Listen to ““THE DAY THE CLOWNS CRIED” and More Horrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
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…
Three boys fishing in the middle of the night hear a blood-curdling scream. But it wasn’t a human making all that noise – it was an extraterrestrial. And thus began a series of meetings with alien beings! (What Do You Say When Meeting An Extraterrestrial?)
A day of hilarity turns into a day of horror as an uncontrollable fire breaks out at the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus – resulting in the most deadly circus disaster in history. (The Day The Clowns Cried)
Most ghosts and specters do a great job of scaring the pants off you – and some can get creative with how they do it, with stacking chairs, making toys talk, slamming doors, etc. But apparently not all spooks are worried about their reputation – and when it comes to haunting, they just phone it in, doing the bare minimum. (Lazy Phantasms)
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Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: LAZY PHANTASMS=====
There’s something about a class “A” full-bodied apparition that sets the ghostbuster’s heart a-flutter. It’s like an exorcist hearing, “Your mother’s in here with us, Karras”. You make a personal connection. It won’t improve your dating life, but it’s nice to know that sometimes when you stare into the abyss, the abyss will invite you to her lunch table. The abyss is usually such a “mean girl”. When your anomalous entity shows up decked out in period costume, at historically appropriate locations, with a litany of unfinished business, what you’ve got there is a solid narrative, good for compelling novels or reality television shows.
Bear with me while I follow a tortured chain of logic. Disturbing events without an explanation are relegated to the ghetto of “folklore”, cautionary tales nested in a narrative that suggest if you want to decrease your odds of being haunted, eaten, or dismembered you should probably stay out of the dark forest, preemptively stake potential vampires, carry dog biscuits in case of werewolf attack, and generally be nice to people while they are still alive as they tend to get surly when they’re dead. Rather than simply stating these obvious facts, we wrap them in a memorable story. This is because we need a way to measure our relative risk.
Alert communications researchers maintain that that narrative is how we facilitate personalization of risk, that is to say, “how likely am I to face this situation, and what are my optimal responses?” or more instrumentally, particularly when the threat is ambiguous, how like the protagonist of this little drama am I? This is why I always leave a trail of breadcrumbs in the woods. There’s a protocol to not being cooked by a witch and making it home. If you want to party with communications researchers, you’d say it like Jiyeon So and Lijiang Shen in their 2016 Communications Research journal article, “Personalization of Risk Through Convergence of Self- and Character-Risk: Narrative Effects on Social Distance and Self-Character Risk Perception Gap”. Boy that sounds like a page-turner, doesn’t it? The article attempts to summarize the results of an experiment as “reduction of perceived social distance to an at-risk character resulted in a convergence of perceived self- and character-risk”, which probably should have been the title. I mean, why make us wait? In short, the more social correspondence between you and the character in a narrative, the more you internalize the potential threat to yourself. This is why we demand so much from our phantoms and things that go bump in the night.
And what we demand is a recognizable form, cues to the time these critters hail from, and answers to annoying questions like why they have returned from the hoary netherworld or emerged from some wacky dimension to darken our doorstep. One can’t just throw some basic, floating geometric shape at a protagonist and expect everyone to get the message, whatever that message might be. That would just be heaping the anomalous on the anomaly, a pugnacious grist for the metaphysical mill. So of course, it’s happened.
Edmund Lenthal Swifte (1777-1875) was a mild-mannered lawyer and poet (younger son of Theophilus Swifte of Herefordshire and a thereby a relative of Jonathan Swift) who scored a position as the Keeper of the British Crown Jewels in the Tower of London from 1814-1852. Good work if you can get it. The Tower of London is no slouch when it comes to the production of fearsome phantoms, and even some rather odd ones. I’m thinking of the infamous ghost bear that frightened a poor guard to death. Don’t tell me you weren’t. Yet Edmund Swifte had perhaps the strangest encounter reported in that the entire episode seems to be completely devoid of explanation or meaning. In October 1817, he was having supper in the sitting-room of the Jewel House at the Tower with his wife, her sister, and his little boy. His personal narrative of the subsequent events appeared in the 1860 edition of Notes and Queries (a journal started in 1849 and still in publication today, for “literary men, artists, antiquaries, genealogists.” Its motto was once “When found, make a note of”).
***I had offered a glass of wine and water to my wife, when, on putting it to her lips, she exclaimed, “Good God! What is that?” I looked up, and saw a cylindrical figure like a glass tube, seemingly about the thickness of my arm, and hovering between the ceiling and the table; its contents appeared to be a dense fluid, white and pale azure. This lasted about two minutes, when it began to move before my sister-in-law; then, following the oblong side of the table, before my son and myself, passing behind my wife, it paused for a moment over her right shoulder. Instantly crouching down, and with both hands covering her shoulder, she shrieked out, “Oh Christ! It has seized me!” (Dyer, 1893, p314-315).***
That’s pretty much it, but what a doozy of an anomaly among anomalies. Or as Walter George Bell described it when detailing the event amongst other ghost encounters the Tower of London, “I fear, it is somewhat ridiculous; sadly falling short of what one has a right to expect a ghost should be in such a place as The Tower. They seem to plead, gibbering, for apology” (Bell, 1920, p60). Faced with the horror of ambiguity and an assault upon his wife from a phantom solid, Edmund sprang into action.
***I caught up my chair, struck at the wainscot behind her, rushed up-stairs to the other children’s room, and told the terrified nurse what I had seen. Meanwhile, the other domestics had hurried into the parlour, where their mistress recounted to them the scene, even as I was detailing it above stairs (Timbs, 1868, p19-20).***
As there seemed to be some nefarious intent involved, Swifte did not hesitate to consult his priest the next day, and was faced with a rather bland skepticism.
***When I the next morning related the night’s horror to our chaplain, after the service in the Tower church, he asked me, might not one person have his natural senses deceived? And if one, why might not two? My answer was, if two, why not two thousand? An argument which would reduce history, secular or sacred, to a fable…Our chaplain suggested the possibilities of some foolery having been intromitted at my windows, and proposed the visit of a scientific friend, who minutely inspected the parlour, and made the closest investigation, but could not in any way solve the mystery (Ingram, 1884, p154-155).***
As to the possibility that some optical illusion projected from the outside had manifested in the sitting room, Swifte noted, “The room was — as it still is— irregularly shaped, having three doors and two windows, which last are cut nearly nine feet deep into the outer wall; between these is a chimney-piece projecting far into the room, and (then) surmounted with a large oil-picture. On the night in question, the doors were all closed, heavy and dark cloth curtains were let down over the windows, and the only light in the room was that of two candles on the table. (Timbs, 1868, p19-20). Even though no projection into the room was possible, the honorable Swifte still felt compelled to note that tricksters had been afoot in the Tower at an earlier date.
***I am bound to add that shortly before this strange event some young lady residents in the Tower had been, I know not wherefore, suspected of making phantasmagorical experiments at their windows, which, be it observed, had no command whatever on any windows in my dwelling. An additional sentry was accordingly posted so as to overlook any such attempt (Lee, 1875, p106).***
Swifte was well known as an honest and forthright gentleman, and although the events occurred forty-three years before he put pen to paper, he assured readers that these were not the tall tales of an aging pensioner.
***Forty-three years have passed, and its impression is as vividly before me as on the moment of its occurrence. Anecdotage, said Wilkes, is an old man’s dotage, and at eighty-three I may be suspected of lapsing into omissions or exaggerations; but there are yet survivors who can testify that I have not at any time either amplified or abridged my ghostly experiences (Swifte, 1860, p192).***
Admittedly, once one decides to take the road less travelled when it comes to anomalies, comfortable things start to fall apart. All the paranormal theories and skeptical explanations of those things that strike terror into our hearts run aground on the shoals of pure nonsensicality. Yet there is something comforting in the anomaly that truly “flips the bird” to explanation or existential meaning. It suggests that the impossibilities are endless. As Ernest Lehman said, “After all, the wool of a black sheep is just as warm.”
When Weird Darkness returns… Three boys fishing in the middle of the night hear a blood-curdling scream. But it wasn’t a human making all that noise – it was an extraterrestrial. And thus began a series of meetings with alien beings! That story is up next.
STORY: WHAT DO YOU SAY WHEN MEETING AN EXTRATERRESTRIAL?=====
In late January 1972, 16-year-old John Yeries, his brother James, and two small friends, Darrell Rich and Robbie Cross, decided to do a ‘little late-night fishing near Battle Creek Bridge, a few miles east of Anderson, Calif.
It was cold that night and a whispy, boggish mist swirled through the dense forest as their car inched its way up the narrow road. As the boys nervously talked and glanced into the surrounding darkness, John suddenly yelled and pointed at a brilliantly glowing object that passed over the car and vanished somewhere in the thickly wooded countryside. Minutes later, at Battle Creek Bridge, they left the car and had walked about 100 feet then a piercing scream rang out from the brush just off the road.
“We heard this blood-curdling howl,” John said. “I pointed the light over in the brush and there was this weird thing.”
About 50 feet away stood a creature, seven feet tall, dark green or brown in ‘color, slightly hunched over with what appeared to be a large teardrop shaped “ear” on one side of its head: The boys described the ‘thing as humanoid, having no hair and what looked like “lumps” all over its body similar to the pouches in a flight suit.
“I heard a scream right near me,” James said. “l ran back to the car. Robbie ran, too. Then John and Darrell came back and said they’d seen it.”
Panic-stricken, the boys reached the car but it was locked. Aer fumbling for the keys they hurriedly got in and tried starting the engine, but it wouldn’t kick over, so they pushed it. John popped the clutch and the car lurched forward; they scrambled in, slammed the doors and raced down the road.
But the encounter wasn’t over!
Some distance down the road they noticed a number of fiery objects-blue, white, orange, and red-moving erratically along the open fields on both sides. Two of the “glowing balls” came together, shot straight up in the air and disappeared. As the boys traveled farther along they reported seeing a glowing shape that looked like a human figure.
The boys drove to Darrell Rich’s home and related the experience to Darrell’s father, Dean. Mr. Rich is a respected businessman in Anderson, and was at the time considering running for Anderson City Council. He grabbed his pistol and returned to the Battle Creek Bridge with his son and the Yerie boys.
“I thought maybe they were pulling my leg,” he said. “But they seemed very scared.”
He and the boys walked into the dark forest about 100 yards and were confronted with a series of odd noises. In the blackness ahead of them, the elder Rich said he heard a “… really deep growl. It was a weird type of sensation, a feeling
I’ve never experienced before.” After hearing the strange sound, _he said the boys ran and left.him there alone and “I got the hell out of there, too!”
The combined scream-growl continued until Dean Rich had backed. up to the car at which time the sound abruptly stopped.
“It was an eerie thing,” he said. “It wasn’t a peacock, a bear, a mountain lion, a bobcat, or like anything I’ve ever heard before.”
Dean Rich added that the “thing” had apparently stayed in one spot since there was no sound or movement in the brush. He and the boys agreed that they interpreted the scream as a warning to them to leave-and it succeeded.
The police were notified and a patrol car was dispatched to the scene; a car-mounted spotlight was used in a broad sweep of the bridge area, but nothing was observed, nor was any evidence found. The police noted that Rich and the boys were very frightened, and that “something weird had happened.” The Anderson policeman who investigated the incident said he’ knows the witnesses personally and is sure any suspicion of a _hoax is out of the question. Dean Rich concluded that what was so unnerving about the whole event was that it happened “very close to home.”
On Oct. 4, 1973, California insurance agent, Gary Chase walked through the doors of the Community Safety Agency and headed for the desk sergeant on duty.
“Look, I’m not drunk, I don’t smoke pot, and I’ve got a story that will blow your mind!” he said earnestly. For earlier that night as he drove over the mountainous Santa Susana Pass toward his home in Simi Valley, an area 40 miles northwest of Los Angeles, he was tossed headlong into the mysterious world of UFOs.
It was 6:40 p.m., as Chase drove along the freeway. His thoughts were of a successful business day and getting home to his wife and their small daughter. The sun had set but the sky was still blue; he could drive safely for a while before turning on his headlights. As Chase neared the Rocky Peak exit, a dark, cigar-shaped object hovering near the top of the mountains ahead caught his eye. Thinking that it might be a blimp, he slowed down to watch it, but the object disappeared behind the crest of the ridge.
Continuing his route west and passing the mountain, Chase kept looking to .his right, expecting to see the blimp silhouetted plainly. in the sky on the other side of the ridge where he thought he’d get an unobstructed view of it in the valley. Surprisingly, the sky was empty.
Chase kept watching for the object as he drove several more miles. Then he noticed a small cloud of dust rising from the side of a rocky peak just behind him. He pulled over to the side of the freeway at the Kuehner Drive exit ramp, backed up a short distance and got out to take a look.
Nestled in a small canyon 100 feet below him was an elliptical-shaped craft, hovering and swaying about 10 feet off the ground. It appeared to be about 30 feet wide and at least 70 feet long, the rear end double the size of the front.
Because it was nearly evening the color of the craft was difficult to discern, but Chase says the smooth finish resembled the dull gray of an automobile with a coat of paint primer. A hose-like object protruded from the bottom of the craft that was about eight feet long and a foot in diameter.
This “tube” almost reached the small stream directly underneath the hovering craft. What baffled Chase most was a large insignia on the side of the craft, a huge “V” with progressively smaller “V’s” inside the larger figure, in alternating dark and light colors.
Chase stood spellbound at the edge of the freeway, hoping someone else in the early evening traffic would also see the UFO and stop, at least to inquire what he was looking at, but he was to be the only witness.
Suddenly, at the top of the gently swaying vehicle, a clear, glass-like dome about three feet in diameter appeared and opened. As Chase continued to stare in amazement, a humanoid figure appeared on the deck crawling on his hands· and feet and heading toward the narrow front of the object in the direction of the hose.
According to Chase, the “being” looked like a man- of normal size and was wearing a tight-fitting uniform that looked like a scuba diver’s wet suit. Chase couldn’t see the humanoid’s facial features because the entity’s face or face-plate was darker than his uniform, if, indeed, the humanoid was wearing a uniform at all.
As the “being” neared the hose, a loud clicking sound came from the craft. Instantly, the entity turned and looked up directly at Chase. It then’ quickly turned away, and scurried rapidly on hands and toes back to the rear of the craft where it first appeared.
The clear bubble on the top began to rotate and it disappeared leaving only a flush, dull gray surface. Then there was another sound; an extremely low humming that seemed like a vibration.
A thick, opaque cloud-like substance began collering the object that extended about 20 feet all around the mysterious vehicle. Although this “fog” didn’t reach Chase a pungently sweet odor did which he felt was caused by the mysterious substance. The witness watched the thick cloud for about 60 seconds and when it disintegrated, the craft had disappeared!
The appearance of humanoid creatures accompanying UFO sightings is increasing at an alarming rate. Researchers’ files are filled with such accounts and whether they represent visitors from outer space, or from another dimension, is a moot point to the thousands who’ve had serious physical and emotional problems as a result of encounters with them. What’s more, a 1973 Gallup Poll shows that 11 percent of the adult population in the U.S., or roughly 15 million Americans, have observed UFOs and believe them to be intelligently controlled objects of unknown origin.
We’re in the midst of a very real phenomenon, and scores of people are being mercilessly hounded and ridiculed. And up till now science and the media have seen fit to ignore the mountain of evidence collected by competent investigators for nearly three decades.
On Apr. 24, 1964 New Mexico policeman, Lonnie Zamora, chased a UFO in his patrol car as it whizzed through the sky and descended into a gully. As he approached the area where the object landed he heard two loud bangs. Leaving his car Zamora walked to the gully and noticed two humanoid figures standing next to the landed object. They looked like “children or small adults” in white or beige clothing. The beings appeared surprised at seeing Zamora and quickly reentered their craft which shot off into the sky.
On Oct. 9,-1968, Doribio Pereira of Lins, Brazil, came upon a hovering oval-shaped UFO. Near this mysterious craft was a human-like figure armed with a flashing device that immobilized him. Three entities were standing on a platform under. the craft and another appeared to be using a keyboard apparatus in a transparent upper dome. The being reentered the object and ii shot off into the sky.
In October 1973, three boys from Danville, Va., were chased by a four-foot-tall humanoid creature clad in shimmering “white light.” The entity had a large head with no discernible eyes and seemed to run “sideways.” A greenish glowing UFO was seen nearby. The following day witnesses in Athens, Ga., reported two “small statured” men dressed in silver and with jet white hair stepping from a landed UFO.
Another incident In October 1973, involved a policeman in Falkville, Ala., who snapped four Polaroid pictures of a six-foot-tall creature clad in a “tin foil suit.” As the entity walked “stiffly” toward the patrol car, the frightened witness switched on his flashing roof lights and it turned and ran. The officer gave chase in his patrol car, but the being outran him-, “faster than any human I ever saw!”
Investigators in Greensburg, Pa., reported that during the UFO wave of May-October 1973, dozens of witnesses saw ape-like creatures nine-feet-tall with shaggy hair and glowing red eyes. These reports were ignored until a massive three-toed footprint measuring 13 inches long by eight inches wide was found while investigating a UFO sighting in the area. The discovery led some to theorize the creatures may have “been trained by UFO operators to gather plant and animal specimens for study.”
The idea is not as farfetched as it sounds as the following story proves:
Mrs. Wallace Bowers of Vader, Wash. had just stepped from the porch of her home when she discovered several sets of incredibly large footprints measuring 15 inches long by six inches wide in her front yard. The prints were pressed neatly through the snow and had crushed the bottom layer of gravel to a depth of nearly two inches. Mrs. Bowers was doubly frightened because there had been rumors of a “Bigfoot” in the area-the night-stalking giant of the Pacific Northwest which has been the subject of controversy for nearly a century. The thought of such a monster so close to home was terrifying.
Mrs. Bowers called the Lewis County Sheriff who, with a deputy, photographed the prints, and took a detailed report. The sheriff told Mrs. Bowers the prints didn’t look like those of any known species of animal.
This was only the beginning!
Three days later she was excitedly called to a window by her four children.
Dreading she was bout ·to see the “thing” that made the prints earlier in the week, she was more startled to see a glowing orange-colored disk-shaped UFO zoom over nearby power lines and stop. Mrs. Bowers immediately called a neighbor who also saw the UFO dart silently through the sky, stop, wobble slightly an” hover-almost as if it were looking back at them. The object was round with an upper dome surrounded by a revolving circle-the outer rim being definite and very bright.
The UFO tipped sideways and changed color to a bright white. It then moved away in a zigzag and headed slowly back toward the Bowers home. A cold chill came over the frightened woman, as she thought It was coming back. At that point, a large “gray shape ” dropped from the object into the woods, and a peculiar “sharp ” sound was heard over an indoor intercom.
“The funny thing,” Mrs. Bowers said, “is that we tried to use the intercom the night before and we got that same sharp sound.” The Intercom was later found to be in perfect working order.
Meanwhile, the object tipped from side to side, zipped off into the distance becoming a clear, bright light that eventually disappeared.
Later that week Mrs. Bowers was putting a log on the fire when she glanced into an adjacent room and noticed curtains moving as if hands were poking through the window. “All the children were in the living room with me,” she said. “All I could think of was getting them safely out of the house. So I loaded them into the car and we left, but I definitely saw a shape in the room as we drove away.” An inspection of the house a day later found nothing missing, though a few things were in disarray.
Mrs. Bowers later said, “Since this happened I keep running Into people who have seen similar things-only they didn’t report them because they thought they’d be laughed at.”
The following episode was related to John Magor, a Canadian UFO researcher and editor of the Canadian UFO Report by Bernice Niblett. who spent the winter of 1967 alone on Keats Island, a beautiful but isolated place located a few miles northwest of Horseshoe Bay, Vancouver, B.C. The author visited the area for several weeks and learned that reports of UFOs were continuous from 1965 to ’72.
Magor pointed out that after interviewing Bernice Niblett and ” … speaking to other witnesses she had listed, and hearing firsthand her tale of a year’s lonely adventure that became an ordeal from which she was eventually forced to escape … there was no doubt those mystifying, often frightening events still lived with her … that she was explaining exactly what she heard· and saw.”
Ms. Niblett·moved into her tiny cabin in October 1967. She related the following:
“Since the cabin was meant for summer use only and hadn’t been used much even then, there was a great deal to do to get ready for winter. When darkness came I fell into my bunk dog-tired, with hardly a glance out the window. The top bunk where I slept was alongside a window I could look out of without raising my head.
“On Jan. 27th, the cold woke me at 6 a.m. It was still dark and stars were glittering. As I looked out at them a very bright white star moved into view from over the roof. It made two wide spirals down, zigzagged parallel to the Earth a couple of times, then stopped for about 10 minutes. It then took off at great speed, turning yellow, then pink, as it faded into the distance. It was very high during all this and when it took off it did not seem to be following the Earth’s curvature but to be going off into space. This had to be a flying saucer or UFO and I was delighted to have seen it.
“I decided to keep a lookout from then on. The cabin was a perfect spot for watching-on a rocky point about 65 feet above the water. The front window gave a wide view of sky, water, and small islands. My cabin was 1,000 feet’from where the road ended and couldn’t be seen from there . . . There was a scattering of tall firs and cedars to the right and left and up the steep rocky hill that rose directly behind the cabin.
“From Labor Day to the end of May, I was the only resident on the west side of the island. Few people visited their cottages because the government dock at Eastbourne was removed for the winter and the water supply pumps weren’t in operation.
“The … next evening (Jan. 28th) I saw another UFO from the front window. It traveled very slowly over the water from south to north-only a few hundred feet up. This one seemed to be a long dark body with dim red and yellow lights at both ends. It weaved from side, to side, stopping two or three times with its lights dimming almost out.
“Next afternoon, two men in neat, dark coveralls came down the path to the cabin, saying they were Hydro men and how surprised they were to find someone living here . . . I asked what their work area was, and the ‘boss’ (apparent leader of the two) said they checked wires from Powell River-which seemed a long route for two men, and I said so. They, in turn, asked if I liked living here, and I go hunting and didn’t I get frightened at times? When I asked what there was to be afraid of, the men looked at one another before the ‘boss’ finally answered, ‘Oh, things.’
“Although the men were friendly enough, they were a little stiff and just not the type of persons to discuss UFOs with, so I didn’t. After they left I wondered how they knew anyone was here since the cabin couldn’t be seen from the road and could just barely be seen from the water, and that’s if you knew where to look. The stove was out when they arrived, so there was no smoke from the chimney.
“On Feb. 17th I woke up at about 6 a.m. while it was still dark, and saw a UFO traveling inland over Keats from north to south. It was below the tree tops most of the time as it went up the hill behind the cabin where I then lost sight of it. This one was definitely a long dark craft with two or three yellow and red lights at each end. Like the others I had seen, the lights would’ occasionally dim almost completely out.
“I was feeling uneasy and less enthusiastic about seeing these things now … I Just might end up as a ‘sample’! I re-· called a TV interview I’d seen a few years
back. An American couple claimed they had been taken inside a UFO and given a thorough physical examination. They were made to forget it all when set free, but hypnosis made them remember it again.
“Then on Feb. 21st, I had just walked to the front window as the sun was going down. The sky and water were pink. Something about 60 feet above the water, with ‘frosted’ yellow lights on the sides and a bright red one in the middle, slid over from the front left of the rocks near my cabin, then back to the water without turning around. It slid up and back as if on a rail.
“My knees turned watery and my stomach filled with butterflies! I realized I’d seen several of these same things many times, but through trees, as I sleepily observed them from my bunk window . . . They seemed to maneuver so easily and silently. They would go back and forth between the beach, a little way to the left of the cabin, and then to the point where my cabin was.
“After seeing the thing slide up and away again it took some time to get over my fright. Curiosity finally made me brave enough to venture out to the edge of the rocks where I could get an unobstructed view.
On the other side of Ragged Island and more than half hidden by it, appeared to be a big boat well lit up with lights. As I tried to figure out the reason for the boat being there, three balls of yellow to amber· light flew up from it. It was hard to guess how big these UFOs were-maybe four feet in diameter. Eventually, there were five or six of them, some headed off to Bowen Island, others to Keats, Pasley and the other islands. I kept glancing behind me for fear that one of the lights would get between me and the cabin and cut off my retreat.
“The balls traveled slowly over treetops dropping down amongst them or to the water’s edge. Every once in a while one would go back behind Ragged Island, although the bright ship had disappeared … A tugboat rounded the corner quite close to shore, hauling a barge. One of the balls of light hovered over the tug, and one over the barge as well. I wanted to share this sighting so badly with someone it was tantalizing not to be able to yell at the tugboat men to look. The balls of light stayed with the tug and barge only a matter of seconµs before peeling off exactly together-one going to Bowen, the other to Pasley.
“Running back to the cabin, I locked the door. This was too much! I couldn’t even tell anyone about it because I had no phone and the only public phone was in Eastbourne and in the darkness I just might have bumped into ‘something.’ How could I have been so blindly unobservant as to miss all this before? In moving to Keats, I had probably moved right into their midst from the beginning!
“The next day I phoned people who I knew had boats; one on Bowen Island and the other on the mainland … But the water was too rough for them to come over, or they didn’t have time or the real reason, they thought I was probably mistaken about the whole thing anyway. One man insisted that it must be some new kind of aircraft being tested.
“Mar. 5th. There was no one else to turn to so I walked over to the Baptist camp to see the Willis family. (The Baptist camp is a religious retreat located at Keats, and the Willises are caretakers year-round.) I got there in time to see them pulling away from the dock.
“For several nights the weather was stormy so I stayed inside, looking out of the windows occasionally. Because most aircraft are grounded by poor weather I expected theirs to be, too, but it didn’t seem to make any difference to them.
“Around 10 o’clock on one of those blustery nights I heard a sound like an enraged hornet approaching. It seemed to hover close over the cabin, move away, then back again. The sound of a large hornet flying around is enough’ to give anyone goose pimples. Combined with a stormy night it was almost too much! When it seemed overhead my eyes were riveted to the ceiling, expecting something to come boring through the roof. I was too frightened to even take a peek out the window at it.
“For at least two weeks that ‘hornet’ was around, but at a distance. It was a bright, white ball as far as I could make out and it went back and forth in a small area in front of Ragged Island. Sometimes it flew back and forth to an area in front of the beach. On the stormy night protective air and merely said, ‘Yes.’
“When I asked the young man how he liked his new job, he seemed to take the question quite seriously. Without smiling and with a little bow, he replied, ‘Fine.’
“The next day I went to the road to pick up some bark I’d dropped there. I saw a small pick up truck slowly approaching., When it came to the end of the road it stopped and four men climbed out. They were Hydro men inspecting lines from the moving truck. Very human, carelessly dressed, workaday men. None in coveralls. The boss wasn’t obviously around. They expressed no surprise at seeing me there, no concern or any particular interest.
I told them that two of their men already had been around the day before, inspecting the lines. They assured me yesterday’s men weren’t Hydro men, that somebody had been ‘pulling my leg.’ I described the former men to make sure and also told them they had been around before. These men didn’t know them.
“I should have asked these real Hydro men if they checked lines all the way to Powell River, as the ‘boss’ had said on the first visit, but I didn’t think of it soon enough.
“The possibilities as to who the first men were dawned as something I’d been too dense to see before-I think a number of UFO people are among us and they include those phony ‘Hydro’ men.”
In concluding her report of a year’s encounter with .UFOs, Bernice Niblett commented: “Every human is different. We expect it. When we exchange a word or two with someone whose. phraseology is different or who has an accent, we only wonder what country he’s from, not what planet. Maybe that’s a mistake.”
Although the Niblett case is essentially a single witness report, John Magor added a compelling footnote to the episode following his in-depth investigation of Ms. Niblett’s UFO experience: “Our vote is for Ms. Niblett-and if we are right, here is a person who has had a contact with the UFO riddle which, considering the time it lasted and the frequency of incidents, is probably in a class by itself. Yet she doesn’t pretend to be a contactee for a moment.
Although she had unusual, strikingly vivid dreams following her experience, she has no message of univer sal importance to impart. Instead, she talks as a woman who was badly frightened but is still curious about what happened. We think that reaction is the believable one. . . ”
There will always be people who will ignore even the most verifiable UFO sightings, but a detailed study made of a wide cross-section of UFO witnesses shows unmistakably that people had seen exactly what they claimed to have seen.
In other words, the basic problem is with those who “reject” conclusive UFO reports rather than with those who make them. Psychiatrists have pointed out that the majority of UFO witnesses had a true grip on reality, while the compulsive skeptics who reject any and all sighting reports could not visualize or cope with the reality of these strange events. A classic example of this happened when a specialist in meteoritics (the study of meteors or falling stars) well-known for his anti-UFO sentiments proclaimed, “You can’t believe UFO witnesses.
This is eyeball testimony and you can’t rely on what people say they see in the sky.” This skeptic was quite embarrassed when it was pointed out that 90 percent of the data collected in his own field depended almost solely on eyeball testimony! Did this render his study techniques meaningless? Of course not, but according to his reasoning if witnesses see meteors they’re accept-able-if they see UFOs they are insane or merely untrustworthy observers.
At this point, you might ask, “If these ‘beings’ reported by people like Gary Chase, Bernice Niblett, and scores of other people are from outer space, isn’t it unlikely that creatures from space would be so similar to us in physical appearance? After all, with billions of planets and millions of civilizations what is the probability that they would be so like us?”
So far it’s impossible to estimate such. probabilities. Our visitors have appeared to be humanoid, and whether they are representative of life forms in one other solar system, 10 other solar systems, or a myriad of galaxies is a tangle that only time and perseverance will unravel.
Thus in the words of Dr. J. Allen Hynek, “Let’s cut out the nonsense and get down to the business of finding out what these things are!” Today, at this very moment, someone is facing the most incredible experience of his life, an encounter with the aliens who walk the Earth. We must not abandon them.
Up next on Weird Darkness… A day of hilarity turns into a day of horror as an uncontrollable fire breaks out at the Ringling Bros Barnum & Bailey Circus – resulting in the most deadly circus disaster in history. That story is coming up.
STORY: THE DAY THE CLOWNS CRIED=====
Everyone loves a day at the circus – and the 7,000 people who showed for the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus on July 6, 1944 were ready for an amazing show. The town of Hartford, Connecticut, was playing host to the famous circus, and people of all ages were gathering beneath the tent to get out of the heat and enjoy the performances and human circus attractions.
Sadly, the day did not go according to plan. In the official reports, the Hartford circus fire claimed a total of 167 lives, most of them children. A small fire broke out near the edge of the tent; the canvas roof was quickly engulfed in flames; and it all went down in under 10 minutes.
Investigations tried to pinpoint a cause and determine who was responsible, but it was all too late for the Hartford circus fire victims and their loved ones. They spent the next days searching through rows of bodies in a makeshift morgue, some of which were never positively identified.
Pictures of the Hartford circus fire, as well as those of “Little Miss 1565” and “sad clown” Emmett Kelly carrying water in a futile attempt to stop the blaze, created a tragically unforgettable view of one of the worst tragedies in performing arts history – “The Day the Clowns Cried.”
Circuses make their money by providing thrills to the masses, in a safe environment. Sadly, from time to time, things do go awry. Historically, there have been all kinds of horrifying incidents: lion tamers getting mauled, aerialists falling from high wires, and even train collisions. The fire at the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus in Hartford, Connecticut, stands among the worst disasters in circus history worldwide.
World War II had a major effect on the home front, with lots of young men away from home in the theaters of battle and extra work to be done in factories to support the war effort, which many women – as emblematized by Rosie the Riveter – took up. The majority of the circus fire casualties were women and children, which was likely because so many adults, especially men, were away from home or working.
In addition, some of the blame for the tragic fire was placed on a shortage of workers with the circus, as well as delays. The circus had arrived late to Hartford – some believe that the reason fire extinguishers weren’t placed in their proper locations was the rushed setup of the facilities. Whatever the excuse, all of the fire safety equipment remained inaccessible in storage at the time of the tragedy.
The Great Wallendas were, and still are, one of the most famous circus families in history, wowing audiences and setting records with their high-wire and daredevil stunts. They were performing with the Ringling Brothers that fateful day in July and were only about 20 minutes into their act when the fire started.
They managed to get down quickly without injury, as the band leader switched songs to “Stars and Stripes Forever.” That was the universal cue for circus members that there was an emergency, without alarming the audience and causing a stampede. At the same time, Fred Bradna, the ringmaster, encouraged the audience to quickly and efficiently exit the tent without rushing. That warning fell on deaf ears.
The roof of the big top had been waterproofed by circus employees a few months before the catastrophic fire, but it’s very likely that their waterproofing methods were what led to the deaths of so many of the circus goers. They used “a mixture of four parts Texaco White Gasoline and one part Standard Oil Company Yellow Paraffin Wax,” which they poured onto the canvas tarps and brushed into the fabric with brooms.
Although it seems like an extreme fire hazard to pour gasoline on canvas, back then, it was a common method of waterproofing. The top may have burned readily, but the sides were not coated with the mixture – since many people escaped through cuts in the sides of the tent, it’s possible that not waterproofing the sides saved a lot of lives.
According to ConnecticutHistory.org, when it came to official causes of death: “Most died from exposure to the fire and smoke, but a significant number were also trampled.” The exposure to the fire alone would have been painful and deadly, but to make matters worse, chunks of flaming canvas were falling from above, with hot wax melting off of the waterproofed tent. The circus goers who were trampled to death were trying to escape through one of only a small handful of exits, heavily blocked by the 7,000 people trying to escape. Two of the exits were blocked by tunnels for the animals to be able to travel in and out of the big top, which caused deadly delays.
Donald Gale, a 10 year old, and seven-year-old Elliot Smith were attending the circus with family and friends when they became trapped near different exits. Elliot got stuck near the exit where the animal chutes were blocking the path, and he never lost consciousness as people fell on top of him. Donald, near another exit that had bottlenecked just before the roof collapsed, passed out as bodies fell – and kept him safe from the flames.
Both boys were rescued by firemen who were putting out what remained of the fire and were taken to the hospital, where they shared a room for their nearly half-year recovery. They talked about their experiences with the program Disasters of the Century decades after the traumatic event.
Emmett Kelly created his sad clown character “Weary Willie” when he was trying to make it as a cartoon artist in the early 1900s. He ended up in the circus instead, working first as a trapeze artist and then bringing “Weary Willie” to life as a full-time clown. He was present for the Hartford circus fire, and he did what he could to help people escape and put out the flames. A photo of Kelly carrying a bucket of water became very widespread and led to the event being nicknamed “The Day The Clowns Cried.”
According to his grandson, Kelly loved children and carried the pain of hearing their screams as they died for the rest of his life.
Although sources give several different numbers for exactly how many people died the day of the fire, the most agreed upon number is 167. The number of people injured was around 700, although that figure only included the injuries that were reported and treated. Many sources admit that the true number of victims of the fire may never be known.
Of all the people lost in the fire, there was one who stood out for decades. Known for years as “Little Miss 1565” (the number she was given in the morgue), she remained anonymous even though every effort was made to find her family. What was most unusual was that her face only had minor burns. She was trampled in the disaster – not burned to death – and survived for three hours in the hospital afterwards.
Her photo was widely circulated in an attempt to find her family, but no one came forward. In 1991, it seemed like Hartford Fire Lt. Rick Davey had finally found her name: Eleanor Cook. As happy as some people were to give her an identity, some others believe that it’s the wrong one and that her name was actually Sarah Graham. Either way, she was reburied alongside the boy who may have been her brother, Edward Cook, who also died that day.
Robert Dale Segee was only 15 on July 6, 1944, and he was an employee of the circus. He waited for six years before confessing to setting the deadly fire – among other things. He claimed that he had also set several fires in other states and had murdered four people. According to the Milwaukee Journal, Segee told police that he was “haunted by strange fiery dreams which sometimes drove him to crime” as a way to explain his penchant for arson. He was never convicted of setting the fire in Hartford, and decades later, he recanted his confession, claiming that he had been mentally ill.
The State Fire Marshal eventually found the cause of the fire to be inconclusive but reported that it had most likely been started by a carelessly tossed cigarette. Although circus employees were not held responsible for actually starting the blaze, there were other things to consider. For instance, the safety equipment (such as fire extinguishers) was not properly in place since they were so late in arriving and setting up.
In the end, Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey paid out $5,000,000 in damages to victims of the fire.
Although many survivors of the fire came forward to tell their stories, some refused to speak of the incident. One man who attended the circus with his brother, Arthur Joseph Payne, claimed that he repressed the memories for almost 50 years because they were so painful; his brother always refused to speak of it.
We’ll step into the Chamber of Comments and I’ll answer a few emails I’ve received recently, when Weird Darkness returns!
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, you can find free audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies with horror hosts at all times of the day for free, sign up for the newsletter to win free prizes, grab your Weird Darkness and Weirdo merchandise, plus if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can 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.
“What Do You Say When Meeting An Extraterrestrial?” from Anomalien.com
“Lazy Phantasms” posted at Esoterx.com
“The Day The Clowns Cried” by Rachel Souerby for Weird History
Again, you can find link to all of these stories in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “I tell you, whoever acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man will also acknowledge him before the angels of God.” — Luke 12:8
And a final thought… “When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.” – Helen Keller
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.