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…
With all the nastiness and violence that has taken place around the Tower of London, you’d probably expect to come across a spook or twelve… but would you be surprised to find out that it’s also haunted by a spectral bear? (Ghost Bear of the Tower of London)
In the winter of 1982, Alan Phillips was lost in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, in temperatures of -22°F (-30°C), in a blinding snowstorm. His survival and rescue was seen as miraculous… and then later it was found out that rescuers had just saved the life of a serial killer. (The Miracle Rescue of a Serial Killer)
A famous silent-film actress suddenly disappears at sea. Was she the victim of foul play? Did she fall overboard? Or was it all a hoax simply to gain publicity? (The Case of the Vanishing Movie Star)
Ghosts are almost always scary – but the most terrifying are those that become violent. The poltergeists. We’ll look at five of the most violent poltergeist cases of all time. There are some ghosts you do not want inside your home. (Violent Poltergeists)
Camping is always fun – getting together with friends or family, pitching a tent, roasting hotdogs on an open fire, telling ghost stories, hearing a snap of a twig in the brush behind you, seeing glowing eyes in the darkness, hearing animal-like growls coming from just outside your tent in the middle of the night… what’s there not to like? Okay, so maybe camping can be a bit creepy, as we’ll find out from a few Redditors who share some of their scariest camping experiences. (Camping Creepies)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! And if you’re already a member of this Weirdo family, please take a moment and invite someone else to listen. Recommending Weird Darkness to others helps make it possible for me to keep doing the show! And while you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com where you can find the show on Facebook and Twitter, and you can also join the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook group.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: CAMPING CREEPIES=====
Redditor u/cherrylbombshell asked fellow Redditors the question: “Campers of reddit, what’s the creepiest thing that happened to you in the wilderness/ at the campsite?” and the answers ranged from freaky to funny to full-blown terrifying. I’ll let you decide which story is which.
***From Redditor u/MasteringTheFlames: A few years ago, I loaded a bunch of camping gear onto my bicycle and spent the better part of the next seven months riding 5,300 miles (8,500 km) around the US. Most often I preferred to wild camp. An hour or so before dark, I’d start looking for somewhere to disappear into the woods for the night, somewhere people were unlikely to find me and even less likely to care that I was there. A remote forest makes for far from a silent night’s sleep. Think of all the crickets in a suburban neighborhood on a summer night, and amplify that by about a thousand. There were always so many crickets and toads, and even the slightest breeze would stir music out of the tree leaves. Maybe I’d camp near a babbling creek. And it was always a highlight of the night —though not particularly uncommon— to hear the yips and howls of distant coyotes. I can recall one night where I fell asleep to the sound of two nearby owls, one on either end of my tent, calling back and forth. One night in late September or early October, I was camping somewhere in the mountains of western Montana. And it was dead silent. There was not the slightest sound to be heard, not a single cricket, no nearby river or faraway coyotes. The dry leaves of autumn surely wouldn’t’ve required a strong wind to stir their song. And yet, there was only silence. It was terrifying. I can only describe it as the loudest silence I’ve ever heard. It felt as though the entire forest was hiding from an equally silent predator. Suddenly the occasional snapping of a twig —a common sound normally lost in the cacophony of the forest— was like a gunshot. I slept terribly that night, and morning could not come soon enough.
***From Redditor u/SpacemanSpiff6962: My friends and I were at a gold claim on a river deep in the national forest. We had the campfire about 10 feet from the river and the river was shallow at that point but maybe 20 feet wide. On the other side it was all heavy brush that steeply went up the mountain side. As we are sitting there with only the fire for light, bullsh*tting and drinking I looked at the river and saw two glowing eyes across the river in the bushes. They were fairly wide apart. Before we sat down an hour or so previously we had been shooting our guns in the open area so we had them all still on us or leaned against the chairs. I told the guys and we all stood up and shot all the guns we had up in the air to scare it off. We heard a deep growl grumble then something crashing through the brush as it ran away. The next morning we went over there to see if there were any paw prints and found a set of big bear tracks. The bear was summing us up to see if it could take us all at once or not. If not for the guns being shot, it may have charged.
***From Redditor u/anacondatmz: This was upstate NY along the Canadian border. I wasn’t camping, but I was out fly fishing one evening… It was right about that time when you look into the woods, it’s pitch black, outside of the bush you could see relatively well. I was at my favorite spot, about half way in the river when on the opposite side, in the woods I could hear something walking. It was slow, somewhat methodical, and it just kept getting closer to me. I started hearing it about 100 feet away, and within 10 minutes it had slowly advanced up to a set of rocks and shrubs right next to the river. All the while, if I heard a particularly loud stick break or leaf crunch, the steps / sounds would stop for a bit. At this point, I’d call out a few times, hoping it might be someone but no response… Just this creepy feeling of being stared at. Being alone, unarmed, having recently seen a mountain lion a couple kilometers away (no joke) I was a little on edge so I backed out of the water (never turning my back), fishing was good so I high tailed it about half a kilometer down the river and went back to fishing. Wasn’t long before I had the same eerie sounds of foot steps in the woods working their way up to me. At this point I got the f**k out of there as quickly as possible. Hell I didn’t even change out of my waders at the parking lot, I jumped in the truck drove a few miles down the road to a parking lot in town and changed there. About a week later, local papers reported a horse which had been attacked and suffered serious damage from what the vet described as an attack by a very “large cat” at a farm next to where I had been fishing.
Redditor u/dartfrog11: Some random guy was shuffling through my sh*t at night. I was many hours into wilderness in British Columbia. I stayed absolutely quiet and terrified in my sleeping bag in my tent and he left after like 5 minutes. I had my pocket knife out in case he tried coming into my tent. I didn’t sleep all night. In the morning I got out and checked what was stolen. Mostly food and batteries so I thought that he might just be doing this because he ran out of supplies but he also took my $600 camera so I guess not.
From Redditor u/TheChosenSnail: When I was younger, my family used to go camping every spring. Now there wasn’t much wilderness to speak of (the wildest thing I saw was a whole bunch of hares that leaped away when I tried to take a picture), so my parents would just let me and my brothers wander around wherever.
One morning at sunrise, I woke up. Everyone else was still sleeping, which means I had to stay quiet, but I got bored and decided to go on an early morning stroll. When I got back, the rest of my family was having breakfast in front of the tent and they looked at me very confused. I was like: “What?” Turns out everyone thought I was still in the tent until I casually came strolling up to them from the other side of the campsite. My parents said that they had called me for breakfast, but that I mumbled something and didn’t come. My younger brother claimed that he had heard me turning in my bed just a few minutes ago. I went into the tent to investigate. There was no one in my part of the tent. All my stuff appeared to be untouched. We shrugged it off; obviously there had been some sort of mistake or collective brainfart. However, when I needed to be somewhere that evening, I went and grabbed my flashlight, and it didn’t work. I opened it up to see what the problem was, and the batteries were missing. I checked my parents’ flashlights, no batteries. I checked my brothers’ flashlights, no batteries. We were quite spooked, and for the rest of that stay I never strayed far from the tent.
***From Redditor u/shwiftyname: Just after sundown I drove up to my campsite on National Forest land in NE Oregon and found two armed men attempting to steal my camp and camping gear, including my wall tent. I was solo and also armed (deer season). After a lot of tense negotiating I got them to return most of my stuff, but they kept being shady and trying to flank me, so I told them to f**k off. I memorized the license plate and managed to get a conviction on one of the guys I was able to ID. He maybe did a weekend in jail. I got a small check from my homeowners insurance and PTSD.
***From Redditor u/melhekhinhel: My family and our dogs all went camping for a weekend and on the first night there, probably around midnight or one AM, a pack of wolves surrounded our camp and were howling and prowling around for a good thirty minutes. They were so close that their howls were deafeningly loud. We were all wide awake of course and I remember my dad telling us to just be quiet and that the wolves were looking for our dogs most likely as they’d spent the day running around the area and peeing on everything so the wolves could definitely tell their territory had been disturbed by a strange animal. Our poor dogs were terrified lmao they didn’t make a single peep the whole time despite being awake, too. The fact we were all crammed into a tent and not safe inside a camp trailer made it much worse.
***From Redditor u/boostedprune: Possum fight in the tree above my tent. Thought all the demons were coming for me.
***From Redditor u/I_Just_Did_A_Bad: You know mine’s a little but tame. But this is both the funniest experience and scariest experience I’ve had camping. Basic scene, was camping with my family, I was maybe 7 or 8 years old. It was a nice, but BIG camp site in Northern California. It might have been some kind of church or something, I can’t recall. Regardless, it was a big and full camp. I had woken up at the crack of dawn. And no, I’m not an early riser, but my bladder was not having any of that that morning. I got up and went to the bathrooms, conveniently about 100 feet from my tent. My family was with me in the tent, it was a big 8 person (you know, the ones that actually only fit like 4). I do my business and come on out, but hear movement. I stop for a second but then reason my dad has gotten up, since he is certainly an early riser. I start to head out and catch a glimpse of the source of the noise. It is brown and furry, my dad? Well… not quite, that aside, it was your friendly neighborhood California Brown Bear. I watched in a mix of curiosity and fear, as the bear sat at the edge of our neighbor’s campsite, tore off the top of their cooler, which they had kindly- and stupidly -left out. I watch as a bright yellow pack of hotdogs comes out and is removed from its packaging (this was a resident mama bear we later found out, she knew her stuff). Upon eating the hotdogs I then witnessed the weirdest thing I have ever witnessed in my entire life. This bear manages to pull out a beer (or some glass bottle, although it was more than likely beer or some hard drink) from the cooler, and EXPERTLY pops off the cap by simply grabbing it in her teeth and bending it off. It proceeded to tilt its head back and drink what it could. And it promptly left. Honestly, I don’t trust my memory fully, but that is to date my weirdest, funniest (in hindsight), and scariest experience whilst camping.
***From Redditor u/MrSmellyEvans: When I was camping I heard lots of rustling and noise during the night. I was alone in my tent but there was 100% something moving outside. I was terrified and I saw silhouettes of an animal in the distance moving. All of a sudden I heard the biggest and deepest MOO you’ve ever heard. A herd of free-range cows had found their way to me. One cow almost took down my tent but it was all good. They were really chill.
***From Redditor u/DieselDown: I used to camp pretty often at a wilderness spot that was a flat ridge on top of a big steep hill. One section had a trail that was steep but manageable, but the rest of this hill is almost vertical and would be impossible to climb without ropes and a bunch of climbing gear. Even though the top was flat, it was a heavily wooded area, thick pine trees. Lots of underbrush. Great views of the area, and far enough off the road we never saw other people. That particular trip, my girlfriend and best friend came along, so 3 of us spread out in 2 tents. Sometime in the middle of the night a storm blew through and dropped about an inch of snow on our tents. It was a calm night without any wind, and really peaceful all zipped up in our sleeping bags. When we woke up at first light there was a distinct trail of human footprints in the snow that went all the way across the ridge, through our camp, and came about 2 feet from our tents. The crazy thing was the footprints started from an area that would be impossible to climb up, and ended at another area that would be impossible to climb down. Let alone in the dark with snow making the rocks slippery. We measured the foot prints and they were smaller than my friend and I’s boots, too big to be my girlfriend’s. Could never figure out how someone climbed up that section in the middle of the night, moved through the thick forest without making a sound, and came so close to our tents without anyone knowing. Creepy enough we packed up pretty fast and got out of there!
***From Redditor u/EhlersDanlosSucks: I was on a Search and Rescue training weekend. We specialized in locating downed private planes so we were seriously in the middle of nowhere. Hours into the woods, we found an old abandoned lookout tower. The inside was covered in huge graphic paintings of animal sacrifices. The middle of the room had a pile of animal bones. The whole thing was unbelievably creepy.
***From Redditor u/misses_massacre: I live in Montana, so camping is just what we do. I’m an experienced camper, and have ran into a lot of situations doing so, but the creepiest/scariest one was when we were camped by Cooke City here in MT. The area is well-known for grizzly bears. I’d camped in grizzly territory lots of times, so it didn’t bother me. When grizzlies pass through your camp sites they usually don’t mess with your stuff, because experienced campers have nothing exposed which would interest a predator. However, in the middle of the night, I was awakened by my dog Duke, who was low growling. I looked at him, and he had his eyes totally fixed towards the outside of the tent and he was ready to attack. It took me a minute, but then I heard the unmistakable sound of massive bear paws on the ground RIGHT outside the tent (once you know the sound, you never forget it). My dog kept growling, and the bear began sniffing at my tent forEVER. I was completely terrified, as my gun was on the other end of the tent. I didn’t want to make a sound crawling over to it, as I didn’t want to alert the bear that food (me) was inside. So I laid perfectly still. Duke continued to growl and growl at the bear, until finally the bear pawed at the tent in an attempt to get in. He didn’t claw at it the first time, but his claws scraped across the canvas and it terrified me. That’s when I instinctively (scared) shouted out, “Hey, f**k off!!!” and it scared the sh*t out of the bear. You could hear it startle and run off a bit. I grabbed my gun and unzipped my tent a little to peek outside. I couldn’t see the bear in the darkness, but my dog took off running in the direction the bear had fled. That’s when I heard it lumbering off into the forest. Eventually, Duke (the good boy) came back, and would not get back in the tent. He sat outside the tent the rest of the night, keeping watch. He was a good boy. RIP, Duke.
Coming up… a famous silent-film actress suddenly disappears at sea. Was she the victim of foul play? Did she fall overboard? Or was it all a hoax simply to gain publicity?
But first… With all the nastiness and violence that has taken place around the Tower of London, you’d probably expect to come across a spook or twelve… but would you be surprised to find out that it’s also haunted by a spectral bear?
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE GHOST BEAR=====
The Tower of London is known to be one of the most haunted sites in London. With its grisly past, it is not really surprising that many people have claimed to have seen the traumatized spirits of those who have gasped their last breath behind its grim and imposing walls. Anne Boleyn (with head, not necessarily on her shoulders and without), Margaret Pole, Arabella Stuart, Guy Fawkes, Lady Jane Grey, Sir Walter Raleigh and the two Princes have all been seen at one time or another taking their ghostly constitutionals. There is even a suit of armour, once belonging to Henry VIII, which is believed to be possessed by a malevolent spirit who takes particular pleasure in choking night guards. However, terrifying these experiences would be; crushed by an invisible enemy or watching the figures from your history books come to life (well figuratively at least), nothing would have compared with coming face to face with a ghostly fiend in the shape of an extremely large bear.
On one strange night in 1816, at the same time as Mr George Offer claimed to hear strange noises coming from the Martin Tower, one of the guards on night duty there was alarmed to witness the “figure of a huge bear issuing from underneath the Jewel Room door”. Raising his bayonet to strike the creature, he was horrified to find his weapon went straight through it and lodged in the doorway behind. Scared out of his wits, he collapsed in a fit. On being discovered, all sign of the ghostly grey bear having evaporated, he was carried mumbling to the guard room. On enquiring about the man’s mental state before the incident, Edmund Lenthal Swifte, Keeper of the Crown Jewels was assured that the guard had been perfectly fine and in good spirits. The doctor who had been sent for, dismissed any concerns that the sick man had been drinking on duty, unequivocally stating that he could discern no signs of intoxication. Swifte checking on his guard was shocked to find him “changed almost beyond recognition”. He never fully recovered, only managing to feebly and repeatedly recount what he had seen. He sadly died shortly afterwards. Whatever he had seen had shaken him to the core. It seems very much like he died of fright.
Taking on face value the truth of what happened and ignoring any suspicions of inebriation, what was it that the guard saw? A number of theories have been put forward over the years.
The Tower of London as well as being a prison for some of the most high-profile prisoners in the country and a safe for the most precious royal jewels, also had for over 600 years another unique function. It was the site of the Royal Menagerie.
Over the years the Royal Menagerie housed a remarkable number of diverse animals, most of which had been gifted to the English Royalty as a token of friendship, loyalty or esteem such as the three leopards and an African Elephant given to Henry III (the first by Frederick II on the occasion of Henry’s wedding to Frederick’s sister, Eleanor of Provence and the second by Louis IX). In the sixteenth century, the menagerie was opened to the eager public. From this period onwards, visitors could gaze in wonder at lions, tigers, lynxes, porcupines, eagles, tigers, camels, ostriches and even a flying squirrel.
It doesn’t take a lot to imagine that the lives of these animals were dire and many died a miserable and agonising death, such as the ostrich fed iron nails and the Indian elephant given wine instead of water to drink. It was believed water was bad for elephants! How they thought that elephants managed to access alcohol in the jungles of India is anyone’s guess. It is not that they necessarily meant to be cruel but animal welfare was hardly an important topic in a time when human lives mattered so little.
So, back to the bear. In 1251, Henry III was also the recipient of a most unusual prize, a polar bear or ‘white bear’ as it was known then. The bear was a gift from the King of Norway, Haakon the Young. Could it be that this incredible creature had returned from the grave to exact revenge for its poor treatment during its life? Maybe it was angry at the treatment of another bear, Old Martin, which was residing at the Tower at the time. Old Martin had been given to George III by the Hudson’s Bay Company. A present George III was not exactly thrilled with, as he was heard to have commented that he would have much preferred a new tie or socks! Old Martin was believed at the time to be a grizzly bear (later testing revealed he was, in fact, a black bear) and was known for his not so gentle temper “his ferocity; in spite of the length of time during which he has been a prisoner still continues undiminished”. It does seem unlikely that this was the reason behind the apparition as Old Martin was perfectly capable of fighting his own corner without a phantom champion, although, it may explain why the sentry tried to bayonet it, maybe in his confusion he somehow thought Old Martin had escaped.
Animal ghosts are not an unusual occurrence in Britain. Even in the Tower people have attested to hearing the ghostly roar of lions and the sound of hooves pounding the cobbles. There are even other accounts of ghostly bears. For instance, in a house in Cheyne Walk in Chelsea, there were regular reports of a phantom bear stumbling around in a frenzy. This haunting could have its seed in the stories of bears savaged to death in the cruel sport of bear-baiting, popular in the seventeenth century (a bear baiting ring was in operation very near Cheyne Walk). Another theory is that it was the spirit of a black bear belonging to Dante Gabriel Rossetti who lived at number 16 in the 1860s (this bear forming part of his collection of exotic pets).
There is also another spooky tale from Nantwich in Cheshire which tells of how the landlord John Seckerton of the Bear Inn kept four bears as a marketing strategy. Unfortunately, in 1583, the inn caught fire and Seckerton released the bears, in order to save them. Those trying to put out the fire must have had a hell of a time trying to avoid these four frightened animals. I don’t know if they were killed soon after but people have claimed to have seen their spectral forms wandering the streets of Nantwich in a confused and distressed state.
So, was it the ghost of a mistreated medieval bear, or was it the manifestation of an even earlier incarnation and one which he had even more reason to harbour resentment against its human nemesis?
Elliott O’Donnell, a well-known expert in hauntings and compiler of ghost sightings refers to the incident at the Tower of London in his book Animal Ghosts: Animal Hauntings and the Hereafter. In it, he puts forward a number of theories including his favourite, that the bear was “…the phantasm of some prehistoric creature whose bones lie interred beneath the Tower; for we know the valley of Thames was infested with giant reptiles and quadrupeds of all kinds.”
This is just as probable a theory as any other. Before the onset of the Ice Age, brown bears were commonly found throughout Britain including London. These herbivorous, prehistoric cave bears (Ursus Spelaeus) were huge, larger than any bear alive today being five feet tall at the shoulder, nearly 10ft long and weighing 400kg. Their population dwindled during the Stone Age, falling to very low numbers in the Iron Age until they were finally hunted to extinction.
Whether or not you believe that it was a primeval creature angry about the demise of its race or the revenge of a former captive making a one-off performance for old times’ sake, the odd feature of this haunting was that it did only happen once, all these other ghostly bear appearances have had more than one encore. Could there be a more sinister reason behind the creature’s manifestation and was it really a bear or simply a spirit in the form of a bear?
Another theory put forward by O’Donnell was that the manifestation was that of a vice-elemental. According to him there exists in our world a number of ‘elementals’. They can be helpful and benevolent to humans but in general, most are not. O’Donnell believed that these vice-elementals (often used in occult practices) are always with us, whispering in our ear, trying to persuade us to harm ourselves; mentally, morally and physically.
These sinister supernatural entities can take many shapes including beautiful women and manipulative men as well as the “most terrifying creatures of both man and beast”. Other examples given by O’Donnell are the Gwyllgi of Wales, a Welsh version of Old Shuck and the Mauthe Dog of Peel Castle, Isle of Man.
The legend of the Mauthe Dog although diverging in many ways from the Tower’s ghost-bear definitely had the same fatal outcome for one unlucky soul. The tale goes that in the time of Charles II when the castle was garrisoned, a large black dog appeared suddenly one night. Every evening it would make its way to the guard room and sit down at the hearth, where it would remain until morning when it would vanish. The guards initially frightened by its presence gradually became used to it, although they would always remain sober and were careful never to speak bad words in its hearing. One of the routine duties of the soldiers involved taking the keys to the Captain of the Guard Room after the castle was locked up for the night. The captain’s quarters lay at the end of a dark narrow passage. Ever since the dog’s arrival the guards had preferred to do this walk in pairs, that is until one night when one of them, brave due to drink, bragged that he was unafraid and would go alone. He refused to be dissuaded, challenging the beast with the words “Let him come, I’ll see if he is dog or devil”. As he left, the dog stood up and followed. Five minutes later, the men heard soul-wrenching screams and unnatural howls coming from the passage. Terrified, they found the guard unconscious. Three days later he was dead. He was never able to reveal what he had witnessed. The hound was never seen again.
In both the cases of the Mauthe Dog and the Tower Bear, the men saw something that frightened them to death. What it was we will never know. Was it an evil spirit or was it the Devil itself?
The Devil was believed to have the ability to transform into any creature, his favourite forms seem to have been cats, dogs, wolves and goats. He was also known to on occasion take the form of a bear.
In a pamphlet produced by the Rev. John Davenport in 1646, he includes a morality tale set twenty-four years earlier concerning the ‘witch’ John Winnick. Winnick was angry, he had lost seven shillings and was convinced that a member of his family had stolen his money. In a moment of rage, he declared that he would accept help from anyone even a ‘wizzard’ [sic]. Just then the spirit of a black, shaggy creature appeared before him with the paws of a big bear. The bear-like spirit agreed to help Winnick, if he would in return worship him. Winnick, his greed taking over, assented to this condition and as promised his money was returned. Unfortunately, Winnick had made a terrible mistake. The bear revealed itself to also be Satan in disguise, so not only did Winnick have to bow down to a bear spirit but he had forfeited his soul to the Devil, all for a few coins.
So, perhaps the guard in the tower saw the face of the Devil or perhaps not. There is one last theory which if you believe in ghosts might seem the most likely and would link itself to the history of the Tower. This is the idea that the ghost was the spirit of a man or woman who had taken the form of a bear.
The history of the Tower is a gruesome one, to put it mildly. Countless numbers of people were imprisoned there. Their suffering would have been immense. Most of them would have been interrogated and many tortured. In a way, worse than the physical abuse would have been the mental agony; not knowing what was happening or if they would ever be released. Often this anguish would last for years. If you believe that ghosts are echoes of the past and that walls of buildings can absorb negative energy than it is perfectly possible to accept that maybe the ghost bear was either a manifestation of this pain or the anger of one particular soul whose nature in life was already hardened and violent or became so during their incarceration. Maybe in death, they associated themselves with the ferocity of the bear and so for one night only, manifested as such.
No-one will ever know what the guard really saw if in fact, he saw anything at all. In the end, it doesn’t really matter. The legend of the Tower of London’s ghost-bear will continue to fascinate visitors and locals for years to come, as does the grim beauty of the Tower itself.
A word of warning, if you happen to see a bear-like form start to manifest itself in front of you whilst taking a tour of the Tower…run!
STORY: THE CASE OF THE VANISHING MOVIE STAR=====
Mary Ann Louisa Taylor (or, as she was known to her many fans, “Marie Empress,”) was a well-known actress of the silent film era. Her sultry good looks brought her much success in the “vamp” roles which were so popular in that period. She was also a talented singer, dancer, and male impersonator. Unfortunately, none of her films survive, so today, even among film historians, she is a largely overlooked figure. She is now only remembered–when she is remembered at all–for the peculiar circumstances of her death.
Little is known about Marie’s personal life. When she was 18, she married a dentist named Walter Herbert Horton. In 1906, after only four years of marriage, she left him in order to pursue a theatrical career. Horton–who seems to have taken the loss of his wife with equanimity–then moved to New Zealand. (As he explained in their 1918 divorce suit, “a wife did not want her husband when she was on the stage.”) Like most performers of her day, Marie supplied the press with many colorful and entirely fictitious details about her life, leaving her real history largely a mystery.
She became a comedienne in the music halls of her native England, where she was billed as “the girl who is making a name for herself.” This was not hyperbole. She was soon successful enough to be emboldened to try her luck in American vaudeville, where critics praised her “winning personality” and “dainty, dark beauty.” In 1915, she made her screen debut in a melodrama called “When We Were 21.” Again, she was an instant hit. Her films consistently did well at the box office, and reviewers enthused over her beauty, charisma, and acting talents. In short, Marie was well on her way to becoming one of cinema’s biggest stars.
In the fall of 1919, Marie went to England to make personal appearances and negotiate film contracts with English producers. On October 16, she boarded the Cunard steamer Orduna for her return to New York. The glamorous 35-year-old actress–always dressed in black and sporting a monocle–naturally attracted a good deal of attention from her fellow passengers. She kept largely to herself, but seemed in excellent spirits.
On the evening of October 26, the Orduna was two and a half hours out from its last stop in Halifax. Around six p.m., a stewardess brought dinner to Marie’s stateroom. Marie told her she wasn’t feeling very well, and wasn’t sure if she could eat anything, but half an hour later, when the stewardess returned to collect the dishes, she found that the actress had finished her meal. Marie told her to come back at about 9:30 with some sandwiches (it was apparently her habit to have a robust snack before going to bed.) The stewardess noted that Marie seemed cheerful and good-humored–as, indeed, she had been throughout the entire voyage.
When the stewardess brought the sandwiches at precisely 9:30, she found Marie’s stateroom empty. Presuming the actress had gone out on deck, she put the food on a table and left. The next morning, the stewardess tapped on Marie’s door. There was no answer. When she entered the room, she found that the bed had not been slept in. The sandwiches were untouched. The only items missing from the stateroom–besides Marie–were her handbag and the jewelry she had worn the night before. When she reported this oddity to the captain, he had the ship thoroughly searched. There was no sign of Marie, and no one on board remembered having seen her. The only conclusion the passengers and crew could come to is that sometime between 6:30 and 9:30 on the night of the 26th, Marie had gone overboard–whether accidentally or deliberately, no one could say.
The first mystery is how the actress could have gone into the sea. The porthole in her stateroom was far too small for her to fit through, and in any case it was found locked from the inside. For her to go on deck, she would have had to travel a number of well-lighted passageways and salons which, at that time, were crowded with people. The deck itself was also brightly lit, and full of passengers and crew members. Surely, it was reasoned, someone with Marie’s striking looks could not have slipped through and thrown herself into the sea unobserved?
The second question is why Marie would have wished to drown herself. Although she seems to have not spoken much to anyone on the ship, there was nothing indicating she contemplated anything other than a successful sojourn in New York. A rack above her berth contained a number of photographs of herself which she intended to give to the press when she arrived. From Halifax, she had cabled a New York hotel asking them to reserve a room for her. She had just completed a triumphant tour of Australian music halls, and her stewardess said Marie had hinted to her that she might soon marry.
Her disappearance was considered so inexplicable that newspapers declared that Marie was alive and well and staging an epic publicity stunt–a theory bolstered by her proven ability to pass herself off as a man. An English press agent, Walter Kingsley, coyly told reporters, “Did you ever hear of a woman registering as Miss So-and-So and later changing her room and calling herself Miss Somebody Else?” He added, “Wouldn’t it be nice if a fishing boat picked her up, or something like that happened?” The grinning Kingsley predicted that the missing woman would soon turn up “mysteriously and unannounced” in New York. Rumors spread that Marie had managed to sneak into New York disguised as one of the ship’s male crew members.
However, as the days went by with no sign of the missing actress, and her trunks remained unclaimed, it became obvious that poor Marie had gone overboard. Was this a case of accidental fall? Suicide? Or, as some darkly suggested, even murder? It was reported that a London man named Oliver Williams was “the one person who could throw light on the mystery,” but that enigmatic statement was never expanded upon.
Nothing remained to keep her memory alive except her films, which, eerily, continued to play in theaters for months after she was last seen in the flesh. Eventually, of course, even those faded away, and, before very long, the once-acclaimed Marie Empress was nothing but a forgotten mystery at sea.
Coming up… ghosts are almost always scary – but the most terrifying are those that become violent. The poltergeists. We’ll look at five of the most violent poltergeist cases of all time. There are some ghosts you do not want inside your home.
And, In the winter of 1982, Alan Phillips was lost in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains, in temperatures of -22°F (-30°C), in a blinding snowstorm. His survival and rescue was seen as miraculous… and then later it was found out that rescuers had just saved the life of a serial killer. That story is up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: THE MIRACLE RESCUE OF A SERIAL KILLER=====
Alan Lee Phillips, a 30-year-old mechanic, was rescued from the top of a high pass called Guanella Pass in Colorado’s Rocky Mountains in the winter of 1982 with temperatures down to -22°F (-30°C) in the midst of a snowstorm. Local papers described the rescue as a “miracle”.
On January 6, 1982, His pickup truck was stuck in a snowdrift and he had managed to flash SOS with his headlights and it was only by chance that a Jefferson County Sheriff happened to be on a United Airlines flight to California as it passed overhead and spotted the truck. The sheriff alerted the flight crew who radioed for rescue.
Phillips was slightly intoxicated and had a large bruise on his face when he was found but was otherwise unharmed. Dave Montoya, the local fire chief who saved him, said at the time “How in the heck did this guy get so lucky, for all the stuff to fall into place?”
The rescuers were wondering what Phillips was doing out in the Guanella Pass. 40 years on, the reason has become clear, and recent DNA analysis has found that hours before his rescue the mechanic had shot and killed two young women who were hitchhiking nearby and whose murders had never been solved.
The story has switched from a miracle rescue to that of a despicable killer of hitchhikers in the famous skiing areas around Breckenridge, Colorado.
Montoya said that on the night that he got the call from the dispatcher that a stranded motorist had been spotted from an airplane he thought “it was the craziest thing I ever heard of”.
He arrived at Guenella Pass 15 minutes later and found Phillips. “Sure as heck, there he was in his little pickup, and he saw me and said, ‘Oh, God, I’m saved.’ He said he got drunk and decided to drive home. And I said, ‘You came up over the pass?’ And he said, ‘Well, it seemed like a good idea.’”
Phillips explained the large bruise on his face by saying that he had climbed out of his truck to go take a pee and he had been blinded by the snow and hit his head into the corner of the truck. Only later was this version of events proven to be completely fictional and in fact, had been inflicted by one of the women he had attacked earlier in the day.
Annette Schnee, 22, and Barbara “Bobbi Jo” Oberholtzer, 29, both went missing whilst hitchhiking near Breckenridge, Colorado, on January 6, 1982.
Annette was last seen at about 4.45 pm and her body was found six months later face down in a stream, having been shot in the back.
Barbara disappeared after leaving work colleagues just before 8 pm. Her family found her body with a bullet wound in her chest the next day on a snow embankment about 20ft from the road below another mountain pass, about ten miles from Breckenridge and 50 miles from Guanella Pass.
Charlie McCormick, 81, a retired Denver murder detective, who had been working on the cold case since 1989, after being hired by the Schnee family, said in a statement to The Denver Post: “I’ve been trying to define my emotions and it’s been hard to do. I never thought I would see the day. It’s been a long haul.” He got a call from the team’s lead genetics researcher to tell him the news. “She said, ‘We got him,” “It was phenomenal, something I thought I would never see.”
In late 2020 into 2021, DNA from the crime scenes was analyzed using Genetic genealogy against samples submitted on public DNA databases such as 23 and Me and Ancestry.com, was linked to Phillips, now 70 and still living in the area.
On February 24, 2021, police arrested Phillips, now a father of three who lived in Clear Creek, during a traffic stop in Clear Creek County, and he was charged with the kidnapping, assault, and murder of both women. A preliminary hearing was scheduled for September 13, 2021.
Eileen Franklin, 88, Annette’s mother, said: “I thought maybe I’d be gone before I had closure to this case. I’m ready to go when it’s my time now.”
Montoya said: “We ended up picking up the guy straight out of hell. He got his mercy, he got saved, he got his life saved, he didn’t die up there, but he did bad things before that and he’s got to pay for them.”
Jeff Oberholtzer, Bobbi Jo’s husband, called the four-decade wait for justice a “hideous nightmare.”
STORY: VIOLENT POLTERGEISTS=====
Loud noises, moving furniture, flying objects: You’ve probably seen it all in any modern paranormal film. But have you ever seen such activity in real life? These famous cases of poltergeist activity included all of these terrifying happenings–and more.
***The Thornton Heath Poltergeist: On an August night in a home in Thornton Heath, the radio clicked on and started blasting a foreign language radio station. The family in residence had never listened to this station before, nor did they have any clue why the sudden noise occurred. In the nights following, lamps, Christmas tree ornaments, and curtains were tampered with by invisible hands. This was just the beginning of four years of torment by their own personal poltergeist. The case began getting physical one year later, when the husband was assaulted by a flying figurine in the living room. He was struck so hard that he collapsed into a nearby chair. While the family tried to get him to his feet, the Christmas tree rose from the floor and started shaking. In the years following, the series of strange phenomena continued. The family heard footsteps throughout the upstairs of their home. One night, during a dinner party with close friends, the door began to shake and knock violently. As the group carefully stood to leave, the living room door flung open, and all the lights in the home began flickering on and off. Later, one of the children in the family recalled waking to find an evil-looking man hovering above his bed. The boy said he was wearing “old fashioned clothes.” It was after these two incidents that the family decided to seek help. A local church put them in contact with a priest who performed a blessing on the home. However, this only seemed to make matters worse–the hauntings began to intensify. The family was directed to a medium who visited their home to attempt locating the cause of the haunting. The medium discovered that the entity was a deceased farmer named Chatterton. He was angry with the family because he saw them as trespassers to his home. The family did some archival digging, and learned of a farmer named Chatterton, who lived with his wife in the home in the mid-18th century. Shortly after this discovery, Chatterton’s wife began making appearances. She targeted the mother of the family. Whenever the mother would walk upstairs, she would feel like someone was following her. When she turned around, Chatterton’s grey-haired wife was following her. As soon as the old woman was noticed, she would vanish. After dealing with this torment for four years, the family gave up. They purchased a new home, and left Chatterton’s house behind. Once the family was gone from the house, the hauntings halted. There have been no further reportings of paranormal activity in the home they left behind.
***The South Shields Poltergeist: In the winter of 2005, Marc, Marianne (the names usually used to protect the real identities of the victims), and their three-year-old son Robert began experiencing bizarre poltergeist activity that would quickly grow out of hand. In the beginning, the doors opened and closed on their own, and strange sounds came from the walls. Soon, furniture seemed to be moving around the room by invisible hands, chairs were found stacked, and large, heavy pieces of furniture were discovered displaced from one room to another. While these might seem like relatively common occurrences when it comes to the paranormal, they quickly escalated to become dangerous. One night, as the young couple was settling into bed, a projectile hit Marianne in the head. It was their son’s toy dog. The son was nowhere in sight, and there was no one apparently there to have thrown it. The couple was bewildered. A few moments later, another stuffed toy hit Marianne, but this time with greater force. The couple reported an onslaught of toys after this, pelting them from all directions. They tried to hide beneath the blanket, but they felt an unseen force trying to pull it away from them. Marc then cried out in pain. 13 red scratch marks were found on his back. The attack stopped as quickly as it had begun, but the couple was left horribly frazzled. Now the poltergeist seemed to have developed an affinity for scaring the family with children’s toys. On one occasion, they found the son’s rocking horse hanging by its reins from the ceiling loft hatch. On another, a toy bunny was found sitting on top of the stairs holding a box cutter. Marc and Marianne decided to seek help. They enlisted paranormal researchers Mike Hollowell and Darren Ritson. At first, the two were not sold by the couple’s claims. Such violent cases of activity were rare, and it just seemed like too much. Regardless, they went to the house, set up their equipment, and waited. They were shocked by what they found. The paranormal activity in the home exploded. Toys flew around, unexplained bangs filled the home, voices came from a baby monitor, their gear was turned on and off or broken by something unseen, doors opened and slammed closed, blankets on beds slid off, objects levitated, strange messages appeared on pieces of paper, and various objects were caught balancing at strange angles. Perhaps the most bizarre thing was the appearance of the entity in the son’s bedroom – a large, dark shape on the balcony. It crossed through the room then vanished. To cap it off, the investigators captured a recording of the entity attacking Marc. Deep red gashes appeared on his back, thickening in color until the skin broke and he bled. Then, as suddenly as the attacks started, they stopped. The home went quiet and hasn’t seen an ounce of paranormal activity since.
***The Pontefract Poltergeist: The Pritchard family moved into a new little home in 1966, and they immediately began experiencing strange events. Joe, his wife Jean, Jean’s mother Sarah, and their two children, Diane and Phillip, witnessed wet puddles manifesting on the kitchen floor, white powder that appeared to fall from mid-air, and more. As time progressed, the phenomena became more pronounced. At first, the poltergeist’s pranks were somewhat humorous. Green foam would flow from the bathroom taps, potted plants would uproot and toss themselves down the stairs, and a pair of woman’s gloves were animated to float around the home, touching people and objects as if being worn by an invisible person. The family named this invisible person ‘Fred’. The hauntings came and went, but during the last few years the family spent at the home, they began to think that the presence was demonic. Objects lifted themselves into the air, thundering crashes came from the floorboards and, in perhaps the most famous incident, a series of upside-down crosses appeared on the walls. The Pritchards brought in a priest to perform exorcisms throughout the house, but none of the attempts proved fruitful. Just the opposite, in fact. Their efforts seemed to anger the spirit further. Eventually, Joe and Jean came face-to-face with what’s believed to be the entity. It appeared as a cloaked shadow floating above their bed. The same figure was seen by every member of the family over time. It was described as being dressed in monk’s robes. Well, the description stuck–it soon came to be known as The Black Monk. Then, the activity ceased altogether. Over the years, many people have theorized about what exactly happened in the Pritchard home. Most notably, paranormal investigator Tom Cuniff spent many years researching the case. He discovered that between 1090 and 1539, a priory had been located near the house. In addition, the town’s gallows had been situated directly across the street, and, after digging a bit deeper, Cuniff found a Clunic monk who was hung on the gallows after being convicted of raping and murdering a young girl. The girl had been roughly the same age as Diane Pritchard. Cuniff believes the entity terrorizing the family was this monk.
***The Enfield Poltergeist: In 1977, Peggy Hodgson called police to report that her home was haunted. Her four children, Margaret, age 14; Janet, age 11; Johnny, age 10; and Billy, age 7, claimed to have seen furniture moving around the rooms and heard knocking sounds coming from the walls. The first police officer who made it to the scene reported seeing a chair slide across the floor on its own. Later accounts would describe hearing demonic voices, loud unexplainable noises, thrown rocks and toys, overturned chairs and, most memorably, a child levitating. Aside from the family themselves, there were multiple witnesses to the events. Maurice Grosse, who visited the home from the Society of Psychical Research, said he had marbles thrown at him, doors opened and closed, and recorded strange and sudden temperature changes. These experiences were not uncommon. What made Grosse’s time in the Hodgson house remarkable was that he claimed to have spoken directly with the poltergeist. He did this through Peggy’s daughter Janet who seemed to be favored by the spirit as a medium of communication. Janet reportedly referred to herself as Bill, and informed everyone present that he had died of a brain hemorrhage in the house many years before. Then, the events halted in 1978. No supernatural sightings have occurred at the house since. The events which played out here serve as the inspiration for the film The Conjuring 2 and continue to fascinate paranormal investigators to this day.
***The Esther Cox Poltergeist: Esther Cox was a 19-year-old who lived in a tiny cottage in Nova Scotia, Canada. The family was living peacefully when, one night, screams woke the entire household. The adults rushed to the room where Esther and sister Jennie shared a bed. The girls claimed to have seen something moving under their covers. Esther thought it was a mouse, but a thorough search of the room turned up nothing. The following night, there were more screams. Esther and Jeannie claimed to have heard strange noises coming from the fabric box beneath the bed. When they brought the box to the center of the room for examination, it jumped into the air on its own and landed on its side. The girls righted the box, only to watch it jump and topple again. Until this moment, most of the activity the girls were witnessing was quickly and simply attributed to their imaginations. This changed on the third night. That night, Esther went to bed early, saying she felt feverish. Jennie joined her a short time later, and after laying in bed for only a few minutes, Esther jumped up to the center of the room and began tearing at her nightclothes, screaming, “My God! What is happening to me? I’m dying!” Jennie lit a lamp and saw her sister’s skin was bright red and appeared to be swelling unnaturally. Olive, their other sister, rushed into the room and helped Jennie get their sister back into bed. Esther now seemed to be choking and fighting to breathe. The entire family watched helpless as Esther’s body, hot to the touch, swelled further and reddened. Her eyes bulged and she cried out in pain. Then under the bed there was a deafening bang that shook the entire room. Three more loud noises were reported from the bed before Esther’s swelling subsided and she fell into a deep sleep. Unsure what to do next, the family called a doctor, Dr. Carritte. He heard the loud bangs from beneath the bed, watched Esther’s pillow move without being touched, and her clothes were thrown around the room. The scariest aspect of these encounters, though, was the letters etched into the wall above the bed reading: “Esther Cox you are mine to kill.” Dr. Carritte returned to the home the next day and recorded the events in detail, but still could offer the family no explanation. The poltergeist trailed Esther wherever she went. All her attempts to escape it were futile. In an attempt to spare her family, she moved across town to work at a farm, but the farm house burnt down shortly after her arrival. The farmer accused her of arson. She was convicted to serve four months, but was released after just one. Weirdly enough, after she was released, the tormentings just seemed to fade away. No explanation—they simply stopped.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org – and you can find the show on Facebook and Twitter, including the show’s Weirdos Facebook Group on the CONTACT/SOCIAL page at WeirdDarkness.com. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, click on TELL YOUR STORY – or call the DARKLINE toll free at 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-5944.
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 Case of the Vanishing Movie Star” from Strange Company
“Camping Creepies” by Erika Valverde for Ranker
“The Ghost Bear” by Miss Jessel for Haunted Palace Blog
“The Miracle Rescue of a Serial Killer” from Strange Outdoors
“Violent Poltergeists” by Audrey Webster for The Line-Up
Again, you can find link to all of these stories in the show notes.
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… “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged, for the LORD your God will be with you wherever you go.” — Joshua 1:9
And a final thought… “Sometimes you have to realize that the world is too beautiful to waste your time being angry or sad when you could be enjoying what life has to offer.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.