“THE ACCUSING, KILLING, AND CURSING OF MOLL DYER” and More Strange True Tales! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““THE ACCUSING, KILLING, AND CURSING OF MOLL DYER” and More Strange True Tales! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: Hollywood actress Mary Astor was the flame that began a firestorm sex scandal… a story so hot that it made front page headlines. (The Purple Diary Scandal) *** A night watchman gets into a fistfight with a ghost! (Phantom Fistfight) *** The murder of Rose Ambler has gone unsolved for well over a hundred years. No one alive at the time is alive today, but still, for law some in law enforcement in Connecticut, as well as amateur and professional detectives alike, it’s a case that keep drawing them back. (Murder at Raven Stream) *** Some say she was an old hag, while others say she was a polite and beautiful old woman. But townsfolk were terrified of her either way, because everyone knew Moll Dyer was a witch. Whether she was or not, what transpired around her and to her has caused something of the paranormal. (Moll Dyer Was a Witch) *** What do alien abductions, poltergeists, and holistic healing have in common? You might be surprised to see how they are connected. (Healing Paranormal Abductions)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The Purple Diary Scandal” by Joy Lanzendorfer for Mental Floss: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/vtsxjxr3
“Phantom Fistfight” by M.J. Wayland: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/44v87pk5
“Murder at Raven Stream” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/wtfmbjvy
“Haunted By a Dark Spirit” by Redditor MikanKitsune94: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4bdh4b6d
“Healing Paranormal Abductions” by Jack Fox-Williams for New Dawn Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/jcbretms
“Moll Dyer Was a Witch” from OtherwordlyOracle.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yhabf5vw
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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…
Hollywood actress Mary Astor was the flame that began a firestorm sex scandal… a story so hot that it made front page headlines. (The Purple Diary Scandal)
A night watchman gets into a fistfight with a ghost! (Phantom Fistfight)
The murder of Rose Ambler has gone unsolved for well over a hundred years. No one alive at the time of the crime being committed is alive today, but still, for some in law enforcement in Connecticut, as well as amateur and professional detectives alike, it’s a case that keeps drawing them back. (Murder at Raven Stream)
Some say she was an old hag, while others say she was a polite and beautiful old woman. But townsfolk were terrified of her either way, because everyone knew Moll Dyer was a witch. Whether she was or not, what transpired around her and to her has caused something of the paranormal. (Moll Dyer Was a Witch)
But first… What do alien abductions, poltergeists, and holistic healing have in common? You might be surprised to see how they are connected. We begin there. (Healing Paranormal Abductions)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
And this month we’re celebrating Weird Darkness’ birthday… this month makes seven years of Weird Darkness as a podcast. And to recognize our birthday, every October we ask you to make a donation to our Overcoming The Darkness fundraiser. Every dollar we raise through donations and the Weirdling Woods painting auction will go to organizations that help people who struggle with depression. You can learn more about the fundraiser and what we’re doing with it on the Hope in the Darkness page at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: HEALING PARANORMAL ABDUCTIONS==========
Among the most influential and widely known alien abductions is the story of what happened to Betty and Barney Hill, an American couple from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, who were reportedly abducted by extraterrestrials while driving back from a vacation in Montreal.
The couple described being taken into an alien spacecraft where strange surgical operations were performed on them. The couple could not initially remember the incident, only waking up to discover that they had travelled 35 miles without any memory of the last two hours. It was only through hypnotic regression that they recalled encountering extraterrestrial beings, characterised by disproportionately large foreheads and black opaque eyes. Although the couple returned to their normal lives, after undergoing extensive hypnotherapy they continued to discuss the incident with friends, family and UFO researchers.
Since Betty and Barney Hill’s encounter in 1961, alien abductions have become a widespread phenomenon. A study conducted by the sociologist Dr Ron Westrum suggests that nearly four million Americans have been abducted by aliens at some point during their lifetime. There are many explanations for these ‘alien’ encounters: some believe they are the result of sleep paralysis, or they are part of an undisclosed military project. Nevertheless, the phenomenon remains an intriguing mystery that has yet to be fully understood.
Many people are unaware there is a close relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal. Dr Richard Boylan, a clinical psychologist at California State University, has studied alien abductions for several decades. In his book, Close Extraterrestrial Encounters: Positive Experience with Mysterious Visitors (1994), Boylan lists twenty characteristics associated with alien abduction, several of which include the reception of telepathic messages and the development of psychic abilities.
Kenneth Ring, professor of psychology at the University of Connecticut, has also found that many abductees report an increased sensitivity to electromagnetic fields, enhanced information-processing capacity, and the development of psychic abilities. It is also common for abductees to experience a greater connection with friends, family and the environment. The renowned alien contactee and author Whitley Strieber claims that many abductees experience paranormal phenomena as part of a wider spiritual transformation. He writes:
“What basically happens is that the witness’s whole sense of reality explodes. People become psychic, they begin to believe that they can see into the future… they acquire wisdom and new compassion… they become deeply concerned with the welfare of the environment.”
The connection between alien abductions and the paranormal has been extensively studied by Denise Stoner and Kathleen Marden. In 2012, the independent researchers conducted a study in which 75 alien abductees were given a multiple-choice questionnaire and asked their personal background, religious/spiritual beliefs and other relevant information. They also completed a survey which contained 16 fill-in questions relating to their abduction experience. According to the data, 51% experienced paranormal activity for the first-time following contact, 89% reported receiving telepathic messages from their extraterrestrial visitors, and 72% claimed they were more sensitive to their surrounding environment.
One paranormal phenomenon commonly associated with alien abductions is poltergeist activity. In a study conducted by Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson, 11 abductees were randomly selected from an abduction support group in Australia and interviewed about their alien encounter.
Wilson found that many subjects had experienced unusual activity in their homes following contact. A subject, named Angela, described “most electrical appliances not working, having a lot of static. And the television… often just goes to static.” Another subject, named Karen, explained how her stereo system would turn on“in the middle of the night and then it would actually flip through to my favourite song on the CD… and it would just play the song. And then it would stop and turn off.” One subject even recalled how objects would fly off the shelves without any sign of disturbance and the electrical system in her house would suddenly blow:
“I had occasions when things would move off the shelf, and they wouldn’t smash on the floor… they would be able to move from one place very carefully to another… Other times, I would have enormous electrical activity in the house, so much so that it would blow. It would actually trigger the alarm system or trigger things to come on.”
These experiences correspond with the research conducted by Stoner and Marden, which found that 88% of abductees experienced poltergeist activity in their homes following contact. 68% of them reported malfunctions in electronic equipment such as computers, radios and televisions. Some of them also reported light bulbs turning on and off, street lights blinking when they walked underneath them, and the hands on their watches spinning.
The connection between alien abductions and poltergeist activity became so apparent during Marden and Stoner’s research that they decided to measure the electromagnetic fields of their subjects. They used a TriField Natural EMF Meter to measure the surrounding environment and the bodies of abductees within four days of an abduction, as well as the bodies of a control group. The data suggested that the electromagnetic field of the abductees was significantly higher than the ambient environment and control group following an alien encounter. Although the sample size was too small to make definitive conclusions, the findings correspond with research undertaken by Professor Ring at the University of Connecticut who found that many abductees report a heightened sensitivity to electromagnetic fields.
Even more interesting is that many UFO researchers believe there is a fundamental connection between extraterrestrials and electromagnetism. UFO researcher Chris Line believes that extraterrestrial beings are vibrational in nature and therefore possess the ability to conceal themselves within the infrared part of the electromagnetic spectrum.
The author Ann Druffel also believes that since reality is ultimately electromagnetic, “very close-up sightings, and particularly those which involve paralysis, abduction and other unpleasant experiences, might be from an interdimensional source, co-existing with our earth.” If these extraterrestrial beings exist as a purely energetic form of consciousness, it may be possible for them to interfere with the electromagnetic fields produced by physical objects as well as the human mind and body. Poltergeist activity could be representative of the same extraterrestrial intelligence encountered during alien abductions, but merely manifested in a different form. This would make sense considering that many abductees claim extraterrestrials have the ability to shapeshift and assume a variety of physical and non-physical forms.
Poltergeist activity is not the only paranormal phenomenon associated with alien abductions. During his research, Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson found that many of his subjects developed healing abilities either prior or subsequent to contact. One subject, named Patricia, explained how her encounter with extraterrestrials resulted in her becoming a holistic healer. She claims to now have the ability to “pick up information about where trauma has occurred or where energy blocks are in the body that may have manifested… what information, what emotion is held in that… or what trauma is held in the body in those areas.”Another subject, named Angela, claimed that she developed healing abilities after she was abducted by aliens as a teenager, and could now “pick up on people’s feeling’s feelings and emotions and thoughts” and see “where they had problems, like diseases in their bodies.”
These accounts correspond with the research undertaken by the renowned psychiatrist and writer John E. Mack (1929–2004) who interviewed hundreds of abductees as part of a government-sponsored research project into the extraterrestrial phenomena. He found that a significant percentage of abductees developed healing abilities after contact as well as a greater connection with people, animals and nature. This corresponds with research undertaken by Stoner and Marden who found that 50% of abductees were able to heal others for a short period of time following an alien abduction, and 2% possessed healing abilities from a young age. Marden states that many subjects reported having their vibrational frequency raised during an abduction, which was apparently connected to the development of healing abilities.
The question as to why abductees develop psychic abilities remains a mystery. However, one explanation is that these extraterrestrials are benevolent and want to enhance humanity’s psychospiritual development. The idea of otherworldly beings assisting humanity is integral to the culture of shamanic societies in which the shaman communicates with spirit-helpers to acquire knowledge or wisdom that can benefit the community. The religious historian Mircea Eliade talks about how “the shaman frequently sees and consults with his guardian spirit… has it help him, and uses it to help others to recover from illness and injury.” Comparing shamanism and the strangeness of alien encounters, shamans and abductees could be essentially communicating with the same benevolent ‘alien’ intelligence that, in certain cases, aims to physically, emotionally and spiritually heal humans.
Much research has been undertaken into the psychological makeup of abductees to assess whether certain personality traits increase the probability of individuals experiencing paranormal occurrences. While these studies are valuable from a scientific perspective, they do not say anything meaningful about the experience itself. If paranormal occurrences are real but can only be experienced by a certain personality-type, it would make sense that abductees share a common psychological profile. This does not make their experiences invalid or delusional in any way, however.
From a philosophical perspective, all sensory experience is mediated through the psychology of the mind. If you placed a highly attentive individual in the middle of a city, they would notice certain faces, objects and buildings that other people might not; this does not mean that what they are witnessing is purely imaginary. Rather, their psychological predisposition enables them to experience a wider range of sensory input than the ‘ordinary’ person. In this sense, it could be argued that abductees are more likely to experience paranormal phenomena because they are more perceptive, insightful and open to such experiences.
Empirical science may never be able to explain the relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal if these experiences are representative of a reality that exists outside the ordinary boundaries of sensory perception. As many UFO researchers have noted, the idea that abductees are communicating with entities from other worlds cannot be entirely dismissed.
The UFO researcher Nick Pope suggests that the “idea of abductions being explained in terms of our reality interacting with other realities must be considered. If abductions are taking place, then it is possible that those responsible might come from another dimension or parallel universe.” Writer C.D.B. Bryan also believes that “there might exist simultaneous other realities; further, that it is during, or within some sort of overlapping of these realities that alien abductions occur.” In this sense, the relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal might be explained through the existence of other dimensional realities, which abductees are able to access through altered states of consciousness.
This explanation makes sense from the perspective that the brain operates like a television set and can ‘tune into’ different frequencies of reality. The writer and journalist Graham Hancock is a well-known proponent of this theory and says that “the relationship of consciousness to the brain may be less like the relationship to the generator to the electricity it produces and more like the relationship of the TV signal to the TV set.” In this sense, the brain does not create consciousness but acts as a bioelectrical conduit for its reception; the world that we regularly perceive is one of many dimensions that theoretically exist but remain inaccessible during ordinary states of awareness. Abductees, however, possess the ability to ‘tune’ into other frequencies of reality and communicate with entities of an interdimensional nature.
While scientific materialism claims that consciousness is generated by the brain, this argument presents a profound philosophical problem: how do electrical circuits in the brain, which are non-conscious, produce consciousness? This question becomes much less problematic if we assume that the brain ‘receives’ consciousness and other realities can be accessed when the biochemical composition of the brain is altered. From this perspective, alien abductions and certain paranormal experiences are pointing to other dimensional realities that materialise during altered states of awareness.
Although this theory of consciousness contradicts the materialistic view that alien abductions result from biochemical activity in the brain, these perspectives are not incompatible. There is no reason to assume that because alien abductions occur within the brain that they have no dimensional reality. From a philosophical perspective, all sensory experience has a neurological explanation. Our entire perception – colour, shape, taste, smell, touch – is the product of biochemical processes that occur within the mind. If we assume that the brain acts as a receptor for different frequencies of reality, then it is possible that abductees are accessing alternate worlds and communicating with entities of an interdimensional nature.
The idea there are multiple dimensions is increasingly supported by modern science, particularly in the field of quantum physics. In 1957, Princeton graduate Hugh Everett III proposed the ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics as a means by which to resolve the ‘wave-function collapse’ problem. The wave function is a mathematical expression of all potential states of a subatomic system, such as every possible location of a quantum particle. One cannot attribute a greater degree of reality to one state over any other; they all exist as mathematical potentialities until they are measured by a conscious observer, at which point the wave function ‘collapses’ and a single state becomes observable. This poses a problem in regard to what defines ‘measurement’ and why the act of observation affects reality at a subatomic level. In order to resolve this problem, Everett theorised that when a measurement is made one outcome occurs in the universe that we are currently occupying and another occurs in an alternate universe. In this sense, there are many different universes, not that different from our own, in which all possible outcomes occur.
The ‘multiple-worlds’ theory has since been developed by other scientists. In 2014, physicists Michael Hal, Dirk-Andre Deckert and Howard M. Wiseman published an academic paper entitled ‘Quantum Phenomena Modelled by Interactions between Many Classical Worlds’, in which they propose there are an infinite number of universes that overlap one another and occupy the same region of space-time simultaneously. Furthermore, multidimensionality is a key component of string theory, which proposes that subatomic particles are comprised of multidimensional ‘strings’ or ‘string-loops’.
As modern science finds more evidence for the existence of multiple universes, the interdimensional explanation for alien abductions and their connection to the paranormal starts to make a lot more sense. As the American ethnobotanist, mystic, and psychonaut Terence McKenna (1946–2000) observed, “if you take the broad world of the so-called mysteries – parapsychological, shamanic, extraterrestrial, and so forth – and hypothesize another spatial dimension, then all these mysteries become trivial… This sort of thing becomes quite the ordinary run of things if were hypothesize dimensions hidden from ordinary experience.”
As one can see, there is a close relationship between alien abductions and the paranormal. The research undertaken by Simon Brian Harvey-Wilson, Denise Stoner, Kathleen Marden and John E. Mack suggests that many abductees experience poltergeist activity and develop healing abilities. They also experience a greater connection with friends, family and the environment as part of a wider spiritual transformation. While scientific materialists might claim that abductees are more prone to paranormal experiences because of their neurology, this argument is redundant when one considers that all sensory experience originates in the brain. Just because a phenomenon has a neurological explanation does not make it invalid or implausible.
An intriguing explanation for alien abductions and the paranormal is that they reflect alternate dimensions existing outside the ordinary boundaries of sensory perception. From this perspective, the brain operates much like a television set and can ‘tune’ into different frequencies of reality. While this theory may seem absurd, modern science is finding increasing evidence for the existence of multiple dimensions. The ‘many worlds’ interpretation of quantum mechanics, as well as the theoretical framework of string theory, suggests there are multiple universes overlapping each other within the same region of space-time.
If abductees are able to somehow access these parallel worlds and communicate with beings of an interdimensional nature – or indeed ‘extraterrestrials’ are breaking through into our world – then paranormal phenomena could be the result of interacting with these alternate dimensions. Making it not so “para” normal after all.
Coming up… Hollywood actress Mary Astor was the flame that began a firestorm sex scandal… a story so hot that it made front page headlines. (The Purple Diary Scandal) Plus… a night watchman gets into a fistfight with a ghost! (Phantom Fistfight). Those stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE PURPLE DIARY SCANDAL==========
In 1936, Mary Astor, star of The Maltese Falcon (1941), was the center of a Hollywood scandal so big, it knocked news of Hitler off the front page. Her estranged husband stole her private diaries, called the Purple or Lavender Diary, to use in a bitter custody battle. It was reported that Astor wrote breathless accounts of her many love affairs in its pages. As the press salivated for details, Astor appeared in court to face a hostile lawyer hellbent on proving she was an unfit mother. People flooded the courthouse and vendors sold hot dogs and ice cream to the crowds.
Astor’s diary was the first major Hollywood sex scandal, “a sensation the likes of which had never been seen before,” writes Joseph Egan in the book, The Purple Diaries. Astor faced losing her career, daughter, and reputation, but she wouldn’t be shamed. When faced with these challenges, Astor fought back.
By 1936, Astor and Thorpe, a physician, had been married five years and shared a daughter, Marylyn. Both sides had had affairs. Astor wanted out of the marriage, writing in her diary, “I don’t love Franklyn any more… I am unhappy and bored with him.” But whenever she tried to leave, they had violent arguments. “Our life was a series of explosions, usually over minor things,” Astor wrote in her autobiography. “I began to talk divorce, and the talk was considerable.”
The turning point came when Thorpe stole the blue ledgers Astor used as diaries. Not only did he read her real opinions of him (“I feel sorry for him because I made him marry me … I play a kind of game with him”), he discovered her strong feelings for the playwright George Kaufman.
A two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Kaufman was in an open marriage with his wife of 20 years, who he had no intention of leaving. Thorpe knew about the affair, but not how much Astor enjoyed Kaufman. “I am still in a haze; a nice rosy glow,” she wrote. “It’s beautiful, glorious and I hope it’s my last love. I can’t top it with anything in my experience.”
Thorpe demanded Astor give him sole custody of Marylyn, half of Astor’s house, and control of her finances. If she didn’t agree, he said he’d release the diaries to the public. In the 1930s, adultery was cause for outrage—especially if committed by a woman. Banking on this double standard, Thorpe threatened to “blacken her name and the names of her friends on the front pages of every newspaper in America,” Egan wrote. When Astor caught the flu, Thorpe stood by her bed, berating and threatening her. Weak and sick, she signed a divorce settlement, giving Thorpe what he wanted.
But Thorpe didn’t stop there. For the next 15 months, whenever he and Astor clashed, he threatened to take Marylyn away. Astor alleged he also started abusing the child. “He’d shake her so hard her teeth rattled and bit her lips,” Astor told the court. “Then he’d spank her and there would be bruise marks on her little body.”
Finally, Astor had enough. Her lawyer, Roland Rich Woolley, filed for custody, accusing Thorpe of blackmail and bigamy—he had a common-law wife who he continued to see after the marriage. Astor knew scandal was coming, but she wanted to protect her daughter.
The diaries were the focus of the custody trial. Thorpe’s lawyer announced that they would “split the movie industry wide open” because Astor “experimented with love as a scientist experiments with test tubes.” Reporters vied for every detail of the mysterious diaries. When they glimpsed a page in court, they said that Astor wrote in purple ink. This detail added a level of innuendo—purple is a color often associatedwith passion—but it wasn’t true. Astor wrote in brown ink which, at a distance, took on a purplish hue. But the nickname, The Purple Diary, stuck.
Kaufman, meanwhile, wanted nothing to do with the trial. When ordered to testify, he didn’t show up to court. Furious, Judge Goodwin Knight put out a bench warrant for his arrest. Before the police could track him down, however, Kaufman jumped on a train to New York. The judge banned him from Los Angeles. “If Kaufman comes within the jurisdiction of this court I will see that he is put in jail and kept there long enough to cool his heels,” he told the courtroom. (The warrant was dismissed in 1937, and Kaufman was able to work in Hollywood again.)
On the stand, Thorpe’s infidelities were revealed. In addition to the common-law wife, he had an affair with a showgirl named Norma Taylor, who once chased Thorpe with a carving fork—in front of Marylyn.
Initially, Thorpe denied the romance with Taylor. But Woolley produced a photograph of them kissing, prompting Thorpe to admit that Taylor came to his house, drunk, wearing silk lounging pajamas. She smashed a window with a candlestick and chased him around with a large fork. “She tried to lock herself in [the bathroom], but I got through the door and grabbed her,” Thorpe said. “We fell down in a tussle.” Marylyn later said the fight was one of her earliest memories.
In absence of the real diary, the press published excerpts from a pornographic forgery, which included the rumor that Astor rated her lovers on a scorecard. One newspaper said Astor “was an unofficial scorekeeper in Hollywood’s tournaments of love. Four pages … contain her charm ratings of the ‘first ten’ among the male celebrities of screenland. Kaufman was definitely the tops.”
In her autobiography, Astor wrote that the press “had a Roman holiday” with the fake diary. Since she couldn’t sue every newspaper, she was helpless to stop the rumors. “I could only beat my fists on Woolley’s desk and cry futilely, ‘There wasn’t any box score and I never called the damned thing Dear Diary.'”
On the last day of filming the movie Dodsworth (1936) at MGM, Astor was called into producer Sam Goldwyn’s office. When she arrived, all the heads of the major movie studios were waiting for her, including Louis B. Mayer, Jack Warner, and Harry Cohn. They ambushed Astor, telling her to give up the custody hearing, which they thought could damage the movie industry. Astor wouldn’t be intimidated. She said, “I’m sorry, gentlemen, but I will proceed with the case as my lawyer has advised me” and left the room.
Stunned by her dismissal, someone suggested Goldwyn enforce the morality clause in Astor’s contract and fire her. He shook his head. “A woman fighting for her child?” he said. “This is good.”
In court, Astor appeared poised and refined. Dressed in black, she was described as a “slender and frail dark-eyed wisp of a girl weighing barely a hundred pounds.”
She spoke in a deep, clear voice and was unshaken by the aggressive cross-examination. It was agreed she displayed “real life emotions” of “a mother risking everything” for her child.
Astor later said she was pretending to be Edith Cortright, her character from Dodsworth. Edith “was a lot of things I would like to have been. She had complete confidence in herself and I had very little,” Astor wrote. Later she added: “I was completely rattleproof, thanks to Edith Cortright. She was my shield.”
When the judge ruled the diaries couldn’t be admitted as evidence, Thorpe’s lawyers released excerpts to the press. Soon, Astor’s intimate musings were exposed nationwide. Impatient with the media circus, the judge ordered Astor and Thorpe to work out an agreement—or else. In the end, Astor triumphed, gaining custody of Marylyn for nine months a year.
Surprisingly, the scandal didn’t hurt Astor’s career. She was even more popular afterward, starring in The Maltese Falcon (1941), Little Women(1949), and Meet Me In St. Louis (1944). Her career spanned seven decades and includes a lasting legacy as a femme fatale.
As for the diaries, the judge ordered them locked away until Marylyn turned 21. In 1952, they were removed and burned. The only surviving sections were the excerpts leaked to the press.
STORY: PHANTOM FISTFIGHT==========
In ghost history, there are many mentions of encounters of ghosts which results in violence, the most famous case is that of novelist Captain Frederick Marryat who while staying at Raynham Hall decided to ‘ghost hunt’. While walking along an upstairs hallway he encountered the Hall’s infamous Brown Lady, she was carrying a lantern and glided past them through a door. Marryat noticed she was grinning at him so he leapt out and fired a pistol at her sending the bullet straight through her head, lodging in a wall.
There have been many questions about Marryat’s claims, but none so on the following, equally perplexing is the following story of James Durham, a Darlington night watchman’s encounter with fight with a ghost.
James Durham gave a witness statement to Rev Harry Kendal, a Congregational Minister in the late 19th century, at Darlington. The statement said that James Durham was a night-watchman at the Old Darlington and Stockton Station, dated 9th December 1890:-
“I was a night-watchman at the old Darlington and Stockton Railway Station, at the town of Darlington, a few yards from the first station that ever existed. I was there for 15 years. I used to go on duty about 8 pm and came off at 6 am.
“I had been there a little while, perhaps two or three years, and at about midnight, or 12.30 am, I was feeling rather cold standing here and there, so I said to myself, “I will go away down and get something to eat”. There was a porters’ room, where a fire was kept on, and a coal-house was connected to it. So I went down the steps, took off my overcoat and had just sat down on the bench opposite the fire, and turned up the gas, when a strange man came out of the coal-house, followed by a black retriever dog. As soon as he entered, my eye was upon him and his eye upon me, and we intently watched each other as he moved on to the front of the fire.
“There he stood, looking at me, and a curious smile came over his countenance.
He had a stand-up collar and a cut-away coat, with gilt buttons and a Scotch cap. All at once he struck at me and I had the impression that he had hit me. I upped with my fist and struck back at him. My fist seemed to go through him and struck against the stone above the fireplace, and knocked the skin off my knuckles. The man seemed to be struck back into the fire, and uttered a strange unearthly squeak. Immediately, the dog gripped me by the calf of my leg, and seemed to cause me pain. The man recovered his position, called off the dog with a sort of a click of the tongue, and then went back into the coal-house, followed by the dog. I lighted my dark lantern and looked into the coal-house, but there was neither dog nor man, and no outlet for them except the one by which they had entered.
“I was satisfied that what I had seen was ghostly, and it accounted for the fact that when the man had first come into the place where I sat, I had not challenged him. Next day, and for several weeks, my account caused quite a commotion, and a host of people spoke to me about it, among the rest, old Edward Pease, father of railways and his three sons, John, Joseph and Henry. Old Edward sent for me to his house and asked all particulars. He and others put this question to me: “are you sure that you were not asleep and had a nightmare?”
My answer was quite sure for I had not been a minute in the cellar and was just going to get something to eat. I was certainly not under the influence of strong drink, for I was then, as I have been for 49 years, a teetotaler. My mind at that time was perfectly free from trouble.
“What increased the excitement was the fact that a man, a number of years before, who was employed in the office of the station, had committed suicide and was carried into this very cellar. I knew nothing of this circumstance, nor of the body of the man, but Mr Pease, and others who had known him, told me my description exactly corresponded to his appearance and the way he dressed, and also he had a black retriever just like the one that gripped me. I should add that no mark or effect remained on the spot where I seemed to be seized”.
Mr Kendall made his own comments on the case:-
“Mr Durham has attended my church for 25 years and I have testimony going back that length of time to the effect that he has given the same account of the extraordinary experiences. It is a long time since he retired from the post of night-watchman, and he has since become a wealthy man. He is one of the strongest men I have ever met, able to do his 40 miles a day, walking and running with the hounds and not feel stiff the day after. I forwarded this strange narrative to Prof. Sidgwick, President of the S.P.R., who expressed a wish for fuller assurance that Mr Durham was not asleep at the time of the vision. I gave, in reply, the following four reasons for believing that he was awake: Firstly, he was accustomed, as a night-watchman, to be up all night, and therefore not likely to feel sleepy from that cause. Secondly, he had scarcely been a minute in the cellar and feeling hungry was just about to get something to eat. Thirdly, if he was asleep at the beginning of the vision, he must have been awake enough during the latter part of it, when he knocked the skin off his knuckles. Fourthly, there was his own testimony, which was confident. I strongly incline to the opinion that there was objective cause for the vision, and that it was genuinely apparitional.”
Mr Kendall visited the station and was taken to the porters’ room, down the steps. He noted that the coal-house was still there and also the gas bracket that Mr Durham had turned on the night in question. His guide, an old railway official, remembered the clerk, a man called John Winter, who had committed suicide, and showed Mr Kendall the place where Winter had shot himself with a pistol. In dress and appearance, Winter corresponded exactly with the phenomenon described by James Durham, and he had certainly owned a black retriever.
So… who was the ghost? In October 2000, two amateur historians, Olive Howe and Irene McCloud confirmed the identity of the ghost that appeared to James Durham. During a trawl of Darlington’s archives, they found the death certificate of a “ticket clerk” called Thomas Munroe Winter, who committed suicide in 1845, aged 29.
In a quote to The Northern Echo, the women said, “When we bought a copy of his death certificate we were elated to find that his cause of death was ‘shot himself with a pistol, being in a state of unsound mind’ and his occupation was ‘ticket clerk’. We had found the ghost.”
The murder of Rose Ambler has gone unsolved for well over a hundred years. No one alive at the time is alive today, but still, for some in law enforcement in Connecticut, as well as amateur and professional detectives alike, it’s a case that keep drawing them back. (Murder at Raven Stream) That story is up next.
STORY: MURDER AT RAVEN STREAM==========
Rose Ambler said goodnight to her fiancé at the Raven Stream Bridge, the night of September 2, 1883, and started walking home alone as she usually did. She was never again seen alive. Her body was found the next day, beaten and stabbed, and the perpetrator was never captured. Rose Ambler joined Mary Stannard and Jennie Cramer in the growing list of unpunished Connecticut murders.
Rose Ambler was visiting was visiting with her fiancé, William Lewis, at his father’s house the evening of Sunday, September 2, 1883. They were to be married on Thanksgiving and would move into a new house that Lewis was having built. Around 9:30 Rose started walking back to her parent’s home, about a mile and a half away. Lewis walked with her as far as the Raven Stream Bridge, but Rose declined his offer to walk her all the way home. She knew he had to get up early the next morning for his job peddling vegetables and felt safe walking through the peaceful neighborhood outside of Stratford, Connecticut.
That night, Preston Hodges who lived not far from the bridge, was awakened by a violent thunderstorm. Around 11:00 he heard an intense scream; at the time he thought it was an owl screeching. The following morning the body of Rose Ambler was found, beaten and stabbed, lying near a wall in a meadow between the bridge and Hodges’s house.
It was thought that she had been raped. Rose was not carrying any money and there did not appear to be any other motive for the crime. The first suspect was Boston White, a young black man with a bad reputation in Stratford. A group of angry citizens broke into his house and demanded that his mother show them Boston’s clothing so they could check for blood stains. They found no blood, and Boston White had an alibi. He had been sleeping in a stable several miles away, a fact that was verified by the stable owner. He knew Rose Ambler, as did most residents of Stratford, but he had no connection with her. In fact, there had been no evidence against Boston White other than his reputation and he was soon dismissed as a suspect..
An autopsy revealed that Rose had not been raped, forcing investigators to look at her rather complicated personal life for a motive. She was born Rose Clark and at age 18 was engaged to be married to a sailor. He went to sea and was gone longer than anticipated. While he was gone, she married Norman Ambler, a farmer who lived near Stratford.
Rose and Norman Ambler were divorced several months after their marriage and it was rumored that she was abused by her husband. It was later uncovered that Rose had been cheating on him. Norman Ambler’s cousin and business partner, William Lewis, was living in the same house with them. Rose fell in love with Lewis and he returned her affection. When Norman learned of this he sent Lewis away. Norman and Rose began quarreling which led to separation and divorce.
Rose Amber was usually described as pretty or even beautiful but this was disputed by a New Haven newspaper which said that she was “…hardly up to the average in good looks…She was however, intelligent, and was highly esteemed and universally liked.” William Lewis knew that she was also fickle and flirtatious. Lewis, who was described as “…an ideal Connecticut countryman, with oiled hair, bushy blonde whiskers, and blue flannel clothes,” was also extremely jealous.
Norman Ambler was jealous as well, and still bitter over the loss of his wife to Lewis. The two men met shortly before the murder and Ambler reportedly told Lewis, “You will never marry this woman; either you or she shall die first.”
A day after the body was discovered, Deputy Coroner J. A. Joyce began a closed-door inquest to investigate the murder of Rose Ambler. While the Coroner was taking testimony, the Stratford police, assisted by Pinkerton detective J. S. Wood, continued to look for evidence. A reward of $300 – later raised to $1,000— was offered for information.
The first suspect to emerge from the inquest was Norman Ambler. A witness testified to seeing him in town that day and his threats against Rose and William Lewis were well known. But since the divorce, Ambler had been living at the home of Henry Hatch in New Milford, forty miles away. Hatch swore positively that Ambler was home in bed the night of the murder.
Boston White was brought back in to testify, this time to be asked about a companion of his, a white man named Michael Heslin. There were three deep scratches on Rose Ambler’s neck and Heslin was known to be missing a finger. Edward Bertram testified that he saw Rose Ambler walking with a man Sunday night. Miss Julia Roberts saw a man behaving strangely near the bridge that night. Neither could identify the man they saw but both knew Michael Heslin and could swear that it was not him.
Another suspect was an unnamed man staying at a hotel in Stratford. There had been complaints from women claiming that he had been harassing them. It was believed that he was the unidentified man seen with Rose that night.
Though the detectives had ruled out William Lewis as a suspect, he was rapidly becoming the prime suspect of the inquest. Blood stains were found on the lap-robe in Lewis’s carriage. Some fibers found on Rose’s clothing matched fibers from the lap-robe. Though it had rained that night Rose’s clothes were dry. It was thought that Lewis had murdered her in his barn then wrapped it in the lap-robe before dropping it by the wall. Witnesses testified that he and Rose had been heard quarreling and it was speculated that he either had second thoughts about the wedding or had killed her in a fit of jealousy. But William Lewis had a solid alibi as well.
The inquest went on until September 29 and reached no conclusion. There was not enough evidence to charge anyone with murder, though it was stated that the jurors “think suspicion points toward” William Lewis. No one was ever charged for Rose Ambler’s murder and the case remains unsolved.
Speculation as to what really happened the night of September 2, 1883 continued for years. Most theories involved Rose having a romantic relationship behind Lewis’s back and was either killed by her new lover or by her jealous fiancé.
Most people believed that William Lewis was the killer. Reverend M. Houghton of the Church of the Messiah in Stratford made headlines when he preached a sermon against William Lewis saying, “Lewis’s actions show him to be a man of low animal instincts, and just the type of individual to execute such a horrible deed.”
The unsolved murder of Rose Ambler prompted many comparisons to previous unpunished murders in Connecticut—most notably those of Mary Stannard in 1873 and Jennie Cramer in 1881. Mark Twain commented, “He killed a woman in Conn. No matter– it is a crime they do not punish there.”’
The magazine Puck placed the blame on the rural character of Connecticut at the time: “Now, we do not believe that the murders committed in Connecticut are any more mysterious in their essence than the ordinary crimes committed in other states. The trouble is that there is no adequate machinery of law to deal with them…You cannot trust the untrained minds of a lot of excited countrymen to study out the immediate and urgent necessities in such a case as the Rose Amber murder, which is now throwing an interesting gloom over a small Connecticut community…By the time that the Medical Examiner and the Coroner have had their fight out, and the Inquest—which is no inquest, but really a trial—is concluded, any murderer of average intelligence has had time to either escape or to cover up his tracks.”
Here’s a story Weirdo Family Member Gina sent to me…
Hey, Darren I have had experiences that were a little weird. I’ll include a few personal examples.
When I was a young girl, about 4 or 5, can’t remember exactly how old, but before starting kindergarten. We had family friends that my mom, my brother and myself visited frequently. They lived about an hour away, so when we went to see them, we’d stay for a long weekend or so. They were Grandma Barb, Grandpa Chuck and Uncle Tim. It was always fun going to see them. They lived in the country, where as we lived in the city. Uncle Tim had really neat birds that could talk and eat seeds out of your hands. Something I didn’t experience anywhere else as a kid. their home was a small, but well kept. You’d enter in to the den/family room, then off of that was a kitchen, followed by a long formal (very boring room with no tv) and the other end of that was two bedrooms, the bathroom and uncle Tim’s red room (he was a photographer) Typically we spend all of our time in the kitchen or the den. It was always a great time seeing them, but I don’t remember my Grandpa chuck… when he was alive. One day my mother was in a frenzy and said we have to go see them asap and we packed and rushed to their town. My mom said we had to say goodbye to grandpa, and we didn’t have much time. I vaguely remember the hospital, being confused and everyone around me being sad, but at the time I didn’t understand what was going on. I came to realize much later that he was dying and we had to pull the plug. We left the hospital and retreated back to their home…. I don’t remember this part, but my mom always mentioned that it was weird upon entering their home, the picture of grandpa was off the shelf, face down on the floor. Nothing else was out of place. Flash forward a bit and we still go often to visit uncle Tim and grandma Barb. I should also mention that my brother is 4 and a half years my senior and like most kids we could get under each other’s skin. When we’d get into trouble, we were sent to the boring living room to sit and ponder our poor choices. I remember a handful of times being sent to the room, and memories of being in there stayed with me more than the reason I was sent there in the first place. Sitting on the couch I would feel like I was being chastised. Like a grownup was giving me a look of why did you have to provoke your brother like that or, you know you weren’t supposed to shake the bird cage. No one was visibly in the room with me, but I know grandpa chuck was with me. The feeling of not being alone never came in a menacing way, just a typical parents disappointed feeling. The last time I crossed a line stood out the most because not only did I feel the judgement of my wrong doing, but the couch on the other end had an imprint like someone was sitting there. I was freaked out and became a model child thereafter. Another note on this place is that we would camp out in the den, the worst thing as a kid was using the bathroom at night. Tim would be in his red room developing films and the red light would leak threw the cracks and make the formal living room even creepier. As a kid you ran as fast as you cold from the kitchen, threw the creepy room to reach the bathroom. At the time I never really mentioned this to my family our friends, it just an unspoken truth to me. We stopped going down there after I was 10 or so. Later into my teenage years, I’m hanging out with my brother and some friends and we get into the topic of ghost stories. My brother starts to mention the same experiences and I had with Grandpa Chuck and the creepy room. Up until this point I never told my brother these stories and almost forgot about the creepy house entirely. It was verification that I wasn’t alone. His experience was basically the same, we were not scared per say, just felt as those someone was there, we both felt it was grandpa, silently telling us that we knew better than to do whatever it was that we had done to warrant a time out.
Another experience came when I was about 16 or 17. My boyfriends (now my husband) grandfather passed away. We were helping his grandmother get the house ready for family that was coming for the funeral. His grandmother lived in an old farmhouse. It was winter, and she heated her home with a wood stove. Her home was also a busy one. Living threw the depression, she didn’t get rid of anything, she wasn’t a hoarder, but there was something in every nook and cranny. Though the day we get things prepared for an uncle whom was the last out of town family member to arrive for the funeral. That evening when the uncle arrives with his wife, were sitting in the room that houses the wood stove. This room also has a shelf of broken music boxes that grandma collected. They were pretty, but didn’t play anymore. About twenty minutes after the uncle’s arrival, one of the music boxes started to chime. Mind you, they did not chime when we loaded in wood, stomped and dropped luggage nor did they make a peep when my husband and his dad had a friendly wrestling match in the room that day. Nope, they chime as were all sitting, chatting peacefully. I looked over to grandma, who immediately started to cry. This confirmed that I was not the only person to hear the chimes. They never made a peep after that either, perhaps an angel gained their wings? Nothing else has ever happened in the home, I should know, I live there now.
One day my husband and myself went to his cousin’s house to visit and have a good time. Her home was notorious for being haunted. I’ve seen doors shut for no reason and heard many tales of other unusual activity. I’ve spent the night here, and nothing too weird happened. I would say I felt uneasy anytime I was in the bathroom, but nothing popped out to say boo. I never really cared for drinking and was sober this night so I could drive my husband and myself home that evening. We lived about an hour away. We gather around a large coffee table with about 8 friends playing various card games. This table did not have a smooth surface, it was made using tiles that were like slate, uneven and bumpy. All the sudden, my husband’s beer slides over to the next tile, about 8 inches or so. We all saw it, looked at it in shock, when my husband says “must have been thirsty”. That was really the only time that I thought, something was up with the house. Doors closing or cabinets I felt could be explained with wind or a draft. the rough surface of the table made it impossible to slide due to condensation and no ones hand was near the beer can. The cousin who lived there had many stories of unusual happenings, but this was my most vivid experience there. Whatever it was, it wasn’t evil, just mischievous.
I have a few more stories, but this is all the time I have to spend typing them out for today. Love what your doing, keep up the good work. I especially appreciate when you leave us with a little light, even more so when you read the scripture. I would describe myself as a lazy Christian and won’t go look up the passage mentioned (although I try to make a mental note to do so), but will absorb the message when told to me. Aso, as a suffer of anxiety, I appreciate what your doing for the mental health of everyone your podcast reaches.
When Weird Darkness returns… Some say she was an old hag, while others say she was a polite and beautiful old woman. But townsfolk were terrified of her either way, because everyone knew Moll Dyer was a witch. Whether she was or not, what transpired around her and to her has caused something of the paranormal. That story is up next.
SHOW: MOLL DYER WAS A WITCH==========
Not far south of Washington D.C., there’s a quaint town in Southern Maryland called Leonardtown. Leonardtown is located in the county seat of St. Mary’s County and was first colonized in the late seventeenth century. Before the settlers came, Leonardtown was a wooded area sparsely populated by the Piscataway tribe. When the English settled there in the sixteen hundreds, they brought their superstition with them. Soon there were tales of a witch named Moll Dyer circulating among the fearful colonists.
In the 1600’s, before Leonardtown had acquired its official name, it was home to a fairly small colony of English settlers. On the outskirts of town lived a woman known as Moll Dyer. Moll was a quiet lady who lived by herself in a small cabin in the woods. This cabin by today’s standards would be considered a “hut”, but it was home to Moll and kept her warm in the winter months. Moll’s hut was located on a creek just outside of Leonardtown, now called Moll Dyer Run.
Although we don’t know if Moll considered herself a witch, she did things to set the colony wondering. Poor Moll begged for alms and foraged for herbs to use in her “incantations”, according to Robt. Pogue’s “Old Maryland’s Landmarks”. Some say she was an old hag, while others say she was a polite and beautiful old woman. It didn’t help that Moll was tall and towered over most of the colonists.
As was common in those days, whenever the local settlers experienced problems with crops or endured severe weather, they’d blame it on supernatural forces – either god or the Devil. In this particular case, there were whispers in town the old witch had cursed the colony with an unusually cold winter in 1697. The townsfolk’s whispers turned into angry accusations and they came up with a plan to get rid of Moll Dyer…forever.
In the winter of 1697, Moll Dyer was accused of being a witch and was both hated and feared by the Leonardtown settlement. She was a poor old woman who lived alone, and therefore was an easy target. Many people said she was angry and wanted revenge through hexes and curses. So naturally, the townsfolk decided to eradicate the witch from their precious town.
The townsfolk marched to the her home on a particularly cold winter’s night. There would be no trial for this accused witch…no chance for her to defend her position. With torches, the townsfolk set Moll’s cabin on fire and left her in the flames to perish. “Burn the witch!” they all cried. But Moll Dyer escaped the flames that engulfed her ramshackle home and fled to the woods, where she escaped the angry mob. They believed they’d killed her in the fire, so they left the woods brimming with satisfaction.
Unfortunately, the temperature dropped so low Moll Dyer froze to death. Her body was found a few days later…frozen in an unusual position. Moll Dyer was kneeling on a rock, with one hand pointed towards the Heavens, and one hand plastered to the rock itself. Because she was an accused witch, the townsfolk people believed she cursed them in death. They believed she would haunt them forever.
Moll Dyer’s rock once sat outside of the Old Jail in Leonardtown, Maryland. This is the rock where Moll Dyer’s body was found in 1697. Locals claim the rock is haunted, cursed by Moll Dyer the witch. Legend has it that at one time you could see the imprint of Moll Dyer’s knees and hand in the rock; however, these imprints have long been erased in time. Do we know for sure this is the actual Moll Dyer rock?
The rock was found in a ravine in 1972 and moved outside of the Old Jail, but there is no real evidence to confirm this is the actual rock where Moll Dyer was found some three-hundred years ago. On February 26th, 2021, the rock was moved from outside of the Old Jail to the inside of Tudor Hall and is now preserved for future visitors. The Mayor of Leonardtown also proclaimed February 26th as the official Moll Dyer day.
Visitors say when you visit the rock, you get a sick feeling in your stomach. Some say that none of the photographs taken of Moll Dyer rock will develop, or that their cameras malfunction or are drained of battery. As you can see from photographs online, it is possible to take a decent photo of it.
In 2020, the Three Notch Paranormal Investigations Team investigated Moll Dyer rock. They found some startling evidence. To learn more check out their FaceBook page by searching for “3 Notch Paranormal Investigations”.
There’s a spooky area of town close to Moll Dyer Road that is heavily wooded and split by a small creek. Locals believe this is where Moll Dyer’s cabin once stood and close to where her dead body was found in the late 1600’s. The legendary curse of Moll Dyer ensures crops are unable to grow and that thunderstorms will plague the town’s residents.
One eyewitness tells her story of going into the woods to explore on a sunny day. Out of nowhere, a huge thunderstorm chased her and her friends out of the woods, and as soon as they left the forest they saw the sun shining as if nothing had happened. They believed it was Moll Dyer running them off. Unusual amounts of lightning have been reported in the region around Moll Dyer Road and the creek Moll Dyer Run.
A few hunters claim they’ve seen the apparition of the accused witch herself…still roaming the woods searching for the men who caused her death. There are stories of unusual amounts of car accidents on the main road off Moll Dyer Road.
Documented evidence of Moll Dyer’s life or death in St. Mary’s County do not exist, and if they did, they were destroyed in a fire in the eighteenth century. There is documentation, however, that a family of Dyers lived close to Leonardtown in the seventeenth century with a woman named Mary Dyer being on record. “Moll” was known to be a nickname for Mary back in those days, so it’s possible Moll Dyer did indeed exist. But is the legend true or is it just another mythical story told by the locals?
The town is now well-known for its seafood, notably hosting an annual oyster-shucking competition. Mostly a place to conduct court and business, Leonardtown doesn’t have a large population BUT is the only incorporated town in the county. Downtown bustles with new restaurants and offices opening in recent years. One can visit the Courthouse and other historic buildings and then grab a bite to eat at a cafe. But before you get too comfortable, don’t forget there is a place not far from downtown that’s haunted by the local legendary witch.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
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! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts.
And please consider giving towards our Overcoming The Darkness fundraiser, where every dollar you give will be donated to organizations that help people who struggle with depression. The fundraiser ends Halloween Night after the LIVE SCREAM, so please give today. Visit the Hope in the Darkness page at WeirdDarkness.com for more information.
Also on WeirdDarkness.com, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
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.
“The Purple Diary Scandal” by Joy Lanzendorfer for Mental Floss
“Phantom Fistfight” by M.J. Wayland
“Murder at Raven Stream” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight
“Haunted By a Dark Spirit” by Redditor MikanKitsune94
“Healing Paranormal Abductions” by Jack Fox-Williams for New Dawn Magazine
“Moll Dyer Was a Witch” from OtherwordlyOracle.com
Again, you can find links to all of these stories in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness, 2022.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” – John 14:6
And a final thought… “It’s easier to go down a hill than up it but the view is much better at the top.” – Henry Ward Beecher
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.