“THE FIRE SPOOK OF CALEDONIA HILLS” and 3 More Disturbing And True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: A smitten fan falls in love with a talented actress, and convinces himself she loves him in return. This sounds very much like a story out of today’s entertainment magazines – but this tale of unrequited love took place in the 1880’s. (The Lunatic James Dougherty) *** You don’t have to go to a cemetery or haunted house to experience the supernatural. You don’t need to drive a cursed road to encounter a ghost. Sometimes the paranormal takes place on military bases. (The Military And The Mysterious) *** The corpse of a murderer winds up doing advertising for a drug store. (The Murder of Maggie Walker) *** In 1922, an otherwise unremarkable farmhouse in Novia Scotia was the site of alleged poltergeist activity which made headlines all over Canada and the United States. A poltergeist that liked to set fires. (The Fire Spook of Caledonia Mills)
TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE…
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LINKS, EPISODES, AND PAGES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE…
EPISODE: “Time Travel’s True Stories and Urban Legends”: https://weirddarkness.com/archives/7239
EPISODE: “Is The Covid-19 Vaccine the Mark of the Beast?” https://weirddarkness.com/archives/7278
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“The Fire Spook of Caledonia Mills” by Hammerson Peters for MysteriesOfCanada.com: https://tinyurl.com/y43ug999
“The Lunatic James Dougherty” by Robert Wilhelm for MurderByGaslight.com: https://tinyurl.com/yxkxo8b6
“The Military and the Mysterious” by Brent Swancer for MysteriousUniverse.org: https://tinyurl.com/y46jdmks
“The Murder of Maggie Walker” posted on the website Murders In History: https://tinyurl.com/y2qw2rup
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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 that 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 come back every day and vote again! 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.
In 2010, American horror novelist Stephen King wrote Full Dark, No Stars, an anthology comprised of four novellas. One of these novellas, entitled “1922”, tells the fictional story of a Nebraska farmer who experienced paranormal activity on his family farm in the year 1922. It has been said that truth is stranger than fiction. This idiom rings true when one compares the eerie plot of “1922” with an even more chilling real-life case of supposed paranormal activity which took place that same year on a remote Nova Scotian homestead far from the arid plains of Nebraska.
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…
A smitten fan falls in love with a talented actress, and convinces himself she loves him in return. This sounds very much like a story out of today’s entertainment magazines – but this tale of unrequited love took place in the 1880’s.
You don’t have to go to a cemetery or haunted house to experience the supernatural. You don’t need to drive a cursed road to encounter a ghost. Sometimes the paranormal takes place on military bases.
The corpse of a murderer winds up doing advertising for a drug store.
In 1922, an otherwise unremarkable farmhouse in Novia Scotia was the site of alleged poltergeist activity which made headlines all over Canada and the United States. A poltergeist that liked to set fires.
While you’re listening, you might want to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the newsletter, find transcripts of the episodes, paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies, find my other podcast – “The Church of the Undead”, plus you can visit the “Hope In The Darkness” page if you are struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
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The farm was owned by an elderly couple named Alexander and Janet MacDonald, who lived there with their 15-year-old adopted daughter, Mary Ellen. The MacDonald homestead was located near Caledonia Mills, a rural community comprised almost entirely of Catholic Highland Scots, situated in northeastern Nova Scotia about 20 minutes southeast of the town of Antigonish. In 1922, this otherwise unremarkable farmhouse was the site of alleged poltergeist activity which made headlines all over Canada and the United States.
The activity began in December 1921. One cold winter morning, Alex MacDonald, while tending to his animals, found that someone had set his horses and cattle loose from their stalls sometime in the night. Mere minutes after he guided the last horse back into its stall, all the animals inexplicably escaped again.
Several days later, MacDonald awoke to learn that the horses and cattle had switched places. On another occasion, he discovered that some nocturnal agent had bobbed his horses’ tails, or twisted the horsehairs into elaborate braids.
Alexander MacDonald quickly grew weary of the pranks. Eventually, he asked some of his neighbours to assist him in catching the culprit red-handed. Unfortunately, these well-meaning Nova Scotian farmers fared little better than McDonald, although they did witness a number of mysterious manifestations. One farmer saw a strange blue light emanating from MacDonald’s barn one night. Another noticed that household objects seemed to vanish before reappearing in other sections of the estate. Two neighbours even claimed to have observed a hand waving a white cloth from the second-story window of MacDonald’s farmhouse at a time when no residents were in that part of the house. It quickly became clear to Alex and his neighbours that something very strange was going on at the MacDonald farm.
Soon, Macdonald’s mysterious tormentor began lighting fires on his property. This arsonous activity intensified until, on January 6, 1922, Alex MacDonald and six of his neighbours spent the day combatting both a ferocious blizzard and a whopping thirty eight fires which erupted mysteriously in and around his farmhouse. Fearing for his family’s safety, Alex asked his neighbour, Leo McGillivray, if he and his wife and adopted daughter might stay at his farmhouse until the mystery was solved- a request which McGillivray happily granted. In the ensuing weeks, the elderly Alex slogged over three miles of snow-covered dirt road twice a day to feed his livestock.
News travels fast in small towns, and soon the story of the poltergeist of Caledonia Mills reached the ears of regional newspapermen. On January 16, 1922, a reporter named Harold B. Whidden, who worked for the Halifax Herald, was dispatched to the MacDonald farm and charged with writing a few pieces on the activity. Whidden dutifully interviewed Alexander, Janet, and Mary Ellen, as well as several neighbours, and included their startling testimonies in a number of articles. He also visited the abandoned MacDonald farmhouse and saw that it indeed bore evidence of many fires.
Shortly after the conclusion of his first visit, Harold Whidden made a second trip out to the MacDonald farm, this time intending to stay in the farmhouse for three nights. He was accompanied on this outing by Alexander MacDonald and Detective P.O. “Peachy” Carroll- a county policeman from the nearby town of Pictou, Nova Scotia.
The men’s first day of investigation was uneventful. On their second night, however, both Whidden and Carroll heard strange noises unlike anything they had ever heard before which seemed to emanate from the upper floor of the farmhouse. As Whidden listened to the sounds, his eyes glued to the ceiling, he felt a hard slap on his arm, noticeable through several layers of thick clothing.
“Did you just slap me?” he asked Carroll.
The policeman shook his head and claimed that he, too, had similarly felt a pressure on his arm.
Immediately, the two men had the distinct impression that someone else was in the room with them. After twenty hair-raising minutes, the strange presence left the house. Bewildered, Whidden and Carroll roused Alex MacDonald, who was dozing nearby. As it turned out, MacDonald had slept through the whole ordeal and hadn’t heard or felt a thing.
Following that incident, Whidden decided to cut his investigation short and book a hotel room in Antigonish, where he documented his experience in number of pieces for the Halifax Herald. His articles stirred the fires of public curiosity, and soon various authorities on the supernatural, including celebrated Scottish writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, were invited to assess the situation for themselves.
The only authority to accept the challenge was Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, an esteemed parapsychologist from New York City. In March 1922, Prince, accompanied by Harold Whidden, Leo McGillivray, and a Haligonian (i.e. a resident of Halifax, Nova Scotia) named Dan MacRitchie, paid a visit to the MacDonald estate and began to conduct his own investigation into the alleged poltergeist activity. Many of the local Nova Scotians who encountered Prince during his visit perceived him as an arrogant and egotistical Yankee; their low opinion of him is reflected in a number of contemporary newspaper articles.
Prince began his inspection by recording the nature and location of various items in the farmhouse, examining the scorch marks on the walls, and interviewing the MacDonalds and their neighbours. Early on in the investigation, the parapsychologist, on a whim, asked Whidden and MacRitchie to take part in an experiment. He placed a sheet of paper before each of them, provided both of them with a pencil, and asked them to hold the pencils in their hands passively over the paper. Then, Prince invited any spirit in the house to use these pencils to communicate with them if they so desired. In accordance with the expectations (or lack thereof) of all three of the men, nothing happened.
On Friday, March 10, Whidden was called away to Antigonish. Before he left the farmhouse, some strange urging prompted him to ask Prince to perform the pencil experiment with him again. The parapsychologist obliged. This time, something incredible happened. Some mysterious force seemed to take possession of Whidden’s writing hand and began to scribble on the page, producing what is known to parapsychologists as “automatic writing”. As Whidden put it in a later reminiscence:
“Suddenly, I felt a prickly sensation in the end of some of the fingers of my right hand, which increased. The hand then became numb. Before I realized what was happening, the pencil began to move slowly, without any effort or intention on my part.”
For two hours, Whidden scribbled in this manner, going through many sheets of paper which Prince provided. At first, he produced nothing but circles and slanted lines. Then his scribblings began to take on a more intelligent shape, and in no time he was spelling out messages in a handwriting that was not his own. Although the exact content of these message has never been released to the public, Whidden later claimed that the scribblings asserted that the acts of arson and other mischief at the MacDonald farm were committed by spirits. Whidden also claimed that there were other, more profound messages as well, regarding which he wrote:
“Most of the written statements were of the utmost significance and not a few of them were of an entirely personal character. For that reason the greater part of the contents of the strange manuscript will probably never be divulged.
“In one place, for example, it seemed as if my sister, who passed away on August 13th, 1912, was sending me a message.
“One sentence in the writing which followed was:
“‘People must realize that those who have passed beyond are ever present. God is merciful. God is good. He is just.’
“And later: ‘Spirits do visit the Earth after death.’
“The whole message was fully of kindly expression and sympathy. There was no sign of malice or enmity in it. It wrote that it would trouble the Macdonalds [sic] no more, and that it would never appear to them.”
Later on, Whidden wrote:
“This may all seem incredible to some people, but every word of it is true. In fact, I have merely given the readers the skim of it: for the very best of reasons, the cream will never be written. I still have every sheet of paper upon which the message was written and will preserve them as the most valuable documents in my possession.”
To the best of this author’s knowledge, the whereabouts of these documents are currently unknown.
After six days on the farm, Walter Prince wrapped up his investigation and published his findings in the 1922 issue of the Journal of the American Society for Psychical Research. Many false reports regarding the nature of his conclusions were published in newspapers all over North America, pulling their information from interviews with him and members of the MacDonald family which Prince claimed never took place. A read through Prince’s original report, however, reveals that the parapsychologist believed that 15-year-old Mary Ellen was responsible for the fires in the MacDonald farmhouse, and that she had set these fires in a dissociated state, under the influence of some supernatural entity which thrived off her energy. He claimed that Mary Ellen was unaware of her actions and thus was not culpable for them.
Prince further theorized that the same entity which directed the actions of Mary Ellen was also responsible for many other strange activities which took place around the farmhouse, including the phenomena which Harold Whidden and Detective Carroll experienced during their own independent investigation. Regarding Whidden’s automatic writing incident (the existence of which, some newspapers erroneously reported, Prince denied entirely), Prince admitted that he was uncertain whether Whidden’s hand was guided by the same aforementioned entity or his own subconscious mind.
Three months after Prince’s investigation, the MacDonald family moved back into their farmhouse. To their relief, they enjoyed a pleasant summer devoid of any strange activity. Then, in October, mysterious fires began to appear on the property once again. This time, regional authorities blamed Mary Ellen for the activity and hauled her off to the Nova Scotia Home for the Insane, an asylum in Dartmouth. Following her release, Mary Ellen married and moved to Ontario, where she lived to a ripe old age.
Not long after Mary Ellen was institutionalized, Alexander and Janet MacDonald abandoned their farm, unwilling to live on it any long and unable to sell it. With no one to maintain it, the farmhouse slowly fell into disrepair.
Today, there is little to distinguish the old MacDonald estate from any other patch of land in the county of Antigonish. Local legend has it that the land is cursed, and that anyone who removes anything from the area, be it a fragment of shingle or a pebble, invites the “Fire Spook” of Caledonia Mills into their own home. Indeed, one woman who defied the curse in the spring of 1971, retrieving an egg cup from the ruins of the MacDonald farmhouse, lost her own farmhouse to a mysterious inferno which consumed the place while she was away in her city home in Antigonish.
Coming up on Weird Darkness…
A smitten fan falls in love with a talented actress, and convinces himself she loves him in return. This sounds very much like a story out of today’s entertainment magazines – but this tale of unrequited love took place in the 1880’s.
But first, the corpse of a murderer winds up doing advertising for a drug store. That story is up next.
Our next Weirdo Watch Party is this coming 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.” Join me, Mistress Malicious, and the whole Weirdo family for FREE as we watch the film on the website and chat about it at the same time! Again, it’s this Saturday, September 5th! The Weirdo Watch Party begins at 10pm Eastern – that’s 7pm Pacific, 8pm Mountain, 9pm Central on the Weirdo Watch Party page at WeirdDarkness.com!
In May of 1879, 16 to19-year-old Maggie Blair ran away from home from Jonesboro, Tennessee to Russellville, Tennessee. It isn’t stated why she ran away, but it’s believed that her Stepfather Anthony Blair was a part of the reason. Maggie was described as a smart, and industrious girl.
Maggie was working for Esquire William Donaldson and his family. On July 29, 1879, Anthony showed up to the home of the Donaldson’s. He had found out that Maggie was there and had ridden the train to get her. He walked into the kitchen and demanded she leaves with him to talk.
At the time Maggie was in the kitchen with Mrs. Donaldson preparing a meal. Maggie seemed afraid and told him she wasn’t going outside with him and if he had anything to say he could say in front of Mrs. Donaldson.
Mr. Donaldson was arriving home at the same time. He had forced Anthony to leave the residence. Anthony didn’t show up again till the night of July 30th a few nights later.
On the night of July 30th Maggie went up to a colored church near Russellville for a prayer meeting. She had gone with friends. After the prayer meeting, Anthony showed up again. He had found people who were at the prayer meeting.
Anthony went by the group, but went a short distance and took another road in which Maggie and other young folks were walking. He walked through the crowd up to Maggie who was walking in the back with Henry Taylor.
Maggie filled with fear as Anthony pressed Taylor away and grabbed Maggie’s hand. “You must go home with me on the train to-night to your grandpapa,” He stated as he dragged her 150 to 200 yards down the road all while she struggled to get out of his grasp. She screamed that she would rather die than go back with him.
This enraged Anthony and he pulled out his gun and shot her twice. She didn’t immediately pass and it had taken her 2 days to die from her wounds on August 1st. On August 8th Anthony Blair to be convicted and sentenced with the death penalty.
It was said when they delivered the death penalty that Anthony may have been the calmest person in the room. He just stared at the judge. He was due to die on September 26, 1879. He had made a deal with local doctors that he would will over his body after death for $15. This allowed to let him keep a supply of tobacco and candy.
On September 26, 1879, 26 guards went to Anthony’s cell at noon. Anthony seemed unaffected and walked with a firm step to the wagon that would bring him to the gallows. After religious services were done by Rev. Geo. Branner Anthony sang a song and then talked for 30 minutes.
He stated his guilt but presented his facts for the reason it leads to him killing Maggie. The newspaper wouldn’t state these facts as it was unsuited for the public to read/hear. At 1:30 a rope was placed around his neck and the black cap arranged. Buy 1:35 the wagon pulled away from beneath him. He had no pulse at 9 minutes, in 10 minutes his heart stopped beating, in 15 he was pronounced dead, and in 22 he was lowered into the casket.
His body was taken by the Doctors who paid him for it. medical students and doctors embalmed the body. His heart and brain were kept in jars. They boiled his bones in 1880. They were assembled and hung in the backroom of a Drug Store. They were used as a way to attract visitors to the store. A fire eventually broke out and burned down the store.
James M. Dougherty was an industrious young man in Brooklyn in the 1880s. He worked as a lineman for the Postal Telegraph Company and in his spare time he studied meteorology, electricity, astronomy and other sciences. He dabbled in a little of everything until after watching a play; he became obsessed with the leading lady, Mary Anderson, and his love for her became his sole controlling passion.
He would go wherever she was performing and do whatever he could to be close to her. In 1887, Miss Anderson traveled to Europe, and Dougherty followed. By this point, he believed that Mary Anderson loved him as well, but she was surrounded by a group of conspirators dedicated to keeping them apart. They were controlled by Antonio Fernando de Navarro, his chief rival for Mary’s affections, who would marry her in 1890. While in Liverpool in 1887, Dougherty believed that the conspirators had tried to poison him, so he moved back to America.
He settled in Washington D.C. where he sold encyclopedias. Mary Anderson followed him to Washington, he would later tell his doctors, and took lodging across the street from him. At this time his enemies were so intent on surveilling him, Dougherty said, that they used a system of mirrors arranged over the transom of his door so they could follow his every move.
In 1889, while Anderson was appearing in New York City, Dougherty’s constant stalking came to the attention of the police. James Dougherty, a tall, lanky man with dark, wild-looking eyes peering through spectacles, was declared insane by doctors on Ward’s Island and sent to the King’s County Insane Asylum in Brooklyn.
At first, Dougherty was considered dangerous and kept under close observation but gradually his condition appeared to improve, and his obsession with Mary Anderson had subsided to the point that he received the news of her marriage to Mr. Navarro with apparent indifference. Considering him no longer a threat, the doctors put Dougherty to work on the asylum’s farm. But their trust had been premature; Dougherty took the farm as an opportunity to escape.
The asylum guards searched for him but with no avail. After ten days, according to the rules of the asylum, Dougherty was recorded as discharged.
On September 26, 1890, Dougherty returned to the asylum and walked up the stairs with a revolver in his hand. Several doctors and nurses who were on the porch scattered and Dougherty walked into the office of Dr. Fleming, superintendent of the institution. Dr. Fleming told him he was not wanted anymore, and Dougherty said he had come for the things he left behind. His things were promptly procured, and Dougherty left without using his revolver. Dr. Fleming did not report the incident to the police.
Two weeks later, on October 10, Dougherty returned again, this time with a revolver, loaded and cocked, in each hand, entered the main office of the asylum and asked for Dr. Fleming. Doctors Lloyd and McGreal who were in the office at the time, told him that Dr. Fleming was out. Dr. Lloyd, who recognized the former inmate right away, began to say, “Now, Dougherty, you ought to be—” but the sentence was cut short by the sharp report of a revolver. Dougherty had shot Lloyd in the left side of his chest. Dr. Lloyd staggered to his feet, and as he rose, Dougherty fired again hitting Lloyd in the throat. Dr. Lloyd gasped, “Oh, Dougherty!” then fell to the floor and died instantly.
Dr. McGreal ran from the room and out of the asylum, shouting, “Police!”
Also at the asylum that day, was Dr. Edward H. Ashford, who was employed by the Federal Government to collect the mortality census in New York and Brooklyn. He heard the shots and saw Dougherty leave then hurried to the Flatbush Police Station and told them what had occurred. The police in Brooklyn correctly assumed that Dougherty would flee to Manhattan and captured him as he crossed the bridge.
While in custody, Dougherty said to the captain, “I did it. I meant to kill him and would have killed ten more if I had the chance.” He said that he meant to shoot Lloyd, Fleming, McGreal and the whole crowd for the brutal treatment he had received at the asylum. “I am not crazy,” he said, “but as sane as the sanest man that walks New York today.”
In his pockets the police found the two revolvers, one 44 caliber and one 38 caliber; fifty cartridges; a half-filled bottle of whiskey; thirty cents; and four letters addressed respectively to Mrs. Mary Anderson Navarro, his mother, and friends Mr. Louis Spader, and Mr. Charles Pearson.
In the letter to Mary Anderson, he implied his intention to kill himself, saying he would meet her in the next world and bequeathing her three manuscripts which were also found on his person. To Mr. Spader he requested that his body be planted, and a grapevine placed over it “that it may nourish and bring forth fruit to gladden the palate and tickle the brains of posterity.”
The grand jury charged Dougherty with first-degree murder. They also censured the State Lunacy Commission for their policy of marking escaped patients as discharged and admonished Dr. Fleming for allowing Dougherty to remain at large after September 26.
At his trial, the following January, Dougherty’s court-appointed lawyer argued for his acquittal on the grounds of insanity. Dougherty’s rambling testimony which covered the same conspiracy theory that he had been spouting since his first arrest, would seem to bear out the insanity plea, but Dougherty argued that he was not insane and said many times that he would rather be electrocuted than return to the asylum. After six hours of deliberation, the jury returned a compromise verdict—guilty of second-degree murder.
Dougherty’s attorney continued to assert his insanity and argued that he should serve his sentence at the State Insane Asylum in Auburn. Justice Bartlett agreed to appoint a committee to investigate Dougherty’s sanity before deciding his sentence. In February the commission concluded that Dougherty was suffering from a newly named form of insanity called paranoia (formerly known as monomania) characterized by hallucinations and peculiar false beliefs where the sufferer believes he has enemies conspiring against him and that he is of unusual talent, beauty, or importance. His hallucinations, however, did not interfere with his understanding regarding the motives or purport of his trial. In every respect, he comprehended the trial with as keen an intelligence as a perfectly sane person.
After reading the committee’s report, Justice Bartlett concluded that since Dougherty’s mental disease did not prevent him from understanding the proceedings or from making a defense, he was not insane to the extent necessary to prevent the rendition of the jury’s judgment. He sentenced James M. Dougherty to be imprisoned for the rest of his natural life in the State Prison at Sing Sing.
When Weird Darkness returns… you don’t have to go to a cemetery or haunted house to experience the supernatural. You don’t need to drive a cursed road to encounter a ghost. Sometimes the paranormal takes place on military bases.
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When it comes to the paranormal, there seem to be certain places that are well-suited to or seem to draw the most activity. Old abandoned places, ruins, graveyards, dilapidated houses, these are the usual suspects for haunted places, but there are always exceptions to this, and certainly one of these would be military bases, and these locations also have on occasion drawn to them strange stories of the unexplained. It seems that the men and women stationed here would already have enough to worry about besides ghosts and ghouls, but here we will look at some very curious accounts of encounters with strange entities from beyond our understanding at military installations.
One report comes from a witness called Sergeant M., who in 2015 was assigned to 24-hour-desk duty, which entails keeping a full 24-hour watch at a barracks. One of their duties was to keep an eye on soldiers who were demonstrating psychological issues or who had been confined to their barracks to protect those around them and were considered “high risk.” The witness relates a tale about one such individual, who had been kicked out for being a troublemaker and an “angry, hate filled individual that never progressed past Private Second Class in his 20 months in uniform.” The mysterious individual was also apparently rumored to be into black magic and Satanism, and most of the others had kept well away from him. According to the witness, this unruly individual left the barracks without making any effort at all to clean out his filthy room, which would be described thus:
“When he was kicked out, he left his barracks room a complete mess. I’ve seen portable toilets cleaner than his room. The toilet had been broken and didn’t flush, but he had continued to use it. In the closet there were mountains of trash, and rotten food in the sink and refrigerator. The shower was also filled with garbage and water. Aside from the mess, there were strange things as well. When the commander, First Sergeant and myself, the Supply Sergeant, went into his room, we found chicken bones tied together, hanging from strings from the ceiling. They had been lashed together to make seemingly archaic symbols. We counted roughly two dozen before we quit counting. The floor was covered in grime and candles had been lit in a circle. All of the furniture had been stacked out of the way or shoved in the closet. I’ll spare you the description of the smell. But the whole room had an unsettling feeling to it. The air in the room felt wrong. I couldn’t tell at the time if it was the smell or the filth. Whatever the reason, I didn’t want to be in there. We called a special cleanup team and put in a work order to have the room stripped and cleaned by professionals. After they were finished, the room was spotless.”
Not long after this, there allegedly began to trickle in reports of strange phenomena surrounding the room in question. Even though it was still unoccupied there were claims that things could be heard banging around within, and odd odors would also emanate from the room, such as a scent of burning plastic that could not be identified. The witness says that he ended up being assigned to the duty roster that put him into close proximity to the “haunted” room, and one evening he had a very terrifying experience as he was on duty with a private. It started when they suddenly heard a roar come from the room, which he describes as sounding “like metal tearing while someone played a recording of a scream, except distorted and in reverse.” The startled men then warily approached the room, and the witness would say of what happened next thus:
“Being the senior ranking, I instructed the soldier to call the Barracks Representative (LNO) and have him get to the desk as soon as possible. Five minutes later, he and I are using his master key to gain access to the room while my Private covers the hallway from the desk, staying with the phone and also watching our backs. As soon as we enter the foyer, we’re hit with the smell of dog poo and burned plastic. Neither of us can identify the source, but the room is completely empty. We sweep and clear every nook and cranny, later agreeing that we felt like we were being watched the whole time. We found nothing but the smell remained. We decided to re-secure the room and not log the incident, because I, for one, didn’t want to look like a crazy idiot when my boss’s boss read my report. We move for the door. We exit, turn and go to close the door behind us when a massive force hits the door from inside the room, shoving the Barracks Representative out of the doorway and slamming the door shut. None of the doors are allowed to slam, they all have hydraulic arms at the top to prevent that. They’re not even quick to close if a 200 lb male leans on them, so one slamming so hard it could move a grown man is impossible – especially considering it had worked moments prior when we entered the room. We tried to open the lock again, but this time the keycard wouldn’t work. We agreed that neither of us wanted to go in again anyway, and we agreed not to report any of it, because we would be taken as seriously as anyone else. After that incident, I kept an ear out but didn’t hear anything nearly as dramatic again. On another occasion, it sounded like there was some kind of shuffling coming from the room, like someone moving around, but I kept a stalwart face about it and ordered my private to stay away from it as well. To this day, I cannot explain what happened in that room.”
What was this? Was it some sort of demonic entity conjured up by the troubled soldier who had left? It is hard to say. In another case defying classification the tale is told by the nephew of the eyewitness, but it is no less spooky. The uncle, called Bob, was reportedly a new soldier in the Army in 1985, and at the time he was on fence patrol duty at a base in Arizona. As he and a partner made their way around the perimeter, he claimed that they had heard an anomalous noise from behind them, and turned to see a strange sight indeed. According to the one relaying the account:
“When they turned around, they saw an old man dressed in buckskin with long hair in braids. Bob described it was being so grey that “it almost glowed”. The man was standing approximately thirty feet behind them. Both men drew their weapons, as the old man was in a “shoot to kill” area, with warning signs all over the place. Neither Bob or the other man wanted to shoot an old man. They figured that he must have Alzheimer’s, and had wandered into the base or something. After all, he was not being threatening, and appeared harmless. The men shouted to the old man, telling him he was in a restricted area and that he needed to put his hands in the air. Bob thought they’d walk him to post call and call the local police department who would be able to get him back home. Bob tried the radio, but it was just static. Calling his friend to help, both he and Bob turned to tinker with the walkie. Although they only looked away for “half a second”, to quote my uncle, when they turned back the old man was gone. In his place was a massive cottontail (rabbit), just sitting there, watching them.”
The two startled men looked around to see if the old man was still around, but the mysterious stranger was gone, nowhere to be seen. All that was there was this rabbit sitting there staring at them in the desert night. They warily continued on with their duty, and shortly after heard the noise again, this time from the opposite side of the perimeter fence. When they looked, they were shocked to see the same old man standing there on the other side, staring in at them. Since this was a military base, the fence was very high, around 10 feet, and decked out with razor wire, very secure, so it seemed impossible that the old man could have gotten over the fence so quickly without being detected. This was frightening enough that the two men quickly got out of there and never spoke of it with their commanding officer.
This case is particularly interesting due to the location, Arizona, and the apparent shapeshifting quality of the strange intruder. One phenomena often reported from the southwest United States is that of what are called Skinwalkers, basically shape changing entities from Native lore that have been sighted all over the region by often very reliable witnesses. Is that what these two men saw? Unfortunately, this is a second hand account that is impossible to verify, so it is all left to imagination and speculation.
If it was a Skinwalker it certainly wouldn’t be the only one reported by military personnel. I was given a curious account by a reader who says he encountered one in New Mexico, where he had been stationed at the White Sands Missile Range. According to the witness, he had been on guard duty one evening along with a partner and it was typically a rather uneventful, even boring duty, yet on this night they would have a frightening encounter that has stayed with them ever since.
The witness says that as they conducted their patrol his partner stopped him and pointed off into the barren surrounding desert wilderness, where there appeared to be two pinpoints of light hovering over the scrub, around 6 feet in the air. Thinking it was perhaps just a wild animal, they crept closer to its position to find that it seemed to be a tall, dark figure just standing out there in the middle of nowhere in the dark. It then became apparent that this cloaked individual was a man, although with a deeply wrinkled face that looked “ancient.” The witness would describe what happened next:
“We were a little spooked because there should have been no one out there at this time, especially that close to the base. And this guy, he gave off a weird vibe, just standing there staring at us even as we approached. His face, he looked like he was maybe Native American, and I couldn’t tell so well but his skin looked creased, craggy and pockmarked, somehow ancient. He was wrapped up in some kind of cape or cloak and we couldn’t see his hands or feet. We called out to him to identify himself but this guy, he didn’t flinch. I don’t even know if he heard us or not. Well, now we are a bit unsettled, and think we are dealing with a seriously disturbed individual or some senile old fart from a reservation, so we know we have to apprehend him or at least get him out of there. We start getting closer to this guy, who is still standing stock still like a statue and that is when it happens BOOM, he just sort of drops, there is a flutter of the cape, and he is gone. Just gone. My partner calls out in surprise and right then a coyote runs right past us, practically close enough to touch, before dashing off into the night. That old guy, there is no sign of him. It freaked us out for sure.”
It seems like a classic Skinwalker encounter. What did those guys see out there? There have been strange paranormal encounters reported from bases in other areas of the world as well. One account was given by a witness named Adolph Schäfer, who claims to be the equivalent of a sergeant in the unified armed forces of Germany, called the Bundeswehr. He claims to have had a very anomalous experience when he was just a cadet at boot camp in East Germany. One evening at around 5 PM they were apparently out doing drills when they heard some sort of “eerie, unexplainable noises” coming from one of the nearby buildings. They did not think much of it at the time, but then at 8PM the power grid began to go on the fritz, with lights flickering everywhere, which was odd as it had been inspected just a few days before.
The base drill sergeant was convinced that it was just a faulty generator, and had the witness go out with three others to fix it. The men then made their way to the basement where the generators were kept, and there they found that two of the generators worked fine, although one had inexplicably been turned off. It was when they got to the larger third generator when things would get ominous down there in the dank basement, and the witness says of what happened thus:
“The third generator was the largest main source of power in the base. The first thing I noticed were the scratches: this seemingly super-hard-to-break hunk of metal had what I think were scratches and cuts – claw marks – piercing its outer metal shell like a buzzsaw. So deep, the scratches had cut the cords inside and had damaged the batteries as though they were paper. After a moment of thinking I knew this couldn’t have been a person doing this, seeing as nothing any cadet had could cut through that tough metal so easily, I immediately rushed up the stairs to tell my drill sergeant, hoping he would know what to do. He told me, ‘The most we can do is tell base command and put someone guard the door, and have the generator replaced. Good thing reporting this, cadet Schäfer.’ After getting a pat on the back, I resumed my daily training routines without anything too odd happening. But some hours later, sometime in the night (I can’t be exactly sure when), I heard scratching noises, but not from the basement, they were too close and too loud… as if they were in the sleeping quarters. After that moment of realization, I opened my eyes and looked around. I saw what I thought was someone in the corner, going through a bag… But, when I looked around the room, sheer terror came into me: all the bunks were full, every one. ‘Wait….the hell?’, I thought to myself. But, then, as if it had heard what I was thinking, the “thing” in the corner turned to face me. It was a pale grey, with no nose, and claws like razors. This thing was skinny and two feet taller than my six-foot self. After that I just froze in a blank stare of horror. In my mind seconds turned to minutes, minutes turned to hours and hours turned to days….I think I passed out of terror, because all I remember after that is waking up to my buddies and sergeant looking at me, while talking to me, telling me I looked sick. And I felt sick too, like all energy from me was drained for days on end.”
Also strange is another case from way over in Afghanistan, where a witness named Jerry Aberdeen saw something very unusual during his tour of duty out in that forsaken wasteland. It is an account that seems hard to really categorize, but seeming to deal with ghosts, demons, or some other supernatural being. The incident happened to him while he was stationed at an air base in in Mosul, Ninewah Province in 2004, and the witness would say:
“I was attached to 2/3 INF 3 SBCT at FOB Patriot. A call went out on the radio that FOB Diamondback (the airfield) was under attack. Everyone on every FOB from, Courage, Blickenstaff, Patriot and Marez jumped into the closest vehicle and headed to the airfield to counter the attack. I was in a vehicle with some other infantry guys, an engineer and a PsyOps guy. When we got to the airfield we saw some dudes trying to climb over the wall. The gunner opened up on them and the rest of us took up a position in a ditch on the other side of the road and opened fire. There were three of us side by side, the engineer, the PsyOps guys and myself. We fired and one guy and he dropped from the top of the wall (hard to tell who actually shot him). Right after he fell there was stream of black smoke coming out of him. The engineer made that comment that he must have been wearing a suicide vest and it malfunctioned. A few seconds later the black smoke grew larger and started to take a human looking form. What happened next all three of us saw and there was no doubt. The now fully materialized black smoke was standing upright and now had red smoky glowing eyes and a weird looking mouth. The damn thing actually smiled at us and turned to, sort of run but it just dissipated after it took a few steps. Very hard to describe how it all happened. All three of us just looked at each other wide eyed for a second or two. After it was all over we only spoke about once then never again.”
What sort of entity was this, if it ever really existed at all? There is no way to know. And that seems to be a recurring theme with all of these reports. Here we have looked at an assortment of cases of what seem to be very odd paranormal entities of some sort, but which seem to elude easy categorization. What are these things and what do they want? Are we looking at ghosts, Skinwalkers, demons, or all of the above? Considering the range of differences between these cases there is probably no clear answer that can explain all of them, and they probably represent very different disparate phenomena, but one common question we can ask why have they been drawn to these military installations? Or are these merely creepy campfire stories being told by some soldiers for a good laugh? As usual we are left with some very jolting accounts and hints, but no clear answers to any of these, and once again we have more to pile onto the great big pile of weird things we may never understand.
Up next on Weird Darkness, we’ll step into the Chamber of Comments.
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Here in the Chamber of Comments I answer your emails, comments, podcast reviews, letters I get in the mail, and more. You can find all of my contact information, postal address, and social media links on the CONTACT page at WeirdDarkness.com. While you’re there, 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 Michaela C.): Hi Darren, How are you? I heard you said it takes you so much time to put the podcast together and I know you broadcast every day. How do you do it? Also, you donate all your profit to charities which help fight depression. How do you survive? I’m worried you’re doing too much and trying to help people to the detriment of your own quality of life. It’s totally non of my business but I just wanted to say that you must make sure you aren’t burning yourself out. We can survive with less content or less podcasts. All your profit doesn’t need to go to charity to make you a good person. You’re allowed to make a living. I adore your podcast and I’ve become fond of you too, although I don’t know you from Adam. Please make sure you’re looking after yourself too. We can manage on less. Take care, Michaela C., Chichester, UK
REPLY: Hello, Michaela. First and foremost, I am floored at how you have come to me, a complete stranger that, as you put it, you don’t know from Adam, and have shown such compassion, love and concern for my well-being. You are the first person in my five years of doing the podcast that has come to me and has been concerned about my financial well-being and was afraid I was giving too much. You are a gem, and I am proud to have you as a listener. That being said, you’ve either misunderstood, or I’ve done a poor job explaining (which very well may be the case) that not all profits I make are being donated to charity. All profits I make from the Weird Darkness Store are donated – so, essentially, all the merchandise I sell. But I still make a living by having ads that play during the podcast, I have sponsors that want to be a part of the podcast and pay to do so, and I’ve even had other podcasts pay to be featured in my podcast’s stream. All of that still comes to me and my bride, which we use to survive. I am also a full-time voice artist. So along with the podcast, I’m also voicing commercials around the world for a variety of products and services, I do a lot of voice work for independent video game creators, I’ve done numerous movie trailers for indie film, I’ve narrated sales presentations, audiobooks, etc. I use that money to pay the bills as well. I also have an amazing group of patrons that pay for the commercial-free version of the podcast (among other things they receive) and that helps me to pay the bills as well. I am by no means getting filthy-rotten-stinking-rich on all of this, as each thing I do doesn’t really pay all that much, but all of it combined keeps a roof over my head, the bills paid, and my beautiful bride happy to still be married to me. In fact, we’ve agreed on our own definition of “wealthy” – and it’s this: “Wealthy is when you can go to the grocery store and not check your bank balance first to make sure you have enough to buy food.” Anything over and above that is a blessing. Thank you again, Michaela. I wish every person on this planet had a heart like yours. God bless you.
(Email from Johnathon B.): Good evening Mr. Marlar, I wanted to commend you on “Time Travel’s True Stories, and Urban Legends” (Airing last Tuesday, 25 August 2020); that podcast is undoubtedly in your top ten. It even made my nine-year-old daughter raise a questioning eyebrow, look at me saying, “Dad, what just happened there?” She spoke of your spot-on use of sound effects, ending the first story, and starting the second part as if the first part never even happened. We loved the sound of the old reel-to-reel tape, the ticking clock, and the voice reversal; an excellent job, Mr. Marlar! Secondly, we also enjoyed your most recent “Church of the Undead” episode concerning the COVID-19 vaccine. It is unbelievable some of us may consider the vaccine as the “Mark of the Beast.” I am pagan but study the Bible intimately. Yes, even religiously, it is a fantastic book. To talk about the book of “Revelation” with such a diverse crowd takes a good deal of courage, and I commend you. Concerning the Tribulation, I am awaiting the two Prophets to show up at the wall and begin pontificating for nearly three and a half years. There are few different thoughts on that; some think they preach for the first three and a half years of the Tribulation. I tend to believe they are the precursor to the Tribulation (Revelation Chapter 11); what are your thoughts? Stay weird, Jonathan B.
REPLY: Hi, Johnathan! Glad you liked the time-travel episode. I’ll admit I had a lot of fun putting that one together. That effect of reversing, and the time travel machinery, etc., took a long time to put together but I was feeling particularly creative that day and didn’t mind putting in an additional two hours of work for five minutes of material. I also think it’s pretty cool that even as a Pagan you are still listening to “The Church of the Undead”, seeing as that is pretty much a sermon each week! I actually hadn’t heard anything about the COVID-19 vaccine being controversial as it was until I received an email from Crosswalk.com – which I used as a launching point for the message. I was shaking my head the whole way through reading it. It’s amazing what some people will believe simply because a celebrity says it or they see it in a headline somewhere from a source that isn’t all that trustworthy. I don’t have an opinion about the two witnesses – I’ve not really spent much time looking at that aspect of Revelation. I remember reading the “Left Behind” book series and I thought it was interesting that they made the witnesses the glorified bodies of Moses and Elijah. But honestly, we’ll have no idea until it actually happens. I am definitely pre-Tribulation when it comes to the rapture, but all of this is a topic for a future sermon, I guess!
I actually received a real paper and envelope, hand-written letter in the mail today which was a wonderful surprise! It’s a letter from Kayla B., and here is what she writes: “Dear Darren, thank you for all your hard work on the podcast. I recently found it and cannot stop listening. I listen while at work. With everything in chaos in the world, it’s amazing to have something to distract me. I battle a war within everyday, and knowing you always have scripture at the end helps me. I gave my life to the Lord at age 10 – I am 27 now. I’ve made so many mistakes and got in a really bad place to a point I was going to end it. But God spoke to me in that still calm voice. I learned that day that I truly am not alone. Not long after, I found the podcast. So thank you for spreading His word and being a hero of the faith. Ecclesiastes 3:1. Sincerely, Kayla B. P.S., please make the Weird Church a thing!
REPLY: Kayla… I can’t tell you how much it means to me that you actually sat down and wrote a letter, old school. Nobody does that anymore, and I’m impressed. That also allowed me to get your address so I could put you on my Halloween card list! It’s great to know I have another Weirdo in Christ listening, and I do plan to keep the Church of the Undead going, so long as the Lord is willing. God bless you, Kayla – and thanks again!
(Email from Dr. Cameron in Sydney, Australia): Dear Darren, just wanted to reach out and say thanks for an amazing podcast. I’m a little bit addicted to listen to you! I suffer from a bit of misophonia and tinnitus, so getting to sleep can be a bit tricky. Having a cool podcast to put on and doze off to is fantastic. And of course, once I do fall asleep and miss a few stories, I can always listen to them again later! Although, I will say, some of your episodes are definitely responsible for some of the weirder dreams I’ve had. One thing I’d like to mention is the negative mail you’ve got about the Christianity stuff on your show. I just wanted to say, as a 100%, dyed-in-the-wool atheist, I say your Christianity stuff is great. This is your podcast, and it’s your opportunity to express this important part of your life and share it with us. You are never judgy, rude or negative – you just use your platform to let people know someone, somewhere, cares about them. And to be honest, whenever anyone does that – whether it is through literature, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, or whatever else – I think that’s awesome. Keep doing what you do, and thanks for making my darkness a little more weird. Sincerely, Dr Cameron
REPLY: Hello, Doc! Thank you very much for the encouragement. I appreciate your attitude about encouraging others too, as that is exactly what I’m hoping to achieve. Of course, I find my encouragement in God, and do want to share that with others, but I also try to pick verses that are just uplifting in general, and I appreciate you recognizing that. If someone wants more God stuff, they can always attend the Church of the Undead! I have a bit of tinnitus myself – probably from the 40+ years of listening to headphones too loudly, combined with some of the medications I take. I had to look up misophonia to remind myself what that was. If I understand you correctly, it’s a condition where certain normal sounds will irritate you – like someone breathing, or the sound of someone chewing. I’m going to assume that whatever sounds are your trigger, I’m not making them, otherwise you wouldn’t still be listening! My trigger is the sound of my mother-in-law’s voice. But that probably has nothing to do with any disorder.
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.
Thanks for listening. This episode was sponsored by Roaster’s Marketplace – the only place you can find the brand new Weird DarkRoast Coffee. You can grab a bag for yourself by clicking the link on the Weird Darkness website.
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Be sure to join me for a new sermon every Sunday at my other podcast, “The Church of the Undead”, also found at WeirdDarkness.com. Do you have a dark tale to tell of your own? Fact or fiction, click on “Tell Your Story” on the website 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 Fire Spook of Caledonia Mills” by Hammerson Peters for MysteriesOfCanada.com
“The Lunatic James Dougherty” by Robert Wilhelm for MurderByGaslight.com
“The Military and the Mysterious” by Brent Swancer for MysteriousUniverse.org
“The Murder of Maggie Walker” posted on the website Murders In History
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… “I can do all this through him who gives me strength.” – Philippians 4:13
And a final thought… “Do not let the shadows of your past darken the doorstep of your future. Forgive and forget.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.