wilmslow, which was just a six minute drive away.
Auriel age 68 had been bludgeoned about the head, then stabbed in an almost identical manner to Beatrice Ainsworth. She had also been suffocated and her face partially covered by a pillow. 73-year-old Donald had a knife sticking out of his chest and his throat had been cut.
The coroner who presided over that case, Nicholas Rheinberg considered that Donald’s mind must have been disturbed and he had killed his wife, then gone on to commit suicide. There was absolutely no evidence to suggest any sort of heightened stress in Donald’s life and no mental illness, so how Rheinberg was able to reach such a verdict, I really have no idea.
Next, I turn to Kenneth and Eileen Martin, aged 77 and 76 respectively, who were killed in 2008. The couple died in their garage, Eileen had severe head injuries, with cuts to her neck and wrists, whilst Kenneth’s throat had been cut, his wrists had been slashed, then he had been hanged.
Here is the biggest indication in this case that it was not a murder-suicide, firstly why would a man cut his own throat and wrists then hang himself? He would have been bleeding heavily and would ultimately have bled to death, beside which the wounds would have made him very weak, thus he would have found great difficulty in completing his own unnecessary hanging.
The injuries to Eileen Martin were clearly of a pretty vicious nature and acts of extreme violence, so whilst I understand that the killing may well have been carried out by a man who was not in control of his mind it was still his wife he was murdering.
It was claimed that Stanley had been badly affected by an operation and had begun to believe that his wife was trying to kill him, by poisoning him and that other members of the family were “in on it”. He also allegedly believed that Peggy was trying to somehow alter his thinking in order that he would change his will.
Peggy died as a result of multiple injuries including a number of knife wounds to her neck, one of which severed the jugular vein as well as blunt trauma injuries to her neck and face consistent with punching. There were also indications that she had been asphyxiated.
Despite the family saying that they had concerns about Stanley’s mental health and indicating that he had accused his wife of trying to kill him a staff nurse from St. Paul’s Hospital said in her statement to the inquest I have not noticed any psychotic symptoms in Mr Wilson, Particularly no changes caused by medication.
Michael Higgins aged just 59 was suffering from Parkinson’s disease yet we are supposed to believe that he badly beat his 76-year-old wife with a rolling pin and stabbed her with scissors whilst she was in bed in 2020.
A statement from Micheal’s brother and sister, Daniel and Betty says; “We welcome the report as we have always believed that Michael was incapable of committing the acts described in the coroner’s report. Michael was suffering from advanced Parkinson’s and had become very frail. He also suffered from cancer which affected his sight. We knew Michael was a kind, gentle and intelligent man who was devoted to Violet”.
We have evidence to suggest that there has been foul play and we have evidence that doesn’t add up when it comes to the claims of murder-suicide, so was it a serial killer? Is he still out there roaming loose?
If a prime suspect has been identified and he is after all connected in any way then it’s very likely that there may well not be any more for a while, but if he or she is still alive and active then eventually the hunger to kill will be overwhelming and there will be another similar murder.
STORY: THE SECRET TEACHINGS OF MANLY P HALL==========
The late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries saw an explosion of spiritual teachers and impresarios dealing in “secret wisdom.” Their ranks included hacks and frauds – as well as more than a few genuine scholars of esoteric traditions. Most have vanished from memory, their writings a historical footnote.
There exists one distinct figure, though, whose movement and teachings not only survived his passing but are even experiencing a revival in our day. His name is Manly P. Hall. While few academicians will ever know of him, Hall was among the twentieth century’s – and perhaps any century’s – most commanding and unusual scholars of esoteric and mythological lore. Yet the source of his knowledge and the extent of his virtuosity can justly be called a mystery.
While working as a clerk at a Wall Street banking firm – the “outstanding event” of which involved “witnessing a man depressed over investment losses take his life” – the 28-year-old Hall self-published one of the most complex and thoroughgoing works ever to catalogue the esoteric wisdom of antiquity, “The Secret Teachings of All Ages”. Hall’s Secret Teachings is almost impossible to classify. Written and compiled on an Alexandrian scale, its hundreds of entries shine a rare light on some of the most fascinating and little-understood aspects of myth, religion, and philosophy.
Today, more than seventy-five years after its initial publication, the book’s range of material astonishes: Pythagorean mathematics; alchemical formulae; Hermetic doctrine; the workings of Kabala; the geometry of Ancient Egypt; the Native American myths; the uses of cryptograms; an analysis of the Tarot; the symbols of Rosicrucianism; the esotericism of the Shakespearean dramas – these are just a few of Hall’s topics. Yet his background betrays little clue to his virtuosity.
Hall was born in Peterborough, Ontario, in 1901 to parents who would shortly divorce, leaving the young Manly in the care of a grandmother who raised him in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. He had little formal schooling. But there was a spark of some indefinable brilliance in the young man, which his grandmother tried to nurture in trips to museums in Chicago and New York.
Tragedy struck early, when his grandmother died when he was 16. Afterward, a self-styled Rosicrucian community in California took him in. At age 19, suspicious of the community’s claims to ancient wisdom, Manly moved on his own to Los Angeles where he began a precocious career in public speaking – first giving an address on reincarnation in a small room above a bank in Santa Monica, and soon rising to the rank of minister at a liberal evangelical congregation called The Church of the People.
Word spread of the boy wonder’s mastery of arcane and metaphysical subject matter. He attracted benefactors and eventually began travelling the world in search of hidden wisdom. Yet Hall’s early letters from Japan, Egypt, China, and India are, in many respects, fairly ordinary: They contain little of the eye-opening detail or wonder of discovery that one finds in the writings of other early twentieth-century seekers encountering the East for the first time. More often they read like prosaic, if somewhat sensitive, linear travelogues of their day.
Like a bolt from the blue, however, one is astounded to discover a short work of immense power from the young Hall – a book that seems to prefigure that which would come. In 1922, at the age of 21, Hall wrote a luminescent gem on the mystery schools of antiquity, Initiates of the Flame. Though brief, one sees in it the outline of what would become The Secret Teachings of All Ages. On its frontispiece, Initiates of the Flame boldly announces: “He who lives the Life shall know the Doctrine.”
The short book goes on to expound passionately and in detail on Egyptian rites, Arthurian myths, and the secrets of alchemy, among other subjects. Feeling the power and ease in its pages, the reader can almost sense the seeds of greatness that were beginning to take hold in Hall’s grasp of esoteric subjects.
Hall soon returned to America, where he tried his hand at banking – though he found his true path in the beaux arts Reading Room of the New York Public Library. Entering this cavernous space today, it is not difficult to picture the large-framed, young Manly P. Hall surrounded by books of myth and symbol at one of the room’s huge oaken tables. Like a monk of the Middle Ages, Hall copiously, almost superhumanly, pored over hundreds of the great works of antiquity, distilling their esoteric lore into his volume.
By the age of 28, having pre-sold subscriptions for nearly 1,000 copies (and printing 1,200 more), Hall published what would become known as “The Great Book” – and it has never gone out of print since.
Indeed, Hall is an exception to most of his contemporaries as someone whose work is actually building in influence today. In its day, the Secret Teachings was expensive, hefty, and cumbersome. As a result, the book spent much of its existence as an underground classic. In late 2003, however, the Secret Teachings found new life in a reset and redesigned “reader’s edition,” which sold a remarkable 40,000 copies in less than three years. A little-known 1929 companion volume by Hall, called Lectures on Ancient Philosophy, has also been recently reissued.
After publishing his magnum opus, Hall opened a campus in 1934 in the Griffith Park neighbourhood of Los Angeles called The Philosophical Research Society (PRS), where he spent the rest of his life teaching, writing, and amassing a remarkable library of esoterica. A self-contained property designed in a pastiche of Mayan, Egyptian, and art deco styles, PRS remains a popular destination for LA’s spiritually curious.
Following Hall’s death in 1990, PRS barely survived simultaneous legal battles – one with Hall’s widow, who claimed the group owed her money, and another with a bizarre father-son team of con artists who, in the estimation of a civil court judge, had befriended an ailing, octogenarian Hall to pilfer his assets. The Los Angeles Police Department considered Hall’s death sufficiently suspicious to keep it under investigation for several years.
For all his literary output, Hall revealed little about his private life. His most lasting record is a frequently trite, unrevealing childhood memoir called Growing Up with Grandmother (in which he refers to his guardian as “Mrs. Arthur Whitney Palmer”). As an adult, Hall’s close relations were few. He did not marry until well into middle age, in a union some surmise was never consummated.
Hence, when Hall disclosed something about his background, it was purposeful. He wrote this in a PRS newsletter in 1959: “As a result of a confused and insecure childhood, it was necessary for me to formulate a personal philosophy with which to handle immediate situations.”
Here was someone with a tremendous interest in the arcane philosophies of the world, in the occult and metaphysical philosophies, but he wasn’t fixated on immortality, or a will to power, or on discovering keys that unlock the universe. Rather, he was focused on harnessing inner truths in a very practical way. How, he wondered, could such ideas lend clarity to daily life?
We’ll take a byroad that steers us in another direction before returning to this point. Our byroad involves one of the most famous novels in history, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The work has many facets, among them a portrait – not sympathetic, but not as unsympathetic as one might suppose – of the European occult in the Enlightenment era. The portrait comes in the character of a young Victor von Frankenstein, a budding scientist torn between the occult teachings that drew him to science as a child and the prevailing rationalism of his teachers. Victor confides his interest in the great alchemists and occult philosophers, such as the Renaissance-era magus Cornelius Agrippa, but his professors dismiss him with complete condescension.
One day in his room, Victor ponders the unbridgeable gap between his magical visions and the scholasticism of his peers: “I had a contempt for the uses of modern natural philosophy. It was very different when the masters of science sought immortality and power; such views, although futile, were grand; but now the scene was changed. The ambition of the inquirer seemed to limit itself to the annihilation of those visions on which my interest in science was chiefly founded. I was required to exchange chimeras of boundless grandeur for realities of little worth.”
In a sense, Victor spoke for generations of occultists when describing his ideal of boundless grandeur, immortality, power, and visions. (And who wouldn’t sympathise with the rebellious young Victor – whose dreams and ambitions, while hopeless, exist on a grand scale – versus the certainties of his crusty professors?)
An occult scholar born at the cusp of the twentieth century, Manly P. Hall signalled a different kind of ideal. Hall told of “a personal philosophy with which to handle immediate situations.” After Hall’s death, a reporter in the Los Angeles Times noted, “Followers say he believed in reincarnation and in a mixture of the Golden Rule and living in moderation.”
For Hall, the very act of writing The Secret Teachings of All Ages was an attempt at formulating an ethical response to the age he lived in. While the book is at times speculative and some of its sources are limited by the constraints of their era, it is the only codex to esoteric ideas that treats its subject with total seriousness. Contemporaneous works, such as The Golden Bough, regarded indigenous religious traditions as superstition – interesting museum pieces worthy of anthropological study but of no direct relevance to our current lives. Hall, on the other hand, felt himself on a mission to re-establish a connection to the mystery traditions at a time when America, as he saw it, had given itself over to the Jazz-Age materialism he witnessed at his banking job.
“After I thought the matter over,” he wrote a few years before his death, “it seemed necessary to establish some kind of firm ground upon which personal idealism could mingle its hopes and aspirations with the wisdom of the ages.”
In this sense, the prodigious scholar achieved more than a cataloguing of esoteric truths. He turned the study of occult ideas into an ethical cause.
(© Copyright New Dawn Magazine, www.newdawnmagazine.com. Permission granted to freely distribute this article for non-commercial purposes if unedited and copied in full, including this notice.)
When Weird Darkness returns…
In May, 1987, Kenneth Parks walked into a police station and confessed, “I just killed two people; I’ve just killed my mother‑ and father‑in‑law. I stabbed and beat them to death. It’s all my fault.” Case closed, right? Well no… because it appears he might’ve been sleepwalking when he committed the crime. (The Sleepwalker Defense)
When the body of Elva Shue was found next to her bed, it was assumed to be an accident. But her spirit refused to rest until someone investigated further. Her ghost was crying murder. (The Ghost That Solved a Murder)
Those stories are up next.
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STORY: THE SLEEPWALKER DEFENSE==========
On May 24, 1987, 23-year-old Kenneth James Parks left his home in Pickering, Ontario and drove more than twenty kilometers to the home of his in-laws, Barbara Ann and Denis Woods. Since it was still early morning, his in-laws were sleeping when Parks let himself into the house with the key they had given him. On entering their bedroom, he then bludgeoned his mother-in-law to death with a tire iron he had been carrying. While he managed to seriously injure Denis Woods, Parks left the house and returned to his car. He then drove to a nearby police station where, still covered in blood, he told the officers, ” I just killed someone with my bare hands; Oh my God, I just killed someone; I’ve just killed two people; My God, I’ve just killed two people with my hands; My God, I’ve just killed two people. My hands; I just killed two people. I killed them; I just killed two people; I’ve just killed my mother‑ and father‑in‑law. I stabbed and beat them to death. It’s all my fault.”
Arrested for the first-degree murder of Barbara Ann Woods and the attempted murder of her husband, Parks seemed destined for conviction and life imprisonment. That is, until the case came to trial and his defense attorney put forward a rather unique legal defense: Kenneth James Parks could not be held liable for his actions because he had committed them while sleepwalking. Long classified as a sleep disorder, somnambulism represents a twilight state between sleep and wakefulness during which sleepers could engage in complex activities usually seen during wakefulness. This includes activities such as carrying on phantom conversations, wandering around or outside the home, eating, or even potentially dangerous activities such as swimming or driving. And yes, there have been cases of homicides committed by people while sleepwalking, though they tend to be rare.
While somnambulism had been successfully used as a legal defense in previous criminal trials in other countries, there we no legal precedents under Canadian law so convincing a jury remained a major challenge for Parks’ defense attorney. During the trial, the court heard testimony about Parks’ long history of deep sleep, including difficulty waking up on many occasions. In the year leading up to the murder, Parks had reportedly been under intense stress due to having to work ten hours a day at his job as a project coordinator for an electric company. He was also experiencing financial problems resulting from heavy loses from his gambling on horse races. This resulted in his embezzling $30,000 from his employer, the discovery of which led to his being fired from his job and facing charges as well (he would later make full restitution).
His wife and in-laws were fully aware of all of this and were reportedly supportive. Parks had an especially strong relationship with his mother-in-law who referred to him as “the gentle giant.” Though his father-in-law was more distant, Parks’ in-laws were willing to help him and his wife financially. As a result, there was no motive for the murder and attempted murder, something which undermined the prosecution’s case against him. To bolster the defense case, the court also heard testimony that other members of the Parks family also suffered from sleep problems such as sleepwalking, adult enuresis, nightmares and sleeptalking. The defense also brought in different medical experts in psychiatry and neurology who testified about the validity of the sleepwalking defense as well as EEG measurements of Parks’ brain activity while asleep and awake that was consistent with findings from other somnambulists.
Despite the initial skepticism about Parks claim that he was not criminally liable due to his somnambulism, he was unanimously acquitted of murder in May, 1988. Also, because somnambulism was not ruled to be a “disease of the mind”, he was also not deemed to be mentally ill. The Crown later appealed this decision and argued that Parks should have been committed to a psychiatric hospital by reason of insanity as he had been in a state of “automatism” at the time of the murder. This included reexamining the medical evidence, including testimony from Five physicians were heard: Dr. Roger James Broughton, a neurophysiologist and specialist in sleep and sleep disorders, Dr. John Gordon Edmeads, a neurologist, Dr. Ronald Frederick Billings, a psychiatrist, Dr. Robert Wood Hill, a forensic psychiatrist, and Dr. Frank Raymond Ervin, a neurologist and psychiatrist, all of whom reaffirmed their belief that Parks wasn’t mentally ill and that somnambulists who committed criminal acts while asleep rarely reoffended.
In a decision that was later upheld by the Canadian Supreme Court, the original acquittal was deemed to be valid since there was reasonable doubt that Kenneth Clark had voluntarily attacked his in-laws. As for the question of whether his somnambulism was due to a disease of mind, the Supreme Court ruled that the Crown had failed to provide sufficient proof that he had been insane at the time of the murder and, as such, no legal mistakes had been made that might have overturned the earlier court decision. The Court thwn ruled that there was insufficient evidence to show that the defendant posed a recurring danger to the public or that special precautions, including placement in a psychiatric hospital, would be needed to reduce the risk of his reoffending. The Crown was also deemed to have failed in proving that that Clark’s somnambulism stemmed from an “internal cause”, i.e., that it had been due to psychological or emotional factors that might reflect mental health concerns.
Along with setting legal history in Canada, the decision generated headlines around the world. Even the Supreme Court judges handing down their decision recognized that problematic nature of the sleepwalking defense when they wrote, “Some will regard the exoneration of an accused through the defense of somnambulism as an impairment of the credibility of our justice system…However, these views are contrary to certain fundamental precepts of our criminal law. Only those who act voluntarily with the requisite intent to commit an offense should be punished by criminal sanction. The concern of those who reject these underlying values of our system of criminal justice should accordingly be discounted.”
In 1990, author June Callwood wrote a book on the Parks case titled, The Sleepwalker: The Trial That Made Canadian Legal History which quickly became a true crime classic. She also championed similar criminal cases, including Dorothy Joudrie who attempted to kill her estranged husband in 1995. While Joudrie’s legal defense focused on temporary insanity stemming from abuse rather than somnambulism, the circumstances seemed close enough to evoke the specter of the Parks decision of just a few years earlier (Joudrie was acquitted though the decision continues to be controversial). Callwood also helped write a 1997 film, The Sleepwalker Killing, which was loosely based on the Parks case.
In the years since Kenneth Parks was acquitted, there have been at least five known cases in which homicidal sleepwalking has been invoked as a defense in a criminal trial. The circumstances of these crimes, and how they were treated by the courts, varied widely range from outright acquittal to life imprisonment (typically in cases where the killer’s actions were seen as “too complex” to justify a somnambulism defense). Despite many of the concerns raised by the R. Vs. Parks decision, homicidal sleepwalking hasn’t proved particularly popular as a criminal defense, largely due to the difficulties involved in providing adequate proof to satisfy the courts.
As for Kenneth Parks, he has returned to his normal life and, aside from the continuing public interest in his case, has largely remained out of the public eye. No word on whether he still walks in his sleep…
STORY: THE GHOST THAT SOLVED A MURDER==========
It looked like an accident.
The young boy who found the body said so, as did the doctor who examined the body. To all visual evidence Zona “Elva” Heaster Shue had, as the doctor said, experienced an “everlasting faint” and fallen at the foot of the bed (some sources say at the bottom of a staircase) in her house in Greenbrier County, West Virginia. It was January 23, 1897.
Earlier in the day, Elva’s husband Edward had gone to work at a local blacksmith shop as usual. In the middle of the day, Edward sent an errand boy to his house to ask Elva if she needed Edward to pick up anything from the store on his way home. The boy dutifully ran to Edward’s house and discovered Elva’s body. He ran with the awful news to his mother, who called for the local doctor/coroner.
Before the doctor arrived, Edward heard the news and ran to his house. Seeing the body, he sobbed uncontrollably and placed Elva’s body on the bed. He proceeded to dress the corpse — which was odd. At that time in rural West Virginia, it was customary for the nearby women to wash and dress the body of a female who had died, but Edward insisted on doing this himself, choosing a dress with a very high collar. When the doctor arrived, Edward became hysterical, barely letting the doctor touch the body. Unable to continue with the examination, the doctor proclaimed that Elva had died from natural causes and quickly left the house.
Elva’s body was buried soon after with a small ceremony.
The case may have ended there had Elva not decided to come back from the dead and tell the true story.
Elva’s mother, Mary Jane Heaster, always hated Edward. She was convinced that he was behind her daughter’s death. Her first “proof” came the day of the funeral. After taking a white sheet from inside the coffin, she attempted to wash it, but when she put it into the water, the water turned red.
Mary Jane thought this was an indication of something, but she didn’t know what. She prayed for a month that somehow she would get some kind of sign that Elva had died at her husband’s hands.
She got more than she bargained for.
About one month after her daughter’s death, Mary Jane woke to find Elva floating in the bedroom. The ghost told Mary Jane that Edward was a cruel man who had attacked her and broken her neck because he believed she had not cooked any meat for dinner. To prove her claim, Elva turned her head around until she was looking backward.
This visit repeated itself for the next three nights.
Having had enough, and now believing for sure that Edward killed Elva, Mary Jane went to the local prosecutor. She demanded Elva’s body to be dug up and reexamined. The prosecutor was unconvinced to take such action until the doctor confessed he had not done a thorough autopsy. Especially considering Edward’s extreme protectiveness of the body.
On February 22, they exhumed Elva’s body, despite Edward’s numerous protests. At the examination, it was easily determined that Elva’s neck had been broken. They quickly charged Edward with murder.
One of the key prosecution witnesses at the subsequent trial was Mary Jane. She testified to the four visitations by the Greenbrier Ghost. The defense tried to make her look like she was crazy, but the jury evidently believed Elva, through Mary Jane. They found Edward guilty of Elva’s death. After that, they took him to the local jail.
A cluster of men in the area believed justice wasn’t served. A lynch mob formed and started towards the jail.
Edward escaped that fate but eventually died in jail only three years later, still proclaiming his innocence.
The Greenbrier Ghost never appeared again and is presumably resting in peace.