“THE HAT MAN AND SHADOW PEOPLE” and More Strange and Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

THE HAT MAN AND SHADOW PEOPLE” and More Strange and Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

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IN THIS EPISODE: Is there really such a thing as coincidence? One girl used to think so – but a strange paranormal experience has her now thinking there’s no such thing as happenstance. (More Than a Coincidence) *** Is it possible that the real reason for the USA-Iraq war had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, and everything to do with the appropriation of other-worldly alien technology? (Saddam Hussein’s Stargate) *** Weirdo family member Heather Circle brings us a terrifying story that starts, innocently enough, with her child’s missing plastic drinking cup. (A Little Pink Sippy Cup) *** Rebecca Schaeffer was destined to be a star. But before she had the chance to make it in Hollywood, she was murdered by an obsessed fan. (Hollywood’s Sweetheart Killed By a Stalker) *** With the internet’s recent obsession with Black Eyed Kids encounters and “Shadow People” visitations, you might not notice another phenomena that’s quickly becoming part of the paranormal pop-culture consciousness: The Hat Man. Reports of the strange “Hat Man”, a mysterious entity dressed in a long-brimmed hat, continue to pour in from all over the world. Who is the Hat Man? What does he want? Why have so many people around the world been visited by this strange entity? (The Hat Man And Shadow People) *** If you’ve ever seen the film “The Wicker Man”, you are familiar with the ending of the burning giant made of wood and the human sacrifice therein. But is it possible that this terrifying idea was not an invention of novelists and screenwriters – but was a very real practice at one time? Or even today? (The History Behind The Wicker Man) *** The life that serial killer Dennis Rader lived on the outside, hid his dark secret inside, which he was so desperate to reveal that he began dropping breadcrumbs to the media. (The Paper Trail of BTK) *** A graveyard is typically a quiet place, but Graceland Cemetery in Chicago seems to be a bit too quiet – which might have something to do with its resident ghosts. (The Deathly Silence of Graceland Cemetery) *** In 1888, London was terror-struck by the grotesque murders of Jack the Ripper, who was shortly about to claim his next-victim: 47-year-old prostitute Annie Chapman. Her dissection at the hands of the madman was nothing short of gruesome. (The Dissection of Annie Chapman) *** Annie Chapman likely got a good look at her killer. At the time, scientists thought they could user her corpse’s eyeballs to identify the attacker. Is something like that possible? Could the last visual image of someone’s life remainburned into the eye even after death? (The Last Thing a Corpse Sees)

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STORY AND MUSIC CREDITS/SOURCES…
(Over time links can and may become invalid, disappear, or have different content.)
“The Hat Man And Shadow People” by Greg Newkirk (http://bit.ly/36DLMwg) and Dana Matthews (http://bit.ly/33oEfiJ) for Week In Weird.
“More Than a Coincidence” is by Cherubim and was posted at YourGhostStories: http://bit.ly/2JXuCQC
“Saddam Hussein’s Stargate” by Michael Moran for The Daily Star: http://bit.ly/2pNfVst
“A Little Pink Sippy Cup” by Weirdo family member Heather Circle
“Hollywood’s Sweetheart Killed By a Stalker” by Natalie DeGroot from All That’s Interesting: http://bit.ly/2NoBbh9
“Dark Annie” from Awesome Stories: http://bit.ly/33H5hlC
“The Dissection of Annie Chapman” by Hannah McKennet for All That’s Interesting: http://bit.ly/2p98hZb
“The Last Thing a Corpse Sees” by Marissa Fessenden for the Smithsonian: (link deemed unsafe due to spam/virus)
“The History Behind The Wicker Man” from Ancient Origins: http://bit.ly/2Kr38TR
“The Paper Trail of BTK” by Rachel Chang for Biography: http://bit.ly/32zqpZL
“The Deathly Silence of Graceland Cemetery” by Ursula Bielski for Chicago Hauntings: http://bit.ly/33G3Cgq
(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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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==========

Thanks to the internet age, stories about people’s paranormal experiences get passed around like wildfire, and it’s easy to pass them off as being hoaxes or exaggerations, but I think many of us would agree that there has to be something strange happening if thousands of people are experiencing the same thing. We don’t know exactly who the Hat Man is or what he wants, but one thing is for certain – if you see him, you might want to start examining your relationships with the people in your house.

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.

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!

For my Weirdos in the U.S., I hope you are having a wonderful Thanksgiving week. Tonight is of course, Thanksgiving Eve… when the jolly gobbler visits the homes of good little boys and girls and leaves wishbones and cranberry sauce in their personal horns-of-plenty while naughty children get innards. At least that’s the way I remember it. It’s been a while, and I don’t have kids, so some of the details are fuzzy. Anyway…

Coming up in this episode…

If you’ve seen the film “The Wicker Man”, you are familiar with the ending of the burning giant made of wood and the human sacrifice therein. Was that ever a real practice in the past… or is it still? (The History Behind The Wicker Man)

The life that serial killer Dennis Rader lived on the outside, hid his dark secret inside, which he was so desperate to reveal that he began dropping breadcrumbs to the media. (The Paper Trail of BTK)

A graveyard is typically a quiet place, but Graceland Cemetery in Chicago seems to be a bit too quiet – which might have something to do with its resident ghosts. (The Deathly Silence of Graceland Cemetery)

In 1888, London was terror-struck by the grotesque murders of Jack the Ripper, who was shortly about to claim his next-victim: 47-year-old prostitute Annie Chapman. Her dissection at the hands of the madman was nothing short of gruesome. (The Dissection of Annie Chapman)

At the time of Annie Chapman’s murder, scientists thought they could use her corpse’s eyeballs to identify the attacker. Is something like that possible? Could the last visual image of someone’s life remain burned into the eye even after death? (The Last Thing a Corpse Sees)

Is there really such a thing as coincidence? One girl used to think so – but a strange paranormal experience has her now thinking there’s no such thing as happenstance. (More Than a Coincidence)

Is it possible that the real reason for the USA-Iraq war had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, and everything to do with the appropriation of other-worldly alien technology? (Saddam Hussein’s Stargate)

Weirdo family member Heather Circle brings us a terrifying story that starts, innocently enough, with her child’s missing plastic sippy cup. (A Little Pink Sippy Cup)

Rebecca Schaeffer was destined to be a star. But before she had the chance to make it in Hollywood, she was murdered by an obsessed fan. (Hollywood’s Sweetheart Killed By a Stalker)

But first… with the internet’s recent obsession with Black Eyed Kids encounters and “Shadow People” visitations, you might not notice another phenomena that’s quickly becoming part of the paranormal pop-culture consciousness: The Hat Man. Reports of the strange “Hat Man”, a mysterious entity dressed in a long-brimmed hat, continue to pour in from all over the world. Who is the Hat Man? What does he want? Why have so many people around the world been visited by this strange entity? We begin there. (The Hat Man And Shadow People)

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, 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: 
THE HAT MAN AND SHADOW PEOPLE==========

If the countless online accounts of paranormal investigators have taught us anything, it’s that there’s no shortage of terrifying supernatural entities to fear. Two of the darkest – literally darkest – are Shadow People and, more specifically, The Hat Man.
A recent witness report comes from a man named Brian, who met the Hat Man in his childhood home in Virginia long before the phenomena had ever been widely reported. According to Brian, the shadowy entity even brought along a few ghosts that took up residence in his closet. Here is the story in his own words:

*****I grew up in a mostly well-adjusted family. My father was an Air Force officer, my mother a stay-at-home mom and I have one older sister. In 1969, my family was relocated from Colorado to Northern Virginia. My dad had recently returned from a long tour in Southeast Asia. While waiting for a new home to be built, my family moved into a rental house in a typical suburban NoVA neighborhood.

The rental house was a two story deal with one bedroom downstairs and three up. Since my sister had seniority, I was assigned the downstairs bedroom (the third upstairs room was designated a “guest room).  For a while everything seemed fine.  I liked having my own space where I could hang out with friends and also use the unfinished basement to work on model airplanes.

About four months into our time there, I started having problems sleeping through the night. After falling asleep I would sometimes be awakened by sounds seemingly emanating from my closet. The sounds were really weird, almost like the muffled conversations of a large group of people, almost like a ghostly dinner party or something similar.  I was so frightened by these sounds but I just lay there in bed not moving. It happened to me several times and I told my parents, but they laughed and told me I must be having nightmares.

Finally, on one such night, I was so frightened by the noises that I left my room, went up the stairs, and lay down in the guest bedroom. I was very tired but still too scared to sleep.

As I lay there trying to relax, I suddenly noticed a tall, dark shape at the foot of the bed. The shape was silhouetted by a window behind. It was the shadowy outline of a tall, thin man in a large brimmed hat. The shape wasn’t moving much, just kind of hovering near the bed, but the figure was very well defined, sharp against the moonlight coming through the window. I couldn’t see his eyes in the darkness but I could tell he was looking at me. I was petrified! I started to scream, waking my parents and my sister who jumped out of bed, ran into the room and turned on the light. The man in the hat was gone.

My family had no explanation for the story I told them, but they weren’t laughing anymore. Although they had seen nothing, they knew I had seen something – real or imagined – and it had scared the daylights out of me. They were probably questioning my sanity at that point. I had been studying South America in school and the story I relayed to them was that I had seen the outline of a gaucho – the South American cowboys with brimmed hats. No one else in my family had ever had any strange experiences in that house. I had no more strange experiences after that night.

So it wasn’t until a few years ago that I finally heard about the Hat Man on a paranormal podcast. Hearing the descriptions of other people who had seen something similar made the hair stand up on the back of my neck.  I did a quick internet search and found the stories on Week in Weird and artists’ conceptions of the Hat Man. It was him! At long last I knew that what I had seen all those years ago wasn’t just a figment of my imagination- lots of other people had seen the same figure.

My family now believes that I saw something that night in 1969, because ever since that night, even before there were such things as podcasts or the glut of paranormal shows on television, I’ve always told people that story of the shadowy gaucho who appeared in front of me. But now I know that it wasn’t a gaucho. It was the Hat Man. And I really did see him! I know he really does appear to people in the night.

We moved out of that house in 1970 and I’ve never seen another strange apparition like that since. I believe that what happened to me that night jump-started my extreme interest in the paranormal, a subject I’m very much interested in to this day.*****

Brian, of course, is not the only person to meet a Shadow Person, or even the Hat Man himself.

Shadow men came into the paranormal spotlight around 2001, and that was all thanks to the world’s most prolific paranormal radio personality: Art Bell. Anyone unfamiliar with Art Bell, firstly, should be ashamed of themselves, and secondly, should go listen to every episode of Coast to Coast AM that you can get your hands on.

There are plenty of authors, bloggers, and investigators who would love to take credit for uncovering the mysterious Shadow Man phenomenon, but their first real public mention goes back to April 12, 2001 when Art interviewed Thunder Strikes, First Nation elder, teacher, and co-founder of the Deer Tribe Metis Medicine Society. During that episode, the pair talked at length about the topic of Shadow People, and even encouraged listeners to send in their own drawings of the terrifying phenomenon. As it turns out, way more people than anyone could have anticipated were experiencing these frightening encounters.

Over the years, there’ve been plenty of debates about whether or not these “Shadow People” are good or evil, with many landing on both sides of the fence. Dead Files’ resident physical medium Amy Allen has spoken quite publicly about her belief that Shadow People are inter-dimensional entities that fall on the side of evil time and time again.

Since that fateful episode of Coast to Coast AM aired, there have been countless stories, photos, and videos of Shadow People uploaded, but what most people don’t know is that while many were being tormented by Shadow People, a select group were experiencing something similar, but just a little bit different: the “Hat Man” syndrome.

The Hat Man appears much in the same way that Shadow People do, but unlike the phenomena that was made popular by Art Bell and Thunder Strikes, the Hat Man encounters bear a few striking differences that set it apart. When he appears, often during the night, the Hat Man is always seen wearing a wide-brimmed hat, and though most people are unable to make out any distinct facial features, he is usually described as a solid black mass. Witnesses are often unable to describe the Hat Man’s lower body, as if he seems to float silently above the ground.

According to Tim Brown from The Hat Man Project: *****I saw a tall human-like figure and the figure looked like that of a man. The man had no distinguishable features whatsoever. I could see no eyes, no nose or mouth, only blackness. He looked like a shadow, only darker–much darker. He had a very wide brimmed hat and a long trench coat that flowed as he moved… He stood there for what seemed like an eternity, He then moved very slowly and without sound back into the hallway just out of view.*****

The phenomena seems to center around basements and, according to the experiencers, appears to manifest in situations of intense negativity and family disfunction. In fact, many times if one person in a household has started experiencing visits by the Hat Man, it’s almost guaranteed that another family member will begin seeing the strange shadow man soon afterwards.

Many who report experiences with the Hat Man believe that the entity has been present with them since their childhoods. I, myself, have a very vivid memory of having a run-in with I can only describe as a Hat Man. As far as my memories go, I would always spot him in the same long hallway in my basement, usually paying me no mind whatsoever. I continued to have these harmless encounters for a year before he disappeared altogether.

According to the Hat Man Project: *****All of a sudden this black -two-dimensional being appeared. it just walked right through the door. I was paralyzed with fear. I sat there looking at it and hoping it would not notice me because i was in the dark area. It stood for a moment and I could see the very detailed contours of its form. It wore a derby, carried a briefcase and a cane . It appeared to be dressed like someone on business or a traveler.*****

At first glance, it’s easy to want to clump the Hat Man into the same category as Shadow People, but once you do enough searching, you quickly discover just how many people are having their own truly unique experiences with this strange entity, to the point where there’s no doubt that the Hat Man is a separate phenomena.

BREAK==========

Up next…

Is there really such a thing as coincidence? One girl used to think so – but a strange paranormal experience has her now thinking there’s no such thing as happenstance. (More Than a Coincidence)

Is it possible that the real reason for the USA-Iraq war had nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction, and everything to do with the appropriation of other-worldly alien technology? (Saddam Hussein’s Stargate)

Weirdo family member Heather Circle brings us a terrifying story that starts, innocently enough, with her child’s missing plastic drinking cup. (A Little Pink Sippy Cup)

These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!

<COMMERCIAL BREAK>

STORY: MORE THAN A COINCIDENCE==========

I’ve often wondered about coincidences… Are they really? Someone once told me there are no accidents or coincidences. This made me reflect on past memories. One my mind keeps going back to is of my aunt. We were only 9 years apart so she insisted that I call her by her first name. She was so much fun with a witty sense of humor. She was my favorite aunt out of the 3 that I had.

When I left North Carolina with my grandmother for California she’s who we stayed with. She had left the south and joined the army and was living there at the time. It really was a culture shock for me because now I was in a big city and I was just a small town country girl. My aunt took me everywhere. We went to Disneyland and I never wanted to leave, I loved it. She took me to the Anaheim baseball stadium and many Roller Derby games. She was really in to that. With her help I was able to settle in to city life. All was going well.

Then the phone call came, my aunt was dead from a brain aneurysm at the age of 28. My world crashed, she was the main adult in my life that ever took me places and showed she cared about me except for grandma. Her death left a void in my life that no one could ever fill. No one told jokes like her or could make me laugh so hard, I missed her so much!

Which brings me to coincidences. A year after her death some friends wanted to go hang out at this apartment building. I didn’t know who the people there were but went along. I was stunned when we pulled in the parking lot. It was the apartment building my aunt lived in when I had left the south to stay with her! Memories came flooding back as I got out of the car and slowly started walking up the stairs. I couldn’t believe we were also walking into the same apartment as well. What are the odds of that?! I don’t remember a thing said or who we met that day, in my mind I was reliving some of the happiest times I ever had with my aunt. I could feel her presence there and got goosebumps.

Fast forward ten years later. I was in this city I didn’t know well. My car broke down and there were no phone booths around, just a bus stop so I went and sat on the bench. No one had cell phones that I knew of in the 70’s. I figured I go to my cousins house, he’d help me with the car. I must have sat there well over an hour before I realized no bus was ever going to come. I got really depressed and didn’t know what to do. As I got up from the bench and turned around I realized I was at Rose Hills Memorial Park where my aunt had been buried?! I didn’t recognize it when I sat at the bus stop. It has a huge brick wall around it.

I walked through the gate and up to my aunt’s grave and began to cry. I told her I was so lonely without her, and that I was stranded and didn’t know what to do. I apologized for not having any flowers for her. I touched all the letters on her grave and told her how much I loved her and hoped to see her again someday. Then a calmness came over me as I got up to leave. I just started walking down the road to where I didn’t know. I turned a few corners without thinking about where I was going and there was a phone booth! I was so happy to have stumbled on it, what a coincidence… Or was it? I like to think my aunt showed me where the phone booth was and she was at the old apartment building we once shared. It was meant for me to go with my friends that day so I’d know she was thinking of me too. I’m convinced there are no accidents or coincidences after all.

STORY: A LITTLE PINK SIPPY CUP==========

My aunt Amy spent more than a week searching every inch of her home for her two year old’s favorite sippy cup. It went missing along with her television remote. A few days after she had given up the search, my uncle John went away on a business trip to Alaska. In the middle of the night, alone in the house with her two young children, Amy was frightened awake. She heard a loud thud in the hallway directly outside of her bedroom. As she sat up in her bed and quickly rubbed the sleep from her eyes, she saw an enormous black figure standing in her doorway. She described it as reaching nearly seven feet tall. The room was extremely cold and the overwhelming stench of rotting flesh filled the air around her. Frozen with pure terror, she tried to scream, but no sound came out. As her eyes adjusted, she could see the creatures face. It had a very small head, about the size of a grapefruit, on its enormous shoulders. Its face was wrinkled and saggy, shriveled like a rotten apple. The eyes were like jet black dimes. It was draped in, what my aunt described as, an eskimos coat, thick with fur lining. In its gloved hand, it held a little pink sippy cup.

After a minute of the creature’s unsettling stare, it dropped the sippy cup onto the floor and walked away. When Amy received motion again, she grabbed John’s hunting rifle and cautiously cleared the house. She checked the children, who were still asleep in their beds and then called her husband and my mother. The next morning, she found the sippy cup and her remote laying in the middle of her hallway.

Amy described to my mother that the creature that visited her felt like “death”. Two weeks later, at the age of 25, Amy was diagnosed with terminal cancer.

My mother and I spent a lot of time in the following months taking care of my aunt and her children. One night, I was warming up my mother’s car. It was cold and dark outside and I had the headlights on. The headlights beamed right into my aunt’s bedroom window. I saw the curtains move and at the very top portion of the window, I saw a face looking out at me. I saw a small wrinkled head with little, shark like, eyes. It grinned at me and then disappeared behind the curtains. Within seconds of seeing the creature, the car began to shake violently. I had never been more horrified. I screamed for my mother. As soon as my mother walked out of the front door, the car suddenly stopped. As soon as my mother got into the car, I cried and tried to explain what happened. I couldn’t speak right. I stuttered. The words wouldn’t flow. As we drove down the street, the car seemed to be pulling from one side of the road to the other. It felt like we had a flat tire. My mother pulled the car over and inspected the wheels. The lug nuts on all of the tires were loosened to the point of almost falling off. I knew right then that the creature that I saw staring at me through the window did this. It was trying to kills us.

At the age of 26, my aunt Amy passed away. I know now that the creature that visited my aunt and showed itself to me was the Grim Reaper. It has been twenty years since this all happened, but I still find myself thinking about it all of the time. I’m always wondering when I’ll see the Grim Reaper again.

STORY: SADDAM HUSSEIN’S STARGATE==========

Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) were one of the main reasons for George W. Bush’s invasion of Iraq in 2003.

But those weapons were never conclusively found – and the questionable underpinnings of the second Gulf War have blighted the reputations of both Bush and his UK counterpart, Tony Blair, ever since.

Why would two men who were so focused their political reputation and legacy launch such a dangerous operation on such an unreliable pretext?

Salla claims that aliens that he identifies as being from the mysterious 10th Planet of the Solar System, Nibiru, had a long-running relationship with the people of the Iraq / Iran region.

In a paper entitled Exopolitical Perspective on the Premptive War Against Iraq he says that there is evidence for a long-term alien involvement in the area, dating back to the earliest days of the Sumerian civilization that once dominated the fertile lands along the banks of Euphrates.

He cites the claims by historian Zecharia Sitchin of the ‘Nephilim’, a group of some 200 aliens who rebelled against their superiors, the ‘Elohim’ and interacted with – perhaps even created – early civilization on Earth.

These claims centre around the idea that Nibiru has a highly eccentric orbit that sometimes brings it close to Earth – in an orbit somewhere between Mars and Jupiter, but most often leaves it lost in the blackness of the outer Solar System.
The Nibiru hypothesis is partially supported by the work of astronomers Chad Trujillo and Scott Sheppard who in 2014 demonstrated the possibility of a large planetary body lurking on the outer reaches of the Solar System.

Their hypothesis doesn’t, though, allow for the super-Earth sized planet wandering into the Asteroid Belt.

Nevertheless, Salla is sure that these two groups of aliens, who he collectively calls the Annukai, periodically visit humanity, in a 3,600 year cycle that coincides with its nearest approaches to Earth.
It was on one of these missions, in 1991, he says, that an Annukai saucer was accidentally shot down by a US Air Force F-16 during the first Gulf War.

A UFO that the US administration was very keen to secure for themselves.

Its mission, he theorizes, was to activate a ‘stargate’ hidden in Iraq, possibly beneath the “Dark Ziggurat” of Enzu, which once was the lair of notorious Sumerian sorcerer Gimil-ishbi.

“It’s kind of like an instantaneous space-time means of travel where people are instantaneously teleported from one area to another,” he explained.
If this stargate could have been switched on, Salla wrote, it would give to Saddam a conduit to Nibiru and to the advanced extraterrestrial weaponry wielded by the Annukai.
And it was the threat of this stargate, according to Salla, that led to the US and UK drafting the ‘dodgy dossier’ as a cover for an interplanetary war.

“The Bush administration recognized that Hussein had some very, very valuable relevant information concerning the ancient history of the planet,” claimed Salla.

“Either technology or texts basically confirming this and he was going to release this to the general public.” “I think that was a big part of the reason why the Bush Administration went into Iraq, to stop Hussein from revealing this information and to also get control control themselves.”

Salla says that other powers had their own teams looking for the stargate.

He said: “Hussein controls the ground in Southern Iraq, and is permitting the German led excavations in Uruk, while the US led coalition controls the sky and is monitoring the situation.
“The Bush administration wants control of Iraq territory to take control of excavations of Uruk to uncover its buried Stargate, and closely monitor and control it. In contrast, Hussein wants to find and activate the Stargate for his greater glory and presumably the benefit of humanity.”

But, of course, the month-long blitzkrieg of Operation Iraqi Freedom marked the end of those excavations, and the end of Salla’s hypothetical subspace corridor between Earth and Nibiru.

Did it ever exist? Of the few people that were in a position to say for certain, most on the losing side are now dead and the victors – Bush and Blair – are highly unlikely ever to confirm the existence of such an interplanetary-scale cover-up.

BREAK==========

When Weird Darkness returns…

In 1888, London was terror-struck by the grotesque murders of Jack the Ripper, who was shortly about to claim his next-victim: 47-year-old prostitute Annie Chapman. Her dissection at the hands of the madman was nothing short of gruesome.

But first, Rebecca Schaeffer was destined to be a star. But before she had the chance to make it in Hollywood, she was murdered by an obsessed fan.

That story is up next.

<COMMERCIAL BREAK>

STORY: HOLLYWOOD’S SWEETHEART KILLED BY A STALKER==========

Twenty-one-year-old model and actress Rebecca Schaeffer was well on her way to becoming a star. By 1989, she had already appeared in several movies and TV shows.

However, the day she was set to audition for a part in The Godfather III, her life was horrifically cut short by an obsessed fan.

Rebecca Schaeffer paced her West Hollywood apartment on her final morning, July 18, 1989. She awaited the delivery of The Godfather III script which she would be reading before Academy Award-winning director Francis Ford Coppola. Schaeffer was auditioning for the part of Mary Corleone, Michael Corleone’s daughter; a role that would surely change her career.

When the doorbell rang, Schaeffer rushed downstairs, but she was not greeted by the courier she was expecting. The man on her doorstep was carrying a bag containing a copy of the book The Catcher In The Rye, an autographed photo of Schaeffer, and a card he had received from her in response to a letter he had written. Schaeffer’s card to him read, “Yours was one of the nicest I ever got.”

Schaeffer smiled sweetly and told him she needed to get ready for an appointment. She said to the man, “Please take care,” shook his hand, and closed the door.

The man, Robert John Bardo, had traveled 500 miles from Tucson, Arizona to West Hollywood to see Schaeffer. After the short interaction on the doorstep, Bardo walked to a diner and ate breakfast. He realized he had forgotten about the compact disc and letter he had also brought for Schaeffer, so decided he would return to her apartment.

This time, Schaeffer was not as patient; she was visibly annoyed and, according to Bardo, said: “Hurry up, I don’t have much time.”

Bardo responded, “I forgot to give you something.” He proceeded to pull out a .357 Magnum handgun and shot Schaeffer in the chest. She screamed, uttering, “Why, why?” Bardo turned and ran, leaving Schaeffer bleeding on her doorstep.

On hearing a gunshot and screaming, a neighbor called an ambulance, but it was too late. Schaeffer died shortly after arriving at the hospital.

Rebecca Lucile Schaeffer was born Nov. 6, 1967, in Eugene, Oregon, to Danna, a writer and teacher, and Benson Schaeffer, a psychologist.

Schaeffer was the couple’s only child. The family was dedicated to their Jewish faith and Schaeffer even considered becoming a Rabbi at one point. The family was also close, and Schaeffer said of them once, “No matter where we are in the world, we are like a three-legged stool.”

When the family moved to Portland, Schaeffer attended the prestigious Lincoln High School. She excelled socially and academically.

At the age of 14, Schaeffer was referred to talent agency Troutman Profiles Inc. by her hairdresser, Rick Putro. It wasn’t long before she was featured in department store catalogs modeling outfits for the back-to-school season. Schaeffer took to modeling and was determined to progress. The ambitions she once had of becoming a Rabbi were now behind her.

In August 1984, at 16, Schaeffer finished an internship in New York City. The city was a good fit for her; she loved the fast pace of life and endless opportunities the city had to offer. Instead of returning to Portland to complete her high school education, Schaeffer decided to return to New York.

She would attend the Professional Children’s School while looking for modeling and acting jobs. Not long after moving, Schaeffer landed the role of Annie Barnes in the soap opera One Life To Live.

Schaeffer had trouble finding modeling jobs due to her height. At five foot, seven inches tall, she was two inches shorter than the average fashion model. So she went instead to Japan, hoping she might have more luck there. Still unsuccessful, Schaeffer returned to New York and turned her attentions to acting.

Acting jobs were steady for Schaeffer and it wasn’t long before the 18-year-old landed her biggest part yet, a leading role in the CBS sitcom My Sister Sam. In the show, charming 16-year-old Patti Russell (Schaeffer) goes to live with her sophisticated older sister, 29-year-old Sam Russell (Pam Dawber), a successful photographer in San Francisco.

Schaeffer wasn’t thrilled about moving to LA given how much she enjoyed living in New York. However, she fit right in on the set of My Sister Sam where her fellow cast members became her extended family.

In 1987, Schaeffer began dating 23-year-old Brad Silberling, a graduate student studying filmmaking at UCLA.

Schaeffer was beginning to get more of a feel for the celebrity lifestyle. The first season of My Sister Sam, which originally aired in October 1986, was a hit from the start. Schaeffer was idolized by readers of Seventeen magazine and was featured on the cover of the March 1987 issue.

She also began to receive fan mail.

Schaeffer told Judy Crown, a hairstylist on the set of My Sister Sam, how excited she was about this, but it set off alarm bells in Crown’s mind. She recalled telling Schaeffer not to respond to mail or gifts she received from fans as people could be crazy.

Crown told the Television Academy Foundation in an interview that Schaeffer was “very beautiful, very sweet, a little bit naive.”

My Sister Sam was canceled after two seasons. The final episode aired April 12, 1988. Later that year, however, Schaeffer was cast in Scenes From The Class Struggle In Beverley Hills directed by Paul Bartel. A sexy and sophisticated black comedy, the movie was different from anything Schaeffer had done previously and brought her to a new level of stardom.

Enter Robert John Bardo. Bardo fell hard for Schaeffer the first time he saw her in My Sister Sam, but this wasn’t the first time Bardo had fallen in love with a fresh face on screen.

Bardo had previously become obsessed with Samantha Smith, a 10-year-old American schoolgirl and peace activist.

Smith was known for writing a letter to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov hoping to better understand the tense Soviet-US relations. At Andropov’s request, Smith even traveled to the Soviet Union where she met and spent time with locals.

Meanwhile, Bardo traveled to Smith’s home state of Maine to try and find her. Tragically, Smith was killed in an airplane crash on Aug. 25, 1985.

Bardo then began to write letters to Schaeffer. He became increasingly convinced that he was connecting with her with each letter he sent. He wrote that he was “a sensitive guy” and that he related to Schaeffer’s character in My Sister Sam.

He knew nothing of Schaeffer outside of her TV show. When Schaeffer responded to one of Bardo’s letters saying, “Yours was one of the nicest I ever got,” Bardo only felt more convinced that she reciprocated his feelings.

On receiving the letter from Schaeffer in the summer of 1987, Bardo caught a flight to Burbank from Tucson. He made his way to Warner Brothers Studios clutching a bouquet of flowers and a giant teddy bear.

Security Chief Jack Egger remembered Bardo pleading with him to be let in, “I gotta see her. I love her. If I could just see her for a minute.” Egger felt bad for Bardo who he saw as nothing more than a lovesick teen and offered Bardo a ride back to the hotel where he was staying. Bardo accepted.

The two talked during the car ride and Egger told Bardo it would be best for him to return to Tucson. Bardo said he would. But Bardo returned a month later with a knife. He was prevented from entering the studio this time.

The movie Scenes From The Class Struggle in Beverly Hills was released June 3, 1989, and no one was more anxious to see it than Bardo. However, on finishing the movie, the usual warmth and affection he felt for Schaeffer when watching My Sister Sam had vanished and were replaced with resentment and disgust.

What changed Bardo’s attitude towards Schaeffer was a scene featuring her character in bed with one of her male co-stars.

Bardo made his way to Anthony Agency, a Tucson private investigation firm, with a photo of Schaeffer. He told the private investigators that Schaeffer was an old friend of his and that they had corresponded in the past but he needed her current address so that he could send her a gift.

Gaining access to Schaeffer’s home address proved to be incredibly easy. Bardo paid $300 to this private investigator and they got in touch with the California Department of Motor Vehicles on his behalf. The California DMV, in turn, provided the P.I. with Schaeffer’s home address. This was all perfectly legal, given driver’s license information was public record at the time.

Bardo attempted to buy a gun, too, but the owner of the shop refused to sell one to him when he found out about Bardo’s history of mental illness. Bardo then asked his brother, Edward, to buy one for him and Edward agreed as long as his brother promised only to use it when they were together for target practice.

Shortly before Bardo boarded a Greyhound Bus headed for L.A., he wrote a letter to his older sister in Knoxville, Tennessee.

In the letter, he wrote: *****“I have an obsession with the unattainable. I have to eliminate [what] I cannot attain.”***** He did not specifically mention Schaeffer, however.

The day after Bardo murdered Schaeffer, he was located in Tucson attempting to kill himself by running in and out of traffic. He was yelling that he had killed Rebecca Schaeffer.

Authorities in Tucson arrested Bardo and held him on a one-million-dollar bail. They contacted the LAPD and told them that they were holding Robert John Bardo, and faxed his photo over.

LAPD showed the photo to witnesses who had come forward saying they had been approached by a man asking where Rebecca Schaeffer lived the morning she was murdered. Witnesses confirmed it was the same man in the photo.

Discarded just blocks from Schaeffer’s apartment, LAPD found a yellow shirt, a gun holster and a copy of The Catcher In The Rye. LAPD also received a phone call from a Tennessee Highway Patrol Officer. The officer informed them that Bardo’s sister had gotten a phone call from her brother the morning of the shooting.

Bardo had told her he was just one-and-a-half blocks away from Schaeffer’s apartment at the time.

Bardo’s public defender, Stephen Galindo, argued that Bardo was incapable of planning the murder due to mental illness. Bardo’s brother, Edward, added in court that his brother had spent time in a psychiatric hospital when he was younger.

While in jail awaiting trial, Dr. Park Dietz, a forensic psychiatrist, interviewed Bardo and the young shooter told him “there was something very special about Rebecca, and I just couldn’t let go of her.”

Bardo explained that he identified with Mark David Chapman, John Lennon’s killer. Indeed, both Chapman and Bardo were carrying a copy of The Catcher In The Rye when they killed their victims.

Bardo also told Dietz that the song “Exit” by U2 gave him the idea to kill Schaeffer. During the trial, Galindo played the song. Bardo was transformed by the music, he sang along, tapped his feet, and bobbed his head to the beat.

Dietz testified finally that though Bardo was a schizophrenic since childhood, he was not legally insane.

Prosecuting Bardo’s trial was Marcia Clark, who would later prosecute OJ Simpson. Clark argued that Bardo could not be simply insane given that he had stalked Schaeffer for two years before going on to murder her.

Judge Dino Fulgoni sided with the prosecution. On Oct. 29, 1991, Bardo was convicted of first-degree murder. He was subsequently sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Bardo is currently incarcerated at Avenal State Prison in California. In prison, he spends much of his time drawing celebrities. A number of his drawings are available for purchase online.

In honor of Schaeffer, the cast of My Sister Sam gathered to make a PSA about preventing handgun violence. Pam Dawber even testified before Congress on the issue of implementing common-sense gun laws.

If anything positive came out of Schaeffer’s death, it was the anti-stalking movement which led to several changes in the law.

In 1990, California passed the first anti-stalking law in the country and officially labeled stalking a crime. There was also a strong push from the Screen Actors Guild to protect personal information held by the DMV; California was the first state to restrict access to this information.

In 1994, the Driver’s Privacy Protection Act was passed by Congress which required every state to do the same.

Rebecca Schaeffer was buried at Ahavai Sholom Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.

Over 200 mourners attended the service. Condolences poured in from the many people whose lives were touched by Schaeffer during her short time on earth.

STORY: 
THE DISSECTION OF ANNIE CHAPMAN==========

In September 1888, the Whitechapel district of London found itself in the midst of a blood-curdling series of homicides. Five prostitutes were not only slashed to death but utterly mutilated with their organs removed. Indeed, as written by The New York Times in September 1888, “The murders are certainly the most ghastly and mysterious known to English police history.”

But on the night that young sex worker Annie Chapman went out to get her nightly wage, the murderer, Jack the Ripper, had not yet risen to infamy. The 47-year-old woman thus did not know the danger that awaited her.

In the late 1800s, the women of London had few opportunities. They could get married or live in poverty. Annie Chapman chose the former, and lived with her husband, John, a coachman. However, after their youngest daughter, Emily, died of meningitis at the age of 12, the couple fell into troubled times and separated in 1884.

Chapman consequently moved to Whitechapel where she lived in various lodging houses. Her husband sent her ten shillings a week and she earned money doing crochet-work and selling flowers. But when her husband died, Chapman turned to sex work in order to ensure that she had a warm place to sleep every night.

By 1888 Chapman was living at Crossingham’s Lodging House on 35 Dorset Street, along with approximately 300 other people. Here, she paid eightpence for a bed and was known by the manager as “inoffensive” though she was consumptive and often sickly. She was stout, hardy, and was potentially suffering from both TB and syphilis.

While staying at 35 Dorse, Chapman garnered two regular customers, Harry the Hawker, and a man named Ted Stanley.

On Sept. 8, 1888, she left the house sometime after one a.m. She told the manager to save her a bed as she went out to earn sufficient funds. “I’ll soon be back,” she said.

But she wouldn’t be.

Chapman was spotted later with a man at 29 Hanbury Street around 5:30 a.m. The voyeur heard the man ask Chapman “Will you?” to which she replied “Yes.”

Then around 5:45 a.m., Albert Cadosch, who was living at 27 Hanbury Street, walked into his backyard. As he passed the fence that separated his house from that of 29 Hanbury Street, he heard a woman say, “No!” He heard something fall against the fence but thought nothing of it. He went on with his regular routine.

Chapman had most likely met her murderer only minutes before the attack, thinking he was a potential customer. She might’ve led him through a passageway in a lodging house filled with sleeping people into the backyard, where the two could complete their transaction alone.

However, much to her terror, the man instead took hold of her and brutally cut her throat from ear to ear, before mutilating her body. Then, he escaped into the night without raising even an ounce of suspicion.

A little before 6 a.m., John Davis, a carman who lived in the lodging house with his family, found Chapman’s mutilated corpse.

Davis cried out to the men waiting outside and they immediately ran to the Commercial Street Police Station.

“I could see that the woman was dead,” said James Kent, one of the witnesses. “She had some kind of handkerchief around her throat, which seemed soaked in blood. The face and hands were besmeared with blood, as if she had struggled.”

The news of Chapman’s death spread rapidly and as Inspector Joseph Chandler arrived, so did an excited crowd. As Echo magazine reported, “The excitement has, as we say, been intense. The terror is extreme. The house and the mortuary were besieged by people, and it is said that during part of Saturday people flocked in great numbers to see the blood-stained spot in the yard, paying a penny each.”

Dr. George Bagster Phillips arrived on the scene at approximately 6:30 a.m. He reported that Annie Chapman’s throat had been cut so severely that her head was barely still attached to her body.

Her abdomen had also been cut and laid open. As Phillips said, “The small intestines and other portions were lying on the right side of the body on the ground above the right shoulder, but attached. There was a large quantity of blood, with a part of the stomach above the left shoulder.”

Chapman’s uterus and two-thirds of her bladder had been removed. Since no trace of these organs was found, the killer was assumed to have taken them with him. These cuts were very clean suggesting that the person who made them was experienced. Her other nearby organs had been carefully avoided.

All of this had been done in a pitch-black morning in under 30 minutes.

As the doctor reported in his inquest, “Obviously the work was that of an expert — of one, at least, who had such knowledge of anatomical or pathological examinations as to be enabled to secure the pelvic organs with one sweep of the knife.”

The Foreman later reported, “I was asked by the police whether a photograph of the deceased’s eye would be of any use; but I gave it as my opinion that a photograph of the eye would be useless in this case.”

This suggestion most likely has to do with an old belief that a person’s eye recorded their last sight before death. It was a practice that had been used as an attempt to catch killers in times past, but clearly, was of no use in catching Jack the Ripper.

On Sept. 14, 1888, a hearse supplied by the Hanbury Street Undertaker drove to the Whitechapel Mortuary to pick up Annie Chapman’s body. She was taken to the City of London Cemetery in Forest Gate, London where she was lowered into grave 78, square 148.

No mourning coaches followed the hearse. As The Daily Telegraph reported, “The funeral of Annie Chapman took place early yesterday morning, the utmost secrecy having been observed, and none but the undertaker, police, and relatives of the deceased knew anything about the arrangements.”

Sadly, Chapman’s grave no longer exists, as it has since been buried over.

Chapman’s was the second murder of this brutality in Whitechapel. Citizens were consequently starting to panic and police were put under increasing pressure to find the man involved.

Before long, a man known as “Leather Apron” was arrested. He was believed to carry around a knife and mistreat sex workers.

An alleged witness from the night of Chapman’s murder indicated this man, whose real name was John Pizer, out of a lineup. But after further investigation, he was released.

On Sunday night, another “suspicious-looking individual” named William Pigott was arrested. One of his hands had a bite mark, which Pigott said came from a woman who he had tried to help during the early hours of the morning in Whitechapel on Sept. 8. He also had spots of blood on the clothes he was carrying.

Several witnesses were called in, but none were able to identify him out of a lineup. The doctor pronounced him as a lunatic. It’s been suggested that he was later moved to an asylum.

With no other leads, the backyard of 29 Hanbury Street was cleaned up and the crowds dispersed. Panic was subdued, that is until the police received their most haunting clue yet.

This time, from the Whitechapel murderer himself.

The week following Chapman’s murder, the London police station received a letter in red ink. It read:

*****“Dear Boss, I keep on hearing the police have caught me but they won’t fix me just yet. I have laughed when they look so clever and talk about being on the right track. That joke about Leather Apron gave me real fits…I saved some of the proper red stuff in a ginger beer bottle over the last job to write with but it went thick like glue and I can’t use it. Red ink is fit enough I hope ha ha …”*****

It was signed, “Yours truly Jack the Ripper. Don’t mind me giving the trade name.”

Although this letter can still not be proven to be authentic, its contents have provoked nightmares and curiosity for over a century now.

Annie Chapman’s last sight was the face of one of the most famous serial killers in human history. But today, the rest of us are left to wonder: Who even was he?

BREAK==========

Annie Chapman likely got a good look at her killer. Could the last visual image of someone’s life remain in the eye even after death as scientists thought at the time? We’ll take a look in just a moment. (The Last Thing a Corpse Sees)

If you’ve ever seen the film “The Wicker Man”, you are familiar with the ending of the burning giant made of wood and the human sacrifice therein. But is it possible that this terrifying idea was not an invention of novelists and screenwriters – but was a very real practice at one time? Or even today? (The History Behind The Wicker Man)

The life that serial killer Dennis Rader lived on the outside, hid his dark secret inside, which he was so desperate to reveal that he began dropping breadcrumbs to the media. (The Paper Trail of BTK)

These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.

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STORY: THE LAST THING A CORPSE SEES==========

A 20-year-old woman, Theresa Hollander, had been beaten to death and her body found in a cemetery. But the fact that her eyes were still open gave her family hope: Perhaps the last thing she saw—presumably the face of her murderer—was imprinted like a the negative of a photograph on her retinas, writes Lindsey Fitzharris for The Chirurgeon’s Apprentice.

Accordingly, a photograph of the woman’s retina’s was taken, “at the suggestion of a local oculist, who told police that the retina would show the last object within her vision before she became unconscious,” The Times reported. The grand jury would see the image on Saturday.

Though it may sound like folly these days, many believed in these statements at the time, which was a period of riveting developments in both biology and photography. People were well aware of the similarities between the structure of the human eye and that of a camera, so the idea that the eye could capture and hold an image didn’t seem so far fetched. Indeed, some experiments made it seem possible.

The process of developing the retina’s last images was called optography and the images themselves, optograms, writes Experiments in this field first started with Franz Christian Boll, a physiologist who in 1876 discovered a pigment hiding in the back of the eye that would bleach in the light and recover in the dark. He called this retinal pigment “visual purple” and today we call it rhodopsin.

Wilhelm Friedrich Kühne, a professor of physiology at the University of Heidelberg, quickly took up the study of rhodopsin, according to Arthur B. Evans, writing about optograms. Kühne devised a process to fix the bleached rhodopsin in the eye and develop an image from the result. Evans quotes an article bybiochemist George Wald about Kühne’s work:

*****One of Kühne’s early optograms was made as follows. An albino rabbit was fastened with its head facing a barred window. From this position the rabbit could see only a gray and clouded sky. The animal’s head was covered for several minutes with a cloth to adapt its eyes to the dark, that is to let rhodopsin accumulate in its rods. Then the animal was exposed for three minutes to the light. It was immediately decapitated, the eye removed and cut open along the equator, and the rear half of the eyeball containing the retina laid in a solution of alum for fixation. The next day Kühne saw, printed upon the retina in bleached and unaltered rhodopsin, a picture of the window with the clear pattern of its bars.*****

(Kühne, 1877 (Public Domain))

People quickly latched on to the idea as a tool for forensic investigations. The College of Optometrists in the U.K. reports that police photographed the eye of a murdered man in April 1877, “only partly aware of what optography involved,” and that investigators on the trail of Jack the Ripper may have considered a proposal to use the technique.

Faith in optography was misplaced, however, as Kühne’s experiments showed that only simple, high-contrast surroundings were able to produce interpretable optograms, Douglas J. Lanska writes in Progress in Brain Research. Furthermore, the retina needs to be removed very quickly from the recently deceased. He wrote at the time:

*****I am not prepared to say that eyes which have remained in the head an hour or more after decapitation will no longer give satisfactory optograms; indeed, the limit for obtaining a good image seems to be in rabbits from about sixty to ninety minutes, while the eyes of oxen seem to be useless after one hour.*****

The only optogram known to have come from the eye of a human was developed by Kühne, writes Stolze. The man was Erhard Gustav Reif, sentenced to death for drowning his two youngest children. On November 16, 1880, Kühne took the man’s decapitated head from the guillotine and created an optogram within 10 minutes. The image, however, is very ambiguous, just a rectangular geometric shape with a stairstep pattern, like a piece of cut tile.

Kühne never claimed to say what the image depicted, but people have interpretedthe shape as the guillotine’s blade or the steps the man had to take to reach it. Both are probably fanciful interpretations as Reif was blindfolded shortly before his death.

Still, the idea persisted and leapt into fiction. Jules Verne used optography as a plot device in his Les Frères Kip (The Brothers Kip), published in 1902, Evans writes. The eponymous brothers end up falsely accused of the murder of a ship’s captain. When the victim’s friend asks for an enlargement of a photograph of the dead captain, the captain’s son notices two points of light in the man’s eyes. With the aid of a microscope, the faces of the real murderers, “two villainous sailors,” are seen and the Kip brothers are set free.

For decades, people claimed to use the technique, at least if newspapers were to be believed. “Photos show killer’s face in Retina,” and “Slain man’s eye shows picture of murderer” are just two headlines showing the optogram hype. Even more modern minds are tantalized by the idea: optograms appear in Doctor Who (“The Crimson Horror” from 2013) and in Fringe (“The Same Old Story” in 2008).

The photograph in the case of Theresa Hollander never did reveal anything to help or hurt the suspicions that her ex-boyfriend was responsible, Fitzharris reports. He was tried twice and found not guilty.

STORY: THE HISTORY BEHIND THE WICKER MAN==========

The wicker man is purported to be one of the means by which the ancient druids made human sacrifices. According to a number of classical authors, the druids partook in human sacrifice, though these authors usually did not specify the way these sacrifices were carried out. Nevertheless, references to a form of druid human sacrifice which utilized the ‘wicker man’ can be found in two classical sources.

The druids were a class of people within the societies of the Celts who inhabited Britain and France. Almost everything we know about the druids today can be regarded as second-hand knowledge. Known surviving texts that mention them were written by non-druids, most notably the Roman leader Julius Caesar.

The druids were thought to be highly revered, and played a variety of important roles in their community. The druids served, amongst other things, as teachers, judges, philosophers, and mediators between human beings and gods. Ancient sources write that the druids often performed human sacrifices, which may or may not be true. If it is true, one of the means by which the druids supposedly sacrificed their human victims was with a device now known as a ‘wicker man’.

In Julius Caesar’s The Gallic Wars , it is recorded that the Celtic tribes inhabiting the region of Gaul were extremely superstitious. Additionally, Caesar wrote that the Celts believed “that unless the life of a man be offered for the life of a man, the mind of the immortal gods cannot be rendered propitious”. Thus, human sacrifices were said to have been commonly performed by druids employed by those who are afflicted by severe diseases or engaged in battles or dangers. Nevertheless, human sacrifices “ordained for national purposes” may have also been performed.

Caesar also claimed that human sacrifices involving criminals were “more acceptable to the immortal gods”, though when supply was short, the innocent would also be sacrificed. During this discourse of Celtic human sacrifice, Caesar provides one example of the way the druids carried out this task, which involved “figures of vast size, the limbs of which formed of osiers they fill with living men,” These figures are the so-called ‘wicker men’, which would then be set on fire, and the men in them would be destined to perish in the flames.

This form of human sacrifice can also be found in Strabo’s Geography. This ancient writer claimed that the Celts “devised a colossus of straw and wood” for the purpose of sacrifice. Unlike Caesar, however, Strabo records that “cattle and wild animals and all sorts of human beings” were thrown into this colossus, and then burnt. Strabo also asserts that the ‘wicker man’ was just one method of human sacrifice, and two other examples of how the druids performed human sacrifices are given, “they would shoot victims to death with arrows, or impale them in the temples”

In reality, it is unknown if the druids actually used ‘wicker men’ for human sacrifices. It has been argued, for instance, that such a device would have been neither practical nor realistic. Although wicker objects are said to be quite strong, they would lose their structural integrity quite quickly when set on fire.

A live animal or person within a ‘wicker man’ could also struggle and break it an attempt to escape. It may be possible that the people / animals prepared for the sacrifice were drugged prior to being placed in the ‘wicker man’, though neither Caesar nor Strabo recorded such a practice.

The story of the ‘wicker man’, which may have been quite obscure, became popular thanks to a 1973 British horror film called The Wicker Man . This film revolves around a devoutly Christian Scottish police sergeant who is sent to an isolated Hebridean island called Summerisle to investigate the disappearance of a young girl. The climax of the film occurs when the sergeant is sacrificed by the inhabitants of the island, who are pagans, in a ‘wicker man’.

The ‘wicker man’ is also used in today’s neopagan practices, specifically for the celebration of a fire feast or at harvest time. Fortunately, however, humans / animals, are no longer placed within this structure.

STORY: THE PAPER TRAIL OF BTK==========

No one knows how long it had been hidden there. A seemingly innocent piece of paper caught between pages of an engineering textbook at the Wichita Public Library. But the words typed on there were the start of a cat-and-mouse hunt of the self-dubbed BTK Killer, Dennis Rader.

On the surface, Rader led a fairly typical life. He served in the Air Force in the 1960s and eventually married and settled down in Wichita and had two kids. He worked for the camping equipment company Coleman Company, home security company ADT and then as a Park City, Kansas, compliance officer. And to really hammer in the family man image, he was also an active member of his church and a Boy Scout leader.

But that picture-perfect facade may have been the exact image he wanted to relay as he covered up some of the most gruesome murders in American history.

The possible reason: As a child, he had developed “violent sexual fantasies that involved bondage” after killing animals. And on January 15, 1974, he turned to his first murder spree, killing the parents and two kids of the Otero family and then following up by murdering Kathryn Bright in April of that year. He had known both Bright and the Otero mother from his time working at Coleman Company.

In a cruel twist of timing, it was four years later that Rader graduated from Wichita State University studying — what else? — criminal justice.

And it was that kind of double life that led to his carefully orchestrated crime spree, which lasted from 1974 to 1991.
Adding to the horror of Radar’s murders was his constant toying with authorities, starting with that note left in a library book.

Wichita Eagle newspaper employee Don Granger received a phone call in 1974 revealing that the letter was stashed in one of the books. Granger immediately let officials know and the police found it. Yet the contents of the letter weren’t revealed until a new weekly newspaper, the Wichita Sun, which had only launched a few months before that, got their hands on the letter.

A portion of the letter said, “I can’t stop it so the monster goes on and hurts me as well as society. … It’s a big complicated game my friend the monster play, putting victims number down, follow them, checking up on them, waiting in the dark, waiting, waiting…”

And in a postscript, it read, “P.S. Since sex criminals do not change their M.O. or by nature cannot do so, I will not change mine. The code word for me will be… Bind them, torture them, kill them, B.T.K., you see he’s at it again.”

And thus the monstrous Rader gave himself the title he’s known as: BTK Killer.

About four years later, on January 31, 1978, the Wichita Eagle received another note, this time in the form of a poem starting with the words, “Shirleylocks, shirleylocks,” on an index card about the murder of Shirley Vian, killed the previous March. Around the same time, the Eagle got another letter about the Otero murders and the TV station KAKE got a letter referring to the killings of Vian and Nancy Fox, slain in December of 1977, as well as another unnamed victim.

He reportedly drew pleasure from the media coverage, even expressing in one of his letters: “How many people do I have to kill before I get a name in the paper or some national attention?”

His last recorded murder was in 1991, but it was around the time of the 30th anniversary of the Otero family murders that Rader started to drop hints once again.

A KAKE viewer reported a suspicious box in December 2004, which contained a Barbie mimicking the murder of the one of the Oteros, as well as Fox’s driver’s license. A month later, the station got a postcard leading them to a cereal box with a note, “Can I communicate with Floppy [disk] and not be traced to a computer. Be honest.”

While the disk did end up being relayed, Rader’s inability to hide the metadata from the documents led to his eventual arrest in 2005.

He was given 10 life sentences and remains at El Dorado Correctional Facility, with his earliest parole being set for the year 2180. His heartless spree sparked Stephen King’s A Good Marriage novella, as well as numerous documentaries. The character ADT Man on Mindhunter is also based on Rader.

BREAK==========

When Weird Darkness returns…

A graveyard is typically a quiet place, but Graceland Cemetery in Chicago seems to be a bit too quiet – which might have something to do with its resident ghosts. (The Deathly Silence of Graceland Cemetery)

That story is up next.

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STORY==========

THE DEATHLY SILENCE OF GRACELAND CEMETERY

When real estate investor Thomas B. Bryan founded Graceland Cemetery in 1860—just three blocks from Wrigley Field Today– the now-bustling neighborhood was practically wilderness. Over the years, a number of architects and designers worked to civilize this 120-acre enclosure in typical Chicago fashion. Bryan’s nephew, Bryan Lathrop, served as president of the cemetery for a number of years and was enchanted by naturalism. As a result, architects William Le Baron Jenney and Ossian Cole Simonds were hired to enhance the grounds. Simonds was so taken with the project that he ended up turning his professional attention fully towards landscape design. Through the work he did at Graceland and afterward, Simonds anticipated the gracious natural appreciation of the Prairie School artists.

Names found in many of Chicago’s history books may be found on the stones and monuments here:  Chicago’s much-maligned “first settler,” John Kinzie, Railroad magnate George Pullman, merchant king Marshall Field, the great detective Alan Pinkerton, whose men subdued the chaos in the days after the Great Fire, and Fazlur Kahn, structural engineer of the cursed Hancock building. Mayor Carter Harrison, who was shot at the end of October 1893, bringing the triumphant World’s Fair to a grim close.  William Starrett, founder of the Baker Street Irregulars. And so many others.(048)

Ghosts roam here, though in recent years many have sought debunk the thrilling stories I and others passed on from the folklore which flourished during our childhoods in the area.  Thankfully, the stories remain, despite the attempts.

The tomb of Ludwig Wolff, which stands right over the Montrose Avenue fence, has been carved from a built-up mound, with stairs leading down to the entrance.  A vent at the top feeds the legend that Wolff was terrified of being buried alive, and included a ventilation system, and literal bells and whistles to guard against the chance of it.  Residents of the apartment buildings that tower over Montrose avenue say that, on nights when the full moon illuminates the cemetery grounds, one may see the phantom figure of Wolff’s faithful wolf hound, pacing in front of the tomb’s entrance, its fur shining and its eyes glowing a fluorescent green.  Some have dismissed these tales, as coyotes do live here . . . “Just the light reflecting off their eyes,” they say.

Perhaps.

Strollers through the cemetery have told of seeing a somber figure standing on the veranda which tops the tomb of the Goodman family, gazing across the beautiful man-made Lake Willowmere, a placid retreat surrounded by willow trees and the graves of Chicago’s great architects and artists and “Mr. Cub,” Ernie Banks.

A wondrous surprise at this lake is a recently refurbished footbridge which leads to the island burials of World’s Fair architect Daniel Burnham and family.  Burnham’s ghost was  reported frequently after his death, but few knew who the ghost was until the publication of The Devil in the White City.  They see him, hands in pockets, standing on the banks of his island here, walking the Fairgrounds in Jackson Park, and even in his old offices at the Rookery Building on LaSalle Street, where he designed the World’s Fair.  In fact, some have wondered if it is his ghost, and not defense attorney Clarence Darrow’s which has been seen so often on the steps of the old Palace of Fine Arts of Burnham’s design.

The haunting tales of  Lorado Taft’s foreboding monument, The Eternal Silence,  have now passed completely into  legend.  That’ eerie  creation,  a larger-than-life  tower of oxidized bronze  depicting a looming, hooded  figure, was  said to be unphotographable when  it was  erected  over the  grave  of Ohio-born hotel owner,  Dexter  Graves in   One of the most fascinating, and hence, most  photographed,  images  in  Chicago   cemetery   art,  that  tale  is obviously  untrue.  Yet,  some  still  insist that  a look into the  deep-set eyes  of the  so-called   “Statue  of Death”   will  give  the  beholder  a glimpse of his own afterlife to come.

A friend of mine, Robert Murch, is the penultimate historian of Ouija boards, or talking boards as they are more generically called.  During a visit to Chicago to speak at a paranormal conference I was hosting, Murch made a visit to Graceland Cemetery hoping to find the grave of J.M. Simmons, who was one of the largest producers of Ouija boards in the world in the early 20th century—so many that he was called the “Ouija King of Chicago.” Along with Simmons were other Chicago-based talking board companies that sprung up in the 1940s.  As Murch says, Ouija boards and Chicago were “like peas and carrots.”

Murch was extremely disappointed when the management of the cemetery told him Simmons wasn’t there, but he and his friend toured the cemetery anyway, as he had heard about its stunning beauty and history.  Then rounding a curve, he came upon the towering “Statue of Death” and he stopped dead in his tracks.  He couldn’t believe what he was seeing.

The figure, Murch said, was a dead ringer for the one that donned the boxes of William Fuld’s and later parker Brothers’ Ouija and Mystifying Oracles from 1941 to 1972.  Could it really be that I just came face to face with the inspiration of what Hubert Fuld called affectionately the Blue Ghost?

When I saw him later that day, Murch had a huge smile on his face.  He came and knelt down next to the chair where I was sitting and said, “I want to show you something.”  He said, “My friend took me to Graceland Cemetery,” and he took out his phone and showed me this montage he had quickly made, the side by side photographs of the Blue Ghost and The Statue of Death. (066)

I started to cry and laugh at the same time.  Not knowing about Chicago’s connection to the marketing of the Ouija board, I had never realized the similarity. It truly was an amazing one.

Murch knew he would probably never know if Lorado Taft’s stunning statue was really the inspiration for the likeness of the “mystifying oracle” which appeared on countless Ouija board boxes produced in Chicago, but we both like to think it was.   As Murch says, rather than seeing a premonition of his death when he looked into the eyes of The Eternal Silence, he “simply saw a ghost with a story to tell.”

One of Graceland’s ghost stories has been ruthlessly and regularly dismembered for two decades by a long line of historians and journalists: the story of the little ghost girl known as Inez Clarke.

When I first started lecturing on Chicago’s ghosts, a well-known cemetery historian showed up at one of my lectures, waited until I asked for questions, and then started scolding me about “spreading falsehoods about cemetery history” regarding Inez Clarke.  It was one of countless times I would have to explain to “experts” the difference between history and folklore!

Struck  down  in  her  girlhood  by  either  tuberculosis or a lightning bolt (the versions of the tale often differ), the story tells that Inez was buried in Graceland by her devastated  parents, who  proceeded  to commission  a statue of their lost angel  for her gravesite. That  monument, perhaps  the most affecting of any Chicago child’s, depicts the little lady in her favorite dress,  perched on a wooden chair,  and  holding  a dainty  parasol.  Her gleaming eyes hover above a whisper  of a smile.  Surrounding the masterpiece is a box made of glass, secured cemented to the monument’s based.

Years  ago, reports began to circulate  that the  statue  had come  up missing  one night, only  to  be  found   in   place  the  next  morning.   Apparently  this  happened on several  occasions  until, according to the story, the glass case was placed over the monument  to prevent further theft.  When a security  guard  making  his  rounds  discovered  the  empty  case  one night, despite it being securely anchored to the base, he fled the cemetery at once, leaving the grounds unattended and the gates standing open.

Accounts    differ    as   to   whether    Inez’s    statue    began disappearing  before or  after  her  monument  was  encased  in  glass. Those   who  attest  to  her  death  by  lightning  say  that  she  only disappears  during violent  storms, perhaps  seeking  shelter  from the frightening weather, while those who credit her death to tuberculosis say that she runs off at random. Occasionally,  a visitor will claim to have  seen  a child  who wanders  and disappears  among the  graves near the Clarke monument, and stories tell of children visiting the cemetery with their families who wander off, only to be found near the statute, uttering claims that they were “playing with Inez.”

Cemetery records do indicate that a child was buried in that spot, in August of 1880, but that the child’s name was Amos Briggs. No “Inez Clarke” exists in Graceland’s records at all.

In 2009, Chicago historian John Binder got to the bottom of the confusing mystery behind Graceland’s most famous ghost.  The Inez who was buried here was Inez Briggs, who died of diphtheria at the age of six, in August of 1880.  Her death certificate specifies Graceland as the intended burial site.  Binder theorized that the names “Inez” and “Amos” had been mixed up in the cemetery record.  He found that at the time of her death Inez was living with her mother, Mary McClure and her grandparents, David and Jane Rothrock and what is now the 800 block of West Armitage Avenue.  By 1872, Inez’s father, Walter Briggs, was gone and Mary wed John Clarke. Though Inez was not his daughter, the family had that carved on her tombstone, leading to almost a century and a half of mystery.

Though the mystery of Inez’s name has been solved, her ghost has not been laid to rest. She still wanders on stormy nights here, defying all who call her a fairytale.

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

Thanks for listening.

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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 Hat Man And Shadow People” by Greg Newkirk and Dana Matthews for Week In Weird.

“More Than a Coincidence” is by Cherubim and was posted at YourGhostStories

“Saddam Hussein’s Stargate” by Michael Moran for The Daily Star

“A Little Pink Sippy Cup” by Weirdo family member Heather Circle

“Hollywood’s Sweetheart Killed By a Stalker” by Natalie DeGroot from All That’s Interesting

“Dark Annie” from Awesome Stories

“The Dissection of Annie Chapman” by Hannah McKennet for All That’s Interesting

“The Last Thing a Corpse Sees” by Marissa Fessenden for the Smithsonian

“The History Behind The Wicker Man” from Ancient Origins

“The Paper Trail of BTK” by Rachel Chang for Biography

“The Deathly Silence of Graceland Cemetery” by Ursula Bielski for Chicago Hauntings

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… “Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others.” — 1 Corinthians 10:24

And a final thought… “Do what is right, not what is easy.” – Unknown

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

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