“THE YUBA COUNTY FIVE DISAPPEARANCE” and More Strange and Horrible True Tales! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Five men disappear, and the more closely you look at the case, the more you question what exactly happened to each one of them. It is such a strange case, that a Yuba County, California police officer is quoted as saying, “This case is bizarre as hell.” (The Yuba County Five Disappearance) *** An incident of four men choosing to go skinny dipping ends up in court. (It’s a Matter of Honor, Your Honor) *** What started out to be a fun family outing on a pleasant summer day would soon take a horrible turn for an innocent five-year-old girl. (The Tragic Story of Nyleen Kay Marshall) *** Russian pilot Lieutenant Colonel Lev Vyatkin has had encounters with unidentified flying objects twice while in flight. And his second encounter left him shaken – and his plane’s wing glowing in the dark for days afterward. (UFO Shoots Ray at Russian Pilot) *** A pig pen goes up in flames – and you won’t believe what caused it! (Pig Poops Out Pedometer and Sparks Fire)
TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
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LINKS, EPISODES, AND PAGES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE…
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“The Yuba County Five Disappearance” by Jake Rossen for MentalFloss.com: https://tinyurl.com/y3mt46np
“It’s a Matter of Honor, Your Honor” posted at the website London-Overlooked: https://tinyurl.com/y23egyvd
“The Tragic Story of Nyleen Kay Marshall” by Crystaldawn for LostNFoundBlogs.com: https://tinyurl.com/yxeantme
“UFO Shoots Ray at Russian Pilot” by A. Sutherland for MessageToEagle.com: https://tinyurl.com/yywrvn5p
“Pig Poops Out Pedometer and Sparks Fire” by Mindy Weisberger for LiveScience.com: https://tinyurl.com/te2luo6
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Hey, Weirdos! Weird Darkness is in the running to be voted “Best Horror and Crime Podcast” by Podcast Magazine – but I need your votes to make it happen! I have a link below in the show notes to take you to the voting page, and you can vote as often as you’d like – so please do! Come back every day and vote if you can – using every one of your email addresses if you have several! And thanks in advance for doing so! Maybe we can make Weird Darkness an award winning podcast in 2020!
Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and is intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Joe Shones was having a heart attack. The 55-year-old Californian had felt fine just a few minutes previously, navigating his Volkswagen on a desolate mountain road near Rogers Cow Camp in the Plumas National Forest to see if weather conditions were good enough to bring his family along for a weekend excursion the following day. But as he drove further into the night, snowdrifts slowed his tires. When he got out to push his car, the exertion brought on a searing pain in his chest. It was February 24, 1978, and Shones was miles from help.
As he sat in his car wondering what to do, he noticed two sets of headlights, one belonging to a pickup truck. Hoping he could flag down the passerby, he exited his vehicle and began screaming for help. He would later say he saw a group of men, one woman, and a baby. They continued on, ignoring him. Hours later, back inside his car, he saw what he thought were flashlights. When he went back outside to yell into the darkness, no one responded to the sound of his voice. Hours into his ordeal and with his car still stuck and now out of gas, Shones felt well enough to begin walking down the mountain road and toward a lodge roughly eight miles away. He passed a 1969 Mercury Montego, but the vehicle had no occupants. Perhaps, Shones thought, it belonged to the group he had seen earlier. At the time, Shones was preoccupied with his own emergency. But authorities would later realize the biggest story to emerge from that dark, desolate road wasn’t his brush with death. It was the fact that Shones had likely wound up being the last person to see Ted Weiher, Gary Mathias, Jack Madruga, Jack Huett, and Bill Sterling alive.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
An incident of four men choosing to go skinny dipping ends up in court.
What started out to be a fun family outing on a pleasant summer day would soon take a horrible turn for an innocent five-year-old girl.
Russian pilot Lieutenant Colonel Lev Vyatkin has had encounters with unidentified flying objects twice while in flight. And his second encounter left him shaken – and his plane’s wing glowing in the dark for days afterward.
A pig pen goes up in flames – and you won’t believe what caused it!
Five men disappear, and the more closely you look at the case, the more you question what exactly happened to each one of them. It is such a strange case, that a Yuba County, California police officer is quoted as saying, “This case is bizarre as hell.”
While you’re listening, you might want to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the newsletter and also get entered into a random monthly drawing for Weird Darkness merchandise, you can find transcripts of the episodes, paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, a FREE 24/7 streaming video channel of old horror movies and hilarious horror hosts, you can find my other podcast, “The Church of the Undead”, you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression or dark thoughts. And you can shop the Weird Darkness store where all profits I receive go to support depression help and awareness. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
Ted Weiher, Gary Mathias, Jack Madruga, Jack Huett, and Bill Sterling. How did these five men come to be on an inhospitable mountain road more than 50 miles from their homes in and around Marysville and Yuba City, California? It was just one of the mysteries surrounding their disappearance. None of them was known to have any business on that part of the mountain. All five had intellectual disabilities or psychiatric issues to various degrees; all of them lived with family, who kept a close eye on them. They were often lovingly referred to as “boys,” despite being from 24 to 32 years of age. An impromptu road trip was definitely out of character.
If authorities couldn’t make any sense of how the group’s day had ended on February 24, they at least had some idea of how it began. Madruga, who owned the Mercury, drove his four friends to a collegiate basketball game at California State University, Chico. All were fervent basketball fans, and even had a game of their own scheduled for the following day, playing on a team representing the rehabilitation center they all frequented.
At 32, Weiher was the oldest, a former janitor who was closest to the youngest of the group, 24-year-old Huett. Sterling and Madruga, an Army veteran, were another set of best friends. Mathias had been in the Army, too, but was discharged because of psychiatric problems. He was schizophrenic, a condition controlled by medication he hadn’t bothered to bring along. There was no reason to believe he wouldn’t be home in time for his next dose.
The game ended around 10 p.m. The “boys” stopped at a convenience store for junk food: Hostess pies, soda, candy bars. All five piled back into the Mercury and took off. But instead of driving south toward their homes roughly 50 miles away, they inexplicably drove east. And they traveled for a very long time. When Shones spotted their abandoned Mercury, the car had been driven roughly 70 miles away from the Chico basketball game.
In the early morning hours of February 25, Shones made it to the lodge and was able to get medical treatment. There was no reason to mention having seen the Mercury until newspapers began to blare out notices about the five men who had gone missing that Friday. When Weiher and Sterling didn’t come home, their mothers began calling the parents of the others, and soon the police were involved.
On Tuesday, February 28, authorities found the Mercury on the same mountain road where Shones had last seen it, and where a park ranger had reported its location after hearing the missing persons bulletin. The junk food had been consumed, save for one half of a candy bar. The keys to the vehicle were gone. It had enough gas to continue on, but a snowbank had likely caused its tires to spin out. Madruga and the four other able-bodied men should have been able to dislodge it without a lot of difficulty. Instead, it looked abandoned. Around them, police saw nothing but rugged, dense forest, hardly an appealing option for the lightly dressed young men.
“This case is bizarre as hell,” Yuba County undersheriff Jack Beecham told reporters.
Organizing a search party in the midst of winter was no easy task, especially when it meant combing through rough terrain filled with rocky surfaces, wooded paths, and snow-covered slopes. Helicopters surveyed the area from above. On the ground, officers tried to use horses to get around on the rocky roads. They entertained a number of eyewitness sightings of the men, including one where they were driving the pickup Shones had mentioned, but none seemed plausible. Their families raised a $2600 reward for information, petitioned psychics, and waited by their phones, but heard nothing. Not until the thaw came.
In June of that year, a small group of weekend motorcyclists came across an abandoned forest service trailer on a campground site. Curious, they went inside. They found a body tucked into a bed, draped in sheets from head to toe. When authorities lifted the veil, they found Weiher, his shoes missing and his feet badly frostbitten. The trailer was over 19 miles from the Mercury.
Soon, police found two other corpses—those of Sterling and Madruga—4.5 miles away from Weiher’s remains. Police believed their bodies had simply given up before they found shelter while Weiher and others marched on. Madruga had held on to the keys to the car.
Huett’s bones were found not long after. There was no sign of Mathias, aside from his tennis shoes, which had been left in the trailer. Almost certainly, he had taken Weiher’s leather shoes, though police had no real idea why.
If police and the families of the men were expecting closure from the discovery of their bodies, they weren’t about to get it. What puzzled them most was how Weiher was found emaciated, despite the fact that the trailer been stocked with plenty of canned and dried food and a can opener. From his beard growth, they knew Weiher had been living there anywhere between eight and 13 weeks. Yet only about 12 cans had been opened, and he had not bothered to turn on the propane tank, which would have provided heat for the entire trailer. Several paperback books—perfect for fires—were also left untouched. No one had even bothered to cover the broken window they had smashed in to get inside.
Talking to Shones proved even more frustrating. It was reasonable enough that he had seen the men strike out from a car they believed to be stuck, but who was the woman and the child? Shones would admit he was very ill at the time of the sighting and could have hallucinated some of the details, but that didn’t explain why the men bothered to abandon the car at all, or why they didn’t acknowledge Shones’s cries for help—unless he had somehow imagined the whole thing.
“Why” was a common question for investigators and the relatives of the men, but no answers were forthcoming. Why did the men turn east in the first place? Why didn’t they attempt to move the car once it got stuck, instead of walking to nowhere in the middle of the night? Was it by chance they came across the trailer, or did someone lead them there? Why not start a fire for warmth? If Mathias went for help, where was his body?
Authorities would later discover that a Snowcat vehicle had pushed snow aside to cut a path toward the trailer on February 23, which may have given the men some hope they were in an area where Forest Service employees might soon return. There was also the theory that Mathias convinced the group to head toward Forbestown, an area between Chico and the mountain road, so he could visit a friend who lived there. It was possible that Madruga had missed the turn-off and gotten lost, driving deeper into darkness until the snow ground the Mercury to a halt. The men, panicking, may have believed their car was stuck and that they needed to get help.
A year after their disappearance, police were no closer to solving the mystery. Mathias’s body has never turned up. There was never any accounting for their strange decision to turn toward unfamiliar territory. Weiher seemingly walked nearly 20 miles to the trailer in frigid conditions, despite having left his coat at home. None of the men thought to walk downhill, from where they came, and instead faced the treacherous and unfamiliar path ahead.
Police never ruled out foul play, nor did the families. Melba Madruga, Jack’s mother, told The Washington Post that she believed “some force” had led the group astray. “We know good and well somebody made them do it,” she said. To the Los Angeles Times, she said it was impossible for her to believe Madruga would ever drive his car, which he prized, into an area where it might be damaged. He had even left a window rolled down, something he would never normally do. “I’m positive he never went up there on his own,” she told the paper. “He was either tricked or threatened.”
Ted Weiher’s sister-in-law has theorized that the men may have seen something take place at the basketball game that prompted someone to chase them. Police were never able to establish evidence for pursuit, but no one could shake the idea that the men seemed to be determined to move forward. Why do that unless something more frightening was right behind them?
“Bizarre as hell” was Beecham’s summary. To date, there hasn’t been any evidence to contradict him.
When Weird Darkness returns…
Russian pilot Lieutenant Colonel Lev Vyatkin has had encounters with unidentified flying objects twice while in flight. And his second encounter left him shaken – and his plane’s wing glowing in the dark for days after.
But first, an incident of four men choosing to go skinny dipping ends up in court. That story is up next.
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On the 22nd of June 1846—a Monday—a rather unpleasant incident occurred in Wimbledon. The scene was a spot on the banks of the River Wandle, which cuts its way through the south western outreaches of London, until it flows out into the Thames in the northern reaches of Wandsworth.
At the time of our story the Wandle was heavily industrialized, with over sixty watermills powering works of one sort or another, some grinding dried tobacco leaves for snuff, others driving the machinery used in the printing of silk and calico. In the 1880s William Morris would operate a model factory in the pleasant rural setting of Merton, using the alkaline water of the chalk stream of the Wandle to wash his beautifully designed fabrics.
The river also provided power for the copper mills that had been operating on its east bank at Summerstown in Wimbledon for over two centuries. The clutter of buildings that made up these premises comprised three water wheels, a rolling mill and a hammer mill, a refinery and foundry fitted out with three furnaces, and dwellings for the manager and his workmen, who at the time of our story numbered about a dozen. Around the works lay fields, and it was here, in a quiet stretch of the Wandle, that two young men and two boys came to bathe on the warm summer’s day in question.
The grass in the field had been cut, and was lying on the ground, ready to be turned. But as they looked in all directions the four bathers saw not a soul. They had the field—and the river—to themselves. They undressed, and stashed their clothes in four heaps on the grass. They craved relief from the heat—the past two days had seen unbroken sunshine, and the temperature was scalding – and they waded into the water.
The two young men were both medical, and they were associated with the same local doctor, one as his assistant, and the other as an articled student. The two boys were brothers, and were at school at a private academy in a village at no great distance from the river. How the medical men knew the two boys is not clear, but it is possible that the school fell within their practice. What is clear, though, is that the boys had gone to the river without the permission of their headmaster. In other words, they were enjoying something of an escapade.
And, as escapades so often do, it went horribly wrong. The foursome had finished bathing, and only the medical student was still in the water. The others were getting ready to put their clothes on when suddenly, without warning, they were attacked. Where before they had had the field to themselves, with no-one else in sight, they now realized that they had unexpected, and very unwelcome, company.
Three men, who they had never seen before, were charging towards them, shouting loudly. Behind them came several other men, and women too. The junior doctor felt himself taken hold off, and he fought back, but his three assailants were too powerful. After a struggle he was thrown into the river, and, as he thrashed around in the water, he was struck by a heavy piece of wood that had been hurled at him. Meanwhile one of the two schoolboys was grabbed round the waist. He too was then pushed into the river, and his brother, who had received a violent shove, came tumbling in after him.
The medical student, who had not yet returned to the bank, was safe from attack.“If I could get at you,” shouted one of the attackers, who was carrying a hay-fork, “I would stick you!” The gang picked up his clothes and threw them into the river, and they then threw in all the other clothes before marching off, clearly pleased with their work. The disconsolate bathers tried to retrieve their belongings, but several items of clothing could not be found. Some money had sunk without trace, and a gold watch belonging to one of the schoolboys had disappeared into the murky waters of the Wandle.
The incident came to court. Two of the attackers were brought before the Wandsworth magistrate, George Clive. They were both laborers. One was Robert Learner. The other, the man with the hay-fork, was William Elms. When the complainants were asked to identify themselves, the doctor’s assistant gave his name as Samuel Knaggs. The student was Said Assaid: he had come to England from Syria on a government scholarship. The schoolboys were named John and Peter. They were Italian, Giovanni and Pietro or Piero, and their surname was Casciaro.
At this point, of course, we are left with the unpleasant feeling that the bathers were the victims of a particularly spiteful attitude. Maybe their leisurely enjoyment had got under the skin of men laboring in the heat. Maybe they were too obviously not members of the laboring classes—the boy with the gold watch was presumably dressed to match—and presented their attackers with the chance of a spot of mean-spirited sport. Maybe a young man of Syrian origin, and maybe even two boys from the Mediterranean, were conspicuous targets. Was the attack fueled perhaps by simple xenophobia?
Whatever theories might have been forming in the mind of the Wandsworth magistrate, Learner and Elms, who responded robustly to the charges made against them, succeeded in complicating the issue. Their defense turned initially on the fact that the bathers had chosen a field where women would clearly be working. The time of year – the hay harvest – made it inevitable. They must have known, argued the two defendants, that they would be undressing in full view of these women. The solitude they insisted they had been enjoying was a complete fiction.
Then again, Learner and Elms continued, they had not in fact acted in the way described by Knaggs and Assaid. When the bathers began to undress they were seen by the women, and the women were offended. In response several men went off to deal with them, but the defendants denied that they had been ringleaders. Learner had not been involved at all, or so he said. Elms at first denied being anywhere near the scene until the ugly little confrontation was over. Later he retracted this denial, but he still insisted that he had only thrown a shirt or a towel into the water.
Leaner and Elms had effectively turned the case on its head. Although there had clearly been a scuffle, they had shifted the real blame for the incident from the men in the field to the bathers in the river. What had come across in the charges made against them as mindless hooliganism – and possible hooliganism with a nasty edge to it – now had a rather different centre of gravity.
The real offenders, they argued, were the young medical gentlemen and their schoolboy companions, who had to all intents and purposes exposed themselves to the women working in the field, no doubt for a laugh. Their assailants, on the other hand, had acted with a sort of manly directness, defending the modesty of honest working women.
To complicate matters, a witness for the defense, who had been in the field at the time of the incident, offered some disturbing evidence. In the first place, the water in that stretch of the river was so shallow that Knaggs and Assaid could not possibly have avoided being on full display. Furthermore, there were women within a few yards of them when they waded through the water. And in any case, the witness went on, he had seen neither Learner nor Elms throw anyone in the river.
The turning point came when four of the women who had been working in the field were called to give evidence. Clearly Learner and Elms were expecting the witnesses to speak on their behalf. If the witnesses said that the four bathers had paraded themselves before them, provocatively and tauntingly, the assailants might be viewed less disapprovingly. They might even be seen to have acted honorably.
However, the corroboration the defendants were looking for did not materialize. For the women swore that they had been more than a hundred yards away from the bathers. They had seen nothing that might cause them serious offense. The only support they gave to Learner and Elms was that they had seen neither pitching any of the four bathers into the water.
Clive, the magistrate, gave the matter his fullest consideration. When eventually he addressed the court, he made the point that indecent exposure was indecent exposure irrespective of “the ranks of the persons insulted”. He was about to disappoint anyone who held the view that the sensibilities of women laborers could simply be discounted. Equally, he explained, those who believed that men who behaved indecently towards women deserved a sound thrashing should make no exceptions on grounds of class. A woman in a field with sweat on her brow deserved as much respect as any other.
This suggests that Clive might have exercised leniency towards Learner and Elms if it had been shown that Knaggs and Assaid had behaved provocatively. But it had not been shown. The four women had seen nothing to offend them; and their male companions – in making a brutal attack on the bathers – had acted without justification. Certainly the two schoolboys could not sensibly be accused of indecency towards grown women.
What emerges from this rather sorry tale is that the magistrate applied subtle reasoning to the case, and that he held strong views on the right of all women to not suffer harassment at the hands of men. On the other hand, he was not prepared to dismiss the charges, on grounds of insufficient consistency in the statements he had heard. One party or the other—Knaggs and Assaid on the one hand, Learner and Elms on the other—had to bear responsibility. And he certainly knew which party that was going to be.
The two laborers were accordingly found guilty. Elms was considered the worse offender, and he was fined forty shillings, payment of which would spare him a month-long spell in jail. For Learner the punishment was less severe: twenty shillings, plus twenty-one days.
And there the matter must rest. The copper mills have long since gone, and the fields have become a city. But the River Wandle is the same as it was in the year 1846, a reminder, perhaps, that some things never change.
Russian pilot Lieutenant Colonel Lev Vyatkin had two encounters with unknown objects. He served at the Yalta military airport, on the airfield Belbek, in military unit 49222. It was located on the Crimea peninsula, Ukraine, on the northern coast of the Black Sea.
At the time, he was Captain and flew a fighter jet MiG-19P.
It was 6.30 in the morning, on August 7, 1967. The weather was clear and the sun did not come up yet. Vyatkin was in a cabin of his jet waiting on a runway to take off.
He was just checking onboard instruments when he heard an unusual hissing through his headphones and almost simultaneously technician Nicholay Emelianenko touched his shoulder stretching forth his hand towards something…
“About two kilometers from the airfield at a height of 300 meters, there was a huge ball floating in the air.
They estimated the object’s size as approximately 80 meters in diameter. It seemed it had a metallic dark-blue core inside and around it was a luminous shell-like cover. The object was floating “across wind” along the Mount Ai-Petri with a speed of about 60-70 kilometers per hour.
Suddenly it stopped at a distance of about 2 kilometers and an altitude of about 300 meters. It was clearly visible in the light blue sky.
It was a massive and solid object, with a long sparkling tail of air, behind it. Its flight was noiseless.
Vyatkin contacted traffic control and they also observed the object on the radar screens. He even advised them to leave the building and see the UFO with a naked eye. There were eight witnesses watching the UFO.
“It was a unique case and I asked permission to fly to examine the object and take some pictures… After a brief discussion, the authorities forbade me to depart… And then the “ball” instantly vanished.
Exactly twelve minutes later, the object disappeared out of sight.
“We saw it for exactly twelve minutes… Later, I went to search for a place above which the UFO was floating… Maybe trees are burned, the grass?
They found nothing…
Five days later, on 13 August 1967, about 11:45 PM Lieutenant Colonel Vyatkin had another aerial encounter with an object of unknown origin. It was during one of his night training flights.
Weather conditions were very good; the starry, absolutely clear, sky with bright constellations was his companion.
About midnight he took his airplane to 33,000 feet and reported his new position to the flight commander Major Mussatov and headed south to the Black Sea. From time to time he checked all instruments but everything was normal.
Suddenly in front of him – on the left and above, he saw a huge, oval-shaped object, shining a strange milky-neon light. Very concerned about the close presence of an unknown object, Vyatkin immediately contacted ground control and asked: “who is in the zone?”
The answer from the ground was negative, all remaining airplanes had already landed.
Avoiding the dangerous convergence and at the same time trying not to lose sight of the strange object, Vyatkin shifted the airplane into a right turn. Keeping a distance, the pilot tried to determine in what direction the UFO was moving.
At the same time, he noticed that the object’s lights gradually dimmed. Vyatkin banked his machine to the left, quickly adjusted the speed, and thrust in his try to avoid a possible very dangerous approach.
The UFO surprised him – once again sending a flash of very bright light and a slanting milky white ray appeared right in front of Vyatkin´s plane. It was on the course of Vyatkin’s plane and closing very fast so, in order to avoid running into it, he instantly leveled out the machine. It didn’t help; he hit the bright ray with the left-wing.
Seconds later, the ray exploded into millions of small points of light, a myriad of tiny sparkles resembling the holiday fireworks.
Vyatkin’s machine shook strongly and all the instruments read off the scale. Then, the ray and light over his plane were gone and the UFO vanished out of sight.
Flying back to the airport, he was searching the sky for new surprises, but everything was calm and quiet around him. He returned safely and no damage to the airplane was found.
Later, Nicholay Emelianenko, the technician who accompanied Vyatkin that night, told him in great secrecy that after the aircraft returned to the underground hangar, “the surface of the wing, which had come into contact with the strange ray, shone at nights..”
Then, some specialists from the national security agency, KGB, came to the hangar, they measured something, made some attempts to clean the wing with kerosene and took samples.
“I think – said Vyatkin – they know about this phenomenon… they know a lot …”
Up next on Weird Darkness…
What started out to be a fun family outing on a pleasant summer day would soon take a horrible turn for five-year-old Nyleen Kay Marshall.
Plus, a humorous story that also includes a lesson about safety for all of us who enjoy our battery-operated gadgets.
Our next Weirdo Watch Party is gonna be a great one! Coming up Saturday night, September 5th – we’ll be watching 1941’s “The Invisible Ghost” starring Bela Lugosi and Polly Ann Young, presented by horror hostess, Mistress Malicious! In the film, “The town’s most upright citizen suddenly becomes a homicidal maniac after his wife leaves him.” if that’s not an argument for marriage counseling, I don’t know what is! Please, join me, Mistress Malicious, and the whole Weirdo family for FREE as we watch the film and chat about it at the same time! We’ll provide the murder, you provide the munchies! The Weirdo Watch Party begins at 10pm Eastern – that’s 7pm Pacific, 8pm Mountain, 9pm Central. That’s Saturday, September 5th on the Weirdo Watch Party page at WeirdDarkness.com!
Nyleen Kay Briscoe was born on September 18, 1978 to Bill and Nancy Briscoe. They would divorce shortly after and Nyleen would be adopted by Nancy’s new husband Kim Marshall thus making her name Nyleen Kay Marshall. Nyleen grew up in the house with her parents and 2 siblings, older brother Nathan and younger sister Noreen. They made their home in Alhambra, Montana and by all accounts were a happy all-American Mormon family.
On Saturday, June 25th 1983, the Marshall family attended a ham radio operator’s event in a picnic area of the Elkhorn Mountains. The event was sponsored by Capital City Radio Club of which Kim Marshall was a member. It was a very pleasant summer day and Nyleen was with a group of other children playing by a shallow creek near the picnic area catching frogs. Around 4 pm Nyleen, barefoot and wearing a yellow t-shirt and shorts, disappeared from the area seemingly in the blink of an eye. But what really happened to her?
As soon as it was realized that Nyleen was missing, a massive search was underway. It would be very intensive involving hundreds of volunteers. They searched beaver dams, lakes and creeks using dogs, helicopters, as well as aerial searches that involved infrared sensors using heat detection. The Elkhorn Mountains are very rugged terrain and the search was hampered by dense foliage as well as heavy thunderstorms. In fact, Lewis & Clark County Search Coordinator Ralph DeCunzon was quoted in a newspaper article as saying: “undergrowth in the area was so thick that searchers could have walked past the child and not seen her”. He goes on to say that sometimes small, frightened children will curl up and hide and won’t answer searcher’s calls. Sadly, the full-scale search was called off after 10 days because according to Sheriff Tom Dawson: “After conferring with medical authorities throughout the nation, a decision was made to wind the search down. Heavy rains & low temperatures have made the youngsters survival virtually impossible”.
There has been much attention given to a possible sighting of a strange man in a jogging suit near the picnic area around the time when the girl went missing. I was surprised to find not much mention of him in the articles around the time Nyleen went missing. In fact, in the days after the disappearance this was reported in the newspaper: “Officials said Tuesday that any chances of foul play or kidnapping had been ruled out because the area was so isolated and those attending the exercise were mostly close friends of the family.” It was only 5 days later that 2 very young children came forward and said that they saw one man near the area in a jogging suit they didn’t recognize.
There was also the “follow the shadow” comment which is a little vague. It was reported by some children that Nyleen was possibly playing this game with the unknown man and speculated that’s how he was able to get her away from the group. However, in one newspaper account it said that “after a childhood squabble, Nyleen ran away from the group”. The account of the disappearance found in an old newspaper article was that Nyleen was being watched around the time she went missing by a 13-year-old girl. She told Nyleen to wait at a specific spot while she ran back to the campsite briefly. As the girl ran away Nyleen said to her: “My brother can run faster than you.” She returned a few minutes later and Nyleen was gone.
Of course, with the large-scale search being called off, Nancy and Kim Marshall were still desperately searching for their child. They were doing everything they could think of to find her and get her name out in the public. They even briefly created a non-profit search dog corporation called “Big Sky Rescue Dogs” that would train dogs to search for human scent. This specific type of trained dog was not available immediately after Nyleen went missing and they felt it would have been a very valuable tool in helping to find her. Nine months after Nyleen went missing, the Marshall’s would also bring in Dr. John Watkins to hypnotize 7 people who were near Nyleen when she vanished. They had a composite sketch created from some of the people’s recollections. It is reported that the sketch resembled a man wanted for child molesting and grand larceny in other states but no other information was given concerning that.
Four months after Nyleen’s disappearance, the movie “Adam” profiling the abduction and murder of Adam Walsh was aired on national television. After the movie, 55 pictures of missing children were shown on the screen. Nyleen’s picture was one of them. No substantial tips were called in concerning her but Child Find of America did print and distribute posters of Nyleen in hopes that someone had seen her. She was also featured on grocery sacks, milk cartons as well as billboards.
Then in late 1985, phone calls and letters would be received by someone claiming to have abducted Nyleen. He contacted Child Find Inc. as well as NCMEC (National Center for Missing & Exploited Children). They were able to trace the phone calls he made to a phone booth in Madison, WI. However, after the calls had been traced, they stopped. It is reported the last phone call was placed in May, 1986 and the last letter postmarked soon after. It was stated that the letters contained information that hadn’t been released to the public, however, there has never been any mention of what that information might have been even all these years later. The author did possibly give a clue to his identity mentioning that he had lost his parents and nine-year-old sister in a car crash years prior. Here are some excerpts of the letters that have been released.
[I didn’t want their person to try to get information from her. All I could tell them was that she was OK. I hope Child Find can get the following back to her family. I picked “Kay” up on the road in the Elkhorn Park area between Helena and Boulder. She was crying and frightened and as I held her she was shaking and I decided that I would keep her and love her. I took her home with me. I have a nice investment income and I can work at home so I care for her myself all the time. I teach her at home and she likes to go with me when I travel. Her hair is short and curly now and she has really grown. She is about 45 inches and around 50 pounds. She has all four of her permanent upper and two of her lower incisors at this time. She takes a bath and brushes her teeth every day. She eats well. Her favorite meal is pizza and Cherry. She would gladly recount to you trips to San Francisco, New York, Oklahoma City, New Orleans, Nashville, Chicago, Puerto Rico and Canada. We were even in Britain for a month last year and she loved it. (Nobody questions passports.) She is a sweet little girl and it is because of how much I have grown to love her that I realize how much her family must miss her. But she has adjusted and seems happy. She trusts me and isn’t afraid. We play [sic] alot and she laughs when we clown around. She smiles and acts coy when I tease her. She giggles when we snuggle and hugs me sometimes for no apparent reason. I love her and I have her. I just can’t let her go!]
There didn’t appear to be much mention of this letter in the press initially, perhaps law enforcement didn’t want it out there until it could be further investigated. Unsolved Mysteries did film a segment on Nyleen’s disappearance and it aired in November of 1991. They mentioned the letters and phone calls and then much more attention was given publicly to this possible development. Some positive things did transpire as a result of the broadcast, however Nyleen being located sadly would not be one of them. A teacher in British Columbia had thought that one of her students was Nyleen Kay Marshall. The student’s father had always acted suspiciously and she thought there was a resemblance and called authorities. It turns out it wasn’t Nyleen but another missing child, Monica Bonilla, who was abducted by her father 8 years earlier. Monica was soon reunited with her mother. Jefferson County Undersheriff Tim Campbell did state that every time Unsolved Mysteries re-aired the case he got a few new tips to work with. He even said that the tips have led to 3 other lost children from around the country being reunited with their families.
There were a few other possible leads in Nyleen’s disappearance that I will mention but sadly nothing ever appeared to come of them. First off we’ll talk about Richard James Wilson. He was a Helena resident with a history of mental illness. He turned himself in of August of 1991 saying that he had killed Nyleen Kay Marshall as well as another woman. They were never able to verify his story and there was even a search where he claimed to have buried Nyleen’s remains that yielded nothing. With his unstable mental history past, it was thought to have been a false confession. There was also a brief, and somewhat cryptic, mention in an interview with Kim and Nancy Marshall about a possible lead. They were told a picture of a girl ‘closely resembling Nyleen’ was found with other pictures in a place where a suspect had apparently been. The girl seemed to have been beaten. The NCMEC did not say it was for sure Nyleen but said of the 1000’s of children on their lists, it looks more like their daughter than anyone else.
The Marshall’s continued to be diligent in searching for their child. They wanted to make an age progressed sketch of Nyleen, however, that was hindered when it was learned all the photos they had sent of their daughter perished in a fire at the FBI lab. Another report states that several years after Nyleen’s disappearance, her uncle saw a composite drawing of a couple wanted in another state for child abduction. He said the faces in the sketch closely resembled a couple he remembers seeing on the scene the first day of the search for Nyleen. Sadly, years would go by with no leads or developments in the case and then just after the 12th anniversary of Nyleen’s disappearance, something would again happen to this family that is almost too horrible to believe.
The Marshall’s had been living in Japan for several years as Kim Marshall had been sent there for work. He was next being transferred to Mexico. Kim and his children stayed behind in Japan to finish moving while Nancy Marshall flew to Mexico to look at possible houses for the family. Kim was at the Tokyo airport ready to leave the country and join his wife when he received a phone call. Nancy Marshall was dead. She had reportedly met with friends the night before and was in good spirits. She was discovered in her room the next day at the upscale Radisson Paraiso Hotel in Mexico City. Nancy was found hanging from a shower rod with her hands tied behind her back. She had been bruised and beaten and her wedding ring, watch and a bottle of perfume were missing. The money and valuables in her safe were untouched. It was also discovered that Nancy’s hotel room door had been kicked in.
Mexican authorities actually listed Nancy Marshall’s death initially as a suicide. Kim Marshall was livid. He hired a PI and the authorities changed their classification to “under investigation”. Kim was extremely frustrated with the developments in the case. He says he was advised by the State Dept. to not push an investigation of murder. They said it would prevent them from releasing Nancy’s body for burial. Although convinced his wife’s death was a murder, Kim didn’t press because as he stated he refused to ‘let her body rot in a Mexican morgue’. Nancy’s body was released to the family and she was buried in Texas.
There was another possible development in the case that happened 15 years after Nyleen’s disappearance. A man and a pregnant woman walked into a New Orleans hospital. The 19-year-old woman was about to give birth however after being questioned by the hospital staff, the couple abruptly left. The teenager called herself “Helena” and said she thought her mother may have been named Nyleen but remembers very little of her childhood. She also said she grew up in another country but had no trace of an accent. One of the nurses had recently watched Nyleen’s segment on Unsolved Mysteries and wondered if it could be her so authorities were called. The couple were tracked down and were found to reside in Oklahoma City and were questioned. The woman did agree to give a DNA sample. It was a longer process than usual because Nancy was now deceased and her blood sample was 10 years old and deteriorated. They were able to track down Nyleen’s biological father and get a sample from him. There is no other mention of this story, so I’m assuming the DNA was not a match to Nyleen.
(Now the author of this piece gives her own thoughts, and they may surprise you. Here’s what she says…)
My first knowledge of this case was from watching it on Unsolved Mysteries case and the way they portrayed it, it definitely seemed like an abduction. However, the more I delve into it I’m not so sure that Nyleen was abducted at all. She was last seen near a heavily wooded area in the mountains and the strange man in the area wasn’t widely seen, just by a few young children who didn’t recognize him. I would think if there were a strange man lurking around the area, many of the people at the picnic would remember seeing him. The search was extensive but the head of the search even said with how thick the brush was, someone could have walked right past her and not seen her. If the accounts were accurate about the girl who was watching Nyleen stepping away for a few minutes, it is definitely possible that Nyleen decided to start exploring and quickly got lost in the mountains. Perhaps to die of exposure or sadly an animal attack.
Regarding the anonymous phone calls and letters, it’s difficult to take them seriously. There were just vague reports in the media (and nothing from law enforcement) that he mentioned things in the letter that hadn’t been released already. The things he said concerning Nyleen seemed specific but could not have been verified of course anyway because no one had seen Nyleen in 2-and-a-half years. Even if Nyleen were abducted, the content in the letters are not to be believed. How many child predators who stalk a private picnic and abduct a young child, treat her with kindness and love and raise her as her parents would? Sadly, it never happens that way. There is a chance, albeit slight, that the letter writer did abduct her and perhaps murdered her and these letters are an attempt to ease his conscious by giving her parents hope that she is alive and well. It is also very possible though, that it was just a cruel hoax; and sadly we hear about these types of things all the time.
And here’s a weird story, just for fun. In March of 2020, a fire on a farm in northern England was accidentally set… by one of the pigs. The BBC reported the firebug (Firehog? Firepig? Flaming Pork? Whatever you call him) had swallowed a pedometer worn by one of its fellow pigs to demonstrate that the animals were free range.
But after the pig excreted the pedometer, copper in its battery sparked a flame in the pig dung and bedding of dried hay. The fire spread to cover about 807 square feet (75 square meters) of the farmyard before it was contained, according to The Independent. Four pigpens caught fire at the farm, located near Leeds in the county of Yorkshire, and fire crews from nearby Tadcaster and Knaresbororough rushed in with hoses to “save the bacon,” the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service tweeted on March 7. Russell Jenkins, a crew manager for the North Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, said flames smoldered and smoke rose from the ground, as firefighters had to rake through burning hay and dung. In recent years, lithium-ion batteries in personal devices such as cellphones and vape pens have spontaneously combusted, sometimes causing severe burns and even broken bones. As a safety tip, I’m including a link in the show notes to a page where you can learn how to properly dispose of different types of batteries so this kind of thing won’t happen to you or your bacon.
Up next, I’ll answer some of the emails sent my way when we enter 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, you can join the very active “Weird Darkness Weirdos” Facebook Group, and hang out with me and the rest of our Weirdo family! And you can drop me an email anytime at: darren @ weirddarkness.com.
(Email from Jennifer): Hi, Darren, I discovered your podcast right after my office shifted to work-from-home, so in some sense Weird Darkness has been my quarantine treat! I wanted to specifically thank you for reading “Mrs. Amworth” for Creepypasta Thursday. Benson doesn’t seem to get as much “buzz” as Lovecraft or even M.R. James, but I’ve loved his ghost and monster stories since I was a teenager. It’s great to hear a reading, and I hope more people pick him up because of Weird Darkness. Thanks again, Jennifer
REPLY: Really glad you liked it, Jennifer! It was actually a suggestion from a Weirdo family member! I’d never heard of E.F. Benson before – and I had a blast narrating that story. If you have any more of his stories that are your particular favorites, let me know and I’ll see if I can add them to the list for the future. In fact, if anyone listening has favorite classic horror short stories, let me know and I can see if they are available for me to use in the podcast! For those who have not heard the episode Jennifer is referring to, I’ll place a link to it in the show notes, it’s called, “Mrs. Amworth, The Vampire”.
(Email from Trish in Ontario): Hi Darren, regular loyal listener here. Just curious why you recently started super-enunciating the ‘d’ of Weird Darkness? I will always listen to your awesome podcast but this does seem out of place. Curious in Ontario, Canada. – Trish
REPLY: Well, Trish – I was wondering if anyone would notice. I was trying to make it a bit more obvious that I was saying “Weird Darkness” because to me it had been sounding like I was saying “We’re Darkness” (like “we are darkness). But I am probably overthinking it. And you’re right – it does sound kinda odd. So I’m not doing it anymore, as you hopefully noticed with this episode.
(Email from Chris): Darren, I don’t know where all these negative people are comin’ from but I say keep up the great work!! You are a light in the weird Darkness! Your fellow Weirdo in Christ – Chris”Madman” Goins
REPLY: Thanks, Madman! To be honest, if you become even moderately successful at anything in life, you’re going to have your detractors who either don’t like what you do, don’t like the way you do it, or will lash out simply because they are jealous that someone else has done something with their life while the complainer feels stuck where they are. So in a way, I guess I should take the few complaints I get as a compliment. Someone once said, and I agree with it, “You can’t please everybody. If you do try to please everybody, you please nobody.”
(Email from Chris #2 – in Auburn, GA): I’m sleepless tonight, and I felt compelled to write you. Your wonderful podcast came into my life in a very dark time, my wife of 20 years, my rudder in this world, passed away in November of 2019. Since that time I’ve wished for death. Sleepless nights, loneliness, and grief has hounded me, I’ve always been an avid reader; (but) since she’s been gone I can hardly read a page. I’ve spent 10 months faking being alive, and then, I found weird darkness, and your friendly voice; and to top it off, a Christian who proudly proclaims it! I’m a Christian myself; I know God has a plan, I’ve never doubted it, I’ve just been hurt by it. All my life, I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety, my wife Charlene was always the one to calm me.
And once again there is you, I’m sorry this is long winded, I just wanted to say thank you. Thank you for being there on so many lonely nights. Thank you for your Christianity. Even when I can’t sleep, when the dark thoughts crowd in, your show is a beacon for me. Thank you Darren. May God always bless you. Sincerely, Chris (Auburn, Georgia)
REPLY: Wow, Chris. What a heartfelt email. Thank you for your openness about your life and struggles. I am very sorry to hear you lost your wife. I can’t imagine what kind of pain that must bring. That you find a bit of escape from the loneliness, and that I can keep you company on those nights that you can’t sleep, is my privilege. I’ve always wanted the podcast to be entertaining, but to also be a way to shut off the world and just “be” for a while. I’m glad you’ve discovered that aspect of it. Please don’t think you’re alone though. You’re a part of the Weirdo Family – and while that’s fun to say and joke around with, it also means you have others who are there for you. The Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook group has almost 5,000 members right now, and when someone is struggling and they post it, there are a lot of people that reply and talk to you, pray for you if they happen to be a Weirdo in Christ, give you advice, or just listen. Plus, of course, you can always visit iFred.com to talk to someone, or use the 7 Cups mobile app so you can talk even when away from your computer. In the meantime, I’m going to ask that all Weirdos in Christ hearing this right now take a brief moment and pray for Chris immediately after the show.
(Email from Chris #3): Hey Darren. I’m Chris from West Michigan. Been listening for a while. And thank you for all your shoutouts to first responders and essentials. So I’ll try to make this as short as possible seeings how I’m only 5’4. I don’t know what to call it really. So be warned it’s kinda odd. Growing up I watched my aunt, uncle, grandmother and mother all pass before I was 16. No, it wasn’t murder but it was worse… cancer in all cases. So from a very young age I always wanted to help people. From age 4 I was going to be a fireman. And now, yes almost 40 I am a paid on-call (volunteer but paid when pager goes off) firefighter. I have been doing the job since 1998. Yes, I know I’m old. So I dealt with death early on and continue to. About 7 or 8 years ago I worked a car accident. A young lady (14) passed away. We worked the call to the hospital even had a medic-chopper land. We couldn’t get her stable enough to fly and into the ER we went. After almost an hour of CPR the doctor called the time. I never thought anything about it. I’m a guy and a fireman. I’m bulletproof. So about a month goes by and I start to get repeated dreams of that call. Being inside the car holding C spine. Chest compressions in the ambulance and ER. Then the time of death. So months goes by with dreams 3-4 times a week; I finally slowly broke down. I would wake up sweating and crying. I finally said something to my wife. All she said is it will be okay. Just let it out. The following night I had the same dream from CPR to time of death. With the exception of feeling a hand on my shoulder and a voice next to my ear (that said), “You tried and tried. Just let me go”. Since then I haven’t had that dream. Kinda messed up right?
REPLY: Messed up? No. Incredible – yes! And I’d have to agree that it very well could be an angel encounter. Angels have been known to work through dreams and visions, and deep inside you were struggling with this one unfortunate call you were on for some reason, and God knew you needed some kind of closure. Just a theory, but that’s my thoughts. GREAT story – thank you for emailing it to me!
I’ll answer more of your emails, comments, and letters next time! Again, you can find all of my social media and contact information on the CONTACT page of the website, or drop me an email at darren @ weirddarkness.com.
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Be sure to join me at my other podcast, The Church of the Undead. You can listen to all the episodes by clicking on The Church of the Undead link here in the show notes, you can find it at WeirdDarkness.com, or just search for “Church of the Undead” wherever you listen to podcasts! Hopefully I’ll see YOU in the Weirdo congregation! 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 Yuba County Five Disappearance” by Jake Rossen for MentalFloss.com
“It’s a Matter of Honor, Your Honor” posted at the website London-Overlooked
“The Tragic Story of Nyleen Kay Marshall” by Crystaldawn for LostNFoundBlogs.com
“UFO Shoots Ray at Russian Pilot” by A. Sutherland for MessageToEagle.com
“Pig Poops Out Pedometer and Sparks Fire” by Mindy Weisberger for LiveScience.com
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… Deuteronomy 31:6 = “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.”
And a final thought… “Worry does nothing but steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.