“THE DISTURBING CASE OF THE BELL WITCH” and More Dark True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“They Survived Their Own Deaths” by Gary Pullman for List Verse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3cp587jz
“The Paranormal Pentagram” by A. Sutherland for Message to Eagle: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2674t2ss, and Alice Cook-Nelson for MYDNYTBLU: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/d234tb8m
***BOOK: “Power of the Pendulum” by Tom Lethbridge: https://amzn.to/3cd6Jmr
“The Disturbing Case of the Bell Witch” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/du2fbct3
“Murders at Lake Bodom” posted at Mystery Confidential: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/356kkx5b
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IDENTIFY THE IMPOSTER==========
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 Phantom Cat’s Meow”.
Among all of the supposed hauntings that have gripped certain people and places throughout history there are some that truly stick out. Whether it be because they are infused with a certain peculiar sense of dread or evil, that they are so intense or even deadly, or that they are simply so mind-bogglingly and striking as to stick and twist into in the mind like splinters, these are the hauntings that truly enthrall us and make us think. One such bizarre and frightening case has truly resonated within the world of the weird, and it is a profoundly menacing haunting carried out by some wicked unknown thing that has gone on to be one of the most famous ghostly encounters in American history.
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…
The pentagram is most often seen in film and television as a symbol of Satan, or dark witchcraft – but that is not the reality of pentagram. The symbol has a much wider and richer history than what is portrayed in today’s entertainment mediums. While the practices and beliefs of Wicca, gnostics, and druids use the pentagram in their practices, as do Satanists, the pentagram was (and sometimes still is) used by Christian believers as well – which I’m sure comes as quite a shock to those who don’t know the full history behind this five pointed star. (The Paranormal Pentagram)
I have told innumerable stories involving the death of someone, be it brutal, mysterious, or even darkly humorous. But it is high time I share a few stories of people who died… but then returned to the living. Not as ghosts, but as regular flesh-and-blood human beings who just happened to survive their own death. (They Survived Their Own Deaths)
The Lake Bodom murders may well be the most famous unsolved homicide in Scandinavian Criminal History. Occurring in 1960 and claiming 3 victims with 1 injured survivor it is a Finnish zeitgeist that at one time or another had the whole of Finland enraptured. It is now a buzzword for murder and mystery in the small country. (The Lake Bodom Murders)
The tale of the Bell Witch has gone on to become one of the most well known hauntings in American history and an iconic historical horror story, but of course it has left us to debate and speculate on whether any of it is true, and if so just what was the Bell Witch? (The Disturbing Case of the Bell Witch)
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE DISTURBING CASE OF THE BELL WITCH==========
The story of the Bell Witch begins in 1804, with the scene set by a humble farmer by the name of John William Bell and his wife Lucy, who moved into a swath of rural land out in Robertson County in northern Tennessee, in what was then called Red River and would go on to become the area of the town of Adams, and where they worked the land as their family grew to include eight children. It was a simple but peaceful life, and for years this family lived out on their isolated farm with no intrusions or incidents. However, in 1817 the first signs of what would become one of the most-well known and frightening hauntings ever would begin to emerge from some dark, unknown place, to creep out from the fringe into the solitude of this happy family and change their lives forever more.
Perhaps the first sign that something was not quite right on the farm began with a strange creature sighted stalking about by John as he was out walking about the property one evening and saw what he would describe as a large, dog-like creature with a rabbit’s head skulking about in the shadows. The startled John apparently fired at this strange intruder, but rather than killing it the thing just vanished into nothing. In the coming days one of the Bell’s slaves would also claim to see a massive black hound on the land, even following him about, and other apparitions began to be sighted as well, such as a creepy giant bird sighted by John’s son, Drew, and the spectral form of a girl dressed in green, seen swinging from a tree branch by their daughter Elizabeth, often nicknamed Betsy.
This would have already been quite unsettling enough, but things would intensify as their farmhouse began to be besieged by unexplained phenomena from realms unknown. As with many hauntings the occurrences started out rather innocuous, such as anomalous noises, strange thuds and bangs in the night, but there were also decidedly more menacing things heard in the late night hours, such as the sounds of something gnawing or scratching at the walls and door, and also what sounded like shifting, rattling chains. There would also be the sound of a disembodied woman’s voice singing or laughing. This would all gradually escalate, with the disturbances gaining volume and intensity, snowballing into something truly unusual and often keeping the family awake through the night, before graduating into something even more terrifying.
The apparent haunting began to manifest itself in more concrete, physical ways, with blankets pulled off beds, objects moved or knocked over, sometimes with violent and irresistible force, utensils slapped out of hands, food pulled from mouths, food spilled on the kitchen floor, and most disturbing of all, physical assaults on the family members. It began mostly as pushes, prods, and pinches, but quickly got out of hand when the unseen entity began slapping, punching, pulling hair, and scratching, often with such force that it would leave welts, bruises, and scratches. Although most of the family members were targeted, it seemed like little Betsy received the worst of the entity’s wrath, routinely suffering injuries and on one occasion she was even stuck with pins by the malevolent force. The only one the spirit seemed to leave alone was Lucy Bell, who it remained indifferent or even seemingly friendly towards at times.
While at first John Bell tried to keep this all within the family, and shunned the idea of telling anyone else about their ordeal, the attacks and ghostly phenomena got so relentless and threatening that he eventually reached out to others for help. One of the first people he approached with his dilemma was a neighbor by the name of James Johnston, who allegedly witnessed many of the phenomena first hand. It was Johnston who surmised that the entity was actually intelligent and could speak if prompted to do so. Indeed, the ghost would become known for talking to both the family and visitors alike, and it was soon after this that the mysterious wraith would properly introduce itself.
Once the entity got started speaking she was allegedly quite the talkative one, often giving sermons or quoting scripture from the Bible, as well as gossiping on what the neighbors were up to. The entity also liked to mimic other people’s voices, which she was allegedly very good at, getting accents and voice pitch down perfectly. In addition to all of this, the spirit finally properly introduced herself, and by the spirit’s own admission she was “the witch of” a woman named Kate Batts, who had been a neighbor of the Bells and had sworn to haunt the family in death due to perceived slights against her, as well as apparently a bad business dealing over a slave. The vengeful and spiteful entity had firmly latched onto this poor family like some parasite, and seemed to show no signs of going anywhere, indeed becoming ever bolder and more violent.
Rumors soon spread of the haunting and this malignant spirit, and curiosity seekers from all over the region began making trips to the Bell property in the hopes of seeing what was coming to be called “The Bell Witch.” Such was the notoriety of the case at the time that according to many versions of the tale it drew the attention of none other than future president of the United States General Andrew Jackson himself. By most accounts Jackson was skeptical at first, and actually arrived at the farm with the intention of proving this all to be a hoax. For Jackson and his team this was all a bit of good fun, and not a single one of them thought they would really see anything supernatural. However, as they approached the Bell property something very strange indeed purportedly happened, and according to a version of the account in M. V. Ingram’s 1894 book, An Authenticated History of the Famous Bell Witch the events would unfold as follows:
“Just then, traveling over a smooth level piece of road, the wagon halted and stuck fast. The driver popped his whip, whooped and shouted to the team, and the horses pulled with all of their might, but could not move the wagon an inch. It was dead stuck as if welded to the earth. Gen. Jackson commanded all men to dismount and put their shoulders to the wheels and give the wagon a push, but all in vain; it was no go. The wheels were then taken off, one at a time, and examined and found to be all right, revolving easily on the axles. Gen. Jackson after a few moments thought, realizing that they were in a fix, threw up his hands exclaiming, “By the eternal, boys, it is the witch.” Then came the sound of a sharp metallic voice from the bushes, saying, “All right General, let the wagon move on, I will see you again to-night.” The men in bewildered astonishment looked in every direction to see if they could discover from whence came the strange voice, but could find no explanation to the mystery. The horses then started unexpectedly of their own accord, and the wagon rolled along as light and smoothly as ever.”
The perhaps understandably upset Jackson was still not swayed by these spooky events. After all he was a seasoned General and wasn’t going to let a mere ghost scare him. He ended up staying the night at the creepy Bell farm, where the witch purportedly kept her promise that she would “see you again tonight.” According to most versions of the story, Jackson and his men were positively accosted by the witch, pinched, slapped, screamed at, and having their blankets relentlessly torn away. So savage was this spectral assault that Jackson was reportedly officially freaked out by now, and is said to have proclaimed as he left, “I’d rather fight the British in New Orleans than to have to fight the Bell Witch.”
The Bell Witch was indeed known for making such quick believers out of staunch skeptics. Another initially very skeptical visitor was allegedly an unnamed Englishman who came to the farm with every intention of debunking it all. He arrived for his investigation and that evening the Bell Witch supposedly began to perfectly mimic his British accent and speech cadence. Later on that very same evening the witch is said to have woken the man with the voices of his own parents, which terrified him because the spirit should not have known what they sounded like. He apparently left first thing in the morning and apologized to the Bells for doubting them as he hi-tailed it out of there.
The Bell Witch would haunt the family for years, with the increasingly threatening phenomena culminating with John Bell suddenly falling into a coma and dying after falling mysteriously ill in December of 1820. According to the tale, a bottle of poison was found near his limp body, by some accounts in his medicine cabinet, and the witch would gleefully gloat that she had force-fed it to him as he slept. The eternally evil and unrepentant Bell Witch is even said to have continued to torment the dead man at his own funeral, where she cackled, sang joyfully, and giggled maniacally in full view of shocked guests. After this she also claimed to have ruined Betsy’s marriage plans by attacking her then fiancé, a man named Joshua Gardner, by cursing him with never-ending choking attacks, said to feel like “a sharp stick in the mouth.”
Not long after Betsy’s engagement disintegrated, it appears that the sinister Bell Witch considered her dark, grim work done, appearing before the family to tell them that she was going away for awhile, but would return in seven years time. After that the paranormal activity stopped completely, but true to the cruel witch’s word it would begin again in 1928, during which time she briefly terrorize the family and make ominous predictions about the future before finally vanishing again, saying that she would appear again in 1935, although it is unknown if she kept this promise as well.
Although the Bell Witch stopped haunting the Bell Farm, it is by no means the last anyone saw of her, and the legend continues from there. The most popular and spookiest story is that the witch did not ever really go away, but rather took up residence in a gloomy abandoned cave not far away by the Red River, which lies on a Native American burial ground no less, never a good sign, and where she apparently resides to this day. Among the many bizarre phenomena reported from here are the sounds of laughing, moaning, rasping, wheezing, and the voice of an old woman whispering or beckoning from the inky darkness. There are also other sinister tales of being choked, pushed, slapped, or having hair pulled in and around the cave, and others have told of being paralyzed in place or of having what feels like an immense weight placed upon them, as well as being embraced with a vice-like grip.
Of course apparitions of an old woman are often seen prowling about, and animals apparently steer well-clear of the area. One of the most notorious legends about the Bell Witch Cave is that if one is to take even a small stone from the cave, it will bring them hauntings, great misfortune, and even death. Although this entity is almost always described as malevolent and violent, there is at least one account of a child being saved from being stuck in a hole by the witch, who pulled the kid out and reportedly even gave safety tips for exploring the cave, before vanishing, a rare show of kindness in this villainy. The cave continues to attract seekers of the macabre and paranormal investigators, and anyone who is feeling brave enough can take a tour of either the cave itself or a replica of the original Bell cabin, which is furnished with some of the items originally owned by the Bells.
The tale of the Bell Witch has gone on to become one of the most well known hauntings in American history and an iconic historical horror story, but of course it has left us to debate and speculate on was any of it true, and if so just what was the Bell Witch? There has been a lot of skepticism aimed at the case in recent years, and some of the elements swiftly debunked. For instance, it has been fairly conclusively shown that Andrew Jackson was never in that area at the time and that there is absolutely no evidence at all that he was ever at the Bell farm or even anywhere near it. However, many stories that originate in a grain of truth often pick up flourishes and exaggerated elements over the years, so what of the rest of the tale? Is there any truth to it at all? This depends largely on who you ask.
One of the main criticisms as to the veracity of the case is that although there are countless books and articles written on the Bell Witch account, they all invariably lead back to one main source, Martin Van Buren Ingram’s 1894 book Authenticated History of the Bell Witch, which is the first real tome written on the case and which was released a full 75 years after the fact. Ingram, who was the owner of a local newspaper, based his book on interviews with alleged living witnesses and leaned heavily on the notes of one of John Bell’s sons, Richard Bell, who was only 6 years old when the hauntings began and who apparently did not put his experiences to paper until 30 years later, which leaves one to wonder just how much that was there is true and how much had been warped by time.
By the time Ingram received this diary from John’s grandson, Allen Bell, every single firsthand witness to the hauntings themselves was long dead, and the actual notes themselves have disappeared, leaving us to wonder if they ever even existed at all, or that if it did it whether they may have been a clever fake or forgery. Adding to this is that Ingram is known to have falsified some of his newspaper article sources, and much of the information he includes in his book is completely untraceable and unable to be corroborated in any way. In the end, we simply don’t know how true any of Ingram’s book is, and since most other works about the Bell Witch rely heavily on it this potentially taints them as well. There are very few other reliable sources about these events and only scattered newspaper articles prior to Ingram’s work on the matter, although there are a few, such as Goodspeed’s History of Tennessee, written in 1886, which describes the case thus:
“A remarkable occurrence, which attracted wide-spread interest, was connected with the family of John Bell, who settled near what is now Adams Station about 1804. So great was the excitement that people came from hundreds of miles around to witness the manifestations of what was popularly known as the “Bell Witch.” This witch was supposed to be some spiritual being having the voice and attributes of a woman. It was invisible to the eye, yet it would hold conversation and even shake hands with certain individuals. The feats it performed were wonderful, and seemingly designed to annoy the family. It would take the sugar from the bowls, spill the milk, take the quilts from the beds, slap and pinch the children, and then laugh at the discomfiture of its victims. At first it was supposed to be a good spirit, but its subsequent acts, together with the curses with which it supplemented its remarks, proved the contrary. A volume might be written concerning the performances of this wonderful being, as they are now described by contemporaries and their descendants. That all this actually occurred will not be disputed, nor will a rational explanation be attempted. It is merely introduced as an example of superstition, strong in the minds of all but a few in those times, and not yet wholly extinct.”
However, this account does not cover a lot of the events and incidents that have become intertwined with the greater Bell Witch legend, and it is a bit worrying because it seems as though Ingram could have made up a fair bit of it or used a hoaxed source. The owner of a newspaper, Ingram would have certainly had a lot to gain from such a sensationalized account. In this view, the tale of the Bell Witch is merely a bit of an urban legend and folklore started by an opportunistic charlatan, and another skeptical theory is that Betsy Bell or even her family could have hoaxed the whole thing or that it was all based on local superstitions.
But what if any of it is true? Although there are certainly parts that could have been embellished or exaggerated, is there any chance that some of the account really did happen the way it is described? If we assume for a moment that any of it happened, then obviously the witch could not have been Kate Batts, as this woman was actually alive and well during John Bell’s lifetime, as skeptics love to point out. Yet, evil entities and demons are very well known for trickery and deception, and it absolutely does not matter who the entity “says” it is. If it was real, then this could very well have been some dark spirit merely claiming to be Kate Batts to give itself an identity people could understand.
Could this have been some sinister evil spirit, even a demon, that had decided to target this family for reasons we may never fathom? Others have variously said that it could have been witchcraft aimed at the family, a vengeful Native spirit angry that its burial grounds had been disturbed, a trickster entity from the spirit world, an evil entity conjured up by Batts, or even a psychokinetic outburst from one of the family, which would fit into some modern theories on the poltergeist phenomenon originating in living people rather than the dead. For his part, Richard Bell is said to have written of his ideas on the origin of the phenomenon in his supposed diary:
“Whether it was witchery, such as afflicted people in past centuries and the darker ages, whether some gifted fiend of hellish nature, practicing sorcery for selfish enjoyment, or some more modern science akin to that of mesmerism, or some hobgoblin native to the wilds of the country, or a disembodied soul shut out from heaven, or an evil spirit like those Paul drove out of the man into the swine, setting them mad; or a demon let loose from hell, I am unable to decide; nor has any one yet divined its nature or cause for appearing, and I trust this description of the monster in all forms and shapes, and of many tongues, will lead experts who may come with a wiser generation, to a correct conclusion and satisfactory explanation.”
Whatever truth any of the case of the Bell Witch holds, it has become legendary, sparking innumerable articles and books, countless discussions and debate, and serving as the inspiration of the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project and the basis of the 2005 movie An American Haunting, among others. What happened to this family out on that secluded farm all those years ago? What sort of dark force invaded their lives, if any? Did it ever even happen at all? Regardless of the answers to these questions the Bell Witch is a classic, very spooky case from another time, an account deeply buried in mysteries and myth, and which we may never really know the full extent of.
When Weird Darkness returns… I have told innumerable stories involving the death of someone, be it brutal, mysterious, or even darkly humorous. But it is high time I share a few stories of people who died… but then returned to the living. Not ghosts, but as regular flesh-and-blood human beings who just happened to survive their own death. Up next.
STORY: THEY SURVIVED THEIR OWN DEATHS==========
The line between life and death is a fine one, and it is sometimes difficult to identify. Although one government has found it necessary to warn its citizens to refrain from playing doctor by trying to determine whether a family member has died, even physicians, nurses, paramedics, and other professionals sometimes have trouble pinpointing the cause of death or, indeed, even whether death has actually occurred. The thought that medical experts could pronounce living people dead may seem astounding, but this declaration actually happens much more often than we might think.
It’s not only Mark Twain who had the occasion to protest that “the report of my death was an exaggeration.” Unfortunately, Twain’s quip aside, such incidents are, even for those who manage to survive their own reported “deaths,” rarely, if ever, amusing.
In August 2020, after being declared dead, 20-year-old Timesha Beauchamp was dispatched to a Michigan funeral home. An employee, preparing to embalm her, unzipped the body bag in which she’d been placed, only to see her “corpse” staring back at him. Geoffrey Fieger, the family’s attorney said, “They were about to embalm her. . . . Had she not had her eyes open, they would have begun draining her blood.” Paramedics, responding to the family’s call for assistance upon finding Beauchamp “unresponsive,” pronounced her dead when they could not revive her after she stopped breathing. She was hospitalized in critical condition, on a ventilator. The responders insisted that they followed proper protocols, and officials said that Beauchamp’s undisclosed medical history was the reason her “body” had been released without additional forensics examination. The city of Southfield, Michigan, has been sued for $50 million for Beauchamp’s wrongful death declaration, and the four paramedics who were on the scene are also being sued. Beauchamp’s shortage of oxygen inside the body bag, the lawsuit contends, caused her to suffer brain damage.
A supposedly stillborn baby lay in an Argentine morgue for 12 hours, a victim, the infant’s mother, Analia Bouter, says, of hospital negligence. Fifteen minutes after the child’s birth, on April 3, 2012, she was closed inside a coffin and left for dead in the hospital’s refrigerated morgue. During a prayer by their daughter’s side, Analia and her husband Fabian Veron opened the coffin. Inside, their child was breathing, and the premature baby was subsequently pronounced to be in critical, but stable, condition. The couple named their daughter Luz Milagros, or Miracles. As a result of the near-fatal mistake, five of the hospital’s employees were suspended. The hospital’s administrator is at a loss for an explanation. “The baby was attended to by obstetricians, gynecologists and a neonatologist,” he said. “They all reached the same conclusion, that this girl was stillborn.”
The January 21, 1901, issue of The New York Times reported the strange occurrence of a “Live Man Taken to the Morgue.” According to the item, Charles Crawford, who’d shot his wife Sarah before shooting himself, was taken to the morgue, after being pronounced dead. There, Joseph Murphy, an assistant, discovered that Crawford was still among the living. After an ambulance first transported Crawford to St. Michael’s Hospital, Sister Soherta visited the vehicle. Her quick examination of him confirmed the suspicion of the police officer in charge: Crawford had died. His body was then transported to Mullins morgue. There, the assistant saw at once that Crawford was alive. Indeed, the “dead” man spoke to Murphy, as Crawford was transferred from the ambulance to a truck used to convey corpses into the morgue. Left inside the cold morgue of the unheated building, during the dead of winter, Crawford was sure to have died, the newspaper article pointed out, had he not been rescued, and he was lucky, indeed, that Murphy was in attendance the night he was brought to the morgue, because ambulances are not attended by physicians and no doctor was on duty at the hospital the night that Crawford arrived by ambulance, since the hospital used the services of doctors on call.
At age 78, Walter “Snowball” Williams woke inside a body bag after being declared dead at his home in Lexington, Kentucky, in February 2014. He tried to kick himself free, and, the next morning, a funeral home’s employees were astonished to see that the dead man was alive. At the nearby hospital to which he was taken, he was declared to be in stable condition, despite his harrowing ordeal. According to the coroner, Williams’s faulty pacemaker caused the false reading. With his family, Williams’s nephew, Eddie Hester, who had watched his uncle being zipped inside the body bag, celebrated his uncle’s return from the “dead.” Williams, who had been scheduled to be embalmed the day after his arrival at the funeral home was also thrilled to be alive.
Two hours after being declared dead of respiratory failure and multiple-organ failure in August 2014, 54-year-old Valdelucio de Oliveira Goncalves, who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer, was spotted moving inside a body bag. His brother, who came to the morgue with other family members, to dress Goncalves, discovered that the supposedly dead man was breathing. His feet were tied, and his nose and ears were plugged with cotton. The Menandro de Farias Hospital, in Bahia state capital Salvador, initiated an inquiry into the incident. “Hospital directors [would] meet the team who saw the patient to clarify the course of action taken,” a spokesperson for Bahia’s health department said.
Initially, neither paramedics nor the medical examiner were able to detect that Larry Donnell Green was alive. It wasn’t until after he’d been declared dead, placed inside a body bag, transported to the morgue, and deposited in a freezer that he was found to be alive. Green, who, at age 29, had been struck by a car on a highway in Franklin County, North Carolina, in January 2005, is said, by his parents, to have suffered irreversible brain damage in the accident, resulting in thousands of dollars of medical bills. His family has sued the county medical examiner and the former emergency workers for $20,000 in compensatory and punitive damages for negligence and emotional distress, and they want to ensure that no other families are subjected to the pain and suffering their family has experienced. Paramedics Randy Kearney, Paul Kilmer, Cathryn Lamell and Pam Hayes, and volunteer emergency medical technician Ronnie Woode were suspended with pay. Green was transferred to Duke University Medical Center in Durham, where he was placed on life support and listed as being in critical condition. He was discovered to be alive when medical examiner J. B. Perdue examined his body while certifying the cause of Green’s death. Perdue ordered the same paramedics who’d brought Green to the morgue to take him to the hospital. “There has been a terrible error made and we are on a fast track to getting these problems corrected, so we don’t face such a situation in the future,” Franklin County Manager Chris Courdriet admitted, adding, “It’s an unfortunate happening—no doubt about it.” Thirty-six-year-old Tamuel Jackson, who struck Green, faced charges.
Apparently, one particular premature baby didn’t like being in a morgue refrigerator. The infant began crying and moving when undertakers removed him from cold storage at a hospital in La Margarita in the Mexican city of Puebla on October 22, 2020, to hand him over to his parents for the funeral. The child’s father urged the baby, who was born only 23 weeks into the mother’s pregnancy, to “carry on fighting.” The little survivor was assigned to a stay in an intensive care neo-natal unit to be kept under observation. Miguel Angel Flores, the owner of Funeraria Flores, and one of the undertakers who had come to pick up the baby’s body, said, “We called the father over and he also saw it was crying and so we got the doctor who had signed the death certificate to come urgently.” Flores was amazed that, after six hours inside the refrigerator, the baby was yet alive. “I can’t understand how he didn’t die while he was there,” he said. The refrigeration unit, he observed, was “normally used to keep the limbs of amputees.” An investigation of the incident is underway.
After suffering from an asthma attack in July 2011, a 60-year-old South African man’s family assumed he had died. Instead of calling paramedics, they summoned workers from a local mortuary company. Awakening more than two hours later, inside a refrigerated compartment, the “dead” man began screaming, but his shrieks didn’t summon assistance. Instead, the mortuary workers fled, terrified that they were hearing a ghost. They returned, however, after gathering reinforcements, and the group decided to open the refrigerated compartment. Inside, the “ghost” was confused and shivering, and the workers called an ambulance. Six hours later, after being held at the hospital, under observation, the man was declared stable and sent home. Sizwe Kupelo, the spokesman for the Eastern Cape Health Department, said, “The temperature in the refrigerator is designed to keep corpses from decomposing. So you can imagine it’s definitely not appropriate for a live person.” And the 60-year-old man’s suffering isn’t likely to have ended, even now, Kupelo suggested. “At the village I bet the rumor is going around that a ghost is amongst the villagers. . . . There will probably be family members that will refuse to stay the night with him now.” In publicizing the incident, the government reminded its citizens that only qualified medical authorities should pronounce anyone dead. It’s a message that needs to be heard, apparently. The family’s suspicion that their relative had died was verified by the morgue’s employees. Ayanda Maqolo, who owns the morgue, said his driver, who’d gone to the family’s home to pick up the supposed remains, “examined the body, checked his pulse, [and] looked for a heartbeat, but there was nothing.” Maqolo himself had thought the 60-yer-old asthmatic “was about 80.”
Sixty-year-old Rosa Celestrino de Assis, of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, also spent several hours inside a body bag deposited inside a refrigerated morgue in Hospital Estadual Adao Pereira Nunes, where she was receiving treatment for a lung infection. Her daughter Rosangela Celestrino was called to the scene to identify her mother’s body. When Rosangela gave her mother a final hug, she “could feel her breathing,” she said, and she screamed, “My mom is alive!” The looks the others in attendance gave her suggested they thought she was “crazy,” she said. At 7:20 pm, on September 23, 2011, during tests related to her lung infection, a doctor had pronounced Rosa dead, and she was carted off to the morgue. At 10:00 pm that night, Rosangela pronounced her alive, and the “dead” woman was taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit. The nurse who first suspected that Rosa had died was fired. The doctor who pronounced her dead resigned.
Unable to contact her 46-year-old boyfriend Tom Sancomb for two days, his girlfriend asked police to conduct a welfare check on him. An officer entered Sancomb’s residence with the apartment manager and found that Sancomb had collapsed. Fire department paramedics did not attempt to resuscitate Sancomb, who was “cold to the touch and in rigor.” He was pronounced dead at the scene at 2:10 am, on May 19, 2015, and forensic investigator Genevieve M. Penn called Sancomb’s brother, John, to deliver the bad news. John asked that an autopsy be conducted to determine the cause of his brother’s death. At 3:00 pm, when a team arrived to transport Sancomb to the morgue, they noticed that Sancomb was breathing, and he was moving an arm and a leg. Later, his pulse returned, and he was transported to Columbia St. Mary’s Hospital in Milwaukee. What had caused the strange series of events? The Milwaukee County Medical Examiner’s “heavily redacted” report deleted the findings, and the hospital’s spokesman, Evan Solochek, refused to disclose the information due to federal privacy laws. Sancomb’s condition, whatever it is, improves daily, his brother said.
The pentagram is most often seen in film and television as a symbol of Satan, or dark witchcraft – but that is not the reality of pentagram. The symbol has a much wider and richer history than what is portrayed in today’s entertainment mediums. While the practices and beliefs of Wicca, gnostics, and druids use the pentagram in their practices, as do Satanists, the pentagram was (and sometimes still is) used by Christian believers as well – which I’m sure comes as quite a shock to those who don’t know the full history behind this five pointed star. The magical, mystical, and misunderstood pentagram – when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE PARANORMAL PENTAGRAM==========
The Pentagram is recognized all around the world and is seriously misunderstood. It is a generalized symbol associated with Satan, which is incorrect. The Pentagram is derived from the Greek words “pente” which means five and “gramme” which means line. The pentagram is a triple triangle that forms an interior pentagon.
This five-pointed star has been used in ancient China and Japan to symbolize the five elements of life: Fire, Earth, Metal, Water and Wood and they believed it to have magical properties. Early Christians used the pentagram as a representation of the Star of Bethlehem and represented harmony, peace and health. Somehow it has evolved into a symbol of Satan worship.
Exploring the history of the pentagram it dates back to 3500 BC in Mesopotamia found inscribed on pottery and various artifacts. The Hebrews used the pentagram to represent truth and the Pentateuch which is the first five books of the Hebrew Scriptures. The Pythagoreans of ancient Greece focused on the mathematical purity of the symbol and held the pentagram as their symbol of perfection. In ancient Babylonia the pentagram was used to represent the various gods and different religious beliefs of Babylonian culture.
During the medieval era, Christians began to use the pentagram as a symbol of the five wounds of Christ (crown, hands and feet) and it was used to ward off evil spirits. For several hundred years after Christ’s death the pentagram was adopted as a symbol of the Catholic Church. During the Inquisition period there was much violence and upheaval of the Christian Church and if people did not conform to the church’s laws they were executed. This is the time when the pentagram and Paganism were associated with Satan worship and believed was tools of the Devil. Goats were at times sacrificed by Devil worshipers and the pentagram was associated with the goats head when the horns were placed upright on the pentagram, however Paganism was not actually Devil worship, it was simply labeled anyone that did not conform exactly to the Catholic Church. Pagans went into hiding and secluded themselves from the religious persecution and witch burning trials that haunted their every day.
Secret groups met and expanded their ideas. They developed the science of Alchemy which was based on geometric symbolism. The pentagram and the pentacle (with a circle around) is a geometric symbol which consists of five lines connecting end to end and form the five pointed star. This was a mathematical ratio that was first documented by Greek mathematician Pythagoras and according to him the five points of the pentagram each represent the five elements that make up man. These elements are Fire, Water, Air, Earth and Psyche.
The Celtic Druids believed that the pentagram represented the sacred nature of five, Air, Fire, Water, Earth and Spirit. They also believed it was a symbol for the underground Goddess Morrigan. Today’s Neo-Pagan movement is based on remnants of the old Celtic traditions.
Gnosticism beliefs the pentagram, also referred to the Blazing Star had symbolism of the crescent moon. This belief was based on early Pagan, Jewish and early Christian views and the Blazing Star symbolized the magic and mysteries of the night sky.
The pentagram has turned in modern times into a symbol of harmony and spirituality. Some temples of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints are decorated with the pentagram.
Wiccans have adopted the pentagram and used it in symbolism of the four elements, Air, Water, Earth and Fire and believe balance the fifth point – to balance and create the fifth element of spirit. The pentagram ring is a popular talisman worn by Wiccans and Pagans alike. Many Wiccans utilize the pentagram frequently on altars, clothing, ritual tools and other decorative symbolism. They also view it as the Star of Life and often represents the feminine energy.
The inverted pentagram was adopted by the Church of Satan as its logo, as mentioned previously. Usually depicted inside of the circle with a goats head inside the star and is said to represent rejection of heaven and all things spiritual. Latter Day Saints and Wiccans use both upright and inverted pentagrams in rituals and ceremonies.
No matter your beliefs, the pentagram has a long history and has and always be a strong spiritual symbol. Even though there are negative stigmas attributed to it, it will always remain a strong symbol for those seeking spiritual clarity and knowledge of the divine. The pentagram has been known to protect from negative energy and to restore peace and harmony into life.
This sacred symbol and powerful tool will continue to maintain its ancient mystical attributes forever and always.
“What is magic today will be science tomorrow,” said once T.C. Lethbridge (1901 – 1971), an English archaeologist, parapsychologist, and explorer but also a controversial figure in British archaeology.
His significant research is related to a certain magical pentagram, a five-pointed star, and its secret use.
When he died in a nursing home in 1971, his name was generally unknown. Yet even more strange is that the last he was thinking about before he died, was again, a mysterious pentagram, known and used by cultures throughout the world for thousands of years as a protective symbol with the power to banish evil spirits.
Today, those who admire Tom Lethbridge, and his contribution to the paranormal research, know that he is the most prominent name in the history of psychical research covering subjects like life after death, dowsing, poltergeists, ghosts, second sight, the nature of time and precognition phenomenon.
His ideas were described in a series of books and published towards the end of his life. Curiously but Lethbridge has never been particularly interested in psychic phenomena until he came to the crucial point at a later time in his life and began to take a serious interest in the subject.
Disappointed with the hostile reception of one of his archaeological books, and his job as the Keeper of Anglo-Saxon Antiquities, Lethbridge left Cambridge and retired to Hole House, a Tudor mansion on the south coast of Devon, in southern Britain. He planned to spend his last years of life reading and digging some pottery, but suddenly his plans changed, and so it began the most exciting period of his life. He came in contact with his neighbor, an old, white-haired “witch” who lived next door and possessed a few extraordinary powers.
One day, the old “witch” explained how she managed to put off unwanted visitors by drawing a pentagram in her head, and then visualize it across the path of the unwelcome visitor or on the front gate, for example. Her secret use of the magical pentagram introduced psychical researcher Tom Lethbridge to the world of the paranormal.
In the beginning, Lethbridge was very skeptical until something extraordinary happened that finally convinced him for the rest of his life.
Shortly afterward, in the middle of the night, Lethbridge was lying in bed, practicing drawing mental pentagrams around his and his wife Mona’s bed.
A few nights later, Mona woke up, with a strange feeling that there was someone else in the room, standing at the foot of the bed, but she could only distinguish a faint glow of light, which slowly faded away, leaving the bedroom in the darkness again.
The next day, they both met their neighbor, who asked if someone had been “putting protection” on them? She explained that she came to their bedroom on another night and couldn’t get near the bed because there were triangles of fire around it.”
Three years later, the old lady died in rather peculiar circumstances, and her death resulted, indirectly, of course, in one of Tom Lethbridge’s most significant insights in the realm of the occult.
One day, passing the cottage of the “witch,” he experienced a “horrid feeling” of suffocating depression, and his scientific curiosity pushed him further to investigate this strange, nasty feeling. He walked around the cottage, and all of a sudden, he discovered that he could step right into the depression and then out of it again, just as if it was some kind of invisible wall.
This disturbing and inexplicable incident made Lethbridge convinced that he must look for other clues.
Another strange incident occurred about a year after the death of the old “witch.” On a wet January afternoon, Tom and his wife Mina drove down to the beach to gather seaweed. Suddenly a blanket of fog descended upon them. It was at Ladram Bay, Devon that Lethbridge experienced the “blanket of fear and gloom.” The next day, he mentioned what had happened to Mina’s brother, and from him, he heard about a similar incident that took place in a field near Avebury in Wiltshire.
A week later, Lethbridge and his wife set out for Ladram Bay once again. They stepped on to the beach, and both walked into the same bank of depression or “ghoul” as Lethbridge called it. The feeling was intense, unpleasant, and made them both dizzy. They found the place frightening and sinister and not only for them. Nine years later, a man committed suicide there, and Tom Lethbridge was wondering what could make people feel so bad in this particular place.
What was this intense bad feeling that imprinted itself in the area? Have feelings of despair or perhaps even those evil ones been “recorded” there?
Tom Lethbridge was convinced that the key to the puzzle lay in the water. He knew that underground water produces changes in the earth’s magnetic field. Suppose the magnetic field of running water can “record” strong emotions, which, as we know, are electrical activities in the human brain and body. And such fields could well be most energetic in damp areas and during foggy weather.
Lethbridge was a keen and accomplished dowser, and the pendulum was the key to his interest in the unknown. He had known for years that a pendulum could be used for divining, and its accuracy could convey a lot of extremely complex information.
He was confident that a pendulum responds to the mind, not only to some vibration. Human beings possess powers we are not even aware of because there are powers of an unconscious mind which go far beyond that what we understand.
In his book “The Power of the Pendulum,” Tom Lethbridge wrote about the unknown realm of our mind, the superconscious:
“It [the superconscious] knows far more than we do because.. it does not have to use the brain to filter out everything… It lives in a timeless zone! All of which may be true – and probably is – but is also incomprehensible to us.”
What Lethbridge tries to say to us is that everyone has experienced moods of unusual vitality, sudden ecstasy of excitement. Having memories of such moments, as well as our power to re-create them, we are equipped enough to research the unknown realms of our mind.
And all of this because a neighbor told him about the pentagram.
Up next on Weird Darkness… the Lake Bodom murders may well be the most famous unsolved homicide in Scandinavian Criminal History. Occurring in 1960 and claiming 3 victims with 1 injured survivor it is a Finnish zeitgeist that at one time or another had the whole of Finland enraptured. It is now a buzzword for murder and mystery in the small country.
STORY: MURDERS AT LAKE BODOM==========
It is a story of how a typical night of drinking, teenage love and teenager adventure turned into a blood-ridden massacre. A homicidal maniac on the rampage? Or a jealous tiff turned into blood soaked carnage?
A little over 20km outside of Helsinki at the beautiful Lake Bodom the Finnish teens decided to camp out on the Lake for the night. It was June 4th, 1960 and the trip consisted of two girls accompanied by their slightly older two boyfriends.
Seppo Boisman (18), had managed to get some alcohol for the night ahead in the serenity of the Finnish landscape. Their motorcycle was parked besides the tent and they were positioned on a slight slope by the shade.
At sometime between 4.00am and 6.00am on Sunday, June 5th, 1960, Anja Maki (15), Maila Bjorklund (15), and Seppo Boisman were stabbed and bludgeoned to death. This had occurred around the single tent which was pitched by the shore of Lake Bodom and had all four of the Finns sleeping inside of that night. Maila Bjorklund’s body was found outside the tent. Her boyfriend, Nils Gustafsson (18), was wounded and lying next to her, while the other two teens were found dead inside the tent.
It was Gustafsson’s girlfriend, Maila Bjorklund, that had the most severe wounds at the time of her death having been stabbed fifteen times that night. When found, Maila was undressed from the waist down, there were stab wounds inflicted even after she was dead.
And it seemed clear that Anja and Seppo were murdered from within the tent and through the fabric in a less painful and less frenzied manner.
Gustafsson claimed at the time to have seen a figure dressed in black and red with bright eyes appear from nowhere and viciously attack the group. Beyond this Gustafsson was a useless and amnesiac witness.
The killer had appeared to attack the occupants with a knife from the outside and an unidentified instrument through the sides of the tent. The murderous weapons were never located. The killer also took several items from his victims who included keys to a motorcycle, Gustafsson’s shoes and several articles of clothing. A search of the area did not locate the victims’ clothing or personal items that were stolen.
In the 60 years since there have been a number of suspects identified by Finnish Detectives. There was a group of birdwatchers that stumbled on the scene but did not notice the carnage in front of them. Instead they thought the lifeless bodies were merely sunbathing and their attention was taken by the motorcycle before leaving the scene many hours before the police arrived. They think they may have seen a fair-haired person walking away from the tent at the time.
After the night in question Gustafsson was a bus driver and lived a fairly quiet life thereafter. However, in 2004–44 years after the event itself — Gustafsson was arrested and charged with a triple murder.
He was NOT heavily linked as a suspect during the period of 1960–2004 (at least as far as the public knew). According to the FBNI (Finnish National Bureau of Investigation) Gustafsson had gotten drunk and after being excluded from the tent went into a rage and attacked his three friends from the outside and in the ensuing fight his jaw was then possibly broken. He then proceeded to bludgeon and stab his three camping companions to death.
The defense laid out the reasons as to why Gustafsson could not be guilty as the injuries suffered by Gustafsson were too vast to have been involved in the killing and he would’ve been incapable of doing so. Gustafsson was also found barefoot while the killer’s footprint was found 500 yards from the scene.
However the FBNI linked DNA bloodstain analysis of the three victims to Gustafsson. It was further contended that the more severe injuries to Maila Bjorklund showed that this was as a result of an argument with Gustafsson and that Gustafsson’s girlfriend suffered the more savage killing while Gustafsson himself suffered the least brutality; suggesting that the murders were due to a domestic fight — a crime of passion.
It was always going to be difficult getting a conviction against Gustafsson given the length of time that has passed — even if he was guilty; interestingly enough it was the family of the victims that pushed on in the hope that Gustafsson would be found guilty. It suggests that the victim’s families all held Gustafsson accountable since 1960.
A local kiosk keeper known as the “Kioskman” was heavily linked to this murder. Karl Valdemar Gyllström was known to have a severely hostile approach to campers. Allegedly the Kioskman would throw rocks at campers, cut down tents and yell verbal abuse to anybody visiting Lake Bodom. It was suggested at the time that Gyllström was spotted by a witness coming back from the scene.
Tragedy occurred in 1969 when Karl Valdemar Gyllström drowned himself and now the potential of gaining DNA evidence is gone. It was the cursed Lake Bodom where Gyllström chose to kill himself — an ominous message perhaps?
Another suspect was Pentti Soininen. Soininen had committed a ton of petty crimes throughout his life and was later convicted in the late 1960s. Allegedly while in jail Soininen confessed to the killings. A history of drugs, alcohol, mental illness and psychotic personality, the police did not pay dividend to the confession and highlight that Soininen is mentally unstable and therefore unreliable.
With a long history of antipathy between Finland and Russia/The Soviet Union; it was inevitable that a theory of Russian spies would emerge. Allegedly Hans Assman entered the Helsinki Surgical Hospital on the 6th of June 1960 in a strange and disheveled state. With black fingernails and his clothing covered in red marks — very possibly blood. Assman was both nervous and aggressive. The clothing worn by Assman matched the red and black description by Gustafsson and Assman’s once longer blonde hair was suddenly cut. Living within 5km of Bodom, Assman’s clothes were said to be stained at arrival to the Hospital.
Assman was a German immigrant living in Finland with links to serving in the Nazi’s SS and post-war joining the Russian KGB. Assman was also linked to two other unsolved murder cases and it could be a case of simply linking the German/Russian/Finnish spy to every unsolved homicide in Finland or maybe the Finnish detectives just like saying Assman.
Finally, there is the strange figure that appeared in photographs at the funeral and matched the description given by Gustafsson and the police sketches. A seemingly brash act of mockery – to appear at the victim’s funeral after engaging in such a brutal and pointless act of murder. Within the eyes of the person in the photo could lie the truth of the case. But as the man was never identified, nothing came of it.
The case remains unsolved but is a very popular case for amateur sleuths attempting to solve the case and throw around theories. Many people scour the bottom of the lakes with metal detectors in the hope of finding clues and the murder weapons but thus far nothing has been found. The case has entered the popular consciousness of Finnish culture and there is even a rock band named Children of Bodom after the infamous case.
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 email@example.com – 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.
“They Survived Their Own Deaths” by Gary Pullman for List Verse
“The Paranormal Pentagram” by A. Sutherland for Message to Eagle and Alice Cook-Nelson for MYDNYTBLU
“The Disturbing Case of the Bell Witch” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe
“Murders at Lake Bodom” posted at Mystery Confidential
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 replied: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” – Matthew 22:37
And a final thought… “It doesn’t matter who hurt you, or broke you down. What matters is who made you smile again.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.
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