“THE DEMONIC HAUNTING OF THE ALASKAN HOTEL” and More True Creepy Freaky Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““THE DEMONIC HAUNTING OF THE ALASKAN HOTEL” and More True Creepy Freaky Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: After picking up a sex worker to assault and murder, a serial killer made the mistake of underestimating the determination of his victim to stay alive… and lost his own life in the process. (The Hooker Who Stopped a Serial Killer) *** Chucky the doll isn’t real. Neither were any of the dolls that came to life on shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” – but that doesn’t mean real haunted dolls don’t exist, and it’s not just “Annabelle” and “Robert” on the list. (When Haunted Dolls Attack) *** Ilse Koch was a female concentration camp guard and she was so ruthless and evil even the Na*is had her arrested. (Ilse Koch: The Witch of Buchenwald) *** They reside atop dizzying heights and are often unnoticed by human eyes but ever watchful of our movements. They have ‘observed’ us forcenturies. We’ll look at the history and purpose of gargoyles and grotesques. (In The Protection of Gargoyles) *** Outside of Washington, D.C. lies an abandoned institution with a thoroughly disturbing past. We’ll look at the history and horrors of Forest Haven Mental Asylum. (The Afflictions Of Forest Haven Asylum) *** But first… The Alaskan Triangle is already known for strange and bizarre activity – so it should be no surprise that a hotel located in the triangle might experience a few bumps in the night. (The Demonic Haunting of the Alaskan Hotel)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The Demonic Haunting of the Alaskan Hotel” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8w47e9
“The Hooker Who Stopped A Serial Killer” by Roger Kim for Unspeakable Times: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2ffhcv4n
“Ilse Koch: The Witch of Buchenwald” by Laura Allen for Weird History: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yr3a4dvy
“In The Protection of Gargoyles” by Angela Sutherland for Ancient Pages: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3j94t765
“The Afflictions Of Forest Haven Asylum” by Gary Sweeney for The Line Up: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/34p6fe79
“When Haunted Dolls Attack” by MD Bastek for Horror Obsessive: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yckuhxk6
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Perhaps the reason there are accounts of bizarre and harrowing hauntings at the Alaskan Hotel is that it resides within the boundaries of one of the most intriguing places in the United States – the Alaskan Triangle. Indeed, all manner of paranormal encounters take place within this section of Alaska, ranging from strange Bigfoot-like creatures to UFOs, and, of course, demonic entities and displaced souls. So it should probably be expected that a hotel located here would have some frights for its guests.
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…
After picking up a sex worker to assault and murder, a serial killer made the mistake of underestimating the determination of his victim to stay alive… and lost his own life in the process. (The Hooker Who Stopped a Serial Killer)
Chucky the doll isn’t real. Neither were any of the dolls that came to life on shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” – but that doesn’t mean real haunted dolls don’t exist, and it’s not just “Annabelle” and “Robert” on the list. (When Haunted Dolls Attack)
Ilse Koch was a female concentration camp guard and she was so ruthless and evil even the Na*is had her arrested. (Ilse Koch: The Witch of Buchenwald)
They reside atop dizzying heights and are often unnoticed by human eyes but ever watchful of our movements. They have ‘observed’ us for centuries. We’ll look at the history and purpose of gargoyles and grotesques. (In The Protection of Gargoyles)
Outside of Washington, D.C. lies an abandoned institution with a thoroughly disturbing past. We’ll look at the history and horrors of Forest Haven Mental Asylum. (The Afflictions Of Forest Haven Asylum)
But first… The Alaskan Triangle is already known for strange and bizarre activity – so it should be no surprise that a hotel located in the triangle might experience a few bumps in the night. (The Demonic Haunting of the Alaskan Hotel)
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!
STORY: THE DEMONIC HAUNTING OF THE ALASKAN HOTEL=====
***(From the Intro) Perhaps the reason there are accounts of bizarre and harrowing hauntings at the Alaskan Hotel is that it resides within the boundaries of one of the most intriguing places in the United States – the Alaskan Triangle. Indeed, all manner of paranormal encounters take place within this section of Alaska, ranging from strange Bigfoot-like creatures to UFOs, and, of course, demonic entities and displaced souls. So it should probably be expected that a hotel located here would have some frights for its guests.***
Whether the activity at the Alaskan Hotel is down to its location or not is uncertain. However, the activity witnessed and reported there puts the hotel high on the list of paranormally active locations. With sightings of dark shadowy figures to people even being prodded and pushed by unseen hands, to objects moving and doors opening of their own accord, the entire building is seemingly wired up to another realm of existence that allows those who reside on the other side of the great beyond access to our world.
There are also reports of encounters that we could only describe as time slips, which adds yet another layer to this intriguing and mysterious location. Indeed, as we will examine a little later, the surrounding location may be as important as the buildings and the tales tied to it. Before we move on to those contemplations, though, we will turn our attention fully to the Alaskan Hotel, and the many strange encounters that have taken place there.
The infamous Alaskan Hotel in Juneau, Alaska, dates back to 1913 when brothers James and John McCloskey, along with Jules Caro, opened the hotel following them striking it lucky in the Klondike Gold Rush (or the Yukon Gold Rush). The hotel offered 46 rooms over three floors and quickly became the center point of an ever-growing community of people who had flocked to the region in search of their fortune.
According to an online article in 2019, the current owners of the hotel are Mike and Bettye Adams, who have owned the building for 40 years. During that time, they have witnessed a plethora of paranormal incidents. They claim that strange goings-on occur all over the hotel, from the bar to the basement and to various rooms. What’s more, not only have the Adams witnessed the bizarre activity themselves but many of the hotel’s staff and guests have also done so.
One of the rooms – Room 315, which we will examine in more detail shortly – appears to be the most active part of the hotel. It is seemingly not uncommon for those who have requested to stay there to change their minds in the middle of the night. Many report a feeling of despair and ill intent permeating their bodies.
Even more bizarre, are the several reports from guests claiming that the modern bathroom of the room would morph into a typical Victorian-era bathroom for several seconds before morphing back to the modern appearance. This would perhaps suggest as much as a haunting at the Alaskan Hotel, there is some kind of timeslip encounters taking place. Once more, we will return to this idea later.
There is, though, one apparent entity that appears more than many.
One of the most famous spirits said to reside at the Alaskan Hotel is Alice, who legend says was murdered in Room 219. Alice had arrived at the hotel with her husband who, like many, was determined to find his fortune in the gold rush. However, after he didn’t return to his wife after several weeks, and with no money left to buy food or pay for the room, Alice turned to prostitution in order to support herself.
It was while she was with a client in the room when her husband returned. Some retellings of the account state that he allowed the man to walk out of the room, while others state he immediately withdrew his pistol and shot him dead. Regardless of the truth of the matter, he then turned his attention to Alice and strangled her to death.
It is said that her spirit remains, not only in Room 219 but in other rooms around the hotel, such as 218 and 319. Hotel staff would often walk into the room to discover towels taken from the shelves and thrown around the room, as well as other various items moved from one location to another.
Even more amazing, many guests who have stayed in these rooms often request to be moved in the middle of the night, with some even fleeing the hotel completely, unable or unwilling to contemplate the entities they have witnessed.
According to one hotel employee, Alice is often seen sitting on one of the beds in room 219 (and sometimes in 218), while some staff members even report being pushed or touched by her. Other accounts speak of employees walking up the stairs leading to the room and of seeing Alice briefly in the large mirror in the hallway.
There have been further sightings of Alice in the hotel bar, as well as people who have reported seeing her walk down the stairs and disappear.
As well as the physical sightings of Alice, many people report items being moved in the room or even going missing entirely. Even more ominous is an almost palpable feeling of dread that some people report when entering the room. This is often accompanied by a sudden feeling of dizziness and intense sickness.
There is a book that the owners keep at the hotel. In it, guests are welcomed to document their encounters, with Alice or other ghostly entities, which many have done. A good portion of those occur in Room 315.. one of the most intriguing and unnerving parts of the hotel, which Bettye describes is “just creepy” during a 2018 interview with Alaska Public Media.
Room 315 is certainly unremarkable enough – two single beds, a painting of two women from the 1900s on the wall, a single window, and a replica antique telephone on the wall. As journalist Jacob Resneck wrote, “there aren’t many clues that you’re still in the 21st century”.
One particularly unsettling encounter occurred in May 2007, when a United States sailor from the USS Bunker Hill emailed the hotel saying he like to stay in Room 315 while the ship was in port. The owners agreed to his request. What followed was bordering on the unbelievable.
Shortly before midnight, Juneau police received a call regarding a “complaint” at the hotel. When they arrived, they immediately noticed several people beckoning them toward them and upstairs. They quickly found themselves outside Room 315. The door was locked and there was no response from inside. When they finally did break the door down, the scene that met them was one of sheer carnage.
One of the police officers who entered the room was Officer Chris Gifford. He would recall that “the walls were covered in blood” and that it “looked like something very bad had happened” in the room. By this point, it appeared the sailor had jumped from the single window in the room. When they looked down to the street, to their amazement, the sailor was struggling to his feet. Although he was suffering from “injuries all over his body”, he survived the ordeal.
Other guests in the hotel recall hearing the sailor’s descent from the hotel window. One was an Americorps volunteer named Jill Weitz. She recalled hearing a sudden yelling, but as there was a band playing in the bar downstairs, she assumed it was connected to that. Then, she heard the sound of glass shattering, and only moments later, their hotel window simply shattered.
The following morning, Navy officers arrived at the hotel to undertake their own investigations. According to Adams, they made it clear they wanted no publicity regarding the incident involving one of their personnel. What’s more, despite the police being involved there was no coverage of the incident in the newspapers or other media platforms.
Even stranger, the owners would receive a phone call from a woman claiming to be the sailor’s mother. She was extremely angry and accused the owners of “almost killing her son” by allowing him to stay in a room that was they knew was haunted.
Just what the sailor saw in the room and why he decided to leap from the window, only narrowly avoiding death remains unknown.
There are, it would appear, several other ghosts and entities that inhabit the Alaskan Hotel. One employee stated that there was “probably a couple of ghosts” hanging around the hotel. The same employee would state that many other staff members and guests alike had told them of seeing strange people in the hallways – many of whom appear dressed in clothing that is more in tune with late nineteenth and early twentieth century. And although this particular staff member had not seen anything untoward themselves, they did say that some “parts of the hotel just don’t feel right”, and in these parts of the hotel they “just don’t feel safe at all”.
Other strange accounts are said to take place in Room 313 – the room directly next to the infamous Room 315. There, it is said that the spirit of a fisherman who used to regularly use the hotel when he docked in Juneau. Many people who believe they have encountered him claim to have been alerted to his presence by a sudden overpowering aroma of fish. Another location worth noting is Room 321. Their guests can expect to see objects move of their own accord, some of which will fly through the air as if thrown by a pair of invisible hands.
We have mentioned that Alice is often seen in the hotel bar or coming down the stairs leading to it. However, she is far from the only spooky manifestation reported in this particular room. As we might imagine, many people would have used the bar over the decades of the hotel’s existence. And in the early days of the twentieth century – with still very much a “wild west” approach to law-keeping in the infant town – many disagreements often ended up in bloodshed.
Not only do people report seeing shadowy figures out of the corner of their eyes in the bar, but many report seeing glasses moving by themselves, some of which will seemingly be pushed to the ground and shatter.
On the television program The Alaskan Triangle, the hotel owners told of a strange presence in the hotel basement – one that appeared to “push back” against people being there. According to the story, in the late-1990s, a hot tub facility was set up on this part of the building. However, one evening, a hotel guest was discovered drowned in the tub. Although there doesn’t appear to have been any reports of foul play around the man’s death, it is said the presence in the basement is the unfortunate hot tub user.
When Weird Darkness returns…
Chucky the doll isn’t real. Neither were any of the dolls that came to life on shows like “The Twilight Zone” and “Outer Limits” – but that doesn’t mean real haunted dolls don’t exist, and it’s not just “Annabelle” and “Robert” on the list. (When Haunted Dolls Attack)
But first – after picking up a sex worker to assault and murder, a serial killer made the mistake of underestimating the determination of his victim to stay alive… and lost his own life in the process. That story is up next. (The Hooker Who Stopped a Serial Killer)
STORY: THE HOOKER WHO STOPPED A SERIAL KILLER=====
Serial killers infamously target sex workers, so the tale of a sex worker who stopped a serial killer provides a much needed twist to a story where the killer usually gets away with it. When Neal Falls responded to sex worker Heather Saul’s escort advertisement online, she naturally assumed the standard transaction would occur. But the moment he arrived, Falls revealed his intentions for Saul involved assault and violence. Thankfully, after a scuffle between the two, Heather Saul managed to stop Falls, and in doing so, stopped him from hurting anyone else in the future.
After the death of Neal Falls, authorities found evidence on Falls that implied he was likely involved in the death and disappearances of sex workers in many different states across the country. To this day, years after Falls’s death, people are still investigating this dead man and the many crimes he probably committed.
Neal Falls came to Heather Saul’s home under the false pretense of answering an ad she placed for escort services. When Falls arrived, he pulled a gun on Saul and forced his way inside. He began choking Saul, prompting her to fight back by grabbing a nearby rake. Falls made two mistakes at that moment that precipitated his demise – he put the gun down in front of Saul to grab the rake from her, and he left the safety off. Seeing her chance, Saul grabbed the pistol with one hand while fighting off Falls, who was behind her. Luckily for her, the safety was off as she instinctively pointed the gun behind her head with only one arm free and fired a round into Falls’s head.
Falls gave Saul a choice when holding her at gunpoint: “I’m going to prison for a long time and it’s your choice whether it’s for rape or murder.” Saul realized Falls had no intention of letting her live, and was simply toying with her. She listened to her instincts and began fighting back, perhaps catching Falls by surprise, judging from his folly in placing the gun within Saul’s reach. After quickly firing a shot over her shoulder, Saul ran from her home to a neighbor’s, where she called 911.
Though law enforcement suspected a serial killer was operating in the area at the time, they never connected any murders to Neal Falls, that is, until they saw what he had in his car. Police opened the trunk of Neal Falls’s truck to find an assortment of tools and supplies needed for the dismemberment and disposal of bodies. The items found included handcuffs, long knives, a box cutter, two axes, a machete, a sledgehammer, a bulletproof vest, another gun, shovels, a rubber tub large enough for a body, bleach and other cleaning supplies. Lt. Steve Cooper, chief of detectives for the Charleston Police Department, said, “My first thought was ‘This is a serial killer’s kit.'”
When police saw the contents in Falls’s trunk, they began looking into his past and quickly discovered a grisly trail of murdered women, some believed to be sex workers. Falls used to work as a security guard at the Hoover Dam, and police in nearby Henderson, NV began looking into links between him and four women, one missing while the other three turned up dismembered. Six more women from Ohio may also be victims of Falls, who were killed with the same modus operandi.
Authorities found a list containing the names of six more sex workers in Falls’s pocket. Police believe Falls found all of them on Backpage and planned to murder them. With five targets located in West Virginia and one other in San Diego, CA, investigators believe Falls planned a cross-country killing spree targeting sex workers who posted online ads. Officers got ahold of the six women to inform them of their inclusion on a serial killer’s hit list.
Police stopped Falls multiple times in the days leading up to his death, but could find no outstanding warrants or any probable cause to search his car. Bodycam footage captured Falls at one of these stops, where he appears unsure of his address or where he’s going next. Though Falls clearly appeared to be acting strange in the eyes of law enforcement, it was not enough for them to charge him with anything.
When news of his death and his activities as a serial killer were made public, his former co-workers at the Hoover Dam began discussing what they remember about him on Facebook. His co-workers describe him as a sociopath who held contempt for women. Many had joked he was a serial killer and only to express shock upon realizing they were not wrong. Others talk about how they reported Falls for disturbing behavior like throwing rocks at rats to watch them die and carrying a book where he wrote his enemies’ names in.
By using online escort services, Falls managed to evade detection from law enforcement. The Internet allows individuals to advertise as escorts illegally. The clandestine nature of the encounters between sex workers and their clients allows for anonymity and a reluctance to come forward to the police if any wrong-doing occurs. Falls operated virtually unnoticed because of the stigma associated with sex work and the cash-only black market that escorts must operate under.
An investigation into Falls’s past showed he maintained multiple residences throughout the country. When questioned after a traffic stop, Falls failed to remember a single one of his addresses. He may have purposefully evaded the question, as evidence of his crimes may be present in one of his homes. Investigators have yet to reveal any discoveries made at his many homes.
Freelance writer Heather Sutfin continues to investigate the connection between Falls and a group of murdered and missing women in Ohio. Though Falls was eliminated as a suspect, Sutfin began a Facebook Group dedicated to compiling and sharing information about Neal Falls and any potential victims. Since so many deaths involving sex workers go unnoticed, more possible victims of Falls’s sadistic habits could exist out there.
STORY: WHEN HAUNTED DOLLS ATTACK=====
When thinking of haunted or possessed dolls, no doubt, Child’s Play’s Chucky comes to mind. Chucky isn’t real. However, there have been reports of allegedly haunted, cursed, and possessed dolls for years before Child’s Play was released in 1988.
There’s Robert the Doll, who dates back to 1906 and lives at the Fort East Martello Museum in Key West, Florida. Anyone who offends him suffers a string of bad luck, including kitchen fires, job loss, and car accidents. There’s also a series of independent movies about a fictionalized version of Robert, including Robert (2015), The Curse of Robert the Doll (2016), Robert and the Toymaker (2017), The Revenge of Robert the Doll (2018), and Robert Reborn (2019).
There are many other alleged real-life haunted dolls. Some can be found for sale on many different sites. Like most, I’m skeptical, but the idea of haunted dolls fascinates me. I wanted to explore more stories. What theories do paranormal investigators have?
***Annabelle: Since 1970, Annabelle has lived in Ed and Lorraine Warren’s Occult Museum in Monroe, Connecticut, which closed in 2019. The Warrens’ son-in-law, Tony Spera, maintains a website for the New England Society for Paranormal Research (NESPR), which was founded by the Warrens, with details of the Annabelle case. The real people involved in the Annabelle case haven’t been interviewed. The only information on Annabelle comes from paranormal investigators Ed and Lorraine Warren. Both Warrens have passed away. Along with the NESPR website, I also read a 2021 article on All That’s Interesting and an interview with Ed Warren conducted by a student of the Warrens and NESPR member Taffy Sealyham. She published the transcribed interview in an ebook, Annabelle: The Cursed Doll. A woman purchased a Raggedy Ann doll from an antique shop in 1970 as a present for her daughter, Donna, a nurse. After receiving the doll, Donna, her roommate and co-worker Angie, and Angie’s boyfriend Lou reported paranormal activity in their apartment. Donna noticed when she came home from work that the doll would be in a different position than she left her. Then, she noticed that the doll had changed rooms.
They found notes written in childlike handwriting on parchment paper that read, “Help Us,” and, “Help Lou.” They had no parchment paper in their apartment. After noticing what looked like blood on the doll’s clothes, the two women decided to contact a spirit medium.
The medium conducted a seance and told Donna and Angie that the spirit of a seven-year-old girl named Annabelle Higgins haunted their apartment. Annabelle lived in the area and was found dead in a field on the property. Annabelle wanted to stay with Donna and Angie, and they gave her permission to stay. Lou didn’t like the doll and felt that they should get rid of it.
After the medium left, the paranormal activity escalated. Annabelle attacked Lou twice. As he was falling asleep, Lou felt as if he were paralyzed and saw Annabelle crawling up his legs. He felt as if he were being strangled.
The second attack allegedly happened when Lou went to check out a noise in Donna’s bedroom. As he approached Annabelle, he felt as if someone was behind him. He turned around, felt a pain in his chest, and looked down to see blood on his shirt. NESPR says that Lou had seven claw marks on his chest—“three vertically and four horizontally, all were hot like burns. These scratches healed almost immediately, half gone the next day, fully gone by day two.” The Warrens said that they never saw the scratches, and there is no documented proof of them.
The three contacted an Episcopal priest, Father Hegan, who in turn contacted Father Cooke, who was experienced in paranormal matters. Father Cooke contacted Ed and Lorraine Warren.
After allegedly speaking with the three, the Warrens told them that a non-human entity was manipulating the doll to get the trio’s attention. The Warrens said the entity intended to possess a human host.
Father Cooke cleansed the apartment. Donna insisted that the Warrens take Annabelle with them. On the way home, the Warrens claimed that they almost had several car accidents. Ed described having trouble steering the car. He also said that he stopped to sprinkle Annabelle with holy water. Once they got home, there were more alleged incidents with the doll.
The Warrens claimed Annabelle allegedly levitated in Ed’s office and moved around the house. Two people, a detective and a priest, allegedly had frightening experiences with Annabelle. The priest mocked Annabelle and almost had a car accident after leaving the Warrens’ house. The detective refused to talk about what happened when he was alone with Annabelle.
Annabelle was locked away in a case made with wood blessed with holy water. There were also three or more binding spells put on the doll, which were supposed to keep her from moving around. However, she would be blamed for the death of a young man who mocked her. He and his girlfriend got into a motorcycle accident shortly after leaving the museum. He died and his girlfriend survived. There isn’t anything to confirm this story other than the Warrens’ account of it.
***Peggy The Doll: Annabelle attacked, but Peggy can affect the mind and the heart—literally.
A 2015 Redbook article “Haunted Doll Peggy Causes People Who Look At Her To Get Sick” reports that Peggy’s former owner sent the doll to paranormal investigator Jayne Harris. The woman suffered from nightmares, fever, and hallucinations, which she blamed on Peggy.
Redbook quotes Harris as saying, “She’d wake feeling hot and shaken […] No matter where she moved the doll to in her home, the nightmares persisted. She sought the help of a local priest but two visits later, there was no change.”
However, bad dreams aren’t the only thing a person risks having contact with Peggy. It gets much worse. Peggy reportedly causes dizziness, nausea, headaches, and heart attacks—only from looking at her photo. If you encounter her in person, you may even lose your mind. Harris claims that 80 people experienced the aforementioned symptoms after looking at pictures of Peggy. Some felt anxiety and had visions of a mental institution, and one woman claimed that Peggy gave her a heart attack.
Harris’ team determined that Peggy is inhabited by the spirit of a woman from London who died in 1946 from a chest-related illness. The woman is also said to hate clowns. Redbook reports that four mediums examined Peggy and said that the spirit is “restless, frustrated, and previously persecuted, possibly with ties to the Holocaust.”
However, a 2019 Den of Geek article reports that Peggy doesn’t want people to know much about her. The doll is blamed for Harris’ notebook disappearing after a seance, which was later found on the beams of the ceiling.
Harris claims that she’s had many reports from people saying that looking at Peggy’s picture froze their computers (not mine as I watched a video of Peggy on YouTube while working on this article). Other reports include lights flickering out and the temperature in the room dropping. Back in 2015, Harris told Redbook that when she receives these reports, she’ll usually speak to Peggy alone and politely ask her to stop. According to Harris, Peggy does as she asks.
Redbook quotes Harris: “We have been told she can affect people’s dreams,” Harris said. “She recently visited a lady in her dreams, warning her about one of her cats. The next morning, the lady found her cat very ill, and he sadly died that day.”
Den of Geek reported in 2019 that Peggy changed owners. Paranormal investigator Zak Bagans of the Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures currently displays Peggy at his Haunted Museum in Las Vegas. According to Den of Geek, Bagans claims that, during a seance with Peggy, a typewriter began to type on its own. She also allegedly causes poltergeist activity and can manifest flies. Visitors to Bagan’s museum are required to sign a waiver.
***Haunted Harold: A young filmmaker named Greg created a stir in the paranormal community after listing Harold as a haunted doll on an auction site in 2003. According to Harold the Haunted Doll’s website, the doll was named Harold after a video was shown where the doll’s arm and mouth allegedly moved in response to the word, “Here,” or “Harold.” Greg admitted to his neighbor, Kathy, that the doll was a hoax.
After Greg failed to sell the doll, Kathy, a family friend, agreed to take it. She intended to create a hoax with the doll, also. However, Kathy claims that she got a doll that was actually cursed. Kathy claims that “crazy stuff” happened in her Dublin home and that two friends died under mysterious circumstances within six months of each other.
A roommate, Ronnie, asked to see the doll before going on a trip to Amsterdam. Shortly after, she fell down a flight of stairs and died. Then, a man named Steve moved in who is described as a healthy, athletic guy. He was diagnosed with lung cancer three months after moving in and died. She said that she heard a scream in the background while on the phone with her fiance, Rick. It turned out that there was a large brown wolf spider crawling up his back. At the same time, Kathy claims that she saw a large, hairy spider run across her living room into the bathroom. Kathy said that Rick later showed her an area on his back where the spider was killed.
Kathy eventually sold Harold to paranormal investigator Anthony Quinata. On Harold’s site, Quinata writes about bringing Harold to a psychic named April for a reading. Quintana sprinkled Harold with holy water and April took the doll in her hands. She told Quinata that she couldn’t continue because the doll threatened to kill her. “I have a heart murmur, and it feels as though the spirit in the doll is squeezing my heart,” she said.
Quinata claims that later when he played back the recording of the session after he sprinkled the holy water, he heard “agonized screams.” Then, April chuckled and asked, “You’re sprinkling it with holy water?” A male voice answered, “Shut up, b**ch!” He also heard the male voice threaten, “I’m going to kill you, b**ch!” as she was attempting to do the reading.
Quinata writes, “A year later, I was convinced that there really was something going on, and it was dangerous. I saw people injured, literally in front of my own eyes, in the presence of the doll. I myself had terrifying visions and an injury that required surgery to correct. In 2005, I decided to put it away in a storage unit.”
After Quinata saw a YouTube video that included Harold, Annabelle, and Robert, he took Harold out of storage. He went to a psychic who didn’t know anything about Harold. She told him that Harold was happy to be out of storage. However, Quinata claims that bad things started happening to people again. Quinata writes, “‘Harold is pissed,’ a friend of mine told me. ‘He told me that he’s angry that you’ve had him for so long and haven’t helped him.’”
Den of Geek reports that Greg, the first seller, got Harold from a man in Florida who kept Harold in a shed for 60 years. The doll belonged to the man’s son who died during childhood in the 1940s. After he died, his parents heard crying and singing in his bedroom. They consulted a priest who told them that they should burn the doll. However, the doll wouldn’t burn.
Harold was featured on a Ghost Adventures episode which claims that a friend of Quinata allegedly developed a brain tumor after visiting Harold.
Norman The Doll: Paranormal investigator Stephen Lancaster and his girlfriend Christina purchased a vintage Matty Mattel doll from an antique shop in North Carolina in 2016. Lancaster documented the experiences that he, Christina, and Christina’s daughter, Hannah, experienced in his book Norman: The Doll That Needed to be Locked Away.
Matty Mattel was Mattel Toy Co.’s mascot from the ’50s to the ’70s. The doll was sold during the ’60s. Lancaster stumbled upon the doll in an odd wooden box with a fleur-de-lis design and scratch marks on the outside.
He noticed that it had a lock that was broken off. He pried it open in the store and found the doll. The shop’s owners were reluctant to sell the doll and told them the story behind it.
The doll was brought into the shop in 2014. The Matty doll was purchased during the ’60s for a pregnant woman who was due to have twins. However, one twin didn’t survive. The woman went home with the Matty doll and her newborn daughter. The twin who didn’t survive was a son. Eventually, the woman died in a fire. Her daughter and Matty were the only survivors. Lancaster thinks that the spirit of the unborn twin took possession of the Matty doll and has “grown-up” inside of it.
Lancaster used scientific methods in this approach to Matty, who he renamed Norman after Psycho’s Norman Bates. After experiencing unusual activity, he and Christina purchased surveillance equipment to capture the bizarre phenomenon.
He recorded Norman’s temperature rapidly dropping ten degrees and exhibited abnormal electrical activity. He and Christina’s dogs also avoided the doll. Their house had an inexplicable infestation of bugs and rodents then abruptly stopped. Norman was also captured moving on film. Lancaster also claims that Christina’s grandson seemed to be obsessed with Norman.
In an odd twist, Lancaster writes that Christina revealed Hannah was supposed to have a twin brother. She got into a car accident while pregnant and the male twin died. So, she had been in the same situation as Matty’s previous owner.
Paranormal investigator Rosemary Guiley wrote in the foreword to the book that dolls become haunted because they become deposits for residual energy from being handled. When a doll is owned by someone who is experiencing traumatic events, the doll can become “charged.” As in some previous cases of haunted dolls, it’s natural to question why only certain people seem to experience the phenomena. According to Guiley and Lancaster, a haunted or “charged” doll can become dormant. Being in an environment where the people are in or have experienced similar circumstances as the original owner can “reactivate” the doll.
Could Norman have been reactivated because of Christina’s situation?
Other phenomena that they experienced include Norman moving around by himself, mysterious knocking on the door in the middle of the night, six phantom 911 calls which brought police and eventually the sheriff (thankfully, a very open-minded sheriff) to their house, mysterious gunshots (for which he did find spent shell .22 caliber bullet casings), and the words “I know” appearing on a fogged-up mirror. A shadow figure also manifested and appeared in a mirror.
Lancaster claims that when he tried to sell Norman on an auction site, the buyer never received him. The post office was unable to track the package and couldn’t explain why. Norman eventually appeared back at the post office, marked “return to sender.”
Eventually, Lancaster and Christina gave Norman a room of his own which remains locked from the outside with a sign that reads “Authorized Personnel Only.” They filled the room with toys, games, and a TV always tuned into animated shows. Sometimes they hear knocks on the walls and a child laughing.
***A 2019 article on Den of Geek, “Dolls to Disturb Your Dreams“ reports that dolls were used for various purposes in cultures around the world. In ancient Egypt, dolls were placed in the pharaoh’s tomb. In some cultures, dolls were used in fertility rituals. Currently, they have become a way to socialize children through play. Dolls also served as art or simple decoration or for magical purposes. Magically speaking, poppets, or “voodoo dolls” are used in sympathetic magic—and not only to harm but also to heal. The idea behind sympathetic magic is that a poppet is made to represent someone and has a connection to that person. Therefore, manipulating the poppet will affect whoever it represents.
Guiley points out that dolls traditionally have served as a connection to the spirit world and the afterlife and as conduits of magic throughout history. “Throughout history, dolls have been made to attract any house spirits that can be summoned forth in a ritual,” Guiley told Den of Geek.
She also noted the emotional connection that people have to dolls. “Another reason is that dolls replicate people. […] Dolls, even funny dolls, are representative of human beings; in a child’s play, they substitute for a living person and even take on a persona of their own.”
Guiley also says that dolls are the perfect receptacles for residual energy which she explained as “a ghostly energy imprint that plays over and over like a scratched record.” She points out that dolls are natural conduits for this energy because of how popular they’ve always been. Guiley goes on to say that dolls can build up a “haunting residue” from being handled so often. When receiving a doll, the new owner may experience a residual haunting.
In the forward of Lancaster’s book, Guiley wrote, “Dolls are ideal vessels for residual energy and spirits. […] If something tragic happens to the owner, or if the owner suffers intense, unhappy, and negative feelings, the bad energy can be transferred to the doll. This energy is residual, but if it is strong enough, it can take on a thought-form presence as a ‘bad’ personality of the doll.” Just to clarify, a thought form is defined as“a manifestation of the thoughts, ideas or emotions of someone. It is believed to be able to be sensed by people and take physical form within the spirit world.”
Guiley goes on to say that the energy can be dormant for many years and can be activated if put with a person who has the “right” energy. This sounds like Norman’s situation where Christina went through the same situation as Norman’s original owner.
Norman and Harold were in an environment that experienced the tragic death of a child. In the case of Annabelle, no one is sure what occurred before she was placed for sale in the antique shop. The Warrens always insisted that the doll was possessed by a negative entity or that the doll may have been used in some type of ritual.
Guiley told Den of Geek, “Spirits that lodge in dolls may not be deliberately attached; spirits who are attracted to the living can, in certain cases, latch on to possessions a person has,” says Guiley. “Dolls are the most likely candidates […] people who acquire haunted dolls often find the poltergeist phenomena around them unpleasant and unsettling, such as disembodied voices, dolls that seem to change position or location on their own, and outbreaks of other phenomena in a household.”
In Lancaster’s book, she wrote that in turn, a doll’s energy can attract any type of entity or an entity may be attracted to the owner for some reason.
To sum up, each doll in this article had a different origin and history, and in Annabelle’s case, the doll’s history was unknown. Each one was a vintage doll allegedly owned by someone who experienced some sort of tragedy. Most of their stories are related to us by paranormal investigators who own them, so we can’t be sure. Whether fact or fiction, the stories are interesting to explore.
Ilse Koch was a female concentration camp guard and she was so ruthless and evil even the Na*is had her arrested. (Ilse Koch: The Witch of Buchenwald)
Plus… they reside atop dizzying heights and are often unnoticed by human eyes but ever watchful of our movements. They have ‘observed’ us for centuries. We’ll look at the history and purpose of gargoyles and grotesques. (In The Protection of Gargoyles)
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: ILSE KOCH – THE WITCH OF BUCHENWALD=====
We rarely hear about female Nazis from the days of the Holocaust, but they did exist and one of the worst was undeniably Ilse Koch. Koch acted as a guard over the concentration camp at Buchenwald, where she tortured, killed, mutilated, and constantly taunted inmates. She was flippant with her sadism, given the nickname The Beast of Buchenwald, and her husband, the Commandant, was equally evil. Some of the atrocities Koch committed are enough to make even those with strong stomachs squirm.
Please keep in mind that some of what you read here is graphic and disturbing, so this is not for the faint of heart. However, what happened to prisoners at the hands of The Beast of Buchenwald was real and well-documented. All can rest assured that not only were her evil deeds found out, but she was punished for her crimes against humanity. Some may argue not strongly enough.
Buchenwald concentration camp guard Ilse Koch is widely regarded as one of the most evil women to have ever lived and once you’re done reading about the heinous things she did, you’ll likely be inclined to agree.
Ilse Köhler worked as a bookkeeping clerk in the 1930s before she joined the Nazi Party. It was in her time working for the Nazis that she met a man named Karl-Otto Koch. Karl-Otto was a sadistic sort of man who quickly rose through the ranks to become a commander, serving at several concentration camps. Ilse, rather than be horrified by the atrocities and crimes her husband was committing, instead involved herself in his work, supporting his actions.
In 1936, the pair were married, and less than a year later, Karl-Otto was made Commandant of the Buchenwald concentration camp. This was one of the larger camps, focused on not only imprisoning but also exterminating Jews, Homosexuals, and other victims. The iron gates to the entrance touted a sadistic message to any who came in.
“To each their own” or more bluntly “you’ll get what you deserve” was written across it. Ilse took the opportunity at Buchenwald to get involved on a more personal level, becoming a guard. She quickly gained a reputation for being even more sadistic than her husband.
One particular bit of sadism that Ilse indulged in was the act of seeking out tattooed prisoners. Some accounts say that she did this at the request of a doctor at the camp, to do research on correlations between tattoos and criminality, which he later wrote a dissertation on. Some say it was for her own enjoyment.
Koch would ride her horse through the camp and when she saw a distinctive tattoo she liked, she would have the prisoner captured. The prisoner was then stripped of his or her skin, preserving the tattoos, before being killed and incinerated. Ilse didn’t turn all of the skins over to the researchers.
She kept several patches as morose trophies in her home. Her skin samples would be a key part of her later trials.
Above all else, Ilse Koch enjoyed seeing the prisoners suffer, both physically and emotionally. She would ride through the camp, taunting prisoners, and when one would dare to look up, she would brutally whip them with her riding crop. She would laugh at those who were being sent to gas chambers and her house was visible to the entire camp, as if always ominously looking down at them.
When she was selecting prisoners to be taken away to have tattoos removed, she would take her time in the selection, drawing out the prisoners’ terror. Perhaps most distressingly of all, Ilse took her most sadistic pleasure in knowing children were dying.
Surviving prisoners later recalled that she had always seemed the most excited when children were about to be sent to the gas chambers.
Ilse Koch is perhaps best known for her love of human skin and the horrifying arts and crafts projects she used it for. She had a hobby of collecting not only skin, but also things made from skin. After prisoners with tattoos – or any that she just didn’t like that day – were killed, the SS guards would tan their skin and then store it. They would later turn it over to Ilse who supposedly used it to make book covers, gloves, and lampshades for herself and the other officers.
She even took to making shrunken heads and skulls for display in her house. In her entire personal collection of ornamental human skin items, Ilsa had one item she was supposedly most proud of: a lady’s handbag made. Ilse would happily carry the bag for officers and prisoners to see. Some accounts say it was made from tattooed skin.
While many of these items have been noted by others, none of the skin lamps were ever recovered.
Whenever the fancy took her, Ilse enjoyed making the prisoners hurt one another. If she could not find a tattoo she particularly liked, she would sometimes make one of the prisoners tattoo another in a manner that pleased her. The tattooed prisoner would then be killed for their newly-inked skin.
However, one of her other interests involved sexually taunting and torturing the inmates. She would go out of her way to wear very short skirts, very tight sweaters, and would behave sexually openly around starved and tortured male prisoners. She’d watch as they performed exhausting activities, or flaunt and prance around like a movie star.
She would even, for her own amusement, force them to perform sexual acts on each other. This is one of the reasons the inmates began calling her the Witch of Buchenwald.
Although human skin may have been a preferred source of amusement, Ilse didn’t stop there when it came to body parts. Maybe because of her close relationships to the doctors and guards of the camp, she began collecting human body parts and organs. She experimented with making shrunken heads andalso collected preserved organs. Lungs, brains, hearts, livers, and more, were all preserved and used as decorations in her home and in the homes of other guards.
Some had previously been experimented on, but most were taken solely for decoration. Because these organs were so well preserved, many were recovered and used as evidence in future trials.
Many of Ilse’s atrocities are truly depraved, but one of her most brazen ones involved fraudulent dealings with money. Koch was very fond of horses and wanted a new place where she could ride them and hold other sporting events. She reasoned that the prisoners of the concentration camp had no need of their money anymore. So, right away, she stole the money collected from the inmates and used the funds to build herself a private stadium in which to ride. The amount of money she stole is impressive.
In the end, she spent $62,500 of prisoner money, which is about a million dollars by today’s standards.
Ilse had a reputation at the camp for being a witch, which is bad enough, but she also had a reputation for being a nymphomaniac. Ilse was said to have been in an open-marriage of sorts. She kept doctors and guards for lovers, all without her husband complaining, and had several children possibly by different fathers. Her husband, it seems, was not only okay with this, but pretty sexually open himself. At the home they lived in, which looked out over the concentration camp, they would allegedly hold orgies for the SS officers and guards.
It was suggested that Ilse’s husband had homosexual tendencies, or that he at least had sexual contact with both genders. This is supported by the fact that he caught Syphilis while Commandant but Ilse never had it.
Given what horrible people the Nazis were, it would make sense that anyone arrested for abuse of power by Nazis had to have been really horrendous people. In 1941, Ilse and Karl-Otto were investigated for cruelty and black market activities, including fraudulent use of money. Seeing as the Koch’s had been doing both of those things, they were arrested in 1943 for embezzlement as well as cruelty. Dr. Hoven, Ilse’s lover and assistant in collecting tattooed skin, was also arrested for mistreatment and murder.
During the trial, Karl-Otto was found guilty of skimming money, as well as murder, and was sentenced to death. He was eventually executed.
Amazingly, Ilse was not convicted of her crimes at the SS trial. There weren’t enough witnesses to convict her and all the physical evidence seemed to have vanished. This was likely done with the help of doctors at the camp. According to a Buchenwald Report, Koch ordered the execution of a hospital orderly and his assistant. The two medical professionals had treated Karl-Otto Koch for syphilis and knew what was going on at the camp. They were killed so as not to reveal secrets. Allegedly Ilse also killed and incinerated prisoners who had witnessed the criminal things she had done.
This method of disposing of evidence proved effective and she was released, to the horror of many. Unfortunately for Ilse, Germany was not destined to win the war.
When the war concluded, the allies arrested Ilse. She was tried in 1947 for war crimes. This time a huge number of people came forward to the American Military court at Dachau. They testified to the tattoo collecting, the organ harvesting, the whippings, and even the orgies. This was enough for her to be found guilty at her first trial and sentenced to life in prison. Ilse had one last trick up her sleeve, though. She told the court she was expecting a child.
This came as a bit of a shock, not only because Ilse was 41 years old, but because she had been held in isolated confinement for much of the time. No one is entirely certain who the father was. It could have been her doctor friend, an American guard, or a fellow prisoner. Even so, it was not enough to sway the decision of the court, and she had her child while in prison.
Her sentence was later reduced until she was put through a second trial where more testimony and physical evidence was presented. Thus solidifying her lifetime imprisonment.
Ilse Koch’s ending feels oddly fitting. At her second trial in 1950, she fainted often, and seemed agitated. Once in jail, she was visited by her son, who said she was often distressed. She appealed several times to get out of prison, but her pleas fell on justly deaf ears. She said that the prisoners she had once kept and tortured would come to her in her cell and beat and abuse her at night. These delusions grew stronger and one night Ilse Koch could take it no longer.
She was found in 1967, at the age of 60, hung with her own bed sheets. Her death was ruled a suicide and she was buried in an unmarked, unattended grave at the prison cemetery. To this day, we do not know where she is buried, but can take heart that she is dead and gone, never to harm another person again.. and possibly still being haunted by the prisoners she had once kept and tortured.
STORY: IN THE PROTECTION OF GARGOYLES=====
Gargoyles appeared very early in Gothic architecture, and they were needed to eliminate corrosive rainwater from the foundations of churches. It is believed that the first gargoyles in architecture are dated to about 1220 BC. Paris was the first place where these ornamental figures were used.
Water spouts formed as animal heads do not originate in Gothic architecture, but they reached their highest level. They were used much earlier in Greek and Egyptian architecture, and in Pompeii.
As soon as people realized the gargoyles’ decorative value their number largely increased. Many of them did not even carry water, but they were beautiful. Various motifs used to carving gargoyles included pigs, birds, lions, cows, horses, foxes, pilgrims, bids, and many more. Also, human subjects were popular.
Gargoyles are depicted with many fearsome faces. They grin and leer down from roofs and towers of medieval churches and have been present there for centuries warding off evil. They decorate great churches and cathedrals of the British Isles, Ireland, and other European countries.
It is traditionally believed that gargoyles were created during the medieval period.
However, their history goes far beyond that time to the very beginnings of art, when man created demons to scare away demons. Many examples of these creatures have been found in ancient civilizations as well.
The use of decorative water spouts was known to the ancient Egyptians, Etruscans, Greeks, Romans and gargoyle-like carvings have been found in other parts of the world, especially in countries that were influenced by European culture and tradition such as Mexico.
They have appeared in a number of different images and figures and it is said that no two gargoyles are identical, but no one seems to know why.
They were seen on the roofs of Egyptian temples where their mouths served as a spout for water. Also, Greek temples were decorated with gargoyles in the form of lions and other animals.
Later, these creatures became strictly ornamental and assumed many forms such as dragons, devils, demons, half-human, and half-animal as well as caricatures of real people or classes of people.
The name ‘gargoyle’ is often attributed to St. Romanus, the Archbishop of Rouen.
According to legend, he saved his country from a monster by the name of Goji, sometimes called ‘Gargouille’.
La Gargouille is said to have been a legendary dragon with batlike wings, a long neck, and the ability to breathe fire from its mouth, that lived in a cave near the Seine River in the 7th Century and was ravaging the town and people of Rouen. It was slain by St Romanus, the Archbishop of Rouen. After the dragon was slain its body was set ablaze, its body was consumed by fire but the head and neck survived and were mounted on a building.
Supposedly the monster was so scary-looking that it frightened off evil spirits. This led to some calling the monster a protector and placing similar carved figures on churches and other important buildings.
Originally the term referred only to the carved lions of classical cornices or to terra-cotta spouts, such as those found in the Roman structures at Pompeii.
The word later became restricted mainly to the grotesque, carved spouts of the European Middle Ages.
It is often – but incorrectly – applied to other grotesque beasts. Gargoyles always have drainage conduits, other carved beast depictions have not.
What’s important is, not all grotesques are gargoyles, but all gargoyles are indeed grotesques.
A French abbot, St. Bernard of Clairvaux (1090 – 1153) was famous for speaking out against gargoyles most probably didn’t fully understand their role when he wrote:
“The Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C has 112 gargoyles (rain-diversion devices with a spout) and over 1,000 other grotesques (without a spout). When people think of gargoyles, most envision monsters and dragons and the like, but there are also other intriguing and odd figures. What are these fantastic monsters doing in the cloisters before the eyes of the brothers as they read? What is the meaning of these unclean monkeys, these strange savage lions, and monsters? To what purpose are here placed these creatures, half beast, half-man, or these spotted tigers? I see several bodies with one head and several heads with one body. Here is a quadruped with a serpent’s head, there a fish with a quadruped’s head, then again an animal half horse, half goat… Surely if we do not blush for such absurdities, we should at least regret what we have spent on them..” (“Apologia ad Guillelmum abbatem”, as part of the ‘Library of Latin Texts.’)
Even in the United States, gargoyles were used on more modern buildings as a form of decoration, such as the stainless steel versions used on the Chrysler Building in New York City, at Princeton University, University of Chicago, and Duke University.
Perhaps the most famous are the gargoyles that decorate the Washington National Cathedral in Washington D.C. – the 6th largest cathedral in the world and likely to be the last Gothic cathedral ever built.
More famous gargoyles from history are those used at Notre Dame de Paris. They reside atop dizzying heights and are often unnoticed by human eyes but ever watchful of our movements. They have ‘observed’ us for centuries. The gargoyles of the famous Notre Dame Cathedral – half man, half beast – preside over Paris, and have done so since medieval times.
It is believed that there is no commonly accepted explanation of why these odd carved creatures exist as they do.
Why were these figures actually placed atop the buildings? Did they have a symbolic meaning? Were they used for repelling evil or perhaps only for architectural balance? Perhaps as we said at the beginning of this article; they eliminate corrosive rainwater from the foundations of churches.
Or were they perhaps, as Klaus Schmidt (1953 – 2014) of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin suggested, “watchmen’ of the period”, guardians of the ancient religious sanctuaries?
Up next on Weird Darkness, outside of Washington, D.C. lies an abandoned institution with a thoroughly disturbing past. We’ll look at the history and horrors of Forest Haven Mental Asylum. (The Afflictions Of Forest Haven Asylum)
STORY: THE AFFLICTIONS OF FOREST HAVEN ASYLUM=====
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 horrible history.
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.
“The Demonic Haunting of the Alaskan Hotel” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight
“The Hooker Who Stopped A Serial Killer” by Roger Kim for Unspeakable Times
“Ilse Koch: The Witch of Buchenwald” by Laura Allen for Weird History
“In The Protection of Gargoyles” by Angela Sutherland for Ancient Pages
“The Afflictions Of Forest Haven Asylum” by Gary Sweeney for The Line Up
“When Haunted Dolls Attack” by MD Bastek for Horror Obsessive
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… “We love because he first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
And a final thought… “If the words you spoke appeared on your skin would you still be beautiful?” – Author Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.