“REDHEADED SPACE ALIENS FROM ATLANTIS” and 2 More Creepy True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Sharing an apartment with roommates can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Like coming home and finding a strange man on the couch – obviously one of your roommates friends who is crashing for the night. But what if that guy on the couch gives you the creeps? There might be good reason for that feeling. (Terrorized For Two Hours) *** In December 2014, a teenager in Economy, Pennsylvania called 911 and calmly said, “I found a head.” And thus began a mystery which is still unsolved. (The Woman Without a Body) *** People have strange ideas about redheads – and we’ll look at some of the strangest! (Redheaded Aliens from Atlantis)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Redheaded Aliens From Atlantis” from the website Myths And History of Red Hair: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3vert74m
BLOG POST from 2017: Is Weird Darkness host Darren Marlar a reptilian extraterrestrial from Sirius?: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/4572
“Terrorized For Two Hours” by Maura Grace: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/53wzbt87
“The Woman Without a Body” by Blake Morrison and Nicholas Bogel-Burroughs for Reuters: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/nj8hbxeu
*** SKETCH of the woman’s head found in Economy, PA – including contact information if you can help solve the mystery: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/38zhpma8
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We redheads (yes, I am one) have it tough. We grow up being the target of bullying in grade school, with nicknames of “freckle face”, “ketchup head”, “ginger”… I think my favorite was “Duracell” – because I was the one with the copper top! We also have it rough when it comes to being outside thanks to our fair complexion. When it comes to a suntan I have two colors – white and extra crispy. But then there are also the strange conspiracies, such as redheads are going to be extinct in the next hundred years, or that we are from Atlantis, or we aren’t really from the planet Earth at all and are possible reptilian extraterrestrials. Okay, that last one might be true, but still, some of the ideas people have about redheads can be truly bizarre.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
STORY: REDHEADED ALIENS FROM ATLANTIS==========
As a redhead myself, whilst scouring the Internet for information about red hair I’ve come across countless strange beliefs and conspiracies. A lot of them are fascinating, some are fantastic. For the most part people will find these ideas amusing, possibly even ludicrous, but there will be others who have a slight doubt in the back of their minds about what is true or false about us gingers. What is true? What is false? Maybe the truth is stranger than we’d all care to imagine.
One peculiar internet article I came across carried the heading, “The Master Race becomes Friendly Aliens.” In it the writer explains how the “familiar Nazi agenda is still being propagated” by aliens of “Germanic, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon” stock. These aliens in question are generally called “Nordics” by the UFO community and the writer describes them thusly:
“They are all tall, Blond or Red Hair with Blue eyes. They average in height from 6′ to 61/2′ tall with some reported to be as tall as 8′.”
The article continues, stating:
“Consistent to the reports throughout the world in regards to Nordics is the near perfect physical appearance. No one has ever reported plain or physically deficient members in their company. Just what one may expect if you had a choice in the matter through controlled genetics.”
Another message board article I came across was titled “Are redhead’s DNA of alien origin?” On it was posted this:
“There is another race that has branched off from this giant race, the red-haired Lyrans. Their hair was red to strawberry blonde in color. The skin tone very, very fair; these entities had a difficulty exposing their skin to certain frequencies of natural light, due to the planet they sprang from. Some of these were also giant in stature, though there were some who were average human size. Eye color was generally light to what you would now consider green, though it is a different quality of green than you see upon your world. These entities were some of the first Lyran pioneers. (Pioneers is a very kind word, for there are many worlds that consider the red-haired ones to be the invaders, marauders and the basic havoc-wreakers of the Lyran genotype).”
I’ve since read that the “Lyrans” are quite well-known in ufological circles and that, as the article states, they are generally seen as being red-haired. The post continues, making a link between these red-haired “Lyrans” and the redheads on earth:
“Well, to some degree we are speaking about the distant past as they interacted with your earth plane. These entities still exist but are much fewer in number. We would say that your closest mythological remnants are in your Norse mythology – Vikings etc. Some of that mythology was about actual Earth beings who were either influenced by or interacted with this red-headed Lyran strain. This is not a very common interaction on your world, not as common as that of the giants, but common enough to have made it into your mythology.”
The post then carries on:
“Apparently there’s a remnant of a red-haired group in the Pleiades…[t]he Pleiadian version is much more watered down. But the purebred red-head was very aggressive, violent, passionate and, to some degree, very rebellious.”
The article also asks the question,
“Did these red-haired people naturally evolve as red-haired, or was there intentional manipulation somewhere along the line?”
I keep imagining an episode of StarTrek were Captain Kirk lands on a planet inhabited entirely by ginger people.
In fact, the post actually reminds me of the famous “Villas Boas” abduction case. A case concerning a young Brazilian farmer, named Antonio Villas Boas, who was apparently abducted by a UFO and forced into a liaison with a beautiful alien woman who had red pubic hair. Incidentally, I also remember watching a TV show about UFO abductions a while back that stated that there had been a spate of abduction cases in Turkey that all specified red-haired aliens.
It’s amazing the number of articles I’ve come across on the internet that associate red hair with royalty and ruling elites. In fact, one comment I read on a blog about world political leaders stated:
“[A]nother disproportional thing in politics is hair color. the number of leaders who have red hair is actually amazing…how many of the founding fathers of the USA were redheads? lenin [and] Trotsky…malcom X…How much of the royal families? Cleopatra, napoleon, Alexander the great…seems like red hair and conquering the world go together.”
The commenter also relates some of his own personal experience of living with the colour:
“[W]hen i walk sometimes past old columbian women, they cross themselves and you can hear them say in spanish things against the devil.”
Another article I came across associated red hair with secret societies. The writer of this particular article linked red hair with the symbol of the rose and wrote:
“It’s all about the rose. It means rose-cross, or red cross of the Templars. It is found in rose-line, or Rosslyn, the Chapel of the Sinclairs. And, as strange as this may sound, red hair is their characteristic feature.”
“It is a sign of descent from the Edomites, or more specifically, the Scythians of southern Russia, who were the Lost Tribes. They were known to the Jews of the Middle Ages as Red Jews. They later became Khazars. All the leading bloodlines of Europe descend from them. That’s the point of Brown’s book, that Da Vinci, painted the Magdalene with red hair, it is the ultimate signal.”
I found one foray into red-hair conspiracy lurking in the review section on Amazon. It was a review for the book “Henry Neville and The Shakespeare Code” by Brenda James, a book that questions the authorship of the works of Shakespeare. The enthusiastic reviewer wrote:
“MY THEORY…!!…is that Elizabeth [the First] was not a virgin – and had at least 8 children, among them Oxford, Bacon, Neville, Philip and Mary Sidney (I think their adoptive father was Elizabeth’s half brother), Essex, Cecil junior, and Southampton. You will find an act of parliament passed when she was 50 saying that the issue of her body will be her heirs – not her legally born children! If you remember that was what caused Henry VIIIs troubles – he did have illegitimate children, but tried impossibly hard to get a legal son – even changing the religion in England to do so. Every other King in Europe had tons of illegitimate children – so why not Elizabeth? Elizabeth’s very first letter to Cecil, when she is 13 or 14, asks him to squash the rumours going around that she is pregnant!”
“It goes on and on ..! Elizabethan history is a whole lot more interesting to me now! Everything fits, for the first time. All those loose ends, that made no sense. Why did Leicester adopt Essex? Well, he was his own son, by Elizabeth! Why did Elizabeth make Cecil a Baron the day before his daughter was married? Because his daughter was marrying Elizabeth’s own first son. It is endless – I could go on for hours! The modern world was created by Elizabeth’s bastards! They were all placed by Cecil, brilliantly educated, and given the European tour. Some of the plays are quite possibly a family effort! It is a BIG story! A Hollywood blockbuster – somebody will do it one day.”
“Look at the portraits of Elizabeth’s children – they all have thin faces with curly orangery hair – like their parents! I believe that if both parents have red hair the children must all have red hair too. Is that right? Leicester was with Elizabeth for about 15 years. I think they found his last letter to her on the desk next to her bed when she died.”
Although the tone of this review amuses me somewhat, I must admit that the issue does fill me with suspicion. I don’t think the “virgin queen” had eight children, but personally, I’d be surprised if she had none either. And it is true that Henry Neville had red hair, as did Leicester and Elizabeth.
The same reviewer then wrote another piece, this time in the review section for the book “Oxford: Son of Queen Elizabeth I” by Paul Streitz, continuing on the same theme.
“Compare the pictures of Henry VIII, Elizabeth, Edward de Vere, Sir Henry Neville, and Henry Wriothesly, the Earl of Southampton. They all have red hair, and look remarkably similar. It is beginning to look like Edward and the two Henrys could have been brothers!!” Brilliant!
And then there’s the Atlantean Diaspora. In many ways this continues on the theme of red-haired rulers. Of all the theories about red hair on the Internet this one seems to be the most abundant, and it goes something like this:-
All the ancient civilisations of pre-history were started and ruled by seafaring redheads, who originally came from a land over the sea, often, but not always, equated with Atlantis. The evidence for this can be found in ancient myths and in the mummified remains of redheaded people discovered around the globe.
For the most part these theories begin in ancient Egypt and are centred around the fact that many mummies have been found displaying red hair. Needless to say, these finds have led to much speculation about the origin of the ancient Egyptians and their glorious culture. The basic premise of the theory being that red-haired survivors from Atlantis at some point arrived and sowed the seeds of civilisation. As you can imagine a lot of this speculation is wildly inventive. One internet article I read, titled “Red Haired Mummies of Egypt,” began with this statement:
“There were the blue-bloods of Ancient Times which extended into European Times. They actually did have blue blood, and it was not hemoglobin based but copper based. They were semi-human. There are still to this day, some animal species in South America that have copper based blood systems. There was a problem with hemophilia, and not because of intermarrying. The problem was that they started to marry outside of the copper based blood system. Hemoglobin and copper systems don’t mix. That’s where the laws against marrying commoners originated. Lobsters, octopuses, squids and horseshoe crabs have copper based blue blood.”
Incidentally, Egypt isn’t the only place where red-haired mummies have been found. They’ve been found as far afield as China and Peru. The Tarim mummies were found in what is now present day Xinjiang, China and some of them possessed red hair. Likewise in Peru mummies have been found with striking red locks.
Other discoveries of red-haired mummies have come in Polynesia and the Canary Islands. In fact, both these places are, or were, noted for red-haired people. The Canary Islands was the home of the Guanches, a red-haired tribe that built monuments which can still be seen on the islands today. And red-haired people have been noted sporadically throughout parts of Polynesia, including New Zealand. One internet writer relayed the following legend:
“One Kiribati legend describes eels (Serpents?) coming ashore who turned into red haired men when they swam ashore. Another legend (Bue the Ancestor) describes one of these red men copulating with a woman who was bathing in the shallows at sunrise. The legend describes the “Sun” entering her loins, suggesting a child of the sun was born to her. When this child grew up, he set sail to the East (America) to look for his ancestors.”
The writer also noted:
“The Urekehu – or red heads amongst the Maori are believed to have come from a hot dry land to the East.”
Perhaps unsurprisingly the writer elaborated by making reference to Atlantis.
“I am not suggesting that Englishmen came and did the Jack in the Green dance in front of the Tolai, nor that a Scottish mason jumped ship and taught these people a secret handshake. What I am saying is that Both European and Pacific cultures have a common link a long long way back in time, possibly in Atlantis 11,500 years ago…[t]he ancient culture of Atlantis was not just carried on by the Egyptians, but was also carried on by the red haired civilization of Tulapin (Terapin/Turtle Island) and were a dominant population in America until 6,000 years ago.”
Of particular interest in regards red hair is Easter Island. An article in Fortean Times about the island stated:
“Ethnically, Rapa Nui are polynesian, though paler-skinned and with an anomalous genetic trait of red hair dating from before first contact with Europeans.”
It should also be noted that the large statues on the island all have “topknots” of red stone. Many believe that these represent red hair.
Although I often make light of these ideas it must be said that the presence of red hair so far afield is actually quite interesting. It either suggests that red hair blossoms accidentally in populations rather easily or that there was a lot more migration in pre-history than modern experts would have us believe.
Another interesting thing I came across on this general theme was the story of Lovelock Cave. This is apparently a cave in Nevada that was found to contain the remains of red-haired giants. The story goes that the Paiutes, a tribe of natives who inhabited the area, were at war with these giants and killed them off by ambushing them in the cave. One webpage I came across stated:
“Growing up in Nevada I had heard stories of the Sitecah from the Paiute Indians that lived in the area. They told of red-haired men and women of light colored skin as tall as 12 feet who originally lived in the area when the Paiutes had first arrived. Evidently these human giants liked to eat the Indians so they had problems making friends. The Indian tribes of the area finally joined and ambushed the giants killing most of them on the spot.”
Some of the comments on the page make particularly good reading. One posted:
“Nice Hub, I asked some of the old people about these so called ‘red haired giants’. I dont know what was more surprising, your hub or the fact one of our respected elders not only had a name for them but could tell me prominent ancestors who migrated hundreds of years ago to this land through the polynesian islands who were fair, had red hair and were so called giants!?!? I was gobsmacked! He was talking as if it were common knowledge!”
“I have been a barber in Nevada for 35 years and I cut many Piaute men’s hair.. I have heard the stories about the red haired giants for many years. The older ones told me the giants ate some of their great, great grand parents and the story about going to Lovelock to kill them is absolutley true (according to many of these men).”
And a final mentioned: “I am Paiute and have heard of these giants. I’m from Oregon near the Nevada border and have heard of the Paiutes in Nevada talk of these red-head giants. I heard where these giants lived in caves and did eat some of the Natives.”
I can only begin to imagine what other stories are lurking out there on the Internet waiting to be discovered.
For the most part I’ve found these ideas amusing and not at all credible – but then, I’m a redhead, so why would you believe anything I have to say about the matter? I’m probably an extraterrestrial reptilian or an Atlantian trying to keep the truth from coming out. You never know.
In December 2014, a teenager in Economy, Pennsylvania called 911 and calmly said, “I found a head.” And thus began a mystery which is still unsolved.
But first, sharing an apartment with roommates can be either a good thing or a bad thing. Like coming home and finding a strange man on the couch – obviously one of your roommates friends who is crashing for the night. But what if that guy on the couch gives you the creeps? There might be good reason for that feeling.
That story is up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: TERRORIZED FOR TWO HOURS==========
This happened when I was in college. I lived in Isla Vista, the student community at UCSB, notorious for being a party school. It fully lived up to its reputation. I like to party, but holy shit! These people were off the wall. As such, there were a lot of people who put themselves in dangerous situations, drinking to excess, not being careful, not locking doors, etc. It had a very isolated and insular vibe, and anyone who was hanging around who wasn’t college-aged immediately looked out of place and strange.
One night after having a few drinks, I came home to my small house where I lived with 2 other girls, probably around 2:30am. We were all serious students (I was probably the least serious, actually), and when we partied it was not your typical UCSB mega-rager. More like a small get together with friends. We would often have a few people spend the night, sleep on our furniture our in our beds as the case may be.
That night my roommates had had a few people over who I didn’t know, and I saw when I returned home that one of them had opted to sleep on the couch from the shadow that I saw there (I didn’t turn the light so I wouldn’t wake anyone up). But as I was passing the couch to enter my bedroom, I noticed that the figure was lying very stiff. He just had this weird energy to him. He was lying down, but it was like he was putting all of his energy into lying as still and rigid as possible. I paused, and the guy quickly jerked his head to face me, without moving his limbs, so quickly that it startled me. I could see his wide open eyes glinting in the dark.
Figuring that I’d startled him or that he was drunk or maybe on some kind of stimulant and unable to sleep, I just hurried past into my bedroom and locked the door. the dude made me nervous and I wasn’t taking any chances. I fell asleep.
At 4:30 am I woke up. There was a strange sound at the door almost like somebody was drumming their fingers against the wood very quietly. I lay still and listened. There were more quiet sounds like someone scratching the door with their fingers, which got louder and louder until it was clear that he was using both hands and scratching as fast and as hard as possible. It created an extremely loud and intimidating sound that filled me with fear.
I got my cell phone and texted my roommate because I was afraid to make a sound. “Your friend is freaking me out, is he coked out? Can you talk to him? He’s banging and scratching on my door.”
She didn’t text me back, probably because she was asleep. I texted my other roommate to the same effect, covering all my bases. Keep in mind that the scratching has been going on at this point for a couple minutes. I have no idea how he could have sustained it, scratching a wooden door with your fingernails can’t feel good. He also grabbed at the knob and jiggled it super forcefully.
Because neither of them answered, I decided to call and really wake them up, though i was scared to make a sound. I know it sounds stupid but there was something seriously horrifying about being teased like this through the door. I knew that he was trying to terrify me. i felt like a little kid but I could tell this guy was fucked up or something and maybe the police needed to be called, and I wanted to loop my roommates in since it was one of their friends.
The scratching stopped abruptly and I called my roommate, who answered sleepily. “Yo, your friend is messed up, can you please deal with it? Do we need to call the cops? He’s seriously scaring me and he was scratching at my bedroom door, really fucking weird.”
She didn’t say anything for several seconds and when she did speak, her voice had no sleepiness in it at all. “What friend?” She said. “That fucking guy that was sleeping on the couch!” I said. She was quiet again. “We didn’t have any guys over,” she said. “Call the police.” My adrenaline surged and I told her to please lock the bedroom door as quickly as possible. I realized that I hadn’t heard scratching in a while and I had no clue where the dude had gone.
Suddenly I heard a loud banging in the other end of the house, where my roommates, Lauren and Monica, shared a bedroom. The bangs were followed by the sound of them screaming in fear. I quickly dialed the police as this maniac proceeded to bang against the (luckily) locked bedroom door of my two roommates as they screamed. The heaviness of the blows left no doubt that he was trying to break the door down.
I’d told the 911 operator the situation and she’d dispatched two squad cars.
The police in Isla Vista are generally used to peeling drunks off the sidewalk and breaking up brawling frat bros. This was really serious and strange and I think the dispatcher got the sense from my tone how terrified I was, and she stayed on the phone with me. At one point the banging stopped and everything was quiet for a while. I talked with the dispatcher and suddenly looked down to see that this guy had slipped his fingers through the 1-inch gap between my door and the floor and was just kind of waggling them around, making this weird growling sound. I screamed and backed away, which is my biggest regret about this situation, since when I look back it would have been so awesome to just stomp the shit out of those fingers and hear the guy howl in pain.
When the cops rolled up, I heard running and the sound of our sliding glass door opening and closing, and then he was gone. The cops never caught him.
He had broken in through our side door by jimmying the lock somehow. My door was covered in what turned out to be huge gauges he’d made using a pair of scissors, which he discarded on the ground before he left.
What terrifies me most about this was that I walked right past him. I looked him right in the face. I realize now that he was not trying to sleep or on drugs, but was lying so stiff like that because he was hiding. He probably heard me open the door, and freaked out because he hadn’t realized there was another girl living there, and tried to blend into the couch in the darkness.
STORY: THE WOMAN WITHOUT A BODY==========
The woman’s severed head lay in the woods, 10 yards off a rural road in Economy, Pennsylvania. Her mouth was open. Her eyes were closed. Her hair was gray and fluffy.
A teenager spotted her about half past noon on Dec. 12, 2014. Moments later, police say, the boy called 911. “I found a human head,” he calmly told the operator.
Today, many years after the discovery, the woman’s identity remains a mystery.
Authorities haven’t determined how or when she died, her age, why she was decapitated, or how her head came to rest off Mason Road in this town of 12,000 not far from Pittsburgh.
Despite an initial flurry of tips, police say they have no suspects. But they do have a leading theory.
They believe the head may have been severed by a so-called body broker – someone who sells body parts from a cadaver donated to science.
“She was dismembered professionally,” said Michelle Vitali, an anatomy professor at Edinboro University near Erie who closely examined the head. “It’s part of the body parts trade.”
Pathologist Cyril Wecht, a veteran of more than 20,000 autopsies, agreed that the cutting wasn’t done by an amateur. “We see a rather neat surgical dissection,” Wecht said after examining crime scene photos. “Somebody took their time.”
One reason the head may have come from the body trade: The industry has been linked to similar abuses in the past.
Reuters has identified thousands of body parts that have been misused or desecrated since 2004. In the case of Detroit-based body broker Arthur Rathburn, authorities allege he “stored human heads by stacking them directly on top of each other without any protective barrier.” Rathburn faced trial in January 2015, charged with defrauding health care clients by misleading them about infected human remains and with lying to federal agents.
Typically, however, authorities stumble across these cases only by happenstance. An airline employee in Arkansas discovered 40 severed heads being shipped in plastic containers in 2010. A couple of years later in Texas, police found an entire cadaver lying by the side of the road. It had fallen from a van on the way to a body broker in Colorado. The driver, Reuters reported at the time, hadn’t noticed that the body was missing.
Complicating the Pennsylvania case: Bodies and parts can be bought, sold and leased across America with relative ease. That makes determining the origins of remains like the head found in Economy difficult if not impossible.
“There’s so many places where you can get these parts,” Vitali said. “But it’s hard to trace back.”
Police say they’ll likely need the public’s help to solve what they call the most bizarre case they’ve handled.
“Years plugging away at this thing. Got nowhere. It drives me crazy,” said Andrew Gall, chief of detectives for the Beaver County district attorney’s office. “I’ve been doing this job for a long time. I hadn’t had anything where I had a body part like this turn up.”
In the days after the head was found, authorities used cadaver dogs to scour the area. They also sought DNA from the woman, whose head had been embalmed. But those efforts yielded nothing. They uncovered no evidence in the forest, and the remains held no DNA; it had been destroyed by the embalming chemicals, authorities say.
Police brought in Vitali, who is also a forensic artist, and released a sketch and clay model she created to show what the woman may have looked like alive. Investigators set up a telephone hotline and initially figured a grave robber might be to blame. “I felt that we put this out and any moment, the phone was going to ring with that information,” Gall said. “That call never came.”
Quickly, the case of the bodiless woman, whom they now call Jane Doe, went cold. And the remaining clues seemed bewildering.
At the local morgue, authorities found eye caps – a mortician’s tool to keep the lids closed – in each of her eyes. But beneath those eye caps lay a surprise: a small red rubber ball in each of Jane Doe’s otherwise empty sockets.
The balls continue to baffle investigators and mortuary experts, who say they have never heard of red rubber balls being used to replace removed eyes. At least one company makes spheres that double as eye caps, but they are vastly different in color and texture than the balls found in the woman’s sockets.
Her eyes may have been taken through organ donation. But if Jane Doe died recently, it is likely that “an eye bank or an organ procurement organization would only remove the cornea from an eye,” said Wes Culp, deputy press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
A body broker, on the other hand, might remove and sell the full eye for research purposes. Laws governing organ donation and the body broker business differ substantially.
Transplantation organizations are strictly regulated but body brokers are not.
But why fill the empty sockets with the red balls? Using cotton to fill the space is cheaper. Red rubber balls, these marked CHINA, “are not used in either the funeral profession or in organ donor networks,” said Kevin Moran, an embalming instructor at the American Academy McAllister Institute of Funeral Service in New York.
“In my 40 years of doing this, I have never seen that,” he said.
The use of caps in Jane Doe’s eye sockets was “very professional,” Moran said. “And yet part of it is the rubber balls you get with a ball-and-jacks set. It doesn’t make sense.”
The situation also perplexes detective Gall, who hasn’t ruled out another scenario. “Prove to me it’s not a homicide – that she was alive and someone killed her and played with that body,” he said, “including putting the red eyeballs in there.”
If anyone is likely to identify Jane Doe, it might be a dentist.
Authorities found a full set of teeth inside the woman’s mouth and took X-rays. Dentists at the University at Buffalo School of Dental Medicine examined the head and determined that work had been done on every single tooth – one of them as many as seven times.
Using one of three teeth they pulled, the dentists also found what they believe to be a filling compound that wasn’t available to dentists before 2004, meaning the woman likely died sometime thereafter. Based on their examination, dentists Raymond Miller and Peter Bush were able to posit a possible profile of Jane Doe: a lower-income woman who had many cavities and may have grown up where the water wasn’t fluoridated.
She probably lacked top-notch dental insurance that would have covered crowns, but may have had a cheaper plan that paid for fillings, Miller said. The work on her mouth was what Miller called “patchwork dentistry,” in which problems are addressed only when necessary. Still, the work was well done, both dentists agreed.
“Somebody took good care of her,” Miller said. “Every tooth is filled or fixed in her mouth.” The extent of that work would make her “an easy ID if we had any kind of information about her.”
Investigators all but eliminated grave robbery. No recent cases had been reported that involved a missing head. And that left detective Gall asking, “Where does the head come from?”
Authorities turned to anatomy professor and forensic artist Vitali.
Jane Doe’s skin had been cut raggedly around the front of her neck. But the cut beneath the skin was smooth and exact. Vitali also noticed two slits on the back of the neck, and the woman’s cervical spine was gone. The cuts suggested the spine was explicitly removed – an indication that Jane Doe’s head was used in the body parts industry, Vitali and others said.
“When we lifted the flap at the back of the neck, we could see that the whole purpose of that was to access the key joint that would preserve both the head and the vertebral column, thereby maximizing the profitability of both,” Vitali said.
X-rays of the head clearly show the vertebrae are missing.
“This is not anybody going with a kitchen knife or anything remotely like that,” Vitali said. “It was well done, and it was placed perfectly.”
Vitali’s observations gave rise to the body broker theory and a new approach to attacking the mystery. “One of the things we considered doing was purchasing a human head,” said Michael O’Brien, Economy’s police chief.
Vitali would lead the effort. “If we just went out and bought another human head, what would we find?” Vitali wondered. “It was really as simple as that.”
The hope was that investigators might learn two things. “We were looking to see the ease or difficulty level of purchasing that head,” O’Brien said, “and then to see what that head actually looked like, as far as where the head was cut.”
But authorities decided not to proceed. They reasoned that any body broker who vetted Vitali easily could have found media reports mentioning her connection to the case and balked at selling to her, believing her purchase was a set-up.
After learning of the abandoned effort, Reuters decided to move forward for some of the same reasons that inspired Pennsylvania authorities. Could a head be purchased easily from a body broker? Would the cuts be similar? And would the cervical spine be removed?
A broker in Tennessee with no ties to the case, James Byrd, already had sold the news agency a cervical spine a few months earlier. Byrd informed Reuters reporter Brian Grow that he could also supply human heads – for about $300 each, plus shipping. In January, Grow purchased two heads and asked a medical researcher to compare the way those heads were severed with photos of how Jane Doe’s head was cut in the Pennsylvania case.
The manner in which the heads sold to Grow were severed supports the theory that a body broker somewhere once handled Jane Doe’s head, according to an anatomist Reuters consulted. Of particular note were the similarities in the internal cuts between the heads Reuters purchased and the head found in Pennsylvania, said Angela McArthur, who leads the anatomical bequest program at the University of Minnesota.
McArthur examined the heads bought by Reuters and reviewed photos of Jane Doe’s head.
Based on the police photos, McArthur noted that the “surgical cuts on the posterior portion of her neck along with the carotid artery, the trachea and the esophagus also make me think that this was a procurement of her cervical spine.”
Similarities aside, McArthur also said she was troubled that neither of the heads Reuters purchased had an identification tag that marked the head itself. Although such tags are not required by law, McArthur considers them critical to track the donor’s identity. Without it, a head found by the side of a road – just like Jane Doe’s – might never be identified.
Authorities have tried other approaches to solving the case.
They examined isotopes from oxygen molecules that remained in the woman’s teeth and hair to determine where Jane Doe may have spent her last few months. The answer, not surprisingly, included the region near where her head was found and stretches into surrounding states, including West Virginia.
But the analysis of the isotopes also indicated that she did not live in Beaver County in the months before her death. Toxicology tests also suggest the woman may have suffered from chronic pain and that paramedics tried to resuscitate her around the time of her death. Authorities believe she was older than 50 when she died.
Gall, a 40-year law enforcement veteran who takes pride in solving cold cases, says he’s staying on the pursuit.
“I just won’t give up hope because I keep thinking that something is going to break this loose for us,” Gall said. “Someone is going to think of something that’s going to help us solve this.”
You can see a sketch of the woman’s face as she might have appeared in life by clicking the link in the show notes. On the photo you’ll also find a phone number and email address if you can help solve the mystery.