“PLAGUE WEDDINGS” and More Horrifying But True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Imagine a young mother coming home late one night after a trip to the ER for a minor illness. The next day she is missing. That is just the beginning of the strange and unsettling case of Charlotte Pollis. (The Disappearance of Charlotte Pollis) *** There was a time when people would get married in cemeteries – not because they were goth or because they loved the macabre surroundings, but because they felt it would keep them from getting sick. (Plague Weddings) *** The five pointed star is ubiquitous. We learn to draw it in grade school, teachers draw it on our test papers to show we’ve done a good job – but turn the star upside down and suddenly it becomes mysterious, and strange… it become a pentagram. Why does the pentagram hold so much power over some people? And what are the secrets it holds? (Secrets of the Pentagram) *** It’s a supernatural creature that appears at night to travelers. If you see a white one, it is there to protect you from harm and help you along your journey. If you see a black one, it is there to kill you. We’ll look at the Central American cryptid known as the cadejo. (The Cadejo)
TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
Find a full or partial transcript at the bottom of this blog post.
MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE…
BOOK: “The Power of the Pendulum” by T.C. Lethbridge: https://amzn.to/37WS6QD
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“The Disappearance of Charlotte Pollis” from Lost & Found Blogs: https://tinyurl.com/y8ckncps
“Plague Weddings” by Michele Debczak for Mental Floss: https://tinyurl.com/y9emwvvl
“Secrets of the Pentagram” by A. Sutherland for Message to Eagle: https://tinyurl.com/ybua5scx
“The Cadejo” by Robert Bitto for Mexico Unexplained: https://tinyurl.com/y7725k8f
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Pandemics and plagues. They have come and gone ever since humanity rolled out of bed and placed its feet onto the earth for the first time. Fortunately, thanks to a greater knowledge of disease, scientists and medical professionals have urged our world leaders to initiate changes to help cut the crisis short. Don’t leave your home unless you absolutely have to. Wash your hands frequently. Only gather with others online – which would’ve been hard to do during the Black Plague when the internet hadn’t been invented yet. Keep events like weddings as small as possible. In past moments of public health crisis though, we weren’t always so knowledgable. Perhaps the most unusual response was a ritual folk remedy in which the living were married on a field of the dead in front of their entire village. Black weddings were the joining of two people previously unwed… but done in a graveyard. Nowadays this might be done because the couple live and love the goth lifestyle, or they admire the beauty of old cemeteries, or they want to make sure as few relatives come to their wedding as possible and this is a sure fire way to do it. But the betrothed for black weddings were often poor, orphaned, disabled or some combination of the three. In fact, sometimes the bride and the groom didn’t even know each other before arriving at the cemetery to take their vows. The hope was that the communal gathering and assembly of all their kindness and love, combined with these blind-date graveside nuptials, would somehow stop the diseases cold. It was believed joining a couple in the presence of the dead allowed for a more direct appeal to be made to God, hoping for Him to intervene. 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 classic 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 on Depression. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Coming up in this episode of Weird Darkness…
Imagine a young mother coming home late one night after a trip to the ER for a minor illness. The next day she is missing. That is just the beginning of the strange and unsettling case of Charlotte Pollis.
There was a time when people would get married in cemeteries – not because they were goth or because they loved the macabre surroundings, but because they felt it would keep them from getting sick.
The five pointed star is ubiquitous. We learn to draw it in grade school, teachers draw it on our test papers to show we’ve done a good job – but turn the star upside down and suddenly it becomes mysterious, and strange… it become a pentagram. Why does the pentagram hold so much power over some people? And what are the secrets it holds?
It’s a supernatural creature that appears at night to travelers. If you see a white one, it is there to protect you from harm and help you along your journey. If you see a black one, it is there to kill you. We’ll look at the Central American cryptid known as the cadejo.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
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In some ways, the wedding of Harry Fleckman and Dora Wisman in November of 1918 was traditional. The elaborate ceremony in Winnipeg, Canada, had been a month in the making. It featured music, scripture readings, and two rabbis as officiants.
But despite the familiar customs, it would have been hard for guests to forget why they were there. The solemn grave markers, the sounds of a nearby funeral, and the ever-present specter of Spanish Influenza were all reminders that the ceremony wasn’t a typical wedding. The ritual was part of a decades-long tradition that was more about preventing illness than celebrating a holy union.
Various religions throughout history have responded to pandemics by praying to or trying to appease a higher power. During the Black Plague, the Christian Brotherhood of the Flagellants marched through Europe whipping themselves with scourges to earn God’s mercy. Muslims reacted to the same pandemic by giving greater importance to communal forms of prayer, like processions and mass funerals. In some Eastern European Jewish communities, one plague-fighting ritual that took root was the graveside wedding, which came to be known as the plague wedding.
Plague weddings—also called black weddings—likely originated during the cholera outbreaks that ravaged Europe throughout the 19th century. The thinking behind a plague wedding was that holding a sacred ceremony among the dead would make the participants and witnesses more likely candidates for divine intervention as, in the Jewish tradition, weddings bring people closer to God. Even accessories associated with the ceremony were believed to hold spiritual properties. Another old Jewish folk remedy for combating illness involved covering a sick woman with a wedding gown.
For plague weddings, the bride and groom exchanged vows in a cemetery because being surrounded by death was thought to make the holy ritual even more appealing to God. There’s no textual basis for this obscure practice, though, so it was likely interpreted many ways. An alternative explanation is that seeing what should have been a joyful ceremony in such a dreadful setting would provoke pity from God, who would then show mercy by ending the pandemic.
Plague weddings were also notable for who was getting wed. According to Itzik Gottesman, a folklorist at the University of Texas at Austin, the community arranged marriages between people who were “difficult to marry off,” which usually meant they were poor, orphaned, or disabled. The organizers may have viewed this as an act of charity, thus boosting their favor with god, but such matches—which were often between two total strangers—tended to be dehumanizing. These marginalized people were typically viewed as property of the community, and thus didn’t have much say in whether they wanted to be props in the ritual.
Though it was then spoken of as an ancient practice, the black wedding was a relatively modern invention that never expanded beyond the fringes of Jewish society. When they were practiced during the cholera outbreaks of the 1860s, Jewish leaders in Eastern Europe condemned the practice and tried to suppress it. But with cholera claiming millions of lives in Russia alone throughout the 1800s, any source of security, even if it was symbolic, was hard to stamp out.
The tradition could be applied to any new plague Jewish people faced. During World War I, at least one black wedding was held in Warsaw, Poland, to fend off typhus. There’s even evidence of the ceremonies being performed to combat locust swarms in the Middle East.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that plague weddings landed in North America. When Jewish immigrants came to the continent, they found a new pathogenic menace in the form of Spanish Influenza.
The Spanish Flu was one of the deadliest pandemics ever to sweep the globe. Between 1918 and 1920, a third of the world’s population was infected and 50 million people died. Many public spaces, including synagogues, closed in response to the threat. Meanwhile, some immigrant communities took the new scourge as an opportunity to revive an old superstition from Europe.
The 1918 wedding between Harry Fleckman and Dora Wisman in Winnipeg was one of a handful of black weddings recorded in North America during this period. A report of the event in The Winnipeg Evening Tribune described the scene: “The ancient Jewish ‘Song of Life’ was played. On the west side of the cemetery at the same time, Jews were chanting the wail of death, as a body was committed to the grave.”
That same year, two strangers were wed in Mount Hebron Cemetery in New York City. Another such wedding took place in Philadelphia around this time. When Fanny Jacobs and Harold Rosenberg were married under a chuppah installed at the first line of graves in a cemetery near Cobbs Creek, Philadelphia, more than 1000 guests were in attendance.
As had been the case in Europe, the black weddings of North America continued to sow discord in Jewish communities. Following that October 1918 ceremony, the newspaper The Jewish Exponent published an editorial criticizing the practice. “The wedding held in a Jewish cemetery last Sunday for the purpose of staying the ravages of the epidemic was a most deplorable exhibition of benighted superstition,” it read. “Unfortunately the publicity given to the occurrence will convey to many people that this is a custom sanctioned and encouraged by the Jewish religion. The people who do such things do not know what Judaism means.”
Plague weddings did nothing to staunch waves of disease; in fact, it’s possible they helped to spread them. In some cases, all it takes is one carrier to infect a large group of people, as “Typhoid Mary” Mallon demonstrated when she caused a typhoid fever outbreak at the summer house where she cooked in 1906.
There are no reports connecting plague weddings to outbreaks, but similar events contributed to the Spanish Flu pandemic. A 1918 Liberty Loan parade led to thousands of Spanish Flu infections in Philadelphia—the same city where a plague wedding was documented the same year. Large gatherings like weddings were known to be vectors for the virus, which prompted some cities to ban them completely. Fortunately, like a virus unable to find a host, the tradition of plague weddings appears to have faded away.
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Imagine a young mother coming home late one night after a trip to the ER for a minor illness. The next day she is missing. That is just the beginning of the strange and unsettling case of Charlotte Pollis, when Weird Darkness returns.
Our next Weirdo Watch Party is a DOUBLE-HEADER, with a watch party two nights in a row! This coming Friday, June 26th horror hostess Arachna from Beware Theater brings us “The Ape Man” from 1943 starring Bela Lugosi! And then this Saturday June 27th, horror host Octavian Hallow presents 1973’s Rock-and-Roll horror, “Son of Dracula” starring Harry Nillson and Ringo Starr! The Weirdo Watch Party is ALWAYS FREE, it’s ALWAYS FUN, and it promotes different horror hosts and lets them know that we appreciate what they do! Again, this Friday June 26th it’s Arachna hosting 1943’s “The Ape Man”, and then this Saturday June 27th it’s Octavian Hallow hosting the 1973 rock-and-roll horror flick, “Son of Dracula”! The Weirdo Watch Party both nights starts at 7:00pm Pacific, 8:00pm Mountain, 9:00pm Central, 10:00pm Eastern on the Weirdo Watch Party page at WeirdDarkness.com!
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THE DISAPPEARANCE OF CHARLOTTE POLLIS
Imagine a young mother coming home late one night after a trip to the ER for a minor illness. The next day she is missing. That is just the beginning of the strange and unsettling things that would happen in this case over the next several years. Sadly, twenty-six years later there is still no resolution.
Charlotte Pollis was born on July 4th, 1965. She grew up in a large, very close family and was the oldest of 6 children. Charlotte was a very loving and caring person with a huge heart who loved to bake and do crafts. She met Paul Pollis through a friend around 1985. They would eventually marry and have a daughter Layla and a son Aden. Although Charlotte’s family was not thrilled with Paul as he seemed to be the controlling type, they had no reason to think anything was really wrong. That was until March of 1994.
Charlotte was feeling ill on March 11th. She had previously made plans to go out that Saturday night and celebrate her brother’s Ali’s birthday. However, she phoned Ali’s wife earlier in the day and told her she wasn’t feeling well and would reschedule. Charlotte continued to feel poorly throughout the day and was suffering from dizziness as well. The decision was made that night to take her to the ER. Paul arranged for his parents to watch the children and he drove Charlotte to the ER. She was diagnosed with an inner ear infection, given some medicine and sent home. She was also given a prescription to be filled. After arriving home late and speaking to her mother by phone around 1:30 am, Charlotte went to bed. That was the last time her mother would ever speak to her.
At around 8:30 am the next morning, Charlotte’s mother tried to phone her daughter to check on her. They were normally in constant contact and were very close as Charlotte was a big help to her parents as well as they would help her with her young children. Paul answered the phone and said that Charlotte was still asleep. He told her mother he would have Charlotte phone her when she woke up. But that phone call would never come.
After hearing nothing from her daughter, later that morning Charlotte’s mother called the house repeatedly. There was no answer. She kept trying throughout the day, concerned about her sick daughter. There was still no answer which meant Paul wasn’t home either. Charlotte’s aunt even went to the Pollis’ house that day to try to contact Charlotte and knocked on the door, but the house appeared empty. Then around 7:30 pm Paul called the Nagi family. He said he was concerned because Charlotte was gone.
Paul claims that when he woke up on March 12th, 1994, Charlotte was in bed. He said he spoke to her and told her to go back to sleep and he had some errands to run and would take the children with him. He claims he was gone from about 11am to 4pm with the children. However, Charlotte’s mother said she had phoned the house before 11 am (when Paul claims he would have still been home) and there was no answer. He stated he made many stops: the scrapyard, laundromat, pharmacy, fast food restaurant and drove around town looking at houses to buy. When he arrived home, he said he noticed Charlotte was gone (the couple only had one vehicle and Paul had been using it all day) but her purse and medicine was still there. The only thing that was missing was Charlotte. He did eventually phone Charlotte’s family that night to see if they knew where she was. Ali recalls the message from Paul seemed odd and he sounded under the influence of something. He found it strange that Paul would be so concerned with Charlotte only being missing a few hours. They were all immediately concerned and went to the Pollis’ house.
When they arrived, Paul’s parents were already there. The neighbors even told Charlotte’s parents that Paul’s parents’ car had been there all-night prior. The Nagi family noticed that there was some extreme cleaning being done at the home that night which was concerning to them. Paul’s father, who was at the time the Deputy Coroner of Trumbull County, by Ali’s recollection seemed to be instructing his son what to say and not say. As the family looked around the property searching for clues, Charlotte’s sister noticed a little shed on the Pollis’ property. There had been a small amount of snow on the ground and she noticed two sets of footprints, that appeared to be dress shoes and boots, leading to the shed. Charlotte’s sister also said the doors were bulging on the shed and it was locked with a padlock. When the Nagi family asked Paul for a key to see what was inside, he refused. Ali said the next day, his brother returned and chopped the padlock off with an ax and it appeared everything had inexplicably been moved to one side and the doors were no longer bulging.
The police were called and Paul’s father seemed to be in charge of things by what the Nagi’s saw. As it started to sink in that their loved one was actually missing, the Nagi family started to get very suspicious towards Paul. Ali recalls that about a month before Charlotte went missing, his sister phoned him one night and asked them to bring Dairy Queen over. Ali and his wife arrived and Charlotte was there with her children, but Paul was upstairs asleep. As the three were visiting, Charlotte said something unsettling to Ali. She asked him if something happened to her, would he raise her kids? She also wanted him to give the children her boxes of Princess House Crystal or sell them and give them the money and say the money was from their mother if she was gone. As you can imagine, Ali was very concerned at this question. He asked Charlotte if something was wrong or if she was being abused by Paul and she downplayed it and assured him that everything was fine.
Another thing concerning was Paul’s list of alibi’s for the day that Charlotte was discovered missing. Paul listed several places where he was with his children and everyone interviewed either didn’t see Paul at all or didn’t see the children with him. He did appear to drop off Charlotte’s prescription at the pharmacy, but never picked it up. The scrapyard Paul said he went to was actually closed that day. Also, Paul went to the laundromat the morning after Charlotte went missing.
The person working at the laundromat was a relative of Ali’s wife and she said the comforter Paul brought in appeared to have a large “dark red” stain on it. When he left the comforter in the washing machine, Paul was adamant that no one be allowed near the machine. Paul left and as the worker looked out the window, she said the children were not with him. The idea of Paul looking at possible houses to buy didn’t make sense either. Neither Paul nor Charlotte worked and lived on welfare, so the idea of them purchasing a house seemed very unlikely. A neighbor of the couple said she saw Paul the day he was supposed to be running errands. She said he had their car backed up to the front of their house and all the doors and trunk were open. The car was filled with boxes and bags and the children were not inside the vehicle. Also, according to Ali, soon after her disappearance Paul Pollis had a yard sale and sold all of Charlotte’s belongings.
As the police were investigating the disappearance, they wanted Paul to come in for a polygraph exam. He used the excuse he didn’t have a vehicle so one of Charlotte’s brothers offered to drive him there and Paul accepted. However, when the day arrived, Paul goes missing. He left behind a note talking about how difficult it was being suspected and the way he was being treated. Looking back now, Ali did read the note and said it appeared to almost be a confession note of someone who had committed a crime.
Charlotte’s brother Ali worked as a Trumbull County Reserve Deputy and then when his sister went missing transitioned over volunteering his time for the next 26 years with the Girard Police Dept. He worked hand in hand on his sister’s case with the detectives to try to get justice for her. He is still working the case even today despite health issues.
No one knows for a fact where or what Paul was doing those 3 months he disappeared. Ali’s opinion is he was being kept at his attorney’s house the entire time out of sight. When Paul arrived back, he was arrested and charged with Obstructing Official Business. However, the Judge dismissed the charges saying that he had a 5th Amendment right to remain silent. He also said Paul had cooperated by speaking with them and initially allowing a search of his home.
Weeks after the disappearance, Charlotte’s family was alerted by a relative late at night that happened to be driving by, that the police were at the Pollis’ house. The Girard County PD was also contacted and the family discovered that the Ohio BCI (Bureau of Criminal Investigation) were there spraying Luminol looking for any presence of blood in the house and the car. There was a spot of blood found in the trunk of the couple’s vehicle. It was discovered to not be animal but before the sample could be further tested it was accidentally destroyed. There was also blood found in the hallway of the Pollis’ house. Paul’s mother insisted it was menstrual so it wasn’t tested. He learned that Paul’s father was telling the police where they could and couldn’t spray. Why was Paul’s family allowed to be there during the investigation, yet it seems Charlotte’s family was not even made aware of the search?
Ali believes that Charlotte was possibly being poisoned in the weeks before her disappearance. He said that Paul would have Charlotte drink milk at bedtime (Charlotte was never much of a milk drinker) in the weeks before her disappearance. She did start complaining of feeling ill and tired all the time. Ali said she was to see a doctor the week after she disappeared to try to get some answers. Of course, she never made it to that appointment.
Ali also recalls that a few weeks after Charlotte disappeared, there was a 9’ by 13’ area of concrete floor dug up at Paul Pollis’ parent’s garage. He said they refused to explain why the area was there citing it was their own personal business and soon after had the area filled in with more concrete. To his knowledge, this area has never been searched.
There were many concerning things that happened as far as the police investigation into Charlotte’s disappearance. Ali said after Charlotte went missing, Paul had scratches from his elbow to his wrist. Paul claimed he got them installing a hot water tank but Ali said there was no recent installation of one at the house. Paul then said he got them installing drywall at the house but Ali said that wasn’t true either because he had been the one to help Paul install the drywall. Police took photos of the scratches on Paul’s arms but not long after, the photos disappeared. About a month later, when the Nagi family went back to the Pollis’ house to grab some things for Layla (who was staying with them), Ali noticed some disturbing things and took photos of them. He saw what appeared to be blood splatter on the kitchen ceiling, master bedroom, pillow on the couch, the curtains on the back door and on a blanket in their hutch. Ali gave a copy of the pictures to the police for their investigation. The copy of the police’s pictures go missing soon after. Being focused on his sister’s disappearance, Ali mistakenly then gives the original photos to the Girard police. Those photos have now gone missing as well.
Another very surprising thing they discovered at the Pollis’ home after Charlotte went missing was found in the bedside table of the couples’ bed. Divorce papers that Charlotte had drawn up. This seemed to even surprise most of the people in Charlotte’s family. Apparently, the situation in the Pollis’ house was more serious than anyone had realized. The family then wondered if Paul had seen the papers?
In the years after, there seemed to be no real advancement or leads in the case. When Charlotte went missing, her daughter stayed with the Nagi’s while the Pollis’ raised the couples’ son. The daughter appeared to have witnessed something unsettling around the time her mother went missing. She was now terrified of black trash bags. She told the Nagi’s as well as the police and many others that “Grandpa helped Daddy hurt mommy and put her in trash bags”.
In 1995 it was reported in the media that Layla Pollis had went missing. She even had a Charley Project missing persons page. Ali did explain that he got his parents and Layla out of the area to protect her. Charlotte’s father was determined not to let what happened to his daughter, happen to his granddaughter. Paul was trying to get custody of Layla and the Nagi’s had custody so before they could be served with those papers, they fled the area. They made the sacrifice to hide out to protect their grandchild and returned several years later. Paul Pollis’ parents had been raising the couples’ son Aden since Charlotte’s disappearance.
In Ali’s quest to find out what happened to his sister, he tried everything he could think of to get Charlotte’s case more attention. He contacted all the major talk shows and news programs in hopes they would air the case, but had no luck. Then he decided to contact his Congressman Jim Traficant and ask for help on the matter. Rep. Traficant was so amazing in helping with the case. He dedicated time and resources to it and wrote a letter to the tv show “Unsolved Mysteries” asking them to air Charlotte’s case which they did. Although Rep. Traficant has since passed away, Ali is still so grateful for all the help he gave to bring attention to his sister’s case.
Then around 1999 Ali got a really strange call. It was from an anonymous person who phoned him about 10 pm one night directing him to check the dumpster near the Trumbull County Police Department before midnight when the trash would be picked up. Ali brought a friend with him and hurried over and was completely shocked at what he found. Charlotte Pollis’ entire police file was thrown in the trash along with numerous others! Ali was livid as him and his friend retrieved all the files from the trash. He also immediately contacted the media to let them know the outrageous thing that had been done. He was eventually told a story that it was just a mistake made by a janitor working in the building which Ali found pretty unbelievable. Angered at Ali bringing the media into the matter, the PD also threatened Ali with theft if he didn’t return his sister’s files, so he did comply.
In the years since his wife’s disappearance, Paul Pollis has certainly not led a quiet life. He has been in trouble with the law many times from felony drug possession to pulling a gun on a Chief of Police to embezzlement of over a million dollars (along with his then girlfriend). There were also a few people that Paul was connected to who died under strange circumstances and there is speculation as to what, if any, connection Paul may have even had to their deaths.
I’m sure you can imagine what my theory is on this case. Paul Pollis killed his wife and with the help of his family, disposed of her body. Paul was known to have affairs so its unclear whether he just wanted to get out of his marriage without giving up his children or killed her in a violent rage (he has a well-documented history of substance abuse). Perhaps Charlotte even threatened to leave or he came across the divorce papers. It seems like the most unlikely scenario on the planet that Charlotte would be abducted or leave the house in her pajamas, feeling very poorly, with no purse or vehicle.
Sadly, this case appears to be like so many, ice cold. Ali Nagi is still determined to find answers and find his sister but the leads seem to be few and far between at this point. He has no doubt what happened to his sister; and Paul Pollis, even with a very lengthy criminal history, is still free. After so many years and so few leads sometimes the public’s interest can wain. As Ali was quoted in an article: “It’s like no one really cares. But we care”. There is always hope in any case that the family will get answers and that Charlotte can be restored to her family. Until that day happens in this frustrating case, Paul Pollis appears to have made a clean getaway.
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When Weird Darkness returns…
The upside-down five pointed star. Why does the pentagram hold so much power over some people?
Plus, a supernatural creature appears at night to travelers in Central America. If you see a white one, it is there to protect you, but if you see a black one, you’re dead.
These stories are up next.
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SECRETS OF THE PENTAGRAM
T.C. Lethbridge once said, “What is magic today will be science tomorrow.” He was an English archaeologist, parapsychologist, and explorer and also a controversial figure in British archaeology.
His significant research is related to a certain magical pentagram, a five-pointed star, and its secret use.
When he died in a nursing home in 1971, his name was generally unknown. Yet even more strange is that the last thing he was thinking about before he died, was again, a mysterious pentagram, known and used by cultures throughout the world for thousands of years as a protective symbol with the power to banish evil spirits.
Today, those who admire Tom Lethbridge, and his contribution to paranormal research, know that he is the most prominent name in the history of psychical research covering subjects like life after death, dowsing, poltergeists, ghosts, second sight, the nature of time and precognition phenomenon.
His ideas were described in a series of books and published towards the end of his life. Curious, but Lethbridge has never been particularly interested in psychic phenomena until he came to the crucial point at a later time in his life and began to take a serious interest in the subject.
Disappointed with the hostile reception of one of his archaeological books, and his job as the Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities, Lethbridge left Cambridge and retired to Hole House, a Tudor mansion on the south coast of Devon, in southern Britain. He planned to spend his last years of life reading and digging some pottery, but suddenly his plans changed, and so it began the most exciting period of his life. He came in contact with his neighbor, an old, white-haired “witch” who lived next door and possessed a few extraordinary powers.
One day, the old “witch” explained how she managed to put off unwanted visitors by drawing a pentagram in her head, and then visualize it across the path of the unwelcome visitor or on the front gate, for example. Her secret use of the magical pentagram introduced psychical researcher Tom Lethbridge to the world of the paranormal.
In the beginning, Lethbridge was very skeptical until something extraordinary happened that finally convinced him for the rest of his life.
Shortly afterward, in the middle of the night, Lethbridge was lying in bed, practicing drawing mental pentagrams around his and his wife Mona’s bed.
A few nights later, Mona woke up, with a strange feeling that there was someone else in the room, standing at the foot of the bed, but she could only distinguish a faint glow of light, which slowly faded away, leaving the bedroom in the darkness again.
The next day, they both met their neighbor, who asked if someone had been “putting protection” on them? She explained that she came to their bedroom on another night and couldn’t get near the bed because there were triangles of fire around it.”
Three years later, the old lady died in rather peculiar circumstances, and her death resulted, indirectly, of course, in one of Tom Lethbridge’s most significant insights in the realm of the occult.
One day, passing the cottage of the “witch,” he experienced a “horrid feeling” of suffocating depression, and his scientific curiosity pushed him further to investigate this strange, nasty feeling. He walked around the cottage, and all of a sudden, he discovered that he could step right into the depression and then out of it again, just as if it was some kind of invisible wall.
This disturbing and inexplicable incident made Lethbridge convinced that he must look for other clues.
Another strange incident occurred about a year after the death of the old “witch.” On a wet January afternoon, Tom and his wife Mina drove down to the beach to gather seaweed. Suddenly a blanket of fog descended upon them. It was at Ladram Bay, Devon that Lethbridge experienced the “blanket of fear and gloom.” The next day, he mentioned what had happened to Mina’s brother, and from him, he heard about a similar incident that took place in a field near Avebury in Wiltshire.
A week later, Lethbridge and his wife set out for Ladram Bay once again. They stepped on to the beach, and both walked into the same bank of depression or “ghoul” as Lethbridge called it. The feeling was intense, unpleasant, and made them both dizzy. They found the place frightening and sinister and not only for them. Nine years later, a man committed suicide there, and Tom Lethbridge was wondering what could make people feel so bad in this particular place.
What was this intense bad feeling that imprinted itself in the area? Have feelings of despair or perhaps even those evil ones been “recorded” there?
Tom Lethbridge was convinced that the key to the puzzle lay in the water. He knew that underground water produces changes in the earth’s magnetic field. Suppose the magnetic field of running water can “record” strong emotions, which, as we know, are electrical activities in the human brain and body. And such fields could well be most energetic in damp areas and during foggy weather.
Lethbridge was a keen and accomplished dowser, and the pendulum was the key to his interest in the unknown. He had known for years that a pendulum could be used for divining, and its accuracy could convey a lot of extremely complex information.
He was confident that a pendulum responds to the mind, not only to some vibration. Human beings possess powers we are not even aware of because there are powers of an unconscious mind which go far beyond that what we understand.
In his book “The Power of the Pendulum” (which I’ve linked to in the show notes), Tom Lethbridge wrote about the unknown realm of our mind, the superconscious:
“It [the superconscious] knows far more than we do because.. it does not have to use the brain to filter out everything… It lives in a timeless zone! “
All of which may be true – and probably is – but is also incomprehensible to us.
What Lethbridge tries to say to us is that everyone has experienced moods of unusual vitality, sudden ecstasy of excitement. Having memories of such moments, as well as our power to re-create them, we are equipped enough to research the unknown realms of our mind.
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The year was 2012. In the Zona Rosa section of San Salvador, the capital city of the Central American nation of El Salvador, an urban revival of sorts was taking place. In a place known for its museums, cafes and “garden city” feel, new businesses were moving in and living spaces were being created out of old buildings to accommodate the artists, young urban hipsters and those Central American forward thinkers who wanted to experience something new. Amid the fusion sushi places and new cosmopolitan discotheques, a brew pub emerged, inspired by the relatively new craft beer movement in the United States. The logo of the new brewery featured a red-eyed, snarling, dog-like creature. Anyone who came to the new business knew why the brewery chose that image. The name of the brew pub and the name of the animal were the same: El Cadejo. This Central American business may be the first microbrewery in the world to have named itself after a cryptid, or legendary creature. The stories of the Cadejo range from the country of Nicaragua, through El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, all the way to the state of Chiapas in southern Mexico. The specifics of this creature and the stories about it are varied across the many countries and terrains of its supposed habitat. Most cryptozoologists, or those who seek to discover and describe previously unknown animals, dismiss this creature and believe that the Cadejo is merely the stuff of legend. Many Mexicans and Central Americans who have actually seen the Cadejo would argue this point.
The Cadejo has been described in several ways. It’s usually a big, doglike creature with hooves of a deer and abundant fur. It runs more like a deer than a dog. It has been spotted in both rural areas and highly urbanized settings. There is a black version and a white version. The black version can be broken down into three different types, which often cause the cryptozoologists to dismiss the Cadejo out of hand.
The first kind of black Cadejo is the most supernatural of the three darker ones. It is often described as a pure manifestation of evil and may even be the devil himself taking an earthly form to conduct his nefarious business on earth. It appears as a huge black dog with glowing red eyes and may be accompanied by the smell of sulfur. It is often described as having a thick, glowing metal chain around its neck which some language scholars believe gives the creature its name. In Spanish, the word “chain” is “cadena,” and from this we get the word “Cadejo.” This type of Cadejo never attacks a person but appears to terrorize the victim by its mere appearance or may present the person with visions of hell or other scenes of death and destruction. In one account of this type of creature, a teenage boy named Santiago encountered a Cadejo that showed him a beautiful tree being consumed by hellfire. Santiago believed that the vision was a sign to help him to stop drinking and to serve as a warning for him to stop disobeying his mom. This first type of creature, while not threatening physically, is usually a bad omen and may predict a horrible event in the person’s life. Usually the witness is left with feelings of post-traumatic stress and they are reluctant to speak of their experiences. Sometimes prayer or the showing of religious objects, such as a cross, may cause the creature to slowly back off and disappear. Another precaution to take when coming across this type of Cadejo is to stand with your feet together so that the creature doesn’t run under your legs to whisk you off.
The second version of the black type of the Cadejo is the most troublesome of all versions. It is more like a wild dog or wolf than anything else. When a person comes upon this manifestation, it may mean a fight to the death. The creature may appear first in the shadows making noises to alert the victim of its presence for reasons of pure terror and to generate a feeling of demoralization in the victim. When the Cadejo senses an intense level of fear, it will go in for the kill. Prayer and religious objects have no effect on this second type of creature and a human cannot kill it. The only thing that can save a victim from certain death is the intervention of the white type of Cadejo to be discussed later.
The third type of black Cadejo is the least powerful of all the manifestations. It is said to be a combination of the second lethal version and a real dog. Because it is a mortal hybrid, it can be killed, although it is difficult to do so. This type of creature, surprisingly, does not bite its victim; rather, it kicks and pecks at the person with its snout. While causing little physical harm, this harassing interaction with the Cadejo can make the human go mad. If this third version is killed, it is said that its body rots very quickly and disappears within minutes. On the ground where it dies, according to legend, nothing will ever grow as it has left a “stain of evil.” Religious objects or prayer can ward off this creature. One who encounters this third type can also try another trick: the potential victim can spit in his own hand and offer it up to the Cadejo. If the creature licks the palm of the potential victim, it is a sign that everything will be okay and the human does not need to fear the Cadejo.
In addition to the three kinds of black Cadejos, there exists a white one. The white one is benevolent and is described as having fluffy, downy-like fur and light blue eyes. This big canine is more of a protector and appears when needed, usually at night, often to guide a person out of trouble. It is also the only thing that can protect a person from the second and most dangerous type of black Cadejo. It is a human’s only real defense against the most malevolent black form of this type of creature. The white Cadejo, according to some legends, doesn’t even eat meat like a normal canine. Instead, it eats the small bell-like flowers that grow in the mountains of southern Mexico and throughout Central America. Some believe that the white Cadejo is not an animal in the strictest sense but more of a benevolent spirit that shows up to help in times of distress.
In a popular story about the white Cadejo, a man named Juan repeatedly returned home at midnight from a long day at work to see a huge white dog hanging around his house. Juan had a wife and small children and sometimes was concerned for the well-being of his family because he spent so much time away. Whenever Juan would see the dog and try to get close to it, it would shake, wander off a bit and then disappear. One day Juan tried following the dog, and when he got closer to it, he touched its paw and the big white dog opened its eyes and began talking. Juan was frightened. The dog said, “I am leaving. You don’t need my help anymore.” Juan asked, “What help?” and the dog replied, “I was sent from Heaven to protect you and your family, but you have showed me that you no longer need my protection.” The white dog then just closed his eyes and died, at which point Juan buried him.
To date, no bones or other physical evidence has come to light to prove the existence of the Cadejo as a real, living, breathing being. So, investigators of strange creatures usually dismiss the Cadejo as just a legend. Legends are based on something, as is often repeated, so what would explain this phenomenon? Critics often cite the many instances of the Cadejo being seen while a person is intoxicated and dismiss the whole idea of the creature as coming from an impaired mental state combined with stories previously heard by the witness or “experiencer.” Investigators are still left with the “stories previously heard.” Where did those stories come from? It appears as if the whole Cadejo legend is a blend of the pre-Columbian and the Hispanic/European belief systems. The indigenous of the area believed that people were connected to a spirit animal and that the animal was also a protector. In the white Cadejo we see this, along with the Catholic concept of the guardian angel. This creature is thus a blend and serves to bridge two cultures. The black Cadejo counterpart also may have its pre-Spanish origins in the Nagual, a snarling, upright dog-like creature present in nearly all of the ancient Mesoamerican cultures from the Maya to the Zapotecs to the Aztecs. The combination of the Nagual with European Christian devil imagery is very apparent. The malevolent black Cadejo has hooves, it smells of sulfur and may threaten its victims with images of a very Catholic hell. Like most stories about the devil coming to earth, the stories surrounding the Cadejo are cautionary tales. Don’t go out and get drunk, don’t stay out too late, don’t wander away too far from home and don’t disobey your parents. From this perspective, the Cadejo is a very interesting study in social control and serves to keep certain members of the believing population in line.
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Coming up, we’ll step into the Chamber of Comments. Plus, a few bloopers because apparently my tongue refuses to cooperate with me today, which is what happens after you eat a really hot Jack’s pepperoni and sausage pizza. #notsponsored
Weird Darkness returns in just a moment.
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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: email@example.com.
(Review from Courtney0095:): I absolutely love listening to you narrate these stories; it keeps me captivated from the time I start work till the time I leave! Makes my day fly by! I’m also a huge fan of how you’re so thoughtful of people in need! Keep up the good work and positive vibe!! –Courtney
REPLY: Thank you for the very kind review, Courtney – I appreciate that! I love that you are listening at work too! I’m hoping very soon to bring back the Weird Darkness Weird@Work monthly giveaway for those who listen on the job – that could make it even more fun for you!
(Email from Dan): Darren, I really had to think long and hard about this one, but I feel that I have to address this. I’ve been playing catchup on the Weird Darkness page when you read a complaint on the ad choices on your podcast. They were complaining that a JC Penneys ad was in Spanish and wrote how offended they were and threatened to stop listening to your podcast. The only valid comment that they made was “this is America”. Unfortunately it seems that it was made in a context that I found disconcerting. When I first heard the ad in question I was taken aback, but then thought that it was cool that your advertisers are reaching out to your bilingual listeners. Growing up a military brat I was able to hear many different languages, and living in Tacoma Washington I still get to listen to other cultures interact with each other even though I don’t understand what they are saying. The diversity of the human family. What this person does not realize is that the United States of America does NOT have an official language. In point of fact, English was not the original language by any means. For example, before the US took over Texas and California, since they were originally Mexican territories conquered by Spain, the predominant language WAS Spanish. You were right in noting that after English the second most spoken language is Spanish. The third is ASL (American Sign Language). While it is not possible in your podcast, would that person be offended when deaf folk talk amongst themselves? I’m sure we’ve seen many a video of people “offended” and berating others for not using English in front of them. My question to them would be, “Why would you want them in a private conversation to speak English? So you can eavesdrop”? I’ll leave you with this joke that’s going around: We were in a line at the grocery store where a young woman of color was chatting on the phone, two people ahead of me, in a language that was obviously not English. The woman just ahead of me was getting agitated and after the young woman hung up the woman ahead of me loudly spoke up. “I’ll have you know that this is America and here in America we speak English! If you want to speak whatever that was, you can go back to where you came from!” The young woman she was screaming at turned to her and calmly stated, “I was speaking Navajo. We were here long before your ancestors showed up. If you want to speak English, go back to England.” While you have made a couple of solutions to their problem, I have one other. If you are offended by hearing a commercial in another language, there is a very simple solution. Every podcast app has a fast forward button, use it! I appreciate your podcasts and look forward to hearing many more of them. Yes, I am a Weirdo! –Dan
REPLY: “Every podcast app has a fast forward button, use it!” Perfect, Dan! Perfect! I do kind of understand where the complainer is coming from though – but not from a listener’s perspective – but from that of an advertiser. If I’m an advertiser, why would I place a Spanish-speaking ad in an English-speaking podcast? To reach those who speak Spanish, right? Sure – but what percentage of the audience listening speaks Spanish, as compared to English? 20%? 30? Maybe as high as 50% depending on where they live? But think about it – you’re advertising on an English-speaking podcast, wouldn’t it make more sense to advertise in the English language? That way 100% of the listeners would understand your message. How do I know that? Easy – because they’ve already chosen to listen to an English-speaking podcast. If you want to reach Spanish-speaking customers, wouldn’t it make more sense to target listeners of a Spanish-speaking podcast? I’m just looking at it from the radio and advertising background I’ve had for the past thirty years – maximizing the impact of your ad dollars, reaching the largest number of people with the money you spend. But that being said, podcasting is a different animal, and maybe the geography of it is what makes the difference. Maybe these advertisers are advertising in Spanish on English-speaking podcasts as a way to let those of Spanish descent know that they are comfortable with either language when you do business with them. But that’s just a guess. Still, either way you are right – that fast forward button works no matter whatlanguage you happen to be hearing through your speaker! That’s a brilliant solution, Dan! You’re a smart Weirdo!
(Review from Lynn in Alaska): I started listening to Weird Darkness a couple of years ago and I’m still catching up on episodes. Darren really knows how draw me into a story and there hasn’t been a single episode I haven’t loved! Thank you for sharing your talent with us Darren. –Lynn in Alaska
REPLY: Thank you Lynn! Keep listening, I’m sure I’ll eventually upload something you won’t like – I’ll have to try harder!
(Email from Laela): I’m a big fan and I hope you never stop reading scary stories! But I have a story that isn’t really about me; it happened to my mom. It’s short but scary. I was sleeping, so was my brother. My dad was in Nevada for work. Around 1 a.m. my mom had encountered a shadow person. It was like a goat head and legs but a body of a human being. She shouted “go away” and it did. When she scared it off it shape-shifted into a dog. My mom told my brother and I about it the next day. She started to look up symbols to keep evil entities away. My brother told my mom she had probably just had a hallucination because none of us heard her last night. Did she really see a shadow person or did she just hallucinate?
REPLY: I wish I could answer that question for you, Laela! When it comes to things that go bump in the night it is sometimes hard or even downright impossible to tell if it’s real or imagined – especially if it happens right before, during, or after you’ve been asleep, because dreams can easily creep in and mess with your head – along with that terrifying sleep paralysis and old hag syndrome which can actually take the shape of anything terrifying. If your mother is honorable, someone whom you know to be truthful and not exaggerate or be overly dramatic about things, I’d take her at her word and assume something did happen despite having no explanation. If it happens again, that’s when you go out for spiritual help for your family AND your house. At least, that’s what I’d do. Thanks for the email, Laela! By the way, for everyone listening, I am not an expert on these kinds of things, I don’t hold any degrees, and all I can do is give you a layperson’s opinion. For serious situations you’ll want to talk to a priest or pastor in your local area to get some immediate guidance – or if you’re not religious, at least call your local chapter of the Ghostbusters. Call them up, they’re ready to believe you.
I’ll answer more of your emails, comments, and more next time! Again, you can find all of my social media, email address, and other contact information on the CONTACT page at WeirdDarkness.com.
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If you made it this far, welcome to the Weirdo Family! Please share a link to this episode in your social media to help spread the word about the podcast, and if you could, please recommend Weird Darkness to your friends, family, and co-workers who love the paranormal, horror stories, or true crime! Maybe they’ll become a Weirdo family member too! And I’d greatly appreciate you leaving a review in the podcast app you listen from, that helps the podcast get noticed! And thanks in advance for doing so!
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.
“The Disappearance of Charlotte Pollis” from Lost & Found Blogs
“Plague Weddings” by Michele Debczak for Mental Floss
“Secrets of the Pentagram” by A. Sutherland for Message to Eagle
“The Cadejo” by Robert Bitto for Mexico Unexplained
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… Psalm 23:4 = Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
And a final thought from Paul Boese… “Forgiveness does not change the past, but it does enlarge the future.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.