“CREEPY SWAMP LEGENDS OF LOUISIANA” and More True Scary Tales! #WeirdDarkness

CREEPY SWAMP LEGENDS OF LOUISIANA” and More True Scary Tales! #WeirdDarkness

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IN THIS EPISODE: From building fake cities, to creating ghost army bases, to playing stupid in front of the enemy, we’ll look at some of the most cleverly deceptive tactics that have been used in war throughout history. (Brilliant Wartime Deceptions) *** Chung Ling Soo was one of the greatest magicians of his time – so much so the he was able to not only conceal items up his sleeves, but conceal his true identity. (The Magician Who Lived a Double Life) *** In 1974 five little girls disappeared in a span of just three months – two were later found deceased, but the remaining three have never been found. And the kidnapper and murderer has never been brought to justice… nor do we have any idea who it was. (The Jacksonville Kidnappings) *** Photographs of strange orblike objects are more common than any other photos purported to be ghosts, aliens, or cryptids. But what exactly are these orbs? A trick of the light… or could they be alive? (Could Ghost Orbs Be Living Energy Beings?) *** In the mountains of Jackson County in North Carolina lies a large mysterious rock covered in petroglyphs that have yet to be deciphered. For the Cherokee Indians, the rock and surrounding area is a sacred site where ceremonies used to take place. Indeed, Judaculla Rock is surrounded by rumors and legends, including strange sounds and UFO sightings during the night. (The Indecipherable Judaculla Rock) *** In 1971 children from all over the United States were being rushed into hospital emergency rooms with a very strange symptom… what was causing otherwise healthy children to create pink poop? (The Pink Poop Pandemic) *** We look into the creepy swamps of Louisiana, where gators and snakes are the least of your worries as compared to the paranormal. (Swamp Legends of Louisiana)
“The Magician Who Lived a Double Life” by Kaushik Patowary for Amusing Planet:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yckvppfw
“The Indecipherable Judaculla Rock” by John Black for Ancient Origins Unleashed: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4jxjra7u
“Swamp Legends of Louisiana” by Erin McCann for Graveyard Shift: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/46uj6fyk
“The Pink Poop Pandemic” by Roisin Everard for Historic Mysteries: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5ak8kzv7
“The Jacksonville Kidnappings” by Robert A. Waters for Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/bdfhcbwu
“Brilliant Wartime Deceptions” by Jetta for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4f9xwp3z
“Could Ghost Orbs Be Living Energy Beings?” by A. Sutherland for Message To Eagle:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5n6awrpm
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DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.


New Orleans may be famous for stories about ghosts and vampires, but the surrounding swamps hold some pretty creepy legends too. Thanks to cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss, dense forests that only allow a little light in, and folktales from Cajun and Creole legends, the spooky creatures and ghosts of the bayou could frighten almost anybody. Taking up an area along the Gulf Coast that runs through the southern parts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and the Florida Everglades, bayou country encompasses a wide swath of America. With the notoriously spooky New Orleans almost in the epicenter, it’s no wonder so many creepy Louisiana bayou legends exist. You may be familiar with New Orleans’s twisted Madame LaLaurie, but the bayou has its own share of horrifying secrets. If you know about creepy stories from the Everglades, you’ve probably heard of skunk apes. Louisiana bayous have those hairy beasts too, as well as several other cryptids and the spirits of unbaptized kids floating around. There are even some werewolves allegedly running amok. People from Louisiana may warn visitors about alligators or getting lost in murky, remote areas, but those dangers are relatively tame compared to the creepy stories from the state’s swamps.

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…

From building fake cities, to creating ghost army bases, to playing stupid in front of the enemy, we’ll look at some of the most cleverly deceptive tactics that have been used in war throughout history. (Brilliant Wartime Deceptions)

Chung Ling Soo was one of the greatest magicians of his time – so much so the he was able to not only conceal items up his sleeves, but conceal his true identity. (The Magician Who Lived a Double Life)

In 1974 five little girls disappeared in a span of just three months – two were later found deceased, but the remaining three have never been found. And the kidnapper and murderer has never been brought to justice… nor do we have any idea who it was. (The Jacksonville Kidnappings)

Photographs of strange orblike objects are more common than any other photos purported to be ghosts, aliens, or cryptids. But what exactly are these orbs? A trick of the light… or could they be alive? (Could Ghost Orbs Be Living Energy Beings?)

In the mountains of Jackson County in North Carolina lies a large mysterious rock covered in petroglyphs that have yet to be deciphered. For the Cherokee Indians, the rock and surrounding area is a sacred site where ceremonies used to take place. Indeed, Judaculla Rock is surrounded by rumors and legends, including strange sounds and UFO sightings during the night. (The Indecipherable Judaculla Rock)

In 1971 children from all over the United States were being rushed into hospital emergency rooms with a very strange symptom… what was causing otherwise healthy children to create pink poop? (The Pink Poop Pandemic)

But first, we look into the creepy swamps of Louisiana, where gators and snakes are the least of your worries as compared to the paranormal. We begin there. (Swamp Legends of Louisiana)

If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to 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!


(Continued from the Intro…)

***Less than an hour northwest of New Orleans lies the Manchac wetlands, known for eerie stories about its residents. The most legendary of these locals is the ghost of Julia Brown, sometimes called Julia Black or Julia White. Records indicate a woman named Julia Brown did live in the area after moving from New Orleans, but her legend may have been embellished by the addition of stories about her work as an alleged voodoo priestess. Since she lived in a small, remote town, Brown most likely used her voodoo knowledge to provide medical and midwife services to the residents, and stories claim she had experience with curses and all kinds of charms. Townsfolk noted Brown often sat on her porch and sang, sometimes singing the line, “One day I’m going to die and take the whole town with me.” It was reportedly on the day of her funeral in 1915 that a powerful hurricane struck Louisiana that swept away around 300 people and wiped out several towns. Legends attribute this storm to a curse from Brown’s song and claim she now haunts the swamp where she met her end.

***Bayou Sale Road, AKA LA-57, runs from Dulac to Cocodrie and passes through a wide area of swamp. In addition to scary twists and turns in the road, stories claim many ghosts and even rougarou reveal themselves to those passing through. Wrecks on the dangerous road may account for the abundance of ghosts in the area. One of the most famous stories to come out of Bayou Sale Road is about a hitchhiker who refuses to leave the car that gives him a ride until the owners give him treasure or their souls. Other witnesses have claimed the hitchhiker had a transparent appearance or disappeared before he got in the car. Drivers passing through have also witnessed a ghostly woman holding out her hand, seen faces of spirits, and felt an engulfing presence that made their skin crawl.

***According to legends, pirates often used the dark, murky swamps of Louisiana to safely bury their treasure where no one would find it. Famed pirate Jean Lafitte used this method of saving his booty, but stories add he also slew one of his men and buried the body with the treasure. This ensured the man’s soul bound itself to the area and the hole’s valuable contents. Stories claim such a spirit turns into a floating light called a fifolet; certainly a spooky sight in the middle of a dark swamp. Those who claimed to have witnessed a fifolet said it emitted a blue glow, a vengeful presence, and sometimes led swamp visitors off to parts unknown so they couldn’t find their way back. One famous fifolet story involves two men who saw one and decided to follow it and dig up the treasure it guarded. One man grew greedy and knocked his companion out to take the treasure for himself. Unfortunately, he suddenly began to sink along with the treasure and woke his friend up with his screaming. The other man ran off and later returned to find the ground hardened and no trace of his friend.

***The area known as Devil’s Swamp near the town of Thibodaux allegedly contains some ghostly residents. Whether they were once people trying to cross the area’s train tracks and a train hit them or they are the spirits of enslaved people who perished in the surrounding plantations, stories claim many paranormal happenings occur around the area. According to legends, people who park their cars on the train tracks will be targeted by ghosts that hit and rock the vehicle. Some witnesses said handprints appeared on their windows after they mysteriously fogged. Cars don’t even have to intentionally park since stories also claim vehicles stall once they reach the middle of the train tracks. However, considering the area is currently a Superfund site and deemed extremely hazardous thanks to chemicals, the toxic sludge in the ground may be scarier than the ghosts.

***Many enthusiasts of all things spooky around Baton Rouge know about Frenchtown Road. It’s now part of the Frenchtown Road Conservation Area, but at one point, people used to travel there at night just to be scared. As the road goes deeper into the forest, trees are all that drivers will see; trees that grow close together and become almost like a wall, making the road even darker. In the middle of the forest, extending over the road, lies a train trestle that visitors have covered with graffiti. Satanic symbols, like pentagrams, adorn the sides of the trestle, leading to rumors Satanic groups gather together in surrounding areas. Visitors have claimed to see people watching them along the side of the road and feared being taken and possibly slain if they continued to follow the road. Other stories claimed Satanic groups hung their targets from the trestle and might do so again, adding their souls to the ghostly beings allegedly haunting the area.

***Stories about the Altamaha-ha, AKA “Altie,” date back to at least the 1800s, mostly stemming from the folklore of Georgia and the Lower Muskogee Creek Tribe. According to legend, the body of the Altamaha-ha resembles a sturgeon with a head like an alligator, with sharp teeth and large front flippers. Witnesses claimed it measured from 20 to 30 feet long, leading them to first assume the creature was a giant snake. People have been reporting Altamaha-ha sightings ever since. Some creature enthusiasts believe Altamaha-ha may have traveled to Louisiana at some point and might be hanging out in the bayous. According to a vacationing family, an Altamaha-ha-like creature paid them a visit while jet skiing in the southeastern part of the state. If that’s not creepy enough, it’s also possible a 50-foot-long alligator known as a DinoGator lurks in the bayou waters as well.

***Although most reports of skunk apes come from Florida, these cousins to Bigfoot allegedly live all over the southern states, including Louisiana. As indicated by their name, skunk apes emit an offensive odor and are covered in brown fur with large, ape-like feet. Witnesses claim these creatures average about 6 feet in height, sometimes have glowing red eyes, allegedly go after animals, and have reportedly never harmed a human. Local Louisiana skunk ape stories claim residents of Cotton Island in the central area of the state found hair and tracks that may have come from a skunk ape. A man driving near Trout in 2000 allegedly hit a large furry creature that damaged his car, but it vanished after being struck. Skunk ape sightings supposedly go all the way back to the 1850s, when a Louisiana newspaper article reported a tall, hairy wild man in the area.

***According to Cajun folklore, the bayou creatures known as letiche could be many things. Some stories claim letiche are spirits of babies who passed before being baptized, similar to lutins. Stories stemming from Native American legends say these creatures are actually human children who, for some reason, separated from their families and were raised by alligators in the swamps. Without human parents to teach the children the ways of humans, letiche adapted to be more like alligators. Legends claim letiche live in the waters of the bayou and enjoy making mischief by flipping over the boats of those who pass by.

***Like some other Cajun folklore creatures, lutins come from beliefs that originated in France. They are mischievous folk, often compared to imps or fairies, who like to play pranks and trick unsuspecting people. Legends claim they can control the weather, become invisible, and turn into animals. Lutins might cause property damage as they run through the bayous, hide objects and place them in different locations, and spoil perishable foods like cheese and milk. Stories claim a telltale sign a lutin has visited is waking to find your hair, or your horse’s mane, braided. As the stories of lutins passed from French into Cajun culture, people adapted them slightly. According to Cajun legend, lutins are actually the souls of children who passed before being baptized, forced to wander the Earth in limbo. This accounts for lutins’ childish prankster tendencies, but it also makes them seem a lot darker and more sinister than their impish French counterparts.

***Adapted from the French word for werewolf, “loup-garou,” rougarou roam the southeastern Louisiana bayous. These fearsome creatures resemble a wolf or dog and, according to French legend, enjoy kidnapping children, terrorizing homes, and committing other vile acts. People who moved from France to America brought the story of this creature with them, and it became part of Cajun legend. Stories claim people turn into rougarou due to a curse that can pass from person to person once blood is drawn. Although some locals believed rougarou were real, others took advantage of the terrifying story to scare their neighbors, especially children. Parents sometimes told children a rougarou would come carry them off if they didn’t behave or mind their elders. Religious people also used the idea of rougarou to scare Catholics into observing Lent. Stories claimed those who failed to abstain from temptations or fast during Lent would turn into rougarou themselves. According to stories, people can fend off rougarou by placing 13 objects outside their home since the creatures can’t count to 13 and become confused.

***In 1963, Harlan Ford became the first person to spot the creature that came to be known as the Honey Island Swamp Monster. Ford and a hunting buddy encountered the tall, hairy beast in a swamp as it stood over a boar carcass. They also noted large footprints around the area that featured three webbed toes with claws. Sightings of the alleged relative to Bigfoot continued to pop up and people gave the beast the nickname “Louisiana Wookie” thanks to its resemblance of the famous Star Wars character. According to one story that tried to explain the creature’s existence, a group of chimpanzees escaped from a circus train after it wrecked and bred with alligators to create an entirely new species. Considering witnesses have claimed the creature emitted a horrible odor, it’s possible they mistook a skunk ape for the Honey Island Swamp Monster.

***In the 1960s, Louisiana bayou residents discovered they were neighbors with yet another strange creature. After people pulled a car out of a swamp in Rapides Parish, they found something had devoured half the driver’s body. Suspicion immediately turned towards an unknown swamp creature and rumors circulated about a half-man half-alligator monster roaming the area. Locals named the creature the Parlangua, and according to stories, it soon made its way across the state. Fishermen and trappers claimed to see it hanging out in the southern part of Louisiana, and farmers blamed the creature for going after their livestock. What the difference is between a regular alligator causing chaos and eating cows and a man-shaped alligator doing to same isn’t clear, but it’s still pretty terrifying.


When Weird Darkness returns…

From building fake cities, to creating ghost army bases, to playing stupid in front of the enemy, we’ll look at some of the most cleverly deceptive tactics that have been used in war throughout history.

Plus… Chung Ling Soo was one of the greatest magicians of his time – so much so the he was able to not only conceal items up his sleeves, but conceal his true identity.
And… In 1974 five little girls disappeared in a span of just three months – two were later found deceased, but the remaining three have never been found. And the kidnapper and murderer has never been brought to justice… nor do we have any idea who it was.

These stories and more coming up.



In war, strategy is everything. A single well-executed maneuver can be the difference between victory and defeat. This was certainly the case with the Trojan Horse, a brilliant tactical move that allowed the Greeks to take control of Troy. But, while the story of the Trojan horse may be a thing of fiction, the use of wacky but clever ploys in war is not.

***Paris is a city rich with history that stretches back centuries. But during World War I, German bomber planes flying by night were an imminent threat to the iconic landmarks of the French capital. The French came up with a pretty ingenious plan to build a fake Paris replica out of wood and canvas, complete with lights, so that it would fool the German pilots at night. The decoy city would be located just outside the real Paris, and it would be designed to confuse and lure the German pilots away from their true target. Fortunately, the war ended shortly after construction began, so the plan was never fully realized. The story of the fake Paris is a reminder of the lengths that people will go to in times of war. It is also a testament to the power of human ingenuity and creativity, even in the face of adversity.

***Like France, German cities were also terrorized by nighttime air raids. In World War II, one German city called Konstanz, which sits near the border of Switzerland, was able to elude bombardment by refusing to turn out the lights after dark. In order to protect itself from nighttime air raids, German cities were forbidden from using any lights. Street lamps and buildings went dark, and citizens were not allowed to use candles and had to cover their windows with curtains or black paint. On the other hand, their Swiss neighbors—who were neutral in WWII and thus not targeted by the Allies—remained illuminated at night. By keeping their lights on, Konstanz was able to fool the Allied forces into thinking they were part of Switzerland and managed to make it through the war mostly unscathed.

***If you think deception is an art, then the U.S. Army took it to new heights during World War II. They went so far as to gather a team of artists and audio experts to create an elaborate phantom military unit of inflatable tanks and phony sound effects and radio transmissions to fool the Nazis. The 23rd Headquarters Special Troops, also known as the “Ghost Army,” was made up of around 1,100 soldiers who were tasked with creating lifelike dummy tanks, trucks, and artillery. They also played recorded sounds of battle to make it seem like there were more troops than there actually were. The bluff created a distraction that tied up enemy resources and preoccupied them with a military presence that wasn’t really there while the real Army maneuvered elsewhere.

***During the war of 1812, one town on the coast of Maryland managed to fool the British during a nighttime siege. St. Michaels was a shipbuilding town targeted by British forces approaching via the Miles River. When an attack by the British became imminent, the townspeople decided to take action. They placed lanterns in the treetops around the town, making it appear as though the town was at a higher elevation than it actually was. When the British rowed onto shore in the night, they were met with cannon fire by the Americans. This drove them back to their ships, from which they fired upon the town. Because they aimed at the lights in the trees they thought were windows and buildings, they ultimately shot over the town and failed to hit anything.

***The Gulf War was fought in the early 1990s as a coalition of forces from more than 30 countries sought to liberate Kuwait from Iraqi occupation. Before the first bombs fell on Baghdad in 1991, the U.S. military was engaged in a battle of wits with Saddam Hussein. The Iraqi dictator had invaded Kuwait and was dug in for a long occupation. In order to drive him out, the U.S.-led coalition needed to mount a surprise attack. But how could they keep Saddam guessing about their plans? The answer was Forward Operating Base Weasel, a secret military base set up for the purpose of deceiving the Iraqi leader. By sending out false radio signals, including recorded Egyptian radio traffic about the Americans and planting bogus intelligence, the coalition was able to convince Saddam that the main attack would come from the south when in reality, it would be coming from the west. It was a daring plan, and it worked like a charm. Thanks to the brave men and women at Forward Operating Base Weasel, Saddam was caught off guard when the real attack came, and his forces were quickly routed.

***Douglas Brent Hegdahl III was only twenty years old when he was taken captive by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. A Navy seaman, Hegdahl had been on a ship in the Gulf of Tonkin when he fell overboard and was picked up by a North Vietnamese fishing boat. Hegdahl was immediately taken prisoner and spent the next two years in captivity. During that time, he developed a deep understanding of the Vietnamese language and culture. However, he was able to fool his captors into thinking he was stupid and harmless. He exaggerated his country accent and expressed a fascination with communism. As a result, he was treated relatively well and was dubbed “the incredibly stupid one.” He was allowed to roam the POW camp freely and would secretly sabotage the Vietnamese by doing things like putting dirt in gas tanks to disable them. He was eventually released as part of a prisoner exchange. After returning to the United States, Hegdahl was tapped for his knowledge about the Vietnamese as part of negotiations for ending the war.

***A trap is only as good as its bait, and when it comes to luring in his enemies, Hannibal of Barca is a master angler. In 216 BC, the Carthaginian commander found himself and his army cornered in a valley in Campania. Unfortunately, his army was situated in a valley with Romans guarding the only way out—a mountain pass. Seeing no other way to escape, Hannibal took a herd of cattle and stampeded them toward the pass with flaming torches on their horns. The guards, thinking the cattle were Hannibal’s soldiers, rushed to confront them and his army safely slipped away under cover of night. It’s a story that has gone down in history as one of the most clever military maneuvers, and it’s a testament to Hannibal’s resourcefulness as a leader.

***In 1943, British intelligence came up with an outlandish plan to deceive the Nazis that sounds straight out of a spy flick. The plan, codenamed Operation Mincemeat, involved planting false documents on the body of a dead man and releasing the body into the sea off the coast of Spain. The corpse was that of a homeless man but was given a fake identity to pass off as a dead British officer. The hope was that the Germans would learn of the corpse and believe the contents of the phony documents attached to it. The plan was successful, and the Germans were led to believe that the Allies were going to invade Greece and Sardinia rather than Sicily. As a result, they diverted troops to these areas, which helped ensure the success of the Allied invasion of Sicily. Operation Mincemeat is now considered one of the most successful deceptions in military history.

***In World War I, the British and the Ottomans were embroiled in a slow, drawn-out battle in the trenches. Eventually, the British learned that the Ottomans had run out of cigarettes, at which point they sent packs to the enemy. However, the action was far from altruistic as they also attached propaganda in an attempt to demoralize and taunt their adversaries. The Ottomans willingly took the smokes but defiantly discarded the propaganda, showing no intention to surrender. The British prepared to raid the enemy but, before doing so, sent over more cigarettes, this time laced with opium. By the time the British launched their attack, it was an easy victory as their enemy was too strung out to put up much of a fight.

***Back in 525 BC, a war was waged between the Persians and Egyptians. In the battle of Pelusium, the battle-tested Persian leader Cambyses II was able to get the best of Egypt’s young inexperienced pharoah, Psametik III. In Egyptian culture, cats and other animals were held as sacred. Cambyses II knew this, and according to ancient accounts, he had his army show up to battle with images of cats painted on their shields. Additionally, Persian forces released a large number of cats, dogs, and sheep onto the frontlines. The Egyptians were fearful of causing harm to these animals and were so alarmed at the sight of Persian soldiers throwing cats at them that they fled in panic. As a result, many Egyptians were slain in the process, and the Persians were able to take control of Egypt with relative ease.


One of the most dangerous and daring illusions that a magician can attempt is the famed bullet catch trick. There are several variation to the trick, but it usually goes like this—the magician produces an old-fashioned muzzle-loading gun and proceeds to load it with gunpowder. He drops a bullet into the barrel and uses a ramrod to push the bullet up against the gunpowder. He then hands the gun to an assistant (or a member of the audience) and invites him to shoot at the magician. The assistant complies. But instead of dropping down dead, the magician apparently catches the bullet with his hand, or dramatically produce it from between his teeth.

As with anything involving guns, the illusion is extremely dangerous because it has the potential to go terribly wrong. Many magicians have lost their lives attempting to catch the bullet. One of the best documented instance of a performer being killed while performing the gun trick is Chung Ling Soo, who was shot dead when the firearm malfunctioned in London in 1918.

Despite his name, Chung Ling Soo was not Chinese, but an American born to Scottish parents. His real name was William Ellsworth Robinson. William’s father worked in traveling minstrel shows, performing hypnotism, impersonations, ventriloquism and magic tricks, all of which he taught his son.

Robinson performed his first magic show at the age of 14 and began performing professionally on the vaudeville circuit shortly thereafter. He initially performed under the name “Robinson, the Man of Mystery”, but later took on another stage name, “Achmed Ben Ali”, which closely resembled the stage name of German magician Max Auzinger, which was “Ben Ali Bey.” In fact, Robinson had copied not only the name but also his tricks, but as Auzinger never toured the United States, the resemblance went largely unnoticed at the time.

In 1898, a Chinese magician named Ching Ling Foo began touring the United States. He stunned the audience by pulling 15-foot-long poles from his mouth, and beheading his servant boys who then walked off the stage headless. One of his best-known tricks was to produce a huge bowl of water from out of an empty cloth, and then pull a small child from the bowl. To drum up publicity for his shows, Foo offered a prize of $1,000 to anyone who could successfully duplicate his water bowl illusion. Robinson claimed that he had figured out how the illusion worked. Fearing that Robinson would reveal the trick, Foo withdrew the challenge and refused to meet him, which upset Robinson.

Two years later, when Robinson heard that an agent was looking for a Chinese magician to perform at Paris, he created a new identity for himself. He put on Chinese attire, shaved his facial hair and wore his hair in a queue. He began to call himself Chung Ling Soo (a variation of Ching Ling Foo’s name). Robinson claimed that he was the son of a Scottish missionary who married a Cantonese woman. His story went that he was orphaned at 13 and raised by a Chinese magician, who taught him the secrets of Chinese magic tricks. Robinson never spoke onstage, claiming he spoke no English and always used an interpreter when he spoke to journalists. An American woman acted as his assistant, who also disguised herself as Soo’s Chinese wife, “Suee Seen”.

Robinson’s new persona became a hit and he quickly became a popular stage magician in Europe and eventually became one of the highest-paid performers on the vaudeville circuit.

In January 1905, Chung Ling Soo and Ching Ling Foo were performing in London at the same time—Soo at the Hippodrome and Foo at the Empire Theater. Foo was aware that Chung Ling Soo was actually William Robinson and that he had copied virtually Foo’s entire act. Sick of the imposter, Foo announced that he would duplicate at least half of Chung Ling Soo’s illusions to prove that he was the real “Original Chinese Conjurer”. But the press was not interested in Soo’s real identity. His act was as good as the original, and for the tabloids, it was all that mattered. Enduring public humiliation, Foo withdrew the challenge.

Soo’s most famous act, which he also stole from Foo and copied to near perfection, was “Condemned to Death by the Boxers.” In this trick, Soo’s assistants appeared on stage dressed as members of the Chinese secret society known as the Yihequan (“Righteous and Harmonious Fists”) or, as the English called them, “Boxers”. Several members of the audience were called upon the stage to mark a bullet that was loaded into a muzzle-loaded gun. The gun was then fired at Soo, who appeared to catch the bullet from the air and drop it into a plate. An audience member would inspect the bullet and declare that it was the same bullet that was marked and dropped into the barrel. In reality, the marked bullet never went into the gun but was slipped into Soo’s palm. What went into the muzzle was a substitute. The gun was also specially built to have two chambers, one that was loaded and the empty chamber below, which was ignited.

On March 23, 1918, while performing at the Wood Green Empire in London, Soo’s modified gun misfired and the bullet struck his lung. He fell to the ground and exclaimed, “Oh my God. Something’s happened. Lower the curtain,” speaking in English for the first time in public since he adopted his Chinese persona. He died the following day.

After Soo’s death, his true identity was revealed and the public was shocked to learn that he was not Chinese, although many professional magicians already knew that. A year before Soo’s death, magician Will Goldston commented in an interview that the public did not question Soo’s identity because “he has always presented to the public that which they like and not which he might prefer.”

Christopher Priest’s book The Prestige, and later its movie adaptation by Christopher Nolan, might have been inspired by the rivalry between Chung Ling Soo and Ching Ling Foo. In fact, Chung Ling Soo is a character in the film played by Chinese-born actor Chao Li Chi, and is seen producing a large bowl of water from a cloth—a trick made famous by Ching Ling Foo. Unfortunately for Nolan, he too fell for Soo’s ruse attributing the classic illusion to the imposter rather than to the original creator.


Jacksonville, Florida. 1974. With a population of slightly more than 500,000 souls, murders were not rare, but the abduction and killing of pre-teen children was almost unheard of. Then, within the space of three months, as summer edged into fall, five children went missing. Two were later discovered deceased, three were never found. Cops had little evidence. Investigators couldn’t figure out if there was one serial killer, two serial killers, or several random murderers. After after all these years the crimes have still not been solved.

It started with nine-year-old Jean “Jeanie” Marie Schoen. On July 21, 1974, the child walked to Hannah’s Food Store on the corner of Pearl Street and 19th Street, just two blocks from her home. Her uncle had given her money to buy him a pack of cigarettes. Jeanie sported blonde hair, green eyes, and a missing front tooth. She loved life and wore a perpetual smile. After Jeanie purchased the cigarettes, she decided to walk to “The Hangout,” a nearby arcade store.

Once there, she found the manager mopping the floor. He directed her to leave until it dried. Jeanie found one of her playmates and they wandered to a nearby laundromat.

After fifteen minutes, her mother, concerned that Jeanie hadn’t returned, sent Jeanie’s brother to locate her. He came back empty-handed, so she directed her own brother (the uncle who had sent her out for tobacco) to look for Jeanie. He also found no trace of the girl.

The family never saw Jeanie again.

At the laundromat, things spun out of control. Her friend claimed she saw a man grab Jeanie and force her into the rest room. She and the stranger came out a few minutes later and Jeanie was crying. The stranger then picked her up, propped her onto the seat of his bicycle, and pedaled off. Within seconds, the two had vanished.

Witnesses described the kidnapper as a white male, with blondish hair styled like Elvis Presley.

A weird story. Whoever heard of using a bicycle to abduct a child? Yet witnesses confirmed the incident.

Jeanie’s broken-hearted mother, Pam Schoen, searched for her lost child until she died. “I don’t have life or death,” she told reporters. She stated that never knowing what happened to her baby was the hardest part of living. She died at age 57, still hoping…

A week and a half later, on August 1, Lillian Annette Anderson, 11, and her sister, Mylette Josephine Anderson, 6, vanished from their residence, never to be seen again. Like the earlier abduction of Jeanie Schoen, bizarre elements of the case stymied detectives. Annette and Mylette had been left home alone while their mother and older sister went to check on a sick relative. Their father, Jack, a commercial fisherman, was at work.

Jack called the house at 7:00 p.m. and spoke to the girls. He told them his outboard had stopped working and he planned to fix it before coming home. Jack heard the dog barking in the background, but the girls told him everything was fine. Concerned, he called back at 7:20. However, his daughters did not answer. When he arrived home a few minutes later, the girls weren’t there.

Jack found the dog locked in a back bedroom. The only thing missing (other than the girls) was a doll Mylette carried everywhere. Detectives suspected the sisters were snatched in that 20-minute window between calls.

The Pumpkin Hill area where the Anderson family lived was rural. An old cemetery, dotted with washed-out gravestones, sat behind the house, but most of the area was wooded. Hundreds of searchers combed the surrounding forests and swamps for days, but never found a clue.

Jack and Elizabeth Anderson barely survived the aftermath. Grief, guilt, and loss tormented them until they died. They never found out what happened to their beloved daughters.

September 27, 1974. Virginia Suzanne Helm disappeared. On October 2, 1974, pine-cone hunters found her body partially buried in a wooded area near Beachwood and Beach Boulevard. Virginia had been shot in the head with a .22-caliber bullet. Although she wore only a blouse when found, the coroner stated he saw “no sign of rape.” A sheriff’s department spokesperson informed reporters that child molesters don’t always rape their victims. He called it the “sexual pervert theory.”

Virginia had walked to a convenience store to buy soap for her mother. The store was just two blocks from her home. She never returned.

Three days after Virginia disappeared, a couple driving on New King’s Road spied a red Volkswagen bug beside the highway. They stopped to offer help and saw a disturbing sight. According to newspaper accounts, “The couple got out of the car to see if the man driving needed help. They noticed a young girl in the backseat of the car. The girl’s knees were on the floorboard and her hands were on the seat as if she was trying to get up. Her pupils were dilated and she was looking back and forth rapidly and she appeared to be scared.”

The car roared away so fast the couple could not get the license tag number. They contacted investigators and told them they were sure the girl was Virginia. Deputies flooded the area with patrol cars, but never found the red VW.

After Virginia’s remains were located, lawmen conducted a determined search of the area, hoping to locate the other missing children. Their searches came up empty.

Virginia’s killer has never been identified.

On October 16, twelve-year-old Rebecca Ann Greenewent missing after having walked to a neighborhood food store five blocks away from her home. A clerk told cops she had seen Rebecca purchase several soft drinks, then leave out a side door. On her way home, however, the auburn-haired, blue-eyed girl vanished into thin air.

Three years later, a skeleton washed up on the shore of Little St. George Island, in the mouth of the St. John’s River. A picnicker spotted the remains among driftwood and seaweed. Duval County Medical Examiner Dr. Peter Lipkovic identified the remains as Rebecca. According to a story in the Fort Myers News-Press, “Lipkovic said he is still unable to determine the girl’s cause of death. By the looks of the bones, he said, the girl had been dead for six months to several years.”

The coroner scoured her remains for clues, finding a single foreign hair.

Like the parents of the other missing girls, Ed and Reba Greene were devastated by the loss of their daughter. They moved to Georgia but never stopped looking for her. The News-Press reported that “members of the Greene family were certain about a year ago they had located Rebecca when they were watching the telecast of a church revival in North Carolina and saw a girl in the audience who looked like Rebecca.” Investigators determined the girl at the revival was not Rebecca.

Throughout the decades, much speculation has centered on various suspects in these murders.

A serial murderer named John Paul Knowles confessed to abducting and killing Mylette and Annette Anderson. While it has been confirmed that he committed at least 18 murders in the southeastern United States, cops said his confession to the sisters’ killings was dubious since he did not know all the facts. A few years later, Knowles was shot to death during an escape attempt.

Theodore Bundy has been named as a possible suspect, but no evidence was ever found to corroborate his involvement.

In October of 1974, a man driving a pickup truck snatched a seven-year-old girl. He took the child to a remote area in the woods and fondled her. Then he severely beat her and left the girl for dead. Somehow, she survived and found her way out of the dark forest by following a power transmission line.

Earl Taylor Higginbotham was convicted of the kidnapping and assault of the young girl. Investigators did everything possible to connect their suspect to the five previous abductions and murders, but concluded he was innocent of those crimes. Higginbotham died in prison.

What happened during that murder season?

Will we ever know?


When Weird Darkness returns…

In the mountains of Jackson County in North Carolina lies a large mysterious rock covered in petroglyphs that have yet to be deciphered. For the Cherokee Indians, the rock and surrounding area is a sacred site where ceremonies used to take place. Indeed, Judaculla Rock is surrounded by rumors and legends, including strange sounds and UFO sightings during the night.

But first, photographs of strange orblike objects are more common than any other photos purported to be ghosts, aliens, or cryptids. But what exactly are these orbs? A trick of the light… or could they be alive? That story is up next.



People around the world make photographs of something very strange – a phenomenon called “orbs”.

Orbs exist, but where do they come from? Are they energy beings? Do they come from outside of physical reality?

Although there are many theories of their original source, the orb phenomenon has not yet been fully explained.

We do not know what the nature of the orb is. Whether they are ghosts, aliens, angels, or perhaps energy beings we know nothing about. The phenomenon is so widespread that it raises a lot of interest among both scientists and ordinary people.

The first orbs were observed in flash photography at the beginning of the 20th century and they were thought to be the film’s illumination or camera defects.

It turned out, however, that the cameras were getting better all the time and the orbs were coming out all the time.

According to the most popular theory says, the small, translucent spheres of light visible in the photographs are manifestations of ghosts.

The appearance of these orbs is accompanied by a mysterious change in the electromagnetic field that can be measured with an EMF sensor. Created unconsciously, they are “thrown out” when trying to contact a human to whom they remain invisible.

Interestingly, they are perfectly seen by animals, and cats are especially sensitive to their presence.

Photographs of orbs are usually made in cemeteries or places deemed haunted, they also appear in pictures of funerals, weddings and family celebrations of a spiritual, meditative nature. Most often, however, we see them on random photos.

According to some observations, they appear to announce death or tragedy. The orbs are seen on pictures taken shortly before death, and most often they cover the face of the photographed person. The closer to the date of death, the stain is stronger and clearer.

Another theory suggests the orbs are energy balls of unknown origin and based on research, their activity increases in the vicinity of crop circles. There seems to be a very strong connection between genuine crop circles and ley lines. Is it possible that energy generated by crop circles also attract orbs for some unknown reason?

Some researchers say orbs show signs of intelligence and want to contact us; other proponents argue that small, bright globes are nothing but angels who take care of us and are linked to healing processes.

Orbs penetrate through matter – with equal ease to pass through a human being as well as through the wall. They are not visible to the naked eye; they can only be seen through the lens.’

The nature of the orbs was also taken by serious physicists such as Stanford University Prof. William Tiller and Prof. Klaus Heinemann, Ph.D. in experimental physics from the University of Tübingen, Germany.

According to Heinemann: “There is no doubt in my mind that the orbs may well be one of the most significant ‘outside of this reality’ phenomena mankind has ever witnessed.”

Will they prove one day that the non-material world exists?

Orb expert Prof. Heinemann has photographed the orbs not only in relation to spiritual events but he also found “appearances of orbs in more common-place situations of life. Some experiments were directed to yield more information about their speed of motion, expansion and contraction, intelligence, the mechanism of light emission, and differentiation between photographs of light spirits (orbs) and dark spirits. Particularly, attempts of 3-D (stereo) photography of orbs yielded interesting and unexpected results.”

Cognitive scientist Donald Hoffman, University of California has suggested we live in a conceptual prison” and only see glimpses of reality. Hoffman argues that we only see what is necessary for our survival. If he is correct, orbs could very well exist in our world, only we don’t see them very often because they are unimportant in our daily lives, until someone dies and that’s when they manifest themselves and we can perceive this mysterious phenomenon.

Can biocentrism, Robert Lanza’s theory of everything shed more light on the orb phenomenon? According to the Biocentrism theory that is based on ideas of quantum physics, life and biology are the central pieces to being, reality and the cosmos. It explains how life creates the universe rather than the other way around.

The possibility has been speculated that our energy can transcend from one world to another… with some believing death is simply an illusion and that we continue to live in another dimension. As some already know, the multiverse is a theory in which our universe is not the only one, but states that many universes exist parallel to each other. These distinct universes within the multiverse theory are called parallel universes.

Could orbs be energy beings that reside in either a parallel universe, another dimension or an invisible world next to our own? Could this explain why these entities manifest themselves to us only occasionally?

There are no solid answers to these questions because there is still so much we don’t know about the nature of our reality…


In the mountains of Jackson County in North Carolina lies a large mysterious rock covered in petroglyphs that have yet to be deciphered. For the Cherokee Indians, the rock and surrounding area is a sacred site where ceremonies used to take place. Indeed, Judaculla Rock is surrounded by rumors and legends, including strange sounds and UFO sightings during the night.

According to Cherokee oral tradition, in ancient times Judaculla was a slant-eyed giant with seven fingers who lived in the mountainous area, and the stone was his territorial marker. They believed the seven-digit claw marks are his hand prints and a long, straight line drawn on the rock was a boundary: cross that, and they were impeding onto his hunting territory.

The name Judaculla means “he has them slanting” or the “slant-eyed giant,” and the Cherokee attributed him with superhuman strength and capabilities like flying or teleporting from mountaintop to mountaintop. Legend had it that Judaculla was even capable of controlling the wind, rain, thunder and lightning.

The Cherokee believed that Judaculla was able to take ordinary people to the spirit world and was able to communicate with people. It appears to be a similar type of god-like creature as the ones mentioned in all mythologies around the world.

The Judaculla rock can be found just 6 miles (9.66 km) from Cullowhee, an anglicized form of Judaculla-whee, meaning “Judaculla’s Place.” The stone itself is a curvilinear-shaped outcrop of soapstone rock with more than 1,500 petroglyphs all over it. The symbols are tightly packed together and include many stick-like figures, two strange seven-digit hand/claw prints, thousands of cup marks , as well as many other carvings. It measures about 22 meters squared (240 sq ft).

The petroglyphs probably date back to between 2000 and 3000 BC and during digging around the stone, quarry tools were discovered. No other stones in the area were found with similar markings, making the stone even more mysterious. The site has been included on the National Register of Historic Places.

Theories about the content of the petroglyphs on the rock are abundant. They span from maps to religious symbols with a secret message, or just graffiti made by ancient people. The rock art may represent animals or humans or other figures of importance. Recently a team of scientists used laser-guided equipment in order to create a detailed view of the Judaculla Rock for studying it. Unfortunately, the weather has started corroding the rock and the symbols will gradually disappear since the rock is ­­open to the weather.

Medium reported that in 1945, the Cherokee Chief Blythe believed “the rock carvings to be a record of a peace treaty between the Cherokee and the Catawbas.” Other theories include the petroglyphs representing a “game conservation law,” picture map of a battle or even the record of a treaty. Nevertheless, the ubiquitous gaggle of pseudo-science sleuths is never far behind.

Many rumors and legends surround the mysterious rock including strange sounds and UFO appearances. Stories abound about ghost sounds around Judaculla Rock during the night, which Atlas Obscura claims are “made spookier by the location of a cemetery a few hundred feet away.”

Unfortunately, for the time being the secret meanings of the Judaculla rock will remain locked. In the meantime, a silent battle is taking place to protect the site from over tourism and to define the true meaning of the site. Some theories even claim that the site is surrounded by electromagnetic anomalies, adding to the enigma of Judaculla rock.

In fact, America Unearthed from the History Channel made a “documentary” about Judaculla Rock back in 2014, much to the dismay of local experts and custodians who opposed the access approved by the county, who have owned the site since the 1960s. “Already, some groups have placed online absurdities about Judaculla and the Rock, encouraging visits to the Rock by some weird or unstable folks,” wrote Keith Parker, whose family owned the Judaculla rock site for decades, in an email at the time to the county in protest at them being allowed to film at the ancient site, reported Smokey Mountain News .

Adding to the mystery, across the Atlantic, within the rolling green hills of Scotland, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of stones engraved with identical cup marks and cup and ring motifs as those evidenced on the Judaculla Rock . This has led some to wonder how it’s possible that somebody in the distant past carved the same motifs on separate continents?

These theories have angered the Cherokee population. “From the Cherokee perspective, Judaculla Rock is a cultural validation of who we are as a people,” wrote Dr. Tom Belt, a Cherokee culture and language expert at Western Carolina University to the county in protest to filming by the History Channel , reported Smokey Mountain News . “Correct and conscientious stewardship of these gifts is a moral responsibility to those who have passed and to those yet to come.”


Up next… in 1971 children from all over the United States were being rushed into hospital emergency rooms with a very strange symptom… what was causing otherwise healthy children to create pink poop?



The year was 1971. The New York Times had begun printing the Pentagon Papers: the truth was out about the Vietnam war. The Walt Disney Theme Park opened in Florida, Pakistan and India had gone to war and The Soviet Union sent its first space station into low Earth orbit.

Meanwhile, a pandemic was spreading across the United States, apparently targeting children. Healthy seeming kids were being rushed to emergency rooms across the country in droves, all with one symptom in common: pink poop.

Hospitals were being inundated with parents requesting that their children’s stools be tested. Medical professionals were very worried that this unusual symptom was a sign of rectal bleeding or possibly worse, internal bleeding.

What was happening to these children?

Recognizing the potential severity of the situation, the Journal of Paediatrics began a study on the strange phenomenon, catchily titled the “Benign Red Pigmentation of Stool Resulting from Food Coloring in a New Breakfast Cereal” case study. They observed the daily life of a twelve-year-old boy who had been admitted to the hospital with pink poop but, after running a battery of tests, physician John V. Payne, who was running the study, was baffled by the inconclusive results.

In a last-ditch attempt, they cleared the digestive tract of the boy and then fed him four bowls of popular children’s cereal at the time. “The stool had no abnormal odor but looked like strawberry ice cream,” reported Dr. Payne. The culprit, Franken Berry cereal, was finally apprehended. Upon discovering the study was renamed ‘Franken Berry Stool’.

Once parents’ minds were put at ease that their children weren’t experiencing internal bleeding doctors turned their attention to the question of what had caused the pink-hued poop, and whether it was potentially harmful. General Mills, the manufacturer of the cereal, had been using Red Dye No.2 which was the name given to amaranth, a synthetic food dye. Amaranth was in fact the most commonly used food dye at the time.

Having only been placed on the market a few weeks earlier, General Mills swiftly switched out Red No. 2 for Red Dye No. 40 in their cereal, in an effort to avoid a public scandal. Evidently, they weren’t the only ones fearing a public backlash.

Mars, the producers of M&M chocolates, removed the red-colored M&Ms for almost ten years. The funny part was that the popular chocolate candies didn’t in fact contain any traces of Red Dye No.2 but in the eyes of the general public, any food dyed red might pose a health hazard so the food company couldn’t take the risk.

That same year in February a Russian study examining the long-term effects of Red Dye No.2 yielded very alarming results. Scientists tested the dye on rats who apparently went on to develop tumors. The FDA dismissed this study as being flawed, though they were not one hundred percent sure that the artificial compound was without potential health risks. Airing on the side of caution, the FDA removed Red Dye No.2 from the list of dyes safe for consumption, effectively banning it.

Since the start of the 20th century, the United States had begun to address the lawlessness in food production and food safety. An eye-opening food study, dubbed “The Poison Squad Trials” revealed many toxic chemicals that were being used in food production, and the FDA had no choice but to address the issue. The “Pure Food and Drug Act” of 1906 saw the first of many sizeable overhauls in food regulations.

The new legislation had banned 80 dyes that were commonly used in the production of confectionaries and edibles, some of which were also being used to dye clothes. Overall, seven colors were given the thumbs up by the FDA as safe to use, and Red Dye No. 2 was one of the seven deemed “safe”.

Evidently they were mistaken, but this was not the first time the 1906 list needed to be revised. The pink poop scandal rang similar to a minor crisis that unfolded on Halloween in 1950, where a number of unsuspecting children fell very ill after eating orange candy containing a mere two percent of FD&C Orange No. 1 food dye.

The following year the FDA was forced to do a complete review of all color additives used in food. After extensive re-evaluation, “The Color Additive Amendments of 1960” provided a guide as to what was deemed as “suitable and safe” for consumption.

Alarmingly about 200 additives that had been in circulation were placed on this list, and were suddenly deemed unsafe. In order to be labeled as safe, they would need to go through more rigorous testing. If the company could not establish that they were harmless they would have to find a safe alternative.

But this was not the first case of a cereal causing the usual color changes in children’s poop. General Mill released Booberry cereal in December 1972, which was colored blue, the same color as the ghost printed on the front of the cereal box.

Booberry used Blue Dye No. 1, a food additive that is currently banned in FranceNorway, and Finland. It had the same effect as its red-colored predecessor as it changed consumers’ poop green. The only difference is that green poop doesn’t appear as alarming as red poop,and this is perhaps why it was allowed to pass.

The pink poop scandal was one of a few events that occurred that helped point a finger at the FDA’s loose food safety laws and the need for a massive overhaul. Since then, more strict laws have been put in place around food safety in the USA and now 75% of the die used in cereals today are natural.

However, in Canada and the UK Red Dye No. 2 can still be found in cereals and other confectionaries. Will they ever ban this potentially harmful chemical, or will it take another pink poop pandemic to bring about change?


Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at darren@weirddarkness.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and 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 in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.

“The Magician Who Lived a Double Life” by Kaushik Patowary for Amusing Planet

“The Indecipherable Judaculla Rock” by John Black for Ancient Origins Unleashed

“Swamp Legends of Louisiana” by Erin McCann for Graveyard Shift

“The Pink Poop Pandemic” by Roisin Everard for Historic Mysteries

“The Jacksonville Kidnappings” by Robert A. Waters for Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem

“Brilliant Wartime Deceptions” by Jetta for ListVerse

“Could Ghost Orbs Be Living Energy Beings?” by A. Sutherland for Message To Eagle

WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, 2023.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” – Isaiah 55:8-9

And a final thought… “There’s no competition when you create something only you can create.”

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



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