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Hauntings and poltergeist activity are nothing new, and the lore of paranormal research holds countless examples. Yet, every once in a while a case will truly bubble up from the rest to present an extremely strange and strong account. Lying within the country of England is an unassuming, normal looking house, which nevertheless has managed to go on to accrue a reputation as one of the most haunted locations in the nation. Here at this abode we have a rather volatile, frightening, and violent entity that has come to be known as the Black Monk.
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.
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Coming up in this episode…
Urban legends are typically dark, strange stories which for the most part are only that – legend. Harmless tales meant to frighten the listener with no more repercussions than some goose bumps and perhaps a restless night of trying to sleep. But some legends are based on truth – and those are the ones that truly make our skin crawl and our faces turn white. (Urban Legends Which Are Actually True)
Why would a U.S. state vote to have an official state demon? It really happened – and stories about the Jersey Devil continue to this day. We’ll look at the history and horrors of this bizarre cryptid and see if it’s more than urban legend. (Legend of the Jersey Devil)
Delano, California is a small, uninteresting town that many may think twice before visiting. East of this town is an equally dreary road known as Browning Road. If you’re a paranormal enthusiast, you know that this is one road you shouldn’t dare travel alone. (Hitchhiking Ghost of Delano)
A woman shares her horrifying true story of an evil entity she encountered on Browning Road in Delano, California. (Evil Walks Browning Road)
In the summer of 2014 a series of UFOs were being reported by Navy pilots – the most elite of our airborne military. Not only were the sightings becoming more frequent – they would last up to 12-hours at a time. (Navy Pilots Report UFOs)
A family moves into a home and almost immediately begins to experience escalating supernatural activity – which then introduces a sinister, dark menacing entity. (The Black Monk)
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE BLACK MONK=====
The year was 1966, and a family consisting of Jean and Joe Pritchard and their two children, Phillip, 15, and Diane, 12, moved into a quiet house on 30 East Drive, in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, England. It was not long after they had settled in that strange things began to happen around the home, starting, as these things tend to, rather innocently enough. The first main incident started on September 1, 1966, when the son Philip was staying at the home with his grandmother, Sarah Scholes, while the rest of the family was away on a trip to Devon. One day they they felt a strange gust of cold wind pass through despite the summer heat, shortly after which they witnessed what seemed to be a white powder or mist snowing down from the ceiling as the sounds of footsteps echoed from above. When they went to investigate, along with Scholes’ sister Marie Kelley, there were found to be inexplicable pools of water spreading on the floor of the kitchen, and even as they stared at this new development that bumping noise continued from the next floor up and that dust rained down upon them.
At the time it was thought that the water was merely the result of a broken pipe, and a repairman from the water company was called in to take a look. However, after a thorough inspection of the kitchen there was found to be no sign of anything amiss, and the repairman had no idea of where the water could be coming from, even as it seemed to pool up even more as he was there. The pools would eventually stop, but everyone present was left completely baffled as to what was going on.
Later that same evening, the pools began to form again from nowhere, and this time this phenomenon was joined by a violent, jolting rattling of various cutlery and pots and pans around the kitchen. In addition to this, the whole area was sprayed with tea as some unseen force repeatedly depressed the button on the tea dispenser with great force and increasing speed. The cupboards and furniture of the kitchen also began to vibrate and move about without explanation or apparent cause. This was all followed by a thunderous bang from the outside hallway, but when they looked to see what it could be nothing was there, even though the hallway light began to turn on and off by itself even as they surveyed it. It was further noticed that a plant that was normally positioned at the foot of the stairs was now inexplicably sitting at the top of the stairs, and neither of them had moved it.
As they examined the hall, the crockery and cupboards in the kitchen began to vibrate again with greater vigor, and Kelley was once again brought over to observe the frightening show for herself. The activity once again died down, but when a heavy chest of drawers began to sway on its own volition later that night, both Philip and his grandmother packed a few things and headed to a neighbor’s house for the night, terrified of what was going on. Interestingly, by the time the rest of the family returned from their trip the strange phenomena seemed to have stopped. At the time they all thought that there had to be some normal explanation for what had happened, especially as there were no further disturbances. Indeed, it would not be for another 2 years that anything else out of the ordinary would happen on the premises, but when it did it did so with a vengeance.
The long period of silence made it all the more shocking when pools of water started forming again all over the house, furniture was moved or rattled on its own, odd green foam would seep out of water taps, loud thuds and bangs would sound out from all over the house, doors would slam open or shut by themselves, and more ominously, family portraits and furniture would be found demolished or slashed and disfigured as with a knife. There were also unidentified sickening odors that would waft through the home, as well as anomalous noises including heaving breathing and, oddly, the sound of barnyard animals. Such things happened nearly everyday, and it all became so commonplace that the family took to calling the invisible entity “Fred,” putting an innocuous nickname to the faceless and gradually threatening intruder.
All of this steadily graduated in intensity, with things being smashed or broken by unseen hands, or objects flying across the room even in the presence of guests. Indeed, whenever people came over the phenomena seemed to actually get worse and more violent, and this apparently even happened in the presence of local police officers and the town vicar, leaving everyone dumbfounded and authorities unable to find any rational explanation. In particular Dianne seemed to be targeted, often waking up to the sound of heavy breathing or undefined voices in her ears, and there were times when she was allegedly downright physically assaulted by the entity, such as being pushed, having her hair pulled, and even on several occasions being dragged across the room. The entity was not above lashing out at others as well, and reports of being held down, pushed, slapped, or punched by the specter were common, even from those just visiting.
The phenomena seemed to work in cycles, with times when this would happen on a daily basis interspersed with long absences, sometimes for weeks at a time, but return it always did. In the face of the escalating malevolent activity, the Pritchard family reached out to the Church for help, and there were several exorcisms performed on the house, all of which seemed to just make the spirit even angrier. During these attempted exorcisms crucifixes were supposedly knocked out of hands or smashed to pieces, and inverted crosses were sometimes found painted or scrawled upon the walls in red and black ink, neither of which were kept in the house. In one particularly frightening incident an invisible force picked up a candlestick and held it in front of the priest’s face, which was enough to send the man of the cloth running away to never come back.
In addition to this, the malicious spirit began to make itself known and visible as a full apparition. At first these visitations took the form of Jean and Joe waking in the middle of the night to see a dark shape standing at the foot of their bed staring at them, which would then blink out of existence. On another occasion, Joe claimed to have awoken to see a figure in flowing black robes hovering over his bed. This strange entity was more often than not described this way, as dressed in black robes and with a hood covering his face, not unlike what a medieval monk might wear and which would earn the wraith the nickname “The Black Monk.”
Before long the Black Monk was seen lurking about by everyone in the family, and was even claimed to have been spotted prowling the property by neighbors and other locals. To make it all even creepier, the phantom would sometimes change things up by appearing wearing women’s fur gloves. Through this all it seemed to still have it in for the daughter Diane, and its attacks on her grew in ferocity. The girl would sometimes wake up with scratches and bruises on her body or be completely thrown from her bed, and on at least one occasion was actively choked and slapped around by an unseen force in full view of witnesses, who were often themselves not immune to these outbursts. Perhaps the scariest incident happened when Diane’s hair was seen to stand up as if someone were pulling and yanking on it, after which the girl was forcefully dragged up the stairs screaming.
The desperate family had paranormal investigators called in, and some interesting things were found out on the history of the land the house sat upon. For instance, investigator Tom Cuniff found that not only had the area once been the site of a battle, but also that it had once been used as the town gallows, and that hundreds of people had been executed here. In particular, there was supposedly a Cluniac monk who had met his end by hanging here, after being found guilty of raping and killing a young girl around Diane’s age back in the 16th century, and Cuniff believed that this was the spirit haunting the home.
Strangely, despite all of the intense paranormal activity that permeated this home, it would all one day suddenly cease just as abruptly as it had started. The weeks would go on with the family bracing for the Black Monk to rear his sinister head yet again, but it was completely quiet for no apparent reason, as if he had just gotten bored and stopped. The Pritchards would nevertheless eventually move out, and the house would go on to be a popular destination for paranormal investigators, several of whom would apparently uncover the fact that indeed the Black Monk was still around and as active as ever, perhaps perturbed by new trespassers to his domain.
A very well-known and harrowing investigation of the premises was carried out by seasoned paranormal researchers Nick Groff and Katrina Weidman, of the TV series Paranormal Lockdown, who recklessly decided to actually spend a few days locked up inside of the home, and almost as soon as the doors closed there were purportedly strange goings on. It started with a sense of an indefinable dread and a door being slammed shut almost immediately, which could have been attributed to a draft if it weren’t for what would transpire over the next 100 hours. Groff would say of his initial impression of the house thus: *****Right when we stepped on the property it felt different. There’s an energy about it. When you take a step into that location it’s haunting, it really is, without anything really even occurring you just feel it, you feel the energy and the sense that something is there lurking in the shadows.*****
They would go on to be woken by slamming or banging noises in the house, and the next day they actually reached out to the entity, called it Fred, and asked if it would move a ball. Sure enough, the ball apparently began rolling across the floor of its own volition. It all almost seemed rather playful at first, but then things started to get knocked off of stands, thrown across the room, or broken, and a clock dropped off the wall. When Groff reached out to ask the spirit “Do you need a lot of energy [to move things]?,” it was captured in an EVP recording saying in Latin “desperata,” meaning “hopeless.”
On top of this, whenever the team asked the entity something it would remain silent, but the room temperature would drop dramatically. In addition, a shadowy figure was allegedly filmed moving across a room, and the nighttime noises occurred with increased amplification. To make it all even more menacing, a knife was inexplicably left on the stairs, and the crew began to complain of being pushed or shoved by something, with the co-host Katrina actually claiming to have been held in place, attacked, and scratched. Groff would say: *****We’ve captured this solid figure moving past one of the doors, things moving on their own. My co-host Katrina, she got scratched too at one point so it got really scary as it escalated through our investigation of a hundred hours. When I was living there for 100 hours there were moments when I was terrified, like when I was sleeping and I was really deep in sleep. And anybody, I don’t care how strong you are or how big you are, you will be startled in the darkness, and you’re all alone, and something bangs really loud in the room and the door opens on its own, and you see an apparition – you’re going to get startled.*****
Other researchers have had similarly bizarre experiences on the property, with numerous instances of the ghost’s voice caught on tape and quite a few pieces of photographic evidence as well. Many of these investigators have expressed shock at the sheer magnitude of sinister paranormal activity at the residence, with some even claiming that they actually feared for their lives while there, and the Black Monk has earned a reputation for being one of the most violent and evil poltergeists around. Another pair of investigators from the TV show Ghost Dimension said: *****When we arrived at the house I had been so excited to finally be filming at 30 East Drive. I had heard so many stories about what went on here through the 60s and seen so many photos of monk-like figures. We had never experienced so many paranormal happenings going in one place and in such quick succession.*****
The house itself was purchased by a man named Phillip Pritchard and later sold to the British advertiser and film producer Bil Bungay, who turned it into a sort of macabre tourist destination. He would later have the story made into the 2012 horror film When The Lights Go Out, directed by Pat Holden, and which is loosely based on the real events. The film crew apparently had quite a few paranormal experiences making the movie, which was supposedly partly filmed on location, and to this day it has remained a hotspot for debate, discussion, and investigation.
There have of course been plenty of allegations that this was all a hoax or a publicity stunt, and that there was never any haunting at all. However, this ignores the fact that the whole town knew of this haunting, and it was witnessed by numerous people, including neighbors, friends, police officers, and at least two priests. So concentrated was the haunting and so violent, that the case of the Black Monk of Pontefract has gone on to become one of the most well-documented and aggressive hauntings England has ever seen, with the house this day said to be ground zero for all manner of strange happenings. Whatever is going on here, be that an expansive hoax or a very angry and vehement spirit, the case has never been solved.
Urban legends are typically dark, strange stories which for the most part are only that – legend. Harmless tales meant to frighten the listener with no more repercussions than some goose bumps and perhaps a restless night of trying to sleep. But some legends are based on truth – and those are the ones that truly make our skin crawl and our faces turn white.
In the summer of 2014 a series of UFOs were being reported by Navy pilots – the most elite of our airborne military. Not only were the sightings becoming more frequent – they would last up to 12-hours at a time.
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: NAVY PILOTS REPORT UFOS=====
The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds.
“These things would be out there all day,” said Lieutenant Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years and who reported his sightings to the Pentagon and Congress. “Keeping an aircraft in the air requires a significant amount of energy. With the speeds we observed, 12 hours in the air is 11 hours longer than we’d expect.”
In late 2014, a Super Hornet pilot had a near collision with one of the objects, and an official mishap report was filed. Some of the incidents were captured on video, including one taken by a plane’s camera in early 2015 that shows an object zooming over the ocean waves as pilots question what they are watching.
“Wow, what is that, man?” one exclaims. “Look at it fly!”
No one in the Defense Department is saying that the objects were extraterrestrial, and experts emphasize that earthly explanations can generally be found for such incidents. Graves and four other Navy pilots, who said in interviews with The New York Times that they saw the objects in 2014 and 2015 in training maneuvers from Virginia to Florida off the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, make no assertions of their provenance. But the objects have gotten the attention of the Navy, which this year sent out new classified guidance for how to report what the military calls unexplained aerial phenomena, or unidentified flying objects.
Joseph Gradisher, a Navy spokesman, said the new guidance was an update of instructions that went out to the fleet in 2015, after the Roosevelt incidents.
“There were a number of different reports,” he said. Some cases could have been commercial drones, he said, but in other cases “we don’t know who’s doing this, we don’t have enough data to track this. So the intent of the message to the fleet is to provide updated guidance on reporting procedures for suspected intrusions into our airspace.”
The sightings were reported to the Pentagon’s shadowy, little-known Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which analyzed the radar data, video footage, and accounts provided by senior officers from the Roosevelt. Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official who ran the program until he resigned in 2017, called the sightings “a striking series of incidents.”
The program, which began in 2007, was officially shut down in 2012 when the money dried up, according to the Pentagon. But the Navy recently said it investigates military reports of UFOs, and Elizondo and other participants say the program — parts of it remain classified — has continued in other forms. The program has also studied video that shows a whitish oval object described as a giant Tic Tac, about the size of a commercial plane, encountered by two Navy fighter jets off the coast of San Diego in 2004.
Leon Golub, a senior astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, said the possibility of an extraterrestrial cause “is so unlikely that it competes with many other low-probability but more mundane explanations.” He added that “there are so many other possibilities — bugs in the code for the imaging and display systems, atmospheric effects and reflections, neurological overload from multiple inputs during high-speed flight.”
Graves still cannot explain what he saw. In the summer of 2014, he and Lieutenant Danny Accoin, another Super Hornet pilot, were part of a squadron, the VFA-11 “Red Rippers” out of Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., that was training for a deployment to the Persian Gulf.
Graves and Accoin spoke on the record to The Times about the objects. Three other pilots in the squadron also spoke to The Times about the objects but declined to be named.
The pilots began noticing the objects after their 1980s-era radar was upgraded to a more advanced system. As one fighter jet after another got the new radar, pilots began picking up the objects but ignoring what they thought were false radar tracks.
But Graves said the objects persisted, showing up at 30,000 feet, 20,000 feet, even sea level. Then pilots began seeing the objects.
What was strange, the pilots said, was that the video showed objects accelerating to hypersonic speed, making sudden stops and instantaneous turns — something beyond the physical limits of a human crew.
Asked what they thought the objects were, the pilots refused to speculate.
URBAN LEGENDS WHICH ARE ACTUALLY TRUE=====
Many have experienced the trepidation of saying “Bloody Mary” into a mirror and waiting for something to jump out and scare them. And when nothing happened, they chalked it up to another harmless urban legend. But what if urban legends were actually true? Keep listening for a few not-so-tall tales that have actually occurred – and are reminders that you’re not actually as safe as you think.
Organ Trail of Blood
The Legend: Unknowing tourists are drugged, carved up, and robbed of their healthy organs. Upon coming to, they find themselves packed in ice in bathtubs with notes that read: “If you want to live, go to the hospital immediately.”
The Truth: In 1997, a chain-letter email hoax went viral. The bulk of the message described the misdeeds of a highly organized gang operating in various U.S. cities, who were supposedly drugging business men on work trips, extracting their organs, and then selling them for profit on the organ transplant black market. Though the National Kidney Foundation has proven that story to be nonsense, organ thieving is no joke. In fact, this ABC News report from 2008 centers on three Indian men who were lured to a hospital outside Delhi with the promise of work opportunities. The men were then held at gunpoint and anesthetized. They awoke to excruciating pain, gigantic scars … and fewer organs.
The Legend: A couple checks into a Las Vegas hotel, and suddenly they smell a foul odor. They later discover the body of a rotting dead girl stuffed into the box spring under their mattress.
The Truth: Folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand, a.k.a. Mr. Urban Legend, is credited with first debunking this smelly little tale in his 1994 book, The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends. He deemed the tale more tall than true, due to a lack of fact-checkable details. But this 2010 NBC News report about a missing Tennessee woman found dead, with her body stuffed into the bed frame within a hotel, is certainly true. There’s also the story of serial killer Richard Kuklinski, who poisoned a man, strangled him with a lamp cord, then stuffed his body into a mattress in a New Jersey motel.
The Halloween Hangman
The Legend: A Halloween performer decides the ultimate climactic scare is to pretend to hang himself in front of an audience. The only problem is, he actually hangs himself. The performer dies as on-lookers applaud the authenticity of the act.
The Truth: This legend, depicted all over screens big (The Gallows) and small (Tales from the Crypt), has many variations. Each version usually involves a male performer, a rope, and the deadly inability to master cheap imitation. The real-life tragedies that inspired this legend involve the same elements. In 1990, A New Jersey teen named Brian Jewell died performing a hanging stunt at the entry of a hayride attraction. In North Carolina, that same year, 15-year-old William Anthony Odom accidentally hanged himself while staging a gallows scene at a Halloween party. Then in 2001, Caleb Rebh, a 14-year-old working at a haunted attraction, died after switching places with a noosed skeleton hanging from a tree. The audience, horrifically enough, thought he was acting as he struggled with the rope around his neck.
The Man Inside the Walls
The Legend: A family moves into a secluded old fixer-upper, but is disturbed by continuously misplaced objects and strange noises. Later, the town learns that the family has been brutally murdered within their home. The attacker: an intruder who’d been hiding in their walls.
The Truth: The true crime roots of this urban legend can be traced back as far as 1941, when Denver drifter Theodore Coneys snuck into an old acquaintance’s home, and set up shop in the attic, emerging only when the homeowner would leave. Then there’s this ABC News story from 2015, wherein a man entered a home in New Jersey, crawled under a bed, and remained in hiding for three days. While no one was harmed, the intruder did charge his cell phones using an outlet at the base of the bed—which, in some ways, is creepier.
The Earwig’s Tale
The Legend: Some poor soul awakens from a deep sleep to a terrible headache. Maddened by the pain and scratching sounds he hears from within his head, he goes to the hospital. There, doctors find that bugs have gotten into his head through his ear canal, and made dinner out of his brains.
The Truth: In the mid-19th century, explorer John Hanning Speke struggled to get a Nile River beetle out of his ear canal with a penknife. A more recent case involves a British woman named Rochelle Harris. In 2013, after vacationing in Peru, Harris was plagued with headaches, facial pains, and ear discharge. The culprit? Flesh-eating worms that burrowed into her head.
When Weird Darkness returns…
Why would a U.S. state vote to have an official state demon? It really happened – and stories about the Jersey Devil continue to this day. We’ll look at the history and horrors of this bizarre cryptid and see if it’s more than urban legend.
Delano, California is a small, uninteresting town that many may think twice before visiting. East of this town is an equally dreary road known as Browning Road. If you’re a paranormal enthusiast, you know that this is one road you shouldn’t dare travel alone. And a woman shares her horrifying true story of an evil entity she encountered on Browning Road.
These stories are up next.
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STORY: THE LEGEND OF THE JERSEY DEVIL=====
The story of the Jersey Devil (also known as the Leeds Devil) has everything: a founding father! Alleged occultism! A feud between almanac makers! The devil has become a staple of New Jersey folklore, to the extent that in 1939, the Works Project Association even unofficially dubbed the Jersey Devil the “official State demon” in The WPA Guide to New Jersey.
But has a flying half-kangaroo, half-horse with bat-like wings really terrorized the Pine Barrens of New Jersey for hundreds of years? That depends on whom you ask.
Their are numerous iterations of the Jersey Devil origin story, but in general it goes as follows: ‘Mother Leeds’ was a woman living in the Pine Barrens of New Jersey in the 18th century. When she learned she was pregnant with her 13th child (damn, Mama Leeds!), she exclaimed in regards to her unborn baby, ‘let this one be a devil.’
But Mother Leeds should have been careful what she wished for. Legend claims that when her 13th child was born at last, it initially appeared to be an average human baby—but suddenly morphed into a hideous winged beast that slaughtered its mother before flying up and out of the chimney, to forever terrorize the surrounding land.
Although there are different iterations of that story —some claiming the devil never appeared in human form, others claiming it spared its mother, still others saying the 13th child slaughtered his mother and the midwife, too— the gist remains the same: Mrs. Leeds gave birth to a devil.
The story behind the story might be even stranger.
In 1677, a Quaker named Daniel Leeds came to America and settled in Burlington. Ten years later, Leeds worked with one of the first printers in precolonial America to publish an almanac.
The emphasis placed on astronomy in Leeds’ almanac was viewed askance by his Quaker brethren; Leeds’ attention to the stars was seen as occultism. Faced with criticism, Leeds only doubled down on the perceived mysticism in his work. In 1688 he published The Temple of Wisdom, a book heavily influenced by German mysticism.
He went on to publish other more explicitly anti-Quaker tracts, and came to work as council for Lord Cornbury, the British governor of New York and New Jersey. Most Quakers were opposed to British rule, which meant that members of the Quaker community saw Leeds’ alliance with Lord Cornbury as yet another slap in the face from the traitorous almanac maker. In 1700, a tract entitled Satan’s Harbinger Encountered … Being Something by Way of Answer to Daniel Leeds explicitly accused Leeds of working for the devil.
When Daniel Leeds retired from alamanc-ing in 1716, his son Titan inherited his father’s mantle, and began feuding with none other than 100 dollar founding father Benjamin Franklin. Franklin’s debut edition of Poor Richard’s Almanack was published in 1732. For the 1733 edition, he poked fun at the Leeds almanac empire by jokingly predicting the day Titan Leeds would die.
Leeds responded by calling Franklin “a fool and a liar,” to which Franklin replied by claiming he had “receiv’d much abuse from the ghost of Titan Leeds,” since only a dead man could possibly have a response so stupid. Franklin did not let up, continuing in this vein even after Titan truly did die in 1738. Of his rival’s death, Franklin wrote “Honest Titan, deceased, was raised [from the dead] and made to abuse his old friend [Franklin].” Too soon, Benjamin!
Mother Leeds is believed to have been a real woman named Deborah Leeds, the wife of Japhet Leeds, Titan’s brother. In 1736, Japhet claimed twelve children in his will. But the Leeds family’s connection to the Jersey Devil legend likely had far more to do with politics than with an actual demon.
The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry points out that the Jersey Devil legend is believed to have originated around the time Titan Franklin did in fact die. Before his death, Titan had also redesigned the almanac masthead to include the family crest, which featured wyverns—legendary, dragon-like creatures that bear more than a passing resemblance to descriptions of the Jersey Devil.
It’s likely that the story of the Jersey Devil began as yet another way to discredit and embarrass a loyalist family. Already accused of being Satan-worshippers and ghosts, a demonic half-kangaroo may have been, in the eyes of their enemies, a logical evolution for the Leeds family.
Regardless of what ultimately inspired the legend, the Jersey Devil mythos eventually gained a life of its own.
Throughout the 18th and the 19th century, there were sporadic reports of sightings of a strange beast whose unearthly cries haunted the Barrens. One alleged sighting came from a very famous source — Napoleon Bonaparte’s brother, Joseph Bonaparte.
The former King of Spain, Joseph went into exile in America after 1813. He built himself a mansion in Bordentown, where he lived a life of relative luxury, entertaining many nobles despite his rural surroundings.
One day, the disgraced king was hunting alone on his spacious estate when he claimed to run into one of New Jersey’s stranger residents. According to Bonaparte, he followed some unusual tracks and found himself facing down a fearsome hissing winged creature with a head like a horse’s. After a standown, Bonaparte said the strange animal eventually fled to the skies — never to bother the disgraced Spanish King again.
Nearly a century later, concentrated reports of sightings occurred in South Jersey in January 1909, when numerous alleged sightings of a frenzied beast caused hysteria. Mysterious tracks appeared across the Delaware Valley, even in relatively urban areas like Philadelphia. The winged creature reportedly swooped down and interrupted the meeting of a social club; another woman reported she came upon it trying to eat her dog. Livestock were slaughtered by a mysterious force, schools were shut down, and mills closed when workers refused to leave their homes out of fear of what lurked in the woods.
However, articles from 1909 reporting the mayhem may be somewhat misinterpreted today. Bill Sprouse, author of The Domestic Life of the Jersey Devil (and a descendant of Daniel Leeds) told Thrillist that that nuances of these reports may be lost on modern readers: “There’s this fundamental misunderstanding. A lot of the media coverage treated it as a joke from the beginning, but it’s not a joke that necessarily everyone gets. [The stories] have this breathless, kind of panicked tone at times and then, other times, they’re obviously very funny. The local context is everyone knows it and nobody, relatively, takes it particularly seriously.”
Regardless of who or what exactly terrorized the Delaware Valley in 1909, sightings of the Jersey Devil are still reported today. As recently as 2015, a man in Galloway claimed to see a llama-like creature “spread out its leathery wings” and take flight above a golf course.
In total, National Geographic claims that over 2,000 people have reported seeing the Jersey Devil over the last 275 years. Whether or not these sightings are in fact of a demon or not, it’s clear that the mystery that has sprung up around the Leeds family and the Pine Barrens has become a weird staple of Americana.
Mama Leeds’ thirteenth son has done well for himself. He’s the namesake of New Jersey’s National Hockey League team, in addition to appearing in television shows like The X-Files and Supernatural, one Bruce Springsteen song, and at least five movies. As The Boss himself sings from the point of view of Jersey’s homegrown hellion, “Sway down Mama, sway down low/ They gonna know me wherever I go.”
STORY: HITCHHIKING GHOST DELANO=====
Browning Road, Delano, California. This lonely stretch of road has become the permanent home of the spirit of a young lady who died there decades ago.
Locals are interested in real life haunted stories, and according to them this is no mere urban legend. They say the lady was crossing Browning early in the morning when she was hit by a car and killed on the spot.
Locals insist it is haunted, and to prove it, the say, look no further than the roadside memorial.
As you drive down Browning you may notice the small memorial alongside the road. Many believe it was placed there in memory of the woman who was killed, considering that her death is the only one that was reported there.
If you’re visiting Delano, CA. don’t venture out on Browning Road on your own.
The Ghostly Hitchhiker isn’t as harmless as some of the other ghosts you’ve read about here.
Sure, a majority of travellers who spotted her said she appeared to hesitate as she crossed, as if reliving the day she was bound to the area forever.
However, she isn’t always as passive.
Angry at the fact that she lost her life early, she lashes out on those driving down this spooky road.
She’s been known to appear in the backseat of cars, terrorizing drivers or choking them until they lose control over their vehicles.
If you’re somehow lucky to literally escape her clutches, she may suddenly appear in front of you, causing you to swerve around her. This can be dangerous if you’re driving fast, which is always a tempting possibility since the road’s usually empty.
And don’t try provoking her in any way. Many of those who have attempted to get her attention are rumored to disappear for days. When finally found, they are said to be in a state of shock and unable to stop screaming.
A couple of people who managed to escape an encounter with the hitchhiking ghost of Browning Road said that she chased their cars.
They reported that once she grabbed hold of the car, she crawled under the vehicle and began tearing out parts until it could no longer run.
As exciting as the thought of coming across hitchhiking ghosts may seem, don’t make the mistake of seeking this one.
A group of ghost hunters flashed their car’s headlights to attract her and were terrified when she appeared next to the driver’s window and clawed at them menacingly.
Another witness called her out mockingly as a bet only to discover her in the back seat, with her face close to his frightened girlfriend’s.
And there are many more stories. Including this first-hand account from Amy S…
STORY: EVIL WALKS BROWNING ROAD=====
I was driving down Browning Road in Delano, California.
I just visited my friend who lives 300 miles away, and I decided to try a different route on the way back home, because I love to see new sites.
Plus, I didn’t have anyone with me to enjoy the sites with, so I was a little bored and figured this would at least make the drive back home a little bit more exciting.
Little did I know, this was going to be one of the absolute worst decisions I’d ever made in my entire life, because I was about to get scared to death on this old, dark road.
I’m cruising along, checking out all of the sites, but it eventually got dark on me, which wasn’t that big of a deal.
I’m one of those weirdos that actually like to drive at night, because there’s less traffic to have to deal with.
Eventually, I came by this memorial spot on the side of the road.
You know, one of those spots where someone puts up flowers or a wreath that marks the place where a loved one died or something like that?
That’s what I saw, and I thought it was a shame that someone died on the very same road I was traveling on.
As I passed by the wreath, I went to look at it in my rearview mirror, as that was sadly the most interesting thing I’d seen in quite a bit of time.
That’s when I saw these pale, gray eyes of a young woman staring back at me in my rearview mirror.
She was behind me in the backseat!
My mouth dropped, my eyes fixated on her, and goosebumps went all the way up the back of my neck!
Suddenly, she opened her mouth, let out a shrieking scream, and then disappeared from my backseat.
I was so in shock, that I completely ignored the road.
After seeing something like that, I looked back at the road, because I was thinking about stopping and running out of my car, but then I saw her standing directly in the middle of the road!
How did this woman disappear from my backseat to standing right on the yellow divider lines in front of me?
I don’t know, but I swerved as quick as I could to miss her.
When I looked in my rearview mirror, there was no one standing in the road, and my backseat was empty.
For a minute, I thought about pulling over to the side, because I was shaking so bad from being scared that I could barely drive, but there was no way I was going to pull over in case she was still out there.
After that, I called my mom and made her stay on the phone with me for the whole car ride home, because I was so scared.
Then, I did some research and found out about the young girl who died on Browning Rd. like 30 years ago.
Has anyone else heard about her or know anything about her or even seen her?”
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! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from – doing so helps the show to get noticed! You can also email me anytime with your questions or comments through the website at WeirdDarkness.com. That’s also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for the newsletter to win monthly prizes, find my other podcast “Church of the Undead”, and more. 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.
“The Black Monk” by Brent Swancer”
“Navy Pilots Report UFOs” by Helene Cooper
“Urban Legends Which Are Actually True” by DeAnna Janes
“The Legend of the Jersey Devil” by Carolyn Cox
“Hitchhiking Ghost in Delano” posted at Backpackerverse.com
“Evil Walks Browning Road” by Amy S.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Proverbs 10:14 = “Wise men store up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool invites ruin.”
And a final thought… “Happiness will never come to those who fail to appreciate what they already have.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.