“KILLER KIDS, MURDEROUS MINORS” and More Horrific True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

KILLER KIDS, MURDEROUS MINORS” and More Horrific True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

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IN THIS EPISODE: As a listener of true crime podcasts, you likely are more than familiar with names like H.H. Holmes, Richard Ramirez, and Gary Ridgeway. But what happens when the serial killer hasn’t even reached adolescence? We’ll look at some chilling murders that were carried out by children, which will change the way you look at youthful adolescents from now on. (Killer Kids) *** Are there traits you can look for in a child that might indicate if they will become a killer later in life? We’ll look at three traits believed to be indicators. (Predicting a Killer) *** You can teach a dog to roll over and fetch. You can teach a cat to use the toilet. Lions and tigers have been trained to jump through hoops of fire to thrill spectators at circuses worldwide. And even a gorilla has been taught some basic sign language. But would you believe there was once a horse that could do arithmetic? (The Horse Who Could Do Math) *** William Stead was a newspaper editor and journalist in the 1890s. His beat wasn’t the fashion scene or stock market, nor was it the arts district or even politics. He covered the paranormal. And it wasn’t hard to come up with stories, because all he had to do was to call up someone from the underworld for an exclusive interview. (Words From Beyond The Grave) *** If you move into an old house, it always feels awkward at first. After a while though, it begins to feel like home. For some people, if the house is a bit older, perhaps that odd feeling of being watched never really goes away. But if your house was built 270 years ago, you probably should just assume you’ve got a spook or two already residing there before you sign the mortgage. (1750’s Horror Home)

TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
Find a full or partial transcript at the bottom of this blog post.

MENTIONED IN THE EPISODE…
BOOK: “Homicidal Threats” by J. M. MacDonald: https://amzn.to/3f4CcGi
BOOK: “After Death or Letters From Julia” by W.T. Stead: https://amzn.to/2Ydk9qp
BOOK: “The Blue Island: Experiences of a New Arrival Beyond the Veil” by W.T. Stead: https://amzn.to/2XKCbS4
EPISODE: “North Carolina: Haunted Homes, Eerie Estates, Bedeviled Buildings, Paranormal Paths”: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/6533

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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Note: Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“Killer Kids” by Abbey White for The Line Up: https://tinyurl.com/yd7wbqw7
“Predicting a Killer” by CWS for The Line Up: https://tinyurl.com/yaxza9ju
“The Horse Who Could Do Math” by Kaushik Patowary for Amusing Planet: https://tinyurl.com/yb3zn423
“Words From Beyond the Grave” by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian: https://tinyurl.com/ya3tk8rv
“1750s Horror Home” by Virulent Peach for Your Ghost Stories: https://tinyurl.com/y7vl59da
Weird Darkness opening and closing theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music, varying by episode, provided by Alibi Music, EpidemicSound and/or AudioBlocks with paid license; Shadows Symphony (http://bit.ly/2W6N1xJ), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), and/or Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (https://www.youtube.com/user/myuuji) used with permission.

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I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use. If I somehow overlooked doing that for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll rectify it the show notes as quickly as possible.
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TRANSCRIPT:

If cop shows and forensic dramas have taught us one thing, it’s that serial killers are a breed apart from other human beings. They’re the monsters that hide in the shadows, the diabolical predators of otherwise peaceful times. But it’s extremely rare for a child to commit any serious crime , even rarer for that act to be outright murder. So when cases of homicide committed by children make the news, they fascinate the viewers, and stay in the public consciousness long after the trials have ended. Murder itself is such an extreme crime that even what motivates adult killers can remain mysterious. Getting to the bottom of what pushes a child to commit the heinous act is even more difficult. Many such crimes involve children attacking those younger than them, usually with an age gap of six to eight years. Needing to feel powerful comes into some of the cases, as does curiosity – simply wanting to know what killing feels like.

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, 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. You can also shop the Weird Darkness Store for podcast merchandise, and 100% of all profits I make from the store are donated to the International Foundation for Research and Education of Depression. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

Coming up in this episode of Weird Darkness…

You can teach a dog to roll over and fetch. You can teach a cat to use the toilet. Lions and tigers have been trained to jump through hoops of fire to thrill spectators at circuses worldwide. And even a gorilla has been taught some basic sign language. But would you believe there was once a horse that could do arithmetic?

William Stead was a newspaper editor and journalist in the 1890s. His beat wasn’t the fashion scene or stock market, nor was it the arts district or even politics. He covered the paranormal. And it wasn’t hard to come up with stories, because all he had to do was to call up someone from the underworld for an exclusive interview.

If you move into an old house, it always feels awkward at first. After a while though, it begins to feel like home. For some people, if the house is a bit older, perhaps that odd feeling of being watched never really goes away. But if your house was built 270 years ago, you probably should just assume you’ve got a spook or two already residing there before you sign the mortgage.

As a listener of true crime podcasts, you likely are more than familiar with names like H.H. Holmes, Richard Ramirez, and Gary Ridgeway. But what happens when the serial killer hasn’t even reached adolescence? We’ll look at some chilling murders that were carried out by children, which will change the way you look at youthful adolescents from now on.

Are there traits you can look for in a child that might indicate if they will become a killer later in life? We’ll look at three traits believed to be indicators.

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

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KILLER KIDS

We all know of Ted Bundy, Ed Gein, Jeffrey Dahmer, and John Wayne Gacy—some of the most notorious serial killers of the 20th century. These murderers have even inspired movies and TV shows based on their callous acts. Their victims suffered gruesome killings, and the public understood that although the killers might have faced psychological problems, they were still adults. But what happens when the killers haven’t even hit puberty? Murder can be an act so horrific and inconceivable that many of us fail to understand why someone would do it—some of us even forget that there is no age limit to becoming a killer. There are teens and youth who seek out their victims and take their lives brutally and violently, sometimes without remorse and in ways we can barely believe. From cooking a victim’s flesh and poisoning their family to stabbing their neighbors and killing for the “fun” of it, here are some killer kids whose stories will keep you up at night.

Accused of luring young boys into the local woods where he would then beat them with his fist, belt or a knife, Jesse Pomeroy is alleged to have killed nine people. He began to torture other children when he was only 11 years old. During the winter and fall of 1871, Pomeroy trapped and attacked seven younger boys. Pomeroy would strip and tie the boys up, severely beating them, sometimes even poking pins into their flesh. He had distinguishable features—a harelip and one completely white eye—so identifying him was easy. He was eventually caught and was sent to reform school; he was supposed to stay until he reached the age of 18 but was released after he completed a year and a half of his sentence.  Once released, Pomeroy didn’t just want to inflict pain, he wanted to kill. The deaths that finally put him in prison were that of a 10-year-old girl—Mary Curran—from South Boston, found in his basement, and a four-year-old boy—Horace Mullen—found mutilated near a marsh. At the time of his arrest, Pomeroy was 14 and confessed to the murder of Mullen; when police asked him if he killed the boy, Pomeroy replied, “I suppose I did.” Eventually, Pomeroy confessed to having a total of 27 other victims—police discovered the remains of 12 other bodies in his old home. When convicted of first-degree murder, Pomeroy, also known as “The Boston Boy Fiend”, became the youngest person convicted of first-degree murder in the state of Massachusetts.

It’s really no surprise that Mary Bell turned out the way she did. Her mother was a 17-year-old prostitute when she had Mary and was often absent from their home during Mary’s childhood. Betty Bell—Mary’s mother—married Billy Bell although it is unclear if he was Mary’s biological father. Billy was a habitual criminal often arrested for robbery. The Bell home was located in the economically depressed Scotswood area of Newcastle where domestic violence and criminal behavior were the norm. It’s no surprise that Mary quickly began engaging in her own crimes: attacks on other children, vandalism, and theft. It didn’t take long before Mary started searching for heavier crimes.  Mary Bell committed the first of two shocking murders on the day before her 11th birthday. In May of 1968, Mary strangled a four-year-old boy in a derelict house before leaving notes claiming responsibility in a nursery she and a friend had broken into. A month later and joined by that same friend, Mary strangled a three-year-old boy in the same area as the first killing. She returned to the body and carved an “M” into the boy’s stomach, along with scratching his legs and mutilating his genitals. Mary was convicted of manslaughter and released in 1980. She made headlines again after being released from prison and won a High Court battle to have her own anonymity and that of her daughter’s extended for life. As a result, any court order that permanently protects the identity of someone is known as a “Mary Bell order”.

Charles “Charlie” Starkweather was brought up in a respectable home with well-behaved siblings—he was the third of seven. In contrast, Starkweather’s time in school was unpleasant because he was often teased and bullied for his limitations: he was born with genu varum (a leg disformity), a speech impediment, and also suffered from severe myopia. The only place he excelled was gym class, and he began to bulk up as a result. With his newfound physique, Starkweather transformed from bullied to bully and went from the most well-behaved teenager to the most troubled student. By 1956, 18-year-old Starkweather was introduced to Caril Ann Fugate, who was 13 at the time, and the two quickly hit it off. Gradually, Charlie convinced himself that he had to become a criminal in order to gain money and respect. On December 1957, Charlie committed his first murder and at once felt euphoric and peaceful. The day after Charlie robbed and murdered his first victim, Robert Colvert, he admitted everything to Caril. This confession caused their bond to become even more intense. It would also lead to their mass-murdering road trip, Charlie—19 years old at this time—along with his 14-year-old girlfriend, carried out the two-month spree that inspired films like Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers.  The teens strangled, stabbed, sexually assaulted, and shot 11 different victims between December 1957 and January 1958 across the states of Nebraska and Wyoming, including his girlfriend’s family. The day of their final murder the duo ran into law enforcement, and Starkweather’s girlfriend confessed, resulting in their high-speed capture. Starkweather was sentenced to death by electric chair 17 months after he was arrested.

On February 20, 2009, the then 11-year-old Jordan Brown murdered his father’s 26-year-old fiancée Kenzie Houk, who was eight months pregnant at the time—her unborn son was also killed. While the soon-to-be mother was sleeping in her bed in their New Beaver, Pennsylvania farmhouse, Brown shot her in the back of the head using a gun given to him by his father. Houk’s youngest daughter alerted nearby adults to the situation after Brown had gotten on the school bus. Police arrived later that day to find a shotgun in the house with the smell of burnt gunpowder. Jordan was interviewed by Pennsylvania State Police twice the day of the incident before being arrested the following morning. It was later confirmed that Houk was killed by a youth-model Harrington & Richardson 20-gauge shotgun. Prosecutors speculated that Brown killed his stepmother because he was angered by the pending birth of a new sibling and was jealous about the attention his stepsisters received. Initially, Brown was to be tried as an adult but was eventually found guilty of first-degree murder as a juvenile. In 2018, Brown was exonerated as the court determined that the evidence could have been planted by an unknown assailant, and thus was insufficient to find him culpable beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the day that 14-year old Shirley Wolf helped murder a great-grandmother in her condominium, Wolf wrote in her journal: “Today, Cindy and I ran away and killed an old lady. It was lots of fun.” Wolf had known 15-year-old Cindy Collier less than a day when they decided to knock on various doors of Collier’s condominium development in Auburn, California. The girls used their innocent demeanor to their advantage in order to get in the apartments of older residents—they used tactics like asking for directions, a glass of water, or to use the phone. Some of the senior citizens were not fooled and felt an unsettling presence when they met the girls; after two older women saw the girls, they immediately locked their windows and doors.  However, the kind and helpful Anna Brackett—an 86-year-old former seamstress—decided to invite the girls into her two-bedroom condo, unaware that it would cost her her life. After Brackett let them in, they brutally stabbed her for her car. Wolf grabbed Brackett by the throat and threw her to floor, while Collier handed her a knife from the kitchen. Wolf repeatedly stabbed her neck until she was dead. Before they left, the girls ransacked the condo for money and the car keys. No one could believe that the teenage girls were responsible for the heinous act but when the Placer County sheriff’s deputies interviewed Wolf, she confessed within minutes. Later, Collier affirmed, “…after we did it, we wanted to do another one. We just wanted to kill someone. Just for fun.” The two were found guilty of first-degree murder.

Nathan Leopold and his lover Richard Loeb confessed to the kidnap and murder of Bobby Franks which they claimed to have committed solely for the experience. Before that incident, Leopold and Loeb had racked up a laundry list of crimes. By November 1923, Leopold and Loeb had already performed several burglaries together and set fires a few times. Their criminal behavior was fueled by Nietzsche’s concept of ‘The Superman.’ Leopold was furious that their misdeeds had yet to earn them media attention, so the two spent seven months planning a bigger crime that would prove they weren’t just above the law—they were too smart to get caught. They spent the winter months of 1924 planning the crime to the smallest detail: They would kidnap a child and ask for a $10,000 ransom. They had even decided how they would request the money. The wealthy University of Chicago students eventually kidnapped and murdered a 14-year-old boy in May 1924 as an affirmation of their intellectual supremacy.  The pair spent nearly two hours driving around the streets of the South Side of Chicago, looking for a possible victim until they spotted Bobby Franks. Franks was Loeb’s cousin–he knew that Franks’s father would be able to pay the ransom. After offering the boy a ride and taking a chisel to his head, they dumped his body. After a failed attempt to collect the ransom, a pair of glasses belonging to Leopold discovered near the body linked the murder to the boys. Leopold and Loeb were convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison plus 99 years.

Fascinated with poison from a young age, Graham Young would poison his father, step-mother, younger sister, several classmates, and at one point even himself. He used a poison that made them violently ill; the symptoms included vomiting, diarrhea, and excruciating stomach pain. When he was only 14, in November 1961, Young served his sister Winifred a cup of tea exposed to poison that would later cause her hallucinations. She was taken to the hospital where doctors came to the conclusion that she had consumed the poisonous Atropa belladonna. Young’s father was suspicious of his son, but unable to find anything incriminating in his room. Regardless, he warned his son to stop using chemicals. Young eventually killed his stepmother, and after the 15-year-old was sent to a psychiatrist, the police were brought in. Young landed himself in a psychiatric facility for people who have committed criminal offenses and was diagnosed with a personality disorder. Dubbed the “Teacup Poisoner,” he killed a fellow inmate and poisoned several staff members before being released nine years later, deemed “fully recovered.” He would eventually land back in prison in the early 1970s to live out the rest of his days, after poisoning at least seven more people and killing one.

David Brom is known as a mass murderer, having killed nearly his entire family—parents, brother, and sister—with an axe on a February morning in 1988. The murders happened after Brom got into a fight with his father in their Minnesota home the night before. The morning after the murders, the 16-year-old skipped school and convinced a fellow student to as well, bragging to her about what he did in graphic detail. He detailed the ways he killed his family with an axe and the fact that his father had struggled during the attack. Brom informed the student that he had gotten into an argument with his father at about 11:30 P.M. over the music he was listening to. He then stayed awake until 3:00 a.m. and entered his parent’s room and killed his father first. He attacked his brother and killed his mother and sister last. The news reached his school’s administration, who notified police. Initially, Brom’s case was referred to the juvenile court system because of his age. However, due to the severity of the crimes, Brom was sent into the adult judicial system. Brom’s defense was insanity and much of the trial and media attention focused on whether or not Brom was legally insane at the time of his crimes. In October 1989, Brom was convicted of first-degree murder and was given three consecutive life sentences. He remains in prison to this day.

In February 1993, Robert Thompson and John Jon Venables—both 10-years old at the time—were skipping school and decided to lure a young two-year-old boy away from his mom. CCTV showed the boys observing children, most likely searching for a victim. Throughout their time in the shopping center, the boys were also seen stealing various items: sweets, a troll doll, batteries, and a can of blue paint. Eventually the boys spotted James Bulger and decided to approach the boy while his mother was distracted. The boys led Bulger by the hand out of the mall where they planned to push him into oncoming traffic. However, the boys decided to travel two and half miles through Walton, Liverpool, to a set of railroad tracks.  During their walk through Liverpool, the boys were seen with Bulger by a total of 38 people—Bulger had a bump on his forehead and was crying, but bystanders did not intervene. Once they reached the railroad tracks, the boys stripped Bulger of his clothes, stuffed batteries into his mouth, threw paint in his eye and bricks and stones at his body, and dropped a 22-pound iron bar on him before weighing his body down on the tracks using rocks so a passing train would mutilate the boy’s body. The police used CCTV footage to track the two child murderers down, and the two boys were found guilty, becoming the youngest individuals to be convicted of murder in the 20th century.

When Eric Smith was younger, he was considered a loving and funny boy. That quickly changed as he got older. Smith had been diagnosed with intermittent explosive disorder—a mental disorder that causes individuals to act out violently and unpredictably. It was a rare disorder that was even rarer at Smith’s age. Smith was a loner and was often bullied because of his appearance, as he had protruding low-set ears, thick glasses, red hair, and freckles. It seems this led to Smith’s suppressed rage later taken out on his victim: Derrick Robie. At age 13, Eric Smith murdered Derrick Robie—a four-year-old boy—after luring him into the woods while they were on their way to the same summer camp. After luring the young boy into the woods, Smith hit him over the head with a rock, strangled him, and sodomized him with a tree limb, which Smith would later say he used to confirm the boy was dead. The body was found within hours after the little boy’s mother reported him missing. Within the same week, Smith confessed to his family. He was charged with second-degree murder and is currently in a medium security prison in New York State.

Known as the Warwick Slasher, Craig Chandler Price was arrested for four murders. Price killed his first victim when he was just 13 years old after breaking into her home, only two houses down from his own. He stabbed the 27-year-old woman living there 58 times with a kitchen knife. At the age of 15, he would brutally stab three more neighbors, a mother—Joan Heaton—nearly 40 and her two young daughters. With his first murder unsolved, Price was able to commit his second horrific crime. Similarities in the killings led police to bring in the FBI to investigate a possible serial killer. At first, tying Price to the scene seemed impossible–but then an observant detective noticed a cut on Price’s hand. When he was arrested, Price calmly confessed and showed no remorse for the killings. He even described the night he was in the Heatons’ house, how he bit Heaton’s face as he knifed her and mimicked the final cries of her dying daughters. He was sentenced as a minor and upon his potential release bragged he would “make history,” before earning an additional 10-25 years for various instances of criminal behavior while in prison. At one time he was to be in jail until 2020, but on April 4, 2017, Price stabbed fellow inmate Joshua Davis at the Suwannee Correctional Institution in Live Oak, Florida, with a 5″ homemade knife. He was sentenced to an additional 25 years.

Peter Woodcock was a Canadian serial killer and child rapist who showed signs of psychopathy at a young age. By the time he was a teenager, Woodcock was using his bike to wander around the edges of Toronto and select his victims. He would ride his bike and evolve a fantasy in which he led a gang of 500 invisible boys called the “Winchester Heights Gang.” His foster parents were aware that he spent time wandering around on his bike, but were shocked to discover that Woodcock had been sexually assaulting children. He assaulted many children and would eventually kill three—all under the age of 10—between 1956 and 1957. The murders were carried out by strangulation. Woodcock would also beat his victims and forcibly insert objects into their privates before killing them.  He was caught after being seen cycling away from his last victim and found not guilty by reason of insanity. Woodcock would be sent to a maximum security mental health center. As he seemed less dangerous over time, the man was released to a lower level facility.  In that facility, Woodcock, now going by the name David Michael Krueger, fell in love with a fellow patient who rejected his sexual advances. While out on a weekend pass, Krueger convinced a former lover, Bruce Hamill, to help him kill that man. Hamill and Krueger stabbed Dennis Kerr to death. Immediately after the murder, Krueger reported himself to the police–he was transferred back to the high-security facility, where he passed away 19 years later.

From Jacksonville, Florida, Josh Phillips earned a life sentence for murdering an eight-year-old neighbor in 1998 when he was only 14 years old. Phillips alleges that he was home alone the day Maddie Clifton came over to play baseball. He agreed to play even though he was not allowed to have friends over when his parents weren’t home. After he accidentally hit her in the eye with the ball, the young girl began to scream and cry loudly. Knowing that his father would arrive soon and fearing his reaction, Phillips pulled her into the house and strangled her with a phone cord for 15 minutes. He proceeded to hit her with a bat and then stuffed her body under his waterbed mattress. Phillips interacted with his father upon his arrival home for a few minutes before returning to his room. Realizing that Clifton was still alive, he stabbed her 11 times to stop her moaning, which finally killed the young girl. He left her body underneath his bed. It was discovered by his mother, who thought the waterbed was leaking, but came to find it was the young girl’s decomposing body. She ran outside the house to contact police, who arrested Phillips the very same day at his school.

Sandy Charles is perhaps one of the most bizarre child murderers on the list. Charles, along with a young accomplice, murdered a seven-year-old boy after watching the horror movie Warlock. The film follows a warlock who drinks the liquefied fat of an unbaptized child to gain special powers. The killer teen stabbed and smothered his young victim in the woods only a few hundred yards from where he was staying with his grandmother in Sinotte Crescent, an isolated community in Canada. After stabbing his victim, Charles beat the boy with a rock and a beer bottle, then proceeded to cut strips of fat and skin from the boy’s body. He then took the body parts home, cooked, and ate them, confessing that he thought drinking boiled-down fat from a virgin would give him the power to fly—as shown in the horror film. Charles was suffering bizarre delusions due to schizophrenia, only strengthened by his constant rewatching of Warlock and its sequel. He had contemplated suicide but decided against it when “spirits in the room” told him that he’d be better off killing someone else. He was found not guilty by reason of insanity and sent to a psychiatric hospital.

In April of 2006, the bodies of Marc and Debra Richardson and their eight-year-old son were found in their home. The murderers were the Richardsons’ 12-year-old daughter, Jasmine Richardson, and her 23-year-old boyfriend, Jeremy Steinke, who she had met at a punk rock show that same year. The two had an interest in dark horror and creatures like vampires. Steinke even claimed he was a 300-year-old vampire: He told friends he liked the taste of blood, and wore a small vial of blood around his neck. Richardsons’ parents did not approve of Steinke and punished her for dating him because of the age difference.  The pair, who were deeply infatuated, refused to be separated–and so Jasmine Richardson came up with a plan. She proposed the idea to kill her parents so she and Steinke could finally live together. Hours before the murder, the two had watched Natural Born Killers. During a conversation with an undercover cop while in police custody, Steinke said that the movie was “the best love story of all time.” Richardson was found guilty of three counts of murder in the first-degree and sentenced to the maximum allowance for juveniles, 10 years. Steinke received three life sentences. It is believed that Jasmine Richardson is the youngest person to be convicted of multiple murder in Canada. She was released after serving her full sentence in 2016. Reportedly, she has shown genuine remorse for her crimes.

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Coming up…

Can you predict whether or not a child will become a killer? Are there traits you can look for in a child that might indicate if they will become violent later in life?

Plus, I’ll tell you about Hans Clever a horse supposedly so intelligent that it could actually do math!

These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.

<BREAK>

Our next Weirdo Watch Party is this coming Saturday, June 13th at 9pm Central Time! Our last watch party had 889 people watching in 112 countries! If you loved watching horror hosts bringing you old horror movies late at night when you were a kid, you’ll love this – because that’s exactly what it is. These horror hosts are keeping the craft alive! This coming Saturday horror host Igorro is bringing us the 1959 monster flick, “Attack of the Giant Leeches”. The Weirdo Watch Party is always FREE to watch. So grab some popcorn and soda and join us this coming Saturday night, June 13th, for “Attack of the Giant Leeches” with horror host Igorro! The Weirdo Watch Party begins at 9pm Central Time – that’s 10pm Eastern, 7pm Pacific, 8pm Mountain – on the Weirdo Watch Party page at WeirdDarkness.com!

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PREDICTING A KILLER

Wouldn’t it be useful if we could identify violent criminals before they harm their first victim? Wouldn’t it be incredible if we could observe certain behaviors as serious red flags and figure out a way to treat children who seem to be at the highest risk for future violent behavior? It’s almost as if we could answer the most terrifying problem we have as human beings: how do we stop those who seek to harm us in the most brutal ways?

Most of those interested in true crime are familiar with a certain three childhood behaviors that immediately spark concern in amateur forensic psychologists. These three behaviors when happening together are known as the MacDonald Triad. What the MacDonald Triad attempts to do is to predict future sadistic behaviors by identifying certain traits that show in childhood and adolescence. Forensic psychiatrist J. M. MacDonald identified three such traits in his 1963 paper, “The Threat to Kill.” They are: arson, bed-wetting, and animal cruelty.

In his paper, he wrote about his study of 100 patients who had threatened to kill someone. He found that his patients that exhibited signs of aggression and psychosis were more likely to have a history of the three aforementioned behaviors. In 1966, Daniel Hellman and Nathan Blackman published a study that supported the MacDonald Triad. Of the 84 prisoners they worked with, they found that three-quarters of the 31 most violent offenders all possessed a history of the behaviors.

This triad has blended into the canon of true crime, and many of us have taken it as a psychological fact. So what are we talking about when we talk about the MacDonald Triad?

Arson. According to a 2004 paper by Singer and Hensley, fire-starting is an early attempt at releasing anger and aggression. Because some studied serial killers experienced prolonged episodes of humiliation and shaming in childhood, it is proposed that they sought a way to release the negative emotions and rebalance themselves. The study also concluded that arson is not a good predictor of future violence.

Cruelty to animals. This is probably the most famous trait that people assume will predict violent behavior. The reason that psychologists believe that children and adolescents torture and kill small animals is also because of humiliation at home. Children cannot fight against their abusers, so they take their anger out on animals that are vulnerable to them. Psychologists Wright and Hensley studied five cases of serial murderers in 2003 and found that these animal kills are almost like practice for future violence—the methods employed to harm the animals are often similar to the methods that criminals use on their human victims. Another study conducted in 2003 with 45 incarcerated violent male offenders found that 56% openly admitted to past animal cruelty. It also indicated that more often than not, the children who harmed animals were also victims of parental abuse.

Bedwetting. Specifically, “unintentional bed-wetting during sleep, persistent after the age of five.” Many children may wet the bed, but in the context of the MacDonald Triad, a child older than five must wet the bed while sleeping at least twice a week for a three-month period. Forensic psychologists call the idea that bedwetting has anything to do with future violent behavior a destructive myth. Though chronic bedwetting is sometimes considered another sign of a child’s distress, researchers have not found a solid link between bedwetting and abuse.

So, how accurate is this hypothesis? MacDonald himself began to question his own theory in his 1968 book Homicidal Threats (which I’ve linked to in the show notes), claiming he could find no true statistical link between the triad and future violent tendencies. Researchers agree—they question whether two small studies can warrant a legitimate theory.

More recent studies and analyses seem to show little correlation. Some go as far as to call the triad of behaviors an “urban legend.” Nonetheless, it has found its way into forensic psychology classes and even into Law & Order: SVU.

In 2009, Kori Ryan submitted a master thesis study which to date is the most extensive review and analysis of violent criminal data from the last half of a century, and she found little to prove that the MacDonald Triad has any predictive value.

It’s not that these behaviors aren’t signs for concern. They are—but less so for potential future victims and more so for the child exhibiting them. The behaviors described in the MacDonald Triad are more likely to show that a child may be experiencing severe abuse. The correlation to violent criminal behavior may be that many who do commit violent crimes have a history of childhood abuse and neglect. Forensic psychologist Katherine Ramsland claims that some violent criminals may exhibit one of the traits of the triad, but rarely do they possess all three. “Together or alone, the triad behaviors can indicate a stressed child with poor coping mechanisms or a developmental disability,” Ramsland wrote for Psychology Today.

Psychologists worry that the MacDonald Triad’s popularity may cause more distress and stigmatization for children that are labeled as a future threat through behaviors that actually signal abuse of the child.

Ramsland continued to say “…Such a child needs guidance and attention. However, until we design and carry out better empirical studies than we’ve seen thus far, researchers and media agencies should refrain from stating that the triad identifies a future serial killer.”

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THE HORSE WHO COULD DO MATH

I don’t know about you, but I could use a more amusing story right about now after such a dark beginning to this episode. So let me tell you about Clever Hans. In a paved courtyard surrounded by high apartment houses in the northern part of Berlin, a small crowd had gathered to watch an old high school mathematics teacher demonstrate the brilliance of one of his precocious pupils. The sixty-something math instructor stood proudly with a black, slouch hat covering his thinning white hair. To his left, stood the pupil—an impressive Russian trotting horse.

For more than a decade, Wilhelm von Osten, the instructor, had helped Clever Hans, the horse, to develop a number of cognitive skills. von Osten would ask a question, and Hans would answer, correctly, by nodding his head, for a “yes” or a “no”, or by tapping his foot to indicate numbers. Clever Hans could show directions by turning his head, could differentiate between “left” and “right”, identify colors, read the clock, recognize and identify playing cards, and understand a large number of different concepts. Not only could Hans count, he could perform arithmetic far beyond the fundamentals.

“How much is 2/5 plus 1/2?”, von Osten would ask. Hans would answer with nine taps followed by another ten to indicate that the answer was 9/10. “What is the square root of sixteen?” Hans would make four taps. “What are the factors of 28?” Hans would tap consecutively 2, 4, 7, 14, 28.

Hans could even pick up cleverly worded questions: “I have a number in mind. I subtract 9, and have 3 as a remainder. What is the number I had in mind?”. Twelve hoof-taps.

“In the number 365287149, I place a decimal point after the 8. How many are there now in the hundreds place?” von Osten would press on. Hans would reply promptly with five taps.

Clever Hans intelligence wasn’t just limited to arithmetic. The horse would astonish crowds by spelling out words and names of people with taps, where one tap is an “A”, two taps a “B”, and so on.

Hans also gave evidence of excellent memory, and apparently carried the entire yearly calendar in his head. You could ask him: “If the eighth day of a month comes on Tuesday, what is the date for the following Friday?”, and he would tell you.

The versatility of Hans in other directions was baffling. He could recognize tones, recognize people in photographs, tap out the time of the day, distinguish between straw and felt hats, know the different colors, and so on. By some estimates, Hans mental development was similar to a child of 13 or 14 years.

Naturally, Hans aroused curiosity among many psychologists, zoologists and experts in various other fields. This was a time when studies on animal cognition and their mental processes were few and far between. The general consensus was that animals were incapable of exhibiting anthropomorphic intelligence.

“In no case is an animal activity to be interpreted in terms of higher psychological processes,” warned C. Lloyd Morgan, a respected 19th-century British psychologist. Morgan believed that higher mental faculties should only be considered as explanations if faculties that stand lower in the scale of psychological evolution and development could not explain a behavior. This is known as Morgan’s Canon, and it is a fundamental precept of comparative animal psychology.

In the face of rising media attention, the German board of education appointed a commission to investigate von Osten’s scientific claims. This Hans Commission consisted of a veterinarian, a circus manager, a cavalry officer, a number of schoolteachers, and the director of the Berlin zoological gardens. Following extensive testing, the commission concluded in 1904 that no tricks were involved in the horse’s performance. As far as they could tell, Clever Hans’s mental abilities were real.

The commission then passed off the evaluation to Oskar Pfungst, a young psychologist who worked in the laboratory of the man who headed the commission. Pfungst designed a careful set of experiments and began testing Hans.

To rule out the possibility that von Osten was secretly feeding Hans the answers, he removed von Osten from the scene and was pleasantly surprised when Hans was able to get the correct answer even when von Osten wasn’t the one asking the questions. With the likelihood of fraud out of the way, von Osten began examining whether the horse was getting clues, unknown to the questioner, by reading subtle changes in the questioner’s demeanor, posture, tone, etc. To confirm this, Pfungst kept the answers hidden from the questioner. At once, Hans’ accuracy dropped.

Oskar Pfungst explains the procedure of this test:

(Quote) “Mr. von Osten whispered a number in the horse’s ear so that none of the persons present could hear. Thereupon I did likewise. Hans was asked to add the two. Since each of the experimenters knew only his own number, the sum, if known to anyone, could be known to Hans alone. Every such test was immediately repeated with the result known to the experimenters. In 31 tests in which the method was procedure without knowledge, 3 of the horse’s answers were correct, whereas in the 31 tests in which the method was procedure with knowledge, 29 of his responses were correct. Since the three correct answers in the cases in which procedure was without knowledge evidently were accidental, the results of this series of experiments show that Hans was unable to solve arithmetical problems.” (Unquote)

Pfungst also found that when the questioner stood farther away from Hans than normal, the horse had trouble correctly answering the questions. Oskar Pfungst wrote:

(Quote) “The usual distance was one-quarter to one-half meter. This holds for all tests hitherto described. Seventy tests which were made for the purpose of discovering the influence of change in distance showed that the reaction of the horse upon the customary signal of the head-jerk was accurate up to a distance of three and one-half meters. At a distance of three and one-half to four meters there suddenly occurred a fall of 60-70% in the number of correct responses. At a distance of four to four and one-half meters only one-third of the responses were correct, and at a distance beyond four and one-half meters there were no correct responses. The greater number of these tests were made in our presence by Mr. von Osten, who was under the impression that we were testing the accuracy of the horse’s hearing, whereas we were really testing the accuracy of his perception of movements.” (Unquote)

Every test Pfungst conducted, Hans failed miserably. Even his memory—some people tried to explain Hans’ supposed intelligence on muscle memory—was found to be average, and unsuitable of performing the astonishing feats that had been claimed for him.

After it became evident that the horse was entirely dependent on external stimuli from the questioner, Pfungst began observing the questioners instead to understand what kind of clues humans subconsciously gave away. The psychologist immediately noticed that a questioner’s breathing, posture, and facial expression involuntarily changed each time the hoof tapped. Pfungst observed a marked tension in the muscles of the questioner’s face and neck, as the horse approached the correct answer. As soon as the final, correct tap was made, the tension was suddenly released. This provided a cue for Hans that he should stop tapping.

Once Pfungst learned to read these barely perceptible cues as good as Hans did, he carried out further tests in which he played the part of the horse. Pfungst asked his subjects to concentrate upon a particular number. Pfungst would then tap out the answers solely by observing the body language of his human subjects. Even more incredible was that the subjects seemed unable to suppress these subtle cues, even when made aware of them.

Oskar Pfungst’s research proved that Clever Hans was an excellent observer who could read the microscopic signals in the face of his master, and this ability greatly exceeded that of the average man. But his intelligence, by no means, approached that of a human.

Oskar Pfungst’s conclusions, that researchers can unknowingly lead a subject, is now recognized as widespread in research involving human subjects as well as animals. This is known today as the “Clever Hans Effect”. To prevent prejudices and foreknowledge from contaminating experimental results, many experiments in the fields of perception, cognitive psychology, and social psychology are “double-blind” where most information about the experiments is withheld from both the researchers and the subjects until after the experiment is complete. The Clever Hans Effect has also been observed in drug-sniffing dogs, where cues from the handler are transmitted to the dogs resulting in false positives.

Despite Pfungst’s exposé, Clever Hans never stopped being a sensation. His owner, von Osten continued making tours throughout Germany drawing crowds wherever he put up a show. von Osten never charged a dime for these exhibitions. He genuinely believed in Clever Hans’ unmatched intelligence.

Wilhelm von Osten died in 1909, after which his horse, Clever Hans changed owners several times, until he was drafted as a military horse at the beginning of World War I in 1914. His fate is unknown, but some believe that Hans was killed in action in 1916.

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When Weird Darkness returns…

William Stead was a newspaper editor and journalist in the 1890s. His beat wasn’t the fashion scene or stock market, nor was it the arts district or even politics. He covered the paranormal. And it wasn’t hard to come up with stories, because all he had to do was to call up someone from the underworld for an exclusive interview. And, if you move into an old house, it always feels awkward at first. After a while though, it begins to feel like home. For some people, if the house is a bit older, perhaps that odd feeling of being watched never really goes away. But if your house was built 270 years ago, you probably should just assume you’ve got a spook or two already residing there before signing the mortgage papers.

These stories are up next!

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WORDS FROM BEYOND THE GRAVE

William T. Stead was a Victorian-era newspaper editor and journalist who got swept up in the London Spiritualism scene in the 1890s. But he didn’t just attend séances and report about his experiences. Stead discovered he had his own psychic abilities. He could receive direct messages from the dead through his hand—a process called automatic writing.

His main contact was Julia A. Ames, an American journalist he’d befriended years earlier, but who had died on December 12, 1891. Long before her passing, she and a lifelong friend, Ellen, agreed that whoever went to the grave first would send messages to the other from beyond. Sure enough, Ellen claimed to have seen apparitions of Julia standing near her bedside. “I know it was Julia, and she has come back to me as she promised,” Ellen told Stead. “But I could not hear her speak, and I cannot bear to think that she may have come back with a message for me, and yet I could not hear what she had to say.”

Fortunately for Ellen and Julia, Stead was ready to help with his newfound automatic writing skills. “I offer, in case she were willing and able to use my hand as her own, to allow Julia to write what message she pleased by that means,” Stead explained in the introduction to his book, After Death or Letters From Julia (which I’ve placed a link to in the show notes).

Julia took him up on the offer and had plenty to say. “Sitting alone with a tranquil mind, I consciously placed my righthand, with the pen held in the ordinary way, at the disposal of Julia, and watched with keen and skeptical interest to see what it would write,” Stead added.

The first batch of messages Stead received were for Ellen, but later messages were meant for publication to broader audiences.  Here is one of Julia’s descriptions of the afterlife:

(Quote) “All is so new, and there are such unexpected samenesses as well as differences. When, for instance, we wake into the new life we are still in the same world.  There are all the familiar things around us— the walls, the pictures, the window, the bed, and the only new things is your own body out of which you stand and wonder how it can be that it is there, and that it is no longer you. And then you begin clearly to understand what has happened. It is very much like experiences you have in dreams, which, after all, are often due to the same cause, the conscious soul leaving the physical frame, which, however, remains breathing. The first thing you notice that is not the same is the Angel. You are the same. I mean that there is no break in your consciousness, your memory, your sex. I was woman in my bodily life, and I am woman still. There is no change there. But you are in a manner different.” (Unquote)

According to Stead’s daughter, Estella, and her medium Pardoe Woodman, the journalist and automatic writer’s adventures in Spiritualism continued when he took his own trip beyond the veil. Stead’s journey began when a journey to the United States went unfinished. He was one of the more than 1,500 people who died on the Titanic in 1912. Surviving witnesses said Stead had helped women and children escape and gave away his life jacket.

Several years later, Woodman, an acquaintance of Estella’s, developed a knack for automatic writing and began channeling her father.

“Mr. Woodman never knew my father personally nor has he come into touch with his writing or with his work in any way, and yet the wording and the phrasing of the messages are my father’s, and even the manner of writing is typical of him,” Estella wrote in the preface to Stead’s The Blue Island: Experiences of a New Arrival Beyond the Veil (which I’ve also linked to in the show notes).

In the first chapter, Stead recounts his experience after the sinking of the Titanic. Here is a portion of what Woodman says he had to say:

The end came and it was all finished with. It was like waiting for a liner to sail; we waited until all were aboard.  I mean we waited until the disaster was complete. The saved—saved; the dead—alive. Then in one whole we moved our scene. It was a strange method of traveling for us all, and we were a strange crew, bound for we knew not where. The whole scene was indescribably pathetic. Many, knowing what had occurred, were in agony of doubt as to their people left behind and as to their own future state. What would it hold for them? Would they be taken to see Him? What would their sentence be?  Others were almost mental wrecks. They knew nothing, they seemed to be uninterested in everything, their minds were paralysed. A strange crew indeed, of human souls waiting their ratings in the new land.

A matter of a few minutes in time only, and here were hundreds of bodies floating in the water—dead—hundreds of souls carried through the air, alive; very much alive, some were.  Many, realising their death had come, were enraged at their own powerlessness to save their valuables. They fought to save what they had on earth prized so much.

The scene on the boat at the time of striking was not pleasant, but it was as nothing to the scene among the poor souls newly thrust out of their bodies, all unwillingly. It was both heartbreaking and repellent. And thus we waited—waited until all were collected, until all was ready, and then we moved our scene to a different land.

It was a curious journey that. Far more strange than anything I had anticipated. We seemed to rise vertically into the air at terrific speed. As a whole we moved, as if we were on a very large platform, and this was hurled into the air with gigantic strength and speed, yet there was no feeling of insecurity. . . .  We were quite steady. I cannot tell how long our journey lasted, nor how far from the earth we were when we arrived, but it was a gloriously beautiful arrival. It was like walking from your own English winter gloom into the radiance of an Indian sky. There, all was brightness and beauty. We saw this land far off when we were approaching, and those of us who could understand realised that we were being taken to the place destined for all those people who pass over suddenly — on account of its  general appeal. It helps the nerve-racked newcomer to fall into line and regain mental balance very quickly. We arrived feeling, in a sense, proud of ourselves. It was all lightness, brightness. Everything as physical and quite as material in every way as the world we had just finished with.

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1750’S HORROR HOME

Before I begin this story, a quick note on the chronology: I refer to everyone in this story as what they are to me now: stepdad, and stepbrother, even though at the time they were family friends. It makes it much easier to tell the story.

My mom and my stepdad married just one year ago, but we have known him for many years, since I was 5. When we met him, he had just moved into our town with his now ex-wife and son, and purchased an old home located in a remote part of town. It was one of the oldest homes in the area, having been built in the 1700s by a sea captain, had been passed down through that family for the next 200 years. When my stepdad purchased it, it had been deserted for many years and was in poor condition. Yet, with significant renovations, it looked good as new.

The house was L-shaped, with the main part of the home being the original two-story construction, and then a separate one-floor addition on the back of the house which contained the living room, kitchen, and back office room and bathroom was added in the 1800s. The first time I visited the house, my stepdad took us on a tour. The newly-remodeled living room and kitchen were beautiful, with new wooden floors and a large fireplace. This part of the home had a distinctly warm ambiance. That atmosphere instantly changed when we entered the oldest part of the home, toward the front. I cannot explain what was different or why I felt anxious, and I cannot point to anything tangibly distinct about that part of the house that justified that feeling. Still, a feeling of anxiousness originated deep inside of me and every hair on my body stood on end, especially in the upstairs hallway and near the staircase which was narrow, claustrophobic, and with a very low ceiling. And the whole front and upstairs of the house just felt… Dark. Even with many windows around, it felt shrouded in darkness. The floors were a very dark wood, and most of the walls were painted either blue or crimson. At the time, I wrote it off as my nerves getting the better of me and having read too many ghost stories in my spare time.

Still, there was something inexplicably creepy about parts of the house. Everywhere I went, I felt that there were entities I could not see staring me down with a menacing gaze. I was afraid to open any doors because of the innate feeling there would be something right behind them waiting to jump out at me. I felt exactly the same way turning corners into other rooms, and I felt as if I was going to be grabbed from behind by something unseen. It was like I just KNEW there was something there, and it was aware of, and anticipating, my presence. Everywhere I went in the front part of the house, I felt I was being followed or chased. If I was in the front part of the house with another person and they left to go into the back of the house, the only area where there was any relief from this sensation, I would run as fast as I could after them. Being left alone in that part of the house felt like I was exposed and in danger.

I visited the home probably once a week as a child, as my stepdad was then a good family friend. My now stepbrother is the same age as me, so we often played around the house and in the backyard. He never seemed to be afraid of the house, and always wanted to venture off into parts of it that I was uncomfortable going into. I remember specifically one time we were playing hide-and-seek, and he must have figured I would not feel comfortable searching upstairs. I searched the entire downstairs hoping to find him, hoping that I would not need to even go upstairs. Finally, I heard a rustling sound from the closet located under the stairs. I opened the door and shouted “Found you!” but to my shock and horror, there was no one there. The closet was almost empty, with the exception of one or two jackets. I knew for a fact I had heard noise coming from there! Too shaken to venture upstairs by myself, I asked my stepdad to come upstairs with me and search for his son. As we were climbing the stairs, I heard a noise from the upstairs hallway, as if someone had bumped into the wall. I ran around the corner expecting to see my stepbrother, but he was not there… All that was there was an old rocking chair, which was slowly rocking back and forth on its own, with the sound of someone humming to themselves. There was no window nor draft and no one sitting in the chair. I suddenly felt short of breath and felt as if there was someone right beside me breathing down my neck. I KNEW there was something there that I could not see. I remember flailing my arms in all directions as if trying to swat whatever it was away, but there was no physical manifestation of this presence and that horrified me. I screamed and ran downstairs, and bumped right into my stepbrother, who came out from hiding under the sofa in the downstairs back room. As I clearly had not been able to find him, he got sick of waiting and ended the game. This was the VERY last time I went upstairs by myself, for many years.

About a year later, due to my antisocial tendencies as a child, my mother insisted I sleep over at the house so I could learn to make better friends with my stepbrother. The thought of staying overnight in the house petrified me, especially given that at the time my stepbrother’s room was upstairs. The entire night leading up to bedtime, there was no otherworldly activity. They made me a nice dinner, we watched TV and music videos in the back of the house, and I felt content and at peace. This feeling, nice as it was, was short-lived. I begged them to let me sleep on the sofa in the back living room, even though it would have meant I would be alone in that part of the house, but they insisted I sleep upstairs because all the bedrooms were upstairs and it would make it easier to check on us if we needed anything. Also, there were two twin-sized beds in the room, so it made the most sense in terms of sleeping arrangements. I protested and protested, but with no success. I begrudgingly accepted that I would have a night of terror. As I was being put to bed I remember seeing my stepdad’s ex wife shut the door to the upstairs bedroom, right at the top of the stairs, and turn out the light.

Surprisingly, I fell asleep quickly, but did not stay asleep. I woke up in the middle of the night and immediately noticed the room was much darker than it should have been. Usually, even at night, once your eyes begin to adjust you can see what is around you and sense the light coming in from the moon outside. My eyes just could not adjust and the darkness was overwhelming. I immediately could sense that there was something in the room with me that I could not see, and I could hear deep breathing sounds emanating from the darkness. I turned and looked over to my stepbrother’s bed and he was not there, which meant I was ACTUALLY alone and he wasn’t the one making the noises. I heard footsteps in the upstairs hallway, and assumed that my stepbrother had gotten up to use the bathroom and would be right back. What felt like an eternity passed, and he did not return to the room. I hid my head under the covers trying to hide from whatever unseen entity was there, but eventually I got so scared that I got out of bed and darted down the stairs at full speed, in the dark, trying to get away from whatever was there. I distinctly could tell I was being followed as I heard thump, thump, thump down the stairs behind me, as if there was someone following closely behind me and breathing right down my neck. I ran through the downstairs hallway, through the old dining room, and was ready to cross into the back of the house and slam the door behind me and turn on all the lights when I ran right into the door. That door was NEVER kept closed, so I was not expecting it to be shut and I could barely see it was there! The sound immediately woke up my stepdad, who turned on all the lights and ran to me in a panic checking to see if I was injured. I was hyperventilating and panicking, shouting that there was someone in the house who was following me and chasing me. I could barely get the words out. He assumed I meant an intruder, and checked every corner of the house top to bottom and found no one. Still, seeing how panicked I was, he allowed me to sleep on the downstairs sofa for the rest of the night.

As I got older, I became less afraid of the house, but I still refused to be alone upstairs and the feeling of there being people or entities surrounding, following, and watching me never subsided. Other times I heard sounds coming from other parts of the house even when no one was there… Music playing that had no source and sounded like it was from a past era, voices calling out my and other people’s names, footsteps, and items being banged around and knocked off tables. I never investigated the sounds and whenever I would point them out to another person, they would stop. Everyone was convinced it was all in my head and I was the only person hearing the noises.

They moved out of the house when I was about 12, and the owners that bought it next lived there until 2016. When the house was on the market in 2016, the realtor had an “open house” and anyone could come by and walk through it. I walked through the entire house. It had been remodeled, and the walls were now all painted white, and the windows had been replaced and were now much larger and more modern. Somehow, these modifications made the home feel much less menacing. I could still sense a presence, but it did not feel as menacing. I wandered away from the tour group and stood upstairs in the hallway, held out my arms, and said aloud “If there is anyone here, reveal yourselves to me.” Nothing appeared, and I didn’t honestly expect it to, but I felt a slight breeze whisk by my face, down the hallway, causing the curtain on one of the windows to rustle, and it was gone as quickly as it came. In the moment, I felt as if whatever presence was there had recognized me from childhood and was affirming to me, finally, that it was not going to harm me. It felt like closure.

After a recent conversation with my stepbrother, he admitted that he felt the same things I did when in the upstairs of the house but that he had tried to pretend to be brave and never made his experiences known, but that eventually the presence felt too strong and menacing that he moved his bedroom to the downstairs back office. My stepdad’s ex-wife also moved her room downstairs, both due to the feeling of a sinister presence upstairs and the dissolution of her marriage. My step dad claims he had no experiences in the house, but he said he felt a “chilling” feeling upstairs, where hairs stood on end. He attributes it, though, to social conditioning, and the expectation that a house of that age would have spirits. He is not a believer and refuses to reconsider his stance. It was incredibly validating to hear that I was not the only one experiencing this, because for years everyone had pretended I was, and no one believed me. It turns out that they experienced many of the same things I did, but did not want to tell me at the time because they did not want to scare me.

We still communicate with my step dad’s ex wife, she is a good friend to this day. She confided some of her own experiences. One time, she was downstairs late at night and heard the sound of someone, or something, tumbling down the stairs. She ran in a panic assuming my stepbrother had fallen, but when she got to the stairs, there was nothing there. She says this was, by far, the most unnerving experience she had in the house. Another time, after she had moved her bedroom downstairs, she heard footsteps coming into her room from the front hallway and the sound of a marble rolling across the floor. The sounds were right in front of her, but she could not see anything there. In the morning she had searched for anything that could have made the rolling sound on the floor but there was nothing. No marble, pen, pencil, or coin. These experiences stay with her even to this day.

There is legend that about 150 years ago, a woman was murdered by her husband on the staircase, who came from around the corner and pushed her down the stairs in the middle of a heated argument. This story has neither been confirmed nor denied.

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We’ll step into the Chamber of Comments in just a moment, but first I wanted to thank everyone who stepped up over the last three weeks and donated to Food For The Poor. I can’t tell you how shocked I was when the donations started showing up on day one – that has never happened before. You usually take your time to consider giving, but you were active right out of the gate this year – and you were generous as well! Last June we brought in just over $5,000… but this year, as of Monday morning, June 8, we’ve raised $16,843! That emergency food relief for 455 children in Latin America and the Caribbean – and we still have donations trickling in from people listening to last week’s podcast! In the four years we’ve raised money for Food For The Poor we have never done this well – and it is all on you, the Weird Darkness Weirdo Family! You are phenomenal! I don’t think we’ll have anymore updates, but if I do get new numbers I’ll most definitely share them here in the podcast. And if you still want to make a donation, I’ll leave the red “Emergency Food Relief” banner up at WeirdDarkness.com for at least the next couple of weeks for the stragglers who are still catching up with recent episodes and want to get involved. Thanks again, Weirdos. You’ve made me so very very proud! 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, 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 Papa’s Wife): This is one of my very favorite podcasts for just chilling, and settling myself to sleep every night! I just love to hear Mr. Marlar’s voice. I usually like all the content, and Mr. Marlar’s presentation makes it very appealing to me. You should really give it a try!

REPLY: Thank you, Papa’s Wife! I love that last line, “you should really give it a try!” That’s called an endorsement!

(Email from Charles Beaton) Darren, about a year ago I came across your weird podcast, I very much enjoy listening to you almost every night. Darren, in my opinion I think you are the most interesting storyteller I’ve ever listened to. Thank you for your support of our veterans, and I wish good health for you and your bride. —Charlie

REPLY: Thanks, Charlie – I appreciate that! And I’ll thank you on behalf of my beautiful bride as well!

(Review from MadCopyGirl): Banter-free and good fun!  I love listening to weird darkness while cleaning and the host promotes important causes deserving of more attention. I’m sort of a new listener so I haven’t memorized his name, my apologies about that.

REPLY: Hey, that’s okay MadCopyGirl. Honestly, my name isn’t the important thing – so long as you remember Weird Darkness, you’re good to go! Unless of course you’re sending me a personal check – in that case, please make it payable to C-A-S-H. Thanks!

(YouTube comment from Susan Webb-Jenkins regarding the Haunted North Carolina episode, which I’ll link to in the show notes): Loved this episode. NC is my home. Some I had heard of, some I havent. Got a kick out of some of your pronunciations! Beaufort I understand, since SC says it wrong, lol. ours is Bo-fort and Kure, I always thought it was cure until I was mid 30’s and found out it was named after the Kure(Cure-re’) family. Lots of strange names. Keep up the good work!

REPLY: Thanks, Susan – have you considered moving to a state that knows how to pronounce words?

(Review from someone who actually named themselves WeirdDarknessFan on Apple Podcasts! Here’s what he said): I stumbled upon this podcast while scrolling through scary podcasts at work and I’m so glad I did. Amazing podcast. Great stories and amazing narration. 10/10 would recommend!

REPLY: Thanks for the kind words, Weird Darkness Fan! With a name like that on your Apple Podcasts review, I hope I never let you down!

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.

“Killer Kids” by Abbey White and “Predicting a Killer” by CWS, for The Line Up

“The Horse Who Could Do Math” by Kaushik Patowary for Amusing Planet

“Words From Beyond the Grave” by Marc Hartzman for Weird Historian

“1750s Horror Home” by Virulent Peach for Your Ghost Stories

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 can 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 John 2:17 = The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.

And a final thought… Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful. – Annette Funicello

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

 

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