“BLACK BART: THE POET OUTLAW” and More Strange True Stories! (PLUS BLOOPERS!) #WeirdDarkness

“BLACK BART: THE POET OUTLAW” and More Strange True Stories! (PLUS BLOOPERS!) #WeirdDarkness

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Listen to “(Non-Christmas Episode) “BLACK BART: THE POET OUTLAW” and More Strange True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: Black Bart – just the name conjures up an image of a rugged man willing to mow you down in a hail of bullets if you looked at him wrong, especially during one of his infamous stagecoach robberies. But legends can be wrong, and the real Black Bart might not have been so black in the heart as we’ve been led to believe. (Black Bart: The Poet Outlaw) *** In 1957, eleven-year-old twins Jacqueline and Joanna were killed in a car accident. But the next year, some people say they were “reincarnated”. (The Perplexing Pollocks Problem) *** For over a century, reports of abuse and murder came pouring out of the Topeka Insane Asylum. The tortures that took place within are nothing short of grotesque, and it makes one wonder how anyone could have possibly thought the so-called “treatments” would do anything other than cause the patients terrible suffering and horrific nightmares. (Horrors of the Topeka Insane Asylum) *** A newlywed woman goes sightseeing in a new town while her husband attends a conference nearby. Completely normal behavior for a newly married couple – but nothing that happens after these events makes any sense at all. We’ll look at the confusing case of Judy Smith. (The Confusing Case of Judy Smith) *** (Originally aired January 29, 2021)

“Black Bart: The Poet Outlaw” by Kathy Weiser for Legends of America: https://tinyurl.com/59g6rldu
“Horrors of the Topeka Insane Asylum” by Elizabeth Yetter for ListVerse: https://tinyurl.com/1ak6t8wa
“The Confusing Case of Judy Smith” by Crystal Dawn for Lost N Found Blogs: https://tinyurl.com/43zvka2l
“The Perplexing Pollocks Problem” by Jessica Staveley for Mama Mia: https://tinyurl.com/2d85hkuv
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Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.


Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

Coming up in this episode…

In 1957, eleven-year-old twins Jacqueline and Joanna were killed in a car accident. But the next year, some people say they were “reincarnated”. (The Perplexing Pollocks Problem)

For over a century, reports of abuse and murder came pouring out of the Topeka Insane Asylum. The tortures that took place within are nothing short of grotesque, and it makes one wonder how anyone could have possibly thought the so-called “treatments” would do anything other than cause the patients terrible suffering and horrific nightmares. (Horrors of the Topeka Insane Asylum)

A newlywed woman goes sightseeing in a new town while her husband attends a conference nearby. Completely normal behavior for a newly married couple – but nothing that happens after these events makes any sense at all. We’ll look at the confusing case of Judy Smith. (The Confusing Case of Judy Smith)

Black Bart – just the name conjures up an image of a rugged man willing to mow you down in a hail of bullets if you looked at him wrong, especially during one of his infamous stagecoach robberies. But legends can be wrong, and the real Black Bart might not have been so black in the heart as we’ve been led to believe. (Black Bart: The Poet Outlaw)

If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!


Charles E. Bowles aka: Black Bart was one of the most notorious stagecoach robbers to operate in northern California and southern Oregon. 

Also known as Charles Bolton and T.Z Spalding, Black Bart was considered a gentleman bandit with a reputation for style and sophistication.

Bowles was born in Norfolk England to John and Maria Bowles in 1829. When he was just two years old, he and his family immigrated to Jefferson County, New York, where his father purchased a farm four miles north of Plessis Village. Charley received a common school education as a child and when he grew up, he and a cousin named David set out for the goldfields of California in 1849. After spending the winter in Missouri they continued their trek to California arriving in 1850 and started mining at the north fork of the American River, near Sacramento.

After much hard work and no luck, the pair returned home in 1852. But, their stay was brief, and they, along with Charley’s older brother Robert soon returned to the California goldfields. Unfortunately, both David and Robert took ill soon after their arrival and died. Charles stayed on for two more years before returning east again. During the time he was gone he changed the spelling of his last name from Bowles to Boles. In 1854 he married Mary Elizabeth Johnson and the couple would eventually have four children and settle on a farm in Illinois.

Several years later when the Civil War erupted, Charles volunteered to join the Union Army in August 1862. He became a Sergeant the following year and was seriously wounded in the Battle of Vicksburg in May 1864. After his recovery, he returned to his unit and fought in the Battle of Atlanta. He received brevet commissions as both second lieutenant and first lieutenant, and on June 7, 1865, he was discharged with his regiment in Washington, D.C.

After the war, Charley returned home to Decatur, Illinois and started farming again, but it would not last for long. He soon made his way to Montana once again hoping to make his fortune in mining. While there, he located a small mine that he worked with a friend from Missouri. Somewhere along the line, several men connected with Wells Fargo tried to buy them out as they wanted the land upon which the mine was located. However, Charles and his friend refused to sell and before long his potential buyers cut off their water supply, which forced them to abandon the mine. At this time he wrote several letters home telling of his anger and frustration, and saying that he was going to take steps to correct his grievances. The last letter Mary Boles received from Charley was from Silver Bow, Montana, dated August 25, 1871. Though Charles had been in the habit of writing home often, the letters stopped. Months turned into years and when Mary heard a rumor that a party of travelers had been killed by Indians, she believed him to be dead.

In the meantime, a “new” Charles appeared on the scene — an elegantly dressed man in his mid-fifties that went by the name of Charles Bolton. He was described as being 5 feet 8 inches tall with clear blue/grey eyes and a brushy mustache.

Nearly four years after he had written his last letter to his wife, this dapper middle-aged man robbed his first stagecoach on July 26, 1875. Along the Copperopolis and Milton Road in Calaveras County, California a small man, wearing a long linen duster with a  flour sack with holes that had been cut for eyes over his head, and a derby, jumped out from behind a large boulder and waved a shotgun at the driver. Speaking in a deep and resonant tone, the thief politely ordered the stage driver, a man named John Shine (later a U.S. marshal and a California state senator), to throw down the strongbox. When it appeared that the stage driver was hesitating, the robber said: “If he dares to shoot, give him the solid volley, boys.” Looking around quickly Shine noticed several rifle barrels pointed at him from the nearby bushes and quickly threw down the strongbox. In the meantime, a woman offered to surrender her purse, but the bandit declined, saying that he only wanted the Wells Fargo shipment.

As the driver and the passengers looked on, the outlaw hacked open the box and removed several bags of gold coins and a few express packages before fleeing the scene. Afterward, John Shine went to recover the empty strongbox and upon examining the area, he discovered that the “men with rifles” were actually carefully rigged sticks. The man soon to be known as “Black Bart” had committed his first robbery netting him $160.

His next robbery occurred on December 28, 1875, when he stopped the stage from North San Juan to Marysville, California. Like the first robbery, other men were said to have been hiding in the bushes. However, it was later found that the “rifles” used in the heist were nothing more than sticks wedged in the brush. On June 2, 1876, he robbed another taking the Wells Fargo Box and mail five miles north of Cottonwood, California.

His fourth robbery on August 3, 1877, was the first time that he identified himself as “Black Bart” and a poet. Stopping the stage between Point Arena and Duncan’s Mills, California, wearing the same dress as he had in the past, he once again broke open the strongbox and made off with $300. This time; however, he left behind a note:

I’ve labored long and hard for bread
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you’ve tread
You fine-haired sons of bitches.

…It was signed Black Bart – The PO8

On his fourth robbery which occurred almost a year later on July 25, 1878, he also left a note:

Here I lay me down to sleep
To await the coming morrow
Perhaps success, perhaps defeat
And everlasting sorrow

I’ve labored long and hard for bread
For honor and for riches
But on my corns too long you’ve tread
You fine-haired sons of bitches.

Let come what will, I’ll try it on
My condition can’t be worse
And if there’s money in that box
‘Tis money in my purse.

…It was signed Black Bart – The PO8

Though there would be no more poems, his signature bank robberies would continue through November 1883 as he made at least 28 stage robberies over the lifetime of his outlaw “career”. Apparently Charles had found a successful way to take his revenge against Wells Fargo.

On November 3, 1883, he returned to the area of his first stage robbery near Copperopolis, California. The stage was being driven by Reason McConnell and had only one passenger, a man named Jimmy Rolleri. As the coach slowed to climb the ridge Jimmy jumped off, hoping to do a little hunting. Just before the stage came to the crest of the hill, Black Bart appeared out of the brush and ordered McConnell to thrown down the strongbox. This time; however, the box was bolted to the floor of the stagecoach. After ordering McConnell to unhitch the team and take them over the crest of the hill, Black Bart went to work on the strongbox with an ax. After retrieving a heavy sack of gold and a bundle of mail, Jimmy appeared out of the bushes at which time Charles began to flee. McConnell then fired two shots at him and missed, but when Jimmy fired off a shot, a bullet hit Bart in the hand, forcing him to drop the mail, but he got away with the sack of gold. Though Bart had made his getaway he dropped a handkerchief during his flight that had a distinctive laundry mark. This would be the end for Charles Boles. Detectives used the handkerchief to track him down to a laundry house in San Francisco and eventually to Black Bart.

Wells Fargo only pressed charges on the final robbery and Charles was convicted and sentenced to six years in San Quentin Prison. He was released after four years for good behavior, in January 1888. When he was released reporters swarmed around him and asked if he was going to rob any more stagecoaches. “No, gentlemen,” he replied, smiling, “I’m through with crime.” He then lived in the Nevada House in San Francisco before disappearing to the Visalia House hotel in Visalia, California in February 1888. Dogged by Wells Fargo, he was tracked there but had already left. He was last seen on February 28, 1888.

Black Bart’s stage robbery career lasted just over eight years. During this time he was described as always being polite, never used foul language, didn’t steal from the passengers, and though he always brandished a shotgun, he never used it. In the meantime, Mary Boles listed herself in the city directory as the widow of Charles E. Boles in 1892.

What happened to Black Bart remains unknown. A New York newspaper allegedly printed an obituary for a Charles E. Boles, a Civil War veteran in 1917. Was this Black Bart? If so he would have been 88 years old. Others believe he may have returned to some of the old mining camps. One legend says that he returned to his career of robbing stagecoaches until Wells Fargo offered him a pension of $200 a month if he would leave their vehicles alone. This has been denied by Wells Fargo, but still, the legend persists.


When Weird Darkness returns… In 1957, eleven-year-old twins Jacqueline and Joanna were killed in a car accident. But the next year, some people say they were “reincarnated”.

But first, for over a century, reports of abuse and murder came pouring out of the Topeka Insane Asylum. The tortures that took place within are nothing short of grotesque, and it makes one wonder how anyone could have possibly thought the so-called “treatments” would do anything other than cause the patients terrible suffering and horrific nightmares. That story is up next.



The Topeka State Hospital, often referred to as the Topeka Insane Asylum, opened its doors in 1872 to the medically and criminally insane. For over 100 years, reports of abuse and murder came out of the hospital, and it eventually closed its doors in 1997 due to the abuse and overcrowding.

During its operation, the state hospital was infamous for its forced sterilization program, the use of hydrotherapy, and castration to treat “imbeciles.” Numerous reports detailed patient neglect, rape, and beatings. The most unbelievable thing was that no one was able to do anything about the atrocities within the hospital because the workers and doctors were protected by the Kansas state government.

Nothing remains of the original hospital, and while many people felt that the building was haunted, it was torn down and removed in 2010. The crew even went as far as to remove the concrete slabs so that the spot where the hospital once stood would be completely devoid of any sign that there was once a building there.

Newspapers from the late 1800s were filled with reports on the abuses happening inside the insane asylum at Topeka State Hospital. In one particular case, a witness came forward with information about an inmate named Dodd.

The witness claimed that he had seen an attendant kick Dodd on numerous occasions. Dodd was often knocked to the ground, and the attendant would jump up and down on the inmate’s chest. Sometimes, Dodd would be strangled.

On his final beating, Dodd was knocked down, and the witness stated that Dodd was dragged into room 18. The door was shut, and the witness heard noises that sounded like a struggle. Finally, he heard a groan from within the room, and Dodd was eventually carried out, dead from whatever had happened inside the room.

A county attorney tried to take action against the attendant, but the governor of Kansas refused to launch an investigation into the death, and the matter was dropped.

In 1896, reports came out that “old soldiers” were being killed off in Kansas state asylums. It should have been a scandal, but instead of being investigated, the whole thing was covered up.

According to one newspaper report, Gust Mauer, an inmate at the Topeka State Hospital, “was sent home [ . . . ] with two black eyes, a broken nose and a broken neck, his body being accompanied by a certificate from the Superintendent that he had died of apoplexy, yet no effort was ever made to right the wrong, and the Superintendent is still in office.”

In the spring of 1911, charges were filed against the Topeka State Hospital that were supposed to lead to an investigation. The charges were made by former and current employees about the condition and treatment of the patients trapped inside the hospital.

A local newspaper printed part of a letter that was presented to the board:

I wish to make the statement that John Green, a patient in Ward E, 2, lay ill in bed for eight days and died; and during this period he was given no food or medicine. His condition was reported every morning and nothing was done. The body of Green was taken to the dissecting room, his brain taken out and used in a demonstration by Dr. T. C. Biddle before a class in the chapel the next day without the consent of Green’s relatives. Biddle wanted the brain to demonstrate the condition of a congested brain. Attendants Roberts and Johnson could not be convinced as they well knew the patient came to his death by starvation.”

One witness to the abuse happening at the state hospital wrote about a patient named Mr. Smith, a former banker. While the statement didn’t give the reason why Smith was placed in the hospital, his treatment was completely uncalled-for.

Smith was often seen wearing handcuffs. His attendant also saw fit to lead Smith around the property with a rope tied around his neck. Sometimes, the attendant would get drunk and beat Smith mercilessly. Another time, the attendant tied Smith to a tree and left him there for hours.

On one occasion, it was witnessed that the attendant threw the end of the rope over a door and pulled Smith’s head up to the top of the door, cruelly strangling him as some sort of punishment.

People who were sent to the Topeka State Hospital were often never seen again by the outside world. It was easy to forget about relatives and unwanted spouses once they were on the inside.

However, visitations to those who were loved were severely restricted. Out of the 29 wards in the hospital, visitors were only allowed in four of them. Parents were not allowed to visit their children inside the hospital. Friends of inmates were also not permitted inside and had zero visitation rights.

Dr. Biddle, the hospital’s supervisor, claimed that visits would interfere with the patients’ treatment.

In 1911, it was announced that a claim adjuster was looking into “the financial condition of all the inmates of state hospitals and of relatives bound by law to maintain them.” The Topeka hospital wanted more money than was being given by the state. In fact, the hospital had already begun taking families to court and had won a case the previous year, in which the supreme court ruled they could recover for the care of an inmate “from the time of his admission until the time of his death.”

The hospital wanted something similar to the lunacy act of Ontario, Canada, wherein the asylum would be permitted to take over the patient’s estate and pull from it all the funds required to “care” for the inmate.

To say that no one was trying to fight the abuses occurring in the hospital would be a lie. Many lawyers attempted to take on cases or initiate investigations into the claims of abuse, but they were always stonewalled.

Mr. Hanson, a lawyer, tried to secure the release of several patients in the Topeka hospital. He was unsuccessful, and his patients were returned to captivity without receiving an examination or a hearing. To add insult to injury, the attorney general filed suit against Hanson for “harassing the state officials in charge of the Topeka state hospital and [to prevent him] from disturbing the patients at the hospital.”

In 1916, there was a report that insanity was on the increase in the state of Kansas. The state totaled 4,311 cases of insanity, with 1,565 of the afflicted being stored in the Topeka State Hospital.

It was big business to declare someone insane, especially when the state could take over the property owned by the patient. For example, there was a big property case in 1918. A Pottawatomie Native American woman was declared “mentally sick” and was being held at the Topeka State Hospital. She also happened to own a sizable estate in Oklahoma. The woman’s guardian was in charge of the estate, but Kansas wanted it for the woman’s “care.”

Efforts were made through the courts and the newspapers to vilify the woman’s guardian, claiming that the guardian was “looting” the property when, instead, the state of Kansas should be allowed to take over and profit from the estate.

Fast forward a few decades, and we find that there were still many problems at the hospital. A 55-year-old woman was placed in the Topeka State Hospital in 1932. It was claimed that she suffered from delusions and believed that her husband was trying to kill her. In turn, she made an attempt on his life.

After a year in the hospital, the doctor said she was getting better but still suffered from delusions. After four years, the doctor claimed that she had a tendency to hurt other people and could not be paroled. At nine years, she was labeled “incurably insane.”

That might have been the end for this woman, known as “Mrs. X,” but a new doctor took an interest in her. After being in the hospital for 17 years, she was still spry. Encouraged, the new doctor began to spend a half hour with her each week and found that with this little bit of attention, she began to settle down.

After five months of this “treatment,” Mrs. X, now 72, was paroled and began work as a practical nurse and companion housekeeper. While the good doctor was not prepared to admit that all patients would react positively to a bit of weekly acknowledgement, he did state that doctors should slow down on the brain surgeries and shock treatments given to often neglected patients.

John Crabb was a Danish immigrant to the United States and barely spoke any English. He worked as a dishwasher in Topeka and was known to have a bit of a hot temper. One night in 1931, a coworker began hitting on one of the waitresses, who just so happened to be Mr. Crabb’s girlfriend. Crabb made verbal threats and was taken to jail for his behavior.

While in jail, the man sulked and refused to eat. An “expert” was brought in and labeled Crabb insane. Crabb was taken to the Topeka State Hospital, where he was imprisoned as an incurable for almost 20 years.

During his time on the inside, Crabb tried his hardest to convince the staff that he was sane, but “one of the reasons they thought he was insane was that he tried so hard to prove he was sane.” This ticked Crabb off even more, and he refused to cooperate with the staff and refused to do any work.

Mr. Crabb might have died in the hospital if it had not been for a group of Danish insurance men who learned of his case. They went to the authorities, and Crabb was tested again. This time, he was labeled sane, but it took another ten months before the hospital finally released him in 1950.


In May 1957, in the small town of Hexham in England, 11-year-old Joanna Pollock and her younger sister, six-year-old Jacqueline, were on their way to church with their friend Anthony when they were struck by an erratic driver.

Almost instantly, the two young sisters were killed. Anthony, just nine years old, died while travelling to the hospital.

It was later discovered that the driver, a local woman who was under the influence of a number of drugs, had intentionally hit the three children after being forcibly separated from her own kids. The case later made headlines throughout Britain, with the woman eventually taken to a psychiatric hospital.

Following the death of Joanna and Jacqueline, the girls’ parents, John and Florence Pollock, were devastated.

But when Florence later fell pregnant, John became convinced that the two girls would be reborn into the family as twins.

The couple, who were devout Catholics, often argued over the premise of reincarnation, with Florence strongly rejecting John’s beliefs. It was later reported that the couple’s entire marriage was even threatened as a result, with Florence almost filing for divorce.

There was also no history of twins in either parent’s family, and Florence’s doctor had predicted a single birth, meaning the likelihood of twins was low.

Against all odds, however, Florence gave birth to twin girls on October 4, 1958. The twins were named Gillian and Jennifer.

While the twins were identical, the pair had different birthmarks, which is considered highly unusual.

Jennifer had a small birthmark on her left hip, which mimicked a birthmark that Jacqueline had. She also had a birthmark on her forehead, which was similar to a small scar that Jacqueline had in the same spot.

When the twins were three months old, the family relocated to Whitley Bay, which is east of Hexham.

As the girls got older, however, it became clear that Gillian and Jennifer seemed to remember Hexham in detail, despite not growing up in the small town.

When the family returned to Hexham when the girls were four, the twins pointed out and named landmarks they hadn’t seen before, such as the school Joanna and Jacqueline had attended, the Hexham Abbey, and a playground their deceased sisters loved. The pair even seemed to know the way to the playground without having ever seen it.

Likewise, the twins were also able to identify their late sisters’ toys by name.

Although Florence had stored the late girls’ toys out of sight, the twins started to ask for certain toys back. In fact, it was almost as if the twins remembered the toys as their own.

They were able to name their toys by their names previously given to them, and they even divided the toys up exactly as their sisters did. They also referred to the fact that the toys came from Santa Claus, which was true.

Florence and John also noticed that the twins had very similar personalities when compared to their older sisters.

While Joanna was very protective of her younger sister Jacqueline, Gillian seemed more mature than her twin sister. Gillian, who was born 10 minutes before Jennifer, also often looked after her twin, much like Joanna looked after Jacqueline.

The parents also noted that the twins even enjoyed the same games and foods as their siblings.

For the first few years of the twins’ life, Florence continued to reject John’s suggestions that the pair had been “reincarnated”.

After finding the twins talking about the car accident, however, she changed her mind.

On one occasion, Florence overheard the girls playing a game where they recreated their sisters’ accident. Gillian was cradling Jennifer’s head, telling her: “The blood’s coming out of your eyes. That’s where the car hit you.”

On another occasion, Gillian pointed to Jennifer’s birthmark on her forehead and told her, “That is the mark Jennifer got when she fell on a bucket.”

Interestingly, the twin girls also appeared to have a fear of cars. In their younger years, the twins experienced recurring nightmares about being hit by a car.

Gillian and Jennifer also regularly became frightened and anxious while near cars. When a car started its engine in an alleyway, John recalled the girls grabbing on to each other in terror, shouting: “The car is coming to get us!”

Shortly after the twins turned five, the memories of their ‘past lives’ slowly began to fade away as they went on to live normal lives.

While the twins lost their memories of the accident entirely, Gillian later recalled experiencing visions of herself playing in a sandpit at a home in Whickham. While Gillian had never been to Whickham, she was able to perfectly describe the house and garden that matched the home that Joanna had once lived in with her parents at four years old.

While the case of the Pollock twins has long been cited as “proof” of reincarnation, many people have argued that the twins’ memories may have been influenced by their four older brothers.

While John and Florence claim that they didn’t speak to the twins about their deceased sisters until they were older, it has been noted that the twins may have learnt about their story from their brothers.


Up next on Weird Darkness… A newlywed goes sightseeing in a new town while her husband attends a conference nearby. Completely normal behavior for a newly married couple – but nothing that happens after these events makes any sense at all. We’ll look at the confusing case of Judy Smith, up next.


Judy Bradford Smith was a 50-year-old home health nurse hailing from Newton, MA, a suburb of Boston. She had been divorced twice. Her first marriage ended quickly when her husband fled to Sweden to avoid the Vietnam War draft. Her second marriage didn’t last long either and it ended after having two children, a son Craig and a daughter Amy. While caring for an elderly patient who had just had surgery, Judy met the patient’s son, a man named Jeffrey Smith. The two hit it off quickly and both, with divorces in their past, didn’t want to rush into anything so after 10 years of dating they were finally married in September of 1996.

Just 5 months after their marriage, the couple was to make a trip to Philadelphia. Jeffrey was an attorney and he was due to be a speaker at the Northeast Pharmaceutical Conference at the Doubletree Hotel in Philadelphia. After the conference was over, the couple was then to travel to New Jersey later in the week to visit with some friends. Judy Smith loved to travel and this would be her first time in the city and she had planned to visit some of the historical sites as well as do some shopping.

The couple arrived at Logan Airport in Boston on April 9th, 1997 to board their 1:30 pm flight to Philadelphia. Judy was upset to realize that she had forgotten her driver’s license at home and knew she wouldn’t be allowed to board the plane. She apologized to her husband for the mistake and told him she would return home to retrieve it and take another flight and she would arrive later that night. Jeffrey had to speak at the conference later that day so he would have to board the original flight. By Jeffrey’s account, Judy did arrive at the hotel that evening after taking the 7:30 pm flight and even brought him flowers as an apology. The couple spent the evening in their room and had room service delivered. The next day was to be a full day for both of them.

The morning of April 10th, 1997 would start out rather typical. Jeffrey Smith had gotten up before his wife and went downstairs for breakfast at the Doubletree. When he came back to their hotel room to recommend the breakfast to his wife, Judy was in the shower. After briefly chatting with her, he left to go downstairs as the conference would begin soon. Judy was to meet him back at the hotel around 5pm that night to get ready for a cocktail party that would begin at 6 pm at the hotel. He would tell his wife goodbye, but he had no idea it would be the last time he would ever speak to her.

Jeffrey spent the day at the conference. Exactly what Judy did that day is uncertain. Jeffrey arrived back to the hotel room around 5 pm that night expecting to find his wife. Judy hadn’t arrived. Jeffrey would go to the cocktail party and continue to go up to the couple’s hotel room thinking his wife would arrive at any time. The later the time got, the more worried Jeffrey became. At first, he thought Judy may have been confused at the time they were supposed to meet up.

Jeffrey was beginning to panic at what could have happened to his wife. He knew that Judy had planned to take a PHLASH tour bus around the town that day. He hired a cab to slowly take him on the route the tour bus would have taken all the while seeing if he could catch a glimpse of his wife. He also went to the police station that night to report her missing. According to Jeffrey, they were dismissive and told him it was too soon to report the disappearance. They told him if he came back later the next day, he would probably be allowed to file the report. Jeffrey Smith did take a look around the hotel room to see if there were any clues. He did notice the only outfit that appeared to be missing was the one that Judy had worn the day before. However, Judy’s children said it was likely that their mother would have worn the same outfit twice.

Judy appears to have been spotted around Philadelphia. Sometimes the sightings of her were of a woman acting disoriented. This, however, is confusing because there was a homeless woman in the Penn Landing area of the city who resembled Judy very closely. In fact, a few days later when Judy’s son Craig caught a glimpse of the woman from across the street, he actually thought it was his mother. So, it’s difficult to know how many of the sightings were actually Judy.

Jeffrey did everything he could think of to find his wife. He contacted her children to see if they had heard from her. They had not. He called his daughter and asked her to go to the couple’s house and see if there was perhaps a message from Judy on their answering machine. There was not. According to reports, the Philadelphia mayor Ed Rendell and Pennsylvania House Rep. John Perzel were both in attendance at the conference. When they heard Jeffrey Smith’s wife had disappeared,  they got the “wheels in motion”. According to Jeffrey Smith, the police were very cooperative now and took a report.

Shortly after she went missing, Judy’s two children would travel to Philadelphia and there was an extensive search for their mother. They would travel to homeless shelters, the morgue, hospitals, anywhere they could think of. They even rented bicycles so they could quickly travel the city and chase down leads. Judy had a trademark red backpack that she carried everywhere with her in lieu of a purse. Some of the possible sightings of Judy did mention the red backpack. There was a homeless man named David who was convinced that he had seen Judy Smith and said she had even slept on a park bench next to him. He knew of the homeless woman Judy kept getting mistaken for and he insisted it was not her. The family of Judy Smith even went back to interview David again on April 15th and he told them they had just missed her. The family frantically searched for her in the area but came up empty. This sighting was credible to Jeffrey Smith as he said it was the last person to ID Judy by viewing an actual photo of her.

It did appear that Judy did take a trip on the PHLASH bus the day she was to travel on it. A hotel employee at the Doubletree said Judy asked them where she could catch the bus. A bus driver said he picked her up at Front & South Streets and let her off near the hotel around 3 pm. She was also reportedly seen leaving the Greyhound Bus terminal but the family seems to think she was probably just there to use their restroom. It seems that the first sightings of Judy possibly acting disoriented started the day after she went missing. By then Judy had inexplicably made her way to New Jersey.

The sighting of Judy that seemed to be credible occurred at the Macy’s in the Deptford Mall in Deptford, NJ across the Delaware River. Deptford was only about 22 miles from Philadelphia and the NJ Transit Bus Route does make hourly trips from near where her hotel was to the town. It wasn’t hard to see how Judy made her way there, the bigger question is why. The reports of her at the mall seem to report Judy was a little off but some of the things she was heard to say were true. She said she was looking for clothes for her daughter, but that her daughter rarely liked any clothes she picked out for her. Judy’s daughter Amy said this was definitely true. It was also reported that Judy tried to get a young girl to leave with her. The thought is that Judy was confused and thought the girl was her daughter. The people who believe they saw Judy in New Jersey also reported the confused woman was carrying a red backpack.

The sightings eventually dried up of Judy around the Philadelphia area. After a few weeks in town searching for their loved one, Judy’s husband and children did finally return home. Jeffrey was still working on finding his wife. He had hired a PI and had hundreds of posters made and distributed around the area. His wife’s disappearance had definitely taken a toll. He scaled back a large amount of his law practice. The reason why was that a good portion of it was criminal defense work and in his words: “and now that I feel that I’m a victim, I couldn’t in good conscience continue to represent criminal defendants”.

Jeffrey Smith also had a problem with how law enforcement was handling his wife’s case. He said he was irate as he was told that right after his wife was reported missing, her name and description had been entered in the NCIC (National Crime Info Center) database. Weeks after, he found out she wasn’t listed initially therefore any people discovered in April and entered in the database would not be a match. It was also reported that Jeffrey Smith refused to take a polygraph. He adamantly denies that. He said he would take one on the conditions that the FBI administer it and when he passed it the Philadelphia PD would formally request the FBI to assist in his wife’s case. The police claim that Jeffrey, being an attorney, would know the FBI would not get involved in the case so his conditions were the same as a refusal in their opinion.

The police also seemed to never completely clear Jeffrey as a suspect even though the time his wife went missing he was at the conference with dozens of people to verify that. They also were curious if Judy ever actually made it to Philadelphia. A few people said they saw her but police said these people didn’t personally know Judy. No one on the later flight necessarily remembered seeing Judy but it appeared that all the tickets purchased for that flight were used so it does appear that Judy did arrive in Philadelphia that night.

Then 5 months later on September 7th, 1997, a father and son were out deer hunting on a hillside of North Carolina’s Mount Pisgah National Forest. They were shocked to find human remains near Stoney Fork picnic area just a little over 30 miles from Asheville, NC. Some of the bones had been scattered by animals. What remained in the burial site was wrapped in a blue blanket and partially buried. The police were soon notified.

As the police were there to inventory the scene, it was reported that there were belongings nearby that appeared to be partially buried as well but nothing to let them know the identity of the person. The story was reported in the media as police were anxious to find out who their victim was. Dr. Parker Davis at the Angel Medical Center in Franklin, NC had seen the story about the unidentified person and remembered seeing a flyer about Judy Smith’s disappearance. He faxed the article to the Philadelphia PD. They then requested Judy Smith’s dental records from Jeffrey Smith. The coroner didn’t take long to have an answer. The identity of the body was Judy Smith.

There were so many questions at the scene of the remains. Judy had no ID on her and her red backpack was not there but her wedding ring was still on her finger. There were expensive Bolle sunglasses at the scene that the family said did not belong to her. She was wearing clothing appropriate for hiking and hiking boots but her family didn’t recognize anything she was wearing. Judy was thought to have taken $200 with her the day she went missing and $167 of it was found at the scene. There was a blue and black backpack found with winter clothing inside. They also said there appeared to be slash marks on her bra and her ribs so they believed their victim was stabbed and classified it as a homicide. Judy Smith had been murdered.

The police started an investigation and it was reported there were sightings of Judy Smith around Asheville in the days after she had went missing from Philadelphia. Two of the sightings strangely said Judy was driving a gray sedan filled with boxes and bags. One sighting was near the campground where her remains were found. The woman asked if she could spend the night there in her car. When she was told she could not, she left the area. The other sighting of her in the car was at a deli near the same area and Judy bought $30 worth of sandwiches and a toy truck. The third sighting seems to be the most credible one. It was at a souvenir shop near Asheville. The worker, Joanne Stucker,  said Judy seemed pleasant, even saying her name was Judy. She went on to say she was from Boston and had a husband who was an attorney and he was attending a conference in Philadelphia and ‘she had just decided to go to the Asheville area’.

The family was completely baffled as to how and why Judy Smith traveled 600 miles to Asheville. Most of the money she took with her was found with her remains and none of her credit cards or her phone card had been used. No activity on her bank account as well. Her family couldn’t think of any interest Judy had prior in wanting to visit that area. The only time they could remember her being in the area was when she visited her husband at a weight loss clinic in North Carolina several years earlier. The family said she also might have driven a patient to that area years ago to see their family members but the family’s recollection on that is pretty vague.

As for suspects in Judy’s murder, there really aren’t many. One name that has been mentioned is serial killer Gary Michael Hilton. He did murder an elderly couple 10 years after Judy Smith’s murder. The couple was hiking in the Mount Pisgah National Forest and the female victim’s (Irene Bryant) body was found only about a mile from where Judy’s remains were. It was reported that around this time Hilton was living in his white Chevy Astro van when he encountered the couple. Although Hilton was known to be in that area in years after Judy’s death and was a murderer there has not been any actual evidence to link him to her murder.

The discovery of Judy’s remains seems to have all but exonerated her husband as well. Judy was found deep in the forest on a hillside and Jeffrey Smith was morbidly obese so he wouldn’t have been physically able to either hike there or bring her remains there. In fact, police seem to think Judy was killed on or near where she was found because even someone in excellent physical shape would have had trouble carrying her body that far in that terrain.

In this case, no theory that I can give you makes perfect sense. This case is made up of nothing but “why’s”. First off I’ll give you the things I don’t think happened. I don’t think Judy was there to meet anyone (as has been speculated). It would have been easier for her to just stay in Boston and take a trip to meet someone while her husband was away. I don’t think Judy had amnesia as she told people some accurate information about herself. Initially I would have said I don’t think the sightings of Judy in the car full of boxes and bags near Asheville was her because it just seems so crazy as to how she would get a vehicle. But I did notice something that gave me pause. Judy was thought to have left the hotel room the day she went missing with $200. When she was found $167 was with her. The person at the local deli mentioned that Judy bought $30 worth of sandwiches plus a toy truck. If it was Judy who made those purchases, her total would probably have been around $33 which would have left her with $167. Just something to think about.

I will say I do think Judy went on her adventure willingly. She seemed disoriented at times perhaps, but never fearful. She appeared to be doing exactly what she wanted to do. She was never reported to be seen with anyone. I do think there was some sort of mental issue or confusion at play. It was unlike Judy, such a caring and devoted wife and mother, to be gone indefinitely and not try to get in touch with her family. Perhaps the confusion led Judy to go on a trip and lost track of time and was murdered before she could travel back to Philadelphia to reunite with her husband. Was forgetting her driver’s license just an honest mistake or was it perhaps a symptom of confusion or forgetfulness that she had been having lately? I also wonder if Judy had been mugged and/or suffered a blow to her head during her trip. This may explain her apparent confusion as well as why her signature red backpack and ID wasn’t with her remains.

As far as her murder, from what her family said Judy did enjoy hiking. There was also animal hair found on her clothing and police speculated perhaps Judy visited a nearby horse farm as she had a love of horses. I do think she was enjoying the scenery and willingly went on a hike and perhaps encountered someone on the trail who killed her. This person appeared to have a blanket as well as equipment in order to attempt to bury her remains. If they didn’t bring all those things way up there on the trail after the fact, perhaps they were camping nearby and already had those things in their possession.

There are so many questions in this case. Why didn’t she meet Jeffrey that night at the hotel? Why did she go to NC? Why didn’t she tell her husband she was going? How did she get the money to purchase different clothes and perhaps a car if that story is credible? Sadly, so many years later it is very unlikely we will get any answers in this incredibly strange tragedy.

Judy’s family was never afforded the closure so often talked about. They were able to have their mother’s remains returned but the person who took Judy Smith’s life has never, and probably will never, be punished for the crime. Unfortunately, Jeffrey Smith passed away in 2005 still haunted at what happened during the last few days of his wife’s life. In closing, I want to share a quote that Judy’s son Craig said his mother would tell him and his sister that is haunting now given what happened. “If you’re late or lost, it’s not a big deal, just make sure you call because not knowing is the worst part”. Judy’s children never dreamed they would be living that every day. I hope the family can get some form of answers some day and finally know if Judy was traveling or troubled.


Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! 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 darren@weirddarkness.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.

“Black Bart: The Poet Outlaw” by Kathy Weiser for Legends of America
“Horrors of the Topeka Insane Asylum” by Elizabeth Yetter for ListVerse
“The Confusing Case of Judy Smith” by Crystal Dawn for Lost N Found Blogs
“The Perplexing Pollocks Problem” by Jessica Staveley for Mama Mia

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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” – Ephesians 3:12

And a final thought… “Make the most of today. Don’t allow the troubles of yesterday to steal the gift of right now.” – Kristen Butler

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

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