“CREATING A TERRIFYING URBAN LEGEND” and More Horrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

CREATING A TERRIFYING URBAN LEGEND” and More Horrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

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IN THIS EPISODE: From monsters to ghosts, some scary urban legends and myths have been spooking out the masses for years — and for good reason, as they have backstories based on real figures and events. From Candyman to Slenderman, we’ll look at a few of the most terrifying urban legends that are based on true tales, and we’ll look into what it takes to create an urban legend of these magnitudes. (The True Stories Behind Terrifying Urban Legends) *** Unidentified Flying Objects have been around much longer than Roswell. Four centuries ago, before flying vehicles were known to even be possible, ancient Russia had quite a shock when they looked into the sky. (The Robozero Lake UFO of 1663) *** In St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia there is a grave that people say began to weep tears of blood when they got too close. (The Halloween Legend of Mary Meinert’s Grave) *** A man believes he hears the sound of a car crash – but it shouldn’t be impossible from where he lives. (The Unexplained Sound of a Crash) *** While serving a life sentence for the murder of 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener, Lester Eubanks was granted a trip to an Ohio mall — then he vanished without a trace. (The Escape of Lester Eubanks) *** (Originally aired October 26, 2020)

“The True Stories Behind Terrifying Urban Legends” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting: https://tinyurl.com/y65pg596 and Jake Rossen for Mental Floss: https://tinyurl.com/yy8w7d56
“What Makes an Urban Legend” by David Robson for BBC.com: https://tinyurl.com/y44qhtxo
“The Robozero Lake UFO of 1663” by A. Sutherland for Message to Eagle: https://tinyurl.com/y6zh7fct
“The Halloween Legend of Mary Meinert’s Grave” by Jessica Ferri for The Line Up: https://tinyurl.com/yyrlku7u
“The Unexplained Sound of a Crash” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages: https://tinyurl.com/y6fyh9ae
“The Escape of Lester Eubanks” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting: https://tinyurl.com/y4yvnfff
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Urban legends—those unsubstantiated stories of terror that allow us to use our imaginations to fill in increasingly horrifying details with each retelling—have been with us forever. While the internet has made dissemination of them easier, humans have been goading one another with spooky anecdotes for centuries. Psychologists believe we respond to these tales because we have a morbid fascination with the disgusting; we also can’t help but enjoy gossip. Put those two things together and it makes for an irresistible mix. Urban legends often come with a dose of skepticism. (No, a killer with a hook hand has never terrorized necking couples.) But sometimes, as you’ll hear in this episode… these stories turn out to be true.

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, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

Coming up in this episode…

Unidentified Flying Objects have been around much longer than Roswell. Four centuries ago, before flying vehicles were known to even be possible, ancient Russia had quite a shock when they looked into the sky. (The Robozero Lake UFO of 1663)

In St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia there is a grave that people say began to weep tears of blood when they got too close. (The Halloween Legend of Mary Meinert’s Grave)

A man believes he hears the sound of a car crash – but it shouldn’t be impossible from where he lives. (The Unexplained Sound of a Crash)

While serving a life sentence for the murder of 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener, Lester Eubanks was granted a trip to an Ohio mall — then he vanished without a trace. (The Escape of Lester Eubanks)

From monsters to ghosts, some scary urban legends and myths have been spooking out the masses for years — and for good reason, as they have backstories based on real figures and events. From Candyman to Slenderman, we’ll look at a few of the most terrifying urban legends that are based on true tales, and we’ll look into what it takes to create an urban legend of these magnitudes. (The True Stories Behind Terrifying Urban Legends)

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!


Urban legends have existed as long as people have been telling stories. In hushed voices, humans would warn each other of nefarious forces and bloodthirsty entities, like the bloodsucking Chupacabra of Puerto Rican lore or the horse-faced and bat-winged Jersey Devil of the New Jersey Pine Barrens.  Though urban myths are naturally imaginative, some of these scary urban legends have been supported by the sincere accounts of multiple people. Take the case of Mothman, for example. In 1966, a slew of rural West Virginians all separately witnessed a 10-foot, tailed creature flying between the trees. These accounts suggested that the legend was perhaps more than just fantasy. Perhaps most horrifying about these legends, however, is how they take on a life of their own and inspire real fear — or even violence.

SLENDERMAN is a unique urban legend. Unlike others listed here, Slender Man was born on the internet as a so-called “creepypasta,” or scary urban legend that was built online before it evolved offscreen into real life. The urban myth of Slender Man was created for an innocuous June 2009 Photoshop contest held by a website called “Something Awful.” Users were challenged to take mundane pictures and make them scary by adding realistic imagery of the paranormal. Inspired by the “surreal imaginings” of H.P. Lovecraft, one contestant named Eric Knudsen designed a tall, thin, eerie figure. Slender Man was born. Knudsen’s harmless creativity was quickly co-opted by countless internet users. Mere days later, someone made a horror film with a found footage aesthetic that told of young students being stalked by a Slender Man-like figure. New images were made — and a spooky mythos that lived offline was created as well. According to the stories that littered creepypasta forums, Slender Man beckoned children into the forests where he then ordered them to kill in order to become his proxies. What should have remained an internet meme quickly devolved into real violence. On May 30, 2014, two 12-year-old girls named Morgan Geyser and Anissa Weier, who believed in the scary urban legend, lured a friend into the woods outside their Milwaukee suburb where they planned to kill her and leave her as an offering to Slender Man. They stabbed their 12-year-old friend Payton Leutner 19 times and left her in the woods to die. But Leutner managed to survive. Bleeding from her torso, arms, and legs, she dragged herself to a nearby path and was discovered by a cyclist who called 911. Geyser and Weier were arrested shortly after Leutner was rescued. Geyser and Weier later admitted to police that they had planned the attack for months, beginning in December 2013. Weier claimed that Geyser proposed the idea, which they both believed would earn them entry into Slender Man’s home and a position as his proxies. Their belief in the scary urban legend was so complete, and their dedication to please it so powerful, that they used a kitchen knife to try and murder their friend they had known since the fourth grade. The state of Wisconsin chose to try the two girls as adults, and Geyser was diagnosed with schizophrenia and a jury found Weier not criminally responsible because she suffered from a “shared delusional disorder.” Geyser has since been sentenced to 40 years under institutional care, and all because of an urban myth that began online.

RATS IN THE TOILET BOWL: You stagger into the bathroom at 3 a.m. to relieve yourself. Groggy with sleep, you lift the lid and position yourself over the toilet. You hear splashing. Turning on the light, you see a rat looking back at you from the bowl. You’re never the same again. Urban legends about animals in sewers have been a staple of scary stories, particularly the one about baby alligators being flushed down toilets and then growing to adult size in waste channels. Most often told about New York. (Not true. While alligators and crocodiles have been found in New York, they’re generally released and found above ground, and it’s thought that New York is too cold for them to survive for very long.) But finding a rodent in your toilet, inches from very vulnerable areas of your body, is a particular kind of domestic terror—and one that happens to be possible. Drain plumbing for toilets is typically three inches in diameter or more, plenty of space for a rat to climb up. The animals are attracted to sewage lines due to undigested food in feces and can travel through pipes before emerging through an opening and into your bathroom. And yes, rats can be somewhat testy when they complete their journey. One aquatic rodent bit the rump of a female victim in Petersburg, Virginia in 1999. In Seattle, the issue is common enough that public officials have given advice on what to do in case you encounter one (close the lid and flush).

LA LLORONA: A tragic figure in Mexican folklore, La Llorona or “the weeping woman,” is a ghostly apparition that wears white and wanders the country’s watersides in profound grief. Some say she steals children only to drown them in a nearby body of water. The paranormal entity recently garnered renewed attention in the wake of Hollywood’s horror The Curse of La Llorona, though her story is possibly centuries old. There are several origin stories for the urban myth of La Llorana, and the earliest recorded ones date back 400 years. Some believe that La Llorana is actually just the conflation of two Aztec myths, or perhaps that she is based off of these as well. The Aztecs described a similar, willowy and white figure that was one of 10 goddesses or omens which heralded the conquest of Mexico. She was known as Cihuacōātl or “Snake Woman,” and was described as “a savage beast and an evil omen” who walks about at night and cries into the moonlight. Another goddess, named Chalchiuhtlicue or “the Jade-skirted one,” oversaw the waters and was said to drown people, and the Aztecs sacrificed children in order to honor her. But there is a more modern version to explain where the myth of La Llorana came from. As legend has it, a beautiful young peasant woman named Maria married a wealthy man. The two lived happily and had two children, but Maria’s husband became unfaithful. One day, she and her children caught him romantically engaged with another woman by the river. Enraged, Maria threw her children into the river and drowned them. After her anger subsidized and reason kicked in, she spent the rest of her life in profound grief hopelessly wandering the waterside to find her children. The scary urban legend of La Llorana could remain just that were it not for the chilling accounts of those who claim to have seen her. Patricio Lujan claimed to have first encountered the wailing woman when he was a young boy in 1930s New Mexico. According to Lujan, even his parents spotted the strange woman near their Santa Fe property, drifting toward the local creek in a white dress that covered her tall, slender body. When she reached the water, she disappeared. “She just seems to glide as if having no legs,” Lujan recalled. Lujan wasn’t the first nor last person to describe such an encounter with the weeping woman, who is said to be drawn to water where she wails for her dead children. The urban legend is popular throughout the southwestern U.S. and Mexico, and many have been convinced to have witnessed it for themselves.

THE LEGEND OF POLYBIUS: Vintage video gamers have long traded stories about a coin-operated arcade game circa early 1980s Portland that had strange effects on its players. The game, titled Polybius, was alleged to have prompted feelings of disorientation, amnesia, game addiction, and even suicide. The machine’s cabinet was said to be painted entirely black, and it was rumored that stern-looking men would sometimes visit arcades to collect information from the machine before disappearing. Was it a CIA experiment spun off from MK Ultra, the psychoactive drug study conducted on unsuspecting subjects? While the entire story doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, individual pieces are actually based in fact. Brian Dunning, host of the Skeptoid podcast (which I can highly recommend), did some investigative work and found that a 12-year-old named Brian Mauro had become sickened during a 28-hour marathon video game contest in Portland in 1981. (He apparently drank too much soda and experienced stomach discomfort.) Just a few days later, Portland-area arcades were raided by federal agents, who seized cabinets that were being used for gambling. Coupled with the existence of a real arcade game named Poly-Play, these memories seemed to amalgamate into the Polybius legend.

THE MOTHMAN: Nov. 12, 1966, marked the first ever report of the elusive Mothman, a creature so bizarre that it can only be considered the stuff of urban myths. But multiple sightings of the monster that year challenged the notion that it existed only in the imagination. On that Fall day in 1966, a Clendenin, West Virginia gravedigger claimed to have seen an unsettling creature that looked like a “brown human being” soaring over his head and moving from tree to tree at rapid speeds. Three days later, four people driving through the nearby town of Point Pleasant saw a gray-winged entity seven feet tall standing in front of their car. Roger Scarberry and Steve Mallet told The Point Pleasant Register that the creature had bright red eyes and a wingspan of 10 feet. All the witnesses commented on the creature’s speed. One of them claimed that it fled at up to 100 miles per hour and seemed to dislike the car’s blinding headlights. The witnesses also claimed that the being chased their vehicle to the outskirts of town, before vanishing into a nearby field. “If I had seen it while by myself, I wouldn’t have said anything,” said Scarberry at the time, “but there were four of us who saw it.” The following year saw an ominous increase in sightings across the state of West Virginia. The Gettysburg Times reported on the elusive creature eight times within the first three days of the gravedigger’s initial report, which included two firefighters describing “a very large bird with large red eyes.” In another reported sighting, Salem, West Virginia resident Newell Patridge claimed he spotted two red eyes staring back at him after his television displayed bizarre patterns and he went outside to investigate a strange noise. That was the same night that his dog vanished.  But there are, of course, skeptics. West Virginia University professor of wildlife biology Dr. Robert L. Smith dismissed the urban legend as a misidentification of the sandhill crane bird. Others are convinced the urban legend was intentionally spread by a committed prankster. There are also those who believed that the Mothman was a harbinger of doom, an idea that was only reinforced when on Dec. 15, 1967, Point Pleasant’s Silver Bridge collapsed. Cars and pedestrians were plunged into the icy Ohio River waters below and 46 people died. Author John Keel forever linked the bridge collapse with the Mothman’s sightings in his 1975 book The Mothman Prophecies, which was later adapted into a film of the same name. Point Pleasant hasn’t shied away from the eerie urban legend. To the contrary, the town created a historical museum on the scary urban legend and constructed a 12-foot-tall chrome-polished statue of the beast. To this day, they celebrate the Mothman annually with a festival.

CROPSEY: For years, kids living in and around Staten Island raised goosebumps by relating the tale of “Cropsey,” a boogeyman who lived in the woods and made a nocturnal habit of disemboweling children. Parents no doubt eased their kids’ fears by telling them no such monster existed. But he did. In 1987, Andre Rand was put on trial and convicted for a child abduction. Rand, it turned out, may have been connected to a rash of child disappearances in the 1970s. He had once worked at Willowbrook, a defunct mental institution. While he denies involvement in other cases, it’s clear Rand’s activities had a heavy influence in the word-of-mouth stories that followed.

THE CHUPACABRA: It’s the size of a small bear, with scaly skin, a spiked tail, and it drinks the blood of livestock across the Americas. At least, that’s how the chupacabra, or “goat-sucker,” has been described since 1995. A staple in Puerto Rican folklore, the chupacabra has been said to feed on everything from chickens and sheep to rabbits and dogs. While skeptics are quick to dismiss the chupacabra as an urban legend, many claim to have lost their farm animals to the strange beast — and have found the inexplicably bloodless corpses of these animals to prove it. One of the earliest recorded sightings of the chupacabra happened in the small town of Moca in 1975, when livestock were found completely drained of their blood with just a few small puncture wounds found in their chests. Many suspected that a local Satanic cult was responsible, as more farms reported dead animals all bled dry through a series of small circular incisions.  Then, in 1995, Madelyne Tolentino watched from a window in her Canóvanas, Puerto Rico home as a bipedal creature hopped about her property. She said it reeked of sulphur. Others corroborated her description, but added that the creature they’d seen was hairless. That same year, eight sheep were discovered dead, each with three puncture wounds in the chest and reportedly completely drained of blood. As many as 150 farm animals and pets were reportedly killed in this manner in Tolentino’s town that year. But the carnage didn’t end here. Sightings continue into the modern day — and across the world. In October and December 2018, there came many reports of suspected chupacabra attacks in Manipur, India. And in October 2019, a man named Mundo Ovni allegedly recorded an attack on chickens in the Seburuquillo sector of Lares, Puerto Rico. “I was of course initially skeptical of the creature’s existence,” said American writer Benjamin Radford. “At the same time I was mindful that new animals have yet to be discovered. I didn’t want to just debunk or dismiss it. If the chupacabra is real, I wanted to find it.” Radford thus embarked on a years-long quest to find or disprove the existence of the chupacabra. However, he eventually came to conclude that the urban legend was merely spurred by anti-U.S. sentiment within Puerto Rico. He believed that locals feared that Americans had set up a top-secret experimentation program in the El Yunque rainforest, unleashing a hairless beast onto them. There was also the matter of Species, a sci-fi horror film about an alien-human hybrid that ravaged the land and feasted on blood. Not only was the film partially filmed in Puerto Rico, but Tolentino herself had seen it the very same year that she reported her chupacabra sighting. “It’s all there,” said Radford. “She sees the movie, then later she sees something she mistakes for a monster.” Nonetheless, reports of chupacabras across the U.S. continued into the 2000s. Farmers found bodies of hairless, four-legged creatures with burnt-looking skin. But authorities identified these creatures as dogs with sarcoptic mange, which rendered them patchy, scaly, and largely hairless. Despite this explanation, the scary urban legend has yet to be fully dismissed.

THE LEAPING LAWYER: Sooner or later, Toronto residents hear the tale of a lawyer who had a peculiar fondness for running full-bore into his office windows to demonstrate how strong they were. This practice caught up with him eventually, as he crashed into a window and went sailing to his death. This hobby was actually practiced by Garry Hoy, a senior partner in an area law firm with an office on the 24th floor. On July 9, 1993, Hoy made his signature tackle against the window to impress some visiting law students. The pane finally broke and sent him plummeting to his death. In a eulogy, managing partner Peter Lauwers called Hoy “one of the best and brightest” at the firm.

THE MAPINGUARI: This is one I must admit I had not heard of until I began putting this episode together. Brazilian folklore has described the mapinguari as a monstrous entity that dwells deep within the Amazon rainforest. Depictions of the mythical beast have varied from a hairy humanoid cyclops that walks on two legs to something closer to a giant ground sloth that has been extinct for thousands of years. Skeptics claim that the beast is but an urban legend, but a mention of the mapinguari to those who live around the Amazon is sure to cause shivers.  Nearly every native tribe in the Amazon has its own version of the beast. Even tribes that haven’t encountered each other have similar descriptions of the mapinguari, which translates to “the roaring animal” or “the fetid beast.” The being is said to be bipedal, seven feet tall, with long, curling claws. Others have claimed that the creature has a gaping mouth on its stomach that is large enough to feast on anything it encounters.

These tales have led scientists on countless expeditions to find it. While the endeavor has remained fruitless, the former director of research at the Gold Institute in Belém, David Oren, has a theory. “It is quite clear to me that the legend of the mapinguari is based on human contact with the last of the ground sloths [thousands of years ago],” he said. “We know that extinct species can survive as legends for hundreds of years. But whether such an animal still exists or not is another question, one we can’t answer.” The elephant-sized prehistoric sloth is known as Megatherium, and it lived in South America for nearly 5.3 million years until it went mysteriously extinct at the end of the Pleistocene era. Scientists have found fossils of the giant ground sloth from 11,000 years ago, suggesting it cohabited with humans. It is said to have emitted a foul stench and fed on large animals like cattle with ease. But some believe the creature lives on. Lucas Karitiana of the Karitiana tribe in Brazil is adamant that his son encountered one in the forest. While the young man escaped, the mapinguari left the area in ruins, “as if a boulder had rolled through and knocked down all the trees and vines.” Reports like Karitiana’s remain a curious and frustrating anomaly. Either scientists are correct and the urban myth exists as the remnants of prehistoric man’s imagination, or the ravenous beast isn’t extinct and has survived for millennia, secretly dwelling in the Amazon to this day.

BLOODY MARY: Virtually every young child raised in the Western world is familiar with the scary urban legend of Bloody Mary. Myth has it that repeating the name “Bloody Mary” in a cramped closet or into the mirror of a dark bathroom will summon the vengeful spirit of a real woman, Queen Mary I of England. Some are adamant that Mary’s name must be uttered 13 times, whereas others claim three times will suffice. Some claim that her spirit appears as a woman holding a dead baby, while others insist that she will come after you or your own children.  But the terrifying tale is rooted in medieval history and begins with the birth of the first queen regent of England, Queen Mary I. The eldest surviving child of King Henry VIII, Mary did not fulfill her father’s desperate, lifelong hope for a male heir. She was thus ignored by him and declared illegitimate by Parliament. Her life was plagued by pain in addition to isolation. According to Giovanni Michieli, the Venetian ambassador to her court, Mary experienced terrible menstrual pains and irregularity in her cycles, as well as deep bouts of depression. Nonetheless, Mary managed to take the throne at 37 after marrying Philip of Spain and became pregnant with his child. But when her due date came and a baby didn’t, the country was in shock. Mary had appeared pregnant, but after her due date came and went, her pregnant belly disappeared as well. The inexplicable false pregnancy coincided with Mary having just signed an act into law known as the Marian Persecutions, in accordance of which 240 men and 60 women were burned at the stake for being Protestant.  The despondent monarch came to believe that she had been punished by God for her actions and died childless at 42.

Besides the sad story of the real Bloody Mary of England, there are other, more paranormal tales that inspired the scary urban legend of Bloody Mary. Perhaps most famous is the tale of a witch named Mary who was said to have been executed for studying black magic.  According to this legend, Mary would appear in a mirror during divining rituals in medieval times to seek vengeance. Some believe this ethereal mirror-witch kills her summoner upon arrival, while others claim that she drags her victims through the reflective portal into her world. Verifying the legend of Bloody Mary, however, is easy enough. Simply look into the mirror and chant her name — if you dare.

THE BODY UNDER THE BED: Vacationing couples. Newlyweds. Disneyland guests. All have been the subject of an urban legend involving hotel occupants who fall blissfully to sleep, only to wake up to an awful stench coming from either under the bed or inside the mattress. Closer inspection reveals that a dead body has been stashed away. Presumably, not anyone who has died of natural causes. This traveling tale has been confirmed multiple times over. At least a dozen newspaper stories have detailed hotel rooms that have doubled as body disposal sites. While the smell is usually apparent right away, at least one couple slept on a mattress containing a body in Atlantic City in 1999. Cases in Colorado, Florida, and Virginia have also been reported. In 2010, guests at a Budget Lodge in Memphis were horrified to discover they had been sleeping above the body of Sony Millbrook, a missing person. Fabric softener had been stuffed in the ceiling tiles to try and mask the smell. At least three other occupants had also rented the room since Millbrook’s disappearance. A court eventually convicted Millbrook’s boyfriend, LaKeith Moody, of the crime.

THE CANDYMAN: Though the urban legend of Candyman largely begins and ends with the eponymous 1992 horror film, it has a terrifying basis in history. The urban legend that the film is based on is said to be inspired by Chicago’s inner-city violence, segregation laws, American slavery and systemic racism. The film is also based on Clive Barker’s 1981 short story The Forbidden, in which Candyman was originally depicted as a white man dressed in a patchwork outfit. Set in the slums of Liverpool, England, the story centers on a young woman studying graffiti who finds herself hunted by a deadly figure. The same year that Barker’s story was published, the Cabrini-Green housing projects in Chicago recorded 11 murders and 37 murders by gunfire — all in the span of three months. The combination of Barker’s short story and America’s bloody, racist climate all worked to inspire the scary urban legend behind the 1992 film of the same name. In the film, there is an urban myth that revolved around a former slave named Daniel Robitaille. A successful shoe manufacturer, Robitaille eventually became a respectable painter and was commissioned to paint a portrait of a white woman named Caroline Sullivan. The pair fell in love and Sullivan became pregnant out of wedlock. An enraged white mob subsequently hacked Robitaille’s right hand off, smeared it in honey, and let a swarm of killer bees sting him to death. But Robitaille returned as an angry ghost and vowed to kill anyone who uttered the name “Candyman” five times into a mirror. He’d appear behind them and kill them with one stroke of a hook fixed to his hand.

The film took cues from Chicago’s violent realities throughout the 1980s and was shot in Chicago at the Cabrini-Green projects, specifically. In fact, one particularly chilling murder at the Cabrini-Green project inspired Candyman, the movie. On April 22, 1987, a mentally ill Chicagoan named Ruthie Mae McCoy dialed 911 begging for help, claiming that somebody was trying to invade her home through the bathroom mirror. Despite neighbors reporting gunshots thereafter, it took police two days to report to the scene, where they found McCoy shot to death and a hole in her bathroom wall. The urban myth of Candyman is a disturbing example of how the horrors of reality can inspire fables.

THE MAINE HERMIT: For decades, people who vacationed in central Maine’s North Pond area were puzzled by items that would go missing. Batteries and food from cabins, flashlights from camping tents. Rumors spread that a permanent fixture of the area would forage for sustenance and supplies. They were right. For 27 years, Christopher Knight lived alone in the woods, keeping tabs on the hikers, canoeists, and other temporary residents of the grounds. When he was confronted by a game warden in 2013, Knight admitted he was responsible for an average of around 40 robberies a year. Despite the likely protestations of family and friends who dismissed tales of a hermit lurking somewhere in the woods, his identification proved that someone had been watching—and waiting—for nearly three decades.

ENGLAND’S PHANTOM SOCIAL WORKERS WHO STEAL CHILDREN: Another urban legend I wasn’t aware of previous to this episode. The most upsetting urban myths typically involve children, and England’s “phantom” social worker phenomenon is a prime example. The legend began in the 1990s, when British newspapers starting reporting on unidentified men posing as social workers and taking children from their homes for an “evaluation.” According to legend, one man, who would be accompanied by several women, would masquerade as a social worker. He would enter and inspect homes for safety and examine children for signs of abuse, and then whisk the children away — never to be seen again. The urban myth spawned such hysteria that it spurred local law enforcement in South Yorkshire to create a task force to investigate the claim in 1990. The so-called Operation Childcare received more than 250 reports of this type of abduction as a result, though only two proved to be valid. One of those was the report of Anne Wylie, who claimed that a woman pretending to be a social worker suddenly appeared at her home after her 20-month-old son had been hospitalized for asthma. The woman had no identification and was accompanied by a man waiting outside. Suspicious, Wylie demanded more information. The strange woman placed her son’s medical records on the table. But after the couple left, Wylie was able to confirm that they weren’t social workers after all. Despite this chilling account, in its four years as an active task force, Operation Childcare didn’t make a single arrest. Instead, authorities blamed the press for “hyping” a small, legitimate problem into a large-scale paranoia that then spawned an urban legend. Nonetheless, there were at least two groups of individuals who abducted children by posing as social workers. Authorities believed these were vigilantes who believed that it was their duty to protect children from abuse in the wake of a major child abuse scandal in the 1980s. That scandal involved pediatricians Marietta Higgs and Geoffrey Watt. The two doctors had developed a diagnostic test to detect sexual abuse in children, which involved probing the area around a child’s anus. Naturally, this traumatized more subjects than it saved. Dozens of children were referred to a Middlesborough hospital as a result, with a record 24 children being admitted in one day. In total, they had removed 121 children from their homes and incorrectly identified 94 of them as abuse victims.  It’s no wonder that in 1991, a year after the “phantom” social worker scare, that legislators implemented the Children Act, which enforced strict regulations for social workers. At least this urban myth spawned positive, real-life action.

THE FAKE COP: You may have had an overly concerned parent or friend warn you of people impersonating police officers, using that veneer of authority to attack victims who have let their guard down. While there aren’t many who are in full patrol uniform or traveling in marked vehicles, there have been many documented cases of assailants posing as law enforcement—at least two this past summer alone. In Bloomington, Illinois, a man used flashing lights to get a vehicle to pull over. After walking up to the vehicle, the man tried, unsuccessfully, to overpower the driver before they managed to get away. In Fayetteville, Georgia, a man donned a uniform and pulled over a teenage boy on a bike, forcing him to empty his pockets. Talking to (real) police later, the boy told them a second car had pulled up with a man matching the description of someone who had been caught impersonating an officer two weeks prior.

THE JERSEY DEVIL: New Jersey is home to far more frightening elements than its record number of shopping malls, including a creature described as a kangaroo-like demon that was designated in 1938 as the country’s only state demon. Meet the Jersey Devil, the legend of which has kept New Jersey residents awake at night for more than 300 years. The beast has many descriptions, ranging from a horse-faced demon with bat wings to a dog-headed entity with the talons of a dragon. As one of America’s oldest urban myths, the origins of the legend of the Jersey Devil vary. What is inarguable, however, is that the urban myth first appeared in the Jersey Pine Barrens. Some say that the Jersey Devil, also called the Leeds Devil, dates back to 1735, when a poor woman named Mother Leeds learned that she was pregnant with her 13th child. Desperate, Mother Leeds cursed the unborn child and when she gave birth nine months later, a winged creature slithered out of her body and escaped through the chimney. Some versions of the story cast Mother Leeds as a witch who was impregnated by the devil on purpose. Early versions of this urban myth describe the Jersey Devil swooping across the land, killing local children. The myth only grew stronger over time and even Emperor Napoleon’s older brother Joseph once reported a sighting in New Jersey in 1820. Then, in 1840, the mysterious killing of numerous livestock were attributed to the elusive beast. Newspapers around New Jersey began reporting on a plethora of sightings in 1909, when people saw mysterious footprints on the ground, strange shadows that fell across their windows, and unidentified and decomposed carcasses in the woods. Terrified citizens closed schools and work for a week in January of that year and the “Jersey Devil” became the creature’s official name. From a Greenwich, New Jersey farmer who shot at a mysterious creature matching the Jersey Devil’s description in 1925 to a group of Gibbston boys spotting the beast in the woods in 1951, it seemed as though the entity has survived for centuries. And the 1960 reward of $10,000 on behalf of Camden merchants for anyone managing to capture the beast has yet to be claimed.

THE LEGEND OF THE BUNNY MAN: If you lived in or around Virginia in the 1970s, you were probably exposed to the story of the Bunny Man. In the tale, an escaped mental patient takes to gutting bunnies and hanging them from a bridge underpass. Later, the maniac is said to have graduated to gutting and hanging teens in a similar manner. Locals were cautioned to never be caught near the underpass, which is now known to most people as “Bunny Man Bridge,” on Halloween night. This story likely spawned from the very real presence of a roving madman in the area. In October 1970, a couple reported seeing a man dressed in a white suit and wearing bunny ears who began yelling at them that they were on private property. To punctuate his point, he threw a hatchet at their windscreen, apparently shattering it. There was a second sighting of Bunny Man two weeks later, when a security guard spotted a hatchet-wielding man chipping away at a porch railing. Police tried, unsuccessfully, to locate the man. While he didn’t disembowel anyone, the thought of an adult wielding both a hatchet and a pair of rabbit ears somehow manages to be just as disturbing.

THE STORY OF EDWARD MORDRAKE: Edward Mordrake was said to be a man doomed with a second face on the back of his head. His disturbing situation was popularized by George Gould and Walter Pyle in an 1896 science textbook, but as it turns out, Mordrake’s story is a complete fabrication-turned-urban legend. A story published on Dec. 8, 1895, in the Boston Sunday Post, titled “The Wonders of Modern Society,” described how a man named Edward Mordrake had a second, female face as “lovely as a dream, hideous as a devil” on the back of his head. The face would whisper “such things as they only speak of in hell” to poor Mordrake at night and sneered at him whenever he cried.  Driven insane by the face, Mordrake was said to have taken his own life at 23 years of age. His suicide note begged for the face to be destroyed, “lest it continues its dreadful whispering in my grave.” Then, Gould and Pyle popularized the tragic tale in their Anomalies and Curiosities of Medicine, which was published the following year. Mordrake’s story became fodder for countless publications and begat callous writing about physical deformities and weird wonders of the world. While craniofacial duplication is a real biological phenomenon, those bornwith an extra face rarely live long and none are capable of independent speech, as there’s only one brain. It was only in 2015 that the Museum of Hoaxes uncovered that the original Boston Sunday Post article about Mordrake was actually written by a science-fiction author and was otherwise utterly baseless. Though the writer’s predilection for genre doesn’t disprove the claims in his article, the sources he employed, which weren’t later verified diligently enough by Gould and Pyle, certainly seemed to. The Post article cited the “Royal Scientific Society” as one of its most substantial sources, but this organization didn’t exist.  Furthermore, the writer’s additional references to the Fish Woman of Lincoln (a mermaid-type creature) and the Norfolk Spider (a human head with six legs) were entirely fabricated. No literary or scientific database yielded anything remotely similar to these creatures. Nonetheless, the urban myth of the two-faced Edward Mordrake has endured. It was most recently chronicled in an episode of the television show American Horror Story to chilling effect. Perhaps what is most ghastly about this urban legend is how quickly an unfounded narrative can take hold and reverberate in popular consciousness for centuries.

CHARLIE NO-FACE: Imagine finding yourself outside and alone in the dark on a residential street. You hear footsteps approaching. Suddenly, a man with a misshapen face appears. You run, terrified beyond words. You spread the story of the man with no face throughout Pennsylvania. “Charlie No-Face” (also called the Green Man) was actually a man named Ray Robinson, and he was no figment of anyone’s imagination. Born in 1910, Robinson was disfigured as the result of an electrical accident at the age of 8. He touched active wires, which effectively maimed him. Knowing his appearance could be disconcerting, Robinson took to taking strolls after dark. He often walked a path along Route 351 in Beaver County, Pennsylvania. While his intentions were honorable, encountering Robinson in the dead of night inevitably led to spreading stories about a boogeyman haunting the town. Robinson died in 1985.

THE NAVAJO SKINWALKER: The Navajo Skinwalker is described as a humanoid shapeshifter that can transform into a four-legged beast and terrorizes families in the American Southwest. While it sounds like the stuff of urban legend, the Skinwalker has deep roots in Native American lore. Mainstream America first heard about these entities in 1996, when The Deseret News published an article on a Utah family’s harrowing experience with a ferocious beast that ravaged its cattle. Only 18 months after moving onto their new ranch, Terry Sherman, the father of the family, spotted the creature for the first time. Sherman claimed the beast was three times bigger than a wolf with glowing red eyes. Perhaps most disturbingly, it appeared unfazed when he shot at it. The Shermans moved out shortly after the incident, and several new owners of the ranch reported similar encounters. Today, that property is known as Skinwalker Ranch, and is believed to be a curious hub of paranormal activity. According to The Navajo-English Dictionary, “Skinwalker” was translated from the Navajo yee naaldlooshii, which literally means “by means of it, it goes on all fours.” Navajo folklore describes a variety of these creatures, and the Pueblo, Apache, and Hopi people all have their own origin stories for such beasts. Some traditions claim that Skinwalkers are borne of Navajo medicine men who, initially benevolent, abuse their magic for personal gain. Bestowed with mythical powers of evil, these tribesmen can then transform into any animal or person of their choosing, but a ravenous bloodlust will follow their newfound abilities. They are reportedly near-impossible to kill unless with a knife or bullet that was dipped in white ash. The Navajo, meanwhile, are vehemently opposed to discussing the creature with outsiders — and even amongst their own.

Since the inexplicable sightings on the Sherman’s ranch, the area has become a purported hotbed of paranormal activity. On March 12, 1997, biochemist Dr. Colm Kelleher reportedly spotted a Skinwalker on the property, perched 20 feet off the ground and about 50 feet away from him. Kelleher said it was hard to see clearly, but that the creature was undoubtedly nonhuman. “The large creature lay motionless, almost casually, in the tree,” he later wrote. “The only indication of the beast’s presence was the penetrating yellow light of the unblinking eyes as they stared fixedly back into the light.” Whether or not Skinwalkers are indeed real, there will perhaps always appear to be elusive creatures with qualities science has yet to assess. What is clear, however, is that the urban myths of creatures like these continue to mesmerize people from all walks of life, and take on a life of their own through storytelling, time, and fear.

THE REAL CORPSE DECORATION: Notorious outlaw Elmer McCurdy took on a second life following his death. In 1911, the embalmed corpse of McCurdy became a grim sideshow attraction throughout Texas, with people eager to see the famed criminal on display in funeral parlors and carnivals. Though it’s hard to document all of his travels, he eventually wound up in Long Beach, California, where someone apparently mistook him for a prop. McCurdy was hung in a funhouse at the Nu-Pike Amusement Park, his humanity discovered only after a crew member on the TV show “The Six Million-Dollar Man” – which was filming there in 1976 – tried to adjust him, dislodging his very real arm. The following year, his corpse was put to proper rest.


Coming up… what does it take to create urban legends like these? Stories that seem to create a life of their own and spread like wildfire from mouth to ear, terrifying those who hear of them? Up next we’ll look at what it takes to create an urban legend.

Plus… Unidentified Flying Objects have been around much longer than Roswell. Four centuries ago, before flying vehicles were known to even be possible, ancient Russia had quite a shock when they looked into the sky.

These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!



You have already met Slender Man – the preternaturally tall, spectral being wearing a black suit and tie, with a white and featureless face. He is often seen in the shadows of photos, stalking small children, and some say that he can drive you insane with terror. One of his first sightings came at an asylum; after a bloody rampage in the hospital, a photo emerged of his ghostly but silent presence hiding in the stair well while the chaos erupted around him.

Rising from humble internet forums, this modern urban legend has now inspired a slew of fan fiction, best-selling computer games and a series of short movies. But the tale has also taken a darker turn as the line between myth and reality became blurred: some are convinced that they have spotted Slender Man lurking behind trees and scaling the sides of buildings; and in January there were more claimed sightings in the UK reported by the British tabloids.

“I find it fascinating, because it really shows how folklore is always adapting to new technologies and media, rather than being some kind of relic of the past,” says anthropologist Jamie Tehrani at the University of Durham.

The question is, why did this particular story infect people’s minds in a profound way? Assuming such widely-shared tales are not actually true, what makes them endure? During the last decade psychologists have started to sift out some of the features that make certain stories contagious, potentially explaining the appeal of everything from urban legends to Little Red Riding Hood.

To understand the appeal of tales like Slender Man, it makes sense to begin with his first outing. Starting on the Something Awful forum in 2006, a user, “Victor Surge”, posted two photos, doctored with the ghostly figure in the background. Beneath, he wrote some short, enigmatic captions, implicating the shadowy figure in the mysterious abduction of 14 children.

One of two recovered photographs from the Stirling City Library blaze. Notable for being taken the day which 14 children vanished and for what is referred to as “The Slender Man”. Deformities cited as film defects by officials. Fire at library occurred one week later. Actual photograph confiscated as evidence. — 1986, photographer: Mary Thomas, missing since June 13th, 1986.


We didn’t want to go, we didn’t want to kill them, but its persistent silence and outstretched arms horrified and comforted us at the same time… — 1983, photographer unknown, presumed dead

His descriptions are chilling, for sure – but perhaps part of the appeal lay in the gaps of Surge’s story, which leave space for us to project our own imagination. “Victor Surge’s original post provides tantalising hints of a larger narrative involving a terrifying creature,” notes semiotician Jeffrey Tolbert. “It suggests the being’s unique power to induce violence, and indicates that the photographers responsible for the images are missing or dead – and thus sets the stage for the processes that would lead to the communal construction of an entire narrative tradition.”

It’s probably no coincidence that, within that skeletal framework, Slender Man also evokes some familiar fairy tale elements; psychologists are finding that there is good reason that those stories often follow certain set formulae.

Firstly, tales of the supernatural may be especially appealing since they are “minimally counter-intuitive”, combining both the familiar and the bizarre. “They depart from what’s expected and as a result push us to process the information more deeply,” says Ara Norenzayan at the University of British Columbia, “so we remember more and are more likely to retell them.” Counter-intuitive elements could include a talking animal, or a pumpkin that turns into a chariot – but it’s not so much the nature, as the number of these narrative devices that seems to be crucial. Norenzayan’s analysis of Grimm’s fairy tales found that the most popular stories – as measured by the number of times they have been cited online – only have two or three supernatural surprises. Our brains, it seems, have only so much room for the bizarre before it becomes too confusing to be enjoyable.

Consider Little Red Riding Hood. “There are only a couple of things that don’t make sense – such as the talking wolf and her and the grandmother being rescued from the stomach,” says Tehrani. “But the idea of a girl visiting her grandmother – that makes perfect sense.” Yet the lesser-known tales such as The Donkey Lettuceflout those constraints. “Honestly, if you wanted me to summarise it, I couldn’t – there’s just so much weird stuff going on.” The same goes for contemporary urban legends. Tehrani recently examined the evolution of the Bloody Mary myth – that if you chant an incantation into the mirror, a mutilated face will appear before you. There are many different variants involving different characters and events, but, as with Grimm’s tales, the most popular almost always contained just two or three unsettling events.

Crucially, Slender Man seems to titillate the brain’s sense of surprise in exactly the same way. “Slender Man is minimally counter-intuitive because, on the one hand, we can attribute psychological motivations to him just as we would any other person,” says Tehrani. “But on the other, he appears to be able to violate the laws of physics, by appearing out of thin air, and the laws of biology – he can stretch and shrink his body and grow tentacles.” In other words, the tale offers just enough hints of the eerie to pique our curiosity, without leaving us feeling too alienated.

In terms of their wider themes, psychologists have found that, perhaps unsurprisingly, the most popular tales also tend to evoke strong emotions – and the feeling of disgust seems to make a story particularly potent. Julie Coultas at the University of Sussex recently asked subjects to read and share different versions of common urban legends, some more disgusting than others. One, in particular, seemed to stay in her students’ mind, about a woman who takes her poodle to Vietnam. As the woman fumbles with her order for a delicious steak, the dog trots into the kitchen. It is only when the bill comes, minus the cost of the meat, that she realises she has eaten her beloved pet. Even a year later, the students were still struck by the tale, she says. “It was amazing to see the difference in recall between the high and low disgust content stories,” says Coultas. Perhaps that can explain why urban legends are so often in very bad taste.

We are also drawn to themes of survival – which is why many stories deal with life and death. That makes sense, given our evolution – stories would have been an important way of transmitting valuable information that could save our skin at a later point.

But the most memorable tales, according to Tehrani’s recent lab experiments, involve some kind of social connection; we just can’t forget a piece of lurid gossip. His participants were given a choice of tales and asked to choose one to read, remember and pass on to another person. Each tale reflected the above biases in a different way, and it seemed to have a big effect on their popularity. One told the story of a woman who died after a poisonous spider made a nest in her unwashed beehive haircut. Dealing with death, it was a classic survival tale – but although it piqued people’s interest, it proved to be less easily remembered than some of the others. In contrast, a more memorable story concerned a woman who had cybersex with an unknown man, only to find out months later that it was her father. It’s hardly Jane Austen, but the story requires you to consider others’ motives and decisions, tapping into our social bias. (Others, along a similar vein, might include the story of the inadvertent biscuit thief that ends in excruciating embarrassment.) If you’re not familiar with that story, here it is:

An elderly woman, traveling by bus, had a layover during her journey. She purchased a package of Oreo cookies from a vending machine in the bus terminal and located a table. She placed her cookies on the table, sat down, and proceeded to read her newspaper. She was joined by a young man, who, to her surprise, opened the package of Oreo cookies and began to eat them. The woman, saying nothing, but giving him an icy stare, grabbed a cookie. The young man, with a funny look on his face, ate another cookie. The woman again glared and grabbed another cookie. The young man finished the third cookie and offered the last to the woman. Completely appalled, she grabbed the cookie and the young man left. Outraged, the woman threw down her paper only to find her unopened Oreos on the table in front of her.

Appealing to both the social and survival biases, the story of a serial killer who lures women to their death, with the sounds of a baby crying proved to be most popular of all. Tehrani thinks this too can be explained by considering human prehistory; as we lived in bigger societies, our survival depended less on environmental dangers and more on other people, so we are primed to take notice of quirks in other people’s behaviour, as much as more immediate dangers.

Surprisingly, Slender Man only partially confirms these findings. “There are elements of these memes that exploit our survival bias, such as the fact he targets vulnerable children in a typical woodland setting, and our emotion bias – fear and disgust,” Tehrani says. Yet the story is almost completely lacking in social information. Even something as simple Little Red Riding Hood, he says, asks us to exercise our ability to understand that the wolf is lying as he builds up the girl’s trust. “Slender Man,” in comparison, “simply entices his victims using some kind of paranormal power”; there is no social conundrum for us to crack.

One possibility is that Slender Man is just a fluke – the exception that proved the rule. More intriguing, however, is the idea that it instead reflects a deeper change in the way that we craft folk tales thanks to the internet. Tehrani points out, for instance, that social stories may be more memorable but they weren’t necessarily more enjoyable, according to his participants. Memorability would have been crucial when stories were passed mouth to ear, but with the cut and paste buttons on our desktop, it perhaps plays less of a role. “We may find social content easier to remember, but actually, we are just as likely to want to hear about stories relevant to survival and to pass them on – so the advantage of social information over other biases disappears,” Tehrani says.

In other words, as more stories are shared on the internet, our stories may lose some of their social nuances, and become even more ghoulish. “It is certainly feasible that story-telling in the digital age may evolve in a very different way from the fairy tales of the past, which were shaped by the cognitive constraints of oral transmission,” says Tehrani.

These are just musings, of course; Tehrani has yet to study the appeal of Slender Man formally, though he plans to look into the stories on creepypasta.com – a website that allows users to share and contribute many of these modern urban myths. “It’s very much on our to-do list.”

Story-telling is, after all, a craft like any other, evolving with tools and technology. Our entertainment has already seen monumental changes in literature and cinema. But perhaps those transformations are trickling down to the myths and legends we tell each other too – the humble stories that form a substantial, though neglected, contribution to our culture. It is an intriguing thought that the elements forged by storytellers from across the millennia are now being cast into a very different folk tale – the beginning of a tradition that our descendants may be reading and sharing on their tablets in centuries to come.


It is the most famous sighting of an unidentified object in the history of ancient Russia. This flying object should not be observed over the area of Robozero Lake, approximately 80 miles southwest of Belozersk (“White Lake Town”).

Officially, no flying vehicles were present in the sky almost four centuries years ago. They did not even exist.
Still, this amazing event witnessed by many people took place and it cannot be explained as a missile, ball lightning, or an airplane.

An official document describing the incident originates from the files of the archaeological research service and was first published in “Historical Files Compiled And Issued By The Archaeological Commission”, part 4, St. Petersburg, 1842. The document’s authenticity is unquestionable.

Today, many newspapers worldwide would feature large headlines on their front pages like:
“Enormous ball of fire creates panic” or “Ball lightning or so something else over the lake?”
Three centuries ago, there were no newspapers…

What did exactly people observe that day?

On this Saturday, between 10 and 12 o’clock local time, inhabitants of the district of Belozero (“White Lake Town”) went to their local parish church in the village of Robozero.

While they were there, an object emitting fire and a loud noise appeared in a clear sky. It had a diameter of around 40 meters (131 feet), which is the approximate height of a modern twelve-story building. The object, traveling from south to west, suddenly stopped over the Robozero Lake, which surface is about 2 km by 1. It gave out blue smoke and had two beams of fire, about “20 sazhens (1 sazhen means seven feet) coming from the object’s front.
When a “great crash sounded”, many people left the church to see what was happening outside. According to the report, the object appeared from the direction “from which we get winter and moved across from the church to the lake”.

Then, the observed object suddenly vanished out of sight, some distance above the lake in order to reappear over the lake less than an hour later.

“The people again came out to the square and the same fire suddenly reappeared over the same lake, from the same place where it first disappeared. It darted from the south to the west and must have been 1500 ft away when it disappeared. But it appeared, in a short while, back again, from that another place, moving this time to the west; the third time the same fireball appeared more terrific in width, and disappeared, having moved to the west, and it had been remaining over Robozero, over water, for an hour and a half. And the length of the lake is about 7000 ft, and the width is 3500 ft…”

The incident was observed by multiple witnesses, now, experiencing yet another reappearance of the mysterious flying vehicle. It went from the south to the west and was about 500 meters away when it vanished again.

The last time the object returned, it was traveling westwards and then stopped. Its size appeared to be much larger than before. It stayed over the lake for one hour and a half.

A group of fishermen in their boat located on the lake approximately a mile away were seriously affected suffering severe burns because of the scorching heat.
The lake water, according to the witnesses, also looked strange… It was illuminated to their greatest depth of 30 ft and the fish swam away to the shore or fleeing to all directions… they all saw that. And where the fireball came, the water seemed to be covered with rust under the reddish light; it was then scattered by the wind and the water became clean again.

In his book “Astronomical Phenomena in Russian Chronicles” (1915), the Russian astronomer D. Svyatski, wrote that the eyewitnesses saw only pieces of a meteorite that flew apart after an explosion.
“The explosion of the meteor on 15th August 1663 probably occurred in a south-westerly direction during the morning before 12 o’clock and in clear skies. Two fragments were projected in a southerly direction over the lake whilst a third and fourth came down in the west,” according to the official explanation given by D. Svyatski.

However, “this does not account for the sighting of the people in the boat approaching a hovering body,” P. Stonehill, the Russian UFO researcher says and at the same time, for all who proposed another interpretation of the phenomenon. Stonehill explains that “the life span of lightning is short.
Also, its diameter is no more than three feet-certainly not 130 feet…” Moreover, ball lightning appears under stormy weather conditions and the weather was beautiful on 15 August 1663.

It was a sunny and warm day and the sky was perfectly clear.
Here, we are dealing with a large flying object which approached suddenly and from nowhere. The behavior of the reported flying object was definitely unlike that of a meteor. The object was seen by many witnesses in at least two locations three times at different time intervals.
Fragments from meteorites are ejected simultaneously as a rule!
The duration of the sighting is unclear but we can hardly expect more details from the witness’ report which is today almost four centuries old.

Is it possible that the “hour and a half”, refer to the whole sighting or its part only?
As for meteorites, it is generally known that they penetrate space with a velocity of 30-40 km per second, which corresponds to the speed of our globe in its journey around the Sun.
The meteorite’s fate depends upon its mass; the larger it is the greater the velocity. At the Earth’s surface, small meteorites “weighing 10-100 grammes develop a speed of several tens of meters per second: the larger ones weighing a couple hundred kilograms show a velocity of about 500 meters per second…” (I. Hobana, J. Weverbergh, “UFO’S from Behind the Iron Curtain”)

If it was a meteorite that showed up over the lake 350 years ago, it must have been a large one, weighing from 30,000 to 250,000 tons!

The speed of such a “monster” must have been enormous… no one, not a single witness would survive its approach, but in fact, all witnesses did. If the object despite its large size, traveled with a speed of less than 5 km per second, it was not then a falling meteor.

The fishermen, who also observed the object from their location in the boat, said that they were unable to come closer to the object because of the great heat coming from it and not because of its large speed.
Apparently, they could approach the object and even pursuit it because its velocity was most probably similar to that of the fishermen’s boat itself. In other words, the velocity of both the boat and the unidentified flying object was very low. Whatever its speed, a meteorite must finally fall somewhere and the meteorite plunging to the ground could hardly pass unnoticed.
Still, nothing like this was documented because no fall was reported. The UFO that came from nowhere, made three visitations in the area and disappeared into the unknown.
Three months later, on November 30, a similar incident took place over the same location. Was it the same unidentified flying object back on yet another mission?
No one knows… To this day, no known scientific theory has explained the phenomenon.


Up next… a man believes he hears the sound of a car crash – but it shouldn’t be impossible from where he lives.

And… while serving a life sentence for the murder of 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener, Lester Eubanks was granted a trip to an Ohio mall — then he vanished without a trace.

But first… in St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia there is a grave that people say began to weep tears of blood when they got too close. That story is up next when Weird Darkness returns.



While the most famous grave at St. James Episcopal Cemetery in Marietta, Georgia belongs to slain beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey, the eeriest plot belongs to a woman named Mary Meinert. It’s marked by a large marble statue of a woman cradling two infants in her arms.

Thanks to her unique memorial, Mary has become a celebrity at St. James Episcopal. Those brave enough to venture through the graveyard at night claim to hear the sound of a woman weeping near Mary’s memorial. Those that have gotten close enough say the statue weeps tears of blood. Others have heard the sound of a young child calling out, “Mommy!” Spookier still, it’s said that the two babies in Mary’s arms switch positions.

Local legend states that if you approach Mary’s statue on Halloween night and circle her memorial three times, asking “Mary, Mary, how did your children die?” her ghost will appear.

A local group of ghost hunters had not one but two camera batteries completely lose power as they approached the statue on a research trip in 2005. Furthermore, all claimed to hear footsteps behind them, though they appeared to be the only ones in the cemetery.

Ghosts of Marietta, a Marietta ghost tour group, offers a trolley tour that includes a trip through St. James Episcopal Cemetery. The tour, known as the Scary-etta Ghost Tour, provides guests with an expanded version of the Meinert grave legend. According to representative Betsy Throop, Mary’s marble statue is said to weep tears so real that they roll down the statue’s face and dampen the bodice. Said tears are seemingly shed for the infant twins cradled in Mary’s arms. The legend states that if you run around the statue 13 times and say “Oh Mary, Oh Mary, what happened to your babies?” then she will begin to cry.

Betsy is quick to discourage visitors from an after-hours visit to St. James. For starters, trespassers may be arrested. More importantly, as Betsy warns, “It’s NEVER think it is a good idea to taunt the spirits!”

Otherworldly retributions aside, the spell of the Mary Meinert grave endures, as does the allure of its alleged Halloween hex. Many have wondered how Mary came to rest at St. James, and if, perhaps, the presence of the infants in the statue indicate that she died in childbirth. Some believe she died, with her babies, in a fire.

The truth is, Mary (her real name was Marion) Meinert died of a lung ailment, most likely tuberculosis, in 1898.

According to findagrave.com, her obituary appeared in the Marietta Journal on May 26, 1898, saying: “She was one of the most patient, lovable women in Marietta. She had a heart that sympathized with suffering humanity and one who did more charitable work in visiting the poor and sick ministering unto their need that did Mrs. Meinert. She was a truly a disciple of Christ and went about doing good.

The explanation for her arresting memorial is revealed in her obituary as well, which says, ““She was in her 34th year of her age at the time of her death. She leaves behind her husband and six children, of that number were twin girls four weeks old.

It’s clear that Mary was a beloved mother and member of her community—so much so that her headstone was erected to include her twin girls, who entered the world just as Mary left it.

As for the stories about Mary’s ghost: you’ll have to visit her famous grave on Halloween night to find out the truth for yourself.



People occasionally experience something science cannot explain. This case is a perfect example of how little we still understand about the nature of reality.

This time our unexplained mystery deals with a baffling incident that happened to a man who for some unknown reason suddenly heard a bizarre sound of a crash. He wasn’t supposed to have heard it, but he did.

It was an ordinary Sunday. Nothing unusual had happened.  He was just getting ready for bed when he heard something crashing.

It was a sound he was not meant to hear. It happened in a place far away and he was not supposed to find.

His remarkable experience defies explanation.

What happened on Sunday, June 10, 1962, is something Howard Wheeler will never forget.

Howard Wheeler was a broadcaster who lived in Charlotte, North Carolina.

He had enjoyed a pleasant Sunday and was just going to bed. Being a religious man, he kneeled beside his bed and prayed.

It was a daily habit. Suddenly, he stopped praying and said to his wife “Pat, I heard an automobile wreck! I’ll be right back!”

He ran out of the house to his car. For some seconds he did not what to do. In which direction should he drive? Where was the wreck, if there was one? His house was surrounded by many streets and the accident could have happened anywhere.

Then, without hesitation, Mr. Wheeler drove quickly down Park Road. As soon as he came to Woodlawn, he turned right and drove down the hill to the shrimp boat, but to his disappointment, he found nothing there.

In an interview later, he explained he got a feeling that he should turn around and hurry back to Manford Drive, which he also did.

“He went about 200 yards on Manford, around a curve and there was a car smashed against the pole, the engine driven back into the car. He saw no one, but a voice said: “Help me, Humpy, help me!” the Charlotte News wrote in an article.

Mr. Wheeler hurried to the wreck where he found a man badly hurt and bleeding. At first, he did not recognize him, but then he saw that the man in the wreck was Joe Funderburke and old friend who always called Mr. Wheeler by the nickname Humpy.

It was not easy, but somehow Mr. Wheeler managed to get his friend out of the car wreck and drive to the hospital where surgery was performed. Mr. Wheeler saved his friend’s life, but many people wondered how he had learned about the accident.

According to Mr. Wheeler, the sound he heard was similar to the distant rumble of railroad cars bumping together in some freight yard. Police and newspapers were puzzled.

How could did Mr. Wheeler have heard the sound of the crash, half a mile from his home? How could he locate the place of the accident?

When the police arrived forty-five minutes later, Mr. Wheeler was still the only person who had passed by and found the wreck.

How can we explain this case? Is intuition is tapped into the extraordinary wisdom some people already had within them?

Mr. Wheeler was a religious man. Listeners who believe in the existence of God or other divine powers, or maybe guardian angels may find it interesting to know Mr. Wheeler was praying at the time when he heard the ominous sound.


In 1973, convicted child murderer Lester Eubanks escaped from prison. Incarcerated for life without parole in 1966, Eubanks had been a model inmate for about seven years, so Ohio State Penitentiary granted him a furlough to go Christmas shopping at a local mall that December.

But a busy holiday-season mall provided Eubanks with a perfect escape scenario. He was asked to meet back at a specific time and place near the mall when he was finished. Instead, he vanished — and hasn’t been seen in nearly half a century.

Lester Eubanks was imprisoned in the first place for trying to rape a 14-year-old girl before shooting her to death — and then bludgeoning her into a pulp with a brick. His disappearance has plagued both authorities and the victim’s family for decades.

How a convicted killer so easily escaped prison and where he might be today has since become fodder for Unsolved Mysteries. The Netflix series’ second season aims to probe every detail of the case — which has only gained more steam the longer Lester Eubanks has been on the run.

By the time Lester Eubanks murdered Mary Ellen Deener, a 14-year-old Mansfield, Ohio girl, he had already committed a series of sexual offenses. But the attack on Deener on Nov. 14, 1965 is the one that landed him in prison.

On that day, Mary Ellen Deener and her younger sister, 12-year-old Brenda Sue, were doing laundry. Out of change, Deener walked to another Laundromat for nickels and dimes. Tragically, she found Eubanks, instead.

She put up a courageous fight and thwarted his forcible sexual assault, but only angered Eubanks into bloodlust in the process. He shot her twice then beat her with a brick.

When she was found, Deener’s family was naturally consumed with unbearable pain. The girl had only tried to help her family out with chores and ended up dead in the streets — with change still in her hand. As if her murder couldn’t be any sadder, Deener had dreamt of becoming a nun.

Eubanks confessed to the murder the following day after local authorities placed him under arrest. After being charged with first-degree murder while perpetrating rape, he tried to plead insanity, to no avail. On May 25, 1966, a jury found him guilty — and sentenced him to death.

In arguably the first time Eubanks would escape justice, his sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole when a U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in 1972 found the death penalty unconstitutional. And the next year, he escaped.

For the seven years Lester Eubanks was in jail, he acted like a model prisoner. The inmate was even profiled while still on Death Row in 1972 by The Columbus Dispatch in an article on incarcerated artists.

The publication deemed him “the best of the Death Row” painters and photographed him next to his Angela Davis tryptic. The three images showed Davis in glasses, her iconic afro, and a resolute stare. Perhaps it was the distinct change in personalities Eubanks related to so much.

“I have admiration and respect for her,” he told reporters.

Eubanks was so well-mannered and docile that he became an Honor Inmate at the facility, which earned him certain privileges. The program was borne from hopes that time outside the prison walls would help reform felons like him — and was heavily curtailed after three convicts including Eubanks escaped.

After being escorted to the Great Southern Shopping Center on Dec. 7, 1973, the man who murdered Mary Ellen Deener vanished. He never showed up to the designated pickup spot and remains elusive to this day. For Deener’s family, that day in December nearly paralleled the night of 1965.

“To use as powerful a word as I can think of, we were traumatized,” said sister Myrtle Carter who was 18 at the time of the murder. “We thought it was over. And then lo and behold, he goes Christmas shopping, first of all — that’s a shock — and then escapes. My mom, she was just beside herself.”

“I don’t want you to think this has consumed my life, because it didn’t,” said Myrtle Carter. “I’m a Christian and I trust God and I allow him to do what he’s going to do in my life…It doesn’t consume me, but it bothers me that he’s still missing, that he’s still free and took her innocent life. That bothers me.”

While the Ohio Department of Corrections immediately listed Eubanks as a fugitive, it would take decades for federal authorities to do the same. It was clear to Deputy U.S. Marshal David Siler, who began working the case in 2016, that Eubanks had planned his escape from justice all along.

“He had to start this process two or three years prior,” said Siler. “Manipulating those guards, manipulating the system, being that good guy that he portrayed himself to be. It just got him outside the gates, and that’s all he was working toward.”

Then, in the early 1990s, the investigation began to pick up when a young officer directed the public eye to the case.

Law enforcement officer John Arcudi was in high school when Deener was killed. As head of the Detective Bureau of the Mansfield Police Department, he started digging into Eubanks’ disappearance in the early 1990s. He was shocked to find the National Crime Information Center hadn’t listed him as wanted.

That meant Eubanks could’ve been caught speeding or engaged in any other minor infraction — and the officer who took his prints or ran his license wouldn’t have known he was a wanted fugitive.

“It had been 20 years and it was like nobody was working the case that we were aware of,” said Arcudi. “He was just out there on his own and nobody seemed concerned about it.”

Investigators suspect that Lester Eubanks may be using the alias Victor Young. With no help on the cold case from fellow authorities, Arcudi contacted America’s Most Wanted.

“[All we need is] that one tipster, that one person that can bring in the last piece of the puzzle, even if they knew him a year ago, two years ago,” said Siler. “That’s what we’re looking for. Someone who’s like, ‘I know that guy.’”

The 1994 TV episode certainly helped, as hundreds of calls come in — with promising leads pointing to Northern California.

Arcudi notified the LAPD of his search for Lester Eubanks and found a cooperative detective in Tim Conner. The duo teamed up to check out a mattress factory in Gardena, California where an anonymous source said Eubanks worked.

“I don’t think he ever took employment that ever did any background check. He was a guy who didn’t lay his head in any one place for very long.”

Though the media stunt helped raise awareness, and U.S. Marshal’s officially listed Eubanks on their 15 Most Wanted List, it was obvious that Lester Eubanks had heard of these developments, too. The promising Gardena lead ended with news that their suspect had quit his job and vanished.

“I think we were probably fairly close to Lester at some point, but the tips and the technology just didn’t make it where we could get close enough,” said Conner. “He’s very cunning; he’s not a dumb guy. He’s been avoiding the authorities for forty plus years.”

Siler believes that Eubanks is most likely being unwittingly protected by people who don’t even know who he is. He’s certain Lester Eubanks has likely fathered children by this point and is potentially a grandfather, as well. For Siler, tragedy and pain mark the Lester Eubanks case from all angles.

“The sad thing is, those who he has won over are victims, too,” said Siler. “They have no idea. So when we come knocking on the door and apprehend that person, their families become victims. And that’s sad.”

Investigators say Lester Eubanks was an avid martial arts enthusiast who loved music and art. He’s easily recognizable as he has a huge scar on his right arm.

The disappearance of Lester Eubanks most recently garnered renewed attention with the second season of Netflix series Unsolved Mysteries. While not an unsolved murder case, the culprit’s disappearance remains baffling. The show aims to understand how anything like it could’ve happened.

For Conner, two things are clear:

“I’ve thought about him over the years. I think he’s probably still alive. I think there’s people who know who he is and what he did. They’re just not giving him up.”

Fortunately, neither are authorities. As the 50th anniversary of Lester Eubanks’ escape approaches, investigators are more determined than ever. Furthermore, it appears DNA evidence collected from his biological son could yield enormous leaps previously unavailable in catching him.

“The U.S. Marshals are not deterred by the passage of time when it comes to cases like this one,” said U.S. Marshal Peter Elliott of the Northern District of Ohio. “We are fueled by one thing, and that is justice for 14-year-old Mary Ellen Deener of Mansfield, Ohio, the innocent victim in this case.”


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.

“The True Stories Behind Terrifying Urban Legends” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting and Jake Rossen for Mental Floss
“What Makes an Urban Legend” by David Robson for BBC.com
“The Robozero Lake UFO of 1663” by A. Sutherland for Message to Eagle
“The Halloween Legend of Mary Meinert’s Grave” by Jessica Ferri for The Line Up

“The Unexplained Sound of a Crash” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages
“The Escape of Lester Eubanks” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting

WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.” – 1 Peter 2:9

And a final thought… “Kids learn faster than adults because they don’t spend their time thinking up reasons why they can’t do it.”

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



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