“THE DEVIL CAME TO DEVON” and 3 More Strange But True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: One morning in 1855, citizens of the English town of Devon were surprised to find strange footprints about town in the snow – not just on the street and sidewalks – but on their doorways, and on the house roofs, haystacks, walking up walls, and through pipes. The tracks covered over 100 miles and there was no explanation of how the prints were made – but many had a theory about who made the prints. They say it was the Devil. (The Devil Came To Devon) *** Picture this, you are called to the scene of a murder. The victim’s shotgun was found in his room. It had been used some time recently, and there was an empty cartridge on the floor. There was, however, no blood or any other obvious signs of violence in the house. And something else odd, a pot in the kitchen was discovered to contain large amounts of strychnine. It sounds like one of those murder-mystery party games you solve with friends, but this is from a true murder mystery in Australia that still fascinates those who study the case. (The Wonnangatta Murders) *** What do a Jesuit missionary and a former slave have in common? The answer is… Bigfoot. (The Missionary, The Slave, and Bigfoot) *** The FBI described Israel Keyes as one of the most meticulous and vile serial killers in American history – so much so, he even had the FBI scratching their heads. (A Meticulous Serial Killer)
STORY SOURCES AND MUSIC CREDITS…
(Over time links may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in the show notes immediately.)
“The Devil Came To Devon” by Orrin Grey at Ranker https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/7ystth0v, and Brent Swancer at Mysterious Universe https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3oq43yg9
“The Wonnangatta Murders” by Undine for Strange Company: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2re9d8ah
“The Missionary, The Slave, and Bigfoot” by Michael Mayes for Texas Cryptid Hunter: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2porklp7
“A Meticulous Serial Killer” by Orrin Grey for The LineUp: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2cpjds74
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music, varying by episode, provided by Alibi Music, EpidemicSound and/or AudioBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and/or Nicolas Gasparini/Myuu (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission.
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Hey, Weirdos. If you played “IDENTIFY THE IMPOSTER” in the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook Group for this episode of the show, the story title that was a hoax and is not one of the stories tonight is: “The Underground Currency of Hitmen”
The world of cryptozoology is no stranger to odd footprints found throughout the world, coming in a wide variety of sizes and with their own peculiarities. These tracks often leave bewilderment, bafflement, and spur on question as to their origins and what sort of creature could have made them. The answers of what caused them are not always completely clear, but they invariably are cause for much debate and speculation. Among these anomalous prints are those that are from far-flung destinations yet seem to share some similar traits; that of some hoofed creature that has left its footprints behind, and which have caused debate as to whether they are caused by the same strange creature, a hoax, or just a curious coincidence. By far the most well-known and widely circulated stories of such mysterious footprints is that of the original “Devil’s Footprints” of Devon, England.
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 show – and if you are listening to the podcast or on YouTube, be sure to subscribe so you don’t miss future episodes! If you’re already a Weirdo, please take a moment and invite someone else to listen too. Recommending Weird Darkness to others helps make it possible for me to keep doing the show! And while listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com where you can find all of my social media or drop me an email.
Coming up in this episode…
Picture this, you are called to the scene of a murder. The victim’s shotgun was found in his room. It had been used some time recently, and there was an empty cartridge on the floor. There was, however, no blood or any other obvious signs of violence in the house. And something else odd, a pot in the kitchen was discovered to contain large amounts of strychnine. It sounds like one of those murder-mystery party games you solve with friends, but this is from a true murder mystery in Australia that still fascinates those who study the case. (The Wonnangatta Murders)
What do a Jesuit missionary and a former slave have in common? The answer is… Bigfoot. (The Missionary, The Slave, and Bigfoot)
The FBI described Israel Keyes as one of the most meticulous and vile serial killers in American history – so much so, he even had the FBI scratching their heads. (A Meticulous Serial Killer)
One morning in 1855, citizens of the English town of Devon were surprised to find strange footprints about town in the snow – not just on the street and sidewalks – but on their doorways, and on the house roofs, haystacks, walking up walls, and through pipes. The tracks covered over 100 miles and there was no explanation of how the prints were made – but many had a theory about who made the prints. They say it was the Devil. (The Devil Came To Devon)
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: HE DEVIL CAME TO DEVON==========
One cold winter morning in 1855, the residents of Devon, England, woke to a strange sight.
The area was blanketed with snow from the night before, and it seemed as if everything was frosted in white. Residents were surprised to find a long track of strange, hoof-like prints that seemed as if they must have been freshly made. The individual prints reportedly measured around 4 inches long and 3 inches wide, and seemed to have been made in a nearly perfect, single-file line, with each print spaced between 8 to 16 inches from each other. They looked to be cloven and from something bipedal, in short like tracks from nothing the locals had ever seen, and they meandered through the snow for between 60 to 100 miles, depending on the report.
This wasn’t the only one of Devon’s strange occurrences, but for decades, the so-called “Devil’s Footprints” have perplexed both skeptics and believers alike. While Devon is perhaps the most popular instance of Devil’s Footprints, similar incidents have occurred throughout history and around the world.
The bizarre footprints that appeared on Devon’s snowy countryside followed no discernible path, and they appeared in more than 30 different locations all over the town’s south and east ends. They meandered across dozens of miles, even leading up to people’s doorsteps, frightening the residents.
As odd as this all was, what made it all even stranger was the bizarre route that these prints took, going right up over walls, along narrow fencing, over house roofs, through barns, haystacks, gardens and courtyards, across frozen lakes, fields, and spookily often seeming to come right to people’s front doors, as if whatever had made them had been intently investigating these homes. Oddly, in some cases it seemed as if the prints had entered and exited pipes that were only around 4 inches in diameter, passed through locked gates, or seemed to wander straight up trees, as well as in totally enclosed or locked off areas and other improbable places.
The unexplained tracks shortly acquired the nickname “the Devil’s Footprints” or “tracks of Satan,” thanks in part to their hoof-like shape. This supernatural implication was aided by the tracks’ unexplainable, miles-long path.
Devon’s “Devil’s Footprints” covered up to 100 miles of land, reaching as far as Topsham, Dawlish, and Teignmouth. According to some reports, the tracks may also have reached as far south as Totnes and Torquay and as far away as Dorset or Lincolnshire.
Overall, the strange prints were found spanning an area of anywhere from 40 to 100 miles, making most rational explanations seem implausible.
Without a fresh snowfall, the distinctive marks would have been imperceptible to locals. Moreover, while accounts of the snowfall’s heaviness seem to vary, most agree not only that the previous night was particularly cold, but that a thaw occurred sometime before morning, which may have allowed animal tracks to become distorted.
Skeptics often point to this theory to explain the bizarre phenomenon of the Devil’s Footprints. Non-paranormal explanations have encompassed everything from hoaxes or the distorted tracks of mice, birds, rabbits, badgers, ponies, horses, and even escaped kangaroos.
Mike Dash, a Welsh writer and historian, proposed that the tracks were made by several different animals at once, though he conceded at the end of his study that his solutions did not explain all of the tracks’ elements, and they are still a mystery waiting to be solved.
Other theories were things like raindrops falling and creating the depressions, and the even more far-out theory attributed to British novelist Geoffrey Household, who claimed that the tracks were actually made by some sort of “experimental balloon” accidentally released from the Devonport Dockyard. According to Household, a pair of shackles dangled from the balloon’s mooring ropes, and their intermittent dragging left tracks in the snow.
Household claimed to have learned of this event from a man whose grandfather had worked at the docks in 1855. While this explanation initially seems feasible, the theory is not entirely sound. The notion of a drifting balloon leaving uniformly spaced tracks seems implausible, and what’s more, no such balloon was ever reported. According to Household’s account, however, the event was covered up after the balloon caused some damage and eventually landed near Honiton.
People came to believe that the “Devil walks in Devon,” as newspapers would later claim, and took to staying indoors after dark. Some observers even claimed the tracks appeared burned or branded into the snow. This claim was seemingly substantiated 102-years after the original Devon incident, when in 1957 an anthropologist and psychical researcher reported hoofprints found on a Devon beach that “looked as if each mark had been cut out of the sand with a flat iron.” These 1957 hoofprints were also spaced six feet apart, implying a much longer stride than those reported in 1855.
Also in 1957, Lynda Hanson wrote to the Fortean Times detailing tracks she found in her parents’ garden. Her description matched the Devil’s Footprints of 1855 almost exactly, and beneath these tracks, she claimed to see dry concrete, as if the tracks had not just melted the snow, but transformed it.
According to some accounts, people genuinely came to believe the Devil was responsible for the tracks and refused to venture outside after dark. Convinced the Devil was still prowling Devon, they claimed he could “sniff out their sins.”
Further fueling their fears was the manner in which the footprints seemed to approach doorways and then stop, as if the creature responsible was keenly interested in the people on the other side.
While some sources claim the phenomenon was widely covered in newspapers at the time, first-hand accounts of the Devil’s Footprints were difficult to locate for many years. Not until 1950 did accounts of the event return to the public eye.
References to the incident were discovered in records from the former vicar of Clyst St. George. Among these papers were tracings or sketches of the tracks themselves, as well as a letter to The Illustrated London News marked “not for publication.”
The letter described the tracks as “the perfect impression of a donkey’s hoof,” but “instead of progressing as that animal would have done (or indeed as any other would have done), feet right and left, it appeared that foot had followed foot in a single line.” Furthermore, the letter noted that the tracks were found in multiple parishes and that, in every case, they were the exact same size – about four inches by two inches – and always the same distance apart.
Several courageous individuals attempted to follow the strange tracks, and some reported strange findings. A story credited to Reverend J. J. Rowe and R. H. Busk claims the pair tried to follow the trail with hounds but, “At last, in a wood, the hounds came back baying and terrified.”
Another report tells of a man who followed the prints to their apparent end, where he found nothing but a toad.
Since the prints in Devon were so numerous and covered such a broad area, multiple sources were likely responsible. This is one of the underlying tenets of skeptics who claim at least some of the hoofprints were likely the work of hoaxers, if the marks existed at all.
As Brian Dunning points out on the hoofprints’ episode of the Skeptoid podcast, the very length of the trails discredits the notion that any one source could possibly have seen all the tracks. “In 1855, the means didn’t really exist in Devon to travel 100 miles in a single day to verify the length of this track, especially when the way is obstructed by two-mile stretches of water,” Dunning said.
In detailing the various fantastic properties of the footprints, Dunning reaches what he considers a foregone conclusion: “…is there really any reason to believe that this happened?”
Skeptics have attempted to advance a pantheon of reasonable explanations for the Devil’s Footprints.
Interestingly, on March 5, 2009, it seems that there was a very similar phenomenon reported from precisely the same area. In this case, a resident named Jill Wade, of Woolsery, North Devon, claimed to have found a strange line of pointed, cloven hoof-like footprints in freshly fallen snow in her own backyard. Wade reported that the tracks were 5 inched long, with a stride of between 11 and 17 inches, and stretched on for 60 to 70 feet across the garden in an arch-like shape, starting at her window and going out to the other side of the yard where they disappeared. The bizarre tracks were examined by a biologist with the Centre for Fortean Zoology (CFZ), Graham Inglis, who noticed their striking similarity to the Devil’s Footprints of 1855 from the same vicinity, and could not find an easy answer to what made them. However, Inglis did have reservations about jumping straight to paranormal explanation, and said of the tracks: “This is certainly a first for me. The footprints are peculiar, but they are not the devil’s – I don’t believe the horned one has been in Woolsery. Personally I think it belongs to a rabbit or hare but quite an academic punch-up has started over it.”
In his book The Case for the UFO, astronomer Morris K. Jessup mentions the Devil’s Footprints of Devon, hypothesizing that, “No animal walks by putting one foot directly in front of the other, so these holes in the snow were made with mechanical precision by something mechanical. Therefore, let’s make the broad conclusion that something mechanical passed over Devon in the air.”
Jessup goes on to theorize that the marks were possibly the result of some type of ray or beam.
While the Devil’s Footprints of Devon are rather well-known, more obscure cases of a very similar phenomenon have come in from various places around the world. One such account comes to us from May of 1840, on the remote Kerguelen Islands of the southern Indian Ocean. These windswept, rocky swaths of treeless frozen land are surrounded by mercilessly rough, grey waters and are located more than 3,300 km (2,051 mi) from the nearest traces of civilization, Madagascar Island, making them one of the most isolated places on Earth and earning the islands their nickname Îles de la Désolation, “The Desolation Islands.” The only plant life to be found here in this chilly, uninhabited domain are some lichens, mosses, and grasses, and the only animal life here are a few species of insect, seals, and some sea birds and penguins, as well as feral rabbits, cats, and sheep that have been introduced by passing ships.
In May of 1840, Captain Sir James Ross found himself on these shores as part of an expedition to catalogue the plant and animal life of the archipelago’s main island of Grande Terre. The island was described as being mostly a barren, lifeless wasteland of sparse lichens and moss, with no land animals seen at all. Indeed, at the time there were no introduced large land animals present on the island and the only creatures to be found were insects, seabirds, and seals along the coast. It was for this reason that one discovery would be all the more bizarre.
One small detachment led by a Lieutenant Bird came across a rather odd sight as they went about searching the inhospitable, snow swept land for any signs of life. There in the freshly fallen snow was a line of horseshoe-shaped, hoof-like tracks measuring 3 inches long and 2.5 inches wide, which meandered through the snow for a while before disappearing at a rocky area without snow. Since the island had proven to be devoid of any large land animals and the expedition had no horses or ponies, it was baffling as to what could have possibly made the prints.
In the end, Lieutenant Bird speculated that a horse, pony, or donkey must have been left there by a previous expedition or made it to the island from a wrecked ship, but considering that a horse would have died in the arctic conditions of the island on its own if it was a castaway then it must have arrived there fairly recently and there has been no sign of any other expeditions or shipwrecks in the vicinity at all. Could these prints have possibly been left by a horse or pony that had been left there by someone or had, even more improbably, escaped a wreck and managed to swim to shore through unforgiving rough waters full of choppy waves and deadly currents, or was this something else? It also seems improbable that it could have been a hoax considering no one else was there. It remains a mystery.
Yet another unexplained set of “Devil’s Footprints” was found in 1945 near Everberg, Belgium. On January 10 of that year, a curious set of bizarre prints was found etched into the snow on a hill behind a place called the Chateau de Morveau. The hoof-like prints measured 2.5 inches long by 1.5 wide, and were composed of a series of a pair of two prints 9 inches apart that then formed a perfect single-file line of tracks spaced 12 to 15 inches apart, as if whatever had made them had been hopping along. The tracks wandered for several miles across the hillside, forest, fields, and a stream, and strangely they went right over some deep snowdrifts yet there was no sign of an animal’s body sinking within the snow, only those odd footprints perched atop the frozen white. Locals in the area had never seen anything like it, and one man who investigated the prints, an Eric Frank Russell, specifically said that they were very reminiscent of the Devil’s Footprints of Devon in 1855. Although some have theorized that the tracks were made by a goat, which are common in the area, the Belgian prints have never been satisfactorily explained.
Other cases similar to Devon’s Devil’s Footprints have been reported all over the world. A cathedral in Munich is home to a single tile bearing a footprint said to have been made by a frustrated Devil, tricked into aiding the cathedral’s construction.
Similarly, a stone in a rock wall in Manchester, ME, bears marks left behind when a construction worker struck a deal with the Devil to move the large stone. At the Devils’ Gate Dam in Pasadena, CA, photographers have captured images of claw marks in stone.
A comic book series called The Devil’s Footprints, written by Scott Allie, received its title and inspiration from a legend Allie remembers from his hometown: “The Devil reportedly showed up at the local church in the old town, and the priest chased him up the steeple. The Devil jumped, and left one footprint in the stone outside.”
Are any of these cases of mysterious tracks related? They certainly share some similar traits in their size, appearance, disposition, and the fact that they keep showing up in the strangest of far-flung places. They could be unrelated, but even if they are we are left with the question of what formed them. Was this the work of known animals, strange weather or atmospheric phenomena, hoaxers, or something else? Whatever the cause may be, one wonders when the next set of these bizarre, cloven tracks will turn up next and what significance they will have, and while there may very well be a mundane explanation at their root, they still manage to incite debate and stir the imagination.
The victim’s shotgun was found in his room, used recently with an empty cartridge on the floor – and a large amount of strychnine found in his kitchen. Apparently somebody really wanted the man dead. But why? (The Wonnangatta Murders)
Plus, what do a Jesuit missionary and a former slave have in common? Bigfoot, of course! (The Missionary, The Slave, and Bigfoot)
Those stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: THE WONNANGATTA MURDERS==========
True crime historian William Roughead once commented that the “setting of a great crime” should be properly “forbidding”: “Murder, to be fully effective, should be done out of doors, and if possible amid surroundings agreeably savage.”
Wonnangatta Station, a cattle ranch located in an isolated valley in Australia’s Victoria Alps, is to this day a harsh and lonely spot. In the early 20th century, it was as “out of doors” and “agreeably savage” a place as any murder fancier could hope to find.
So far as I know, the Edinburgian Mr. Roughead had never even heard of the place, but it would have gratified him immensely to know that Wonnangatta hosted one of Australia’s most notorious murder mysteries.
Beginning some time in 1916, Wonnangatta Station was run by a man named James Barclay. He had been working alone there for some time, but in December 1917 he hired one John Bamford to act as cook and general handyman. The two seemed a mismatched couple. Barclay had a good reputation, both professionally and personally, but Bamford was widely disliked, as he was a quick-tempered, surly sort who was fond of quarreling. There were even rumors that he had murdered his wife. However, the two men seemed to get on well enough.
About a week after Bamford was hired, the pair traveled to the town of Talbotville, about twenty miles from the station, in order to vote on a referendum on introducing the military draft. (If any of you are curious, it is recorded that the pair voted the same way, but it is lost to history whether they were for or against the measure.) They spent the night at the home of a mutual friend, Albert Stout, and the next morning, December 21, the two men began the ride back to Wonnangatta, little knowing that their recent votes would prove to be totally irrelevant to either of them.
The next time anyone had any reason to visit Wonnangatta was on January 22, 1918, when a local man named Harry Smith visited the station to deliver some mail. He was perplexed to find no one there. The only clue to the whereabouts of the men was the message “Home tonight,” written on the door of the kitchen. Assuming that one or both of the men would turn up at any moment, Smith decided to wait around for them. When after two days, there was still no sign of Barclay or Bamford, Smith gave up. Without making any further investigation, he shrugged off the mystery and returned home.
On February 14, Smith returned to Wonnangatta. When he saw that nothing had been touched since his last visit–the unopened mail was just as he had left it and Barclay’s dog, Baron, was obviously starving–it finally dawned on Smith that something very awful must have happened. He stayed there overnight, doing a fruitless search for some sign of the men, and the next morning traveled to the nearest town, Dargo, to report that Barclay and Bamford had vanished. He also sent telegrams to the ranch’s owners alerting them to what had happened.
Police were notified, and a search party was quickly assembled. The bedrooms of the two men were disarranged, as if they had been ransacked. Some of Bamford’s possessions, including his horse, were missing. (The horse–which was lacking its saddle and bridle– was later found running wild over the plains.)
Barclay’s shotgun was found in his room. It had been used some time recently, and there was an empty cartridge on the floor. There was, however, no blood or any other obvious signs of violence in the house. Oddest of all, a pepper pot in the kitchen was discovered to contain large amounts of strychnine.
Less than a quarter-mile from the house, the search party’s worst fears were realized when they discovered a man’s skull poking out of a shallow grave. A bit of digging uncovered the rest of the body. The belt and tobacco pouch found with it helped identify the corpse as that of James Barclay.
Barclay’s autopsy revealed that he had been killed by a single shot through the back. Time of death was estimated as some time between December 21 and January 4. No strychnine was found in his system.
While no one could say why Barclay was murdered, police had little trouble naming his probable murderer: John Bamford. It seemed obvious that the two had fought, after which Bamford shot his employer, grabbed a few belongings, and fled. A reward of £200 pounds was offered for any information regarding this dangerous fugitive, and a statewide manhunt was on.
The hunt for Bamford dragged on without finding the slightest trace of him. It was as if he had somehow managed to vanish from the face of the earth. His whereabouts remained an utter mystery until early November 1918, when the search ended in a most unexpected way. Some men were scouring the Howitt Plains, an area about twenty miles from the station, and near where Bamford’s horse had been recovered. They came across an old abandoned hut. Outside of this hut was a pile of logs. The logs, they noticed, had a man’s boot sticking out from under them. Attached to this boot was what was left of the erstwhile murder suspect, John Bamford. An examination proved that he had been killed by a shot to the head. The authorities were disconcerted to realize that they were dealing with not just one bizarre unsolved murder, but two.
To this day, this is about all we know for certain about the deaths of James Barclay and John Bamford. The police had no success whatsoever in solving the riddle of why the men were killed, let alone by whom. Naturally, many theories have been floated in the century since they died: Perhaps Bamford killed Barclay, only to be assassinated by his victim’s friends in revenge? Or were both men slain by some passing robbers or horse thieves? Was James Barclay, who had a reputation as a “ladies’ man,” killed by some jealous rival, who then murdered Bamford in order to silence the only witness to the crime? Could Harry Smith, the first man to alert the world to the mystery, have known more than he ever let on? Who knows? As for that strychnine-filled pepper pot, well, as far as I know no one has ever even tried to explain that one. The Wonnangatta Station Murders have remained one of Australia’s most solution-defying crimes.
Adding to the enigma is a statement made by Barclay’s son, James Jr., when he was interviewed about the case in the 1970s. He commented, “It was all a long time ago and both the murderers are long since dead. I can’t see that anything can be gained now, it’s all best forgotten.”
“Both the murderers?” What did the younger Barclay know about the mystery? And why did he obviously wish it to remain a mystery?
STORY: THE MISSIONARY, THE SLAVE, AND BIGFOOT==========
Some of the strongest sources of anecdotal evidence regarding the existence of the sasquatch are those that pre-date the coining of the term bigfoot in an article about a catskinner named Jerry Crew – who found massive human-like tracks around his road-building equipment in California’s Six Rivers National Forest in August of 1958 – and the explosion of the Patterson-Gimlin footage on the world stage in October of 1967. Sightings reported before these two seminal events cannot be dismissed as the work of hoaxers seeking to hop on the bigfoot bandwagon. The sasquatch was all but unknown to the Europeans who began flooding the North and South American continents in the 1500s…and to the slaves that they brought with them. Their accounts of bipedal, hair-covered creatures simply cannot be dismissed out of hand.
I would like to discuss here two such historical sightings. The incidents are not well-known, but they may well be extremely important when attempting to trace just how far back sightings of wood apes might go. The similarity between these two accounts cannot be denied and both lend credibility to the opinion of those who believe the animal commonly referred to as bigfoot was being seen well before the 1950s by people of different cultural backgrounds living many miles apart.
The first incident comes directly from the writings of a Jesuit missionary who worked among the people of the province of Sonora, Mexico – a region that stretched up from northwest Mexico to the Sierra Madre from Cjeme (now Ciudad Obregon), near the California coast, to Tuscon – in the eighteenth-century. Father Ignaz Pfefferkorn (b. 1725), a German Jesuit lived and worked among the Pima Indians from 1756 to 1767. Details of his work and life among these people can be found in his Descripcion de la Provincia de Sonora. The diaries, journals, and logs of missionaries have long been highly valued by anthropologists and historians. Pfefferkorn’s work was no different and he is considered by academics to have been an extremely reliable and credible observer. His writings continue to be cited by historians to this day. Among Pfefferkorn’s writings were descriptions of the local wildlife. Among the descriptions of what would be considered common animals, the good father wrote about the different bears (differentiated by their color) found in the region. He wrote:
“Of the Sonora bears some have black hair, others dark gray, and the smallest number are a reddish color. These last are the most cruel and harmful, according to the statements of herdsmen.”
Only two species of bear are known to have ever lived in the Province of Sonora during the eighteenth-century. The black bear (Ursus americanus) and the grizzly (Ursus arctos horribilis) both made Sonora part of their home range during the time in question. While black bears can be black, blonde, or reddish, it is likely the cinnamon-colored bears that were “the most cruel and harmful” were grizzlies. While these grizzlies were likely the animals most often responsible for the killing of livestock in the region, some of the other activities attributed to them may well have been the work of something else.
Pfefferkorn, while documenting bear activity related to him by the indigenous tribesmen, in some cases may have actually been recording accounts of bigfoot interaction with humans. If so, his accounts are some of the earliest ever written down in North America. Here is one intriguing passage…
“Bears are a special menace to stock raising, for they eat many a calf, and, if no smaller prey falls into their clutches, they will attack even horses, cows, and oxen. They delight especially in eating maize as long as it is still tender and soft. Woe to the field if a hungry bear breaks into it at night. He eats as much as he can and makes off with as much as he can grasp and carry in his mighty arms. In so doing he ruins even more of the field by breaking it down and treading upon it. The inhabitants assert that a bear defends himself by throwing stones when one attempts to chase him away and that a stone hurled from his paws comes with much greater force than one thrown from the hand of the strongest man.”
I do not think I have to tell anyone that a bear cannot throw stones; nor is it capable of walking bipedally in order to carry off large amounts of corn in its “mighty arms.” Pfefferkorn was familiar with bears. He had traveled across the region for many years and had seen many bruins. Pfefferkorn even witnessed a grizzly kill his Indian guide on one trip across Sonora (the guide had attempted to kill the bear, succeeded only in wounding it, and paid the ultimate price when the animal turned on its tormentor). This being the case, it is strange that Pfefferkorn would attribute rock-throwing and the ability to carry large amounts of corn away while walking on two legs to grizzlies. I think it is entirely possible that the stone-hurling, corn-stealing, bipedal “bears” of Sonora might have actually been wood apes.
A strikingly similar account comes from another historical source: a former Arkansas slave. Doc Quinn was one of the oldest living residents of Miller County, Arkansas (yes, the same Miller County that would become known as the home of the Fouke Monster of The Legend of Boggy Creek fame) when he was interviewed by Cecil Copeland at his home in Texarkana in the 1930s. Doc recalled when he was first brought to the plantation of one Colonel Ogburn – between Index and Fulton on the Red River – that there was a section of the property dominated by an immense canebrake. This canebrake was a favorite retreat of bears and other wild animals. It was all but impossible to go in after problem bears that would steal out of the thicket at night and take livestock, so the plantation owner had the slaves round up the hogs and animals and place them in pens at the end of the day. Several slaves were charged with standing guard at night over the domesticated animals. The efforts of the slaves helped somewhat, but bears were still seen often and some of their actions “were almost human.” The following is a passage taken from the book Bearing Witness: Memories of Arkansas Slavery Narratives from the 1930s WPA Collection in which Doc Quinn describes to Cecil Copeland the odd behavior of a “bear” he came across in a cornfield one day:
“The bear picked off an ear of corn and put it in his bended arm. He repeated this action until he had an armful, and then waddled over to the fence. Standing by the fence, he carefully threw the corn on the other side, ear by ear. The bear then climbed the fence, much in the same manner of a human being, retrieved the corn, and went on his way.”
Sounds familiar, does it not? The simple truth is that bears cannot stroll around in a bipedal fashion while plucking ears of corn from stalks in the field with one front paw and place them into the crook of their other front “arm.” The description of how Quinn witnessed this animal climb a fence “in the same manner of a human being” is fascinating. The entire incident simply does not describe bear behavior in any form or fashion.
Quinn provides another interesting anecdote in the same interview. I thought long and hard about including it here, not because it is not interesting (it is), but because Doc Quinn’s words are transcribed in such a way that his dialect is evident. Some hot-button words, including the n-word, are used. After wrestling with it for a while, I decided to include the account here with only one minor edit (I decided not to type the n-word out. I fear in today’s climate, I would be accused of approving of it or some such thing). Again, I would remind readers these are not my words. These are the words spoken by former Arkansas slave, Doc Quinn and transcribed by his interviewer, Cecil Copeland. The text comes straight from the book previously mentioned. Try to focus on the story Doc Quinn is telling and not the language and terminology he uses. The account is as follows:
“Late one ebenin’, me an’ anudder (edit) named Jerry wuz comin’ home frum fishin’. Roundin’ a bend in de trail, whut do we meet almos’ face to face? – A great big ol’ bar! Bein’ young, and blessed wid swif’ feet, I makes fo’ de nearest tree, and hastily scrambles to safety. Not so wid mah fat frien’. Peerin’ outen thru de branches ob de tree, I sees de bar makin’ fo’ Jerry, an’ I says to mahself: ‘ Jerry, yo’ sins has sho’ kotched up wid yo’ dis time.’ But Jerry, allus bein’ a mean (edit), mus’ hab had de debbil by he side. Pullin’ outen his Bowie knife, dat (edit) jumps to one side as de bar kum chargin’ pas’, and’ stab it in de side, near de shoulder. As de bar started toinin’ roun’ to make annuder lunge at de (edit) he notice de blood spurtin’ frum de shoulder. An’ whut do yo’ think happen’? Dat ole bar forgets all about Jerry. Hastily scramblin’ aroun’, he begins to pick up leaves, an trash an’ clamps dem on de wound, tryin’ to keep frum bleedin’ to deaf. Yo’ ax did de bar die? Well, suh, I didn’ wait to see de result. Jerry, he done lef’ dem parts, an’ not wantin’ to stay up in dat tree alnight by mahself, I scrambles down an’ run fo’ mile home in double quick time!”
I ask you, what kind of bear notices it is bleeding, stops in the middle of an altercation, begins gathering leaves, and then packs its own wound? I will tell you the answer. None. No bear behaves in this manner. If Doc Quinn is not spinning a yarn to his interviewer, the creature his fishing partner, Jerry, tangled with was certainly no bear. Was it an aggressive sasquatch? Certainly, the location was right as the aggressive nature of the Fouke Monster would be well documented some years later. There is a real shortage of viable alternatives if the creature in question was not a bear.
The parallels between these two accounts – accounts separated by more than a century and approximately 1,400 miles – are uncanny. Bears cannot and do not gather up corn in their “arms” and walk away with it in a bipedal fashion. Yet, a Jesuit missionary and a former Arkansas slave describe observing this same behavior. Doc Quinn’s account of how his fishing partner, Jerry, tangled with an animal that packed its own wound after being stabbed lends credence to the theory that something other than a bear was roaming about Miller County, Arkansas in his youth. Is it possible that these two men from very different worlds – Father Ignaz Pfefferkorn and former slave Doc Quinn – described the same type of animal? An animal they had no name for? An animal that just might have been a wood ape? Food for thought.
When Weird Darkness returns, the FBI described Israel Keyes as one of the most meticulous and vile serial killers in American history – so much so, he even had the FBI scratching their heads. That story is up next. (A Meticulous Serial Killer)
STORY: THE METICULOUS SERIAL KILLER==========
For 16 years—and maybe even longer—serial killer Israel Keyes traveled the country, robbing banks, burglarizing homes, burying “kill kits” in Home Depot buckets, and preying upon victims who seemed to share nothing in common.
He was an investigator’s worst nightmare: a serial killer with no apparent pattern or “type.” By the time he died by his own hand while awaiting trial for the abduction, rape, and brutal murder of Samantha Koenig, he had been linked to at least 11 deaths and disappearances, and his true number of victims may never be known.
Keyes died in his jail cell on December 2, 2012, as a result of self-inflicted cuts on his wrist and strangulation. He left behind a blood-smeared, four-page suicide note that has been called an “ode to murder.” Dr. Stephen Montgomery, a forensic psychiatrist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, described Keyes’ chilling note, written partially in loosely rhyming meter, as showing “no remorse, no regard for human life.”
“It’s certainly not an ordinary suicide note,” Dr. Phil Resnick, director of forensic psychiatry at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, said after reading the haunting note. “He doesn’t talk much about his own dilemmas of being in prison or why he’s taking his own life.”
“It’s more of a final statement of contempt for the American style of life,” Dr. Resnick went on to say. “I think the other thing he emphasizes is his own superiority, that he has guile and can take advantage of people who are naïve and trusting of him.”
In his suicide note, Keyes, who was raised in a cultish survivalist family, heaps disdain upon what he perceives as the normal American way of life, and refers to one of his victims as “my pretty captive butterfly.” The skills that Keyes’ survivalist upbringing had instilled in him—along with a three-year stint in the military—proved helpful as Keyes committed his crimes while evading authorities.
“He had zero victim profile,” Maureen Callahan told A&E. Callahan is the author of American Predator, a recently released book about the life and crimes of Israel Keyes. “I think of him as an analog killer in a digital world. All he did was buy a one-way plane ticket to a major city, rent a car, drive thousands of miles. In those drives, he’d be digging up ‘kill kits’ that he’d hidden all over the U.S. The kits were Home Depot buckets that he filled with guns, ammo, rope, cash, and Drano, which he used to accelerate human decomposition. The locations were only in his mind, never documented.”
Keyes partly funded his murderous hobby by committing strings of robberies and burglaries across the country. He has been connected to several bank robberies and is suspected of having burglarized 20 to 30 homes.
“If he could,” Callahan said, describing Keyes’ modus operandi, “he’d take the bodies to another location and dispose of them so expertly that he left no trace of them or his DNA behind.” This seems to have been what happened to Bill and Lorraine Currier, the Essex, Vermont couple who vanished suddenly in 2011. Keyes later confessed to killing them using a “murder kit” that he had buried near their home two years earlier.
More than merely a methodical killer, Keyes actually studied criminal profiling in order to learn what not to do. In fact, according to CBS, “the FBI has described Keyes as one of the most meticulous serial killers in American history.” He claimed to have first read John Douglas’ book Mindhunter: Inside the FBI’s Elite Serial Crime Unit, the basis for the Netflix series of the same name, when he was a teenager. According to Callahan, Keyes stated that he “suddenly realized he wasn’t alone” after reading Douglas’ descriptions of violent offenders and their pathological urges.
Keyes was finally arrested in March of 2012. More than a month earlier, he had abducted 18-year-old Samantha Koenig by gunpoint from the coffee booth where she worked in Anchorage, Alaska. Weeks later, her dismembered body would be found at the bottom of Matanuska Lake.
In the meantime, however, Keyes went on a pre-booked, two-week cruise with his family in the Gulf of Mexico, while Koenig’s brutalized body lay in a shed back in Alaska. When he returned, he posed her body to look like it was still alive, and took a photo of it alongside a days-old copy of the Anchorage Daily News, demanding a $30,000 ransom from her family.
It was this ransom demand that eventually led to Keyes’ arrest. The money was deposited into Koenig’s account, and Keyes used her debit card to withdraw funds across the southwest United States. Authorities were able to track the withdrawals, and ultimately arrested Keyes at the Cotton Patch Café in Lufkin, Texas.
Once he was in custody, Keyes began confessing to crimes, but was never as forthcoming as investigators would have hoped. Even the top criminal profilers at the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit were “terrified of him and flummoxed by him,” according to Callahan.
“I can tell you right now there is no one who knows me, or who has ever known me, who knows anything about me, really,” Keyes himself told authorities. “I’m two different people, basically.”
As an example of this duality, on the same day that Keyes dismembered Samantha Koenig’s body and sank it in the frigid waters of Matanuska Lake, he attended a parent-teacher conference for his own daughter.
American Predator is dedicated “To the victims and their families, known and unknown.” While Keyes admitted to several murders, rapes, and other crimes while he was awaiting trial, his suicide left the total tally of his victims unknown—probably forever.
“One of my hopes,” Callahan said of why she had written the book, “is that some potentially Keyes-related missing-persons cases are reopened, to find more victims.”
Unfortunately, Keyes’ strange suicide note, written in a combination of pencil and ink on a blood-stained legal pad, provided no “investigative clues or leads as to the identity of other possible victims,” according to the FBI. In 2020, the FBI released a series of crude paintings discovered underneath Keyes’ jail cell bed. The paintings depicted eleven skulls and a pentagram, and the FBI believes that the eleven skulls signify Keyes’ victims. Still, the mystery endures, and the messages provide one last cryptic look into the mind of a sick and monstrous man.
“Forget the lady called luck,” Keyes wrote in his bloody final communication with the world. “She does not abide near me for her powers don’t extend to those who are dead.”
CHAMBER OF COMMENTS==========
Here in the Chamber of Comments I answer any questions and reply to any comments you have sent to me via email or by postal delivery. You can email me anytime at darren @ weirddarkness.com, and you can find my mailing address – as well as all my social media – on the CONTACT page of the website. While you’re there, you can join the very active “Weird Darkness Weirdos” Facebook Group, and hang out with me and the rest of our Weirdo family!
(Email from Daniel in Keene, Texas): Hi Darren, I’ve been listening to weird darkness for about 6 months now and thus far greatly enjoy all of your content very much. I listen to you every day going to and from work which is an hour drive one way. Today I listened to your most recent one and was delighted to hear you talk about the Great Disappointment and some of that history and such. I am a seventh day Adventist and most people who talk about my denomination of Christianity often kinda have it in this skewed version of jewish beliefs but it really stems from events surrounding the Great Disappointment. Keep up the good work and thanks for having such an open viewpoint when you talk about these things. Regards, young weirdo in Christ, Daniel. Keene Texas.
REPLY: Thanks for the kind words, Daniel, glad you found the podcast and that you’ve joined our Weirdo family of listeners! As for having an open viewpoint on things – I believe that comes from putting my foot in my mouth a few too many times in life, and I’ve finally learned that (a) I don’t know nearly as much as my ego likes to think it does, and (b) I’m not perfect – none of us are perfect, in fact. So I try to be fair to all viewpoints when it comes to matters of faith and religion. I may not agree with the viewpoints of others, but I do want to be fair and treat them with respect, as I would hope they would treat me. For those who didn’t hear the story Daniel is referring to, it’s the last story in the episode “Contrary Chemtrails”, which I’ll link to in the Essential Web Links in the show notes.
(Email from John S.): Hi Darren, I discovered your show a couple of months ago in lockdown. Absolutely loving it and you have a great reading voice. I listen from the UK and have just finished your show which featured the Water Babies. My grandmother (who passed in her 80s in 1999) was from Yorkshire in the north of England used to tell this story. I had forgotten about it until your show. She was old fashioned superstitious, believing that you should leave an overgrown patch at the end of your garden “because that’s where the fairies lived”. She held the belief in Water Babies in general as opposed to a specific location. To my memory I’ve heard them described as both malevolent and benevolent so in general to be wary of them (in the same way fairies should be treated). Anyway love the show, thank you for keeping us sane in lockdown. – John.
REPLY: Thanks John! By the way, the story, “Water Babies Aren’t As Cute As They Sound” is also from that same episode, “Contrary Chemtrails.” Thanks for telling us all about your grandmother and her view of fairies and water babies. It’s interesting that so many people in the UK do believe in fairies and, I guess, water babies, when they are hardly ever even mentioned in the States. I have to wonder if there is something people in North America believe that people in the UK find odd. I’d also never heard of leaving a patch of grass unmowed for the fairies – but I really like idea. Mostly because I don’t like mowing the grass and I can just now dedicate my yard for the fairies and feel good about doing it! Take THAT homeowners association!
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
Thanks for listening. Feel free to email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also find all of my social media and a link to the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook group on the CONTACT page of the website. If you’re listening to the show via podcast or YouTube, be sure to subscribe if you haven’t already done so – and leave a review of the show in the podcast app you listen from! And if you’re already a Weirdo, please take a moment today and share Weird Darkness with someone you know who loves paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or mysteries like you do! You can also vote for Weird Darkness in the HOT 50 countdown in Podcast Magazine every day you hear an episode! To vote, follow the link in the Essential Web Links section of the show notes, or click on “VOTE” at WeirdDarkness.com.
Do you have a dark tale to tell of your own? Fact or fiction, click on “Tell Your Story” on the website and I might use it in a future episode.
All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise), and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“The Devil Came To Devon” by Orrin Grey at Ranker, and Brent Swancer at Mysterious Universe
“The Wonnangatta Murders” by Undine for Strange Company
“The Missionary, The Slave, and Bigfoot” by Michael Mayes for Texas Cryptid Hunter
“A Meticulous Serial Killer” by Orrin Grey for The LineUp
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production of Marlar House Productions. Copyright ©Weird Darkness 2021.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die.’” – John 11:25
And a final thought… “I don’t need a perfect life. I just want to be happy, surrounded by good friends who love me for who I am.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.
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