If a person was forced to choose what the greatest ghost story in Wisconsin might be, it would almost undoubtedly be the legend of Summerwind. This haunted mansion has spawned more strange tales and stories that any other location in the state. What dark secrets remain hidden in the ruins of this once grand estate? Were the stories of ghostly encounters and messages from beyond really true… or were they part of an elaborate publicity hoax?
Hidden in forested acreage away from the busy city center, Forest Haven Asylum was a live-in facility for children and adults with Intellectual Disability (ID) located in Laurel, Maryland and operated by the District of Columbia. Originally named, “District Training School for the Mentally Retarded”, the designers of the facility had plans for a peaceful place and the compound was placed in an idyllic setting over 20 miles away from the city center and from the stresses of urban life. Now, however, Forest Haven Asylum is an abandoned facility – as obscure and forgotten as the tenants who once occupied it. Today, crumbling in decay and disrepair after years of neglect, the facility’s compound has an eerie stillness about it, as though something straight out of a horror movie. Though, perhaps that is appropriate, considering the asylum’s troubling legacy.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
A young woman discovers that it’s possible to live a lonely life, yet still not be alone. (Followed By a Child)
Is it possible that during the years of World War 1, Agnes Whiteland, while peering off her balcony, saw a group of time travelers? (Agnes And The Time Travelers)
Tituba proved to be a fantastic orator as she talked her way out of slavery using the fear and mass hysteria of witchcraft that paralyzed the people of Salem. (Tituba And the Salem Witch Trials)
The discovery of a 10-year-old’s body at an ancient Roman site in Italy suggests his family, friends, and neighbors thought he was a vampire – and took measures to make sure he wouldn’t return from the grave. (The Unearthing of a Child Vampire)
Authorities placed Gil Perez in jail as a deserter and for the possibility that he may have been in the service of Satan. In Gil’s defense though, he said he simply teleported somewhere else. (Teleportation of a Spanish Soldier)
Matthew Weeks was found guilty and hanged for the murder of Charlotte Dymond. Today it is said that the ghosts of both of them roam the countryside – but could it be that Matthew’s ghost is lamenting because he was innocent of the crime? (The Murder of Charlotte Dymond on Bodmin Moor)
A building situated right in the middle of London’s swankiest and most historical areas, has long been said to be the lair of something not of this earth. (The Bizarre Nameless Thing of Berkley Square)
“The Jungle Book” – we are all familiar with the classic animated Disney film version from 1967, the live action versions in 2016 and 2019, or the 1894 Rudyard Kipling novel. But the character of Mowgli was inspired by a real boy raised by wild animals. (The Real Life Inspiration for Mowgli)
Evil stepmothers, jealous of their stepdaughters’ beauty are a classic tome in fantastical stories – but Martha Savcoll was no fairy tale. (Brooklyn Murderess)
Of all the places in the world you would expect to be safe from the paranormal, it would be a church – but that would not be telling the truth when referring to Adams Grove Presbyterian Church in Alabama. (Haunted Adams Grove Presbyterian Church)
Outside of Washington, D.C. lies Forest Haven Asylum, an abandoned institution with a thoroughly disturbing past. (The Anguish of Forest Haven Asylum)
Was Summerwind in Wisconsin really haunted? No one knows and if they do, they aren’t saying. Today, only the foundations, the stone chimneys and perhaps the ghosts remain. (Summerwind: The Most Haunted House In Wisconsin)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
Located on the shores of West Bay Lake, in the far northeast regions of Wisconsin, are the ruins of a once grand mansion that was called Summerwind. The house is long gone now, but the memories remain … as do the stories and legends of the inexplicable events that once took place there. Summerwind is perhaps Wisconsin’s most haunted house, or at least it was, before fire and the elements of nature destroyed her. Regardless, even the ravages of time cannot destroy the haunted history of the house.
The mansion was built in 1916 by Robert P. Lamont as a summer home for he and his family. Nestled on the shores of the lake, the house caught the cool breezes of northern Wisconsin and provided a comfortable place for Lamont to escape the pressures of everyday life in Washington D.C., as he would later go on to serve as the Secretary of Commerce under President Herbert Hoover.
But life was not always sublime at Summerwind during the years of the Lamont family. For those who claim that the ghost stories of the house were “created” in later years, they forget the original tale of Robert Lamont’s encounter with a spirit. Legends of the house say that Lamont actually fired a pistol at a ghost that he believed was an intruder. The bullet holes in the basement door from the kitchen remained for many years.
Upon the death of Robert Lamont, the house was sold … and sold again. It seemed that nothing out of the ordinary really happened there, save for Lamont’s encounter with the phantom intruder, until the early 1970’s. It was in this period that the family living in the house was nearly destroyed … supposedly by ghosts.
Arnold Hinshaw, his wife Ginger, and their six children, moved into Summerwind in the early part of the 1970’s. They would only reside in the house for six months, but it would be an eventful period of time.
From the day that they moved in, they knew strange things were going on in the house. It had been vacant for some time … but it had apparently been occupied by otherworldly visitors. The Hinshaws, and their children, immediately started to report vague shapes and shadows flickering down the hallways. They also claimed to hear mumbled voices in darkened, empty rooms. When they would walk inside, the sounds would quickly stop. Most alarming was the ghost of the woman who was often seen floating back and forth just past some French doors that led off from the dining room.
The family wondered if they were simply imagining things but continued events convinced them otherwise. Appliances, a hot water heater and a water pump would mysteriously break down and then repair themselves before a serviceman could be called.
Windows and doors that were closed would reopen on their own. One particular window, which proved especially stubborn, would raise and lower itself at all hours. Out of desperation, Arnold drove a heavy nail through the window casing and it finally stayed closed.
On one occasion, Arnold walked out to his car to go to work and the vehicle suddenly burst into flames. No one was near it and it is unknown whether the source of the fire was supernatural in origin or not, but regardless, no cause was ever found for it.
Despite the strange activity, the Hinshaws wanted to make the best of the historic house so they decided to hire some men to make a few renovations. It was most common for the workers to not show up for work, usually claiming illness, although a few of them simply told her that they refused to work on Summerwind … which was reputed to be haunted. That was when the Hinshaws gave up and decided to try and do all of the work themselves.
One day they began painting a closet in one of the bedrooms. A large shoe drawer was installed in the closet’s back wall and Arnold pulled it out so that he could paint around the edges of the frame. When he did, he noticed that there seemed to be a large, dark space behind the drawer.
Ginger brought him a flashlight and he wedged himself into the narrow opening as far as his shoulders. He looked around with the flashlight and then suddenly jumped back, scrambling away from the opening. He was both frightened and disgusted … there was some sort of corpse jammed into the secret compartment!
Believing that an animal had crawled in there and died many years ago, Arnold tried to squeeze back in for a closer look. He couldn’t make out much of anything, so when the children came home from school, he recruited his daughter Mary to get a better look. Mary took the flashlight and crawled inside. Moments later, she let out a scream … it was a human corpse! She uncovered a skull, still bearing dirty black hair, a brown arm and a portion of a leg.
Why the Hinshaws never contacted the authorities about this body is unknown. Was the story concocted later to fit into the tales of “haunted” Summerwind? Or was their reasoning the truth … that the body had been the result of a crime that took place many years ago, far too long for the police to do anything about it now.
Had they been thinking things through, they might have realized that this body might have been the cause of much of the supernatural activity in the house… removing it might have laid the ghost to rest, so to speak.
Regardless, they left the corpse where they found it … but it will figure into our story once again.
Shortly after the discovery of the body in the hidden compartment, things started to take a turn for the worse at Summerwind.
Arnold began staying up very late at night and playing a Hammond organ that the couple had purchased before moving into the house. He had always enjoyed playing the organ, using it as a form of relaxation, but his playing now was different. His playing became a frenzied mixture of melodies that seemed to make no sense, and grew louder as the night wore on. Ginger pleaded with him to stop but Arnold claimed the demons in his head demanded that he play. He often crashed the keys on the organ until dawn, frightening his wife and children so badly that they often huddled together in one bedroom, crying and cowering in fear.
Arnold had a complete mental breakdown and at the same time, Ginger attempted suicide.
Were the stories of strange events at Summerwind merely the result of two disturbed minds? It might seem so … but what about the children? They also reported the ghostly encounters. Were they simply influenced by their parents questionable sanity … or were the stories real?
The family’s connection with the house would continue for years to come.
While Arnold was sent away for treatment, Ginger and the children moved to Granton, Wisconsin to live with Ginger’s parents. Ginger and Arnold would eventually be divorced when it looked as though Arnold’s hopes for recovery were failing. Ginger later recovered her health, away from Summerwind at last, and she married a man named George Olsen.
Things seemed to be going quite well for her in her new peaceful life, until a few years later, when her father announced that he was going to buy Summerwind.
Raymond Bober was a popcorn vendor and businessman who with his wife Marie, planned to turn the old mansion into a restaurant and an inn. He believed that the house would attract many guests to the scenic location on the lake.
They had no idea what had happened to their daughter in the house.
Ginger was horrified at her parent’s decision. She had never given them all of the details about what had happened during the six months that she had lived in the house and she refused to do so now. What she did do was to beg them not to buy Summerwind.
Bober’s mind was made up however. He announced that he realized the house was haunted, but this would not deter him. He claimed that he had spent time at the house and knew the identity of the ghost that was haunting the place.
According to Bober, the ghost was a man named Jonathan Carver, an eighteenth century British explorer who was haunting the house and searching for an old deed that had been given to him by the Sioux Indians. In the document, he supposedly had the rights to the northern third of Wisconsin. The deed had supposedly been placed in a box and sealed into the foundation of Summerwind. Bober claimed that Carver had asked his help in finding it.
Bober wrote a book about his experiences at Summerwind and his communications with Carver through dreams, trances and a Ouija board. The book was published in 1979 under the name of Wolffgang von Bober and was called THE CARVER EFFECT. It is currently out-of-print and very hard to find.
Shortly after Bober bought the house, he, his son Karl, Ginger and her new husband, George, spent a day exploring and looking over the house. The group had wandered through the place and as they were leaving the second floor, George spotted the closet where the secret compartment was hidden. He began pulling out the drawers and looking behind them, although Ginger begged for him to stop.
George was confused. He had simply been curious as to what might be in the drawers. Up until then, Ginger had never told anyone about finding the body behind the closet. Sitting in the kitchen later, she would tell them everything.
After hearing the story, the men rushed back upstairs and returned to the closet. Ginger’s brother, Karl, climbed into the space with a light and looked around. In a few moments, he climbed back out … it was empty!
Bober and George also inspected the small space and found nothing. Where had the corpse gone? Had it been removed, either by natural or supernatural forces?
Or, most importantly, had it ever really been there at all?
Toward the end of that Summer, Karl traveled alone to the old house. He had gone to get a repair estimate on some work to be done on the house and to check with someone about getting rid of the bats which were inhabiting the place. He also planned to do some yard work and to get the place cleaned up a little.
It started to rain the first day that he was there and he began closing some of the windows. He was upstairs, in the dark hallway, and heard a voice call his name. He looked around but there was no one there. Karl closed the window and went downstairs. He walked into the front room and heard what sounded like two pistol shots! He ran into the kitchen and found the room filled with smoke and the acrid smell of gunpowder … apparently someone had fired a gun inside of the house!
Karl searched the place, finding the doors locked and undisturbed. There appeared to be no one inside and he returned to the kitchen. He began looking around the room and discovered two bullet holes in the door leading down to the basement. He examined them closely and realized that they were not new holes at all … but old bullet holes that had worn smooth around the edges.
They were apparently holes left behind from Robert Lamont’s encounter with a ghost in the kitchen. Perhaps events from the past were replaying themselves at Summerwind!
No matter what the explanation, it was enough for Karl and he left the house that afternoon.
The plans to turn the house into a restaurant did not go smoothly. Workmen refused to stay on the job, complaining of tools disappearing and feelings as if they were being watched. Marie Bober agreed with their complaints. She was always uneasy in the house and frequently told people that she felt as if she was followed from place to place whenever she was inside.
Most disturbing to Bober however was the apparent shrinkage and expansion of the house. Bober would measure rooms one day and then find that they were a different size the next day. Usually, his measurements were larger than those given in the blueprints of the house … sometime greatly larger. At one point, Bober estimated that he could seat 150 people in his restaurant but after laying out his plans on the blueprints of Summerwind, he realized that the place could seat half that many.
Photographs that were taken of the house, using the same camera and taken only seconds apart, also displayed the variations of space. The living room was said to show the greatest enlargement.
Bober compared his photos of the living room with those that Ginger had taken when she and Arnold moved in. Ginger’s photos showed curtains on the windows that she took with her when she moved out. The curtains were physically absent in the room that Bober photographed … but somehow they appeared in his photos!
Like the incident involving Karl and the pistol shots, could Summerwind be a place where time inexplicably repeats itself? Perhaps the place wasn’t haunted at all, but instead, was a mysterious site where time was distorted in ways that we cannot understand. Perhaps the shadows and figures that were seen could have been people or images from the past (or the future) and perhaps the sound of someone calling Karl’s name would happen in reality … several months later.
We will never know for sure now, but the idea is something worth considering.
Eventually, the project was abandoned and Bober would never see the dream of his restaurant and inn. Strangely though, despite his claims that he was an earthly companion of the ghostly Jonathan Carver, the Bobers never spent the night inside of the house. They chose instead to sleep in an RV that they parked on the grounds. Also strange was the fact that Carver (if the ghost existed) chose to manifest himself in such malevolent ways … especially if he was looking for help in finding his deed.
Bober’s explanation for this was that Carver resented anyone living in the house or trying to renovate the place, at least until the deed was found. Bober spent many days searching the basement for where the deed might be hidden, chipping the foundation and peering into dark holes and crevices.
To this day, the mysterious deed has never been found.
In the years that followed Bober’s abandonment of Summerwind, a number of skeptics came forward to poke holes in some of Bober’s claims. Many of their counter-claims, however, have been nearly as easy to discredit as some of Bober’s original ones.
Obviously, we are never going to know for sure if Summerwind was really haunted. The house is gone now and we are left with only the claims, reports and witness accounts of Bober and his family.
We can examine the claims of the family, and the skeptics, and try to make sense of it all.
In 1983, a freelance writer named Will Pooley set out to gather the facts behind the story and discredit it. His research claimed that even if Bober had found Carver’s deed, it would have been worthless. He based these findings on the fact that the British government ruled against an individual’s purchase of Indian land and also that the Sioux had never claimed land west of the Mississippi River.
First of all, the land was not sold to Carver, it was given to him in return for assistance that he had given to the Indians, so British law would not have ruled against this. On the other subject, the Sioux Indians were not a single tribe, they were an entire nation, made up of many different tribes. It is possible, and very likely, that one tribe that belonged to the Sioux nation could have lived in Wisconsin. The white settlers pushed the Indians further and further west and as this particular tribe abandoned their lands, they could have deeded them to Carver.
Pooley also argued that the deed to the property had been located in the old land office in Wausau, Wisconsin in the 1930’s and that it is unlikely that Carver even journeyed as far north as West Bay Lake.
But would he have had to have traveled to northern Wisconsin to hold a deed to the land? And why would there not have been another deed filed for that piece of land? Someone could have claimed it many years later, not even realizing that Carver already held the title to it.
He also argued that the deed could have never been placed in the foundation of the house anyway … Summerwind had been built more than 130 years after Carver died. To this, it can only be argued that many events of the supernatural world go unexplained.
One man that Pooley did talk to however, was Herb Dickman of Land ‘O Lakes, Wisconsin. He had helped pour the foundation for the house in 1916 and recalled that nothing had been placed in the foundation … a box containing a deed or anything else. So, who really knows?
Apparently, Bober was not always the most credible person either. Residents who lived close to Summerwind said that Bober spent less than two summers at the estate. After abandoning plans for the restaurant, he tried to get a permit to operate a concession stand near the house but local ordinances prohibited this. Perhaps he was planning the idea of tours of the “haunted” house … and idea that would come along a little later.
There was even some uncertainty as to whether or not Bober even owned Summerwind. One area resident told Pooley that Bober had tried to buy the house on a contract-for-deed but the deal had fallen through. The house had been abandoned and no one laid claim to it, save for the bank, and they never realized what Bober was up to out there. This story has never been verified however and it cannot be proven that Bober did not own the place.
So how much of the story that Bober wrote about in his book is true? Was the house really haunted, or was the story of the haunting merely a part of a scheme by Raymond Bober to draw crowds to a haunted restaurant?
Those who live near the house claim that the idea that it is haunted has all come from the fact that the mansion was abandoned and from Bober’s wild claims. But what else would they say?
These neighbors have often made it very clear that they resent the strangers who have come to the property, tramping over their lawns and knocking on their doors. They say that the chartered buses that once came and dumped would-be ghost hunters onto the grounds of Summerwind were also unwelcome. These are the last people to ask for an objective opinion on whether this house is actually haunted.
So there remains the mystery … was Summerwind really haunted? No one knows and if they do, they aren’t saying.
The house was completely abandoned in the early 1980’s and fell deeper and deeper into ruin. Bats had already taken up residence years before and the house became a virtual shell, resting there in a grove of pines. The windows were shattered and the doors hung open, inviting nature’s destructive force inside.
In 1986, the house was purchased by three investors who apparently thought that they could make a go of the place again. But it was not to be … forces greater than man had other ideas. Summerwind was struck by lightning during a terrible storm in June of 1988 and burned to the ground.
Today, only the foundations, the stone chimneys and perhaps the ghosts remain …
When Weird Darkness returns…
A young woman discovers that it’s possible to live a lonely life, yet still not be alone.
Plus… is it possible that during the years of World War 1, Agnes Whiteland, while peering off her balcony, saw a group of time travelers?
And… Tituba proved to be a fantastic orator as she talked her way out of slavery using the fear and mass hysteria of witchcraft that paralyzed the people of Salem.
And later… the discovery of a 10-year-old’s body at an ancient Roman site in Italy suggests his family, friends, and neighbors thought he was a vampire – and took measures to make sure he wouldn’t return from the grave.
These stories and many more, still to come!
STORY: FOLLOWED BY A CHILD=====
I have had some strange, inexplicable things happen to me over the years. I have been living in a lovely, quiet house for nearly three years now, except for a couple of odd occurrences.
The first involves the bathroom light switch which is a cord-pull one. Not long after I moved in, I had to replace the cord because my ex had got it grubby with engine oil. I bought one with a chunky silver end on it so it was big enough for my ex to grab hold of without touching the cord with his mucky hands. The switch is right next to the glass shower screen and after someone had pulled it, it could swing and hit the screen with a distinctive tap sound.
In recent weeks, both myself and my son have heard the tap of the light switch hitting the shower screen on more than one occasion. We live here on our own and so we both know that there was nobody in the bathroom at the time. No windows were open to cause drafts at the time, either.
Then one morning last week, I got up and went to the bathroom and found the end of the light switch in pieces on the floor. I was the last one to use the bathroom the night before and know it wasn’t broken then. The tap sound hasn’t happened since, which lessens the likelihood of the sound we heard before being from something else.
The second odd thing that happened was that I had a couple of cd’s on the dressing table at the foot of my bed. It was a Saturday morning and I had been awake for about 30 minutes and was enjoying a lie-in when I heard a tap on the cd case. I was on my own in my room and was no where near it. I got up and gently lifted the top cd about 1cm from the bottom one and let it drop, it sounded exactly the same.
I can’t explain either of these things rationally, which as I’ve got older I always like to do. It has left me wondering whether I have the spirit of a child following me from house to house?
Although some of the things that have happened in the past have scared me they don’t appear to be negative, or am I just reading way too much into this? Any thoughts would be welcome.
STORY: AGNES WHITELAND=====
The story of Agnes Whiteland begins when she peers at the balcony of her house on the first floor. A few meters in the air is a round platform with a thickness of 30 centimeters and a diameter of 3.5 meters. On this platform were eight to twelve men, standing and in a circle, looking forward as if they were watching something around them. This platform had two irons in circumference, one at the knees of those men and the other a little higher. These visitors were dressed in blue uniform and cap of the same color. They looked like military men.(Agnes Whiteland)
According to Agnes Whiteland’s account, this platform was about nine meters high from the ground and about a hundred feet from where the witness was. The mystery of this event is that this platform apparently had no propulsion engine or produced any noise that could be perceived by simple hearing.
Neither were any cables or ropes visible on which the platform that held these quiet travelers could be laid. They remained in this place for a few minutes and disappeared in the same direction from which they came. As for the uniform they wore, it seemed much more modern than the usual military uniform of the day. It could be said that his presence did not fit in the place or the time.(Agnes WhitelandI)
The information received on this unusual fact has been investigated by several experts. The results did not find any valid explanation about what happened or this form of transport used by the visitors.
Among all known facts seems to be an isolated fact. Everything apparently points to a visit of some gentlemen who came from the future to observe and be direct witnesses of the First World War. But, in this case, it may never be solved or explained on a scientific basis.
For now, this story remains a memory in the minds of relatives who still live today and live with this unusual experience of that English lady named Agnes Whiteland.
STORY: TITUBA – SALEM WITCH TRIALS=====
Tituba arrived in Boston in 1680 to start her new life, though it was not much of one. She was a slave owned by Samuel Parris, a wealthy business owner who inherited a sugar plantation in Barbados.
Tituba’s origins are unclear and relatively common for her time, and scholars believe that she may have been from the Arawak tribe of Venezuela before she was either sold or born into slavery. Indeed, without the Salem Witch Trials, history would have never known about Tituba at all.
Her highly imaginative and coherent testimony in court in which she details her brush with the devil, would organize and set the tone for the witch hunt to come. She would deliver the longest testimony in the Salem Witch Trials, inciting a hunt and ultimately freeing herself from slavery.
She was barely in her teens when she came to Massachusetts with two other slaves with Samuel Parris. Parris married in Boston and took a position as the minister of Salem Village in 1689, where he moved Tituba and his family.
Meanwhile, Tituba and Parris’s other slave, John who was said to be Native American, allegedly married.
It was Tituba’s job to take care of Parris’s nine-year-old daughter, Betty, to whom she became particularly close to. She also took care of Parris’s niece Abigail Williams, who was 11-years-old.
In early 1692, several people in the village began to have fits and convulsions. Betty Parris was the first, followed by her cousin, Abigail. Symptoms spread and became more pronounced. Some people complained of bites and pinches.
Friends of the Parris girls, Ann Putnam and Elizabeth Hubbard, complained of visions and hallucinations. Doctors could not find anything medically wrong with any of these four girls and so they suggested a supernatural cause. One of the girls admitted to fortunetelling, so the hunt was on for who bewitched these poor white girls.
Tituba was one of three women who were the first to be blamed for the spread of witchcraft in Salem. After all, the slave girl spent most of her time around Betty Parris. She was accused of voodoo and of baking a “witch cake” to reveal the Parris girls fatal fortunes in egg yolks.
Tituba had prayed with the Parris family, took meals with them, and served them their meals.
The four girls also accused Sarah Good, a mentally ill woman who was destitute, and Sarah Osborn, an old widow who had frequent disputes with the Parris family.
On March 1, 1692, Tituba and the other two women appeared before a court. They were to answer to the charges of witchcraft. The two accused white women flatly denied their charges.
But Tituba did not. “The devil came to me and bid me serve him,” she confessed.
She had an uncanny and thorough report regarding her brush with the devil. Her account was so exhaustive in its oddity and horror that the citizens of Salem believed Tituba.
She spun a sordid and detailed account about how a tall, white-haired man in a dark coat ordered her to hurt the children. If she did not, he threatened, then she would die. She then implicated his devious animal minions: a huge black dog, a hog, a black cat, a red cat, a yellow bird and even an unknown hairy creature who all walked on two legs.
She went so far as to include her fellow suspects. As soon as she did this, the people of Salem wanted to root out the evil in Salem. They wanted more names beyond these two women.
Justice John Hathorne, therefore, asked Tituba if she had seen the devil’s book filled with the names of those he willed to do his bidding.
The devil, Tituba said, wouldn’t let her see the book yet. “No, he no let me see, but he tell me I should see them the next time.”
She claimed not to know who else was under the spell of witchcraft, however, there were “some in Boston and some here in this town, but he would not tell me who they were.”
Tituba was choosy where she gave detail, but with reason. She took no issue with describing the devil but was hesitant and vague to name others, real suspects.
In moments like this, Tituba feigned blindness.
Her withholding made her an ever more valuable source of information to the terrified people of Salem. They needed her to point fingers, give explanations, and save their town.
When the Salem Witch Hunt began, three women stood accused: The two white Sarah’s and Tituba. By the fall of 1692, up to 185 witches and wizards had been named.
Several of the accused suffered torture, drowning, crushing by stones and hanging. In all, Salem’s authorities executed 19 people and imprisoned 150.
But Tituba was only imprisoned. Tituba’s confession proved too valuable.
Modern scholars believe that the fits and hallucinations the Parris girls suffered from were due to contaminated rye flour rather than witchcraft. Since doctors in the late 1600s had no clue about microbial contamination, they turned to a supernatural explanation for symptoms.
As for Tituba, she got out of prison and left Salem with her husband, John. They were never heard from again.
Even though the real Tituba disappeared, her legacy lives on in fictional accounts. In modern times, Tituba appears in the 2013 WGN series called Salem, and descendants of Tituba show up in the popular series American Horror Story: Coven.
Historians believe Tituba confessed to witchcraft and implicated others as revenge against Samuel Parris for being his slave. She protected her own interests by playing on the fears of the Puritans and their religious fervor. In so doing, Tituba was able to manipulate an entire village to set herself free.
STORY: CHILD VAMPIRE=====
The discovery of a 10-year-old’s body at an ancient Roman site in Italy suggests measures were taken to prevent the child, possibly infected with malaria, from rising from the dead and spreading disease to the living.
The skeletal remains, uncovered by archaeologists from the University of Arizona and Stanford University, along with archaeologists from Italy, included a skull with a rock intentionally inserted into the mouth. Researchers believe the stone may have been placed there as part of a funeral ritual designed to contain disease – and the body itself.
The discovery of this unusual, so-called “vampire burial” was made over the summer in the commune of Lugnano in Teverina in the Italian region of Umbria, where UA archaeologist David Soren has overseen archaeological excavations since 1987.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s extremely eerie and weird,” said Soren, a Regents’ Professor in the UA School of Anthropology and Department of Religious Studies and Classics. “Locally, they’re calling it the ‘Vampire of Lugnano.'”
The discovery was made at La Necropoli dei Bambini, or the Cemetery of the Babies, which dates to the mid-fifth century when a deadly malaria outbreak swept the area, killing many vulnerable babies and small children. The bodies of the young victims were buried at the site of an abandoned Roman villa that was originally constructed at the end of the first century BC.
Until now, archaeologists believed the cemetery was designated specifically for infants, toddlers and unborn fetuses; in previous excavations of more than 50 burials, a 3-year-old girl was the oldest child found.
The discovery of the 10-year-old, whose age was determined based on dental development but whose sex is unknown, suggests that the cemetery may have been used for older children as well, said bioarcheologist Jordan Wilson, a UA doctoral student in anthropology who analyzed the skeletal remains in Italy.
“There are still sections of the cemetery that we haven’t excavated yet, so we don’t know if we’ll find other older kids,” Wilson said.
Excavation director David Pickel, who has a master’s degree in classical archaeology from the UA and is now a doctoral student at Stanford, said the discovery has the potential to tell researchers much more about the devastating malaria epidemic that hit Umbria nearly 1,500 years ago, as well as the community’s response to it.
“Given the age of this child and its unique deposition, with the stone placed within his or her mouth, it represents, at the moment, an anomaly within an already abnormal cemetery,” Pickel said. “This just further highlights how unique the infant – or now, rather, child – cemetery at Lugnano is.”
In previous excavations at the Cemetery of the Babies, archaeologists found infant and toddler bones alongside items like raven talons, toad bones, bronze cauldrons filled with ash and the remains of puppies that appear to have been sacrificed – all objects commonly associated with witchcraft and magic. In addition, the body of the 3-year-old girl had stones weighing down her hands and feet – a practice used by different cultures throughout history to keep the deceased in their graves.
“We know that the Romans were very much concerned with this and would even go to the extent of employing witchcraft to keep the evil – whatever is contaminating the body from coming out,” Soren said.
The “evil,” in the case of the babies and toddlers uncovered in Lugnano, was malaria, Soren believed. DNA testing of several of the excavated bones supported his theory.
Although the 10-year-old’s remains have not yet undergone DNA testing, the child had an abscessed tooth – a side effect of malaria – that suggests he or she may also have fallen victim to the disease, Wilson said.
The child was one of five new burials uncovered at the cemetery over the summer. The body was found lying on its left side in a makeshift tomb created by two large roof tiles propped against a wall – an alla cappuccina-style burial typical of Roman Italy.
“Knowing that two large roof tiles were used for this burial, I was expecting something unique to be found inside, perhaps a ‘double-inhumation’ – not uncommon for this cemetery – where a single burial contains two individuals,” Pickel said. “After removing the roof tiles, however, it became immediately clear to us that we were dealing with an older individual.”
The open position of the child’s jaw, which would not have opened naturally during decomposition with the body positioned on its side, suggests that the rock was intentionally inserted in the mouth after death, Wilson said. Teeth marks on the surface of the stone provide further evidence that it was placed purposefully.
The 10-year old was the first at the cemetery to be found with a stone in its mouth . Similar burials have been documented in other locations, including in Venice, where an elderly 16th-century woman dubbed the “Vampire of Venice” was found with a brick in her mouth in 2009. In Northamptonshire, England, in 2017, an adult male from the third or fourth century was found buried facedown with his tongue removed and replaced with a stone.
These types of burials are often referred to as vampire burials, since they are associated with a belief that the dead could rise again. Other examples of vampire burials throughout history include bodies being staked to the ground through the heart or dismembered prior to interment.
“This is a very unusual mortuary treatment that you see in various forms in different cultures , especially in the Roman world, that could indicate there was a fear that this person might come back from the dead and try to spread disease to the living,” Wilson said.
Archaeologists will return to Lugnano next summer to complete excavations of the cemetery and learn more about a dark time in history.
“It’s a very human thing to have complicated feelings about the dead and wonder if that’s really the end,” Wilson said. “Anytime you can look at burials, they’re significant because they provide a window into ancient minds. We have a saying in bioarchaeology: ‘The dead don’t bury themselves.’ We can tell a lot about people’s beliefs and hopes and by the way they treat the dead.”
Coming up next… outside of Washington, D.C. lies Forest Haven Asylum, an abandoned institution with a thoroughly disturbing past.
Plus… Matthew Weeks was found guilty and hanged for the murder of Charlotte Dymond. Today it is said that the ghosts of both of them roam the countryside – but could it be that Matthew’s ghost is lamenting because he was innocent of the crime?
But first… authorities placed Gil Perez in jail as a deserter and for the possibility that he may have been in the service of Satan. In Gil’s defense though, he said he simply teleported somewhere else.
That story is up next when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: TELEPORTATION OF A SPANISH SOLDIER=====
There is a strange story about Gil Pérez, who was a 16th century soldier and guard. The accuracy of this strange story has been questioned by some historians because it was not reported until a century after the incident took place.
Gil Perez was an ordinary Spanish soldier, a member of the Filipino Guardia Civil and worked as a guard at the palace of the Governor General in Manila, Philippines.
He did his duty to his government, regardless of any circumstances that arose during his guard duty.
Then something unexpected happened.
On October 24, 1593, Gil Perez was doing his guard duties at the Governor’s palace in Manila. Chinese pirates had assassinated the governor — Gomez Perez Dasmarinas — the night before, but the guards still guarded the palace and awaited the appointment of a new governor.
Gil Perez was tired so he decided to lean against a wall and rest for a moment.
When he opened his eyes, he did not recognize the place where he was, but he continued to do his guard duties until he was approached by someone who started asking him questions and telling him that he was somewhere that it was impossible for him to be.
Gil was in Mexico City’s Plaza Mayor (more than 9,000 nautical miles from Manila, across the Pacific).
He explained that moments before he arrived there, His Excellency the Governor of the Philippines, Gomez Perez Dasmariñas had been killed by Chinese pirates. Then, after long hours of duty in Manila, he decided to rest for a moment. A second later, he opened his eyes to find himself in an unknown place.
Nobody believed him.
The authorities placed Perez in jail as a deserter and for the possibility that he may have been in the service of Satan. The Most Holy Tribunal of the Inquisition questioned the soldier, but all he could say in his defense was that he had travelled from Manila to Mexico in some way.
After two months, a ship arrived from the Philippines, bringing news of the governor’s death. They said that they knew Gil Pérez, though they did not know he was in Mexico City. The last time they had seen him was on October 23 at the palace.
Witnesses confirmed that Gil Pérez had indeed been on duty in Manila just before arriving in Mexico. Furthermore, one of the passengers on the ship recognized Pérez and swore that he had seen him in the Philippines on October 23.
The authorities in Mexico City decided to release Gil Pérez and send him home. As there is no other account of Gil materializing anywhere, it is assumed that he never spontaneously teleported again.
STORY: FOREST HAVEN=====
When Forest Haven Asylum opened in 1925, it was exactly that–a haven and refuge for those in need, surrounded by a lush forest. The asylum was open for mentally impaired individuals of any age, as part of an effort to ease the burden of supporting a disabled person. It was believed that if families surrendered their in-need relatives, they would flourish in an environment that was made to complement their specific, and often intensive, personal needs. The asylum was built in Laurel, Maryland, approximately 20 miles outside of Washington D.C., meant to minimize inmate exposure to the rush of city life.
Construction on an administration building began in 1938. Two years later, then-First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt attended the dedication ceremony on March 8, 1940. The 30,000 square foot building boasted 38 hospital beds, 2 fracture beds, 18 cribs, an operating room, lab space, an x-ray room, a dentist’s office, and a psychiatrist’s laboratory.
The initial concept for Forest Haven included the cultivation of optimism. Mentally ill patients would not suffer the stigma of being viewed as irreparable, broken people but would instead reside peacefully among friends and dedicated caregivers. 22 buildings and 200 acres of woods guaranteed that Forest Haven would be more than an idea; it would be a vision of the future. Each building was known as a “cottage” and given a pleasant name, such as Magnolia, Pine, Oak, and Hawthorne. In addition, forward-thinking catapulted the asylum into a class of its own; patients would not simply stare into space between treatments, they would become part of a farming community. Eventually, Forest Haven’s residents milked cows and tended crops. They also received adequate exercise and time outside in nature.
And for a while, everything worked.
But soon, the facility would become more of a madhouse. By the 1950s, many of the asylum’s “state of the art” amenities were outdated. Financial problems prevented the kind of advancement needed to keep up with newer medical practices. Most of the extracurricular programs and recreational comforts were discontinued. A decade later, Forest Haven was no longer a utopian society, but a place of disposal for the troubled, the unwanted, and the misdiagnosed.
A surge in population forced staff to focus on maintaining order instead of rehabilitation. The problem continued to snowball to such an extent that many people who were not mentally challenged, but suffering other ailments (blindness, deafness, epilepsy, etc.) were thrown into the asylum and classified as slow or underdeveloped. And as Forest Haven became more and more understaffed, abuse began rippling through the system.
Benefits that had once been standard were significantly reduced; unqualified personnel filled the staffing void. This left many patients to wander the rooms and halls aimlessly and usually unattended. Some of the doctors were even declared incompetent by the state of Maryland.
By the 1970s, claims of abuse were rampant. It was determined that many of Forest Haven’s “patients” did not belong there or were not impaired enough to warrant institutionalization. Staff frustration mounted, causing some workers to lash out and beat the residents. Abuse claims eventually became deaths. An untold number of patients died at Forest Haven—figures are often spoken about in the hundreds. Often, the bodies of the deceased were whisked to a morgue in the basement before receiving a nameless burial on the grounds.
On February 23, 1976, a class action lawsuit was filed by the victims’ families. In the case, Evans, et al. vs. Washington, plaintiff Betty Evans swore before Judge Pratt that her daughter, Joy Evans, had been subjected to inhumane treatment. Some of that treatment had resulted in scratches, chipped teeth, cuts, bruises all over her body, and on one occasion, a raw, painful back, which stemmed from being restrained on urine-soaked bed sheets. Joy Evans died at Forest Haven in July 1976 at the age of 18.
Two years later, on June 14, 1978, the case between the plaintiffs and the city was settled. As part of the settlement, Forest Haven would be permanently closed, and its residents would be moved to community group homes. But in the meantime, they would receive proper “medical, dental, and health-related services.”
Soon, word came that many of Forest Haven’s deaths were likely being caused by aspiration pneumonia. The condition resulted from patients being fed while lying down, causing their epiglottis to malfunction and allowing food to drop into their lungs instead of their stomach, essentially choking them to death. Eight years after the settlement, Forest Haven was still open, although its population had been greatly decreased, to under 300 residents.
In July 1986, the District of Columbia Association of Retarded Citizens entered a proposal to train Forest Haven’s staff on proper feeding procedures. The proposal was rejected due to a lack of funds. A mixture of indifference and ignorance spread among the workers, and the problems continued in spite of the 1976 decree.
In the early morning hours of August 8, 1989, police were summoned to Forest Haven to investigate the presence of a dead body. When they arrived, they found 22-year old Arthur “Arkie” Harris lying on his right side in a fetal position. He was wearing only a hospital gown and white socks with red stripes. There was dried blood on his mouth. The investigation concluded that Harris had died from complications of aspiration pneumonia.
Between May 1989 and March 1991, the Justice Department had finally begun to track the deaths at Forest Haven, while the institution was in the process of closing. During that two-year period before the asylum finally shut down, at least 10 residents, including Harris, had died from aspiration pneumonia.
On October 14, 1991, Forest Haven’s doors were closed for good. The total death count will never be known, due in part to the quick practice of hauling bodies to the morgue and then burying them en masse outside. Before the asylum closed, the families of several former residents purchased a large granite headstone to memorialize those who died there. It sits in a field known as the Garden of Eternal Rest.
Today, only the remnants of Forest Haven are left. It is patrolled by a team of security guards to keep photographers and curiosity seekers from entering. It stands as a haunting reminder of its troubled history.
STORY: CHARLOTTE DYMOND=====
Cornwall, England is an astonishing place to visit, boasting a rich Pagan past and Druid sites of historical significance. Bodmin is one such region that is famous for its legends and is synonymous with the gruesome 19th-century slaying of Charlotte Dymond. In a Shakespearian-style tragedy of love and jealousy, a young man by the name of Matthew Weeks hanged for the rageful and bloody murder of the 18-year-old girl. Today, folklore has it that they both still roam the countryside of Bodmin.
One of my most memorable excursions in Bodmin was the Courthouse Experience, which seemed to transport me back in time. I sat in the courtroom of Bodmin’s Shire Hall where Matthew Weeks, the accused murderer of Charlotte Dymond, stood trial in August 1844. Although I was there to serve jury duty, it was only a mock trial in a staged Victorian crown court setting. Matthew’s real 10-hour-trial, on the other hand, resulted in his hanging death on the drop gallows outside Bodmin Jail.
It all began in 1842, when a domestic servant named Charlotte Dymond started a job at the Penhale Farm that abutted Bodmin Moor. The farm was owned and operated by a 61-year-old widow, Mrs. Peter, and her son. In addition to Charlotte, there was a pair of other live-in farmhands that shared the work, John Stevens and Matthew Weeks, both in their early 20s. Weeks had worked the farm for seven years. The town was aware that Charlotte and Matthew had been dating even before she started work at the farm. Matthew bore the scars of acne on his face and was quite an ordinary looking man with a limp and several missing teeth. However, he did like to impress with his attire and usually dressed very well.
Weeks had a rival though. Thomas Prout was the nephew of the owner of the farm, and the 26-year-old often assisted with the work. Rumors suggested that Charlotte was promiscuous and tended to flirt at any opportunity. By all accounts, Weeks and Prout got on well together. The problem began when Prout had taken a fancy to Charlotte. The farm’s other worker, John Stevens, reported that Prout wanted to rescue Charlotte from her current life of labor and possibly elope with her.
On April 14, 1844, Charlotte finished her shift on the farm. As it was a Sunday, she put on a fine dress with a red shawl. Matthew wore a collared shirt and clean stockings. Charlotte was seen having a private conversation with Thomas Prout, and soon after, she set off with Matthew. Isaac Cory, a 63-year-old man who tended farm in the region, said that he saw Matthew accompanied by a young lady in a green striped dress. It was foggy that day, but the farmer clearly recognized Weeks on the basis of the limp. Everyone assumed that Charlotte was with him at this time since they left together.
When Weeks returned to the farm later that day, he was alone. Mrs. Peter quizzed him about Charlotte’s whereabouts, but he pretended to be ignorant and said he didn’t know. Weeks’ stockings were covered with mud up to the knee. John Stevens also noted that his shirt revealed new tears and a missing button. Over the course of several days, there was still no sign of Charlotte. Weeks insisted that he had been nowhere near the moor. Suspicions among the staff were growing, and in their eyes, Weeks was certainly guilty. Several days after Charlotte disappeared, Weeks said that Charlotte had taken a job offer in Blisland, some miles away.
Ten days after Charlotte vanished, concern was at fever pitch. The villagers organized a search. Additionally, they investigated the offer of a new job and scoured the room of Matthew Weeks for any evidence. There was nothing indicating guilt in Weeks’ room, however, the job offer that he had mentioned was found to be a false claim.
The search resulted in the discovery of a body. It was Charlotte lying flat on her back at the banks of the River Alan. Her throat had a slash that was eight and a half inches across, and the wound was so deep that a couple of her vertebrae had partially separated. Evidence indicated that someone had initially made one cut across her throat and then inserted the blade into the wound to take another slice to finish the job. Police issued a murder warrant for Matthew Weeks, but nobody was able to find him. An investigation into his whereabouts finally located him in Plymouth at his sister’s house. That was all the confirmation the authorities needed. It appeared that Matthew had murdered Charlotte and fled.
Weeks was brought back to Bodmin Assizes, and there he was tried for murder. His testimony had changed several times and the details he gave were unsubstantiated. Additionally, two more witnesses came forward placing him with a woman of Charlotte’s description. Boot prints near the crime scene also matched up to Matthew’s boots. It took the jury only 35 minutes to return a verdict of guilty.
The judge sentenced Matthew to death, and he was hung at Bodmin Jail on August 12, 1844, in front of roughly 20,000 people who had come from all over the countryside. One detail that surfaced during the investigation was that Charlotte had plans to meet with Thomas Prout at the Tremail Chapel later in the evening sometime after she left the farm with Weeks. In fact, this was enough to cause many people to believe that Matthew Weeks was innocent and that he was unjustly hanged. It is for this very reason, they say, that his angry ghost roams the area around the jail in search of justice.
Up next… a building situated right in the middle of London’s swankiest and most historical areas, has long been said to be the lair of something not of this earth.
Plus… “The Jungle Book” – could it have been inspired by a real boy who was raised by wild animals?
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: BIZARRE NAMELESS THING=====
There are cases out there in the realm of the paranormal that are really hard to classify. It is sometimes difficult to ascertain if we are dealing with a supposed ghost, a mysterious lifeforms of some sort, or something else altogether. Such accounts can baffle and confuse, often accompanied by a blurring of facts and historical records to the point that it is nearly impossible to disentangle fancy from reality. Among the truly strange stories of the unexplained we have that of a building situated right in the middle of London’s swankiest and most historical areas, which has long been said to be the lair of something not of this earth.
The whole very bizarre series of events begins first and foremost with a place called Berkeley Square, which lies at Mayfair, Central London, and was originally laid out in the mid 18th century by famed architect William Kent. It would go on to become a place for the wealthy to reside, a symbol of opulence and a marquee area to live in, with many rich, famous, and influential figures such as George Canning and Winston Churchill himself staying here over the years. Yet this place of wealth and eminent stature would go on to accrue a rather sinister reputation as the haunt of something beyond our understanding, and it begins at house number 50, a single four-story brick townhouse right in the middle of the square.
Although there have been rumors of something strange going on in the dwelling since it was erected, our story truly starts to take off in 1840, when 20-year-old Sir Robert Warboys was supposedly at his local watering hole one evening and talk turned to 50 Berkeley Square and the rumor that it was haunted by some sort of ghost or demon. The somewhat inebriated Warboys thought the story was a bunch of “poppycock,” and flatly let everyone know as much, completely dismissing any tales of ghosts and goblins.
His fellow bar patrons then dared Warboys to stay in the accursed place, telling him that if he really disbelieved that the place was haunted so much then he would agree to spend the night in the building’s most cursed and haunted 2nd floor. Warboys then immediately accepted, and that night trudged over to the house to arrange accommodations with the landlord to stay in the designated room. The landlord himself seemed to be quite sure that it was a bad idea to stay there, and apparently highly recommended keeping a pistol handy throughout the ordeal, also insisting on rigging a makeshift line attached to a bell so that the foolhardy young man could signal for help if he saw anything out of the ordinary. Still highly skeptical, Warboys settled down in the room for the night without much thought to all of this superstitious talk.
It was not even an hour later, just after midnight, that the landlord’s jury-rigged bell supposedly began to ring incessantly, waking him from his sleep. The landlord got out of bed and was thinking about what to do next when a single shot from the pistol echoed out through the building from the 2nd floor. This was enough to spur him into action, and he rushed up the stairs to see what was wrong with his patron, the whole way expecting the worst.
When he arrived at the room and forced his way in he found it to be mostly the way it had been, save for the body of Warboys slouched in the corner, the pistol still gripped tightly in his still hand. A closer look at the fallen man showed that he seemed to be dead, and that his pale, lifeless face was twisted and contorted into a grimace of terror, lips drawn back and eyes bulging, as if he had seen something that had literally scared him to death. Across from the corpse was a single bullet hole in the wall, but of any intruder or what had apparently had scared Warboys so much there was no sign, nor was there any trace of what the dead man had frantically fired at.
The legend of this evil place would only grow from there, with others reportedly seeing some sort of entity on the premises over the years, which varied in description from a amorphous blob of mist to a “collection of shadows,” to the humanoid form of a shadowy man, to a slimy ooze with claws and even tentacles, that made “sloppy noises” as it travelled. Whatever it was also apparently had the ability to drive whoever saw it absolutely mad if they gazed upon it long enough, such as was the case of a maid who had allegedly gone into the residence to clean and had later been found stark raving insane. In another case a nobleman purportedly spent the night there and was found the next day a blithering, drooling basket case, his mind shattered by some unseen force.
Similarly to Warboys, another young man by the name of Lord Lyttleton decided to try to bravely stay a night in the attic of the residence in 1859, where he supposedly encountered a strange apparition with tentacles, sort of like an octopus, which he had then fired upon with a rifle. When he went to see if he had killed it he found nothing there, just bullet holes and shells. This particular description would become common in many reports of the “thing,” that it looked like some sort of globular phantom octopus, although with twisted, deformed features, and which would leave a viscous trail of stinking ooze in its wake. Whatever it was, in 1870 an W. E. Howlett would write of this sinister place and its unearthly inhabitant: *****“The mystery of Berkeley Square still remains a mystery. The story of the haunted house in Mayfair can be recapitulated in a few words; the house contains at least one room of which the atmosphere is supernaturally fatal to body and mind. A girl saw, heard and felt such horror in it that she went mad, and never recovered sanity enough to tell how or why. A gentleman, a disbeliever in ghosts, dared to sleep in number 50 and was found a corpse in the middle of the floor after frantically ringing for help in vain. Rumour suggests other cases of the same kind, all ending in death, madness, or both as a result of sleeping, or trying to sleep in that room. The very party walls of the house, when touched, are found saturated with electric horror. It is uninhabited save by an elderly man and his wife who act as caretakers; but even these have no access to the room. This is kept locked, the key being in the hands of a mysterious and seemingly nameless person who comes to the house once every six months, locks up the elderly couple in the basement, and then unlocks the room and occupies himself in it for hours.*****
Interestingly, it is worth noting that although the place was located in one of the most affluent areas of London it would be often be abandoned for long stretches of time, sometimes for years on end. In 1887 we have perhaps one of the better known incidents at 50 Berkeley Square, when two sailors by the names of Robert Martin and Edward Blunden were enjoying some R & R in London as their ship, the Penelope, was docked there. During their stay they ended up rooming at 50 Berkeley Square, staying in exactly the same room that Warboys had died in.
They were allegedly awoken just after midnight by something moving in the room, creating “wet noises” and causing the wooden floorboards to creak and groan. When Blunden tried to investigate who the apparent trespasser could be he reportedly came across an amorphous, pulsating mass of grey blocking his way, which according to the report had leapt to attack him even as Martin woke up to join him. Upon seeing his friend fall to the ground, the thing attached to his throat, Martin supposedly ran out of the building and flagged down a police officer, yet when they arrived just a few minutes later the room seemed to be completely empty, with no sign of where Blunden had gone. Depending on the source, the policeman and Martin then eventually found the missing man either mauled and dismembered in the basement, or dead on the street, having jumped from the window to escape the mysterious assailant. In both versions the body is found to have a face contorted with terror.
Sightings and incidents were rather common for the building from then on as well, in particular the notorious 2nd floor, and this went on until the 1930s, when an Ed Maggs turned the place into a bookstore and antique shop called Maggs Brothers, which it remained until 2015. Apparently when Maggs moved in there was a lock placed on the 2nd floor and it has been totally off-limits, with whatever was up there gone or pacing about waiting for a victim that would never come. Although there have been no new spooky incidents, the building has never really lost its ominous reputation, and is still widely touted as one of the most haunted places in London.
There have been many theories of what has gone on to be called “The Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square” could be. One is that this was just a particularly intense haunting, and indeed the building’s history would fit in nicely with this, as there are legends that a little girl was once killed here by a servant and another that a previous tenant, a young woman, committed suicide by jumping from the top window after being physically abused by her uncle. Another tenant only known as Mr Myers was a reclusive hermit who apparently went insane and died within the house. Could the phenomena reported be the result of these restless spirits roaming about, some particularly intense poltergeist?
There is also the idea that some demon resides here or even that the house serves as some sort of doorway between dimensions, through which strange entities venture through. Still another wild idea is that this was not the result of a phantom, specter, or ghost, but rather some sort of mysterious octopoid cryptid that had managed to crawl up the pipes from London’s sprawling sewer system after coming up the Thames River from wherever it had been spawned. In other theories this was the doing of some sort of mutant or even an experiment gone awry, or even that it was just a fabricated rumor spread by counterfeiters holing up in the house in order to keep nosy people away.
Then again there is also the very distinct possibility that considering the variation between reports and the way some details have changed or been exaggerated over time we could simply be dealing with an urban legend. After all we have here a spooky old house that went for long stretches without occupants, so perhaps these stories just naturally congregated to it and were later embellished and retold until the legend took off. Indeed, skeptics have been quick to point out that many aspects of the tales from 50 Berkeley Square bear a strong resemblance to fictional works, such as the story of the sailors, which is thought to have likely come from a story by an author in the 1870s named Elliott O’Donnell.
Since many of the events that have supposedly happened at 50 Berkeley Square have not been corroborated or verified as historical fact, is there a chance that these are just eerie stories from the imagination? The story of the sailors, for example, is thought to be the creation of one writer named Elliott O’Donnell, with no evidence to support it being a real tale. So what is it? Is this a case of a ghost, spirit, demon, or poltergeist? Is it an inter dimensional interloper? Is it more cryptozoological in nature? Or is this just all distorted creepy tales pulled from fiction and sprung from the imagination? Whatever the case may be, the Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square still incites discussion and debate, and remains a very strange case indeed.
STORY: THE JUNGLE BOOK=====
Many believe that Dina Sanichar, the Indian wolf boy, was the inspiration behind Rudyard Kipling’s famous work, The Jungle Book. Just like Mowgli, Dina was a feral boy raised by wolves, although his life was quite different from his fictional counterpart’s. Mowgli the man-cub entranced readers with his fascinating upbringing. After wandering into an Indian forest, he was adopted by the animals who fed, protected, and sheltered him. Dina, too, was raised by wolves. But the boy who inspired Mowgli did not have such a fantastical life.
Kipling was born in India and lived there until the age of six. He moved to England but then returned to the country of his birth 10 years later. He wrote The Jungle Book in 1895, less than 20 years after Dina Sanichar was captured living among a pack of wolves. Unlike Mowgli, Dina was mentally stunted despite years of reintegration into human society.
Dina isn’t the only one who lived an unusual life or whose story was made into a book. But he most certainly made an impact on one of Britain’s most famous writers.
Hunters first came across Dina in the jungle when they witnessed him walking on all fours, following after a wolf companion. No doubt their curiosity was peaked and they did their best to get their hands on the boy; after various attempts to lure him out of the wolf den failed they finally managed to smoke him out, along with the wolf. The hunters killed the wolf at the first opportunity; Dina witnessed the entire thing without warning before being carried off.
The hunters brought Dina to an orphanage where missionaries baptized him and gave him the name Sanichar, which means “Saturday” in Urdu, because that’s the day he arrived at the facility. Father Erhardt was in charge of the mission at the time, and he came to know the young boy. Dina struggled in his new life and was considered an imbecile. However, he did demonstrate the ability to reason and was occasionally keen at performing certain tasks.
Children learn to speak during the first two years of their lives. Some children learn to say “mama” or “dada” as young as six months old and within a couple years will begin forming sentences. These milestones coincide with mental, emotional, and behavioral development. Dina, however, would never speak. Despite multiple attempts by those around him to teach him how to talk, the wolf boy never managed to learn a language or to write; he did, however, communicate by making animal noises.
Even though Dina hated wearing clothes, struggled to walk on two feet, and refused to speak a language, there was one human habit that he did pick up: he enjoyed smoking and quickly became addicted to it. Some believe the habit may have led to tuberculosis, which eventually killed him.
Most children start growing teeth between four and seven months old, and usually have a complete set by the age of three. Depending on how young Dina was when he started living with wolves, it must have been difficult for him to consume his food. Wolves are carnivores and dine on big game animals. When Dina first arrived at the orphanage he refused to eat cooked food. He liked raw meat and would gnaw on bones to sharpen his teeth.
After Dina was captured, his rescuers tried to to make him adapt to society by doing things that most humans do naturally, such as wear clothing. While Dina eventually learned how to walk on two feet, he struggled with wearing pants and shirts during the two decades he lived among people. Interestingly enough, he wasn’t the only feral child who eschewed clothing: another boy, known as the wolf-child of Krondstadt, was sent to the Sekandra orphanage as well, and he too preferred to be naked.Because Dina spent his formative years among animals, he had a difficult time relating to humans, but he did form a friendship with a fellow feral child who lived at the orphanage. According to Father Erhardt, the boys had a “strange bond of sympathy” for one another, with one even teaching the other how to drink liquids out of a cup. Since these boys grew up with animals, they felt more comfortable with them – and each other – than humans.
Strangely, Dina wasn’t the only wolf child to appear in India in the late 19th century. In 1892, a missionary found a a feral child in the Jalpaiguri region. The following year, a child who had a great appetite for frogs was discovered in Batzipur near Dalsingarai. In 1895, another child was located in Sultanpur (this one reportedly became a police officer). In 1898, a fourth child was discovered in Shajampur, but was unable to integrate into human society despite spending 14 years with people.
Even after living with humans for 10 years, Dina’s mental development did not progress. At the age of 18 he was just over 5′ tall. V. Ball, author of the book The Jungle Life in India, said Dina had very large teeth and a low forehead. He appeared anxious and jumpy, as though he was never at ease. Dina passed away in 1895 from tuberculosis. He was just 29 years old but there are a few other accounts that say he was 34.
An 1851 pamphlet, “An Account of Wolves Nurturing Children in Their Dens, by an Indian Official,” by Sir William Henry Sleeman, is one of the first accounts detailing the existence of six wolf-children in India. Five of these feral children were found in present-day Sultanpur. One was captured in present-day Bahraich. According to Sleeman, there were many wolves who lived near the town of Sultanpur and other areas on the banks of the Goomtree River, and they reportedly ran off with “a great many children.”
Why were only wolf-children found in the jungle and not wolf-adults? It’s likely that the kids didn’t survive past childhood. They may have died of malnutrition or were killed by the wolves themselves or other animals. In The Jungle Book, Mowgli’s biggest foe was Shere Khan. In India, there were many tigers who would find a wolf-boy an easy target because humans can’t run as fast as wolves. During the 19th century, it wasn’t uncommon to find dead bodies in the jungle ravaged by animals; consequently, a dead child wouldn’t raise any alarms.
Over the years there have been numerous reports of feral children who were captured and reintroduced to society, and many of the tales were later debunked. One of the most famous cases involved two girls named Amala and Kamala who were reportedly eight months and eight years old after they were rescued in Bengal, India, in the 1920s from a pack of wolves. The man who found them, J.A.L. Singh, said they howled at the moon, walked on their hands and feet, and only ate raw meat. He attempted to teach them how to walk and talk. Researchers were fascinated by their story and wrote books about them. It was later revealed that the girls had not been raised by wolves but were developmentally disabled and had birth defects.
When Weird Darkness returns… evil stepmothers, jealous of their stepdaughters’ beauty are a classic tome in fantastical stories – but Martha Savcoll was no fairy tale.
And… of all the places in the world you would expect to be safe from the paranormal, it would be a church – but that would not be telling the truth when referring to Adams Grove Presbyterian Church in Alabama.
These stories are up next.
STORY: BROOKLYN MURDERESS=====
When William W. Place’s first wife died, he was anxious to remarry, looking for a mature woman who was a good housekeeper and most importantly could take care of his young daughter, Ida. In 1893, he hired a servant named Martha Savcoll, a widow from New Brunswick, New Jersey, to keep house at their Brooklyn home. He was happy with her work and she seemed to lavish a great deal of affection on Ida. Soon William was showing her more attention than would naturally be given to a hired servant, and in a month or two he was seen with her at the theater.
After a whirlwind courtship, despite objections from his relatives who thought she would bring him trouble, William married Martha Savcoll. Sure enough, not long after the marriage, Martha’s true nature came out; she had a quick temper and she often quarreled with other family members. She was annoyed that William had put the house in Ida’s name. She wanted her adopted son to live at the house and William objected. But the biggest difficulty was Martha’s jealousy of William’s affection for his daughter. Ida played piano and loved to accompany her father who had a fine tenor voice. They also shared a passion for amateur photography. Martha resented the time they spent together and had been heard to say, “Ida and her father will be married someday, I suppose.”
As years went on Martha’s affection for Ida diminished until by 1898, with Ida 17-years-old, it had turned to open hostility. Martha had threatened to kill both William and Ida and her late-night fits of temper would drive them both from the house More than once they had to contact a physician to give her sedatives.
On February 8, 1898, after William had left for work, neighbors heard loud arguing from the Place home. Around 9:00, their servant, Helen Talm, heard Ida screaming and ran upstairs. Martha sent her back down saying, “Never mind, we’ve only had a little quarrel.” Later that day, Martha fired Helen saying they are breaking up housekeeping unexpectedly and no longer needed her help.
The house remained quiet with all the curtains closed for the rest of the day. William returned from work at 6:30 and shortly after entering the door a neighbor saw him run from the house with blood streaming from his head. “My wife shot me,” said William, “She has shot me in the head and if I do not get the bullet out of my head I’ll die.”
It had not been a gunshot, he had been hit twice in the head with a hatchet. The attack had been so sudden and so jarring that he thought he had been shot. An ambulance was called and the police arrived and had to break into the house. They found Martha on the floor with broken gas lamps spewing gas into the room. She appeared to be unconscious but the doctor who resuscitated her believed that she was faking.
Ida was found upstairs lying on her bed. She had been strangled to death. There appeared to have been a fierce struggle. Ida had used scissors to defend herself and Martha’s dress was ripped and slashed. Ida’s eyes were suffused and discolored as if Martha had attempted to gauge them. The doctor believed Ida had been dead since early that morning.
Martha was taken to the hospital because of her apparent suicide attempt but was soon released into police custody. Detective Becker took her back to her home where Ida’s body still lay on the bed.
“Look at Ida,” he said, “and deny if you will that you killed her.”
Ida looked down and closed her eyes. Reportedly she said, “My God! I did it! Take me away! Take me away!”
But when she was taken to court and charged with homicide, felonious assault and attempted suicide she said, “I didn’t do anything of the kind.”
Martha’s trial began on July 5, 1898. Her defense was insanity. The trial lasted four days and she was easily convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to die. The verdict was appealed but the appeal failed and the verdict was upheld.
Martha Place was to be the first woman executed by the electric chair. The case generated considerable debate over whether this was an appropriate way to execute a woman and whether it was appropriate to execute a woman at all. A bill was introduced in the state legislature to make life imprisonment the maximum sentence for a woman convicted of first-degree murder. The bill failed.
Women’s rights advocate Elizabeth Cady Stanton came to Martha’s defense saying she should not be executed because as a woman she had “no voice in the laws, no representation in the government” and she was “as helpless as cats or dogs in the hands of vivisectionists, outside the realm of justice and mercy.”
Governor Theodore Roosevelt was not swayed by this argument, but he did convene a committee of doctors to examine Martha Place and make sure she was sane enough to execute. The committee pronounced her sane and on March 20, 1899, Martha Place was executed at Sing Sing Prison; the first woman to be executed by electrocution.
STORY: HAUNTED ADAMS GROVE PRESBY CHURCH=====
My father and step-mother have visited many countries, territories and states. One of the states that they enjoyed visiting was Alabama. My wife Deanna Jaxine Stinson has also visited many states in her lifetime, because her father was a long haul trucker and her stepmother was a medical doctor. I asked her if Alabama was one of the states she visited. Her answer was “no”. My father and stepmother visited the Adams Grove Presbyterian Church and my wife Deanna became fascinated with this church, because it reminded her of a church she used to attend in Deer Lodge, Montana. Deanna tells me that when she lived in Deer Lodge, Montana, she would attend a church that was connected to a cemetery. When she would go to this church, she felt the presence of many spirits inside the church. It appears that the same thing is going on with Adams Grove Presbyterian Church in Douglas County, Alabama. Alabama even makes claim that this is one of the most haunted locations in their state. This church was built in 1853. The church is a Greek revival styled church. This sort of style was very popular in the 1800s. The last congregation to meet in this church was back in 1986. Many churches throughout the United States, Europe and other countries are usually connected to a nearby graveyard. Adams Grove Presbyterian Church is no exception. Many ghost hunters claim that the church and the cemetery are haunted. I went ahead and gathered up some stories of the entities that haunt this church and cemetery.
Some of the ghost hunters claim that there are 4 entities that haunt this property. Special Note: I found more. The first one is the Red Eyed Shadow Man. This entity has been seen lurking around the church and is known to sneak up on you. Maxwell Hodges, an independent ghost hunter believes that the Red Eyed Shadow Man is either a demon or some kind of shadow person. Maxwell says that he came across the Red Eyed Shadow Man outside of the church. Maxwell says it was a warm day and then his right arm became unbearably cold, it felt like icy fingers were squeezing his arm. He turned around and the face of the Red Eyed Shadow Man was right in his face. The eyes were redder than red and it appeared like there was a small fire inside of the entity’s pupils. Maxwell screamed for help and his friends came to his rescue. After this experience Maxwell says he has no desire of ever ghost hunting again. Maxwell says he feels he has Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Maxwell to this day continues having nightmares of this horrific encounter.
Many tourists and ghost hunters make claim that there is a Confederate soldier ghost that haunts the cemetery and when he sees someone browsing through the cemetery, he makes his appearance and yells at people to get off the property. The now defunct (AGS) Alabama Ghost Stompers make claim that they were actually chased by this Confederate soldier and that he was holding his rifle while chasing them. AGS says he also said “go on git!” AGS thought it was a man dressed up as a Confederate soldier, they didn’t realize he was an actual ghost until he vanished in front of their eyes.
Right before a thunderstorm, people claim that a deceased minister of the church will step out on the porch, with his arms raised in the air. It appears he is yelling something, or praying out loud. Then all of a sudden thunder is heard and the rain comes. This minister who has not been identified, wears a black suit and a black Gaucho hat. When the rain starts, the minister will fade away into nothingness.
During dusk, people have heard a baby crying inside the church. If you walk towards the crying noises, the crying noises will stop. If you walk away from the crying noises, the crying noises will start up again. No one has any explanation on the baby crying noises in the church. Brook Flores of Alexander City, Alabama said she heard the baby crying noises and instead of getting scared, she became agitated, because the noises were annoying. Brook said it reminded her of a crying baby on a long flight she recently took.
Daniel Siegram of Kenner, Louisiana visiting this church with his wife in 1982 witnessed what looked like a flowing black cape moving around the church. Daniel and his wife could not make out an outline of a person wearing the cape. The cape was dark black with a red interior. The wind seemed to move the cape around and it was at the height as if a 6 foot man was wearing it. As they watched this mysterious cape go around the church, it flopped to the ground and vanished. Daniel and his wife were very confused and can’t explain what they witnessed.
What is interesting about this church is that Terrance Carter of Mobile, Alabama says that not only does this church have ghosts, but it also gets visits from extraterrestrials. Terrance and his friends on July 17, 1978 at 11pm saw 7 yellow disc shaped objects in the sky flying in V formation. The V formation split up. The maneuvers could not be done by conventional aircraft. 5 of the UFOs vanished in a blink of the eye and 2 UFOs remained. The 2 UFOs came close and beamed down a large light near the church and then flew off at incredible speeds.
A former church member who does not want to be identified says that one time the church was throwing a potluck barbecue. I will call this witness Doug. Doug did not like sitting with a group of people and decided to find a private spot on the church grounds to eat his food. He noticed that the ground was raised up as if a large gopher was burrowing underneath the ground. As he inched away from the raised ground, it moved closer to him. He started walking backwards and the raised ground moved towards him. Now he started walking at a fast pace and the raised ground moved faster towards him, leading him into the cemetery. When he was finally in the cemetery, he felt a hand grab his ankle and he fell on his face, with his plate of food flying everywhere. After this incident, he never returned to the church. He had enough.
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. 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.
“Summerwind: Wisconsin’s Most Haunted House” by Troy Taylor for Prairie Ghosts
“Followed By a Child” posted at YourGhostStories.com
“Agnes And The Time Travelers” posted at Alien UFO Sightings
“Tituba and the Salem Witch Trials” by William DeLong for All That’s Interesting
“The Unearthing of a Child Vampire” posted at Science Daily
“Teleportation of a Spanish Soldier” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages
“The Anguish of Forest Haven Asylum” by Gary Sweeney for The Line Up
“The Murder of Charlotte Dymond on Bodmin Moor” by Les Hewitt for Historic Mysteries
“The Nameless Thing of Berkeley Square” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe
“The Real-Life Inspiration For Mowgli” by Noelle Talmon for Ranker
“The Brooklyn Murderess” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight
“Haunted Adams Grove Presbyterian Church” submitted directly to WeirdDarkness.com by Paul Roberts from Halo Paranormal Investigations
WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, 2023.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7 ESV
And a final thought… “One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of spoke from the chimney and continue on their way.” –Vincent Van Gogh
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.