“HOMICIDAL SLEEPWALKING” and 4 More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““HOMICIDAL SLEEPWALKING” and 4 More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: A man begins to see and experience strange things around the house as he cares for his elderly grandmother. (The Other Company) *** What does uncontrollable laughing, the Chupacabra, rampant crime, witch burnings, and dancing to exhaustion all have in common? They are all examples of what experts call “mass hysteria”. (Strange Stories of Mass Hysteria) *** Weirdo family member and U.S. veteran Joe Akins shares a personal experience with the paranormal and extraterrestrial! (UFO’s & Demonic Shadow Figures) *** Another Weird Darkness fan, Mathew R., sent us a short story about what happened to him while visiting the Watseka Wonder House (The Watseka Wonder) *** At least 68 cases of sleepwalking murder have reached a courtroom, giving a jury the unenviable task of deciding whether a murder committed while asleep means criminal responsibility for the unfortunate sleepwalker. (Homicidal Sleepwalking)
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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“Homicidal Sleepwalking” by Fiona Guy for Crime Traveller: http://bit.ly/2nhu93j
“The Other Company” by Marc Eulo Boni for Ghost Attic: http://bit.ly/2lN5UcS
“Strange Stories of Mass Hysteria” by Doug MacGowan for Historic Mysteries: http://bit.ly/2lIJ8mp
“UFO’s & Demonic Shadow Figures” by Joe Akins for Weird Darkness
“The Watseka Wonder” by Troy Taylor for American Hauntings: http://bit.ly/2nOK1dE, with a short paragraph at the end from Weirdo family member Mathew R.
(I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing that for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I’ll rectify it in the show notes as quickly as possible.)
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Hey, Weirdos. Before we get into this episode want to address something that has been happening during my podcast without my knowledge and without my permission… political ads. I received emails yesterday from listeners who were incredibly angry with me for my stance on a particular political topic and for my support of a particular political party presidential ticket. They even went so far as to say they were no longer going to listen to the podcast and were also going to tell others not to listen because of my stance in these areas. That’s a bit obtuse if you ask me, at least give me an opportunity to explain rather than just assuming I’m evil incarnate, but okay. They assumed because political commercials were aired during my show that I was endorsing the messages they contained. That is not the case. In fact, political ads are not supposed to be airing during my podcast at all. This has been an issue in the past and I’ve raised a stink about it with my podcast host who assured me it was an error last time and would never happen again. This time it is completely out of my control and out of the control of my podcast host. If you are hearing political ads you are probably listening through Spotify, iHeart Radio, YouTube, or some other third-party app that has the ability to insert their own commercials. I, unfortunately, have no control or say over those commercials and while it irritates me that they can and do air commercials for products, services, and now political issues that I don’t want to be associated with, it’s out of my hands. But I do want you to know, any commercial you hear during my podcast, no matter where you listen, is not controlled by me or an endorsement by me unless that commercial is voiced by me specifically. If you hear me, Darren Marlar, talking about it – like what I’ve been doing with Reel Paper, Roaster’s Marketplace, Best Fiends, etc., then those are something I’ve specifically used or tried and approve of. Any other commercial you hear that is not in my voice is not placed by me and is not approved or endorsed by me. I’m not saying I disapprove of them, it’s just that I’m not aware they even exist until I hear them during the podcast when I listen back to it after it has posted – at the same time you hear it. I hope you know that I would never put my own political views ahead of the community I’ve built here. Politics is so polarizing and acidic, no matter what side you take or what view you try to see things from, you alienate a huge chunk of your audience. This is not a political show – it’s a spooky stories show. Unless I’m talking about the ghosts of dead politicians or some grand government conspiracy that warrants a feature in Weird Darkness, you’re not going to hear me talking about politics at all. And even then, you’re not going to hear my political opinion. If you do hear a political ad though, I would like to know where you hear it – Spotify, YouTube, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, etc. Wherever you listen to podcasts, if you hear a political ad I’d greatly appreciate you dropping me a quick email at darren at weird darkness dotcom to let me know where you heard it so I can track who the biggest offenders are. Thanks.
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 the middle of the night in May 1997 in Toronto, Canada, 23-year-old Kenneth Parks got in his car and drove to his parents-in-laws home 14 miles away. He stabbed his mother-in-law to death and assaulted his father-in-law who survived the attack. Parks then drove to the police station and told them he thought he had killed people because there was blood on his hands. His defense? He committed the heinous crime while sleepwalking.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
If you’re new here, welcome to the podcast – and be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes! If you’re already a Weirdo, please share the podcast with others – doing so helps make it possible for me to keep creating episodes as often as I do!
This month marks five years of Weird Darkness, and I’m celebrating by raising funds and awareness about depression which I’ll tell you about later in the podcast, but I’d like to invite you to visit DarknessChallenge.com now to learn more about it – that’s DarknessChallenge.com.
Coming up in this episode…
A man begins to see and experience strange things around the house as he cares for his elderly grandmother.
What does uncontrollable laughing, the Chupacabra, rampant crime, witch burnings, and dancing to exhaustion all have in common? They are all examples of what experts call “mass hysteria”.
Weirdo family member and U.S. veteran Joe Akins shares a personal experience with the paranormal and extraterrestrial!
Another Weird Darkness fan, Mathew R., sent us a short story about what happened to him while visiting the Watseka Wonder House
At least 68 cases of sleepwalking murder have reached a courtroom, giving a jury the unenviable task of deciding whether a murder committed while asleep means criminal responsibility for the unfortunate sleepwalker.
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.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: HOMICIDAL SLEEPWALKING==========
Sleepwalking murder, also known as homicidal sleepwalking, describes the terrifying event that an individual awakes to discover they have murdered someone while they were sleeping. With no memory of their actions during their slumber, they are left in a dangerous position facing a murder charge with little defense.
According to a study carried out in France in 2013, 58% of the 140 adult sleepwalkers studied displayed violent behavior during their sleep with 31% of violent incidents being towards themselves and 46% toward their partner sleeping next to them. The study carried out by researchers at the Sleep Disorders Center, Hopital-Gui-de-Chuliac in Montpellier also found that those who started sleepwalking at a young age had a higher frequency of violent behaviors causing injuries and, that violent behavior during sleep was often accompanied by sleep terrors.
On 1 September 2017, a perplexing case of alleged homicidal sleepwalking occurred in Raleigh, North Carolina. 28-year-old Matthew Phelps called 911 and told them he had awoken from sleep to find his wife lying on the bedroom floor covered in blood from multiple stab wounds. “I have blood all over me and there’s a bloody knife on the bed. I think I did it. I can’t believe this,” he told the operator, reported the NY Post. His wife, 29-year-old Lauren Ashley-Nicole Phelps, was pronounced dead shortly after arriving at the hospital with police immediately arresting Matthew Phelps for her murder.
Phelps claims he took medication for a cold before he went to bed that evening as he was having trouble sleeping, his only explanation he says for what could have made him carry out such violent attack against his wife. Sword and Scale reported the cold medicine Phelps claimed he took was Coricidin Cough and Cold Tablets, medication which contains a chemical often used by youngsters to obtain a high.
While the manufacturers say there is no evidence the medication can cause violence as a side effect, the drug does contain ‘dextrometorphan’, a drug that when taken in high doses can produce hallucinations and delusions. Matthew Phelps is an evangelist preacher who married Lauren in 2016. According to the New York Daily News, the autopsy report of Lauren Phelps revealed she had been stabbed 123 times with wounds to her neck, torso, head, and arms. Phelps claimed he had often taken the cold medicine in the past and regularly at more than the recommended dose to help him sleep. He is now awaiting trial for murder where prosecutors are seeking the death penalty against him.
Sleepwalkers have been known to do some pretty strange things; cook, clean, iron…all without being consciously aware they are doing it and having no memory of it in the morning. There have been some cases of accidental death due to sleepwalking, where someone has wandered off inappropriately dressed, or staggered out into passing traffic, all while allegedly fast asleep. Sleepwalking murders account for, luckily, very few of these cases.
Getting enough sleep at good quality is vital to our functioning during waking hours. While many of us take sleep for granted and fall into slumber each night with satisfying regularity, others struggle with sleep disorders ranging from minor inconveniences to serious conditions impacting their quality of life. The National Sleep Foundation reports that between 1% and 15% of the general population sleepwalk on a regular basis. When we go to sleep, we go through various sleep stages ranging from light sleep to deep sleep and finally rapid eye movement (REM) sleep where we tend to dream.
Sleepwalking generally occurs in the phases of deep sleep just before we enter REM sleep where our limbs are temporarily paralyzed to stop us acting out our dreams. It appears that some people are prone to sleepwalking whereas others aren’t and research suggests episodes can be triggered by stress, lack of sleep, medication, and substances such as alcohol.
Also known as homicidal somnambulism, this occurrence is thankfully very rare. However, it has happened with at least 68 cases of sleepwalking murder reaching a courtroom, leaving a jury the task of deciding whether a murder committed while asleep means criminal responsibility for the unfortunate sleepwalker. The sleepwalking state is often referred to as automatism meaning to be acting involuntarily, and this can either be due to mental ill-health (insane automatism) or external factors (non-insane automatism).
Take the court case of Jules Lowe, thought to be the first case of sleepwalking murder of its kind in the United Kingdom where an individual has been tried for murder with a sleepwalking defense. Mr. Lowe was 32-years-old and shared a house with his 83-year-old father. In 2003, his father was found dead in the driveway after suffering a brutal attack.
Mr. Lowe claimed to have no knowledge of what happened to his father and how he had ended up dead on the driveway. With no other evidence to the contrary, he was charged with first-degree murder.
His defense team called in sleep experts who carried out a number of tests to measure his brain waves, muscle, and breathing activity and determined he did fit the profile of a sleepwalker. Furthermore, he had a history of sleepwalking although had never displayed any previous violence and by all accounts had an excellent relationship with his father. By this time, Mr. Lowe had acknowledged he must have been responsible for the murder as no one else was present. It was determined he was in a state of automatism during the murder; that he was not conscious of his actions due to being asleep. He was found not guilty of murder due to insane automatism, meaning he could not legally be held fully responsible for the fatal attack, and he was indefinitely sent to a psychiatric hospital.
The Kenneth Parks case provides one of the most curious recorded instances of homicidal sleepwalking. In the middle of the night in May 1997 in Toronto, Canada, 23-year-old Kenneth Parks got in his car and drove to his parents-in-laws home 14 miles away. He stabbed his mother-in-law to death and assaulted his father-in-law who survived the attack. Parks then drove to the police station and told them he thought he had killed people because there was blood on his hands. His defense team concluded he was sleepwalking at the time of the attacks. As in all other cases, he had a history of sleepwalking and he could not remember any details of the events.
The case report stated that Parks was in a state of non-insane automatism at the time with no previous history of mental ill-health. There was no evidence of psychosis and it was believed a number of factors combined that evening, including stress from his job and periods of insomnia running up to the events, a combination they claimed, extremely unlikely to ever occur again. In May 1988 he was found not guilty of the murder of his mother-in-law and acquitted of the attempted murder of his father-in-law.
Steven Steinberg was accused of the murder of his wife Elena Steinberg by stabbing her 26 times in 1981, in Scottsdale, Arizona. Steinberg claimed he was sleepwalking and was not sane at the time of the murder.
Dr. Martin Blinder, a California psychiatrist told the court the repeated stabbing of Elena was due to Steinberg being in a state of ‘dissociative reaction’. Steinberg was found not guilty due to sleepwalking at the time of the offense and he walked free from court. He did not deny killing his wife but claimed the circumstances meant he was not responsible for the murder in a legal sense.
The jury believed the defense of sleepwalking at the time of the murder and therefore, although they knew he had committed the murder, they felt they had no choice but to find him not guilty as he was not consciously aware and rational when he carried it out. Steinberg initially told police an intruder had broken in and killed his wife and only claimed he was sleepwalking when police found evidence linking him to the murder. Although he was found not guilty on the basis of being insane at the time of the murder, he was deemed to be sane at the time of the trial and therefore he was not sent to a psychiatric hospital.
Laws have now changed in Arizona and cases such as this today would mean the individual in question would serve a period of time in a mental institution. If this had been in the UK where sleepwalking murder is classed as an insane state, a period in a mental hospital would usually be the sentence implied however, this is not necessarily the case across the US or in Canada.
The state of automatism has been named a number of times in cases where arousal from sleep has resulted in violence, questioning whether the individual had indeed aroused from sleep or was still sleeping. REM guitarist Peter Buck found himself in such a situation when he attacked a BA staff member on a flight into London in 2002.
Mr. Buck had no memory of the attack and he was diagnosed as being in a state of non-insane automatism (a criminal act committed by a sane person but without intent, malice or awareness and therefore they cannot be held criminally responsible) at the time due to the combination of a sleeping pill and alcohol before the flight took off.
The American Academy of Sleep Medicine conducted a review of 32 cases of sleepwalking violence against other individuals. Reported in Science Daily, researchers distinguished between ‘confusional arousals’ where a person is in the process of waking up and is confused as to where they are and what they are doing, and ‘sleep terrors’ or ‘night terrors’ where a person screams out in their sleep. Both of these states they classed as disorders of arousal and found that in all confusional arousal cases and 81% of sleep terror cases they studied, violent behaviors were associated with either provocation from another or simply another person being in close proximity. By provocation they mean another person, most likely a family member, approaching the sleepwalker or maybe making physical contact with them, simple gestures which can trigger a greatly exaggerated and often violent response. Dr. Mark Pressman of Sleep Medicine Services at Lankanau Hospital in Wynnewood, Pennsylvania who authored the study said;
*****“It is possible that the absence of physical contact or proximity to other individuals is the only factor that distinguishes violent sleepwalkers from nonviolent sleepwalkers. This suggests under the right circumstances that any sleepwalker might respond to a perceived threat or close proximity with violence.”*****
Probably the most complicated sleepwalking defense case to date is that of Scott Falater. In 1997, Mr. Falater was 43-years-old and found himself accused of murdering his wife. His horrified neighbor saw him put on a pair of gloves and proceed to roll his battered wife into the swimming pool of his home and hold her head under the water.
When the police arrived they found Mrs. Falater dead in the pool with 44 stab wounds and Mr. Falater in his pyjamas, oblivious to what had happened and rather confused as to why there were police all over his backyard. After an extensive police interview where Mr. Falater was told of the fate of his wife, he could offer no explanation for what had happened. Like Lowe and Steinberg, Falater acknowledged he must have committed the murder but claimed he had no memory of it. During a search of the property, police found Mr. Falater’s bloody clothes and shoes and the murder weapon hidden in the spare tire well of his car.
During his trial for first degree murder, the defense claimed Falater was in a period of little sleep due to stress at his job and on the day in question he had removed all the tools from the spare tire space in his car, including the knife that was used in the murder, to fix a faulty pump in the pool.
They said he did not complete the job and went to bed exhausted. When he rose he was sleepwalking and returned to the pool to continue the task, flying into a rage when he was interrupted by his wife. They claimed his illogical actions were typical of someone who was sleepwalking.
Sleep disorder expert, Dr. Rosalind Cartwright, who examined Falater and said it was possible he was sleepwalking at the time of the murder. The prosecution claimed the sleepwalking defense was a fabrication by Falater who cover up his crime stating that his change of clothes and the placing of them along the murder weapon in a container in his car did not support a sleepwalking claim. They maintained that his actions were too complex to have been carried out while asleep.
In June 1999, Mr. Falater was convicted of first-degree murder and in January 2000 was sentenced to life imprisonmentwith no chance of parole.
Although rare, some experts have expressed concern that this type of defense may become more common. Disproving a case of homicidal sleepwalking, as the time of the act has passed, can be very difficult. Sleep monitoring tests can indicate whether someone is prone to sleepwalking. Add that to a history of sleepwalking and you could end up with a reasonable defense for murder. Homicidal sleepwalking is a scary thought, not only for potential victims of such an act but for a sleepwalker who may wake up to untold horror at their own hands. Sleeping, it seems, is much more dangerous than we previously thought.
A man begins to see and experience strange things around the house as he cares for his elderly grandmother.
Plus… what does uncontrollable laughing, the Chupacabra, rampant crime, witch burnings, and dancing to exhaustion all have in common? They are all examples of what experts call “mass hysteria”.
These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: THE OTHER COMPANY==========
During my early teenage years, my parents told me to look out for my grandmother since her helper got injured when she accidentally slipped going down a ramp. Since it was my grandmother personally who asked my parents for me to look out for her at her house, I gladly agreed. As I remember, my Grandmother was on her 90th year by that time. It was okay for me since our house is just next door. Before going to school in the morning, I would prepare her breakfast. Right after going to school, I would go directly to my grandma’s house and assist her with what she needs; make her a cup of coffee, fetch her slippers, guide her going to the bathroom and even watch TV with her. Every night I would tuck her in bed, I sleep every night inside her room just by the sofa near her bed, there’s a half-wall separating us, it remained barely covered for me to still see her if she’s doing okay. We share one electric fan that turns simultaneously to the both of us, though there is an air-condition unit on her room, we only use it if it’s burning hot inside the room. All was going well, we enjoyed accompanying each other for the past few months. Well that was until strange things started to happen.
One night, while lying by the couch inside my grandma’s room, I heard the door creak, I can see clearly from where I was lying, the door had opened. I thought that maybe it was just not closed tight and the wind blew it which seldomly happens, I decided to stand up to close the door, I looked outside first to see if someone might have pushed the door open but no one was there, I closed the door and went back to bed, after few minutes later it opened again, I got up quickly thinking I might have just not closed it tight or someone is still awake and playing a prank on me. I immediately looked outside and saw someone running up the next floor giggling, I quickly thought that it was my cousin because his room was upstairs and we mostly do pranks to each other.
With a bit of frustration, I shouted to him “Tsk. Dang it Mel, stop playing around, you might wake up Lola”.
After that, I closed and locked both locks of the door so that he won’t be able to do it again. I was irritated by that and decided to lie down and pick up my phone. I messaged my aunt to tell my cousin not to do that during this time of night for grandma might wake up. I decided to play games on my phone to feel sleepy, after a few minutes later my eyes were ready to rest when suddenly my phone beeped.
It was a message reply from my aunt, I opened the message and read “Hi Mac, Mel is not yet home from school, they’re finishing up their dance practice, maybe it was Mike whom you saw”. I had goosebumps raising all over me, t-that couldn’t have been Mike, I know that Mike isn’t home yet for he told me early morning that he’ll stay on a friend’s house. Just after realizing that, I heard something. It was rattling sounds that came from the door as if someone was trying to open it.
“Click”, I heard a sound and sure that was the sound of the 1st door handle being unlocked.
“Click”, another click and I was very sure that was the sound of the second door lock.
“Creeeeek”, the door slowly open. From where I was lying, I can see clearly the door slowly open, as the door was fully open, I heard a giggling sound and saw a shadow cast from the light outside, it was a figure of a little kid standing just by the door. Just by then, I saw it moved like it was slowly walking inside the room. I was now freaking out and started to panic. On not knowing what to do, I just quickly covered my face with the blanket. Now I can hear the giggling sound getting louder and louder and felt like it was getting closer and closer to me.
Next thing I knew, I woke up at our house with a high fever and couldn’t speak. When I got better, my mom told me that my cousin was knocking by the door that morning but I wasn’t answering, my grandma was the one who hurriedly opened the door and told my cousin that I was shaking and have a high fever. They tried to talk to me but I wasn’t speaking so my cousin decided to lift and carry me back to our house to get treated. I don’t recall any of that happening, I didn’t tell anyone yet what I saw that night for they might think and say that it was just a bad nightmare that I had but for me that was very much real.
Two days after getting better, I returned back to my grandmother’s house after school, she asked me to prepare a meal for her and a hot choco because she was feeling hungry. I went to the kitchen and prepared it. She asked me if I could bring it inside her room instead because her knees were aching and is difficult for her to walk to the kitchen, I agreed and went back to the kitchen to bring the meal to her, as I gave her the hot chocolate she said to me…
“Mac, can you also give that little kid some hot choco? She’s been standing there all day now.”, I felt a chill all over my body as she pointed by the door where she claims to see the little kid. I turned around but saw no one there. I told her that no one’s there but she kept on insisting and pointing that there’s a little kid standing by the door.
After that, I decided to tell my parents what happened on the night I had a high fever. They weren’t all that surprised because of what they already knew. They told me that sometimes at night, they see by the kitchen window a little kid running around as if it was playing, sometimes they could even here the giggle of a little kid. They never told me this until that moment because I might no longer accompany my grandma. Right after that, they asked for the house to get blessed but after that I no longer always stay at my grandma’s house. Me and my brother alternately go there to accompany her.
STORY: MASS HYSTERIA==========
Well-documented but not well-understood, the concept of mass hysteria goes back for many generations and defines instances when many people believe in a false affliction or circumstance. Psychologists throughout history have thoroughly examined many cases of hysteria epidemics, but, so far, there are only guesses as to what lies behind the mysterious condition. We’ll take a look at the various types of hysteria and a number of the weirdest examples documented in history.
The term hysteria is an indicator of the erroneous myth surrounding the cause and nature of the phenomenon. Hystera, a Greek word, meaning “uterus,” is the root of the term hysteria. Ancient Greek physicians believed that hysteria only affected women and was caused by a variety of problems with the womb.
Clearly, the idea that hysteria afflicts only women is ludicrous. Across the world, men have experienced a frightening type of mass hysteria called Koro, or genital shrinkage anxiety. In this situation, multiple men believe their penises are retracting or disappearing altogether. In 1976, 350 men in Thailand believed they were experiencing Koro as a result of Vietnamese food and tobacco poisoning. Then once again, a hysteria epidemic struck in South India in 2010 when 100 men from three labor camps believed they were experiencing Koro. However, perhaps the worst case came from China in 1984-1985 from 3,000 men who reported their panic in 16 different regions.
In the late 1700s, there was a series of attacks on women in London. Newspapers termed the perpetrator, “the London Monster.” An 18th-century stalker, the offender approached wealthy women from behind, slashed their clothing and stabbed their buttocks. To protect themselves, women wore copper petticoats or placed copper pots and pans under their dresses.
London Monster attacks continued off and on for two years, but the police started to suspect there was something strange going on. Descriptions of the Monster varied greatly from attack to attack. Some even added the bizarre detail of knives attached to his knees. After two years, the attacks stopped, and although there was an arrest, historians now wonder if women weren’t cutting their own clothes and convincing themselves that the Monster had harmed them.
Centuries later, a similar incident occurred in Halifax, England. On November 16, 1938, two women reported that a stranger with a mallet attacked them. In the next few weeks, more women and several men reported similar attacks but with different weapons. Such varying reports frustrated the police. Eventually one of the “victims” confessed he had inflicted the wounds on himself. There were a few similar confessions, but many victims insisted that a strange man attacked them. This, however, did not convince the police. So, they closed the investigation.
Mass hysteria does not always involve some sort of violence. Mumbai experienced their own hysteria epidemic involving their regular water supply. In 2006, many people living in an area near the Mahim Creek described the normal saltwater as tasting especially sweet, as if someone had doctored it with sugar or syrup. This seemed impossible to authorities, as the creek was regularly used as a depository for raw sewage and industrial waste.
The belief in the altered water spread to other populations living near other toxic waterways. People began drinking the bad water much to the concern of local medical professionals who attempted to stop the consumption. Indeed there was a real possibility of disease spreading throughout the area. Mysteriously, the following day, the populace found the water to be as foul and salty as it had been before this brief spell of suspended belief.
Young students were often the focus of mass hysteria epidemics. In May of 2006, a swarm of Portuguese teens reported strange illnesses. The situation became so serious that several schools were closed in the face of an apparent epidemic. As it turned out, the teens who initially manifested the symptoms had watched a particular soap opera on TV where one of the characters was experiencing the same symptoms. Experts concluded that the teens who first reported their illness had “contracted” the symptoms from the fictional character and then influenced other teens to believe that they had the same illness.
On the other side of the globe, a Louisiana high school senior named Helen attended her school’s homecoming dance which followed the traditional homecoming game. The dance began normally, but at some point, during the evening Helen’s right leg began to spasm for no apparent reason. The episode continued for the entirety of the dance and didn’t stop the next day. Eventually, other students began suffering from the same symptom, and students manifested leg twitching of a similar nature. Nobody could understand the cause of the situation. Some parents went so far as to keep their children at home for fear of them catching whatever it was that was making the teens twitch. The strange physical symptom continued for some time but, as in many cases of mass hysteria, the behavior stopped on its own. The trigger for the abnormal episodes remains a mystery.
In a Tanzanian girls school in January of 1962, a suspected episode of mass hysteria baffled school officials and medical experts. While in school, three girls started to laugh for no apparent reason. Teachers tried to stop the disruption with threats of punishment, but the girls kept laughing. Sometimes the girl would laugh for a matter of hours but sometimes they laughed for a matter of days.
Soon almost 100 students in the school were laughing, and the behavior then spread to nearby villages. Parents panicked and withdrew their daughters from the schools until the situation ended. Some experts theorize that the hidden physical and mental changes of puberty may cause mass hysteria among teens.
Mass hysteria did not affect only the secular population. There are two known instances of convents of nuns supposedly being caught up in episodes of hysteria. In medieval France, for example, a nun suddenly began meowing as if she were a cat. Instead of the other sisters trying to stop her from this strange behavior, they started meowing too. Neighbors were at first puzzled. But, when the noise started going far into the night, the locals sought help from the nearby military. The soldiers were able to stop the puzzling behavior with threats of physical punishment.
Similarly, in Germany, a solitary nun began biting her religious sisters for no apparent reason. The other nuns inexplicably began to bite other people too. This epidemic spread to neighboring nunneries and even into neighboring countries. Eventually, the episode ended as mysteriously as it had begun.
The infamous Salem Witch Trials are also a candidate for religious hysteria. Some researchers theorize that one or two young girls originally believed that the adult neighbors who had made a pact with the devil tortured them. Soon, several other girls began exhibiting the same frenzy of symptoms. It took several weeks and quite a few unfortunate executions to declare the symptoms psychological instead of demonical.
Another purported case of mass hysteria involves the recent appearance of the cryptological creature known as the Chupacabra. This is a fierce and mysterious animal that lives in the shadows of places such as Puerto Rico and Mexico. Literally meaning “goat sucker,” the Chupacabra drains the blood of sheep and goats by way of violent wounds to their bodies. However, the descriptions of the beast vary somewhat. A few accounts say the creature has reptile-like scales, hops like a rabbit, and is less than five feet tall. Others liken its appearance to that of a fearsome breed of dog.
Many scientists do not believe that such a creature exists. However, the populace of many areas scattered around the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico firmly believe that the Chupacabra is a real animal. Villagers often believe reports of sightings, and if livestock dies, they assume it is due to the vicious cryptid animal.
Finally, perhaps the most infamous case of mass hysteria occurred in Strasbourg, France, in the summer of 1518. It started with one woman dancing in the streets for no apparent reason. Nobody could stop her. Indeed, many of her neighbors joined her instead. By a month’s time, approximately 400 villagers were also dancing in what became known as the Dancing Plague.
Some dancers suffered no ill effects. However, others died from causes such as exhaustion and heart failure. A number of political and medical records of the time document the phenomenon thoroughly. Once again, the strange behaviors ended as mysteriously as they had begun.
There are many examples of mass hysteria. Some of them are somewhat benign, like laughing or dancing. However, other forms may be highly toxic, such as the genocide movement of the Nazis. What causes this mysterious phenomenon? Many theories exist, but the jury is still out. Meanwhile, there will undoubtedly be more instances of the strange phenomenon in the future.
When Weird Darkness returns…
Weirdo family member and U.S. veteran Joe Akins shares a personal experience with the paranormal and extraterrestrial!
And, another Weird Darkness fan, Mathew R., sent us a short story about what happened to him while visiting the Watseka Wonder House
STORY: UFOS/SHADOW FIGURES==========
I am a veteran of the US Air Force and would like to share my personal stories of UFO sightings, and of a demonic entity. I was stationed in Okinawa, Japan at Kadena Air Force Base from 2000 to 2003. Okinawa is one of the most haunted places on earth. While stationed there in 2002 I witnessed a UFO fly over me at what seemed to be about 50 feet. It was diamond shaped aircraft, and had numerous multi-color exterior lights. It hovered for a bit almost as if it sensed my presence. I quickly hid under a Banyan tree and in an flash it shot off disappearing into the night sky.
In 2003, I was attacked one night in my sleep by a dark, shadow figure that held me down, and was physically crushing my chest. I couldn’t breathe, move, or speak…so I prayed that God would allow me to break free. The entity then retreated and dissapeared out of my 3 story bedroom window. The odd part is that I closed my window before going to sleep. My military chaplain told me that the entity was evil, and it was a demon called a Strong Man. Within a few months I moved home to Georgia, and experienced the same thing there as well. While sleeping one night a black figure appeared, it overwhelmed me, held me down, and I couldn’t breath, move, or speak. It felt all too familiar, and replicated what I had experienced in Okinawa. I again prayed that God would help me break away from it’s grasp, and suddenly the figure disappeared from my bedroom. My dog Rufus actually alerted me to the presence of the shadow figure, he barked and growled at the figure and protected me. I have been told that there are 16 Strong Men in the Bible and that they have been known to follow people, feed off of their fears, hunt, and possess them in order to block them from entering heaven.
Some believe that a Strong Man only targets strong willed individuals with pure hearts in order to conquer and corrupt them. I had a third and final encounter with the shadow figure about 8 to 10 years ago. This time I felt the familiar presence and immediately prayed that God would destroy this entity and free me from it’s grasp. The entity felt familiar each time, almost like it was the same demon.
In an unrelated event………
In 2014 I moved away to Florida, and traveled to Griffin, Georgia to visit my family for Christmas. My wife and I witnessed a UFO while driving. It was a spherical ball of bright white light that flew through the sky in a zig zag pattern at a high rate of speed, only to fly away and disappear into the black sky. There have been quite a few UFO sightings in Griffin, Georgia spanning back to 1971.
Thank you for the opportunity to share my stories. I’m a huge fan of the show, and listen to every episode!
In 1878, a small town in Illinois gained notoriety around the country as home to one of the strangest spirit possessions in American history. The story of what came to be known as the “Watseka Wonder” created a mystery that endures to this day. But what really happened in this enigmatic case and how much of the mysterious story that has been told over the years — about the spirit of one dead girl invading the body of a living one – is truth and how much is fiction?
The story of the “Watseka Wonder” officially began in 1877, when a young Illinois woman named Lurancy Vennum began to suffer strange seizures and spells that caused her to lose consciousness for hours and even days at a time. During these trances, she claimed to communicate with the spirit world. After being examined by a number of doctors, it was suggested that she be sent away to an insane asylum. There was nothing physically wrong with her, they said, so her symptoms could only be caused by insanity.
But before Lurancy could be locked away, her family received a visitor — a man named Asa Roff, whose daughter, Mary, suffered from the same illness more than a decade before. Mary’s life had been a chaotic one. Her spells and trances had started when she was an infant and no doctor could ever find a reason for them. As she grew older, they allowed her to manifest clairvoyant abilities and speak to spirits — or so she believed. Her family and doctors weren’t convince and so Mary was sent to an asylum, where she died in July 1865.
By the winter of 1878, Asa Roff had become a devout follower of Spiritualism and believed that Mary had not been insane — she had been a gifted, but misunderstood, spirit medium. He begged the Vennum family not to send Lurancy away. He believed that a Spiritualist physician could alleviate her symptoms and save her from Mary Roff’s grim fate.
The Vennums agreed to try and during a visit from Dr. E. Winchester Stevens, Lurancy entered a trance and became possessed by the spirit of a dead young woman who professed to be able to help her. When Lurancy regained consciousness, she seemed different — unlike her former self. When Dr. Stevens asked her to identify herself, she replied, “My name is Mary Roff.”
oon, it becomes obvious to the Roff and Vennum families — as well as scores of local townspeople, neighbors, friends, relatives, and more — that Lurancy has somehow become a woman who died more than a dozen years earlier. She recognizes people that Mary knew, identified things that belonged to the dead girl, and knows intimate family secrets that there was other way Lurancy could have known. It seemed impossible — but it was happening!
For the next five months, Lurancy lived as Mary Roff in the Roff family home, possessed by her spirit. There was no logical explanation for how this could be happening — and yet it was. Lurancy, who Dr. Stevens would dub the “Watseka Wonder,” became the best documented paranormal event in American history.
Weirdo family member Mathew R. sent me this short paragraph about his experience at the Watseka Wonder house. This is what he said:
*****They were having a haunted house for Halloween I was going down to the basement cuz that’s the way they’re going to have us go out and Iwas go downstairs and I felt somebody grabbed my ankle there is no way for anybody to be underneath the stairs cuz it was a concrete slab underneath the stairs.*****
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
Thanks for listening. If you like the podcast, and you haven’t already subscribed, be sure to do so now so you don’t miss future episodes! And also, please – tell someone else about the podcast. 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 creating episodes as often as I do. 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.
And again, this month I’m raising awareness and funds to battle depression and I need your help – please visit DarknessChallenge.com to give as much as you can, and if you struggle with depression, consider making a video to help raise awareness. Get the details about the video challenge or make a donation, or do both at DarknessChallenge.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.
“Homicidal Sleepwalking” by Fiona Guy for Crime Traveller
“The Other Company” by Marc Eulo Boni for Ghost Attic
“Strange Stories of Mass Hysteria” by Doug MacGowan for Historic Mysteries
“UFO’s & Demonic Shadow Figures” by Weirdo family member Joe Akins
“The Watseka Wonder” by Troy Taylor for American Hauntings with a short paragraph at the end from Weirdo family member Mathew R.
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 he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
And a final thought… Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there is love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong. – Ella Fitzgerald
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.