“THE DEVIL’S TRAMPING GROUND” and 3 More Creepy and Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

THE DEVIL’S TRAMPING GROUND” and 3 More Creepy and Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

VOTE for Weird Darkness as “Best Horror and Crime Podcast”: https://WeirdDarkness.com/VOTE
Please share Weird Darkness with your friends, family, and co-workers who love the paranormal, horror stories, or true crime – and thanks for doing so!

 

Listen to ““THE DEVIL’S TRAMPING GROUND” and 3 More Creepy and Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: In Chatham County, North Carolina there is a 40-foot wide circle in the wilderness where absolutely nothing grows. Not only can scientists not explain it, but some believe Satan himself is responsible. (The Devil’s Tramping Ground) *** 
John George Haigh took the plunge into murder when he knocked out his old boss and dumped the body into acid – then set out to kill again. (Acid Bath Murderer) *** Only two percent of the population can hear it. A persistent, maddening sound that science has no explanation for, and the hearers have dubbed it, “The Hum”. (The Hum) *** The Tromp family fled their farm in 2016. There is still no explanation as to why, and one police officer calls it “the most bizarre case” he has ever seen. (The Tromp Family Fleeing)

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

LINKS, EPISODES, AND PAGES MENTIONED IN THIS EPISODE…
Become a Patron: https://WeirdDarkness.com/WEIRDO
Weird Darkness store: https://WeirdDarkness.com/STORE
Social media, Email and Contact Info: https://WeirdDarkness.com/CONTACT
The Church of the Undead: http://TheChurchOfTheUndead.com

STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“Acid Bath Murderer” by Steven Casale: http://bit.ly/2ZjRJxx
“The Hum” by Garret Harkawik: http://bit.ly/2HiiVCP
“The Devil’s Tramping Ground” by Zach Seemayer: http://bit.ly/2L0KbGP
“The Fleeing of the Tromp Family” by Jacob Shelton: http://bit.ly/30kzFRc
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music, varying by episode, provided by Alibi Music, EpidemicSound and/or AudioBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and/or Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission.

MY RECORDING TOOLS…

* MICROPHONE (Neumann TLM103): http://amzn.to/2if01CL
* POP FILTER (AW-BM700): http://amzn.to/2zRIIyK
* XLR CABLE (Mogami Gold Studio): http://amzn.to/2yZXJeD
* MICROPHONE PRE-AMP (Icicle): http://amzn.to/2vLqLzg
* SOFTWARE (Adobe Audition): http://amzn.to/2vLqI6E
* HARDWARE (iMac Pro): https://amzn.to/2suZGkA
I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use. If I somehow overlooked doing that for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll rectify it the show notes as quickly as possible.
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
Find out how to escape eternal darkness at https://weirddarkness.com/eternaldarkness
WeirdDarkness™ – is a registered trademark. Copyright ©Weird Darkness 2020.

= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

TRANSCRIPT:

DISCLAIMER==========

Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and is intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.

INTRODUCTION==========

Located near Siler City in the forest of Chatham County, NC, the notorious Devil’s Tramping Ground is a circle of barren earth that has inspired fearful myths and frightening legends spanning generations. Believed to be the preferred place for the Lord of Darkness to walk alone and contemplate humanity’s demise, stories of the evil energies surrounding the lifeless clearing reach back hundreds of years. While rumors of the Devil’s role in the location’s origin have persisted for generations, modern times have brought more modern theories to the table. Some believe the ground was cursed by the bloodshed of a Native American conflict, while others think the patch is the result of extraterrestrial UFO radiation. More grounded theories propose the earth remains barren as the result of unusually high levels of salt in the soil. Whatever the theory, plenty of people have added to the area’s mythology in recent years. We’ll take a look at some creepy stories and legends about the Devil’s Tramping Ground that might have you rethinking your late-summer camping plans.

I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.

SHOW OPEN==========

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…

John George Haigh took the plunge into murder when he knocked out his old boss and dumped the body into acid – then set out to kill again.

Only two percent of the population can hear it. A persistent, maddening sound that science has no explanation for, and the hearers have dubbed it, “The Hum”.

The Tromp family fled their farm in 2016. There is still no explanation as to why, and one police officer calls it “the most bizarre case” he has ever seen.

But first…

In Chatham County, North Carolina there is a 40-foot wide circle in the wilderness where absolutely nothing grows. Not only can scientists not explain it, but some believe Satan himself is responsible.

We’ll begin with that story.

While listening, be sure to check out the Weird Darkness website. At WeirdDarkness.com you can sign up for the newsletter to win monthly prizes, find paranormal and horror audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies for free, listen to 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.

By the way, 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!

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

TRAMPING GROUND

The Devil’s Tramping Ground got its name from its lack of living vegetation within a clearly defined circle. According to the Encyclopedia of North Carolina, “Normal vegetation surrounds the circle, but only a wiry grass grows inside it, and no plant life of any kind can be found on the path itself.”

Additionally, “Locals have been unsuccessful in trying to transplant the wiry grass to other soils,” and any living vegetation intentionally planted within the Devil’s Tramping Ground withers soon after.

As dictated by local legend, any foreign object placed inside the circle – and especially within the barren, foot-wide path that encompasses it – will disappear from the area by the next day.

A similar claim is presented by the website North Carolina Ghosts: If an object is left in the circle before dusk, it will be aggressively moved outside of the circle by dawn.

Even people are allegedly ejected from the clearing in the night. According to a legend shared by Tumblr user al-the-stuff-i-like, “Boy scout troops have tried camping on it, and woken up in their tents a few miles away. Some guys tried to stay up all night in a tent on the spot, and later reported that a soft, soothing melodic voice lulled them to sleep and they too woke up a few miles away.”

The barren circle and the desolate path that surrounds it are often attributed to the Devil himself, who allegedly walks the circle at night, plotting and scheming. The Coloradoan interviewed locals for insight into the infamous area, explaining, “Legend has it, the circle is the Devil’s playground. Believers say every night when the clock strikes 12, he comes up one path and stomps around in a circle – [eliminating] all growth and life – before going back down a second path.”

North Carolina Ghosts, a site devoted to all the local legends of the Tar Heel State, shares: ***In his Tramping Ground, The Devil spends his nights pacing around and around in a circle and turning his bitter mind towards ways to bring human souls to damnation. It’s the scorching heat of his cloven hoofprints that [withers] the vegetation and has rendered the soil barren. He angrily brushes aside anything left in his path, his great strength easily able to toss aside even the heaviest objects.***

According to locals, hunting dogs and pets refuse to cross the circle’s path, and many reportedly bark, growl, snarl, and bare their teeth in the direction of the clearing. According to North Carolina Ghosts, dogs whimper when they near the circle. Other animals will dig their heels into the sand and refuse to be brought into the circle’s bounds.

Many supernatural explanations for the Tramping Ground have been suggested, and many of them involve the land’s rumored importance to Native American tribes in the area. In Kala Ambrose’s book Ghosthunting North Carolina, she recounts local legends claiming that early settlers believed the barren circle was “a sacred area” belonging to the local tribes. These tribes allegedly used the site for ceremonies and rituals.

Local lore collected by the website North Carolina Ghosts presents a similar yet more unfortunate tale, claiming that “the place was the site of a battle between two rival tribes… [and] the blood of [the victims] soaked the ground so thoroughly that nothing would ever grow there again.”

The Lost Colony of Roanoke has sparked some of the most famous, outlandish, and frightening supernatural theories in the history of the US, and some believe that all of these can be tied to the Devil’s Tramping Ground.

The entire colony of Roanoke Island seemingly disappeared from what is now North Carolina when the colony’s leader, John White, returned to England for supplies. The only remaining clue was the word “Croa” (or possibly “Croatoan”) carved into a tree.

Some local legends suggest that a battle fought by two Native American tribes at the site of the Devil’s Tramping Ground scarred the land, and the losing tribe eventually fled to the Outer Banks. There, they formed the Croatan tribe and befriended the Roanoke Island colonists, who intermarried into the Croatan tribe to avoid total starvation.

In essence, the legend claims the Tramping Ground is cursed by the blood of the tribe’s fallen warriors.

Given the perfectly circlular and lifeless patch of earth that makes up the Devil’s Tramping Ground – and the clearing’s supposed similarity to crop circles – modern local legends have begun suggesting the site could be the result of visitors from another world.

One of the most prominent theories linking the locale to extraterrestrials addresses the unusual circular pattern of the barren patch. According to more recent lore, the location was possibly the site of a super-advanced UFO, which radiated the land and exterminated the grass.

One of the most remarkable and unusual aspects of the Devil’s Tramping Ground is its unusual geometric shape. The area isn’t just a broad patch of barren earth – it’s a nearly perfect circle, measuring between 30 and 40 feet in diameter.

Perfect circles, rarely seen in natural formations, are often folklorically connected to supernatural occurrences. For example, circles of mushrooms are widely known as fairy rings.

Perhaps stranger than the desolate circle itself is the utterly barren “foot path” – the one supposedly paced by the Devil – that surrounds a slightly less scorched central circle. One geometrically perfect circle in the middle of the forest is uncommon, but two occuring naturally is extremely rare.

Those who originally settled in Chatham County were largely of Scottish, Irish, and German descent. They came from an age in Europe in which beliefs in the Devil and other supernatural phenomena were very popular. In general, these entities were widely feared.

King James IV (also known as King James I) even wrote a book in 1603 about black magic, witches, demons, and the Prince of Darkness, entitled Daemonologie.

When the Devil-fearing Scotch-Irish immigrants began settling in the US – especially in North Carolina – they brought their devout, old-world beliefs with them. This may be one reason why many geographical oddities and unusual locales, including the Tramping Ground, soon became associated with the Dark Lord.

As North Carolina Ghosts points out, “North Carolina has a Devil’s Rock, a Devil’s Courthouse, Seven Devils, Kill Devil Hills, Devil’s Branch, Devil’s Chimney, Devil’s Nest, four Devil’s Elbows, two Devil’s Forks, a Devil’s Knob, [and] even The Devil’s Tater Patch.”

The Devil’s Tramping Ground is said to be as old as Chatham County itself, which was founded in 1771. The legend of the Devil himself pacing Chatham County’s forests was allegedly brought over by the Scotch-Irish settlers in the 18th century, when fear of the Devil was extremely widespread.

Stories, urban legends, and local lore surrounding the strange appearance and unsettling energy of the Devil’s Tramping Ground have been recorded for nearly three centuries and have been reported by Chatham locals, visitors, and passersby.

“The mystery of the Devil’s Tramping Ground has been known since Chatham County was founded shortly before the War for Independence,” North Carolina Ghosts explains. “From generation to generation, the story has been passed down.”

When the location is linked to the actual Devil himself, one recurring suggestion claims that no one can ever spend the night without losing their sanity. This is perhaps due to the rumor that the Devil, when pacing the circle, “Drops the illusions with which he disguises himself when he appears to men. In his natural state the face of this fallen angel is so horrible that no man can see it and remain sane.”

The lore surrounding the area stresses than when people have tried to spend the night in the circle – possibly to disprove the rumor of the Devil’s pacing or, alternatively, to meet the Devil himself – “Something they see on their vigils drives them out of their wits, never to recover.”

Reporter Ethan Feinsilver took two dogs and a “brave female companion” along for a camping trip to the Devil’s Tramping Ground. They set up their tent in the middle of the circle and spent the night there.

“None of us woke up outside the circle,” Feinsilver wrote. “My 1988 Nissan Sentra didn’t stall when I drove it over the circle. The dogs romped happily – no cowering.”

However, Feinsilver admitted that – likely due to “power of suggestion” and the prominence of the legend – his adventure wasn’t entirely uneventful: ***I thought I heard footfalls… They weren’t nearly loud enough to be someone walking around the tent. They were muffled. Sort of ghostly. One of the dogs was staring out the screen window with a dreamy look.***

North Carolina soil scientist Richard Hayes told the Coloradoan that he began testing the soil of the Devil’s Tramping Ground in the mid-2000s. He studied the area under the hypothesis that there “was something… inhibiting plant growth. One of the natural things we find in Chatham County is copper.”

According to the report, the results didn’t show any copper, and they didn’t prove another of Hayes’ theories about high salt concentration. Hayes concluded that he couldn’t explain what was happening at the site scientifically.

Hayes later said that, despite higher concentrations of certain minerals inside the circle than outside of it, “None of the readings, none of the data we got showed us that plants couldn’t live there.”

According to a sign posted along the path leading up to the circle, the area is now additionally known as “the Chatham County Votex,” and it’s described as a “famous energy vortex.”

“A Magdalene Crystal Column of energy is anchored to this site,” the sign declares. “This very high vibrating energy helps to balance feminine and masculine energies, strengthens harmony, and expands human consciousness.”

The philosophy of Magdalene Crystal Columns is rooted in the new-age belief of an invisible network of divine, feminine “Ma-Ray” energy surrounding the planet, based on the spiritual power of Mary Magdalene.

BREAK==========

Up next…

John George Haigh took the plunge into murder when he knocked out his old boss and dumped the body into acid – then set out to kill again.

But first, only two percent of the population can hear it. A persistent, maddening sound that science has no explanation for, and the hearers have dubbed it, “The Hum”. That story is up next on Weird Darkness.

THE HUM

Some describe it as sounding like an engine idling just outside the house. Others report hearing a low-frequency rumble. But almost everyone who can hear it—2 percent of the population, by some estimates—agrees on one thing: “the hum,”as it has come to be called, is a persistent, maddening noise for which the scientific world has no known explanation.
Since it was first reported in Bristol, England, in 1970, this elusive phenomenon has plagued thousands of people across the globe, slowly eroding their sanity. One of them is Steve Kohlhase, an industrial-facilities mechanical engineer living in Brookfield, Connecticut. In Garret Harkawik’s short documentary Doom Vibrations, Kohlhase describes the noise: “Your ears are ringing real bad. If it’s a bad day, it feels like your brain is being squeezed. It’s nauseating.” Kohlhase says his dog, too, seems to suffer from the noise; once Kohlhase started hearing it, the canine became lethargic, and has never recovered.
In the film, Kohlhase lays out the extensive evidence he has collected on the unexplained noise pollution. The quest for answers has consumed him; he estimates that he has spent $30,000 on legal fees and equipment related to his independent investigation. The single through line in all reported cases Kohlhase has studied, he says, is that the locations are along high-pressure gas pipelines, or at least in close proximity to them.
The phenomenon has spawned many conspiracy theories. Sufferers, known as “hummers,” have pointed fingers at sources such as electrical power lines, wireless communication devices, and low-frequency electromagnetic radiation. For decades, doctors dismissed patients’ complaints as tinnitus, an auditory problem that affects 15 percent of people. But the latest research suggests that the noise is not a hallucination and that many hummers do not suffer from impaired hearing.
Dr. David Baguley, an audiologist at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge, estimates that about a third of cases can be attributed to environmental causes, such as industrial machinery at a nearby factory. But the majority of cases remain unexplained. Baguley himself believes that many of his patients suffer from extreme sensitivity to signals outside the normal range of human hearing.
“I think most people view the hum as a fringe belief,” Harkawik told me, “because it’s so subjective—people say they hear something that most people can’t hear. But when you look at the vast number of people who say they hear it, it’s obvious that there’s something going on.”
So, does the filmmaker subscribe to Kohlhase’s gas-pipeline theory? “Some parts are definitely believable; others less so,” Harkawik said. He admits that some of Kohlhase’s wilder extrapolations veer into conspiracy-theory territory. “I don’t think we will ever know for sure, though, since it would require an extraordinary amount of coordination and work to prove it.”
But Harkawik was drawn to Kohlhase’s story regardless of the relative plausibility of his claims. “When I make something about a person with unusual beliefs, I no longer go into it thinking, What will it be like if they realize they’re wrong?” he said. “I spend more time on how they arrived at their beliefs and what of myself I see in them.”
In this case, the filmmaker identified with Kohlhase’s obsessive devotion to his project, despite the fact that it had very little broad appeal. “The response to his research was underwhelming to him, but the people he has positively impacted keep him going,” Harkawik said. “I often feel the same way about documentary film—I spend years on a project, inevitably feel underwhelmed by the response, but ultimately keep working because one or two people email me to say it meant something to them. I think most creative people would identify with Steve’s story.”

ACID BATH MURDERER

Red wine, ice cream, a warm bath – these are wonderful ways to unwind after a long day at work. But as we’ve seen time and again, even the most soothing of activities can be twisted into terror by a madman’s dark imagination.

Such is the grisly case of John George Haigh, a serial killer from England who used bubble baths of acid to dispose of his victims.

Born in 1909 to an ultra-religious Plymouth Brethren family, John George Haigh was raised in Yorkshire, England. His upbringing was strict, to say the least – his father reportedly constructed a 10-foot fence around their yard as a means of blocking out the neighbors.

With no playmates, young John grew up alone. At night, he was haunted by nightmares.

The first signs of trouble appeared in his early 20s. After a series of odd office jobs, John was canned on the suspicion that he’d stolen company money.

His life took a brief turn for the better in 1934, when he married a woman named Betty Hamer – but the marriage fell apart. Soon after, John landed himself in jail for fraud.

While behind bars, Betty gave birth to a baby girl, whom she put up for adoption. John’s conservative parents refused to accept the decision, and forever shunned their son from the family.

Alone, John moved south to London, where he picked up work as a chauffeur for a wealthy businessman named William McSwan in 1936. Yet his criminal ways bubbled back up. For the next seven years, John was in and out of jail for various crimes. It was during this time that he dreamed up the perfect murder.

How can one kill and then truly get rid of the body? Sulfuric acid, of course.

To test his plan, John caught mice and submerged their helpless bodies in acid. There he saw it: the critters were gone within 30 minutes.

In 1943 John was freshly released from prison and reconnected with his old boss, William McSwan. William invited the freed convict to dinner at his parents’ home in celebration.

Shortly thereafter, William disappeared.

John told William’s parents that the man had gone into hiding to avoid being drafted into World War II. But the truth was far grislier: John had lured William into his basement where he cracked him on the head, then dumped him into a 40-gallon barrel of sulfuric acid.

Within a couple of days, William went from grown man to goop.

Afterward, John moved into William’s estate, claiming the businessman had asked him to do so. But with WWII drawing to a close, William’s parents wondered why their son remained in hiding.

They soon voiced their suspicions to John. He knew of one way to quiet the fussy couple – give them an acid bath.

With the entire McSwan family now out of the picture, John began cashing William’s pension checks. He sold off their belongings for around £8,000 (£300,000 in today’s pounds). With money in hand, the killer moved into the Onslow Court Hotel in London’s posh Kensington district.

Eventually, however, the funds ran out – especially after John gambled much of it away.

While on the hunt for more cash, the killer spotted a promising real estate ad in the local paper. He traveled to the home of Dr. Archibald Henderson and his wife, Rose (pictured above). Pretending to be an interested buyer, John soon struck up a relationship with the affluent couple.

In February of 1948 John convinced his newfound friends to take a drive into the country and visit his new workshop in West Sussex.

Upon arrival, John gunned down the Hendersons and dumped their bodies in the baths. He then collected their belongings and pawned it off for money.

Yes, the Acid Bath Murderer had cooked up quite the chilling racket – lure wealthy acquaintances out to his workshop of horrors, send them to the vats, then sell off their possessions for cold hard cash.

John’s next and final victim was Olive Durand-Deacon (pictured below), a wealthy widow living at the Onslow Court Hotel.

Of all possible things, Ms. Durand-Deacon wanted to meet with John to discuss a brilliant new idea – artificial fingernails. John happily invited her to his West Sussex workshop, where he shot her dead and submerged her body in acid.

This time, however, the Acid Bath Murderer failed to cover his tracks. Detectives soon connected the missing woman to John, and began looking into his lengthy record of prior arrests. When authorities searched his West Sussex workshop, they found evidence of Ms. Durand-Deacon plus some papers referring to his earlier victims.

As for the body-erasing acid baths? The plan was not as foolproof as John thought. A pathologist identified three gallstones and a piece of a denture amongst the remaining sludge – objects that could withstand a slathering of sulfuric acid.

Authorities arrested John and charged him with murder. He soon confessed to the killings. The man pled insanity, claiming he had been driven mad by a childhood nightmare that returned to him as an adult.

“I saw before me a forest of crucifixes which gradually turned into trees,” John recounted of the dream. “At first, there appeared to be dew or rain, dripping from the branches, but as I approached I realized it was blood. The whole forest began to writhe and the trees, dark and erect, to ooze blood…A man went from each tree catching the blood…When the cup was full, he approached me. ‘Drink,’ he said, but I was unable to move.”

The courtroom had little interest in John’s strange vision. A guilty verdict was handed down on all counts. In August 1949, John George Haigh was put to death by one of England’s longest serving executioners, Albert Pierrepoint.

BREAK==========

Up next…

The Tromp family fled their farm in 2016. There is still no explanation as to why, and one police officer calls it “the most bizarre case” he has ever seen.

That story when Weird Darkness returns.

TROMP FAMILY

In late August of 2016, the Tromp family of Silvan, Australia, abandoned the family berry farm and successful earth-moving business and went off the grid, albeit briefly. The members of the family left their cell phones, passports, and credit cards behind with no explanation or warning that they were leaving town. The family – Mark and Jacoba and their adult children, Riana, Mitchell, and Ella – drove north.

Why did the Tromp family leave behind all their possessions? And why would they put on such a bizarre act with everyone they came across? Even after the family returned home after nearly a week, there were no answers. The media and amateur sleuths have speculated about possible reasons, but the speculation remains just that, and the family’s temporary exodus remains an enigma.

On August 29, 2016, members of the Tromp family piled into the family car and drove away from their berry farm – and their successful business – without so much as a word to their friends and extended family.

The family, Mark and Jacoba Tromp, along with their adult children Mitchell, Ella, and Riana, left Silvan, east of Melbourne, and drove nearly a thousand miles across Australia. No one realized the family was missing, at first – but it wasn’t long before the family of five splintered into individual groups, their erratic behavior finally drawing attention to the situation at hand.

When the police were alerted to the family’s bizarre disappearance by Riana and Ella, the first thing they did was pay a visit to the Tromps’ abandoned berry farm. Inside the house – the doors were unlocked – authorities discovered personal possessions left conspicuously out in the open.

Passports, cell phones, and credit cards – the kinds of items most people in the modern world would take with them on a road trip – were left sitting on a table. The abandoned items suggested the Tromps didn’t want to be followed.

The one member of the family who realized something was off about his parents was their son Mitchell, who brought along his phone on this impromptu excursion. He realized the family was being delusional, and that his phone would be the one lifeline to civilization if things were to go south.

When his parents found out about the phone, they made Mitchell throw it out the car window to keep them from being electronically tracked. Once that was out of the equation, the family was truly cut off from civilization.

Five-hundred miles into the family’s thousand-mile road trip, Mitchell Tromp had enough of his family’s shenanigans and left them to their own devices. At 7 am in Bathurst, west of Sydney, he left the group and took a series of trains home.

After everyone returned home safe and sound, Mitchell expressed regret at leaving his family when he did. He told the press he should have helped his family as things spiraled out of control, but at the time his decision made sense: ***I thought getting out was the best idea for me at the time. In hindsight, I should have tried to stay with them and try and help to bring them back around and talk to them more, but I got out of the car.***

No one knew the family was missing until Riana and Ella Tromp cut away from their parents while at the Jenolan Caves, a popular tourist destination. The two sisters took possession of a car and drove to Goulburn, about two hours south of their departure point.

Once they arrived, the girls reported their parents missing, a call that sent the country’s authorities on a scramble to find the couple. After regrouping at home, Mitchell and Ella spoke to the press about their parents’ odd behavior, saying they had never acted this way before – but insisting they weren’t dangerous.

After Ella and Riana escaped to Goulborn, they went their separate ways. Ella drove the rest of the way home, while Riana – still apparently suffering from some form of psychosis – slipped into the back of a truck.

The driver didn’t realize Riana was hiding in his truck bed until he’d been on the road for about an hour. When he tried to speak to her, she was in a catatonic state, and claimed she didn’t know who or where she was. It was only after she was taken to a psychiatric hospital that she was identified as Riana Tromp.

After taking a car in Goulburn, Ella had the wheels to make it back home before the rest of her siblings. After her arrival, Mitchell got back as well, having hopped a few trains in order to make it back to the family farm.

The police were already waiting for the siblings. Ella was charged with taking the vehicle while the police continued their search for the parents. However, under Section 33 of the Mental Health Act of New South Wales, the charges were later dropped.

Once their children parted ways, the parents didn’t stick together for long. While Jacoba tried to take a bus back home, Mark continued his streak of unsettling behavior.

He began tailgating a young couple, who eventually stopped their car. Mark responded by getting out of his vehicle, but after standing in the middle of the road and staring at the couple for a brief time, he suddenly ran into the woods.

Following his disappearance, Mark was connected with break-ins at Millers Cottage, a hotel in Wangaratta, and the Milawa General Store. Nothing was taken or damaged, so the Wangaratta authorities didn’t press charges.

As Mark Tromp was causing small-scale havoc across the Wangaratta area, his wife was attempting to travel home. However, she was in too much of a state of shock to get further than Yass, a little over three hours away from Wangaratta.

Once she arrived in Yass, she tried to book a hotel room but didn’t have any way of paying. After exhibiting various signs of confusion, she was transported to a hospital by one of the locals.

The staff immediately recognized who she was and called the police. She was checked into a psychiatric hospital and placed under observation.

One of the strangest details about the Tromp family’s disappearance, and one that lends itself to many conspiracy theories, is the surplus of financial documents the police found when they searched the family’s home.

In addition to the credit cards, cell phones, and passports found lying around, authorities discovered stacks of the Tromps’ financial records. From the looks of it, the family had gone through their personal records and placed them all around the house before taking off.

When asked to explain the odd behavior – including but not limited to their sudden departure – the Tromp family didn’t have an answer. The family wasn’t on drugs, and nobody was diagnosed with any mental health issues.

A police officer who knows the family personally said the Tromps weren’t in debt, nor were they part of any fringe religious groups. After leaving the hospital, Riana Tromp said stress had been building up in the family for years, and suggested the incident was simply how the tension finally let itself out.

While the Tromps chalk up their inexplicable, if temporary, behavior to a build-up of stress, online observers and other amateur sleuths have come up with their own theories reasons to explain the family’s disappearance.

Some people believe the mob was in pursuit, primarily owing to the financial statements stacked up in the Tromps’ home – but there’s no evidence of any involvement with organized crime.

Among other suggested possibilities are environmental toxins from the family’s farm – although once again, the details about what those toxins are, and what effect they may have had, remain vague. The Australian media has questioned whether carbon monoxide was the culprit.

The BBC reports Mark was increasingly stressed out and growing paranoid that someone was after his money. The report went on to suggest that his paranoia may have inflicted members of his family, leading to a psychiatric condition known as Folie à deux, or “the madness of two.”

After six days, the family was finally brought back together when Mark Tromp was found walking near the Wangaratta airport. Police determined he was not a threat and released him into the care of his brother, a police officer.

Mark’s strange behavior initially continued on the drive back home, but he later settled down and even released a statement thanking the authorities who found him and apologizing for his actions.

An officer in the Silvan district of Victoria called the Tromp disappearance “the most bizarre case I’ve seen in 30 years.”

After being reunited, the family said they wanted time to process what they’d been through, and the inherent weirdness of their disappearance. The family members who spoke to the media – especially Mark and his son Mitchell – were quick to apologize for the money spent on the search and the panic they caused.

Mark Tromp told the Sydney Morning Herald: ***I am conscious of the burden these events have placed upon our extended family, friends and the community resources devoted to our aid. Without reservation, I apologize for the hurt and concern caused by these events.***

SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========

Thanks for listening. If you like the podcast, please – tell someone about it. Recommend Weird Darkness to your friends, family, and co-workers who love the paranormal, horror stories, or true crime like you do! Every time you share the podcast with someone new, it helps spread the word about the show – and a growing audience makes it possible for me to keep doing the podcast. Plus, telling others about Weird Darkness also helps get the word out about resources that are available for those who suffer from depression. So please share the podcast with someone today.

Be sure to join me for a new episode 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.

Want to receive the commercial-free version of Weird Darkness every day? For just $5 per month you can become a patron at WeirdDarkness.com! As a patron you get commercial-free episodes of Weird Darkness every day, bonus audio, and chapters of audiobooks as I narrate them – even before the authors and publishers do! But more than that – as a patron you are also helping to reach people who are desperately hurting with depression and anxiety. You get the benefits of being a patron, and you also benefit others who are hurting at the same time. Become a patron at WeirdDarkness.com.

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.

“Acid Bath Murderer” by Steven Casale

“The Hum” by Garret Harkawik

“The Devil’s Tramping Ground” by Zach Seemayer

“The Fleeing of the Tromp Family” by Jacob Shelton

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… “But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.” – Isaiah 40:31

And a final thought… “At the end of the day it’s not about what you have or even what you’ve accomplished… it’s about who you’ve lifted up, who you’ve made better, it’s about what you’ve given back.” – Denzel Washington

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

Hits: 368