“THE ACTUALITY OF ENORMOUS ARTHROPODS” and More Terrifying True Horror Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Something came out of the river near New Richmond, Ohio – those who saw it said it was a kind of alien lifeform, and utterly indescribable. What was the strange creature that has come to be known as Octoman? (The Ohio Octoman) *** Drivers were convinced they’d spotted the infamous Blue Bell Hill ghost on the A229 in February 2019. That was the last time the ghost was spotted – and some believe it wasn’t really the ghost at all, but something else. (The Ghost of Blue Bell Hill) *** There are plenty of ghost stories in the Lake Placid area, but probably the most unique and mysterious is the story of the Lady in the Lake. So mysterious is this ghost that it has inspired many authors and filmmakers – but the true story is more creepy than any ghost story. (The Lady In Lake Placid) *** In the early days of those reaching the New World, superstitions and unusual beliefs about others, even your own neighbors, were commonplace. Most anyone could be accused of being a witch. And I do mean anyone. Be thankful you weren’t one of the first settlers to live in America. (American Witches) *** Gigantic spiders are reported worldwide, yet we have yet to actually capture one to prove their existence or study them to see how they grow so large. Is it possible the giant spiders don’t exist – or could it be a different creature we have yet to identify? (The Actuality of Enormous Arthropods)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The Ohio Octoman” from It’s Something Wiki (Itsmth): https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4x2ua8c
***BOOK: “Bigfoot: Tales of Unexplained Creatures, UFO and Psychic Connections”: https://amzn.to/3scEJ85
***BOOK: “The Bigfoot Case Book” by Janet Bord, Colin Bord, Loren Coleman: https://amzn.to/3ccYVkY
***BOOK: “Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us” by John Green: https://amzn.to/3d08z9w
“Mammoth Spiders” heard at the beginning of the episode is from UnexplainedMonsters.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5pfd8
“The Actuality of Enormous Arthropods” by Karl Shuker from the book, “Mirabalis – A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History”: https://amzn.to/3d1p8Sm, https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3dxsemrm
“The Ghost of Blue Bell Hill” by Victoria Chessum and Ben Ashton for Kent Live: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2cyteuy8
***PHOTO of Ghost of Blue Bell: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/47pm6yzd
“The Lady In Lake Placid” by Jess Collier for LakePlacid.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2mjnvdjs
***BOOK: “A Lady in the Lake” by George Christian Ortloff: https://amzn.to/3lI30Ap
***BOOK: “Dancehall” by Bernard F. Conners: https://amzn.to/392XRhm
“American Witches” by Charles Skinner, gathered and edited by Kathy Weiser for Legends of America:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/y4cyjxnh
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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.
(Over time links seen above 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 these show notes immediately. Amazon links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
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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: Is Loch Ness a Loch Mess?
Thoughts of giant spiders eating birds, creeping over your bed at night, throwing hairs into your flesh, and sinking their fangs into your flesh have invaded the human mind for ages. Urban legends about these giant spiders flourish. But are they really legends? Urban legends after all, are usually based on truth, many times largely exaggerated from story to story.
Spiders, giant or tiny, have played an integral part in the origin of many cultures. For example, Anansi the spider is prominently featured throughout Africa as a trickster or a great god. The Japanese believe that Spider Woman can ensnare careless travelers, and many Southwestern Native American tribes believe that Spider Woman created the Universe. Iktomi, the trickster spider of the Lakota, is associated with the famous legend of the dreamcatcher. In addition, the Greeks and Norse looked upon Spiders as connecting the past with the future and with weaving the fates of people.
Around the world people have told legends of giant spiders measuring up to five feet across, but the largest Monster Spiders have been sighted mainly deep in the Amazon jungle, a legendary location for lurking creatures, such as the poisonous dart frogs and anaconda snakes.
Among the Monster Spider sightings across the world, sizes and descriptions vary, but on the extreme end of the spectrum, eyewitnesses have described specimens up to five feet long. They are said to have huge fangs and hairy bodies the size of small dogs. The largest Monster Spiders are said to have fangs as long as eight or nine inches.
The predatory Monster Spiders are said to viciously attack animals. A shaman in the small town of San Rafael, on the border of Colombia and Venezuela, apparently witnessed a giant tarantula creep out of the jungle and into the village, where it caught a small dog. The spider delivered a fatal dose of poison, and then dragged the dog into the jungle. It could just as easily have been a human child.
Monster spiders… myth, urban legend, or terrifyingly real?
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’re already a member of this Weirdo family, please take a moment and invite someone else to listen. Recommending Weird Darkness to others helps make it possible for me to keep doing the show! And while you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com where you can find me on the Stereo App, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, and more.
Coming up in this episode…
Something came out of the river near New Richmond, Ohio – those who saw it said it was a kind of alien lifeform, and utterly indescribable. What was the strange creature that has come to be known as Octoman? (The Ohio Octoman)
Drivers were convinced they’d spotted the infamous Blue Bell Hill ghost on the A229 in February 2019. That was the last time the ghost was spotted – and some believe it wasn’t really the ghost at all, but something else. (The Ghost of Blue Bell Hill)
There are plenty of ghost stories in the Lake Placid area, but probably the most unique and mysterious is the story of the Lady in the Lake. So mysterious is this ghost that it has inspired many authors and filmmakers – but the true story is more creepy than any ghost story. (The Lady In Lake Placid)
In the early days of those reaching the New World, superstitions and unusual beliefs about others, even your own neighbors, were commonplace. Most anyone could be accused of being a witch. And I do mean anyone. Be thankful you weren’t one of the first settlers to live in America. (American Witches)
Gigantic spiders are reported worldwide, yet we have yet to actually capture one to prove their existence or study them to see how they grow so large. Is it possible the giant spiders don’t exist – or could it be a different creature we have yet to identify? (The Actuality of Enormous Arthropods)
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE ACTUALITY OF ENORMOUS ARTHROPODS==========
Monstrous spiders of gargantuan size are perennially popular subjects in science fiction ‘B’ movies as well as in classic fantasy novels such as J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit, but could such beasts exist in reality? The current record-holder for the title of world’s largest spider is Rosi – a 12-year-old captive female specimen of South America’s goliath bird-eating spider Theraphosa blondi. Rosi boasted a leg-span of 11.25 in (big enough to cover a dinner plate), a body weighing 6.17 oz (which is as heavy as six house sparrows Passer domesticus) and as big as a tennis ball, plus a total body length of 4.75 in.
Although these are impressive statistics, they are far from monstrous. In contrast, there are some remarkable yet currently-unresolved modern-day reports on file hinting that certain truly astonishing arachnids whose size very dramatically surpasses this latter species’ stature lurk in shadowy zoological anonymity within various regions of our world.
The Kokoda Track (or Trail) is a predominantly straight, single-file foot thoroughfare running 60 miles through inhospitable terrain across the Owen Stanley mountain range of Papua New Guinea, and from July 1942 to January 1943 it was the site of a series of World War II battles between Australian and Japanese forces known as the Kokoda Track Campaign. In 2001, Australian cryptozoologists Peter and Debbie Hynes revealed that it was also here, while serving as a soldier in the Australian Army, that the father of one of Debbie’s friends had a brief but unforgettable encounter with a mystery mega-spider:
“One day he had to take himself off into the scrub in answer to a call of nature. While thus engaged he noticed he was crouched down next to a very large cobweb – not the classic “fishing-net” sort but the fine, snow-white cottony stuff that spread all over the ground and tree trunk etc. His eye followed it one way and then the other – seems it was very extensive, like 10 to 15 ft either way. Then he noticed the spider itself, only a foot or so away from his face. It was a real horror – the body, i.e. thorax+abdomen, he described as the “size of a small dog or puppy”, it was coloured jet black, the legs were thick and hairy but not as long as the classic “dinner plate tarantula” type spider that owes its size to the spread of its legs. This thing had more body bulk than spread. Needless to say he backed out of there very slowly and carefully.”
In spiders, the ‘body’ is actually just the abdomen, not the thorax plus abdomen (although it can look like that to laymen unfamiliar with spider anatomy), because the thorax section is combined with the head, yielding the prosoma or cephalothorax. So, judging from the description, the Papuan ‘puppy spider’ must have been at least the size of an adult chihuahua!
This is not the only report of a giant mystery spider encountered in New Guinea during World War II. During an interview with cryptozoologist Rob Morphy of AmericanMonsters.com on the U.S. radio show ‘Coast To Coast AM’ a couple of years ago, a telephone caller named Craig recounted how his grandfather, while serving in New Guinea during WW2, encountered a monstrous spider in a web that scared him so much he hacked it to death with his machete. According to Craig’s grandfather, the spider measured an immense 3 from tip to tip, and, unexpectedly, was not hairy like many big spiders are. Instead, it was shiny, and was emerald green in colour. This nightmarish arachnid was encountered near Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.
Yet even this monster pales into insignificance alongside the horrifying j’ba fofi (‘great spider’) claimed by the Baka pygmy tribe and also the local Bantu hunters to exist amid the central African jungles of Cameroon and also the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly the Belgian Congo). This eight-legged terror was first brought to attention in 2001, when cryptozoological explorer Bill Gibbons told me of a very frightening close encounter that had occurred one day back in 1938.
This was when explorers Reginald and Margurite Lloyd were driving along a jungle path in the Belgian Congo’s interior. Suddenly, a figure stepped out onto the path just ahead of them, resembling a monkey or a small, stooped human. Reginald Lloyd stopped the car to let the figure pass, and was astonished to see that it was a huge brown tarantula-like spider, with a leg-span of 3-4-ft! As he turned to grab his camera, however, the giant spider scuttled into the undergrowth and disappeared.
In November 2003, during an expedition to Cameroon seeking a mysterious long-necked water beast called the mokele-mbembe, Gibbons mentioned to the Baka pygmies the Lloyds’ sighting (originally recounted to him by their daughter, Margaret). They were familiar with such creatures and provided him with additional information.
The Baka claimed that these colossal spiders were once quite common in this area but are rarer now (due to modern deforestation here?), although one was reputedly sighted by them as recently as June 2003. They used to construct hut-like lairs from leaves near to the pygmies’ villages, and by spinning mighty webs between adjacent trees, with trip lines running across game trails, they ensnared and devoured victims as sizeable as duiker (small antelopes). Moreover, they were said by the Baka to be powerful and venomous enough to kill humans too, but are themselves killed by the pygmies if encountered by them. The j’ba fofi supposedly lays white peanut-sized eggs, from which yellow spiderlings with purple abdomen emerge, turning brown as they mature.
Reports of comparably massive spiders have also been recorded from the rainforests of Venezuela in South America. In 2008, the American television series ‘MonsterQuest’ sent tarantula expert Rick C. West to investigate such stories in the field via a short, filmed expedition to some Venezuelan jungle villages near to the Orinoco River and the border with Colombia. During his three-day foray, he was accompanied by a team of local helpers and an experienced Amazon guide, Juan Carlos Ramirez, who has worked here for over 20 years.
West began his quest by visiting the village of San Rafael de Manuare. Here, one villager attested that as a child he had seen a giant tarantula-like spider capture a small dog from the village and drag it off into the jungle. Its abdomen was as big as a basketball, and when it reared up it was the size of a human. If such a gigantic spider existed, and its fangs (chelicerae) were in proportion to the rest of its body, they would probably measure 6”-9” long. Although such claims would incite considerable scientific scepticism, Ramirez was convinced of the villagers’ veracity, stating that they know the local fauna very well, and would not mistake something familiar, such as a monkey or a sloth on the ground, for a giant spider.
West and his team also visited Pandari, a village deeper in the mountains. Here, two inhabitants, Antonio and his son Simoni, spoke of a small child who had disappeared, never to return – which had been blamed upon giant spiders. In addition, so real is the Pandari villagers’ fear of such creatures that they even engineer their huts specifically to keep them out, building thatched roofs that extend all the way down to the ground, thus yielding dense tightly-interwoven barricades.
On the third day of West’s expedition, they headed back into the jungle and found an extremely large spider lair in the ground, inside which they placed a videoscope. This revealed the presence there of a very big tarantula, which they captured alive. Although nothing like as sizeable as the reputed chicken-killing, dog-devouring, child-abducting specimens feared by the villagers, it was roughly the same size as the biggest tarantulas on record and was 2 oz when weighed inside a plastic specimen bag.
Sadly, West’s expedition ended without finding conclusive evidence for Venezuela’s fabled giant spiders. However, he was sufficiently impressed by the size of their captured spider to consider it possible that bigger ones did exist in the jungle, and stated that he planned on returning to continue the search for one.
In 2011, British cinematographer Richard Terry sought horse-killing, child-abducting giant spiders in Colombia’s rainforest, for the television series ‘Man v Monster’. He didn’t find any either, but villagers claimed that these dreaded beasts inhabited subterranean lairs opening onto the forest floor via huge holes.
On 8 April 2013, American cryptozoologist Craig Woolheater posted on the Cryptomundo website a fascinating communication that he’d lately received from an American correspondent publicly identified only by their Cryptomundo user name, mrmaxima. This person stated that their father-in-law claims that while serving in the jungles of Vietnam during the Vietnam War as part of a five-man unit conducting scout work there, he encountered spiders with bodies the size of dinner plates, and, with their legs, yielding a total span of 20-30 in. These terrifying arachnids were always spied near to creeks or other water sources, and were so tough that even after being shot by him and the other men with their M16s and unloaded full magazines, they were still moving around.
One of the most startling giant spider reports comes from Leesville in Louisiana, USA. According to William Slaydon, it was here, while walking northwards along Highway 171 to church one cool night in 1948, that he, his wife, and their three young grandsons had spied a gigantic spider – hairy, black, and memorably described as “the size of a washtub”. It emerged from a ditch just ahead of them and crossed the road before disappearing into some brush on the other side. Not surprisingly, the family never again walked along that particular route to church at night!
Nor is that the only report of a giant spider in suburbia. On 11 February 2013, Adam Bird from Nottingham, England, shared the following remarkable, never-before-publicised account on Facebook. It was related to him by a local librarian, Sheila, who had encountered the spider in question about 12 years earlier. One evening, Sheila was driving along Nottingham’s Stone Bridge Road, on one side of which was a farm (still there today) and on the other side a disused factory (now demolished). As she approached the factory, her car’s headlights lit up what she thought at first was a hedgehog, crawling towards the factory site. As she drove nearer, however, she realised to her horror that it was a huge, hairy, tarantula-like spider. Sheila estimated that its body alone was the size of a large dinner plate, and when the length of its legs were added, she deemed its total width to be about 2 ft. She continued to watch as it scuttled across the road and through the fence into the factory, then she quickly drove away, but, not surprisingly, the memory of this spine-chilling encounter has remained with her ever since.
So, could immense spiders truly exist? Other than Leesville and Nottingham, the areas where they have been reported are all sufficiently impenetrable, inhospitable, and little-explored to be potentially capable of hiding some notable zoological surprises. However, the fundamental problem when considering giant spiders is not one of zoogeography but rather one of physiology.
Their tracheal respiratory system (consisting of a network of minute tubes carrying oxygen to every cell in the body) prevents insects from attaining huge sizes in the modern world, because the tracheae could not transport oxygen efficiently enough inside insects of giant stature. During the late Carboniferous and early Permian Periods, huge dragonflies existed, but back in those primeval ages the atmosphere’s oxygen level was far greater than it is today, thereby compensating for the tracheal system’s inefficiency.
Moreover, until quite recently prehistory offered a truly spectacular, fully-confirmed super-spider too – the aptly dubbed Megarachne servinei, formally described in 1980 from a 300-million-year old Upper Carboniferous fossil specimen discovered by Argentine palaeontologist Mario Hünicken in the Bajo de Veliz Formation at San Luis, Argentina. Its body measured roughly 16 in long, and is estimated to have possessed a leg span of some 20 in. In 2005, conversely, the identity of Megarachne as a mega-spider was challenged in a Biology Letters of the Royal Society paper by Manchester University zoologist Dr Paul Selden and Hünicken, who proposed that it had actually been a very different chelicerate creature – not a spider but rather a sea scorpion or eurypterid. This identity has since been confirmed – exit Megarachneas a giant spider!
Some of the modern world’s largest known spiders utilise a tracheal respiratory system, whereas smaller spiders employ flattened organs of passive respiration called book lungs. Yet neither system is sufficiently competent to enable spiders to attain enormous sizes, based upon current knowledge at least. So if a giant spider does thrive in some secluded, far-off realm, it must have a radically different, much more advanced respiratory system, not just a greatly enlarged body.
Interestingly, there is a notable precedent for the development of a novel respiratory organ among large land-dwelling arthropods. The largest of all such species living today is the coconut crab Birgus latro, which sports a body length of up to 16 in, a weight of up to 9 lb, and a leg span of more than 3 ft. Indigenous to various islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans, despite being a crab it is exclusively terrestrial (it cannot swim and will drown if immersed in water for over an hour), and has a unique respiratory organ known as a branchiostegal lung that enables it to exist entirely on land.
So who knows: if crustaceans (which are predominantly aquatic arthropods) can achieve this in nature, maybe spiders (which are predominantly terrestrial anyway) have also achieved something comparable. Moreover, it has suggested that perhaps some reports of so-called giant spiders are actually sightings of giant land crabs, but crabs are very different in appearance from spiders, due in no small way to their instantly visible chelae (pincers), and no such crabs are known to exist in any of the regions from which the giant spiders documented here have been reported.
In any case, all of this is sheer speculation, and is likely to remain so – unless, for instance, in the not-too-distant future a Baka pygmy should happen not only to kill a j’ba fofi but also to preserve its body afterwards, and duly alert scientific attention to it. Then at last we might have the long-awaited solution to this fascinating mystery – although arachnophobes might be more than happy for it to remain unsolved indefinitely!
When Weird Darkness returns…
Something came out of the river near New Richmond, Ohio – those who saw it said it was a kind of alien lifeform, and utterly indescribable. What was the strange creature that has come to be known as Octoman?
But first… drivers were convinced they’d spotted the infamous Blue Bell Hill ghost on the A229 in February 2019. That was the last time the ghost was spotted – and some believe it wasn’t really the ghost at all, but something else. That story is up next.
STORY: THE GHOST OF BLUE BELL HILL==========
Kent is home to some of the most spooky places in the UK – and the county is renowned for its ghost stories.
From the famed Pluckley – which has been known as the most haunted village in England – to the ghost of Rochester Castle, there’s many a tale to tell.
Ghosts have often been spotted on the road but hadn’t been for quite some time – more than 20 years ago in fact.
The most recent known sighting of paranormal activity on the stretch of road came on February 1, 2019 when many were convinced they saw a spirit on the A229.
Blue Bell Hill was embroiled in chaos on a Friday night after unexpected snow had brought traffic to a complete standstill.
Hundreds of cars were left at the side of the road, with some abandoned, leaving passengers including pregnant women and children stranded for hours.
As pictures emerged of the carnage that had erupted during a sudden downpour of snow at around 5pm, one in particular caught the eye of drivers and readers alike.
This one particular picture showed a blurry outline of what looked to be a person, some say with a child, looking over the busy traffic and standing next to the central reservation.
Not everyone was convinced it was a ghost, and some said it was a distorted view of a road sign, illuminated by car lights.
Some others were still convinced it was a spirit.
Either way, there are numerous conspiracy theories surrounding Blue Bell Hill.
The most notorious – and the one many believe is in the picture from 2019 – is the apparent ghost of bride-to-be Suzanne Browne, who was killed on the eve of her wedding in 1965.
The 22-year-old was killed with two friends in a road traffic accident near the bridge over the Old Chatham Road the day before she was due to get married on on November 19 of that year.
The significance of this young woman’s death was the reported sightings afterwards, and the similar pattern they carried.
Most of the reported sightings took place in the 1960s and 70s, but some of the last were reported in 1993.
Four years after the accident, a man on his way home to Rochester late at night, saw two pedestrians walking towards him, then suddenly disappear.
On another occasion he witnessed the pedestrians again, walking across the road, however this time a car drove straight through them.
In 1971 James Skene was driving home from work when a girl in her early 20s suddenly appeared in front of his car.
He gave her a lift to Chatham, but when she got out he said she disappeared into thin air.
The bride is not the only ghost of Blue Bell Hill.
Other motorists have reported hitting a woman wearing a red scarf near the Robin Hood junction, who stares intently at the driver before disappearing under the bonnet.
This could be a young Rochester maid who was allegedly murdered in the early 20th century.
The maid named Emily Trigg visited her mother in Blue Bell Hill every Sunday, and she was last seen walking with a soldier on Blue Bell Hill in 1916.
In 1934 a young woman called Renee was riding home along Blue Bell Hill on a gloomy autumn’s evening.
Haunted Kent claims with quieter roads, she attempted to freewheel down the hill before being confronted by a dark mist.
This, it said, made her appear to hit something solid and caused her to fall off the bike.
But when she got up and dusted herself off, there was nothing in sight.
It was in the same year on a cold winter’s night that a man was travelling home when he saw a young woman standing in the middle of the road.
He stopped and offered her a lift.
She asked to be taken to Church Street, close to the cemetery.
As they approached Church Street, the man turned around to speak to her, but she had disappeared.
Some years later, in 1992, three drivers reported hitting someone who ran into the road at night, but there was no evidence or a body to be found.
Coach driver Ian Sharpe, 56, saw the ghost only just over a week before the anniversary of the car crash.
He told The Sun: “I had come out of the Blue Bell Hill slip-road, from the village, coming down the hill.
“I saw this woman and I thought, ‘Oh, she’ll go back, she won’t come across.’
“But then she just ran straight in front of the car and I hit her on her left side…she was looking at me all the time.
“I honestly thought that I had killed her. You can’t imagine how it felt.
“I was so scared to look underneath, but I knelt down and looked straight through – there was nothing there.”
Until 2019, the most recent sighting was witnessed by a family who were driving in the area in January 1993.
Haunted Kent said driver Malcolm Maiden slowed up as he could see a figure standing in the road.
When the car got closer, they realised it was an elderly woman wearing old fashioned, worn out clothes.
It said: “An air of malevolence surrounded her and as they approached the grotesque figure, her face contorted with anger, she began to shake a bundle of twigs at the car.
“When the car began to fill with an evil black fog, the family sped homewards.”
STORY: THE OHIO OCTOMAN==========
The Ohio River and its many tributaries are a hotbed of odd (and occasionally dangerous) cryptozoological activity, but one of the weirdest creatures ever to have emerged from their murky depths has got to be this hulking, gray-skinned, quasi-cephalopod, which at least five terrified eyewitness claimed to have seen during the winter of 1959.
The world at large first learned about this moist monstrosity on January 29th, 1959, in article published in the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star tantalizingly titled: “What Is It? ‘Monster’ Churns Up the Ohio.” Beneath it the equally intriguing sub-heading read: “Anyone missing an ‘indescribable monster’ that swims?”
Thus begins the fascinating (and all too short) saga of the insidious (yet little known) “Indescribable Octo-Man.”
Often — and inexplicably — lumped in with Hairy Hominid accounts from the same region and era, this ostensibly amphibious beast was first reported to Ohio’s Clermont County and New Richmond police by an unnamed man who claimed that “something came out of the river” approximately 4-miles from New Richmond. According to the spooked eyewitness, the alien life-form he saw was utterly “indescribable.”
Needless to say police took this anonymous report with a proverbial grain of salt, but they changed their tune when a second concerned caller — this time a truck driver en route to Indianapolis — phoned from a gas station located on Kellogg Ave. near a bridge on the Little Miami River. The trucker claimed that as he drove from Mt. Washington toward Cincinnati he had spied an unclassified entity unlike anything he had ever seen.
In the first of two stories published by the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star regarding this inscrutable creature, a dispatcher from Station X — the code for one sergeant and a radio operator, housed at Central Station in City Hall, Cincinnati — confirmed that the voices of both witnesses were distinct.
Of course, just because local police were pursuing the case doesn’t mean that they took it seriously. In fact another (again unnamed) officer sarcastically speculated that this “thing” might be an alien he was quoted as saying “it really was a riot here. We kept waiting for someone to say ‘take me to your leader.’”
Regardless of how amused some officers were by the rampant “monster” reports, most of the dispatchers who responded to the witnesses’ calls — including one Frank B. Heisler — agreed that those making the reports sounded legitimately “shaken” and sober.
As if this situation were not already strange enough; right after the creature reports started filtering in, all of the streetlamps along Kellogg Ave. — from Lunken Airport to Coney Island (Ohio) — were extinguished simultaneously.
While many of the officers were disdainful of the entire affair, some of their more diligent cohorts were in the field; legitimately concerned that what folks were reporting was not a monster, but a victim of an automobile accident.
The following day, on January 30th, 1959, the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star once again fed the creature hungry public more details about the roving monstrosity. This article was titled: “Driver Swears It Happened: River Monster Takes a Stroll On Bridge.”
The piece went on to report that “high winds” had caused the power outage, despite the fact that the police had already revealed that the lights were “on two different circuits.” They also stated that additional reports of the monster came in early on Friday,
The January 30th article also included testimony from a man who was identified simply as a “scientist.” The scientist asserted that on the morning following the uproar he was driving across the Licking River — a tributary of the Ohio River than flows into Kentucky — when “something leaped on the bridge.”
That same morning or perhaps the night before — the accounts are exasperatingly sketchy about correlating specific times and sightings — a young woman claimed to have seen “the thing” in a creek near the Fort Thomas pumping station, near the Ohio River in Kentucky. She was the first witness to compare the creature to an octopus.
Considering the lack of specific details reported in local papers, it is difficult to discern just what this witness saw that compelled her to compare it to an octopus. Did the beast have tentacles, a bulbous octopoid-head or both (or additional) attributes? Unless the eyewitness comes forward, we’ll likely never know for sure.
Another unidentified woman — who may or may not have been entirely serious — allegedly shouted at a Cincinnati Post & Times-Star reporter: “We saw that thing this morning. Now you gonna put my name in the paper and call me a crack pot?”
The same day, less than 5-miles away in Covington, Kentucky, another woman — who clearly saw the creature — gave what is by far the most thorough description of the creature in question. Sadly, her story would not be published for nearly 20-years.
According to respected cryptozoologist Loren Coleman, all public accounts of this monster dried up until nearly two decades later when ufologist and Bigfoot investigator, Dennis Pilchis, published a booklet titled: “Bigfoot: Tales of Unexplained Creatures” in 1978. Pilchis, a native of Rome, Ohio — who may have had access to local witnesses — added some essential details regarding the creature, which were not covered in the newspaper accounts of the sightings. Pilchis wrote that the woman from Covington saw the thing “bent over” and that she went on to describe it.
With cellulite lobes running up its bare skull, this slimy, shuffling, colossal mass of organic matter must have been a traumatizing sight to behold. A testament to just how frightening this brief flap was (especially to the children of the region) was published in the Cincinnati Post & Times-Star. In it they stated that an 11-year old phoned to ask if the “green men really are coming out of the river in groups of twelve as his teacher said they were.”
By Saturday the police said the phone calls had ceased and that “the monster has left town.” But that declaration might have been a little premature.
In 1982‘s “The Bigfoot Casebook,” authors Janet and Colin Bord report that a motorist by the name of George Wagner claimed to have seen a huge two-legged creature walking on a bridge over the Ohio River sometime in February of 1959, near Covington, Kentucky. One can only assume that this was early in February.
With that final report, the malformed, hairless, tendril bearing, bipedal behemoth seemed to have vanished off the face of the Earth… or perhaps it just slipped back into the into the muddy depths of the Ohio River — or one of its seemingly innumerable tributaries — just waiting for a time when it can rise again to wreak havoc.
In the thick of the monster panic, the Clermont County dispatcher, Heisler, speculated that the eyewitnesses might have “seen a tree bobbing up and down in the water.” The “tree bobbing” theory was shared by local dam lock-man, William Sprague. Sprague’s seemingly plausible “driftwood” supposition might help to explain the youthful lady’s Fort Thomas surging “octopus” sighting, but it clearly does not take into account the facts that neither trees nor waves have feet, fat rolls or tentacles. Nor does it address the testimony of the eyewitness who saw it jump onto a bridge.
Is this some kind of amphibious animal hitherto unknown to science that was able to burrow deep into the river mud and hibernate undetected for inordinately long stretches of time? This might explain why sightings are so rare, but if the Octo-Man were ectothermic, with a body temperature that fluctuated wildly depending on the environment, then why would it have lurched out of the river in the dead of winter?
Descriptions of this ostensibly HYBRID BEAST are not entirely unlike those of the hairy, upright and diminutive (by comparison) cephalopodan critter — lovingly dubbed OCTO-SQUATCH by your friends here at American Monsters — which was allegedly seen by a pair of eyewitness in Spain less than two years after the Octo-Man encounters. That having been said, the fact that this shaggy, big-eyed varmint was said to be just over 3-feet tall and smothered with a thick coat of rust- colored hair pretty much negates and further comparisons.
There is also the intriguing possibility that this lumbering aberration of nature might be a combination of animal and plant tissue. This is considered to be a biological impossibility, but there are rare cases — such as the Florida MOSS MAN — that seem to indicate the very real possibility of human-animal-plant hybrids lurking in vast uncharted swamps and other remote waterlogged regions of the world.
The fact that this creature was seen by so many witnesses in such a brief window of time has also led some to speculate that it might just be a lost alien. They surmise that the creature’s craft may have crashed into a larger body of water and that the stranded “thing” — not unlike poor E.T. — was just looking for a way to contact home. The dearth of local UFO sightings that night, combined with the lack of any reported air crashes in the area, seem to pretty well wrap that theory up.
More terrestrial minded folks — including a handful of crypto-authors like John Green, writer of “Sasquatch: The Apes Among Us” (1981) and the aforementioned Colin and Janet Bord — have lumped these sightings in with more traditional BIGFOOT reports, but based on the witness descriptions of a lopsided, hairless, octopus-like beast, it would seem that this deduction is, at best, counterintuitive.
Another, perhaps more plausible, hypothesis is that this huge creature might be linked to tales of the terrifying, yet skittish, LOVELAND FROGMEN. The first sighting of these creatures occurred in 1955, when an unnamed business man claimed to have witnessed three, bipedal, semi-amphibious creatures assembled by the side of a road that travels along the Little Miami River.
These strange beings stood between 3 and 4-feet tall, were covered with leathery skin, and had webbed hands and feet. Their most distinguishing characteristic, however, was their distinctly “frog-like” heads, which the man claimed bore “deep wrinkles.”
The report of “deep wrinkles” on the foreheads of the Loveland Frogmen invite inevitable comparisons to the horizontal “rolls of fat” described by the Octo-Man witness during the Covington encounter. Another Frogmen observer claimed that the critters had “pale greenish-gray” flesh, this also corresponds roughly to the description given by one of the Covington witnesses.
Alas, all Frogmen reports state that the animals were no more than 4-feet tall. This stands in stark contrast to the Licking River witness who claimed that the thing he saw was “three or four times the size of a man and much bulkier.” Still, one can’t help but wonder whether or not the infamous Octa-Man might possibly be at least a distant cousin to these frog-like fiends.
Arguably the most dangerous Ohio River cryptid on record is the notorious GREEN CLAWED BEAST. On August 21, 1955, Naomi Johnson — While enjoying a leisurely swim with a friend — had a terrifying encounter with what she believed was a hideous creature beneath the surface of the Ohio River near Evansville, Indiana. Johnson (and the other witnesses at the scene) swore that she was suddenly clutched around her knee and dragged beneath the waves by a large, claw-like hand, which left an imprint that lasted for days.
Unfortunately Johnson never got a good look at the creature, as it remained submerged in the murky river water for the duration of the attack. Needless to say, she never swam in the Ohio River again.
While there is no hard (or even circumstantial) evidence to link the Octo-Man with the unseen creature that grabbed the recreational swimmer in 1955, it’s difficult not to at least entertain the possibility that this tentacled terror — seen both in and out of the Ohio, Little Miami and Licking rivers just 4-years later — may have been responsible for the aquatic assault.
On a more fanciful note; as I delved deeper and deeper into this intriguing case, I began to wonder if reports of this gargantuan gray varmint might have inspired one of the coolest cinematic mutations ever to lurch across a drive-in movie screen during the halcyon days of schlock-sploitation known as the 1970s.
I am, of course, referring to 1971’s “not-so classic” movie monster “Octoman,” which was created by the inimitable special effects guru Rick Baker no less! This bizarre, bipedal offshoot of an octopus and a human being both delighted and scared the hell out of me as a kid when I caught it on a Saturday afternoon creature feature.
In the early days of those reaching the New World, superstitions and unusual beliefs about others, even your own neighbors, were commonplace. Most anyone could be accused of being a witch. And I do mean anyone.
That story and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: AMERICAN WITCHES==========
The extraordinary delusion recorded as Salem witchcraft was but a reflection of a kindred insanity in the Old World that was not eliminated until its victims had been counted by thousands. That human beings should be accused of leaguing themselves with Satan to plague their fellows and overthrow the powers of righteousness is remarkable; but, that they should admit their guilt is incomprehensible, albeit the history of every popular delusion shows that weak minds are so affected as to lose control of themselves and that a whimsy can be as epidemic as small-pox.
Such was the case in 1688 when the witchcraft madness, which might have been stayed by a seasonable spanking, broke out in Massachusetts, the first victim being a wild Irishwoman, named Goody Glover who was hanged in Boston, which, within a few years involved the neighboring community of Salem Village.
The mischief done by “witches” was usually trifling, and it never occurred to their prosecutors that there was an inconsistency between their pretended powers and their feeble deeds, or that it was strange that those who might live in regal luxury should be so wretchedly poor. Aches and pains, the blight of crops, disease of cattle, were charged to them; children complained of being pricked with thorns and pins, and if hysterical girls spoke the name of any feeble old woman, while in flighty talk, they virtually sentenced her to die. The word of a child of eleven years sufficed to hang, burn, or drown a witch.
Giles Corey, a blameless man of eighty, was condemned to the medieval peine forte et dure, his body being crushed beneath a load of rocks and timbers. He refused to plead in court, and when the beams were laid upon him he only cried, “More weight!” The shade of the unhappy victim haunted the scene of his execution for years, and always came to warn the people of calamities. A child of five and a dog were also hanged after formal condemnation. Gallows Hill, near Salem Towne, witnessed many sad tragedies, and the old elm that stood on Boston Common until 1876 was said to have served as a gallows for witches and Quakers. The accuser of one day was the prisoner of the next, and not even the clergy was safe.
A few escapes were made, like that of a blue-eyed maid of Wenham, whose lover aided her to break the wooden jail and carried her safely beyond the Merrimack River, finding a home for her among the Quakers; and that of Miss Wheeler, of Salem, who had fallen under suspicion, and whose brothers hurried her into a boat, rowed around Cape Ann, and safely bestowed her in “the witch house” at Pigeon Cove. Many, however, fled to other towns rather than run the risk of accusation, which commonly meant death.
When the wife of Philip English, Mary, was arrested he, too, asked to share her fate, and both were, through friendly intercession, removed to Boston, where they were allowed to have their liberty by day on condition that they would go to jail every night. Just before they were to be taken back to Salem Towne for trial they went to church and heard the Reverend Joshua Moody preach from the text, “If they persecute you in one city, flee unto another.” The good clergyman not only preached goodness, but practiced it, and that night the door of their prison was opened. Furnished with an introduction from Governor Phips to Governor Fletcher, of New York, they made their way to that settlement and remained there in safe and courteous keeping until the people of Salem Towne had regained their senses when they returned. Mrs. English died, soon after, from the effects of cruelty and anxiety, and although the Reverend Moody was generally commended for his substitution of sense and justice for the law, there were bigots who persecuted him so constantly that he removed to Plymouth.
According to the belief of the time, a witch or wizard compacted with Satan for the gift of supernatural power, and in return was to give up his soul to the evil one after his life was over. The deed was signed in the blood of the witch and horrible ceremonies confirmed the compact. Satan then gave his ally a familiar in the form of a dog, ape, cat, or another animal, usually small and black, and sometimes an undisguised imp. To suckle these “familiars” with the blood of a witch was forbidden in English law, which ranked it as a felony; but, they were thus nourished in secret, and by their aid, the witch might raise storms, blight crops, abort births, lame cattle, topple over houses, and cause pains, convulsions, and illness.
If she desired to hurt a person she made a clay or waxen image in his likeness, and the harms and indignities wreaked on the poppet would be suffered by the one bewitched, a knife or needle thrust in the waxen body being felt acutely by the living one, no matter how far distant he might be. By placing this image in running water, hot sunshine, or near a fire, the living flesh would waste as this melted or dissolved, and the person thus wrought upon would die. This belief is still current among some affected by the voodoo superstitions of the South. The witch, too, had the power of riding winds, usually with a broomstick for a conveyance, after she had smeared the broom or herself with magic ointment, and the flocking of the unhallowed to their sabbaths in snaky bogs or on lonely mountain tops has been described minutely by those who claim to have seen the sight. Sometimes they cackled and gibbered through the night before the houses of the clergy, and it was only at Christmas that their power failed them. The meetings were devoted to wild and obscene orgies, and the intercourse of fiends and witches begot a progeny of toads and snakes.
Naturally, the Native American Indians were accused, for they recognized the existence of both good and evil spirits, their medicine men cured by incantations in the belief that devils were thus driven out of their patients, and in the early history of the country, the red man was credited by white settlers with powers hardly inferior to those of the oriental and European magicians of the middle ages. The Reverend Cotton Mather detected a relation between Satan and the Indians, and he declared that certain of the Algonquin tribes were trained from boyhood as powahs, or wizards, acquiring powers of second sight and communion with gods and spirits through abstinence from food and sleep and the observance of rites. Their severe discipline made them victims of nervous excitement and the responsibilities of conjuration had on their minds an effect similar to that produced by gases from the rift in Delphos on the Apollonian oracles, their manifestations of insanity or frenzy passing for divine or infernal possession. When John Gibb, a Scotchman, who had gone mad through religious excitement, was shipped to this country by his tired fellow-countrymen, the Indians hailed him as a more powerful wizard than any of their number, and he died in 1720, admired and feared by them because of the familiarity with spirits out of Hobbomocko (hell) that his ravings and antics were supposed to indicate. Two Indian servants of the Reverend Mr. Purvis, of Salem, having tried, by a spell, to discover a witch, were executed as witches themselves. The Indians, who took Salem witchcraft at its worth, were astonished at its deadly effect, and the English may have lost some influence over the natives in consequence of this madness. “The Great Spirit sends no witches to the French,” they said. Barrow Hill, near Amesbury, was said to be the meeting place for Indian powwows and witches, and at late hours of the night, the light of fires gleamed from its top, while shadowy forms glanced athwart it. Old men say that the lights are still there in winter, though modern doubters declare that they were the aurora borealis.
But, the belief in witches did not die even when the Salem people came to their senses. In the Merrimack Valley, the devil found converts for many years after. Goody Mose, of Rocks Village, was thought to have sent a beetle to disrupt a nearby party. The beetle flew into the faces of the guests relentlessly, buzzing its wings angrily. Finally, one of the partygoers swatted the insect and crushed it with his foot. At that very moment, Goody Mose, who had a sinister reputation, fell down the stair in her house. Goody Sloper, of West Newbury, who a reputation as a witch, went lame after a man struck his ax into the beam of a house that she had bewitched. However, she later redeemed herself when she rescued two people from drowning in the river. Goody Whitcher, of Amesbury, whose loom kept banging day and night after she was dead. Goodman Nichols, of Rocks Village, who cast a spell on a neighbor’s son, compelling him to run up one end of the house, along the ridge, and down the other end, troubling the family extremely by his strange proceedings. Susie Martin, also of Rocks Village, who was hanged in spite of her devotions in jail, but, not before the rope moved so much that it could not be tied for some time. The hill below Easton, Pennsylvania, called Hexenkopf (Witch’s head), was described by German settlers as a place of nightly gathering for weird women, who whirled about its top in “linked dances” and sang in deep tones mingled with awful laughter. After one of these women, in Williams township, had been punished for enchanting a twenty-dollar horse, their celebrations were held more quietly. In Newburyport, Goodwife Elizabeth Morse was accused of witchcraft in 1679 by neighbors who had grudges against her. One neighbor even claimed that she made his calves dance on their hind legs and roar. They also said she had baskets and pots that danced through her house and been seen flying about the sun. She was sentenced to death but ultimately pardoned by the governor.
Juan Perea, of San Mateo, New Mexico, would fly with his chums to meetings in the mountains in the shape of a fireball. During these sallies he left his own eyes at home and wore those of some brute animal. It was because his dog ate his eyes when he had carelessly put them on a table that he had always afterward to wear those of a cat. In the 1800s, an old woman who lived in a hut on the Palisades of the Hudson River was held to be responsible for local storms and accidents. As late as 1889 two Zuni Indians were hanged on the wall of an old Spanish church near their pueblo in Arizona on a charge of having blown away the rain clouds in a time of drought. It was held that there was something uncanny in the event that gave the name of Gallows Hill to an eminence near Falls Village, Connecticut, for a strange black man was found hanging, dead, to a tree near its top one morning.
Moll Pitcher, a successful sorcerer, and fortune-teller of old Lynn, Massachusetts has figured in obsolete poems, plays, and romances. She lived in a cottage at the foot of High Rock, where she was consulted, not merely by people of respectability, but by those who had devilish schemes to and who wanted to learn in advance the outcome of their designs. Many a ship was deserted at the hour of sailing because she boded evil of the voyage. She was of medium height, big-headed, tangle-haired, long-nosed, and had a searching black eye. The sticks that she carried were cut from a hazel that hung about a brook where an unwedded mother had drowned her child. A girl, who went to her for news of her lover, lost her reason when the witch, moved by a malignant impulse, described his death in a fiercely dramatic manner. One day the missing ship came bowling into port, and the shock of joy that the girl experienced when the sailor clasped her in his arms restored her erring senses. When Moll Pitcher died she was attended by the little daughter of the woman she had so afflicted.
John, or Edward, Diamond, grandfather of Moll Pitcher, was a benevolent wizard. When vessels were trying to enter the port of Marblehead, Massachusetts in a heavy gale or at night, their crews were startled to hear a trumpet voice pealing from the skies, plainly audible above the howling and hissing of any tempest, telling them how to lay their course so as to reach smooth water. This was the voice of Diamond, speaking from his station, miles away in the village cemetery. He always repaired to this place in troublous weather and shouted orders to the ships that were made visible to him by mystic power as he strode to and fro among the graves. When thieves came to him for advice he charmed them and made them take back their plunder or caused them to tramp helplessly about the streets bearing heavy burdens.
Old Mammy Redd, of Marblehead, a notorious witch, could curdle the milk as it came from the cow, and afterward, transform it into blue wool. She had the evil eye, and, if she willed, her glance or touch could blight like palsy. It only needed that she should wish a bloody cleaver to be found in a cradle to cause the little occupant to die, while the whole town ascribed to her the annoyances of daily housework and business. Her unpleasant celebrity led to her death at the hands of her fellow-citizens who had been “worrited” by no end of queer happenings: ships had appeared just before they were wrecked and had vanished while people looked at them; men were seen walking on the water after they had been comfortably buried; the wind was heard to name the sailors doomed never to return; footsteps and voices were heard in the streets before the great were to die; one man was chased by a corpse in its coffin; another was pursued by the devil in a carriage drawn by four white horses; a young woman who had just received a present of some fine fish from her lover was amazed to see him melt into the air, and was heart-broken when she learned next morning that he had died at sea. So far away as Amesbury the devil’s power was shown by the appearance of a man who walked the roads carrying his head under his arm, and by the freak of a windmill that the miller always used to shut up at sundown but that started by itself at midnight. Evidently, it was high time to be rid of Mammy Redd.
Margaret Wesson, “old Meg,” lived in Gloucester, Massachusetts until she came to her death by a shot fired at the siege of Louisburg, five hundred miles away, in 1745. Two soldiers of Gloucester, while before the walls of the French town, were annoyed by a crow, that flew over and around them, cawing harshly and disregarding stones and shot, until it occurred to them that the bird could be no other than old Meg in another form, and, as silver bullets are an esteemed antidote for the evils of witchcraft, they cut two silver buttons from their uniforms and fired them at the crow. At the first shot its leg was broken; at the second, it fell dead. On returning to Gloucester they learned that old Meg had fallen and broken her leg at the moment when the crow was fired on, and that she died quickly after. An examination of her body was made, and the identical buttons were extracted from her flesh that had been shot into the crow at Louisburg.
As a citizen of New Haven was riding home — this was at the time of the goings on at Salem — he saw shapes of women near his horse’s head, whispering earnestly together and keeping time with the trot of his animal without effort of their own. “In the name of God, tell me who you are,” cried the traveler, and at the name of God they vanished. Next day the man’s orchard was shaken by viewless hands and the fruit thrown down. Hogs ran about the neighborhood on their hind legs; children cried that somebody was sticking pins into them; one man would roll across the floor as if pushed, and he had to be watched lest he should go into the fire; when housewives made their bread they found it as full of hair as food in a city boarding-house; when they made soft soap it ran from the kettle and over the floor like lava; stones fell down chimneys and smashed crockery. One of the farmers cut off an ear from a pig that was walking on its hind legs, and an eccentric old body of the neighborhood appeared presently with one of her ears in a muffle, thus satisfying that community that she had caused the troubles. When a woman was making potash it began to leap about, and a rifle was fired into the pot, causing a sudden calm. In the morning the witch was found dead on her floor. Yet killing only made her worse, for she moved to a deserted house near her own, and there kept a mad revel every night; fiddles were heard, lights flashed, stones were thrown, and yells gave people at a distance a series of cold shivers, but the populace tried the effect of tearing down the house, and quiet was brought to the town.
In the early days of the 19th century, a skinny old woman known as Aunt Woodward lived by herself in a log cabin at Minot Corner, Maine, enjoying the awe of the people in that secluded burg. They moved around but little at night, on her account, and one poor girl was in mortal fear lest by mysterious arts she should be changed, between two days, into a white horse. One citizen kept her away from his house by nailing a horseshoe to his door, while another took the force out of her spells by keeping a branch of “round wood” at his threshold. At night she haunted a big, square house where the ghost of a murdered infant was often heard to cry, and by day she laid charms on her neighbors’ provisions and utensils and turned their cream to buttermilk. “Uncle” Blaisdell hurried into the settlement to tell the farmers that Aunt Woodward had climbed into his sled in the middle of the road, and that his four yokes of oxen could not stir it an inch, but that after she had leaped down one yoke of cattle drew the load of wood without an effort. Yet she died in her bed.
When Weird Darkness returns… there are plenty of ghost stories in the Lake Placid area, but probably the most unique and mysterious is the story of the Lady in the Lake. But possibly more creepy than the ghost story is the true events that inspired it. Up next.
STORY: THE LADY IN LAKE PLACID==========
On September 21, 1933, Mabel disappeared while rowing on Lake Placid. She was a successful educator, creating and serving as the first dean to the New Jersey College for Women at Rutgers, which was later renamed Douglass College in her honor. Her family was about to close up Camp Onondaga for the season and head back to New Jersey the next day when Douglass went out for a paddle. She wasn’t seen again for just a week short of 30 years.
Scuba divers found Mabel’s body on Sept. 15, 1963, in the depths of Lake Placid near Pulpit Rock (named because it looks like a clergyman could preach from the top of it).
The first two divers followed Pulpit Rock as it plunges straight down through the depths of the water, finding an old guide boat on a rock shelf then continuing down. As they approached the bottom, 105 feet below the surface, they saw what they thought was a mannequin, put there as a practical joke. It wasn’t until one of them grabbed its arm and it detached from the rest of the body that they realized it was human, perfectly preserved due to the depths and cold of the water.
The chemical makeup of the water and the conditions were just so that the outer layers of tissue of Mabel’s body slowly started to turn into soap, giving her skin a hard, waxy, white look that gave the divers the initial impression that she was made of plastic. She lay on her right side with her legs together in a crouching position, and she looked like she had just died five minutes ago. The divers noticed a rope tied around her neck, which was attached to an anchor.
One of the divers, Air Force Staff Sergeant Richard Niffenegger, motioned for the other, 18-year-old Jimmy Rogers, to stay with the body as he returned to the surface, where he intended to get rope to mark the spot where the body lay so police could investigate it. As Jimmy waited with the body in the deep, dark water, though, he grew disconcerted by the way Mabel looked like she could wake up at any second. He decided to bring her body to the surface himself.
As he rose through the water with her, Mabel’s face disintegrated before the eyes of the divers who were coming down to help Jimmy. Her arm, her other hand, and her head all fell off in the process of getting her body out of the water, and all that was left by the time it was brought to the funeral home was a body that “resembled little more than a sculptor’s rough clay form of an unfinished human statue,” according to the book “A Lady in the Lake,” which was written about the incident.
It didn’t take long for investigators to find out that Mabel was the only person to have disappeared on Lake Placid and never have been found. They also learned that Mabel’s husband had died and her son had killed himself, and she had run into professional issues the year before she died. Combined, those circumstances caused her to have a nervous breakdown, and she spent about a year at a mental health facility before her daughter brought her to their Lake Placid camp for the summer. Years after Mabel’s death, her daughter Edith also committed suicide following her own husband’s untimely death.
With that background and the story that her neck was tied to an anchor, many have drawn the conclusion that she killed herself. Perhaps the idea of heading back to New Jersey and figuring out how to enter back into the real world was just too much for her. Yet the coroner declared the official cause of death to be accidental drowning. The type of boat Mabel was in is notoriously unstable and dangerous for beginners, so there’s always the slight possibility that she slipped and fell, and somehow she became entangled in the anchor’s rope as she fell.
Whatever the true story is, the mental image of Mabel’s perfectly preserved body, frozen in time for 30 years, has ignited the imaginations of many over the decades since it was found. Bernard F. Conners, a retired FBI agent who lived in Lake Placid at the time she was found, wrote a fictionalized account of the story called “Dancehall,” which was published in 1983. Conners changed the 56-year-old woman to a younger one, and he made the cause of death a violent murder. But he kept the elements of the woman’s body being preserved in the water, only to be found decades later. A movie version of “Dancehall” is said to be slowly making its way through the production process.
In 1985, George Christian Ortloff, another prominent local, published “A Lady in the Lake,” an attempt at telling the true story of Mabel Smith Douglass. In the end, he notes several conflicting facts in the story that could lead people to draw varying conclusions about how Mabel ended up at the bottom of the lake, but he tends to lean toward the suicide explanation.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org – and you can find me on the Stereo App, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, MeWe, and more, along with the show’s Facebook Group on the CONTACT page at WeirdDarkness.com. If you are listening to Weird Darkness on the radio, on a streaming station, or on YouTube, be sure to subscribe to the show in your favorite podcast app too, I upload new episodes there five days a week – including “Creepypasta Thursdays” where every week I bring a fictional story of horror! And every weekend I dive in to the archives to bring back episodes from years past!
Do you have a dark tale to tell of your own? 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 Ohio Octoman” from Itsmth
“The Actuality of Enormous Arthropods” is by Karl Shuker from the book, “Mirabalis – A Carnival of Cryptozoology and Unnatural History”, and the introduction to this episode was provided by UnexplainedMonsters.com.
“The Ghost of Blue Bell Hill” by Victoria Chessum and Ben Ashton for Kent Live
“The Lady In Lake Placid” by Jess Collier for LakePlacid.com
“American Witches” by Charles Skinner, gathered and edited by Kathy Weiser for Legends of America
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… “He who guards his lips guards his life, but he who speaks rashly will come to ruin.” – Proverbs 13:3
And a final thought… “Today is the oldest you’ve ever been, and the youngest you’ll ever be again. So live life to the fullest today, and have no regrets.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.