When she was 16 and still in high school, Anneliese began to suffer from convulsions. A neurologist diagnosed her with epilepsy. But soon, she started experiencing devilish hallucinations while praying. She began to hear voices, which told her that she was damned – that she was going to hell. Convinced that she was possessed, not epileptic, she and her mother gave up on the doctors and the psychiatric clinic. They chose instead to rely solely on the church and exorcisms for healing. And that is when things got horrifyingly worse.
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…
Ever since the beginning of the 16th century, Penkaet Castle has been the scene of a number of unexplained mysteries – and people who visited this old lonely Scottish castle have had some terrifying experiences. (The Peculiar Happenings at Penkaet Castle)
When they knock on your door and say, “Let us in” or “We need to use the phone” – do not let them through the door if you notice their eyes are completely black. I’m talking about black-eyed children. Have you ever wondered what happens if they do get through the door? The answer is not pretty. (What Happens When You Let a Black-Eyed-Kid Inside Your House?)
Is it possible that a tribe in the Amazon found a way to travel to another dimension thousands of years ago – and still do so today, through something called DMT? (The DMT Mystery)
Why do ghosts haunt us? Author and researcher Brian Haughton has a few thoughts on the subject and takes us through a short history of ghostly folklore, and some theories as to why there are hauntings in the first place. (Ghosts and Folklore)
Things begin to feel or sound wrong. You feel you are the size of a mouse, or the size of a mountain – or the objects you are looking at are the wrong size. The whole concept of time might become meaningless and confusing to you. You’ll have no way to control it, your doctor won’t be able to help, and you’ll never see it coming. With a name like Alice in Wonderland Syndrome, it might sound harmless, but once you know what it is, you’ll hope you or your children never get it. (What Is It Like To Have Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?)
Most horror film fans will either have seen or at least know about the 2005 movie, “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”. The story follows a woman who acts as a kind of defense attorney for a priest who is on trial for murder after a girl dies when he performs an exorcism on her. The film is loosely… very loosely… based on a real story of a girl named Anneliese Michel, who was so demonically possessed, that in the span of only ten months she was forced to endure 67 exorcisms. (The 67 Exorcisms of Anneliese Michel)
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: THE 67 EXORCISMS OF ANNELIESE MICHEL=====
Though many may not know it, the horrifying events of the 2005 film The Exorcism of Emily Rose were not entirely fictional but rather were based on the actual experiences of a German girl named Anneliese Michel.
Anneliese Michel grew up devoutly Catholic in Bavaria, West Germany in the 1960s, where she attended Mass twice a week. When Anneliese was sixteen, she suddenly blacked out at school and began walking around dazed. Though Anneliese did not remember the event, her friends and family said she was in a trance-like state.
A year later, Anneliese Michel experienced a similar occurrence, where she woke up in a trance and wet her bed. Her body also went through a series of convulsions, causing her body to shake uncontrollably. But what happened next was even more disturbing.
After the second time, Anneliese visited a neurologist who diagnosed her with temporal lobe epilepsy, a disorder that causes seizures, loss of memory, and experiencing visual and auditory hallucinations.
Temporal lobe epilepsy can also cause Geschwind syndrome, a disorder marked by hyper-religiosity.
After her diagnosis, Anneliese began taking medication for her epilepsy and enrolled in the University of Würzburg in 1973.
However, the drugs she was given failed to help her, and as the year progressed her condition began to deteriorate. Though she was still taking her medication, Anneliese began to believe that she was possessed by a demon and that she needed to find a solution outside of medicine.
Things began to take a strange turn for Anneliese in 1973, when she began to hear knocking sounds in her bedroom, which her sister also heard. She began to see the face of the devil wherever she went and said she heard demons whispering in her ears. When she heard demons telling her she was “damned” and would “rot in hell” while she was praying, she concluded that the devil must be possessing her. Anneliese’s mother became alarmed when she saw her daughter furiously staring at a statue of the Virgin Mary with “eyes turned black, jet black, and her hands seemed to turn into thick paws with claws.”
Anneliese sought out priests to help her with her demonic possession, but all the clergy she approached rejected her requests, saying that she should seek medical help and that they needed the permission of a bishop anyway.
At this point, Anneliese’s delusions had become extreme.
Believing she was possessed, she ripped the clothes off her body, compulsively performed up to 400 squats a day, crawled under a table and barked like a dog for two days. She also ate spiders and coal, bit the head off a dead bird, and licked her own urine from the floor. She began to exhibit strength that her parents described as “close to superhuman” as she threw her sister “as if she were a rag doll” – all during a time she barely slept and prayed fervently all night.
Finally, she and her mother found a priest, Ernst Alt, who believed in her possession. He stated that “she didn’t look like an epileptic” in later court documents.
Anneliese wrote to Alt, “I am nothing, everything about me is vanity, what should I do, I have to improve, you pray for me” and also once told him, “I want to suffer for other people…but this is so cruel”.
Alt petitioned the local bishop, Bishop Josef Stangl, who eventually approved the request and granted a local priest, Arnold Renz permission to perform an exorcism, but ordered that it be carried out in total secret.
Exorcisms have existed in various cultures and religions for millennia, but the practice became popular in the Catholic Church in the 1500s with priests who would use the Latin phrase “Vade retro satana” (“Go back, Satan”) to expel demons from their mortal hosts.
The practice of Catholic exorcism was codified in the Rituale Romanum, a book of Christian practices assembled in the 16th century.
By the 1960s, exorcisms were very rare among Catholics, but a rise in movies and books like The Exorcist in the early 1970s caused a renewed interest in the practice.
Over the next ten months, following the bishop’s approval of Anneliese’s exorcism, Alt and Renz conducted 67 exorcisms, lasting up to four hours, on the young woman.
In the recordings, Anneliese reveals that she has six spirits inside her, which she names Lucifer, Cain, Judas Iscariot, and Hitler. Valentin Fleischmann, a priest in the 1500s who was kicked out of the church for bad behavior, is mentioned as one of her demons, and she gives accurate details about the real Fleischmann. Father Alt was taken aback when he heard the name Fleischmann because the girl couldn’t possibly know who he was.
All these spirits would jostle for power of Anneliese’s body, and would communicate from her mouth with a low growl. Here is just a short sample of what she sounded like. This is an actual recording of one of the exorcisms that was performed on Anneliese. Warning – it is very disturbing to hear:
The full-length version is approximately eighteen minutes in length. If you think you can stomach it, I’ll place a link to the audio in the Weird Web section of the Weird Darkness website. It includes English subtitles so you’ll know what she is speaking.
The demons argued with each other, with Hitler saying, “People are stupid as pigs. They think it’s all over after death. It goes on” and Judas saying Hitler was nothing but a “big mouth” who had “no real say” in Hell.
Throughout these sessions, Anneliese would frequently talk about “dying to atone for the wayward youth of the day and the apostate priests of the modern church.”
She broke the bones and ripped the tendons in her knees from continually kneeling in prayer.
Over these 10 months, Anneliese was frequently restrained so the priests could conduct exorcism rites. She slowly stopped eating, despite weighing less than 80 pounds. She refused to do so, stating that she was “not permitted to eat” by the demons. She and her family ultimately placed all of their faith in the exorcisms for recovery. Anneliese had her final exorcism on June 30. During the exorcism, she only said, “please… absolution.”
Anneliese eventually died of malnutrition and dehydration on July 1st, 1976. She was only 23 years old.
After her death, Anneliese’s story became a national sensation in Germany after her parents and the two priests who conducted the exorcism were charged with negligent homicide. They came before the court and even used a recording of the exorcism as I shared earlier to try to justify their actions. The court, however, never seemed to take it seriously.
After the defense was chastised for not seeking medical help, Father Alt claimed that his friend Dr. Richard Roth came to see Anneliese out of scientific curiosity rather than as a doctor.
Dr. Roth claimed Anneliese Michel had no external injuries during his visit, but Father Renz noticed she had several bruises, a swollen cheek, and black eyes, which contradicts Dr. Roth’s claim.
Despite the demons’ and priests’ attacks, an autopsy revealed Anneliese had a healthy brain with no brain damage capable of causing epileptic seizures, “not even on a microscopic level.”
Many things about her stood out, including the fact that her pupils were unusually dilated and the lack of ulcers on her body, which are common in starvation victims.
The prosecution claimed that Anneliese suffered from epilepsy and psychosis, and that her parents and two priests were responsible for her death by failing to intervene. They questioned Father Alt’s credibility, based on the conclusion of two experts that he showed signs of schizophrenia.
The prosecution also claimed that the medications suppressed epilepsy-like seizures, and that this suppression progressed to “a delusional psychosis associated with epilepsy.”
It’s still unclear why she behaved normally in between exorcisms, implying that the seizures were suppressed by medication or if they simply stopped on their own, but Anneliese’s psychotic vision predates the alleged medical suppression.
In the end, the court sided with the prosecution.
The two priests were found guilty of manslaughter resulting from negligence and were sentenced to six months in jail (which was later suspended) and three years of probation. The parents were exempted from any punishment as they had “suffered enough,” a criteria for sentencing in German law.
Since Anneliese Michel’s death, a number of films have been made based on her story, including the well-known horror film “The Exorcism of Emily Rose”, which was released in 2005. Loosely based on Anneliese’s story, the movie follows a lawyer (played by Laura Linney) who takes on a negligent homicide case involving a priest who allegedly performed a deadly exorcism on a young woman.
Set in America in the modern day, the film was both praised and panned by critics for its depiction of the sensational court case that followed the death of the character Emily Rose.
Although much of the movie focuses on courtroom drama and debate, there are plenty of scary flashbacks that depict the events leading up to Emily Rose’s exorcism — and her untimely death at age 19.
Perhaps one of the most memorable scenes from the film is the flashback of Emily Rose screaming the names of all her demons to her priest. While possessed, she shouts out names such as Judas, Cain, and, most chillingly, Lucifer, “the devil in the flesh.”
While reviews of The Exorcism of Emily Rose were decidedly mixed, the film did pick up a couple of awards, including an MTV Movie Award for “Best Frightened Performance” by Jennifer Carpenter, who played Emily Rose.
Other than her inspiration for a horror film, Anneliese became an icon for some Catholics who felt modern, secular interpretations of the bible were distorting the ancient, supernatural truth it contains.
“The surprising thing was that the people connected to Michel were all completely convinced that she had really been possessed,” remembers Franz Barthel, who reported on the trial for the regional daily paper the Main-Post.
“Buses, often from Holland, I think, still come to Anneliese’s grave,” Barthel says. “The grave is a gathering point for religious outsiders. They write notes with requests and thanks for her help, and leave them on the grave. They pray, sing and travel on.”
While she may be a source of inspiration for some religious people, the story of Anneliese Michel is not one of spirituality triumphing over science – at least not on the surface. But then, we have no idea of the outcome of Anneliese’s eternal soul. She may very well have conquered those demons through the exorcisms, just in time to be ushered into a heavenly eternity so as to not spend it with Cain, Judas Iscariot, or the disgraced Father Valentin Fleischmann.
Coming up… ever since the beginning of the 16th century, Penkaet Castle has been the scene of a number of unexplained mysteries – and people who visited this old lonely Scottish castle have had some terrifying experiences.
Plus… when they knock on your door and say, “Let us in” or “We need to use the phone” – do not let them through the door if you notice their eyes are completely black. I’m talking about black-eyed children. Have you ever wondered what happens if they do get through the door? The answer is not pretty.
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE PECULIAR HAPPENING AT PENKAET CASTLE=====
Is there something evil lurking in the old large Scottish house known as Penkaet Castle? Some bizarre things seem to occur there – as well as things so frightening it leaves people in terror. No rational explanation of all strange events that took place here has ever been found.
Penkaet Castle is located near Haddington, Lothian, Scotland. Ever since the beginnings of the 16th century, there have been reports of unusual phenomena taking place in the castle.
In the early 1920s, the castle was bought by Professor and Mrs. Holbourn. It did not take long before they started to hear strange sounds in the large house.
“When we first came here in 1923, we were often disturbed by the sounds of heavy footsteps going about the house and the sound of something heavy and soft being dragged along. Various people occupied the house, in our absence complained of hearing shrieks, heavy footsteps, and groans, and that doors which were shut and even locked at night were found open in the morning. One girl was so terrified that she refused to sleep alone,” Mrs. Holbourn reported in the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research.
According to an old legend, the former owner John Cockburn killed his relative John Seton and his troubled conscience is said to cause his ghost to haunt the place.
Another legend tells that many years ago, Alexander Hamilton, a local beggar came to Penkaet Castle but was turned away empty-handed. It is said that Hamilton returned to the castle on the night of the dead. In revenge, he bound the gates with blue thread, an act of witchcraft. Two days later, Lady Ormiston, the lady of the house, and her eldest daughter were both dead as a result of a mysterious illness. As time passed, Hamilton was eventually brought to trial and confessed to being responsible for the two deaths. He was hanged for witchcraft at Castle Hill, Edinburgh.
On certain nights of the year, Hamilton’s ghost returns to Penkaet, his shadowy form being seen hanging around the gates…
People who spent the night sleeping in the bedroom below the King Charles room have heard sounds of movement from the room above that was supposed to be empty.
Many of the bizarre happenings at the castle were connected with the room belonging to King Charles II (1630 – 1685). It sounded as if the furniture was being moved around. Sometimes, it sounded as if someone was “stumbling and grouping about the room.”
King Charles II had reputedly slept in one room at Penkaet Castle. The room became later known as “King Charles bedroom.”
Many of the paranormal happenings at the castle were connected with this room. In Christmas 1923, a piece of wood carved with the family crest was seen to lean forward from the wall and then return to its former position.
Two years later, a friend of the Professor and his wife visited the castle. She slept in the room containing the King Charles bed. Late at night, she could clearly hear the sound of someone moving on the ground floor. She went downstairs accompanied by the professor, but there was no-one there. On their return to the first floor, they heard the sound of someone turning over in the bed that the friend left.
Ten years later, another guest, Mrs. Holbourn’s brother visited the house. He was sleeping in the bed (once used by King Charles) when he was suddenly awakened by loud knocks coming from the room above. He first thought that something had happened to Mrs. Carstairs, another visitor who was recovering from an illness. He hurried upstairs only to find Mrs. Carstairs sleeping peacefully in her bed. Who had knocked on the floor?
On another occasion, a cousin who visited Mr. and Mr. Holbourn while the couple was away found the bedclothes in King Charles’s room ruffled. At the time, no-one was sleeping in bed. The cousin spoke to Mrs. Anderson, the gardener’s daughter. It was her job to make the beds, but she was very surprised when heard what had happened. She said that she had, in fact, made the King Charles bed the same morning.
Some days later, when the cousin took a visitor to see the room, the same thing happened again. They took a photograph of the bed and Mrs. Anderson had to remake the bed. The visitor took his camera and left the castle. Then, he returned a day later and informed that the photograph had been under-exposed.
Holbourn’s cousin went upstairs to the bedroom so that he could take another photo of the bedroom. Once again, he discovered that someone or something had played with the bedclothes. By now, he was so scared that he decided to seal off the room. He closed all windows, locked the two doors and placed heavy bricks against the main door.
It was impossible for anyone to enter King Charles’s room. Yet, the next day, he discovered that the bricks had been moved and the bedclothes were once again re-arranged. It was a creepy feeling because he was the only one living at the castle.
Another curious incident occurred in the summer of 1925 when Professor Holbourn’s son was working late one evening in the workshop on the ground floor. It was 11 p.m., and it was getting dark. Professor’s son took some of his work outside to look at it in the fading light.
While being outside, the housekeeper Betta Leadbetter came to him and said that someone was taking a bath. Apparently, she heard the taps running and someone splashing in the bath. It seemed strange because his wife had been in bed since 9 p.m, so he went to investigate. When he entered the bathroom, it was full of steam. The mirror and windows were completely misted over.
Strangely enough, the bath itself was dry and apparently, no one used it. He asked everyone in the house, but no one admitted to having used the bath. Perhaps the most bizarre feature of the incident was the soap. It was custom for large houses to order soap by the half-hundred weight. The soap used in the castle was all of one color. However, the soap he discovered in the bathroom was entirely different from anything he had previously seen.
Strange events continued to happen at the Penkaet Castle. When a paranormal research group visited the castle in 1964, a glass dome covering a model of Penkaet suddenly disintegrated in the library.
Were unknown evil forces lurking in the house? Was Penkaet Castle haunted by the ghost of John Cockburn? Was some kind of bad energy present in the house? it’s not unusual to hear people say they can feel bad energy when they enter a place. Many visitors heard footsteps coming down the path outside the house although no-one was walking there. Clocks placed on the wall between the dining room and the next room all stopped working for no apparent reason.
People kept reporting shrieks, groans, heavy footsteps and the sound of something being dragged around.
Many bizarre things happened at the Penkaet Castle, which to this day remain unsolved.
We received a call to the Darkline recently – let’s hear what Dave in Sarasota, Florida had to tell us.
– – – – –
Thanks for the story, David! I love that attitude that if you go to purgatory you’ll become the bully of the bullies, tormenting the demons right back! That’s awesome, I’ve never heard that before! I gotta say though, the maniacal laughter coming from your sleeping sister… that would creep me out to the point of praying “be gone, foul demon! A bind you in the name of Jesus!” It probably wasn’t a demon and that would be a bizarre overreaction on my part making me look like a religious idiot, but still, that would scare the crap out of me! Great call, David – thanks for sharing! And you listening to the podcast while cleaning pools is about as close as you’ll get me to a swimming pool – especially outdoor pools. With this complexion, I’ve got two colors – white and extra crispy! If you have a true paranormal or creepy story to share of your own, you can do what (NAME) did and call the DarkLine toll-free at 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-5944.
STORY: WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LET A BLACK-EYED-KID INSIDE YOUR HOUSE?=====
This next story actually begins with an email that I received a few months ago from one of our Weirdo family members, Ellinor. She says, “Hello! I’m not sure if you’ve received an answer to the question about someone letting the black eyed kids in, but thought I’d send you this one. I’m pretty sure I first heard you tell it on your show a few years ago. I have told a few people about your podcast. Keep up the great work! Lots of love, Ellinor”
Thank you, Ellinor. I was actually looking for this story in my archives recently and could not find it – so I’m glad you sent me the link. I’ve had a few people ask the question, “what happens if a black eyed kid get in your house”, so even if I have shared it before, it’s something I don’t mind covering again. Here is the story…
= = = = =
Let me start by saying that I know how hard this all will be to believe, but now that things have taken a turn for the worse I started looking for stories similar to mine. I feel like I should share this story with someone and your website seems like the right place. I made the mistake of letting the Black Eyed Kids inside and now I’m worried that I might die because of it. I hope this will be a warning to everyone who is ever in the position to make the same mistake that I did.
I live just outside of [a rural town in] Vermont. It’s a tight knit community where everyone knows one another and people don’t lock their doors at night. There has never been any need to.
A little over a year ago I woke up because I heard a loud banging on my front door. At the time my husband I lived in a small home on a dirt road just off the rural route into town. It was the middle of a snowstorm and the nearby hills get very slippery in the snow so I thought that someone might have been in an accident and broken down. It’s happened before.
When I looked out the window I could see that our motion spotlight was on. I could see that there were footprints in the snow that had come from our road and into our driveway but there was no car anywhere. The snow was still covering the road and no one had driven on it for at least a couple hours. Our front door was obscured from the window but I could see that someone was standing there. I wasn’t sure what to think so I woke my husband up just to feel safer. While I was telling him what was going on the banging on the door started again and my husband went to answer it while I stood in the hallway.
When he opened the door there were two children standing in the snow looking toward the ground. They were a boy and a girl and could not have been more than 8 years old. They were dressed strangely and had odd haircuts. The girl’s hair was very long and straight and the boy had a dated haircut that looked almost like a bowl cut. They weren’t dressed for winter and my first thought was that they must have been Mennonite children but as far as I know there was never a large community of Mennonites near us.
Thinking back on it I know that my normal reaction to seeing children in a snowstorm would have been to rush them inside and bundle them up with some blankets and hot cocoa, but that’s not how this felt. The children were very unnerving. They would not make eye contact and when my husband asked them if everything was ok they asked if they could come in. My husband looked at me like “what do I do?” and I asked the kids where their parents were.
“They’ll be here soon,” is all they said.
It was around 2 o’clock in the morning at this point so the only reasonable thought in my head was that there must have been an accident or these kids got lost. As much as my instincts told me not to bring them inside I did it anyway.
I went into the kitchen to make them some hot cocoa while my husband took them into the living room. While I was fixing the kettle I could hear my husband talking to the kids. He was asking them if they were ok, where the came from, how far they walked, if their parents’ car was broken down, things like that. But they always answered “our parents will be here soon”. They spoke in a sing-songy voice. They weren’t afraid to be in a stranger’s home at all.
I started to notice that our cats (we had four) were all hiding except Pigeon who was in the kitchen with me. Normally our cats are very curious and friendly and we have to be careful that they don’t run out the door when we leave. This time none of them even tried to see who was here which I thought was very strange. All of the hair on Pigeon’s neck was standing up and his tail was puffed up while he looked in the living room. When I bent down to pet him and see what was wrong he hissed and started growling and backed up until he had hid himself under the kitchen island. I have never seen him do that before.
When I walked back into the living room the kids were sitting on the couch as still as can be but my husband was holding his head in his hands. I asked him what wrong and he just said that he felt very dizzy all of a sudden but that he was fine. I turned back to the children to give them their cocoa, but when they looked at me I gasped. It took everything inside of me not to drop the mugs and run away. When they looked at me their eyes were completely black. They had no whites just giant black pupils.
When they saw that I was scared they stood up and asked if they could use the bathroom. I tried to be as composed as I could be and showed them down the hall. They went into the bathroom together and I hurried back to my husband to ask him if he had seen their eyes. He had seen them too and said that it looked like his brothers badly bruised eyes after a car accident. We were in the middle of talking about whose children they could be when my husbands nose started to bleed. He’d never had nosebleeds as long as I had known him. I just knew inside myself that this had something to do with the kids in the bathroom and I started crying while I ran to get [my husband] some tissues.
That’s when the power went out. I heard my husband yell my name from the living room and as I started to walk back through the hallway I stopped dead in my tracks. The two children were standing at the end of the hallway. They weren’t moving and I have never been so scared in my whole life. They just stood there in the dark.
After what felt like forever the boy said “our parents are here” and they walked to the door, opened it, and walked out leaving it wide open. My husband jumped up to go close it and almost fell over. We looked out the window and saw two men standing by a black car idling at the end of our driveway. The men looked like they were wearing black colored suits and were very tall, at least 6 feet. When my husband waved at them they just stared at us, got into the car, and drove off.
Our power came on about a half an hour later but nothing was the same after that.
Over the next few months three of our cats went missing. We can only assume that they ran away somewhere and never came back but the worst thing was coming home to find Pigeon in a puddle of blood on the living room floor. He looked like he had been vomiting blood. The vet told us that he had some kind of hemorrhage.
After my husband’s nosebleeds became a regular occurrence we went to see the doctor. He didn’t know what to make of it other than “dry nasal passages” but my husband was diagnosed with an aggressive skin cancer. When the doctor asked us if he used tanning beds we both thought he was joking, but apparently this kind of melanoma is linked to over-use of indoor tanning. The doctors think he will recover but don’t understand how it got so bad so quickly. My husband has never worked an outdoor job and spends relatively little time in the sun.
Since we let the Black Eyed Kids inside our home I’ve also suffered from regular dizzy spells and nosebleeds on a regular basis. I’ve had other issues which I won’t mention here but trust me when I say that I am suddenly in the worst condition of my life and no one can do anything about it. I know that all of this is because I let the Black Eyed Children into my home. We’ve told everyone we could about the strange kids that showed up that night but no one else saw them and some laugh at how scared we were of the “Mennonite kids” but we know what we saw. I wish my husband had never opened the door.
Feel free to publish this as a warning to others about the Black Eyed Kids. My advice would be to lock your doors, call the police, and wait for morning. Don’t make the same mistake that I did.
When Weird Darkness returns… why do ghosts haunt us? Author and researcher Brian Haughton has a few thoughts on the subject and takes us through a short history of ghostly folklore, and some theories as to why there are hauntings in the first place. And, is it possible that a tribe in the Amazon found a way to travel to another dimension thousands of years ago – and still do so today, through something called DMT? That story is up next.
Later, we’ll find out what it’s like to have the strange condition called “Alice in Wonderland Syndrome.”
STORY: THE DMT MYSTERY=====
Psychedelics, the pineal gland, water fluoridation, the third eye and interdimensional portals—this theory has them all.
The main psychoactive in ayahuasca—a hallucinogenic brew used by Amazonian tribes for thousands of years—is Dimethyltryptamine, commonly known as DMT.
The process of successfully brewing this ritualistic drink requires a basic understanding of human biochemistry so it is unclear how the indigenous people of the Amazon rain forest managed to discover the hallucinogenic properties of the ayahuasca brew.
At the beginning of the 20th century, as the deepest parts of the Amazonian jungle were slowly being discovered, modern society gradually became aware of the existence of remote tribes and their shamanic practices permeated into western culture.
As a consequence, DMT was first synthesized in 1931 by Canadian chemist Richard Manske and in 1965 French pharmacologist Jacques Poisson isolated the compound from vine leaves used by the Aguaruna Indians that inhabit the jungles of Peru.
Since then, many of those who have studied or ingested DMT themselves reported that it was an astonishing substance, and its implications stretched far beyond our comprehension and almost certainly beyond the boundaries of our visible universe.
One of the most interesting aspects regarding DMT is that it is naturally found in many species of plants and animals and, despite the fact that it also exists in the human body, no one knows its exact function.
Dr. Rick Strassman conducted DMT research at the University of New Mexico in the 1990s, administering more than 400 doses to 60 volunteers. He believes that near the time of death, the pineal gland (a tiny organ in the center of our brains) releases a massive dose of DMT, which could account for the near death experience (NDE) phenomenon.
Throughout history, the pineal gland has been called the “principal seat of the soul” (Descartes) while various spiritual philosophies have linked it to the mystical third eye responsible for awakening and enlightenment.
In 2013, researchers conducted a study that showed DMT was found in the pineal gland of rodents, enforcing Dr. Strassman’s controversial hypothesis.
It was even suggested that DMT might play a role in escorting the soul into the human body before birth and out of it during death. The visions and out of body experiences of those who took DMT seem to solidify this claim.
They reported being transported to entirely different, yet somewhat familiar dimensions. These dimensions seemed to be governed or at least inhabited by humanoid beings that were always labeled as ‘otherworldly.’
Terence McKenna, a pioneer in the field of entheogens, once described these entities as “self-transforming machine elves.” Others reported contact with “other beings, alien like, insectoid or reptilian in nature, in highly advanced technological environments.”
Interactions with these creatures varies from person to person; while some have reported being “probed”, “tested” or even “dismembered”, others described being “loved and taught”, receiving crucial information regarding higher states of existence.
Are these encounters with “machine elves” nothing more than the product of a hallucinating brain or is DMT really the “spirit molecule”, as it was called? Can it lift the thin veil that allegedly separates dimensions or is it nothing more than a glorified psychedelic?
In an interview with David Jay Brown, Dr. Rick Strassman made it clear which side he’s on:
“I myself think so. My colleagues think I’ve gone woolly-brained over this, but I think it’s as good a working hypothesis as any other. I tried all other hypotheses with our volunteers, and with myself.
“[…]I tried a thought-experiment, asking myself, ‘What if these were real worlds, and real entities? Where would they reside, and why would they care to interact with us?’
This led me to some interesting speculations about parallel universes, dark matter, etc. All because we can’t prove these ideas right now (lacking the proper technology) doesn’t mean they should be dismissed out of hand as incorrect.”
Many thinkers share Dr. Strassman’s views. Author Graham Hancock believes DMT is a common denominator for phenomena such as “hallucinations, angels, aliens, dreams and near death experiences.” His own research has turned up evidence for the use of DMT in many ancient cultures, and it can be found in religious symbols from all over the world.
In the U.S., DMT is a Schedule I drug and can only be legally used by certain religious organizations such as The Church of the Holy Light of the Queen or the Brazil-based União de Vegetal.
Conspiracy theorists are convinced that DMT is illegal because of its third eye-opening properties. Moreover, some believe that the Fluoride present in tap water is specifically designed to inhibit the function of the pineal gland and thus prevent any relevant means of communication with other dimensions.
At the moment, it appears that any scientific studies centered on DMT tend to produce more questions than answers and the lucid hallucinations caused by high doses of this psychoactive compound have yet to be properly explained.
The work of Strassman and other open-minded researchers could be the first modern steps toward establishing communication channels with beings from higher dimensions. If their efforts turn up something, it will only strengthen the idea that present-day science is only rediscovering knowledge that the ancients possessed thousands of years ago.
The knowledge that was perhaps handed down by the machine elves.
STORY: GHOSTS AND FOLKLORE=====
Ghosts are perhaps the most controversial and widely reported of all unexplained phenomena. But although ghostly visitors are sighted in their thousands all over the world and ‘true’ ghost tales are hugely popular, the whole subject of ghost lore is widely misinterpreted and misunderstood. The majority of people are familiar with at least one local or national ghost story but the role of folklore, folk tales and urban legend in connection with the supernatural is rarely touched upon outside of academic journals. But the connection between folklore and allegedly true accounts of the supernatural is an important and extremely relevant one.
Does this mean then that we can interpret the endless streams of headless horsemen, phantom nuns and monks, spectral armies, ghostly Roman legionaries, vanishing hitchhikers, black dogs and white ladies as figures of folklore and urban legend rather than physical reality?
Perhaps this is to oversimplify a complex phenomenon, but certainly the development of folk beliefs over the centuries has affected the way in which we report and interpret ghostly phenomena.
Every culture has its own particular kind of ghost lore, some, like England, have a history of phantom reports stretching back to pre-Medieval times. Generally, ‘true’ accounts of ghosts and hauntings can be dated back at least as far as Classical Greece (5th – 4thcenturies BC) and the genre shows no signs of waning in the 21st century.
But what exactly is a ghost? In general the term is used to describe the appearance of the souls or spirits of the dead before the living, while the word ‘haunting’ signifies the recurring manifestation of a ghost witnessed by someone in a certain location. A ghost is usually described as similar in appearance, if not identical, to the dead person when they were living. However, not all hauntings involve apparitions, they may be auditory (relating to the sense of hearing) or olfactory (relating to the sense of smell), types of phenomena most frequently reported in poltergeist cases.
But even with such apparently safe definitions we are not always on sure ground. As Owen Davies points out in his authoritative The Haunted: A Social History of Ghosts (2007), in the past it was fairies that were believed to haunt certain locations, which would seem to indicate an origin in folklore and legend for the idea of haunted spots. Writing in his classic work on fairy lore The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns, and Fairies (1661) the Scottish antiquarian the Reverend Robert Kirk noted that it was a popular idea among some people at the time that fairies were the souls of the dead that remained on earth.
Indeed looking at accounts of hauntings from the 16th to 18th centuries it is notable that ghosts, fairies, angels and demons exhibit extremely similar characteristics. It was usually only the context in which they appeared which allowed them to be identified as one or the other.
There have been a number of reasons put forward for why the spirits of the dead would want to haunt the living. Before the Reformation in England (during the reign of Henry VIII, 1509 to 1547) many ghosts returned to request masses to be said for their souls, bemoaning the fact that they could not otherwise enter heaven. In later centuries someone might come back as a ghost because their personal affairs had been left in confusion when they died.
Legal injustices were another reason for the dead to return. Perhaps the most dramatic motif for a haunting was that of revenge, the ghost often taking the form of the victim of a murder seeking retribution from their killer. Other hauntings were said to be caused by those whose life had been so wicked that they were condemned to wander the earth as lost, imprisoned spirits.
Other common candidates for a return from the grave were those who had died tragically, especially suicides. Some ghosts could not rest because their remains had not been buried with the correct rites, a particularly common motif in Classical tales, others due to the disturbance of their graves by some unfeeling mortal. A number of ghosts, though, were far less sensational, returning merely to continue the routine they had enjoyed on earth, perhaps visiting a favourite place or pursuing their former employment as if they had never left it.
It is impossible to separate the reasons for and functions of ghostly visitors from the purpose and motives of those who have recorded apparitions and hauntings over the years. Any examination of stories of hauntings from the ancient world up until the present will reveal how the reports are manipulated to reflect contemporary events and concerns. Indeed it would be true to say that every era experiences its ghosts according to a defined set of traditions and expectations, most frequently based on religious doctrine regarding the afterlife and social conventions.
There were a number of important studies of hauntings made in the 17th century which still exert an influence on the way we see, research and record ghosts today. Probably the most significant of these was Joseph Glanvill’s Saducismus Triumphatus (1681). In this book Glanvill, a clergyman and philosopher who believed in the malign power of witches and magic, advocated the investigation and examination of supernatural occurrences in order to prove their existence. Glanvill vehemently attacked those skeptical of demonic powers and maintained that the denial of such spirits and demons was tantamount to atheism.
Other writers of the same period, including English Puritan church leader and theologian Richard Baxter (1615 -1691) and Richard Bovet, author of Pandaemonium, or the Devil’s Cloyster (1684), recorded accounts of hauntings and witchcraft with the express purpose of demonstrating and maintaining a religious system where ghosts and angels revealed the hand of God in human affairs, whilst witches and demons were proof of the very real existence and influence of the Devil, the arch enemy of the Christian faith.
Similarly the rise of Spiritualism in the mid to late nineteenth century reflected the desire of many people for proof of an afterlife. In the more materialistic Victorian society people naturally required tangible proof of spirits, rather than mere tales, hence the appearance of the darkened séance rooms and such things as ‘spirit photographs’, ‘ectoplasm’ and scientific experiments into alleged spirit manifestations.
Nowadays there are a myriad of different reasons why a ghost is thought to appear and why such stories are recorded. The media, especially the internet, has a huge role in collecting, exaggerating and disseminating ghostly tales of varying degrees of reliability. Local books on ghosts and the supernatural are hugely popular, though similar works about regional folklore are much less well known, which is surprising since many of them contain the same tales, though told in a less sensational manner.
‘Ghost tours’ and ghost walks’, as well as ‘haunted’ pubs have become a significant part of the tourist industry, both in the U.K and in the U.S. Though, as Owen Davies notes, in the classic work on the English pub, Thomas Burke’s The English Inn (1930), there are only a few stories of ghosts, though plenty about murders, highwaymen, and the visits of various kings and queens.
But do ghosts exist? Those skeptical of ghosts and the paranormal in general object on many levels to the reality of the numerous hauntings and apparitions recorded over the centuries. They point out that second-hand anecdotal evidence is not scientific proof of the existence of spirits of the dead or any other kind of phantom.
Rather than indicating the existence of an afterlife or a fourth dimension, skeptics argue that all tales of ghosts can be explained by errors in human perception and misunderstood ordinary natural phenomena. While these explanations may very well be true for the majority of sightings, the ghost is such a complicated phenomenon that one or two relatively simplistic explanations cannot hope to account for the whole range of variations within the subject.
In one sense ghost stories are certainly ‘true’. They give us an important insight into the major concerns, the traditions and the psychology of the individuals and the societies in which they circulate. This alone makes them a vital and constantly developing aspect of popular belief.
STORY: ALICE IN WONDERLAND SYNDROME=====
Most people know the story of Alice in Wonderland, either from the movies or the books. Well, do you remember the part when Alice grew and then shrank? First it was the “drink me” bottle, then it was mushrooms… either way, she just couldn’t seem to get to be the right size! Well, as it turns out, there’s a particular disorder based on those scenes called Alice in Wonderland Syndrome. It’s a fairly recently discovery, and you might be wondering what having Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is like. Good news, because we’re here to tell you.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome symptoms vary from person to person. Depending on your age, brain chemistry, gender, and other factors, you could experience this disorder in different ways. One thing stays the same, though: you don’t feel your correct size.
The main symptom of AIWS is feeling that your body or parts of your body are not the size they should be. Imagine you’re sitting calmly when you suddenly become aware that your hands feel very, very small. Even physically touching them does not shake the feeling that they’re abnormally tiny. They even look small to you, or far away. This sensation is what someone with AIWS might feel.
In extreme cases, you might feel like your whole body is tiny, even inches tall, or that you are so huge, you can barely fit inside the room! Basically, you’re just like Alice after she drinks from that shady little bottle.
Besides your own body not feeling quite right, the physical sensation of other objects, as well as sounds, may seem warped or altered. Things that are solid may feel spongy to you, or sharp. This is, again, your mind playing with how you perceive things. Even if what you’re touching is a solid block of wood, your mind may be telling you it feels like you’re holding a chunk of pound cake. Even the ground might feel soft! As far as noises go, things may sound very distant or at an abnormal pitch. These are both rarer symptoms than feeling your body is out of whack, but they can be extremely disorienting.
There are times when people with AIWS retain an accurate sense of their own body, but the world around them is all sorts of twisted. Object sizes may be wrong. Things may feel very far away, or just tiny. Your brain may not understand that the table in front of you isn’t several stories tall, or that the fork you’re reaching for is actually closer than it appears. This can be stressful, especially when walking, because a hallway that in reality is only a few steps long may appear to stretch on forever.
Though the feeling that time is off-kilter is rare for AIWS sufferers, it can be very disconcerting. As you go about your day, you may have a sense of zooming through time, or of time not passing at all. Time that has already passed may feel absurdly short, and a single day may feel like mere hours. This, again, seems most prevalent in children, particularly in males.
AIWS in itself isn’t dangerous, but your brain and body doesn’t always recognize that. Bouts of this syndrome can be highly stressful, and even frightening. Those with really bad cases may sometimes feel so small in comparison to other people that they feel they may be crushed, or worry they will fall a great distance off their chair to the ground.
Alternatively, sufferers may feel that other people are very small, and that they themselves are huge, and so be afraid of injuring those around them.
This confusing and stressful experience would be bad enough if you had it only once in a while, right? Instead, imagine it happens to you multiple times every day at random. This is a reality for many people with AIWS. The symptoms may come and go at any time, and when it starts happening, it’s more than likely bound to happen more than once in a 24-hour period.
Alice in Wonderland Syndrome is a fairly new discovery. In 1955, a man named Dr. John Todd discovered that certain people with severe headaches, including children, started having warped perceptions of reality, mostly relating to size. The condition is therefore often called Todd Syndrome, as well.
The fact that some of the people he looked at were children is no coincidence. The majority of cases of AIWS are seen in children. So if you hear a kid saying that their head is giant or their hands are tiny, or that the room is weirdly shaped, don’t be so quick to dismiss them. They might really be seeing things that way.
So how exactly does AIWS work? To be honest, we’re still not entirely sure. What we do understand is that it happens when there’s an abnormal volume and flow of electricity in the body, which can then cause a change in the flow of blood to and through the brain. Because of this change, some signals sent from the brain to the eyes become distorted and misunderstood. Drug use, the Epstein-Barr virus, epilepsy, and brain tumors can all cause AIWS, but often there’s no explanation at all.
AIWS and migraines, above all else, seem to go hand in hand. This actually has a lot to do with how the syndrome got its name. There are accounts of Lewis Carroll, who wrote Alice in Wonderland, having to see a therapist because he reported terrible migraines as well as feelings of his environment being warped in size. People have theorized that this is one of the earliest recorded cases of AIWS.
Migraines themselves seem to nearly always be present when AIWS displays, so there’s a good chance the two are strongly linked. In other words, if you have AIWS, you’re unfortunately bound to have a killer headache or two, as well.
Although these feelings may happen at random, there’s one time when they tend to be the most common, and that’s right before bed. Just as you’re about to go to sleep, you might suddenly have the feeling that your body is very small in your bed, or that your limbs are very tiny. Maybe your room will feel absurdly large, or very tiny to you. This seems to happen for both children and adults. Perhaps this is why some kids are more prone to nightmares?
Although it’s more likely at night, and although it’s often accompanied by migraines, the honest truth is that there’s no way to predict when an AIWS episode is going to hit you. It won’t happen with every migraine, and it won’t happen every night, and it could happen without either of those two precursors. The fact is that there’s not a lot you can do to figure out when you’re suddenly going to feel like Alice in Wonderland.
The sad fact is, many doctors have no idea what AIWS is, or why it’s happening. Once doctors recognize that something is wrong, they will likely send you for a CT Scan to check for tumors. As it turns out, AIWS is sometimes linked with brain tumors, so that’s not a bad call. But don’t worry – most of the time there are no tumors to be found. Generally speaking, AIWS is completely physically harmless.
Even if your doctor knows what AIWS is, there’s really not much they can do about it. They can recommend a better sleep schedule and a different diet, and they can treat your migraines. But unfortunately, beyond that, there’s no known treatment or preventative measures for AIWS, and there haven’t been many scientific breakthroughs concerning the condition.
As for you? Well, you can try to make yourself as comfortable as possible, but you can’t cure yourself and you can’t make it stop once it starts happening. But don’t panic, there is good news…
All this might sound pretty daunting, but there is actually an upside here. Most cases of AIWS happen in childhood and spontaneously vanish as you grow older. Alternatively, if you have the condition as an adult, it still sometimes manages to go away on its own, without any treatment or lifestyle changes. So the bright side is, you might only be feeling little for a little while.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can 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 free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, 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.
“The 67 Exorcisms of Anneliese Michel” from Bugged Space Horror Stories, and Gabe Paoletti from All That’s Interesting
“The Peculiar Happenings at Penkaet Castle” by A. Sutherland for Ancient Pages
“The DMT Mystery” posted at Anomalien
“Ghosts and Folklore” by Brian Haughton
“What Happens When You Let a Black-Eyed-Kid Inside Your House?” by Lara Cuschieri for Horror Movie Blog
“What Is It Like To Have Alice in Wonderland Syndrome?” by Laura Allan for Ranker
WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, 2023.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God.” – Psalm 42:11
And a final thought… “Life is good if we allow it to be. There is nothing permanent about the path we are taking. Living in the present moment will keep us grounded and connected.” – Anthony L. Sardella
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.