“CREEPY LETTERS AND UNEXPLAINED DISAPPEARANCES” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: In the summer of 1989 in the suburbs of Kansas City, three young women went missing – and they are still missing even now, decades later. Their killer refuses to say where they are buried. (The Missing Victims of Richard Grissom) *** Sometimes people disappear without a trace, while others leave behind evidence that is even stranger than the vanishing itself. (Strange Vanishings and Spooky Letters) *** On a fall evening in 2009, the Jamison family disappeared into the woods of Oklahoma, leaving behind a set of bewildering clues and a case that remains unsolved today. (His Said His House Was Haunted, Then His Family Disappeared) *** On March 19, 2004, 17-year-old Brianna Maitland left her shift at the Black Lantern Inn around 11:20 P.M. What happened next remains a mystery to this day. (The Chilling Disappearance of Brianna Maitland)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Strange Vanishings and Spooky Letters” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe: http://bit.ly/2kUp1Bd
“The Missing Victims of Richard Grissom” posted at The Line Up: http://bit.ly/2m1Qq4x
“The Disappearance of Sister Aimee” by Troy Taylor: http://bit.ly/2m0bFDG
“The Chilling Disappearance of Brianna Maitland” by Orrin Grey for The Line Up: http://bit.ly/2m2cNqn
“His Said His House Was Haunted, Then His Family Disappeared” by Aimee Lamoureux for All That’s Interesting:http://bit.ly/2m5lgJg
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
Weird Darkness®, Weird Darkness© 2022
Mysterious vanishing are often known not only for their often strange circumstances, but also for the myriad bizarre clues they often leave behind – as well as the strange leads which frequently come in to, more often than not, only muddy the waters. In some cases, people have simply seemingly ceased to exist, only to leave in their wake enigmatic letters which may or may not shine a light on the shadows surrounding their cases. There are inexplicable letters wedged within some of the most compelling missing person cases out there, which have served simultaneously as a beacon of hope in solving them, and also a frustrating exercise in inscrutable mystery. I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
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…
A famous Los Angeles preacher, with a congregation of hundreds – including Hollywood celebrities, suddenly disappears! (The Disappearance of Sister Aimee)
In the summer of 1989 in the suburbs of Kansas City, three young women went missing – and they are still missing even now, decades later. Their killer refuses to say where they are buried.
Sometimes people disappear without a trace, while others leave behind evidence that is even stranger than the vanishing itself.
On a fall evening in 2009, the Jamison family disappeared into the woods of Oklahoma, leaving behind a set of bewildering clues and a case that remains unsolved today.
But first… on March 19, 2004, 17-year-old Brianna Maitland left her shift at the Black Lantern Inn around 11:20 P.M. What happened next remains a mystery to this day. We begin with that story.
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.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: BRIANNA MISSING=====
We begin our journey into these strange cases of disappearances and vanishings on March 19, 2004. 17-year-old Brianna Maitland left her shift at the Black Lantern Inn around 11:20 P.M. What happened next remains a mystery to this day.
Before heading in to work that evening, Brianna Maitland, earlier that same day, had completed a test to obtain her GED and had lunch with her mother, Kellie, to celebrate. The two then went out shopping where, according to Maitland’s mother, something–or someone–caught Maitland’s eye outside a store. She went outside to investigate, and when her mother joined her there later, the young woman seemed “tense, shaken, and agitated”. Maitland said that she needed to get home to prepare for her evening shift at the Black Lantern Inn and, not wanting to pry into her daughter’s private life, Kellie drove Maitland back to the apartment that she shared with her friend Jillian Stout. It was the last time she would see her daughter.
The year before, Brianna Maitland had decided to move out of her family home in order to be closer to her friends, who attended a different high school 15 miles away. Things did not go according to plans, however, and soon after Maitland dropped out of school entirely. Despite this rough patch, it took the young woman only a few months to secure more stable living arrangements, including working two jobs. According to those who knew her, Brianna Maitland had gotten her life back together–she was even talking about attending college part-time once she received her GED results.
Before leaving for her shift at the Black Lantern Inn, Maitland had left a note for her roommate saying that she would be home after work. When her shift at the restaurant was over, several of her coworkers asked her to stay and have dinner with them, but she said that she was tired and needed to get home and rest because she had to work at her second job in the morning. Her coworkers said that Maitland got into her 1985 Oldsmobile alone and drove off into the night.
The next day, several passing motorists reported an abandoned car with its rear end stuck in the wall of a vacant building, the Dutchburn Farmhouse, about a mile from the Black Lantern Inn. When state troopers investigated, they found Brianna Maitland’s 1985 Oldsmobile. Around the car, police found loose change, a water bottle, and an unlit cigarette. Inside the car, two of Brianna Maitland’s uncashed paychecks and various other personal effects were found. The trooper who first visited the scene assumed that the car had been abandoned there by a drunk driver and had a tow truck take it to the impound lot. He drove down to the Black Lantern Inn in an attempt to get more information but finding it closed, radioed in his report and thought little more of it at the time.
However, even before the trooper came to the car, several passers-by found the scene suspicious, or at least interesting enough to stop and take photographs. The resulting image of the car stuck partway into the wall of the old, gray house presents a strangely haunting tableau, and more than one observer, including both Maitland’s mother and the host of the Trace Evidence podcast, has said that they felt a sort of instinctive chill upon seeing the photograph. “My stomach rolled,” Kellie Maitland later said of her immediate reaction to the photo,” I started to shake. I saw evil in the picture.” Maitland’s mother said that she knew immediately that it wasn’t her daughter who had left the car in such a state.
However, it wasn’t until several days after the car was discovered that Brianna Maitland’s disappearance was recognized. With plans already in place to spend the weekend with her boyfriend, Jillian Stout thought little of Maitland’s note when she saw it that Friday night. It wasn’t until Jillian returned home the following Monday and found the note in the same place that she began to worry. Assuming that her roommate had spent the weekend with her parents, Jillian didn’t call until that Tuesday, when she phoned Kellie and Bruce Maitland. They, in turn, began calling around to their daughter’s various friends, none of whom reported having seen her since her final shift at work.
Finally, Maitland’s panicked parents called the police and filed a missing person’s report, but by then their daughter had already been gone for almost a week. In the years since, innumerable theories have come forward about what happened to Maitland that night. Police and Brianna’s family almost immediately began receiving phone calls from people claiming that the young woman had been kidnapped, that her body was at the bottom of a river or lake, had been “tied to a tree in the woods” or disposed of at a hog farm. One call claimed that Brianna Maitland was being held against her will in the house of two known drug dealers in a town not far away. While the two men were investigated in relation to the disappearance, neither was ever charged.
This was only one avenue investigated by police: Maitland had recently been in an altercation with another teen at a party, supposedly over a boy. The other young woman had punched Maitland in the face, leaving her with a broken nose and concussion. She filed charges against the friend, which were dropped by the police three weeks after her disappearance. Police stated that they investigated the friend, and she had been cleared of any involvement.
A more chilling possibility was that Brianna Maitland’s disappearance might have been somehow connected to the disappearance of Maura Murray just a month before and about 90 miles away. Investigators, however, never revealed any connections between the two cases. Later, a potential connection between Brianna Maitland’s disappearance and serial killer Israel Keyes was brought to light, but the FBI eventually ruled out Keyes’s involvement in the case. Keyes later killed himself in prison in 2012 after confessing to a string of rapes and murders.
Other theorists speculated that Brianna Maitland was still alive–either she had run away or been sold into sex slavery. In 2006, a woman who resembled Maitland was spotted on security footage at the Caesar’s World casino in Atlantic City, though the woman was never identified. In 2016, police revealed that they had recovered DNA samples from the car at the time of Maitland’s disappearance, but to this day, what happened to her on that dark March night remains a mystery.
In the summer of 1989 in the suburbs of Kansas City, three young women went missing – and they are still missing even now, decades later. Their killer refuses to say where they are buried.
Plus… An Oklahoma couple and their young daughter disappear from their home shortly after the husband says their house is haunted… but as evidence is discovered it raises more questions than answers.
But first… a famous Los Angeles preacher, with a congregation of hundreds – including Hollywood celebrities, suddenly disappears! That story is up next on Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE “DISAPPEARANCE” OF SISTER AIMEE=====
During the 1920s, when most American preachers were shouting from their pulpits about the sin and depravity to be found in Hollywood, another evangelist was presenting a kinder, gentler message to the people of L.A. She did so with flamboyant presentations that were right out of a Hollywood musical and, in fact, the regular appearance of movie stars at her services was one of her claims to fame. The evangelist’s name was Aimee Semple McPherson and the Pentecostal church that she founded, the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, still exists today.
“Sister Aimee” as she was known to her legion of followers attracted scores of people to her flock with her extravagant services, radio show and personal appearances. But then on May 18, 1926, Aimee mysteriously vanished while visiting a beach in Santa Monica. The press and the public were shocked by her disappearance, which lasted more than a month. When she reappeared, she claimed that she had been kidnapped and held for ransom – but had she really?
Sister Aimee was born Aimee Kennedy and was raised on a farm in Ontario, Canada. Growing up, she was introduced to an inclusive, positive theology, which as practiced by her grandfather, a Salvation Army captain. After a crisis of faith, she was converted to Pentecostalism by evangelist Robert Semple, whom she joined in preaching revivals and married in 1908. Two years later, while they were awaiting their papers to travel into China as missionaries, Semple died in Hong Kong. Aimee, now with an infant daughter, returned to the U.S. and began working for the Salvation Army in New York. She married a second time, in 1912, to a grocery salesman named Harold McPherson, and gave birth to a son. Aimee tried to settle down to the quiet life of a housewife, but she was unable to do it. She felt that she was destined for bigger things and was in her heart, an evangelist.
She divorced McPherson in 1918 and she, her children, and her mother, Minnie, with nothing more than $100 and a tambourine, drove to Los Angeles. It was a trip that Aimee later referred to as a spiritual quest that ended in a revelation. She believed that the “City of Angels” was the doorway to heaven and, for a time, it certainly seemed to be.
She began spreading her message in every way possible, even throwing tracts from an airplane as it flew over neighborhoods populated by recent arrivals to the area. She was soon packing standing-room-only crowds into the Philharmonic Auditorium, the largest venue in L.A. By 1923, she had her own Angelus Temple, which seated 5,300 people and cost more than $1.5 million to build. At her services, she entertained the curious and the faithful alike with bizarre stage sketches that featured a USC football player making a touchdown for Jesus and a LAPD motorcycle cop riding in to arrest sin. Everyone loved the show and soon her popularity would rival that accorded to some movie stars. To thousands, she was “God’s Little Child.”
Besides entertaining and preaching, Aimee was also an avid organizer. She added some 250 affiliated churches, a rescue mission, a publications division, an orchestra, and a radio station, creating a massive organization that is only rivaled by today’s mega-churches. She also composed 180 hymns and several musical pageants, all of which were very upbeat and offered redemption. In keeping with her Salvation Army background, she also designed uniforms for herself and her female bodyguards.
Not surprisingly, Aimee had a talent for raising money, which supported the church, her mansion near MGM Studios in Culver City, her expensive clothes, and fine automobile. At collection time, she would often tell her supporters from the stage, “Sister has a headache tonight. Only quiet money, please.”
As the money rolled in, stories of miraculous cures began to spread. A “miracle room” in the Angelus Temple was filled with discarded crutches, wheelchairs, and even the leg braces of a 10-year-old polio victim. He was so confident when he came to visit Sister Aimee that he brought another pair of shoes with him to wear home. The stories claimed that he walked out of the Temple.
Then, in 1926, Aimee’s glory days came to an end. A scandal captured the imagination of readers across America and titillated them for weeks afterward.
On the afternoon of May 18, 1926, Aimee was spotted swimming off Ocean Park Beach in Santa Monica – and then vanished without a trace. She was presumed to have drowned, but after a massive search effort (during which a church member and a professional diver drowned), no body was recovered. Then, on June 23, three days after an all-day memorial service attended by thousands of weeping, hysterical mourners, she turned up in the Mexican town of Agua Prieta, claiming that she had been kidnapped and held in a shack in the Sonoran desert. On her return to Los Angeles, a carpet of roses was spread when she disembarked from the train and more than 100,000 of her followers lined the streets and cheered as she drove by.
But all was not what it seemed to be. It was soon discovered that, despite Aimee’s angry denials, she had actually spent the month at a cottage in Carmel, shacked up with Kenneth Ormiston, a married engineer on the staff of her radio station. For nearly six months, L.A. District Attorney Asa Keyes gathered evidence (which included a Carmel grocery store shopping list in her handwriting), planning to charge her with conspiracy to produce false testimony. “Fighting Bob” Shuler, a rival evangelist, took the opportunity to enter the fray, denouncing Aimee, her Temple, and her ministry. Since he and Aimee alternated their broadcasts on the same radio wavelength, he had no trouble reaching her followers. Somehow, he tracked down Harold McPherson and had him on the air for four straight broadcasts, airing all of Aimee’s dirty laundry. For her part, Aimee claimed the entire scandal was the “work of the Devil.”
Aimee’s fame saved her from prosecution. Inexplicably, the District Attorney decided that the case that he had built against her was too weak to bring against a person of her tremendous popularity. On the evening that D.A. Keyes made the announcement, the faithful mobbed Aimee and the newspapers spread the news in glaring headlines. But the damage was already done, for most of America, Aimee had become a dirty joke.
Aimee Semple McPherson carried on for 20 more years, preaching and defending herself against the old scandal. It never seemed to go away and in 1930, she suffered a nervous breakdown. She was prescribed Seconal to deal with her anxieties and on September 27, 1944, she died in San Francisco from an accidental overdose. Some of her closest friends attributed the accident to a combination of a broken heart and exhaustion from her endless struggle to restore her name, popularity, and influence. At her funeral, held at the Angelus Temple, more than 40,000 mourners passed by her casket and bid their farewell to “God’s Little Angel.”
Strangely, a weird rumor followed Aimee to the grave. When she was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in a huge tomb with an iron gate, guarded by two kneeling marble angels, it was said that a direct telephone line to the Angelus Temple was buried with her. That way, when she returned (as her followers believed she would), she would be able to alert someone to come to the cemetery and let her out of the tomb.
As author David Wallace said, if the story isn’t true, it should be.
STORY: RICHARD GRISSOM=====
Sister Aimee disappeared, but she did eventually return. But not often does that happen.
For a few weeks during the summer of 1989 in the Kansas City area, things were tense. Very tense. Three young women were missing, and a 28-year-old man named Richard Grissom was on the run from the law.
The crimes occurred very close to Overland Park, Kansas. Bank receipts and other things belonging to the victims were found near an abandoned farmhouse in the area. The three women disappeared over the course of a month, causing terror in the state. Each women was abducted from her apartment: One woman was even in the middle of eating a slice of toast when she was abducted.
As it became clear a repeat offender was on the loose, an intense search for the perpetrator began. Helicopters flew over the area day and night looking for Grissom and the missing women. The manhunt scarred the local psyche, and the case still lingers in the public consciousness in the Kansas City area.
At first glance, Richard Grissom seemed like the kind of guy women would love to talk to. He was good looking, charming, and charismatic. In fact, a detective later referred to him as “a Don Juan with an athletic build.” But Grissom had a dark past that most people didn’t know about. When he was only 16 years old, Grissom murdered an elderly woman in Lansing, Kansas. The crime was particularly gruesome – the teenaged Grissom tied 72-year-old Hazel Meeker to a chair and stabbed her with a railroad spike.
Police followed footsteps in the snow leading away from the crime scene and quickly arrested Grissom. He was sent away to the Kansas Juvenile Detention Facility for three years, eventually getting out in 1980, at 19.
Fast forward to the summer of 1989: Grissom was 28 years old and running his own painting and maintenance company in the Kansas City area. He was also on parole; he had been released from prison just the previous summer after serving time for burglary and theft. Like many con men, Grissom could talk his way into or out of just about anything, and he had many aliases. His new job painting and doing maintenance was strategic – it gave him access to master keys and apartment complexes all over Kansas City.
On June 18, 1989, Joan Butler went out for a night on the town in Kansas City before she returned to her apartment in suburban Overland Park. 24-year-old Butler was never seen again. In the early morning hours of June 19, Butler’s ATM card was used to make several withdrawals at different banks in the area. Her rental car had also gone missing. Both Butler’s family and the police were baffled by her disappearance.
A week after her disappearance, on June 25, Butler’s rental car was spotted in Lawrence, Kansas, about 35 miles from Overland Park. A Lawrence police officer kept an eye on the car until a man approached and opened the trunk of the vehicle. The man was Richard Grissom. When the officer asked for ID, Grissom ran, escaping the officer. Grissom’s prints were all over the vehicle, and he had left his wallet and checkbook inside. And, in the trunk of the car, police found a drop of Joan Butler’s blood.
Grissom, now on the run, got a friend to give him a ride back to the Kansas City area. The next morning, two more women disappeared: roommates Theresa Brown and Christine Rusch, both 22 years old. Brown and Rusch lived together in an apartment complex in Lenexa, Kansas where Grissom had done some work. As in the Joan Butler case, Brown and Rusch’s bank accounts were drained. A haunting photograph from a security camera showed Rusch, looking disheveled, wearing sunglasses and with a large bruise on her forehead, withdrawing money from an ATM. It was the last known sighting of any of the missing women. Grissom was immediately suspected in these disappearances as well.
Two days later, a maintenance man at an apartment complex just over the state line in Grandview, Missouri saw someone lurking under a stairwell. It was Grissom, and he fled when the worker tried to confront him. While attempting to leave quickly, Grissom left his car behind in the apartment complex’s parking lot. Police searched the car and found a treasure trove of evidence linking Grissom to the missing women, including IDs and keys. The car also contained five fake birth certificates and official government seals.
Soon after, a massive manhunt went underway all over the Kansas City area for Grissom and the women, but none of them were anywhere to be found. Based on Grissom’s violent past and his cunning nature, police knew they were up against an experienced career criminal.
Nearly two weeks passed, and there was still no trace of Grissom or the missing women. Then, on July 7, Grissom was arrested in Texas at the Dallas/Fort Worth Airport. He was supposed to meet a young woman from his past at the airport that day, but she tipped off police, leading to Grissom’s capture. People in the Kansas City area breathed a collective sigh of relief, but one huge question remained: Where were Joan Butler, Theresa Brown, and Christine Rusch?
Grissom offered vague answers about the women during his interrogation. He told officers “they’re not dead,” and then later said, “well, they probably are by now.” Grissom also told interrogators, “you will dig them up.” He added, “Everything happened in Kansas and nothing would be found in Missouri.” Grissom knew that Missouri had the death penalty, while, at the time, Kansas did not. Paul Morrison, the man who ended up prosecuting Grissom, called the killer extremely intelligent, “the type who could sell ice to Eskimos.” In the end, Grissom admitted to no specifics.
Authorities searched farmland and woods, even draining ponds all over Kansas City in hopes of finding the missing women. No trace of Butler, Brown, or Rusch ever turned up.
In the fall of 1990, Richard Grissom was tried for the women’s murders: the first murder trial in the history of Johnson County to take place without a body. Despite the missing bodies, the mountain of evidence resulted in a guilty verdict and a life sentence for Grissom. Today, he is 55 years old and will remain in prison for the rest of his days.
“The Grissom shack” is long gone, torn down and replaced by new apartment complexes, but the memory of Richard Grissom and his victims, Joan Butler, Theresa Brown, and Christine Rusch, still looms large for the people who lived in Kansas City in 1989.
STORY: JAMISON FAMILY=====
I shared this particular story not too long ago on Weird Darkness. But as this episode is concentrating on disappearances and vanishings, I thought it would be good to touch on it again.
Bobby Dale Jamison, his wife Sherilynn, and their six-year-old daughter Madyson were living what appeared to be normal lives in Eufaula, Okla., until Oct. 8, 2009.
That day, all three of them mysteriously disappeared from their home with no indication of where they could have possibly gone. After a few days of searching, the police turned up the family’s pickup truck, but it only raised more questions that it answered.
The truck was found in Latimer County about an hour drive from the Jamison home. The family had recently been in the area looking to buy 40 acres of land, where they planned to live inside a storage shed they already owned.
But the items discovered inside the truck seemed to indicate the couple had not planned to be away from the truck for long. Inside, investigators found their IDs wallets, phones, Sherilynn’s purse, and the family dog, which was malnourished but still alive in the backseat of the truck.
They also found about $32,000 in cash. Both Bobby Dale and Sherilynn were on disability at the time of their disappearance, and where they could have gotten that much cash or that they intended to do with it, was unknown. Investigators suspected that drugs may have been involved in the disappearance, and that the large amount of cash was the result of the couple either buying or selling drugs.
But they couldn’t explain why they would have brought their daughter along with them, and it was impossible to tell from the condition of the truck if they had left voluntarily or had been forced out of the car by someone else, perhaps leaving their belongings behind while under duress.
A search party was formed and investigators combed through miles of woods and surrounding area looking for any trace of the Jamison family. They turned up nothing.
The case went cold until Nov. 16, 2013. That day just three miles from where the truck was found four years earlier, hunters stumbled upon the partial skeletal remains of two adults and one child. Forensic testing proved they were the skeletons of the Jamison family, but due to the state of decomposition, the cause of death could not be determined.
The police went back into the case.
First, they uncovered a strange security video taken outside the Jamison home the night they left. In the video, the couple is seen going back and forth between the house and truck, packing up their belongings. As if that weren’t strange enough, prior to their disappearance, Bobby Dale had gone to his pastor and claimed that his home was haunted, saying that he had “two to four ghosts” on the roof.
Sherilynn has also purchased a Satanic bible, allegedly as a joke. However, Bobby Dale confessed to his pastor that he had read it, leading some people to believe that witchcraft may have been a factor in their deaths.
Sherilynn’s mother, Connie Kokotan, believed that the Jamisons had somehow gotten entangled with a cult and were murdered by violent members. But she never named a cult, and no evidence has ever been discovered to support the theory.
Police did look into the theory that it had been a murder-suicide. They uncovered an angry letter written from Sherilynn to Bobby that was eleven pages long. This led them to speculate that Bobby Dale had driven his whole family into the woods, murdered his wife, daughter, and then himself, but this theory couldn’t be proven.
Another hypothesis considered was that Bobby Dale’s father, Bob Dean Jamison, had been involved. Bobby Dale had filed a protective order against his dad, claiming that he had threatened to kill him and his family, and that they were afraid for their lives. Bobby Dale’s petition for a protective order paints the picture of a “very dangerous man who thinks he is above the law” and was involved in “prostitutes, gangs, and meth.”
However, Bob Dean Jamison died a mere two months after the Jamison family went missing, and had been in poor health for some time. His brother, Jack Jamison, claimed that he was “either in a hospital or rest home” at the time and, although he was a disturbed individual, he “was not capable of being involved” in the murders.
The case seemed to have many leads, but none of them led anywhere conclusive, and investigators remained unsure of what to make of their mysterious disappearance and death. Israel Beauchamp, who had been the Latimer County sheriff at the time, stated that “a lot of investigators would love to have as many leads as we do. The problem is they point in so many different directions.”
Despite all the mysterious clues and theories, police haven’t been able to untangle the mystery of the Jamison family deaths. The case remains unsolved to this day.
Sometimes people disappear without a trace, while others leave behind evidence that is even stranger than the vanishing itself. That’s up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: VANISHINGS/SPOOKY LETTERS=====
People disappearing without a trace is, sadly, more common than it should be. But sometimes, their disappearance leaves something behind… and that something may only enhance the mystery rather than helping to solve it.
August 24, 1951, a young, 10-year-old girl named Beverly Potts went off with a friend, Patricia Swing, to visit Halloran Park, in Cleveland, Ohio, in order to watch some performers at a lively summer festival. Swing had to return home at around 9PM, but Beverly decided to stay behind to watch the show to its end. However, she would not ever make it home that night and the following morning she was still nowhere to be seen. She had simply disappeared into thin air.
Thus would begin one of the largest scale searches in Cleveland history, as law enforcement launched an intensive search operation bolstered by thousands of concerned volunteers, who poured in to aide in the hunt for the missing child, scouring practically every inch of the city for any sign of her. In the meantime there were countless tips and leads, but none of these led anywhere, and in the end the child’s whereabouts remained frustratingly elusive. Despite pursuing every available lead and interviewing dozens of possible persons of interest, the police were never able to ever get any closer to finding out what had happened to Beverly, she remained missing, and no solid clues could be obtained.
Oddly, the only real clues began to come in decades later in the form of eerily strange letters that turned up. The first was in 1994, when a letter was discovered by accident in a renovated house, which claimed that the writer’s husband had brutally murdered Beverly and disposed of the body. Although this was seen as a groundbreaking potential clue at the time, it turned out to be a dead end when it was determined that the letter had likely been an attempt by the woman to get revenge on her husband for years of abuse by framing him for the crime. After this revelation, the letter was pretty much dropped as any sort of potential evidence.
Then, in 2000, the news publication The Plain Dealer received a series of odd and anonymous letters that served to stir up the case once again. The first letter simply stated that the writer had killed Beverly Potts after kidnapping and molesting her, and described how he had decided to confess because he was dying of an unspecified illness. Over the next year, three more such letters would arrive from the same individual, each giving further grim details into the kidnapping and murder, and they were seen as being a rather credible lead in the case at the time. Some intriguing promises were made in the exchange. The second letter promised that the writer had arranged upon his death to have sent a sealed brown envelope which would supposedly include even more details and proof of the admission in the form of a rare coin that Beverly was known to carry around with her.
Later, in the third letter, the author of the mysterious letters ended up offering to actually turn himself in. He claimed that he would appear in Halloran Park on the 50th anniversary of the mysterious vanishing, saying “Fifty years is long enough to live with what I’ve done,” yet on the anniversary he was a no-show, and merely sent one final letter. In this last letter, he merely stated that he had decided not to turn himself in after all, and gave the cryptic clue that he had checked himself into a nursing home. This would be the last letter from the mysterious sender, and no one would hear from him again.
As none of the letters were signed there is no way to know who they were sent by or how much veracity they have. They have been considered to be anything from the real deal to an elaborate and rather tasteless hoax. Nobody knows, and the disappearance of Beverly Potts has never been close to being solved, despite constant pleas for information, relentless following of new leads in the case, and increasingly hefty rewards offered. The mystery has been made into a book called Twilight of Innocence — The Disappearance of Beverly Potts, by historian James Badal, and was also the focus of the documentary Dusk and Shadow — The mystery of Beverly Potts. The mysterious vanishing has gone on to be a legendary case in Cleveland, regularly appearing in the news even to this day, and Beverly has earned the nickname “The Little Girl Clevelanders Can’t Forget.”
By far the most bizarre disappearance linked to a strange letter occurred in November of 1980, with the sudden vanishing of 32-year-old Granger Taylor from his parent’s home in the rural town of Duncan, on Vancouver Island in Canada. A high school dropout, Taylor had nevertheless been a remarkably talented mechanic all of his life, he had always had the urge to build and tinker with things, including rebuilding a junked bulldozer, renovating and restoring an abandoned old locomotive he had found out in the forest as well as a vintage World War II P-40 Kitty Hawk airplane, which he fixed up good as new. His skill with building things was undeniable.
Granger was not without his own eccentricities, as such geniuses are won’t to be, and at one point he painstakingly constructed an actual life sized UFO in his yard over the course of a year, tirelessly cobbled together from some old satellite dishes and other assorted spare parts and junk. It was around this time when Granger had expressed intense interest in the subject of UFOs and aliens, and he began to make increasingly bizarre claims to his friends that he was in regular telepathic contact with actual extraterrestrials. By all accounts he had become hopelessly and deeply obsessed with UFOs, constantly reading about them and theorizing about how they worked, and it was practically the only thing he would ever talk about. He would spend hours locked away within his UFO replica, which was equipped with a stove and a bed, feverishly reading about UFOs and doing who knows what else out there. Things got weirder still when Granger began to tell his friends that not only had aliens been contacting him, but that they had actually invited him on a journey aboard one of their craft.
On November 29, 1980, the night he vanished without a trace, Granger had dinner at a diner he regularly frequented, despite the fact that a severe storm was ominously brewing outside. On that night, gale force winds were beginning to come roaring through the area, eventually knocking out large swaths of electricity and causing mass panic. Granger returned home through the storm and left an incredibly weird letter behind for his parents in the barn, which had served for his workstation where he tinkered with and built all manner of curious things. The deeply weird letter read:
*****Dear Mother and Father, I have gone away to walk aboard an alien spaceship, as recurring dreams assured a 42-month interstellar voyage to explore the vast universe, then return. I am leaving behind all my possessions to you as I will no longer require the use of any. Please use the instructions in my will as a guide to help. Love, Granger.*****
On the back of the letter was inexplicably scrawled a map of Waterloo Mountain, around 20 miles away, the significance of which has never been ascertained. After writing this letter, Granger got into his 1972 Datsun pick-up truck and drove out into the roiling storm outside, his final destination unknown. True to his word, he had indeed left behind everything he owned, including a sizable chunk of cash to the tune of $10,000, although his secretly penned last will held few clues at all. He has never been seen again. The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) immediately organized a massive search for the missing man, but no sign of neither him nor his vehicle could ever be located. The only possible clue ever found was a few bits of human bone that were found 4 miles away from the Taylor property at a dynamite blast site, with the main theory being that Granger had had some dynamite in his truck that had accidentally gone off, but it has never been conclusively determined whether these remains really belonged to Granger or not.
In the years since, the bizarre vanishing has of course produced many theories as to what happened to him. One is that he had simply had enough of his life and either went off to start a new one or ended it, or that he accidentally exploded himself with dynamite, as the evidence seems to suggest. Another is that he was the victim of foul play of some sort, but there is no evidence to support this. There is also the idea that he had some sort of psychotic break from reality and fled off into the unknown, which is supported by claims from friends and family that Granger had been heavily smoking a lot of pot and frequently dropping acid in the months leading up to his inexplicable vanishing. Then of course in light of his final letter there is the notion that he actually did make contact with his beloved aliens, and that they had spirited him away to destinations unknown. Granger’s father would say of this possibility:
*****I can hardly believe Granger’s off in a spaceship, but if there is a flying object out there, he’s the one to find it.*****
Whether Granger was the victim of suicide, a demented, troubled mind, or he was truly whisked away to the stars by otherworldly beings, his case has never been solved, and it remains one of the strangest, surreal disappearances there is. Just a few years later, in 1985, we come to our next case. On July 28, 1985, policeman and fingerprint technician for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Mel Wiley, went out in his 1980 Toyota station wagon in Hinckley Township, Ohio and was never seen again. The car was located relatively quickly on July 30th, where it was discovered to be locked and containing some of the missing man’s belongings, such as clothing, his badge and identification, suntan lotion, a beach bag, a pack of cigarettes, and his wallet containing his credit cards and $15 in cash.
Wiley’s apartment proved to be in pristine condition, with no sign whatsoever of any foul play or anyone rifling though, and indeed several days of food and water had been politely left out for his two pet cats. However, oddly, a novel that Wiley had been working on, as well as a collection of poetry, were found to be missing, as well as various other assorted things such as envelopes, stamps, his typewriter paper and his address book, as well as some of his clothing. The refrigerator was also found to be empty, save a single container of mayonnaise. When his normally cluttered desk at work was checked, it was found to be practically empty as well, except for a lone key, which proved to be to Wiley’s apartment. His uniform was found to have a bus and a taxi schedule tucked within, but it was unknown just what significance any of these had.
The biggest clue lay in a letter he had typed out to a friend of his shortly before his vanishing, in which he expressed disillusionment and sadness about the state of his life, ultimately proclaiming that he wanted to just disappear. The weird thing about this particular letter is that the friend had never actually received it, and the only evidence of its existence at all was the ribbon of the office typewriter he had used to punch the message out on. There were few motives for the vanishing, except for some rumors from co-workers that he had seemed morose and depressed in the days leading up to his disappearance. However, Wiley’s family claimed that he was relatively well-adjusted and had never expressed any desire to up and vanish, and indeed he had been looking forward to finishing his beloved novel that he had been working so hard on. There is also the fact that the rather large sum of money in his bank account was never touched, just sitting there forgotten.
It was at first thought that he had perhaps gone off swimming in Lake Eerie and drowned, as he had mentioned going there before the vanishing, but it turned out that Wiley actually was not a good swimmer, and had never even bought a swimsuit. The main theory has then become that he decided to leave his life behind and start anew, but where that road may have taken him remains unknown. It is also unknown if he had met with some sort of foul play, or just what happened to that last letter he had typed out or what meaning it may have held. Mel Wiley has never been found.
More recent is the vanishing of 12-year-old Jaliek Rainwalker, of Greenwich, New York. Rainwalker’s life was no doubt full of its share of drama, what with her being in the charge of a crack addict mother and having been a foster child in his youth. On November 1, 2007, Jaliek was staying at the home of his adoptive father, Stephen Burrell Kerr, when he just suddenly vanished into thin air sometime during the night. According to Kerr, he woke up in the morning to find the boy nowhere to be seen. The only clue that was found was a forlorn goodbye letter stating that he no longer wished to be a burden on them.
The father was originally named a person of interest in the case, but there was no evidence to convict him of any wrongdoing. Then, in 2008 there was another weird clue in the form of a strange letter that was received by a local media outlet, in which it was written that Jaliek was alive and had been recruited as a “foot soldier on the war on drugs.” The rambling, mostly nonsensical letter was peppered with grammar mistakes and had various weird and anomalous statements, such as weird sentences like “Who are the macaroni family?” as well as “Why does Franti yell fire?,” and “My cat name Diamond?” It is all very much like the ramblings of a diseased mind, but the last sentence is a bit odd, as Jaliek did in fact have a cat named Diamond, yet the ultimate meaning of the letter is obfuscated and muddied by all of the other random bizarreness. In the end, no further clues have been forthcoming and neither Jaliek Rainwalker, nor the meaning behind this cryptic letter, have ever been found.
Finally in 2009 we come to the case of 29-year-old Toni Lee Sharpless, of Brandywine Township, Pennsylvania. On August 23, 2009, Toni went out drinking with a friend and reportedly got quite drunk in the process of crawling through several nightclubs that evening. The two friends decided to keep the party going and headed off to a house party being hosted by a professional athlete, 76ers star Willie Green. Toni was reportedly very drunk at the time, erratic and quite unruly, starting trouble with other guests and getting into a fight with someone, after which she was asked to leave. The two friends left the party and then got into a fight with each other not long after, which ended with Toni kicking her friend out of the car and going on to drive completely off the face of the earth.
A thorough search turned up no sign of the missing woman, and there was no sign of any activity on her bank account or cell phone. Although it has been ascertained that Sharpless had been dealing with bipolar disorder and been on medication, meaning she probably shouldn’t have even been drinking alcohol in the first place, it is nevertheless impressive just how completely she has managed to totally vanish without a trace. Not even her car has been found, despite the fact that it had reportedly been quite low on gas at the time.
The only clue that has turned up was a disturbing letter written to a private investigator on the case, in which the anonymous writer claims that Sharpless had been killed in an altercation with a police officer and then her body disposed of and covered up, even going as far as to claim that they were in on it, having been paid to get rid of the vehicle in Boston. Adding to the evidence is that the writer was spookily able to give the correct vehicle registration number, but considering that the mysterious letter writer has not reached out since, it remains merely an alluring clue that will probably ultimately lead nowhere. Toni Lee Sharpless remains missing, and whether she was killed and covertly disposed of by law enforcement is left unknown.
What do these weird letters mean, if anything? Do they potentially shed light on these long cold cases or are they merely more smoke and mirrors, cryptic puzzles, or hoaxes? Whether any of them truly carry within them any real answers to these baffling mysteries, there is nothing we have been able to glean from them yet, and they remain just one more layer to the myriad bizarreness orbiting these unfortunate cases of people who have stepped off the face of the earth.
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 email@example.com. 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. Also on the website, 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.
“Strange Vanishings and Spooky Letters” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe
“The Missing Victims of Richard Grissom” posted at The Line Up
“The Disappearance of Sister Aimee” by Troy Taylor
“The Chilling Disappearance of Brianna Maitland” by Orrin Grey for The Line Up
“His Said His House Was Haunted, Then His Family Disappeared” by Aimee Lamoureux for All That’s Interesting
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… “All men are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord stands forever.” — 1 Peter 1:24-25
And a final thought… “If you quit once it becomes a habit. Never quit!” — Michael Jordan
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.