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…

Even if you are behind the times when it comes to social media, you’ve likely heard of TikTok, the mobile app that seems to be replacing Snapchat and even Instagram in some demographics when it comes to short video clips. Less well known is Randonautica – another app that takes you on an adventure to who-knows-where, not even you will know until you get there, which is supposed to be the fun of it. And if you are already familiar with both of these apps, you likely already know the story I’m going to share. If you’re not – well, then you’re in for an adventure yourself. (The Randonautica Dead Body)

Not everything creepy that happens to someone can be classified as paranormal or otherworldly. In fact, a majority of the things that give us goosebumps and set our hair up straight are totally explainable… but that doesn’t mean they aren’t terrifying. We’ll look at some true stories from people who had some creepy experiences that while scary, were not of supernatural origin. (Creepy Things This Side of Normal)

One girl seemed to be able to move things with the power of her mind. Another girl seemed to have the strength of a dozen men. Were they charlatans, mere entertainers, or were their powers derived from something supernatural? (The Electric Girl and the Georgia Wonder)

But first… when you think of bleak, mysterious murders with a Gothic hue, a small town in early 20th century Kansas is not the first thing that springs to mind. Neither is a postmaster, for that matter. Well, think again. (The McElheny Murder)

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Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!

We do not know very much about the life of George McElheny of Louisburg, Kansas (population 500,) because there wasn’t very much to say. He was the town’s postmaster, which suggests he was a man of some local standing and respectability. He gave the impression of being a classic “ordinary citizen”; someone who quietly lives their life without distinguishing themselves in either a positive or negative fashion.
On the evening of October 5, 1912, the 32-year-old McElheny, along with his wife Maude and their two young children, Victor and Winifred, attended a band concert. After they returned home, George went to the kitchen of their little cottage to adjust an oil lamp, while his wife went to another room to take off her wraps. All was quiet. Then, around 10 p.m., someone silently walked up to the screen door of the kitchen and shot McElheny through the screen, killing him almost instantly. The assassin then vanished into the night. Although the screams of McElheny’s wife and children sent neighbors instantly rushing to the scene, no one saw any sign of the murderer.
This was one of those murders that left authorities in an instant state of befuddlement. Literally no one had any idea why anyone would murder McElheny in such a cold, execution-style fashion. Robbery was clearly not the motive, and the dead man was a churchgoing, friendly sort with no enemies. His marriage of twelve years was believed to have been a happy one.
The first thing police did was to bring in bloodhounds, in the hope they could find the killer’s trail. Three hundred men, virtually the entire male population of Louisburg, was summoned. They all stood in line to be inspected by the dogs. The hounds took little notice of any of them. The dogs followed a trail which led to a circuitous route for a half-mile to the train depot. The dogs refused to go any further.
Lacking any workable clues, the press then did what it usually does in such situations: bring on the usual suspects. The first to be named was a laborer for the Missouri Pacific named Harvey McCoy, on the grounds that it was said McCoy had quarreled with McElheny over the laborer’s desire to sell bootleg whisky at the Louisburg fair. (McElheny was the fair’s treasurer.) It was alleged that McCoy had recently bought a box of gun shells similar to the shell found at the murder scene. Newspapers soon reported that McCoy had been arrested and charged with the slaying.
And then, the newspapers had one of those “Oopsie!” moments which make libel lawyers throw their hats in the air and emit three cheers:
***Headline: “Report of Arrest of M’Coy Untrue” Story: The report published by the Daily Capital that Harve McDoy of Osawatomie had been arrested charged with the murder of George McElheny, the postmaster at Louisburg, who was shot to death, was untrue and without foundation of fact. Mr. McCoy has not been arrested and has not been charged with murder. The report, under an Osawatomie date line, was made up out of the whole cloth and the Capital was misled and published the report supposing it to be true. The report does Mr. McCoy an injustice and the Capital cheerfully publishes this retraction in justice to Mr. McCoy. (Topeka Daily Capital, October 13, 1912)***
Exit Mr. McCoy from our little story. (And, yes, he sued several different newspapers and one Keith Clevenger for defamation.)
A local “citizens committee” offered a reward of $1,000 for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of this peculiarly mysterious murderer. No one came forward.
Lacking any sort of clues to follow, the story quickly died in the newspapers. On October 31, it was reported that one William Henson had bought the late McElheny’s bird dog, “considered by sportsmen as one of the best ones in this part of the country,” for $15.
It was looking as if this sporting dog would be the last word on the murder. Then, in late December, the inquest into McElheny’s death was held, and things quickly got interesting. This hearing had been held in secret, with the jury hearing from a variety of witnesses behind closed doors. This testimony apparently consisted entirely of gossip and innuendo, but it was enough to have one Charles H. Crosley accused of the murder.
The 60-year-old Crosley had been considered one of Louisburg’s most respected citizens. From what was reported, the case against him was laughably feeble. Several days after the murder, one person told another that Crosley had said he would “kill someone.” This alleged statement circulated through the town until, inevitably, McElheny’s name was inserted as the “someone.” Shortly after the murder, it was rumored that Crosley had a pair of shoes in no need of repair, but he had taken them to be “half-soled,” anyway. Was this to prevent the shoes being fitted into the tracks left by the murderer? (Sadly for the gossips, testimony from Crosley’s shoemaker established the innocence of Crosley’s act.)
Crosley himself issued a signed statement. It made a convincing case for his innocence:
“I did not kill George V. McElheny. I had no reason to do so. He was one of my best friends. If I had sufficient reason to kill him or any other man I would have done so in daylight and there would have been no need for any detectives. I welcome arrest because I have sufficient evidence to show that I could not possibly have committed the crime. George was killed at about 9:45 o’clock in the evening. I can prove that I reached my home at 9:30 o’clock and was playing solitaire when the shot was fired. A relative of the dead man was at my house at the time and another relative talked with me over the telephone ten minutes before the murder. My house is nearly a mile from the McElheny home. Another thing, I have not owned a shotgun for more than twenty five years and I have not fired one in five years. I never have borrowed one. I have obtained denials from two persons whose statements are said to have led to this slander and gossip and I am more than willing to face any man who has anything upon which to connect me with this murder.”
McElheny’s relatives, including his widow, asserted their belief that Crosley had nothing to do with the murder.
The secret inquest went on. And on. And on. It was now alleged that for weeks, McElheny had lived in fear of being attacked, but by whom? And why? Nobody knew. Investigation into his professional and private life revealed no reason for anyone to want him dead.
On January 7, the inquest finally adjourned, without hearing anything the least bit useful. The jury gave the standard verdict of murder by person or persons unknown. President Wilson appointed Mrs. McElheny to succeed her late husband as postmaster. And life went on.
It looked as if the investigation into the murder was as dead as McElheny himself. Then, in April 1915, came a development absolutely no one had predicted: Maude McElheny went to the Miami county prosecutor and told a tale outdoing the most lurid dime novels of the period.
Mrs. McElheny claimed that before her husband’s death, one Roscoe Hornbaker had written to George suggesting they indulge in a spot of wife-swapping. When McElheny declined, Hornbaker “forced his attentions” on her. She was never a willing partner in the affair, but she continued to sleep with him because he threatened to tell her husband about their relations if she refused him. He also tormented her with allegations of George’s infidelity. Hornbaker told her that George was having an affair with Charles Crosley’s daughter Zelda (who worked in McElheny’s post office) and was planning to elope with her, taking George’s son Victor with them. (Maude explained that Zelda liked their son, but not their daughter.)
Hornbaker subsequently urged her to kill George by putting ground glass in his food. Once George was dead, Roscoe would murder his own spouse, and then the two of them could be together. When she refused, Hornbaker took matters into his own hands by hiring a hit man to shoot his rival. (She learned of Hornbaker’s guilt in a dream, in which her husband appeared at her bedside and named Roscoe as the man who had him killed.) She explained her long silence about all these fascinating details by saying Hornbaker had threatened to kill her as well if she told anyone.
Hornbaker, a 39-year-old mail carrier from the office where George McElheny had been postmaster, was immediately arrested. He vigorously denied every word of Maude’s story. “It is a frame-up!” he declared. He had never been intimate with Mrs. McElheny, he knew nothing about the murder, and he had no idea whatsoever why the widow would accuse an entirely innocent man. He added that he could prove he was at home with his family at the time of the murder.  (As a side note, many people commented that it seemed unlikely that in a nosy and gossipy community like Louisburg, such a liaison could go unnoticed.)
The statement of Hornbaker’s wife Belle took the mystery’s weirdness quotient up by quite a few notches:
“Mrs. McElheny never was in any room of my house alone with my husband. I do not think she ever was alone with him anywhere. I am sure there was no love affair between them. My husband has always been good to me, much better than most husbands and we had a perfectly happy married life. He never had an affair with that woman, of that I am sure. Why she is accusing him I don’t know. But she has some motive. She came to my house on the 19th day of last March and talked with me in a friendly manner for a few minutes. Then she said, ‘Are you alone?’ I said I was. ‘I want my letters, she cried. She was sitting behind me and as I turned my head, astonished at her words, she had a revolver pointing at my head. I jumped up and caught it and threw it up. See where I bent my thimble in the scuffle. I feel sure she was going to kill me. Never did I see such a look In a human being’s eyes as was in hers. I knew I was fighting for life. I tried to get her out of the door but was not strong enough and at last I got near the entrance myself and slipped out and hanged the door. I ran for my life to my neighbor, Mrs. John Rice’s, and told her what had happened. Mrs. McElheny followed me out of my house and Mrs. Rico saw her.”
Hornbaker was a liked and well-respected member of the community, so his arrest came as a general shock. What was even more startling was that there was at least some corroboration for Mrs. McElheny’s scandalous story. At Hornbaker’s trial, Dr. F.J.V. Ferrel, coroner of Miami county at the time of the murder, testified that the defendant had repeatedly urged him to call off the investigation into McElheny’s death. After first denying that he had letters from Mrs. McElheny, he finally admitted that he did, and reluctantly agreed to give them to Ferrel. He then continued to pester the coroner, asking if “Maude had told anything,” and if she would “keep still.”
These letters were introduced into the court record. They were described as “tangled and incoherent missives,” indicating that Maude hated and feared Hornbaker, and she repeatedly begged him to leave her alone.
Maude’s testimony was a repetition of her initial confession. The “unusually attractive” young woman was obviously extremely nervous on the stand, telling her story in a halting manner, with her eyes continually downcast.
Hornbaker’s attorney opened the defense by asking Mrs. McElheny point-blank if it wasn’t true that she herself shot her husband. He pointed out that she testified that she had been in the front yard to collect a milk delivery just seconds before the shooting. “Did you take George’s shotgun with you when you went out after that milk,” he thundered. “Did you go around to the kitchen door to shoot him, then run back and come in by the front way?”
The shaking, white-faced woman stammered out a denial.
Evidence exonerating Hornbaker for the murder was given by a Louisburg telephone operator, Edgar Hand. He testified that on the night of the murder, Mrs. McElheny phoned to tell him of the tragedy. He then called Hornbaker, who instantly answered the phone. Hand noted that Hornbaker’s home was a considerable distance from McElheny’s.
The defense continued to suggest that Maude was the real murderer. Hornbaker took the stand, still denying Maude’s story in its entirety. He stated that his reason for talking about Mrs. McElheny after the murder was that in 1912, George had given him several notes he had found hidden in his home. They were love letters Maude had written to a fellow postal service employee named Alf Moody. These letters naturally concerned George, and he asked his good friend Roscoe to put them in safe-keeping for him.  (Hornbaker added that he himself had once caught Maude and Moody getting frisky in a back room of the post office.)  Hornbaker claimed that following the murder, Maude learned he had the letters. When he refused her demands to give them to her, she threatened to implicate him in George’s death. As for his alibi, his wife and children testified that he was at home all the night of the murder.
After all the testimony had been heard, the judge told the jury they had two choices: return a verdict of first-degree murder, or acquit the prisoner. He advised them that circumstantial evidence was not enough for a conviction, and warned them against believing implicitly all the witnesses. As nearly the entire case against Hornbaker was circumstantial, this was believed to be very good news for the defendant.
And so it was. On June 24, 1915, after two and a half hours of deliberation, the jury delivered an acquittal. After the verdict was read, Hornbaker told the reporters that although as a result of the trial, he had lost his job and was forced to mortgage his home, he fully intended to return to Louisburg and start over. That appears to have been exactly what he did.  He remained in Louisburg until his death in 1945.  Maude McElheny remained Louisburg’s postmaster until at least 1923. Chance encounters around town between those two must have been…awkward.  Maude married two more times before she died in California in 1960.
So. If Maude McElheny was telling the truth, Roscoe Hornbaker, our humble little small-town mail carrier, was a villain who could have taught the worst of the Borgias a thing or two. If Hornbaker was telling an honest tale, Mrs. McElheny was a psycho straight out of “Fatal Attraction.” Or were there elements of truth and falsehood in both their stories?
In any case, it’s quite startling to browse the old newspapers and stumble across a small Kansas town which would be right at home on “Midsomer Murders.”
An interesting side note: In January 1916, John Bush, a farmer living eight miles northwest of Salina, Kansas, was murdered under circumstances eerily similar to McElheny’s. One evening, as he sat at his kitchen table reading a newspaper, a gun blast fired through a window killed him instantly. Nine months later, a farmer named William Patterson, who lived about three miles from Louisburg, was slain in an identical fashion. Reading newspaper at kitchen table.  Gunshot through the window.  Dead.  Neither killing was ever solved.
Could there be a connection between these three odd–and oddly alike–murders?  Unfortunately, that question is fated to remain forever unanswered.

When Weird Darkness returns, not everything creepy that happens to someone has to be paranormal in nature – we have some real hair-raisers that have nothing to do with spooks and specters, but do still have human monsters scaring the wits out of people. Up next.

Not everything that’s unexplained can be chalked up to the paranormal. Some things do have answers, even if they come years later. Still, it’s a strange world. There are moments in life that defy logic, and these moments can influence the rest of our days. At their worst, they can be the cause of irrational, deep-seated fears. But at their best, they make for really great scary stories. We’ve compiled a few stories from Redditors of those unexplainable moments. Here, people describe places, other people, and events that, at the time, sincerely creeped them out. If you can relate to waking up in the middle of the night to strange noises or meeting a stranger that says things that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up, then these stories are for you.
***From Redditor /u/[deleted]: A few years ago, I was visiting my girlfriend who had newly moved to New York. We had a long wonderful weekend but we really didn’t want it to end. The whole subway ride back to her place, on the last day, we were making out and generally canoodling. Anyway, we finally get to her stop (I’m staying on to head to the bus station); as she gets up so does a large male passenger. She gets up to the door and he stands right behind her. I wave goodbye as she steps off the train. Then he (the large, male passenger) looks at me with a demonic smile, points at my girlfriend’s back, and mouths the words “I’m going to kill her.” I jump up and try to get to the door but it’s closed by the time I get there. I try desperately to call the police but I can’t get a signal. At the next stop, I bound through the station to the surface where I call my girlfriend. She was fine, but freaked out. I ran the 14 blocks to her place and stayed with her all night rather than going home.
***From Redditor /u/bernadactyl: When I was a young child living in one of the high crime areas of town, I woke up in the middle of the night out of nowhere. This was something that never, ever happened to me, given how sound of a sleeper I was. I left my bedroom, went down the stairs and past the front door to get to the kitchen. After getting a drink of water, I turned around to go back upstairs to my bedroom. The front door was open. It hadn’t been open just a moment ago. Our car had been broken into a day earlier, so I was already on high alert. I stood, completely frozen, staring at that door for a good 10 minutes before I could bring myself to move. When I finally did go over and shut the door, our porch creaked in the background as though someone was walking on it as I closed it. It was the scariest moment of my childhood. I still get the willies thinking about it.
***From Redditor /u/rhenzel: I had a party at my apartment with my friends from college. We had music, beer pong, drinks… a typical party. Pretty low-key. There were only like 12 of us, just looking for something to do on a Sunday night since we had the Monday off. We live in a complex that has rows of townhomes and a huge parking lot. It was about 11:30 pm, and there was a knock at the door. Figuring it was one of our neighbors, I opened the door. There was a very pale, skinny, bleach-blonde girl standing there. She looked sickly, like a serious drug addict. She asked if any of us had a lighter, and my friend Nick gave her one. She walked into our apartment and lit her cigarette in our kitchen while everyone stood there silently and awkwardly watching her. She stood there for a minute, looking around, abruptly said, “Thanks,” and walked out the door. Our window was open, and we saw her walk down the steps to the parking lot and get in a car directly in front of our window, watching us. There was another girl and a guy in the car with her, equally sickly looking. We laughed it off, and the party went on. Every so often, however, we would look out the window, and the same car would be there – the people were always watching us. This carried on until about 1:30 am when the three got out of their car and knocked on our door again. Nick opened it to see what they hell they wanted (he’s an extremely intimidating-looking guy), and the blonde girl said with virtually no expression, “We just wanted to know if we could come in. You guys look fun. Like, beer pong fun.” We politely declined, since it was late and people would be leaving soon, and she got irate and started screaming at us that we were idiots. We closed and locked the door. They walked back to their car and watched us again. Everyone started to leave around 2:30 am. The only people left were my roommate and I, two 20-year-old females. The car was still there. Still watching. My roommate and I sat at the kitchen table, talking about what we should do, and the car started flashing their lights into our window, which went on for a few minutes. We shut the lights off and closed the blinds, but peeked through them to see what was going on. The car sat there for a few more minutes, then drove away. It was one of the most bizarre moments of my life.
***From Redditor /u/CreepyCarbs: Being the manager of a clothing store, I sometimes help other stores out, too. A few weeks ago, I was asked by my boss to work a night shift at a store located in a different mall. I’ve never been to that mall before and figured working there would be interesting, so I took the shift. The mall closed at 10:00 pm, and I left the store by 11:30 pm. Walking back to the parking structure was kind of creepy. The concrete structure was dimly lit. There were still several cars left in the structure, probably belonging to mall employees. I had completely forgotten where I had parked. So there I was, aimlessly wandering the parking structure looking for my car. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw an elderly homeless man coming towards me. He asked me, “You looking for your car?” Not wanting to be rude I responded, “Yes.” The homeless man nodded and beckoned for me to follow him. Not really knowing what to do, I decided to follow. We walked for about five minutes across the structure and up a flight of stairs. Then he stopped right in front of my car and told me, “It’s not safe to drive a car that’s low on motor oil, you know.” Then he proceeded to walk away. After getting into my car, I noticed that it WAS low on oil. I have no idea how he knew where my car was or how he knew it was low on oil.
***From Redditor /u/1_point_21_gigawatts: I was getting gas in Portland, OR, about six years ago, shortly after leaving the Horse Brass Pub after having dinner with a couple of friends. I don’t remember which gas station it was, but I recall it being a few blocks from Horse Brass. (It should be noted that in the state of Oregon, you’re not allowed to pump your own gas.) The station attendant was an old, bearded white guy with a steely look in his eyes. I told him to fill up the tank, and he did so, saying nothing. After he was done, he leaned in close to my window and whispered in a gravelly voice, “You see that guy over there?” He motioned toward the corner of the building where a young Black man was pacing nervously. “He’s getting ready to kill me.” I said, “Really? How do you know?” “I can see it in his eyes. I ain’t afraid of him. I already been dead once.” I had no idea what to say, so I just paid and got out of there. My friend who was in the passenger seat was really stoned, and it freaked him out so bad, he was on the verge of tears. I am still completely dumbfounded and creeped out by that experience.
***From Redditor /u/DSice16: One of my friends has some land out in the country, and he invited a group of about eight of us to go up there for the weekend. One night, we’re all sitting around a fire kind of near the edge of the woods. There’s been some smoking and drinking, but not enough that we were crazy or anything. Anyway, we’re all joking and talking and just having a good time when suddenly, one of the guys, let’s call him Mike, looks over at the woods and freezes. His face goes dark as his eyes widen and mouth slowly opens. By now, we’ve all frantically glanced at the forest, but see only trees. Finally, one of us breaks the silence to ask him what’s wrong, and he cuts us off mid-sentence to alert us of the “hooded man in black” that’s standing at the edge of the forest. We all look over again, hoping to see nothing, but expecting to see something. Again, only trees. We reassure him that there’s nobody there to which he responds, “The hooded man. He wants to kill y’all.” Now, this isn’t exactly what you want to be told around midnight in a remote location, especially when we’re all a bit under the influence. Starting to get panicked, we joked about it, saying, “Oh, yeah, here he comes!” But Mike’s expression doesn’t change. He says, “He’s walking over here! He’s going to kill us! TOUCH MY SHOULDER AND END THIS!” Now we’re really starting to get freaked out. Plus, we have no idea what the shoulder bit means. Mike’s anxiety and hostility continue to increase, and he keeps repeating “the hooded man… the man in black… he wants to kill you… touch my shoulder and end this.” Finally, he bursts into tears. We sat in silence for a few minutes while he sobbed, and then his trance was broken. After this pleasant encounter with unseen hooded murderers, Mike’s buddy tells us that Mike has had a reoccurring dream his entire life of a hooded man in black killing his entire family. Then, right before he kills Mike, he touches his shoulder, and Mike wakes up. Either way, that was the creepiest night of my life.
***From Redditor /u/[deleted]: I was visiting a school in New York a few months back; I’m from the West Coast. My mom and I are on the train from Grand Central to Poughkeepsie, and this train had a bathroom on it. When we got on, it was standing room only, so we and about five other people were standing by the bathroom. This older man, about 45, starts chatting with us. He asks where we’re from (we had our bags with us), what brings us to New York, and talks about how this was his daily commute. He was very kind to me and my mother. So, as we’re riding along, a man comes out of the bathroom in quite a huff, and the kind man we’d been talking to excuses himself to go to the bathroom. Remember, the train is moving at full speed at this point. A couple of minutes later, a woman and her small child ask if the bathroom is occupied, so all of us who were standing around the bathroom answer, “Yes.” Five minutes pass, then 10 minutes, until she becomes skeptical. She pulls open the door, and it’s unlocked. The bathroom is empty. There are no windows in this bathroom. There is only one door. We all agreed we hadn’t seen him leave, and all of us who had been there when he went in were dumbfounded. Where had this guy gone? I never found out. I never saw him again. I still have no idea what happened.
***From Redditor /u/planeteater: When I was younger, my aunt used to say (when she watched us) that if we were not good, she would take us to Wally Booger’s house. One day while we were driving, we called BS on her. We were acting like little brats, so she said, “That’s it!” She turned around and drove to what she thought was an abandoned house to show us were he lived. When she pulled up in the driveway she said, “Do you want me to drop you off here?” All of a sudden, some skinny old man in just sweatpants came running out of the house screaming and waving a big knife. We started screaming (including my aunt), and she got the heck out of there. We cried for an hour and begged her to never take us there again. Years later, I found out the gentleman had lived in his home for 15+ years without electricity. He died about five years ago, and they found some creepy sh*t in his home including bones of animals he had butchered and set up in a shrine in one of the rooms.
***From Redditor /u/[deleted]: A friend and I were driving across the state (Michigan) to pick up another friend and go to a concert. We got lost on our way because Google Maps told us to get off the highway and take backroads. Long story short, by the time we got to my friend’s college to pick him up, the concert had started, and we had a 45-minute drive to the venue. We bailed on the concert and just hung around Rochester. It got to be around midnight, and the drive home takes three hours, so we said our goodbyes and hit the road. Once again, Google Maps told us to get off the highway and take some kind of backwoods road. The first sign that something creepy was going to happen was the “don’t pick up hitchhikers” sign. We made a joke about it and kept driving. The directions told us to turn right onto a road and, because we didn’t look ahead on the list, we followed the turn. We wound up on a dirt road that quickly narrowed down to a little less than two proper lanes. If a car had been coming from the other way, I’m not sure how we would have squeaked by. On our right, there was a big, open field. On our left, trees. None of the trees had any leaves on them, even though it was one of the warmest Octobers we had had in years. Mid-70s all through September and into October. We drove up this road for a while and came to a stop sign, pulled through, and saw some spooky farm houses off to our right. We’re talking run-down two-story homes with burned-out barns and long driveways. Only one of the houses had any lights on – one light at the top of the house. An attic, maybe, or an upstairs bedroom. After that house, there was a cemetery. And not a little country cemetery with a couple dozen graves. We’re talking rows and rows of dead people stretching into the dark. Oh, did I forget to mention that it was pitch-black along these roads and we just had my high beams for light? After the cemetery, we were supposed to take a left onto another dirt road. We did so in complete silence. I had turned the music down because it seemed way too loud for what was happening. We drove down this new dirt road, now totally surrounded by bare trees. Then we came to another street, and our directions said to turn left again. A weight grew in my stomach. Another street, another left.
Those of you playing along at home may have realized by now that we were driving back towards the original street… Sure enough, we got back to that road at that stop sign we drove through originally. The directions had us turn right onto that road, then take another right back onto the same highway going in the same direction we were to begin with. We didn’t speak until we were miles away from there.
***From Redditor /u/[deleted]: I was watching TV in the media room (home theater type deal, no windows, etc.) of my parents’ house when I was 13-14. It was probably about 2:30 am when I heard the doorbell ring. Mind you, I grew up in a relatively rural area, not the “country” necessarily, but houses in our neighborhood were on five-acre lots. Our house was situated a couple hundred yards off the road, at the end of a long, winding driveway that went through a pretty thick patch of woods. My point being it required effort to get to our door – it was very unlikely that somebody would just wander up. But I digress, back to the media room where 13-year-old me is p*ssing his pants. So, I’m laying there on the carpet scared sh*tless because who rings a doorbell at 2:30 am with good intentions? My parents’ room is on the opposite end of the rather large house. To get there, I have to run through our kitchen, entryway, and living room. All of which have floor-to-ceiling windows, because my mom likes natural light. I make it to the kitchen and duck behind the island in the middle with my back towards the front of the house, where presumably the axe murderers/rapists are. Except they weren’t there. At least not both of them.
I looked out the back window at the silhouette of a man with his hand cupping his face so that he could get a better look inside. I got up and made a mad dash for my parents’ bedroom. As I did, the man at the back illuminates me with a flashlight following me as I run. I can hear him knocking on the glass as I reach the hallway to my parents’ bedroom. As I rounded the corner, I ran directly into my dad who had obviously been woken up by the commotion and was going to investigate. (Side note: I didn’t know my dad owned a gun until that night when I saw him walk out of his room with it.) He grabbed me, and with a very stern and serious tone said, “Get in the room with your mom, lock the door behind you, and don’t open it for anybody but me.”  I locked the door and hid in the corner. Time seemed to slow down. I heard the sound of the front door unlocking, my dad twisting the handle, the door opening, then, “Holy, sh*t. Sorry, officer. I didn’t realize.…” After a short conversation between my dad and the police, I heard my dad open the door again. The police wanted to have a quick look around to make sure everything was normal. You know, being as a man had just answered the door wearing nothing but boxer shorts with a loaded pistol in his hand. They looked around, surmised that all was as it should be, apologized, then left. Apparently, the phone lines in our neighborhood were f*cked up or something because we were the fifth house in a week to “ghost call” 911. They said they figured the same thing had happened to us, but they were still obligated to investigate every call as if it was an actual emergency.
***From Redditor /u/Stealyourdonkey: A few weeks back, my friend moved into a new house. Tim is an anarchist and – due to some connections with other anarchists – he found this place that has been empty for years. He just packed his bags and moved in. He invited a few friends over to check the place out and just chill. (We live in the Netherlands.) The house was all but empty. Obviously an artist used to live there – there were a lot of portraits, mannequins, instruments, books, and other materials. The place had a creepy vibe with pics of nude, screaming women and such. Since he just moved in, we were curious to what else might be laying around.
We found some diaries and discussed if we should read them or not. Why not? Since this person wasn’t there, reading his/her diary would be just. Otherwise, why would he even have one if not to have someone read it when he’s “gone”? A few pages in, we realized it’s a poetry book with creepy poetry – some pages looked bloody, some just had “DIE” and “I’m all alone” written in them. There were some interesting and emotional stories (mostly in English) that always ended up with someone dying or just ending randomly. We kept reading, and the more we read, the more creeped out we got. The cover of the books themselves were all creepy – skulls, corpses, and whatnot. This man might have been suicidal, insane, or just artistic as hell. We kept snooping around, and we found cassettes, but couldn’t find the means to play them. We found a ton of vinyls, but no player. We found a box full of sunglasses and a room full of mannequin heads and got more creeped out. I found a box, and all I saw in it was hair… I pulled it out. It was all attached to a mannequin helmet. That was it, actually. But – there’s this one room upstairs. It’s cemented shut. I want to see what’s in there.
***From Redditor /u/Dtoppy: One day, my friends and I were climbing this large pine tree in the state park. When we got near the top, we stopped on a couple branches and looked out across the lake and into the trees. Suddenly, a subtle flash of pale green light went through my vision. It flashed in an electric kind of way, somewhat like a lightning pulse, except greenish. There were also no storm clouds in the sky. It was around dusk. I’m not exactly sure why, but automatic fear tears were produced upon seeing this flash. I mean, I wasn’t noticeably shaken up or even alarmed to be honest; my eyes just reflexively welled up (not crying, though). The weirdest thing about it was that my two other friends saw it as well. And not only did they see it – I looked over, and they were misty-eyed as well. We hadn’t said anything to each other except for “You saw that, too?” “Yup.”
***From Redditor /u/Indosay: There was a really bad storm as my girlfriend and I were driving up Interstate 69 in Indiana toward Muncie. It hadn’t rained here in like a month so we were pretty pumped. Anyway, this storm kinda built up really quickly and just started pouring. We didn’t think anything of it at first – we were happy for the long-due rain. But suddenly, the wind picked up really, really badly. Dust and debris in the fields around us suddenly lifted into the air and began swirling around in a giant funnel-shape around the car – maybe a football field-length on either side of the car. My girlfriend, who is terrified of storms, was freaking out thinking there was going to be a tornado that dropped on top of our car. I kept it together, but definitely laid on the gas pedal. For a few moments, the wind blew from left to right, then a few seconds later, it was blowing right to left. Anyway, we made it through with no problems. When we got to where we were going, some of the guys said they watched as a funnel cloud dropped about halfway to the ground for about 30 seconds right over where we were. Later that night, it was confirmed on the news, a spotted funnel cloud, again, dropped right where we were. We had driven through what was almost a tornado, and it was intense as f*ck. Creepiest feeling I’ve ever had, knowing that if I had merely looked up, I would have seen the start of a tornado dropping down onto my car. Probably would have peed myself, to be honest.
***From Redditor /u/TheDutchGuy87: This happened three years ago, on a VERY, VERY hot summer day. We could see some dark clouds forming on the horizon from our garden. So my little brother and I fired up our PC and checked the weather radar. There was a pretty bad patch of rain and thunder on a collision course with our town. When the clouds were finally over our heads, the whole family was in the yard looking at the lightning that was cracking some miles away. Out of nowhere, lightning hit our greenhouse, which I was two to three meters away from. I could actually feel the static on my arm hair and saw my own shadow in the whitish-blue light as I ducked out of reflex. The buzzing sound was intense as an arc of lightning crawled across the iron gutters of the greenhouse. This all happened in one and a half seconds. In the next moment, all of my family members were with me under our back porch. All were quite literally shocked, but no one was hit. Creepiest thing I can recall by far.
***From Redditor /u/Pandoraexpress: A few years ago, I was eating at a restaurant with a few friends. Our table was seated next to a window that went floor to ceiling with a divider between the two. As everyone is talking and joking around, I casually look out the window. Below the divider, there is a little girl crouching and staring at me. She isn’t smiling, she isn’t frowning – just has a stone-faced stare. After a few minutes of uncomfortable eye contact, the mother takes the girl by the hand and tries to lead her away. The girl doesn’t move; she just continues to stare. After two or three tries, the mother finally picks the girl up and walks away. I never told my friends, and I still think of that girl’s little face sometimes.
***From Redditor /u/jake0818: I was out hunting in Northern Ontario. There were no roads (except for a logging roads) within 130 kilometers – it was late on the bear season, so no one was out hunting in my quadrant. I found a nice campsite alongside a river and hunted from there. On the second day of my hunt, I came across the bear tracks. I tracked them for about two hours, then turned around. This is when sh*t got very f*cking weird. I always track on one side of the tracks and return on the other. About 200 meters down the east side of the tracks, I ran into another human footprint which disappeared across the trail and into the woods on the west. My dog (Czechoslovakian Wolfdog) didn’t seem to smell anything, so I returned to camp with minimal concern. I got back to camp at around 7:30 at night. I made a quick dinner and had a cigar by the camp. At around 12:00, I heard a snap of a branch.  After hunting for 20 years, I know only two things snap branches – bears and humans. I grabbed my firearm and a flashlight and went out after the noise. Every 100 yards, I would scan with the flashlight. My dog freaked and started growling and advancing into the woods slowly. I pulled back on his leash to slow his advance and switched on my flashlight. I saw a pair of eyes looking right back at me – they stared for about five seconds and disappeared into the woods. On the walk back, I felt anxious, scared, and uncomfortable, and I could feel someone watching me. The next night, the same thing happened. My dog went wild like I have never seen… He was whimpering, growling, and clearly very anxious. At this point, I was terrified. I didn’t go hunting that day and didn’t close my eyes once. That night, I sat up with my flashlight constantly scanning the tree line. I guess I dozed of at around one and woke again at three. I was sweating, confused, and very scared. I scanned the forest and just barely visible, about 25 yards away, there was a man and his dog. He was looking right back at me. I stared to approach him and shouted to him. I got within 10 feet. He looked awfully disheveled and stunk. The worst part was that he just stared and smiled. His eyes showed zero emotion as he whispered, “Good night.” I ran back to my tent, packed it into my pack, loaded it onto the trailer of the ATV, and drove out of there.
***From Redditor /u/BridgetteBane: When I was a kid, we’d go to these beach cabins in Maryland, right by the Chesapeake. They were small and rustic with basic comforts – nothing fancy like TVs or air conditioning. Two bedrooms and a cot in the kitchen. My siblings and I rotated on the cot so that no one got too sore from it.
A small tradition was that my mom and I would have a hot cup of tea before bed in our summer jammies. This was just our way of relaxing while everyone else went off to read or listen to music. Well, one night, I was settling onto the cot when she picked up the tea kettle to fill it. Out of the corner of my eye, I see her flinch, then say in a steady voice, “What are you doing there?” My head whipped over to the kitchenette to see her looking out the window. Then she jumped back and started screaming for my father. Somehow he knew sh*t was getting real. He ran from the back bedroom and barely paused to see my mom point towards the left side of the house. He burst out the door and towards the left of the cabin. I’ll be the first to admit I ran like a motherf*cker and baseball-slid under my parent’s bed… I was 10, and that’s what kids do when they’re terrified. I still remember the smell of the old wood and the feel of my teddy bear shielding me from whatever the hell was happening. I remember seeing my 14-year-old brother, then a medium-ranking karate student, following my dad out of the cabin at full speed. The rest of the story is an amalgamation of what I heard and what my family filled in for me. My father, a former Army Sergeant and MP with a Bronze Star, managed to tackle the guy that had been peeping into our kitchen window. He put him in an elbow lock facedown on the ground. My brother stood sentinel over both of them while my mom ran to get the cell phone we’d bought just two weeks earlier (this was in ’95 when those suckers had cords and everything). While my mom called 911, I remember hearing the guy talking. He was saying things like, “The Ouija board f*cking told me,” “I want the devil to suck my f*cking brains out,” “Satan is in cabin 10, I have to get to cabin 10,” “The devil wants me to [end] myself,” and so on. We were in cabin three, over half a mile from where he apparently intended to meet the devil. My dad kept a grip on him for probably a good 15 minutes until the cops showed up. The first thing out of the one cop’s mouth was, “Jamie, when’d they let you out?” He’d been released from jail just two weeks earlier for arson. You know where he was standing when my mom was at the sink in the kitchen? Right beside the propane tank.

Coming up… one girl seemed to be able to move things with the power of her mind. Another girl seemed to have the strength of a dozen men. Were they charlatans, mere entertainers, or were their powers derived from something supernatural? Those stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!

While Andy Warhol may have popularized the “everyone will be world-famous for fifteen minutes ” meme,  it was hardly original.  Long before the modern era,  newspaper stories often did an excellent job of spreading the kind of stories that could propel obscure individuals to instant fame for a variety of reasons.   Though this often involved bizarre mishaps or significant personal achievements,  anyone with a strange new talent could frequently capitalize on it to achieve, if not fame and fortune, at least a certain name recognition.  For a while, anyway.
And so it was with Angelique Cottin, a.k.a. the “Electric Girl”.
Though her exact birth date is not recorded,  Angelique’s early years seemed unremarkable enough.  Growing up as part of a  poor farm family in the northwestern French village of La Perrier, she likely had little education aside from the basic schooling that all rural children received at the time.   But that all changed on January 15, 1846 at 8 pm in the evening while 14-year-old Angelique was doing her customary weaving with other girls in her village.   As reports later describe, the oaken frame on which Angelique was working suddenly began jerking so violently that none of the girls could hold it in place.   Alarmed by what was happening, they girls ran off to tell their parents.   When the skeptical adults ordered them to resume their spinning, nothing unusual occurred until Angelique sat down as well.  Which was when the jerking movement began again.
When the same thing happened on the following morning,  villagers accused Angelique of being possessed and insisted that she be taken to the local priest to see if an exorcism was needed.  Fortunately, the priest was sensible enough to dismiss the fears of the villagers  and decided to observe what was happening directly.   Among the strange happenings he observed was Angelique’s chair suddenly  jerking away from her whenever she tried to sit down.  Also, the very touch of her hand seemed enough to repel the table at which she was sitting.  Impressed by what he saw, the priest then referred her to the local physician who, along with the girl’s parents, brought Angelique to Paris to be tested scientifically.  Among the scientists who agreed to participate was prominent astronomer Francois Arago who arranged for the testing to be carried out at his observatory.   There, along with several other savants,  Arago conducted different tests which were later included in a report presented to the Paris Academy of Sciences.
The report, which later received international newspaper coverage, made the following conclusions:
“1st.   It is the left side of the body which appears to acquire this sometimes attractive, but more frequently repulsive property.   A sheet of paper, a pen, or any other light body, being placed upon a table, if the young girl approaches her left hand, even before she touches it, the object is driven to a distance as if by a gust of wind.  The table itself is overthrown the moment it touches her hand, or even by a thread which she may hold in it.   2nd.  This causes instantaneously a strong commotion in her side which draws her towards the table.  3rd.  As had been observed, the first day, if she attempted to sit, the seat was thrown far from her with such force that any person occupying it was carried away with it.  4th.  One day, a chest  upon which three men were seated, was moved in the same manner.  Another day, although the chair was held by two very strong men, it was broken in their hands.”
There were additional points (thirteen in all), but I think you get the idea.
While Arago ruled out magnetism or electricity in trying to explain what was happening during Angelique’s demonstration, he eventually concluded that she was somehow generating a new force “unknown to science”.  Another savant added that “under peculiar conditions, the human organism gives forth a physical power which, without visible instruments, lifts heavy bodies, attracts or repels them, according to a law of polarity, and overturns them.”   Also, bear in mind that spirit mediums were already gaining considerable popularity across North America and Europe with table-tipping and spirit-rapping being commonly reported during countless seances.   Newspapers reporting on Angelique Cottin and the apparent verification of her remarkable powers had no trouble making a connection between her  case and assorted spiritualist claims already being made.
Against the advice of the scientists themselves, Angelique’s parents, who likely saw their daughter’s strange talents as a way of making money, started making arrangements to have her repeat her performance before a paying audience.  Before this could happen though, Arago called on the Academy to conduct more stringent testing to determine what was actually happening    Responding to Arago’s  request, the Academy appointed a formal committee of esteemed scientists to make the investigation.  And it was quite a committee. along with Arago, the other committee members were: Henri Becquerel (a pioneer in radioactivity and a future Nobel laureate), zoologist and author Isidore Geoffrey Saint-Hilaire, physicist Jacques Babinet, physician Pierre Francois Olive Rayer, and psychiatrist Etienne Pariset.
Conducted at Paris’ National Museum of Natural History just days after Angelique’s previous test, the tests devised by the appointed committee were specifically intended to rule out any possibility of fraud.   This time, however, the Committee was less than impressed by what Angelique could apparently accomplish.   About the only real effect she could demonstrate was having the chair she was trying to sit on being forcibly thrown back as previous witnesses had attested.  Unfortunately, the Committee wasn’t so easily fooled.   As they noted in their final report, “Upon serious suspicions arising as to the manner in which these movements occurred, the committee has decided that they shall be submitted to an attentive examination. It frankly announces that the investigations tended to discover the fact that certain habitual manœuvres hidden in the feet and hands could have produced the observed fact.”
Apparently unnerved by Angelique’s failure to repeat her previous performance, not to mention the accusation of fraud, her guardians suddenly announced that her powers had failed.  Certain that Angelique’s powers would return in time, they  offered to notify the Academy so they could resume the testing.   But, as the Committee noted in their report, “Many days have passed since, yet the committee has received no intelligence. We have learned, however, that Mdlle. Cottin is daily received in drawing-rooms where she repeats her experiments.”   The report ended with the recommendation that “the communications transmitted to the Academy on the subject of Mdlle. Angélique Cottin should be considered as never having been sent in.”   Being scientists, they couldn’t accuse Angelique of being a fraud but their conclusion came as close to this as they could get.
And, that was pretty much it for the Electric Girl.   Months later, Angelique’s parents announced that her powers were gone for good and she faded back into complete obscurity.   Still, despite the science behind magnetism and electricity becoming better understood,  the public fascination with Electric Girls remained as strong as ever.   Hence the popular appeal of Lulu Hurst, aka the Georgia Wonder…
In late 1883, this 15-year-old girl from Polk County, Georgia began a fast climb to national prominence through her exhibitions of a physical strength that appeared to be entirely out of proportion to her willowy frame. She claimed to have gained this seemingly supernatural strength, which she referred to as “the Power,” “the Force” and “the Great Unknown,” during a violent electrical storm.
Within months, Lulu Hurst had progressed from local exhibitions to the vaudeville circuit. Promoted as the “Georgia Wonder” and the “Magnetic Girl,” she soon became a top-billed performer, sometimes earning more in a single show than most Americans made in a year.  At a time when the standard vaudeville fare largely consisted of singers, dancers, comedians and the occasional juggler or acrobat—and when women were widely believed to be weak and delicate—the spectacle of a teenage girl apparently hurling stalwart men around the stage made for a diverting evening’s entertainment.
The following description of some of Hurst’s feats is taken from a report by the Augusta Chronicle. The audience and participants in this case were members of the Mercer University faculty, including Dr. A.J. Battle, the president of the University and a Baptist minister:
“Professor Battle brought in a new umbrella. Miss Hurst then took the umbrella, and, as she touched it, the article flew about the room, and Professor Battle was forced to release his hold. Miss Hurst then picked up the umbrella and it immediately flew to pieces. She then took a large stick, Professor Battle, Dr. Brantley, and others endeavoring to hold it; all were necessitated to jump about the room like jumping-jacks. Professor Willet took hold of the stick, but was immediately forced to let loose his hold. Miss Hurst invited all in the room to hold the stick; she could, by her touch, force them all to dance around.”
Audiences flocked to see Hurst exhibit these feats, including skeptics who analyzed her act and drew their own conclusions. These had less to do with mysterious electro-magnetic energies and more to do with subtleties of physics and psychology.
Professor Simon Newcomb’s article for the February 1885 edition of Science thoroughly debunked the Georgia Wonder phenomenon. Newcomb characterized the success of Hurst’s act as “a striking example of the unreliability of human testimony respecting the phenomena of force and motion.”
The “Balance Test,” for example, required Hurst to seemingly resist the strength of one, two or even three large men, all pushing with both hands against a sturdy wooden pole held horizontally, while Hurst herself stood opposite them, one or both hands pressed against the middle of the pole, sometimes even balancing on one foot.  Although the men appeared to be throwing all their combined strength and weight into the task, Hurst never budged.
Her secret, Newcomb proposed, lay primarily in the principle of the lever and fulcrum. As Hurst’s opponents were being given their instructions by her manager, she would begin to exert a slight upward pressure against the pole.  Meanwhile, the men were told to press forward in an attempt to push Hurst off her balance. As they braced their stances and tensed their muscles, Hurst sustained her upward pressure, invisibly deflecting and redirecting their force.
While it appeared to spectators—and even felt to the men themselves—as if they were truly exerting all their power in trying to push her backwards, in reality they had been tricked into fighting to simply keep the pole level in space. If Hurst suddenly shifted the direction of her pressure, her opponents would stagger off-balance as they strained to co-operate in keeping control of the pole; another shift could send them tumbling around the stage.
Ingenious variations of the same principles explained the rest of her feats with props such as umbrellas and wooden chairs; in each case, Hurst’s opponents were essentially set up to lose, but the set-up and leverage trickery were so artful that only a few astute observers were able to spot them, and fewer still could explain them.
Of course, neither Professor Newcomb’s academic exposé nor the several that followed it received anywhere near the same attention as Hurst’s vaudeville performances. Her audiences were generally more interested in occult spectacle than in science. The Georgia Wonder’s earnings approached the equivalent of one million dollars when, one night in November of 1885, she abruptly announced her retirement.
Perhaps young Hurst was tired of life on the road and simply felt that she’d made enough money. In any case, two years later she had married her former manager and was living a quiet life of relative luxury in Madison, Georgia.
The “Magnet Act” still had the power to attract audiences, however, and it was soon back on the vaudeville circuit, performed by numerous imitators, including Mattie Lee Price, Annie Abbott and (somewhat later) Matilda “Tillie” Tatro. In some cases, the mimics out-shone the original. So it was that, in 1897, Hurst wrote (or at least lent her name to) a best-selling memoir titled Lulu Hurst (The Georgia Wonder) Writes Her Autobiography, and For the First Time Explains and Demonstrates the Great Secret of Her Marvelous Power.
The book positions Hurst as an innocent who’d had no idea how her Great Unknown power worked while she was performing. The first section includes a short autobiography and a description of the mysterious electrical storm, then moves into a city-by-city account of her vaudeville adventures, liberally quoting from newspaper reports about her act.
The second section, which was independently copyrighted, explains all her signature feats much as Professor Newcomb’s article had, with the addition of diagrammed photographs showing subtle lines and angles of counter-leverage. These insights, she claimed, had only come to her long after the end of her career as the Georgia Wonder.
It seems unlikely that Hurst really was as naïve about the physical principles of her act as she later professed to have been. Her experience as a professional “mystifier” did, however, grant her a unique perspective on the gullibility of the general public and on the power of the ideomotor effect, which describes the influence of expectation and belief upon muscular action.
Hurst noted that her opponents’ faith in her “supernatural power” often caused them to unconsciously exaggerate the effects of the Great Unknown.
“[This] is, to my mind, a psychological problem of vast importance,” she wrote in her autobiography. “It shows the absolute sway of the imagination over all the faculties and mental and physical powers of the human being, and in this case it illustrates it on such a stupendous scale!”
Hurst’s popularity inspired various copycats, but none would ever match her popularity, or Angelique Cottin’s, for that matter…
While children claiming mysterious powers don’t attract the attention they once did given our more skeptical age, instant celebrities seem more common than ever thanks to the power of social media.  Perhaps these instant celebrities should pay closer attention to Angelique Cottin’s story and how rapidly that fame can slip away.   People are always searching for the Next Big Thing, whether it involves Electric Girls, or TV talent show winners, and today’s Georgia Wonder becomes yesterday’s news much sooner than anyone realizes.

Up next on Weird Darkness… even if you are behind the times when it comes to social media, you’ve likely heard of TikTok, the mobile app that seems to be replacing Snapchat and even Instagram in some demographics when it comes to short video clips. Less well known is Randonautica – another app that takes you on an adventure to who-knows-where, not even you will know until you get there, which is supposed to be the fun of it. And if you are already familiar with both of these apps, you likely already know the story I’m going to share. If you’re not – well, then you’re in for an adventure yourself, up next.

Have you ever wanted to go on a road trip? Something small, spur of the moment, with no real destination in mind? Did you know that there’s an app for that? Meet Randonautica, the app that lets you set a distance radius, and then gives you random coordinates. It’s up to you whether you want to take the trip, and for many during the COVID-19 pandemic, it was a way to pass the time when everything was closed. For one group, heading out to those random coordinates ended with a grisly discovery.
On June 19, 2020, a group of teens set out on a Randonautica adventure. Their set of random coordinates led them to a beach in the 1100 block of Alki Avenue SW, in Seattle, Washington. Using TikTok to record their adventure, they spotted a black suitcase on the rocks near the water. They can be heard laughing, and thinking it could have money in it, one girl is encouraged to go open it up.
The area already had a foul smell, but once she unzipped the suitcase, it only got worse. “As soon as she opened it, the smell was overwhelming,” said one of the captions on the video. Using a stick, she pushes it open and discovers a black garbage bag.
That’s when they picked up the phone. “Okay, so she’s calling the police so we can see if it’s actually a dead body or if it’s just food,” the user @ughhenry can be heard saying. The next clip shows the group driving away, the area surrounded by police and fire trucks.
Police confirmed that the garbage bag in the suitcase did, in fact, contain human remains. “Our first reaction was to reach out to the teenagers to make sure they were doing alright. We sent a message letting them know the intention of Randonautica is not to find something disturbing like this.”
Further search of the area turned up another bag, this time in the water, with yet another body.
The King County Medical Examiner’s office identified the deceased as 35-year-old Jessica Lewis and 27-year-old Austin Wenner. Jessica had suffered multiple gunshot wounds, and Austin died of a gunshot wound to the torso before being dismembered and stuffed into garbage bags, and into the suitcase. Their time of death was identified as June 16, just three days prior.
The investigation into their murders led investigators to their landlord, 62-year-old Michael Dudley. His motive? A dispute over rent money.
Charged with two counts of first-degree murder, Dudley is being held in jail on $5 million bail. Dudley entered a plea of not guilty; his fate is yet to be decided.
As of March, 2021, Dudley remains in jail. His defense attorneys, Bradley G. Barshis, and Harry S. Steinmetz with Newton and Hall attorneys at law PLLC from Kent Washington, requested his bail be reduced from $5 million to $500,000, and that upon his release from jail, he be put on house arrest. The prosecuting attorney, Mary Barbosa argued against this, citing the atrocity of the crime, and the fact that not all of their body parts have been recovered.
Despite numerous letters attesting to his good reputation, the prosecution produced witnesses who said otherwise. According to Charlene Scranton, Dudley “has demonstrated he’s a very violent person. He went to great lengths to hide this crime. He is being charged with a horrific, also unimaginable evil crime. We believe a reduction in bail or a release from jail will place our lives and the lives of others in great danger. We feel he will tamper with the case and he is a flight risk due to the fact that he does have outside contacts with this state. He’s demonstrated that he seeks the weak, he’s manipulative, controlling and a danger to us all. Our families believe this would be a great injustice if he were to be released. We have suffered traumatic emotional pain. His request should be denied not only but revoked. This man should not be let out to put anybody else through what we’ve been through.”
Then Jessica Lewis’s aunt made a statement for the court.
“I am Jessica Lewis’s aunt. I’d like to make a statement on my family’s behalf. Medical Examiners concluded more than 1 person had helped assist the disposal of my niece and her boyfriend. To date, nobody else has been charged, except Mike Dudley. The week he was arrested somebody contacted me. They were crying and absolutely petrified, that Mike Dudley was going to get out of jail and come kill them. I convinced them to contact the Detectives on the case. Mike Dudley’s affluent family has already tried to sell his house as an undisclosed location, where less than 4 months prior, was the scene of these horrific murders. To help him make bail.
He has family & close ties to California, and upon his arrest, an ex-girlfriend voiced her concerns of him getting out of jail, as he was quote ‘well connected’. Besides the safety and possible intimidation of potential witnesses or accomplices, his history of telling others how he wants to kill his neighbors, or other people, should be enough to make sure he is not released back into the community. As there are too many uncertainties needing to be addressed, before the truth of Whom, or how, Other’s- indeed helped him, carry out this horrific crime. Most of all it’s for my family’s sake, and her children’s sake, that this man remain in jail. He has already bestowed so much pain and sorrow to my family, but to Austin’s family, and even his own. Please don’t risk another family becoming victims, for the sake of Mike Dudley’s accounts of fairness. As it’s not fair he took 2 young lives away, scarring and forever hurting everyone who knew and loved Jessica, and Austin. There are reasons why people are scared to death of this man. Possibly more afraid of him, and what he’s capable of, than telling the truth to police. Thank you for your consideration.”
As for the TikTokers, they have said the event changed their lives. “The moment I got back home, I broke down. I still can’t sleep” said user @ughhenry. What’s interesting is this isn’t the only time Randonautica has led to something creepy.
One user reports that she set her intention to “something that I needed from the universe,” and was led first to an area with a dead face painted on it, then to a tree with someone’s initials in it. When she looked up, there was a noose. Another user claimed it led him to the gravestones of two of his relatives. Then there’s the user who reported that it led her to a man who’d just been shot.

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 darren@weirddarkness.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 Randonautica Dead Body” posted at The Scare Chamber
“The McElheny Murder” from Strange Company
“Creepy Things This Side of Normal” by Michelle Nati for Graveyard Shift
“The Electric Girl and the Georgia Wonder” by Romeo Vitelli for Providentia, and Tony Wolf for Atlas Obscura

WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” – Psalm 23:4

And a final thought… “Arise, awake and stop not till the goal is reached.” – Swami Vivekananda

I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.

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