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IN THIS EPISODE: Investigators noted the hair on the alleged victim’s arms was singed, and the skin burned. The grass where he claimed to have had the encounter was also scorched. Did this scoutmaster and the boys with him truly experience a real UFO sighting in 1952, or was it all a hoax? (The Scouts and the UFO) *** An atheist tells his story about being possessed by demons… or maybe he wasn’t. (I Thought I Was Possessed By The Devil) *** Is the Thunderbird real or myth?  Most would say it is myth – or if it was real, it’s now extinct. But then how do you explain sightings of the massive airborne creature as recently as 2018? (The Giant Thunderbird Lives) *** Sometimes, the darkness of night can hide frightening secrets. Especially if you are alone. (You’ll Never Guess What Happened While You Were Asleep)

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BOOK: “The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects” by Edward Ruppelt: https://amzn.to/3dFKQKG
DesVerges UFO case singed grass photo evidence: https://tinyurl.com/yax47shu
BOOK: “Running From The Devil: A Memoir of a Boy Possessed” by Steve Kissing: https://amzn.to/2AfJO9A
BOOK: “Unexplained!” by Jerome Clark: https://amzn.to/2YYxRj8
“The Haunting Ghosts of 9/11” episode: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/1425

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“You’ll Never Guess What Happened While You Were Asleep” by Sarah Blumert for Graveyard Shift: https://tinyurl.com/ya2bu7gk
“The Scouts and the UFO” by Colin Bertram for History: https://tinyurl.com/y9wcubpk
“I Thought I Was Possessed By The Devil” by Steve Kissing for the Huffington Post: https://tinyurl.com/ybhrudzc
“The Giant Thunderbird Lives” by Stephen Wagner for Live About: https://tinyurl.com/y7agyegx
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(From Redditor /u/apurplepeep🙂 I was a babysitter in my teens, and would often stay up until parents came home, which was usually from around 11 pm even up to 4 am. I’d stay up and watch TV, and oftentimes that’d be local channels, which get totally weird in the tiny hours… they’d basically put interstitial things in [instead of commercials], bits of music videos or weird local access stuff. Now, the strongest channel was channel 8, and so if your tuner was crap, you’d pick up “ghosts” of it on channels 9 and 7, though thankfully channel 7 never had much on it, and 9 was the same as 10, so you’d never really notice or have to worry about it. I learned channel 9 wasn’t just 10 stretched across two frequencies but [was] actually a mirror of it, so that 9 would go “offline” at about midnight, while 10 kept airing. So one night, the kids are in bed, I’m sitting in the living room quietly watching whatever is on channel 9, and the program finally ends. But instead of it just cutting to black or loud beeping on a blue background like the higher channels did when they went offline, it cut to fuzz… but superimposed onto this fuzz was a skeletal face that kept shaking, back and forth, like a “no” gesture. There was no audio, just the face as it shook back and forth with no noise. It was frightening, and so I scrambled to the TV to change it back to literally any other channel, and by sheer bad luck, I chose to click it down to 8… Something had glitched on channel 8’s broadcast, wherein a woman with her hair pulled back and very heavy, smoky makeup was being interviewed, but the footage was looping about 4 frames, over and over and over, going “and, and, and, and, and, and-” in the middle of her turning her head. She wasn’t a skeleton, she just had an expression showing her teeth and such heavy makeup that the ghost of it on channel 9 made her look like a skeletal face. Though, seeing it, it was still horrifying in a way I can’t explain… Then the channel I was on let out a loud, piercing beep… and ALL the power went off. The TV blinked off, the kitchen lights turned off, everything, even the clocks and the microwave, the fridge, everything. You could hear the electricity dissipate in a “whheeewww…” noise as it all [went] down. The house had very big windows, so as soon as my vision adjusted I realized that the power was completely gone from miles around, no street lights, no cars, absolutely nothing… The power was entirely off for another hour, [until] I saw lights from the parents’ car [turning into] the driveway, [which was] the first artificial light I had seen for an entire hour. They came in and were glad everyone was okay… there had been a fire at the power station that incidentally was right beside the broadcasting station.

I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.

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Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

While you’re listening, you might want to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can find transcripts of the episodes, paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, the Weird Darkness store, streaming video of Horror Hosts and old horror movies, plus you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression, anxiety, or thoughts of suicide. And if you are an artist and find inspiration through the podcast in any art form, you can submit your work to the Weirdos Art Gallery. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

Coming up in this episode of Weird Darkness…


Investigators noted the hair on the alleged victim’s arms was singed, and the skin burned. The grass where he claimed to have had the encounter was also scorched. Did this scoutmaster and the boys with him truly experience a real UFO sighting in 1952, or was it all a hoax?

An atheist tells his story about being possessed by demons… or maybe he wasn’t.

Is the Thunderbird real or myth?  Most would say it is myth – or if it was real, it’s now extinct. But then how do you explain sightings of the massive airborne creature as recently as 2018?

Sometimes, the darkness of night can hide frightening secrets. Especially if you are alone.

Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!

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Some people like to rise early in the morning, watch the sunrise, and greet the day head-on with a hopeful attitude. Others prefer to stay awake long into the night, bask in the silence of a sleeping world, and only rest when the first rays of sunshine peek over the horizon. But sometimes, the darkness of night can hide frightening secrets. The night owls of Reddit congregated to share their scariest late-night experiences, and some may make you reconsider pulling that all-nighter while the rest of the house is lost in dreamland.

From Redditor /u/Pennyponyboy: Got a house share going on right now, and every one of the lads has heard a female voice in a particular hall. Thing is, [none of] us has brought a girl home in months… We have all just assumed one of us have got lucky. We’ve taken the cats to bed, so it can’t be them… And our neighbors don’t get back [until] January. We are not as afraid of her as we once were, but there is definitely a voice coming from somewhere in the house… And we can all agree she starts by humming, although no one has made out many of the words. I’ve heard her four times now, and I am 90% sure she is not speaking Portuguese, English, or Spanish.

From Redditor /u/Beeboopdedoop: I was sitting in the living room facing the stairs to my bedroom. I was watching a movie and saw legs coming down the stairs with black suit pants and really shiny black shoes. They stopped coming down the stairs, and all I could see was up to their knees. They turned toward me for a few seconds and then slowly went back up the stairs. I was home alone with my three dogs. The next morning, I checked the cameras to make sure I didn’t dream it, and you can see myself and my three dogs staring at the stairs as the legs come down the stairs and then go back up.

From Redditor /u/HeckingWeeb: “Will you please take this bag off my head?” says a voice in the corner of my room at about 2 am. I am alone on the third floor of my Grandmother’s mansion, save for her asleep on the first floor. In the corner of my room, I know there is a ventriloquist dummy in a bag that I covered because of how creepy it looks. I just went back to bed.

From another Redditor: Back in high school, I was watching a movie on the couch with my dad’s laptop. Parents, little brother, and dog [were] asleep. Then there was this noise. It was so loud. It sounded like someone threw a chair against a wall in the basement. No one woke up. I grabbed a bat, went downstairs, and not a single thing was out of place. Spooked me good.

From Redditor /u/Activated27: I used to share a room with my little sister. It was a huge room, and it was really dark and late, like 2:00 am. At some point, I hear someone clap their hands just once. I froze but didn’t do anything. Then all of a sudden, I feel two hands pushing down [on] my feet. I ran out of the room all the way to my parents’ room downstairs. We came back, and my sister was sleeping (she wouldn’t have done that, anyways), and there was nobody in the room but us. I still can’t comprehend.

From Redditor /u/eagle-man1776: I live out in the woods, [and] I leave my window open because my room is small and I produce enough heat to overheat my room. I didn’t realize this was the perfect setup to get the crap scared out of me until it happened. I was texting a fellow night owl buddy of mine when I heard the loudest, most terrifying screaming of my life. Now being an armed citizen, I went for my [piece], pointed at the window, and almost did a blind-fire at someone or something I didn’t know, like a dumbass. I ended up calling the guy I was texting, and he rolled up 20 minutes later. We started searching the area together, back to back practically. When we got about 100 yards away from the back of my house, we heard giggling, like a child’s giggling. You’d better bet we ran back inside. It’s been about three months now. We do not bring it up with each other unless one of us is extremely high.

From Redditor /u/Cat220022: I was on Reddit at about 3:30 am (just like now), and I heard the sound of something falling downstairs. Now this happens sometimes, you know, weird house sounds. So I ignored it. About 10 minutes later, I heard a similar sound, [and] now I actually started getting scared… Now I didn’t want to wake my parents, who sleep a floor above me, because of my paranoid mind. So my stupid brain decided to just take a “weapon” (a pretty big book) and go downstairs. Before I was even on the stairs, I heard my dog (who sleeps downstairs in a crate) bark pretty loudly. By this time, my heart was racing really fast, because if my dog barks, she probably sees a person or something move. I went even further downstairs as slowly as possible, trying not to make any sounds. Then I was at the door that separates the stairwell from the main room. At this exact time, I heard another weird sound, but now it sounded more like little clicks hitting the ground… This scared me so much that I had to stand still for a minute or so. I was trying to be the “hero,” so I just closed my eyes and barged in the room with a huge book in front of my head and started screaming. Then I heard my dog bark, weirdly, right in front of me, even though her crate is in another part of the room. After about 10 seconds, I opened my eyes, and I slowly realized it was my dog making all the sounds… So it turned out her crate wasn’t closed properly, and she was just roaming around the house. And my stupid butt head thought it was an intruder… I’m also very stupid for trying to get rid of the “intruder” myself. I felt very stupid after this, and I just put the dog in her crate and went to bed.

From Redditor /u/xnattie: I’ve had a [creepy] experience with the TV as a kid. I was watching some cartoon in the living room by myself, and the screen abruptly turned to black, and there was an image of some creepy puppet face like Jigsaw. No talking, just creepy blank stares. I try to convince myself I was probably just a kid with an overactive imagination, but I don’t know why in the hell I would randomly believe I saw that.

From another Redditor: Once… the bedroom door [slammed] real hard. I [sat] up in seconds (just like they do in the movies when they have a nightmare), [and] I kept staring at the bedroom door, but the door was closed. I went on and opened the door, as I was 100 [percent] sure I heard it slammed. When I opened it, the lights was on in the hallway, and I know for certain I always shut the light off before going to bed. I checked on our main door to [make sure] no one had [broken] in and saw through the spy hole that the lights in the apartment’s hall were on (they are sensor ones, those that are automatically turned on when someone passes by), and we are the only one living on the highest floor. Weirdly enough, my wife hadn’t heard a thing. I was scared as heck that night, didn’t get no sleep.

From Redditor /u/Valdox666: Was in total dark watching a movie and saw a shadowy outline with red eyes standing outside my glass door/wall when lightning struck. I swear I almost went and grabbed one of my [pieces].

From Redditor /u/melston9380: I live in the middle of nowhere. One night while I was awake and everything was completely black, I saw three flashes – no sound. About two minutes later, I heard two large booms, like sonic booms – and nothing else. I looked all over and the next day could not find any reason for either.

From Redditor /u/currentlydeepfrying: I couldn’t sleep one night, [and] out of [nowhere] I heard like a really loud dog [howl] for a solid 10 seconds downstairs. I live alone and don’t own a pet.

From Redditor /u/RBF70: My parents’ house is haunted. As a child, I would wake up to the TV being too loud; I’d go to the living room to tell my parents it was loud, and the TV suddenly turned off while my parents were in bed. This happened a lot. In the basement, we had a room with a stereo, TV, pool table, and pinball machine. I woke up to people laughing and music. I went downstairs, and it was a party with adults wearing masks; again, my parents were in bed. Years later, my nephew got hold of my camera and started taking pictures in the living room. In one photo, there she was: …she was blurry with long, dark blonde hair and a green night gown. We couldn’t see a face. In my teen years, when I would wake up during the night and go get a drink, I’d see her in the living room and walk through her, and it would be so cold all through me. She was harmless, but still.

From Redditor /u/jxwtf585: I suffer from night terrors and sleep paralysis every once in a while. One time I laid in bed for what felt like forever trying to fall asleep when I began to hear this mild, low growl. Like a jaguar’s. I opened my eyes and was able to see a lump inside my wall, and it was moving around. Every time it moved, there was a scratching and cracking. A few other times, I’d wake up from sleep unable to move, and there’d be a figure at the foot of my bed mumbling to me. Couldn’t make out if it was male or female, but my twin [perished] in the womb, so I comforted myself by believing it was him visiting me.

From Redditor /u/KoenigVII: Once, while I still lived with my mom, I was up late putting in job applications and drawing. I heard what sounded like sobbing and stopped what I was doing. I looked over to my younger sister, saw she was passed out, and got slightly unnerved because the sobbing just continued. Left my room to investigate, and ran into my older sister, who was also hearing the noise. We checked on our mom and stepdad (sound asleep), looked in our brother’s room where the noise seemed to be coming from (he wasn’t in there), and truly freaked out, [so we] went downstairs to see if maybe our brother had wandered off to cry and the noise had somehow carried through the air vents to his room. Found him asleep on the living room couch, saw the TV was off (in fact, all entertainment electronics were turned off), and checked the time. 3:06 am. We didn’t sleep the rest of the night, and the sobbing sound continued until about 5 am.

From Redditor /u/leaky_eddie: I used to live out in the country at the end of a dirt road south of Charleston, SC. Right by my house was a historical marker for the old Belvedere School. More than once, I was woken up by a little girls voice saying, “Hi!”

From a Redditor: A couple of years ago, I stayed home with our dog while my parents went on a little trip. [At] about 3 am, the dog woke up and walked to the edge of the bed (he’s 13 lbs.) and started growling aggressively. There were a couple of lights on, but the house was mainly dark. He jumped off the bed and walked to the doorway and growled like I’ve never heard him do before… I grabbed a billy bat (my dad was a cop) and was instantly ready to mess someone up. I turned on every light, checked every door/window/room, and there was nothing.

From Redditor /u/tre-thomas: Not too long ago, before we moved out of our previous house, one night I was drunk [and] passed out on the couch downstairs. When I woke up the next day, my son’s baby bottle rack and everything on it was all over the kitchen floor, and the bar stool from the kitchen was sitting next to the couch I was sleeping on. I know for a 100% fact it was not me.

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When Weird Darkness returns…

Did a scoutmaster and the boys with him truly experience a real UFO sighting in 1952? Some have their doubts. And an atheist tells his story about being possessed by the devil, or so he thought at the time.

These stories and more on the way.


We were really hoping things would be somewhat back to normal this month, but we’re all still social distancing and self-quarantining, so I’m going to extend the fundraiser another month. Last month all profits from the Weird Darkness store went to the International Foundation for the Research and Education of Depression – because this COVID-19 pandemic has caused depression to skyrocket both in new cases as well as in those who were already diagnosed but struggling more now being cooped up inside. In fact, I’ll admit it, it took a while but the last week I have really been feeling it. Even with my meds which normally take care of my depression almost entirely, this last week has been really trying. So the rest of this month we’re doing to the fundraiser again – in fact, if you order anything in the Weird Darkness store between now and Friday, May 15th, you’ll get it up to 35% off – so you’re saving money on the item and the portion I receive from that sale will be going to COVID-19 depression relief. Then, Saturday thru Monday, May 16-18, you can still shop in the Weird Darkness store and everything will be up to 30% off. After that it all goes back to full-price. But no matter when you shop, if you do it within the month of May 2020, whatever portion usually comes to me will be going to the International Foundation for Research and Education of Depression. You can check out the merchandise now by clicking on STORE at WeirdDarkness.com. And not only will you find t-shirts, mugs, pins, magnets and other stuff like that – but now they have face masks too! Click the STORE tab at WeirdDarkness.com and then look in the left-hand column for “masks” to see the entire collection of face mask designs!

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On a humid, August night in 1952, scoutmaster D.S. “Sonny” DesVergers emerged burned and barely coherent from a dense palmetto grove in the South Florida Everglades. He claimed he had encountered an unidentified flying object that discharged a fireball, which left him singed and barely able to see.

Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, chief UFO investigator for the U.S. Air Force, would later label the event “the best hoax in UFO history.” But the DesVergers incident remains one of the most intriguing cases from Project Blue Book, the Air Force’s now-declassified investigations into UFOs—because it wasn’t just a sighting incident, but one involving a purported attack. To this day, it’s still unsolved.

A series of investigations conducted by the U.S. Air Force between 1952 and 1969, Project Blue Book was tasked with scientifically analyzing UFO-related incidents to determine whether they were a threat to national security. Some say the project was commissioned to find rational explanations for these mysterious phenomena, to help quell a growing Cold War-era public hysteria over unidentified objects in the sky. UFO fever reached such intensity that in April 1952, four months before the DesVergers incident, LIFE magazine published a story called “Have We Visitors from Space?”

As Ruppelt would later chronicle in his 1956 book The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, (which I will link to in the show notes) on the evening of August 19, 1952, hardware-store clerk and Scoutmaster DesVergers, 30, was driving a group of Boy Scouts home when he saw a bright light flash over Military Trail near West Palm Beach, Florida. Thinking it may be a downed plane or car accident, DesVergers pulled onto the shoulder of the highway so he could take a closer look. Armed with a machete and flashlights, he entered the palmetto grove near where he saw the lights, leaving the three boys in the vehicle with instructions to alert the residents of a nearby farmhouse if he did not return in 15 minutes.

According to the declassified documents, after about four minutes of hacking through the bush DesVergers entered a clearing in the grove. The first thing he described was an acute, nauseating smell and then the feeling of somebody or something watching him. He next experienced a sensation of oven-like heat coming from above. Looking up, DesVergers said, he could not see any stars as he was standing beneath a hovering object.

The object was circular, DesVergers recounted, dull black, with no seams, about 30 feet in diameter with a height of 10 feet, a convex dome atop it and the bottom edge lit with a phosphorescent glow.

What happened next is what separates DesVergers’ encounter from thousands of other UFO sightings: As he slowly moved backward, he recalled, he heard a noise like metal against metal, “like a hatch opening,” after which a red, flare-like light came from the side of the object and slowly moved toward him. (DesVergers constantly referred to it as a “ship” when recounting the tale to the authorities) As he placed his hands over his face—fists closed, hand over each eye—the red ball of light grew into a red mist, engulfing him. It was then, he recounted, that he lost consciousness.

When he awoke, DesVergers said, he was leaning against a tree, but could not see properly as his eyes burned. Scrambling back through the palmettos, his eyesight slowly returning to normal, he burst, incoherent, out onto the highway, where he was met by the boys and local authorities.

The three scouts, Bobby Ruffing, 12, David Rowan, 11, and Chuck Stevens, 10, remained in the car after DesVergers entered the grove. Later, in recounting what he witnessed to authorities, Ruffing said he initially saw a semi-circle of white lights descending into the trees. Ruffing also recounted seeing a red light through the brush, as did Rowan and Stevens, who told of also seeing DesVergers’ flashlight through the trees before going dark. That’s when the scouts headed to the nearby farmhouse for help; a Palm Beach County deputy and Lake Worth constable responded to the farmer’s call for assistance.

Returning to the site of the abandoned vehicle almost an hour after DesVergers first said he saw the lights, the officers and scouts witnessed the scoutmaster emerge from the palmettos, waving his machete and babbling incoherently. “In all my 19 years of law-enforcement work, I’ve never seen anyone as terrified as he was,” the deputy is recorded as saying in Ruppelt’s investigation.

Back at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s office, DesVergers and the boys underwent questioning. Officers noted that the hair on DesVergers’ forearms was singed and the skin burned. They also noted three tiny burn holes in the bill of the scoutmaster’s cap.

Following procedure, the local authorities contacted relevant agencies with the incident report, which eventually made its way to Blue Book chief Ruppelt. He later described the case as “one of the weirdest UFO reports that I came up against.”

Arriving in Florida soon after the encounter, Ruppelt and his team began their investigation, obtaining statements from all parties involved and taking grass and soil specimens from the clearing in which DesVergeres said the encounter took place. The latter evidence would prove to be the most inexplicable piece of the encounter puzzle.

“The fact that they documented and took samples at all is lucky, and one of the most interesting aspects of this case,” says Jeffrey Wilsona private-industry analyst who examines noteworthy ground phenomenon. As co-founder of the Independent Crop Circle Researchers’ Association (ICCRA), Wilson investigates global circle phenomena. Though different to the crop circles he examines today, aspects of the DesVergers incident led him to further investigate.

As the grass specimens were being tested, DesVergers’ character would come under intense scrutiny, with authorities noting his other-than-honorable discharge from the U.S. Marines due to theft of a car, and what Florida locals would describe as his ability to tell tall tales. But when Ruppelt first interviewed DesVergers, he described the scoutmaster as likable, willing to cooperate and displaying the “immediate impression he was telling the truth.”

Taking into account the background checks on DesVergers, along with a return visit to the encounter site where he determined the Boy Scouts could not have witnessed DesVergers and the mysterious red light in the grove due to their distance and denseness of the foliage, Ruppelt would later call the entire event a hoax. DesVergers was painted as an opportunist and media-hungry conman who sold his story to The American Weekly newspaper the following year.

Though Ruppelt would come to believe the tale was fabricated, and he and his team would come up with dozens of ways the event could have been staged, they never managed to prove the incident was, in fact, a hoax. Their biggest stumbling block: the grass samples taken at the site.

After samples from the Florida clearing were sent to Battelle Memorial Institute (under contract with the USAF to provide scientific support to Project Blue Book), agronomists made some interesting findings: Though the soil remained consistent, the root structure of the plants in question were charred black, and the lower leaves had deteriorated as if by heat. The only way the lab could come close to duplicating the effect was to place live clumps of grass in a pan of sandy soil and heat it to about 300 degrees Fahrenheit.

Though Wilson has witnessed singed grass in his investigations into ground phenomenon, it has always been an occurrence above the soil, never the roots, as the lab findings in the DesVergers case indicate. Wilson says this is the only recorded example of such findings of which he is aware. I’ll place a link to photos of those examples in the show notes.

With those associated with the case no longer able to comment or add context (DesVergers and Ruppelt have both since died), the case remains unexplained. But according to Wilson, “Something unusual happened to the guy, and the physical evidence backed him up. That’s why I put the effort into checking this out.”

“Why would you go to the trouble of faking something like this?” he continued. “Why, and how, would he stage that? It doesn’t make any sense.”

* * * * * * * * * *


In 1975, when I was a fifth-grader at St. William Elementary, a Catholic school in Cincinnati, Ohio, the devil began visiting me — or at least so I thought.

During these episodes, my brain felt as if it were vibrating and then turning to concrete from the inside out. I wouldn’t lose consciousness, but I would zone out, unable to speak. My reality was twisted in ways both nonsensical and scary. Most everything I saw either changed physically or registered as something else in my mind. For instance, a teacher would turn into an alligator, a pencil into a sword, a tree into a dinosaur.

After each episode, I was left with a creepy feeling and a monstrous headache that caused me to be distracted and unsettled for hours. Still, as freaked out as I was, I didn’t tell anyone what was happening to me. Not my parents, not any of my teachers, not my friends, not my brothers or sister nor my parish’s priests. In part, it was because I had trouble finding the words to describe what was happening. And, at first, I wondered if it was really happening at all or if maybe it was just my imagination run amok.

A few months after my first episode, I experienced a “visitation” inside St. William Church, where my school attended Mass weekly, and it was then that I began to suspect ― and worry ― that what was happening to me was actually the devil’s work. In my impressionable and naïve 12-year-old mind, it made perfect sense: What — or who — else could penetrate the thick limestone walls and spiritual force field of God’s own house and have its way with me? The more I thought about it and considered the things I’d been taught in school about the devil, the more it made sense.

What’s more, my hallucinations began about a year after “The Exorcist” was released in theaters. While I was too young to see the movie, I had heard all about it, and I mistakenly understood it to be a highly accurate documentary. Though my head wasn’t spinning and I wasn’t spewing green bile, the things I was experiencing were unbelievably vivid and defied logic. I had every reason to believe that I might soon start exhibiting the same disgusting and frightening behavior as the girl in “The Exorcist.”

I was terrified but also convinced more than ever that I had to keep my affliction a secret. I feared that if anyone found out I was possessed they would either think I was crazy and send me to an asylum or, if they actually believed me, I would have to face possibly being seen as evil myself.

While I hid my possession, I refused to accept it. I fought back. Hard.

I embarked on a three-pronged plan to strengthen my body, my mind and especially my spirit. To improve physically, I turned to long-distance running. I ran every single day for years. My dedication paid off. As an eighth-grader, I won the citywide Catholic track-and-field championships in the mile run and, as a high school freshman, I ran a marathon in 3 hours and 15 minutes. I hoped God was pleased.

To enhance my mind, I worked harder in school than I certainly would have otherwise, earning mostly A’s thanks, in part, to completing every extra-credit opportunity placed before me.

Of course, what needed the most improvement was my spirit. I prayed multiple times throughout the day and volunteered to serve as an altar boy at every Mass I could manage. This included the dreaded 6:30 a.m. weekday Masses, but I hoped to prove to Jesus that I believed in him and wanted his grace.

My super-secret weapon for my super-secret condition was self-exorcisms, which I would perform in my bedroom or, when the rest of my family was out of the house, in our dining room. I would place our family Bible on the table and then light a votive candle (which, ironically, I had stolen from church). With a rosary dangling around my neck, I would make the sign of the cross, splash myself with holy water I got at school and recite prayers. I would then hold a small piece of sandwich bread over the candle’s flame. In my young mind, this process turned the ordinary bread into devil-blasting communion. I’d swallow it, say a few more prayers and then quickly hide all the accouterments of my self-exorcisms before my family returned.

I was desperate to be freed from my condition, and I was living a double life in hopes of being rescued from the devil. Still, my efforts to live a good, pure life were not always successful. Like most boys my age, I had impure thoughts about girls on a near-constant basis. I sometimes stole money from my mom’s purse to buy candy. In high school, I started drinking beer — a lot of it — on the weekends.

This is why I believed my purification efforts weren’t successful. From fifth grade through most of 10th grade, the devil’s visits increased in frequency. Though everything I was doing didn’t seem to be helping, I worried stopping would only invite Satan to come on even stronger. And one day he did. Big time.

While attending a high school leadership seminar in Columbus, Ohio, 100 miles from home, the devil came to visit again. This time, however, when the episode was over, I woke up in the back of an ambulance. I began to cry. I was scared and assumed I was headed to that asylum that haunted my thoughts. I was, of course, taken to the hospital, where I was given several tests, including an electroencephalogram (EEG) and a brain scan. I remember thinking that those sophisticated machines couldn’t detect the real problem. Beelzebub was way too smart for that.

I was at least right on that account. The technology did not reveal possession. What it did find, however, was that I’d had a grand mal seizure, my first. I was diagnosed with epilepsy that I was told was perhaps caused by some trauma my brain suffered during birth. It turned out the devil wasn’t taking control of my mind ― my mind was flipping out on its own. There wasn’t anything the least bit spiritual or metaphysical about it.

I was relieved I wasn’t possessed and I finally had a name for what was causing my episodes, but I was more than a little skeptical. For one, while my smaller hallucinatory episodes stopped (these petit mal seizures had been seen as childhood daydreaming, not epilepsy), for several years afterward I continued to have grand mal seizures, despite being medicated. I wondered if this might all be part of Satan’s plan, a neurological smokescreen of sorts. Beyond that, I had just spent about six years engaged in an epic battle of good versus evil. Admitting that I had royally duped myself for all of that time was a hard thing to do.

As crazy as my belief in demonic possession may seem, I believe even now that it was in many ways a rational, if not obvious, conclusion to come to under the circumstances. In my Catholic bubble, God and Satan were very much of this world. To appreciate how a kid could come to such a conclusion ― and then go to great lengths to both keep it a secret and self-exorcise his demons ― one must consider the Catholic worldview. As theologian Andrew Greely has written, Catholics believe, in essence, that objects, events and people can reveal God’s grace ― or the lack thereof.

If we lost something, we prayed to St. Anthony, who would then guide us toward the wallet, keys or whatever else we misplaced. A nun at my elementary school gave every student in her class a recycled Welch’s grape juice bottle filled with holy water. We used the water to bless ourselves before tests at school and when saying our evening prayers at home.

The people of my working-class neighborhood even put down money in an attempt to curry favor and influence with the Almighty and ward off the devil. In fact, I had an after-school job essentially selling special favors from God. For $5 you could come to St. William’s rectory, the priests’ residence, and purchase a Mass to be said in someone’s name. This would bestow a blessing upon him or her ― maybe to help them get a new job, recover more quickly from surgery or aid in the conception of a child. Smaller requests, say for good weather at the ballgame, could be made by lighting a votive candle in church for 25 cents.

And once, in what remains one of my most quintessential Catholic moments, a feather floated down from the church rafters during a family wedding. At the reception, all the buzz was about that feather ― how it must have somehow dislodged from the wing of an angel who came to bestow God’s blessings upon the new couple. It’s a lovely, nearly poetic sentiment, even for this atheist. The thought that it was probably a pigeon feather didn’t seem to occur, or matter, to anyone.

Ultimately, we saw the world as a stage where God and Satan battled at both the macro and micro levels. All that was good came from God and his angels and saints. All that was bad came from Satan and demons.

Am I angry at the church for its enchanted world and what it led me to believe? Not really. The church, my family and the larger community guided me toward goodness and light rather than evil and darkness. I’m thankful for that.

My experiences also gave me an immense appreciation for science and its ability to explain the world. We humans once believed that the Earth was the center of the universe. That belief made a lot of sense then. After all, why wouldn’t the planet called home by those made in God’s image not be at the center of everything? But much can make sense on the surface but still not be true at the core.

My battle with Satan had a certain logic to it given the larger narratives of my faith. But as I dug down deeper to, in essence, make my religious narratives more than stories to me, I came up empty. That doesn’t mean I no longer respect those who choose to believe. Nor does it mean that I don’t miss certain aspects of my religion, such as the rituals and the communal events.

I have four daughters, including 10-year-old twins who attend Catholic school (after completing their preschool years at a Jewish school). They don’t participate in the sacraments, such as First Communion and Reconciliation, but I have no issues with them being exposed to Catholicism’s basic tenets. They’ll have plenty of time to figure out what faith means for them. But I do watch them carefully for any signs of them zoning out. Should I spot any such thing, I won’t take them to church, I’ll take them to a doctor — and I’ll fight the urge to light a candle along the way.

You can read more of Steve Kissing’s story in his book, “Running From The Devil: A Memoir of a Boy Possessed”. I’ll place a link to the book in the show notes.

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Up next…

Most believe the legendary giant thunderbird is just a myth, but sightings of the creature continue as recently as 2018. Does that sound like a myth to you?

Plus, we’ll step into the Chamber of Comments, when Weird Darkness returns.


Today’s bonus audio for patrons is: “Live Talk Radio Brings Real Live Murder” He had a biting sense of humor, an outspoken personality, and his voice reached more than a dozen states. Alan Berg, an attorney turned radio host, called himself the man you love to hate. If he didn’t hang up on callers, he would berate them on air.

However, unlike many fiery radio hosts of today, his wrath wasn’t devoted to Democrats or Liberals. He didn’t pick on high-ranking politicians or late-night tv hosts. He chose instead to target white supremacists… groups who openly espoused hatred of blacks, Jews, leftists, homosexuals, Hispanics, other minorities and religious groups. His reward for standing up for truth and justice on talk radio? His own murder. Find a link to today’s bonus audio, “Live Talk Radio Brings Real Live Murder” in the show notes! For just $5 per month you can become a patron at WeirdDarkness.com! As a patron you get commercial-free episodes of Weird Darkness every day, bonus audio, and chapters of audiobooks as I narrate them! But more than that – by helping me pay for expenses, you are also helping to reach people who are desperately hurting with depression and anxiety. Get the benefits of being a patron, and benefit others who are hurting at the same time. Become a patron at WeirdDarkness.com.

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Is the Thunderbird real or myth? A gigantic bird was sighted in Alaska in January 2018 by a woman driving, having a wingspan nearly as wide as the road, and in Pennsylvania on May 26, 2013, when two friends were walking through the woods near Bryn Athen Castle and were startled by something extraordinary. “It was extremely loud, and I glanced up and saw a huge black bird,” Anthony said in his report. “It was sitting above us and we seemed to startle it. It flew about 100 feet to a nearby branch. Its wingspan was at least 10 feet, and judging how far it was it looked to be around 4 feet tall.”

This was far from the first sighting of such a creature in Pennsylvania.

On the evening of Tuesday, September 25, 2001, a 19-year-old claimed to have seen an enormous winged creature flying over Route 119 in South Greensburg, Pennsylvania. The witness’s attention was drawn to the sky by a sound that resembled “flags flapping in a thunderstorm.” Looking up, the witness saw what appeared to be a bird that had a wingspan of an estimated 10 to 15 feet and a head about three feet long.

This was just one more sighting of an incredible creature—most often considered a myth—known as a “Thunderbird.” Sightings of these gigantic birds, apparently unknown to science, go back hundreds of years and are a part of many Native American legends and traditions. They have even been blamed for abductions, or attempted abductions, of small children.

The South Greensburg witness told researcher Dennis Smeltzer that the huge black or grayish-brown bird passed overhead at about 50 to 60 feet. “I wouldn’t say it was flapping its wings gracefully,” the witness told Smeltzer, “but almost horrifically flapping its wings very slowly, then gliding above the passing big rig trucks.”

The witness observed the creature for about 90 seconds, even seeing it land on the branches of a dead tree, which nearly broke under its great weight. Unfortunately, no other witnesses saw the bird on this date, and no tangible evidence could be found for the bird after the site was searched.

What makes this story more interesting, however—even plausible—is that other sightings of similar description were reported in Pennsylvania in June and July 2001.

On June 13, a resident of Greenville, Pennsylvania, was startled by the great size of the grayish-black creature seen soaring overhead, at first thinking it was a small airplane or ultralight aircraft. This witness observed the bird for at least 20 minutes, clearly seeing its fully feathered body and confidently estimating its wingspan to be about 15 feet and its body length at about 5 feet. This bird, too, was seen to perch on a tree for at least 15 minutes before taking to air again and flying off toward the south. A neighbor of this witness claimed to have seen the creature the next day, describing it as “the biggest bird I ever saw.”

Less than a month later, on July 6, a witness in Erie County, Pennsylvania, reported a very similar sighting, according to an item in Fortean Times magazine. Again, the creature’s wingspan was estimated to be 15 to 17 feet and was described as “dark gray with little or no neck, and a circle of black under its head. Its beak was very thin and long—about a foot in length.”

These were not the first sightings of Thunderbirds in Pennsylvania, and if these reports are accurate, these birds are the largest flying creatures not yet identified by science. By comparison, the largest known bird is the wandering albatross, with a wingspan of up to 12 feet. The largest predatory birds—which the Thunderbird is most often likened to—are the Andean condor (10.5-foot wingspan) and the California condor (10-foot wingspan).

The legend of the Thunderbird reaches back hundreds of years as part of the mythology of several Native American tribes of the Pacific Northwest and the Great Lakes region. It might have remained strictly a part of those cultures had not the great winged creature been seen countless times by the “white man” over the centuries.

According to the Native American myths, the giant Thunderbird could shoot lightning from its eyes, and its wings were so enormous that they created peals of thunder when they flapped.

Many tales of the Thunderbird are more recent than the Native American legends. The animal is almost always listed in the catalogs of cryptozoologists’ mysterious creatures, and although the Thunderbird has been sighted on numerous occasions, a credible photograph or video of one has never been produced, and a specimen has never been killed or captured…except perhaps once.

A tale comes out of the Arizona Territory desert about two cowboys who encountered the giant flying creature in 1890. As cowboys are wont to do, they took careful aim with their rifles at the amazing creature and blasted it from the sky. According to an article in the April 26, 1890, edition of the Tombstone Epigraph, the cowboys and their horses dragged the lifeless monster into town where its wingspan was measured at an incredible 190 feet and its body measured at 92 feet long. It was described as having no feathers but a smooth skin and wings “composed of a thick and nearly transparent membrane.” Clearly, their description more readily resembles a pteranodon, pterosaur, or pterodactyl than a large bird.

Most paranormal researchers consider this story to be a good example of Old West creative writing on the part of the newspaper. But there may be a hint of truth in it. In 1970, a man named Harry McClure claimed that he knew one of the cowboys when he was a small boy. The real story, as the cowboy told the youth, was that the creature they shot at had a wingspan of 20 to 30 feet. They did not kill the Thunderbird, however, and returned to town only with their fantastic story.

One more intriguing element to this anecdote is that a photo was supposedly taken of the great creature, held up with its wings spread by several townspeople. Remarkably, many people recall seeing this photograph printed in FateNational Geographic, or Grit magazine or in some book about the Old West, but as yet this photo has not surfaced

In his book Unexplained! (which I will place a link to in the show notes), Jerome Clark lists many more sightings, including:

In the early 1940s, writer Robert R. Lyman spotted a Thunderbird sitting on a road near Coudersport, Pennsylvania. It soon took to the sky, spreading its 20-foot wingspan.

In 1969, the wife of a Clinton County, Pennsylvania, sheriff saw an enormous bird over Little Pine Creek. She said its wingspan appeared to be about as long as the creek was wide—about 75 feet!

In 1970, several people saw the gigantic bird “soaring toward Jersey Shore [Pennsylvania]. It was dark colored, and its wingspread was almost like [that of] an airplane.”

In 1948, several witnesses along the Illinois-Missouri border sighted a condor-like bird about the size of a Piper Club airplane.

The most terrifying story about giant birds is that they occasionally attempt to carry away small animals and even children. This item appeared in the July 28, 1977, edition of the Boston Evening Globe:

(From United Press International) “CARRIED OFF: 10-year-old Marlan Lowe and his mother Mrs. Ruth Lowe claim that one of two large black birds with eight-foot wingspans tried to carry Marlan off in its claws Monday evening in Lawndale, Illinois. Although several bird experts say that no bird native to Illinois could lift 70 pound Marlan, Mrs. Lowe says that Marlan was carried 20 feet before the bird dropped him when he struck the bird with his hand.”

Other abduction stories include that of a 42-pound five-year-old girl named Svanhild Hansen who, in June 1932, was carried away by a “huge eagle” from her parents’ farm in Leka, Norway. The giant bird carried her for more than a mile, the report stated, after which it dropped her unharmed on a high mountain ledge.

In 1838, another five-year-old girl was snatched from the slope of the Swiss Alps, where she was playing, by an eagle that carried the child to its nest. Unfortunately, the girl did not survive the ordeal, and her badly mutilated body was discovered some two months later by a shepherd. The eagle’s nest, subsequently found, was said to contain several eaglets surrounding “heaps of goat and sheep bones.”

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We’ll step into the Chamber of Comments in just a moment, but first – a quick reminder that our next Weirdo Watch Party is Saturday, May 23rd!  Join me, other Weirdo family members, and horror hosts Slash and Foxi Roxi as they present the 1984 B-horror movie, CarnageCarnage is the story of Carol and Jonathan, a newlywed couple, who move into their new house which is haunted by the ghosts of another newlywed couple who committed suicide in the house three years earlier. (Creepy!) You can be a part of the Weirdo Watch Party for free – just visit the page and click the play button to start watching! The chat room is also there, so during the Weirdo Watch Party we can all join in to chat with each other, comment about the film and the horror hosts, and most of the time the horrors hosts jump into the chatroom with us to get in on the jokes and conversation. It’s FREE, it’s FUN, and it helps to promote different horror hosts and show them that we appreciate them keeping the art form alive.  So join us for the 1984 schlock horror film, “Carnage”! Put it on your Google calendar, set a reminder on your smart home device, write it on your home or office calendar with blood – whatever you have to do so you won’t miss the fun!  This time the party is on the Weirdo Watch Party page on  Saturday, May 23rd at 9pm Central (10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific, 8pm Mountain) at WeirdDarkness.com!

Now, let’s step into the Chamber of Comments…..

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Here in the Chamber of Comments I answer your emails, comments, podcast reviews, tweets, letters I get in the mail, and more. You can find all of my contact information, postal address, and social media links on the CONTACT page at WeirdDarkness.com. While you’re there, join the Facebook Group, “Weird Darkness Weirdos” and hang out with me and the rest of our Weirdo family! Or drop me an email anytime at: darren@weirddarkness.com.

(Review from SFKxFuzzy) Amazing show! I myself am not religious but I don’t find the Christian message overwhelming, I get it and respect you for how well you present yourself. While having hopeless thoughts is a prominent fixture in my life as far back as I can remember, I am happy to see how you acknowledge it. Keep it spooky my friends.

(YouTube comment from Michael on “The Haunting Ghosts of 9/11”): I was 13 years old on 9/11, my first day of high school in New York City. I spent the summer building houses for my model village and train set. My Father, who survived, worked in the WTC complex. That day changed my life – needless to say – but moreover there is no rest at the WTC/One World Trade Center site. My spirit isn’t even at rest and I am alive so I can’t imagine the spirits that perished that day on 9/11. Sadly, I knew many people from my immediate are that died that day. One newlywed, one pregnant secretary and one man who was starting his first week of his new job at Cantor Fitzgerald. Sorry for rambling and thank you for indulging me. Every time I talk about 9/11 it feels therapeutic.

REPLY: I hear ya, Michael. That was a tough episode to make. I was working in radio in Kansas City when all of that went down – but I worked the afternoon shift, so I was at home asleep when the first plane hit the towers. Suddenly, I hear my bride screaming from the family room – she’s watching the news and the sees on live television the second plane hit the towers and I hear a noise from her I’ve never heard before, a sound of sorrow, of angst, of horror. Through her gasping for air she sees me coming down the hall and says, “Darren, we’re under attack!” That afternoon I drove to the radio station and I just flipped over to the satellite to whatever national news we had available to us – and it stayed that way for days. There was no way to act normal. I’ve actually had quite a few comments on this particular episode, especially because of the produced intro. I’ll leave a link to it in the show notes if you’ve not had an opportunity to hear it yet.

(Message from one of my patrons, Sharnell): I really enjoy hearing your voice i helps me deals with losing my mom which ahe was my best friend it has been 6 years but honestly it feel like forever i miss her soooo much thank you

REPLY: I’m sorry to hear about your mother. I’ve not had to deal with the loss of a close family member yet, but I would guess that even if the sting of the loss might fade, the loss felt never will. I am glad you have found some comfort in the podcast. And I appreciate you sharing that with me, it makes me feel good to know that the show is more than just entertaining for people, that it can be somewhat therapeutic at the same time. It was never intended to be that, but it has certainly morphed into it! God bless you, Sharnell!

(YouTube comment from Joyce Koch): A great show would be for all of us who as children lost a loved pet and then had weird experiences of the pet being around still. I remember when my dog passed we heard him and his bell around his neck in our house the first year after his death and then never again. It was a warm and happy experience. I always thought it was his way of letting me know he didn’t really die and was coming by to let us know until I was ready to fully let go.

REPLY: That would be quite the collection if enough people sent in their stories – great idea, Joyce!

I’ll answer more of your emails, comments, and more next time! Again, you can find all of my social media and contact information on the CONTACT page at WeirdDarkness.com.

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If you made it this far, welcome to the Weirdo Family. If you like the podcast, please tell your friends/family about it however you can and get them to become Weirdos too! And I’d greatly appreciate you leaving a review in the podcast app you listen from, that helps the podcast get noticed!

Do you have a dark tale to tell of your own? Fact or fiction, click on “Tell Your Story” at WeirdDarkness.com and I might use it in a future episode.

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.

“You’ll Never Guess What Happened While You Were Asleep” by Sarah Blumert for Graveyard Shift:

“The Scouts and the UFO” by Colin Bertram for History:

“I Thought I Was Possessed By The Devil” by Steve Kissing for the Huffington Post:

“The Giant Thunderbird Lives” by Stephen Wagner for Live About:

Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music.

WeirdDarkness™ – is a registered trademark. Copyright ©Weird Darkness 2020.

If you’d like a transcript of this episode, you’ll find a link in the show notes.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… 1 Timothy 6:17 = Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment.

And a final thought… from Ben Carson: Happiness doesn’t result from what we get, but from what we give.

I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.


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