“DEMONIC TERRORS OF SLEEP PARALYSIS” and More True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“DEMONIC TERRORS OF SLEEP PARALYSIS” and More True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““DEMONIC TERRORS OF SLEEP PARALYSIS” and More True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: It feels like a demon trapping you inside your own body. For some, it’s a faceless entity trying to suffocate them. For others, it’s a creepy old witch with long, dirty claws. Others believe it’s alien abduction, and some even see the face of dead relatives during these attacks. However it happens, whatever is seen or felt, whatever the truth of the phenomenon may be… sleep paralysis is always terrifying. (Stories of Sleep Paralysis) *** It was the single most destructive fire in American history, on October 8, 1871 a large portion of the midwest burned to the ground… but this wasn’t the Great Chicago Fire. (The Great Peshtigo Fire) *** You could say their story is a long and fishy tail… mermaids have been in folklore and myths throughout history, and with stories of them being found worldwide. (Mermaid Mythology) *** (Originally aired January 09, 2024)

“Stories of Sleep Paralysis” by Christoper Shultz for Ranker: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yckmrapk; and US Ghost Adventures: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/72p3x994
“The Great Peshtigo Fire” by Troy Taylor from the book “And Hell Followed With It”: https://amzn.to/3HdyOci
“Mermaid Mythology” by Louise Pryke for The Conversation: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p9bzzsx

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Picture it — you’re sound asleep, deep in slumber when it happens: you wake up, completely paralyzed, a menacing presence hanging over you, crushing weight on your chest. Perhaps you can see a creature in your room, a dark mass on your bed, or, as some describe it, an ‘old hag’ sitting on your chest. Sleep paralysis demons, they say, have entered your home!

Horrified, you try and scream, but you can’t. This evil entity is holding you down — the only way out of this is through, and you have to lie there in complete horror until this being decides to go away.

I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.


Welcome, Weirdos – 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…

It was the single most destructive fire in American history, on October 8, 1871 a large portion of the midwest burned to the ground… but this wasn’t the Great Chicago Fire. (The Great Peshtigo Fire)

You could say their story is a long and fishy tail… mermaids have been in folklore and myths throughout history, and with stories of them being found worldwide. (Mermaid Mythology)

It feels like a demon trapping you inside your own body. For some, it’s a faceless entity trying to suffocate them. For others, it’s a creepy old witch with long, dirty claws. Others believe it’s alien abduction, and some even see the face of dead relatives during these attacks. However it happens, whatever is seen or felt, whatever the truth of the phenomenon may be… sleep paralysis is always terrifying. (Stories of Sleep Paralysis)

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!


Sleep paralysis is a fairly common occurrence that afflicts many people. It is most commonly explained as a feeling of being paralyzed while lying in bed, during which time auditory and visual hallucinations might also occur. Some people see human-like figures or even creatures and hear voices or other strange, unsettling sounds. Far more intense than your average nightmare, sleep paralysis experiences can deeply terrify and disturb sufferers.

Samuel Johnson coined the original definition of sleep paralysis in his book A Dictionary of the English Language as ‘nightmare,’ a term that evolved into our modern definition. In Old English, the name for these sleep paralysis demons was mare, from a Proro-Germanic maron and Old Norse mara. Hence the ‘mare’ part of the word nightmare.

Different cultures have different explanations for sleep paralysis demons.

***Canadian Inuit Folklore: Sleep paralysis demons are attributed to the spells of shamans.

***Japanese Folklore: A vengeful spirit that suffocates enemies in their sleep.

***Fijian Folklore: In Fiji, the experience is interpreted as kana tevoro or being ‘eaten’ by a demon. In many cases, the demon can be the spirit of a recently dead relative who has come back to some unfinished business.

***Eastern Chinese Folklore: It is thought that a mouse can steal human breath at night. Human breath strengthens the mouse, allowing it longevity and the ability to become human at night. The mouse sits near a person’s face or under their nostrils, stealing their air.

***Mongolian Culture: Nightmares in general and sleep paralysis are referred to by the phrase ‘khar darakh,‘ which means ‘to be pressed by the Black, or when the Dark presses.’

***Brazilian Folklore: The demon has a name in Brazilian folklore, Pisadeira, which is Portuguese for ‘she who steps.’ She’s a crone with long fingernails who lurks on rooftops at night and then walks on the chests of people who sleep belly up on a full stomach.

***The United States: During the Salem Witch Trials, several people reported nighttime attacks by various alleged witches, including Bridget Bishop, that may have been caused by sleep paralysis. In many parts of the Southern United States, the phenomenon is known as a hag, or old hag, and the event is said to tell of an approaching tragedy or accident, a bad omen, if you will.

Across cultures and centuries, the strange sensation of sleep paralysis has been described. Even back in 1664, a Dutch physician published a case of a woman with sleep paralysis — he stated that the Devil lay upon her and held her down. Countless other cultures have stories of these happenings.

Are these demons real? For some, yes. The paralysis is real. It’s called sleep paralysis, and the phenomenon of seeing something while experiencing sleep paralysis is also real. It’s called a hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucination. These hallucinations occur when you wake up during the dream phase of sleep. During this period, your brain turns off the signals to the rest of your body to keep it from moving or acting out your dreams.

Vivid dream-like experiences, referred to as hypnagogic or hypnopompic hallucinations, can seem real and are often frightening. They may be mistaken for nightmares, which can occur while falling asleep (hypnagogic) or waking up (hypnopompic).

During these hallucinations, you may see scary people or creatures near you or even lie in your bed. And they’re often accompanied by sleep paralysis.

These hallucinations can happen if you’re partially conscious during the REM cycle of sleep. In that state, you’re looking at the real world but also dreaming — the perfect recipe for seeing things that aren’t there.

It’s estimated that anywhere from 1.7 to 40 percent of people experience sleep paralysis, but not everyone experiences the ‘demons’ that come along with it.

While there are ways to avoid sleep paralysis, it cannot always be avoided. It’s said that keeping a regular sleep schedule, not eating right before bed, and not sleeping on your back are a few ways to avoid a visit from a hag, demon, or hallucination.

While science can explain the phenomenon, many people (yours truly included) believe that the paralysis is caused by an otherworldly entity — an evil spirit out to cause fear and harm.

Now let’s hear from some of those who have lived through the nightmare of sleep paralysis…


***From Redditor /u/Hoobshanker: “I’ve had quite a few, from just feelings of a presence to a full blown figure. Sometimes there are voices, sometimes it is dead silent. But the masked man was in another league of bone chilling. It started with me wake up to a deep throated chuckling. Having been one of my later expierences of sleep paralysis, I knew immediately that it was that. I resigned myself to another sleepless creepy night, when the door opened. A man stepped through, in a mask as red as blood. The mask itself was demonic in nature, with big under fangs, like a boar’s, with unnatural, outlandish twist and turns in the cheeks, and a deep set wrinkled brow. But the worse part were they eyes. His violet serpentine eyes bulged out of the mask, they looked like they were about to pop. He was wearing a rich colored brown robe, with a hood pulled up covering the rest of his head, drawing all attention to the mask, and those dreadful eyes. He pulled a squirming burlap sack behind him, and he stopped when he got to the foot of my bed. He stared at me for a long moment, and then reached in the bag. One by one, he pulled everyone I had ever loved, cared about, or considered a friend. Each time he pulled them out he positioned them so I was looking directly into their eyes. And he took his hand, a gnarled bony thing, with skin drawn so tight it looked as if he had none at all, and drew his long sharp nail across their throats spilling torrents of blood at my feet. I had to watch the life drain out of the eyes of everyone I had ever truly known, and deep in those eyes I could terror mixing with pity in each and everyone of them. And only after his bag was empty did he let it drop and he began walking around my bed. He stopped as he towered over me. Leaning down he reached to me and gently stroked my face with his blood stained nail. With his other hand he reached and pulled off his mask. I cannot honestly put it into words what I saw beneath that mask, it was an ever changing face of horror, it twisted and squirmed and never remained still for long, and each facial reconstruction was more terrifying than the last. As I looked into his violet serpentine eyes he spoke to me. I still remember the words well enough to quote them verbadim, but as they were profoundly disturbing and personal in nature I do not care to repeat them to anyone. But the last thing he said was, ‘Enjoy the time you have left, because soon your life will be mine, and your soul as well’ And he said this his face finally settled onto a single form. It was my own face.”

***From Redditor /u/godWEENsatan: “This happened when i was 6, 20 years ago, and I still remember it vividly because I haven’t gone more that a couple months without replaying it back in my head. I remember waking up from a creepy dream, and lying in bed for a minute. Then my mom opened the door and I could see her silhouette. Was she there to comfort me possibly? She didn’t say anything. She then eerily waddled (hobbled?) into my room, and started looking a little more creepy. She looked a little like a creature from Where the Wild Things Are. I could only see the dark outline of her body and head, but her hair appeared messy and her head looked larger than normal. I was on the top bunk (my baby sister was asleep below). My mom stood at my bed – her head was about level with my own. She stood there for a minute at the side of my bunkbed, and I could begin to sense that things were weird. She then reached out and started tickling me a little. I wasn’t freaked out quite yet. Then I began to feel uncomfortable, but the tickling intensified. She began grunting quietly, almost as if she was murmuring something. Finally i was trying to tell her to stop, but of course, words were impossible to form. The tickling intensified until she was scratching and jabbing and digging at my torso. By then the grunting had eventually grown into a deep growling and howling. I couldn’t move or make any noise. WHY WOULDN’T MY LITTLE SISTER WAKE UP AND HELP ME?! Scariest thing that’s ever happened to me.”

***From Redditor /u/Jellybeanskittle: “I suffered a terrible accident involving being kicked in the face by a horse, which resulted in my jaw being broken. Two plates and a wired jaw later. I was pretty hangry and exhausted.  I’d suffered from sleep paralysis before but nothing to the extent after this accident. It occurred every night, sometimes multiple times, for months on end. We have a mirrored wardrobe next to our bed, my side of course, and I keep the bedroom door open. Quite often I would be just falling off to sleep when I would feel the dread wash over me followed by the feeling of someone being in the room. I would then feel like something was pulling me off of the bed by arm, towards the mirror – then the nightmares progressed to being dragged off the bed by my back. All whilst feeling choked, unable to scream or move, unable to get my husbands attention, who lay next to me. Extremely unnerving and upsetting, to the point I would fear sleep. My husband told me that I’d been sleep walking and I had no recollection of this. He’d found me in the hallway a few times … really upsetting. After a post on Reddit, it was suggested that we cover the mirror. It did help curb the amount of experiences for a while until I returned to work, etc. where the nightmares lessened.  Recently, the sleep paralysis has returned but interestingly, so have my daily headaches and migraines. I am able to sometimes let out a sound (whilst trying to scream!) which my husband then is able to wake me out of it.  My most recent experience has been of a black figure (think person covered head to toe in skin tight, black lycra) who is trying to drag me from the bed by face … incredibly frightening. In this state, it feels like it is almost in slow motion and I am trying to crawl my fingers across the bed to my husband to wake him but it is impossible.  I find it interesting that most of us who experience this, tell of the same figure, etc.”

***From Redditor /u/AmNotCrab: “I have only had one experience and it was terrifying. I woke up in the middle of the night and had the usual symptoms. However I was sleeping facing the door which was open. An old lady in full black appeared and stared at me for what felt like an hour. Finally before I regained motion the woman screamed and lunged at me and I woke up.”

***From a former Redditor: “I almost only have them when I sleep on my back during the night, so the most terrifying time was when I slept on my chest during the daylight hours on my couch in the living room. I thought that it was a coward that only came in the dark of the night, but it came back to prove me wrong. Every single incident was at night except this one. My wife and I were arguing on the way home from church, and she took the kids to her mothers for the day so we could both calm down. I chose to take a nap laying on my chest with my head turned to the left away from the sunlight from my living room windows. I awoke around 2 pm unable to move, only this time I felt that my right leg was slightly elevated. Each of my experiences beforehand were different in that I was being held down and choked by a dark silhouette, I would try to yell, but nothing would come out. I would panic, and begin to pray, and then it would let me go and leave. This time though, it dragged me off the couch and was yanking me violently with my face down in broad daylight where I could not see it. I truly thought this thing was finally going to kill me. I’m a 33-year-old man in good health who isn’t scared easily, but in that moment I thought I would never see my children again. I prayed that God would protect me, and He did. A veil of darkness lifted from the room, from where I was on the floor I could see the sunlight from the window shift forward several inches. There was a hand print on my ankle from where it grabbed me and dragged me, it had five fingers like the hands of a man. I had a large terrier mix at the time and he was clawing at the back door and growling like I had never heard him do before. I let him in the house and he was snarling and baring his teeth running from room to room chasing something that I could not see, but had heavy footprints on my wooden floor. I watched my dog chase after this thing to the corner of my yard and it wasn’t until he came back that I realized my dog almost clawed halfway through a 2″ thick wooden door trying to get in to protect me. I blessed my home with oil that same day and I haven’t had trouble since. That was in 2012. My dog passed … a year later of old age, but I got my girls a Rhodesian Ridgeback named Jax and he sleeps in their room every night. I’d rather he be there with them if this thing ever returns.”

***From Redditor /u/black_feather: “My first experience was in junior high and has continued to sporadically occur throughout my life (I’m 25 now). The worst experience I’ve ever had happened after I graduated high school and moved into my grandfather’s old house after he passed …. I had a couple of roommates who were out and I decided to take an afternoon nap. I knew as soon as I shut my eyes what was going to happen but I never could have imagined how intense it would be. The music I had playing in the background began to morph until it was nothing but the sound of unknown voices screaming and crying in pain. I had fallen asleep on my side, facing a pair of doors leading into my walk-in closet which slowly began to creak open and give me a glimpse of complete darkness surrounding a pair of ruby eyes staring gleefully at me. As the doors continued to open inch by inch, the piercing cries intensified and I was able to pick out the word ‘Hell’ being repeatedly screamed. I managed to jerk myself out of it just before the doors opened halfway and I wasted no time bolting out of bed to the safety of my front yard. Feeling the sun on my skin and seeing the neighbor’s kids playing in the street had never felt so good.”

***From a former Redditor: “It happened once in my sister’s room. I was lying on my back and noticed a dark figure jumping from wall to wall. Alone, it wasn’t the most terrifying experience. I have sleep paralysis often so I didn’t even bother telling anyone else. The next week I was sitting at the table with my sister and she told me she had a weird dream (her first time with sleep paralysis) and she described the exact figure in detail.”

***From Redditor /u/okuro9: “Similarly during one of the darkest times in my life – I awoke in my room to a feeling of great pressure and a sense of evil, it sounds cliche’d and difficult to describe but a real thick, heavy energy in the air which instinctively told me there was some kind of malevolent presence in close proximity to me. It was the middle of the afternoon so there was enough light to really get a good look. I was in the state described above – mind awake, eyes open, but body asleep/paralyzed. After staring in anticipation and horror for what seemed like a few minutes at the entrance to my room it came. I see a figure slowly struggling to walk through the doorway – a very old woman, sunken eyes, long grey hair, skinny to the point that the skin looked barely attached to bone, and naked – her ribs were sunken in. A sense of complete dread overwhelmed me as I saw this woman make her way awkwardly towards me – there was definitely a sexual component to it. It took every ounce of strength and willpower to shake myself ‘awake’ as this thing made its way half on top of me- very much like the way the dementors were depicted sucking out the life of people in harry potter years later. it was like I had to push a yell to come out of my mouth, it began as a struggled wimper and with great effort I managed to let out a roar. The ‘waking up’ consisted of me being given back control of my body and the woman vanished, but it was a seamless transition – everything else remained the same. The feeling of dread remained for a short while before withdrawing. I was unnerved at the time, wondering if i’d simply lost the eyes to see this thing in my ‘awake’ state and had a cold shower in an attempt to get rid of the putrid feeling that i was left with. I’ve since done a lot of research into this and the out of body experience and am convinced that in our dark moments there are entities that are attracted to this state. I was shocked when i discovered the ‘night hag’ or ‘night mare’ was a not-so-uncommon experience. Whether they ‘exist’ or not is another question where multiple answers could be given. My advice if these things are plaguing you is to not underestimate the power of ritual.”

***From Redditor /u/reszastance: “I shared this experience before, it happened two months ago. I’ve had sleep paralysis since I was roughly 11 or 12 (5th grade, 22 now). I have never had a ‘dream.’ I remember my first nightmare, and can’t remember a night I haven’t had one. That being said, I’m used to them, so only sleep paralysis can still ruin my night. In the dream I had before waking up and experiencing the paralysis, I’m seeing myself in third person waking up on a floor and investigating an abandoned and trashed, stark-white painted room as big as an apartment. There are some unnecessary details, and then I grew fatigued and fell back down on the floor. In third person, my dream self was ravenously hungry, deciding I needed to break apart and eat gritty old battery acid out of a battery off the floor. Dream self poured it into my mouth while laying there, and then the dream changed to first person. I tasted it, I felt the texture, I felt it burn through flesh and could feel bone. I woke up to the paralysis, and the feeling, burning, gritty sensation of choking on battery acid, choked out my dog’s name but she didn[‘]t budge, and then gave up trying to fight off the sleep paralysis. I more easily went back to sleep and woke up out of the dream. When awake, I looked at the clock and realized all of that happened in 45 minutes. I’ve had ranging experiences. Continuations of feelings from dreams such as what’s stated above, hands gripping my limbs, one time a sad hug/embrace, being pulled out of bed (upon being able to move, seeing half of my body off the bed with my blanket folded, uncovering me), pressure pushing me into my bed, voices, screams, I’ve seen a woman sitting in my room turn around and scream at me, various lights and shadows. The works. I still won’t get used to how exhausting the nightmares and sleep paralysis are, or how disgustingly vivid and different things are every time. But, it is normal for me. I’m otherwise used to it all now.”


More true stories of sleep paralysis coming up!

Plus, you could say their story is a long and fishy tail… mermaids have been in folklore and myths throughout history, and with stories of them being found worldwide.

MERCHANDISE PROMO: To go along with this episode on sleep paralysis, I have a new design in the Weird Darkness store that you might – like! It’s a creepy, ghostly face with the words, “I drink coffee because I owe my sleep paralysis demon money”. The design will be available in the store for ONLY one week – disappearing on Tuesday, January 16th2024! The design is perfect for coffee mugs of course, but it’s also great for shirts to give people a laugh but then also open up the conversation about creepy stuff! You can get the sleep paralysis design on anything in the store though, and again – it’s ONLY available until January 16, 2024! Get the design now while you can at WeirdDarkness.com/STORE and click on “All Designs”. That’s WeirdDarkness.com/STORE, then click on “All Designs”.



***From Redditor /u/Bunnych0w: “I used to get them quite a bit. I guess school was stressing me out. Graduated [highschool] now. But most of mine were auditory/sensory. I’ve never seen anything thankfully. I think the worst one that I experienced was when I was in bed laying on my side facing the wall with my back to the rest of the room. I have a queen bed so there was quite a bit of room left. This was towards the end of my sleep so like I ‘wake up,’ and I felt this terror wash over me and and indention next to me like something get onto the bed. I had a squeaky a** bed too so I heard that. I was absolutely terrified at this point just clenching my eyes shut and this thing is like hovering its face right by mine and I can feel it breathing on me. It only lasted a few minutes but felt like forever at the time. One of the worst things I’ve ever experienced. The brain is amazing. Every thing else is creepy garbled voices and the feeling of something on you. I got to the point where if I felt it I would just wiggle my toes and fingers to get out of it.”

***From Redditor /u/NovaStarLord: “I got sleep paralysis too and it’s different most of the time but there is one recurring experience that happens to me though and it usually starts when I feel like my father or someone from my family is in the room with me and when I realize they’re not suppose to be there and that something is wrong it’s the moment I see this man with white skin and watery red eyes yell and jump on me and attack me and he goes away when I start regaining moment and try to fight back. There are times I feel a body in bed with me and think it’s my dad or my mom and then I just think how weird [or] absurbd that is and then realize, ‘Why would they be there? Oh sh*t it’s not them’ that thing attacks me. Last week I was sleeping soundly and I thought my dad was there until I realized, ‘Wait that makes no sense for him to be there, sh*t I am having sleep paralysis’ and then that man appears and starts hissing at me and shaking my arms, and honestly at this point I am more angry and annoyed than scared so I angrily try to fight back but I can’t really move and when I feel like I start regaining moment he lunges back into the floor and cries ‘Leave me alone’. It’s funny but I met this guy while having those weird out of mind body experiences and not sleep paralysis. That said my other experiences with sleep paralysis are usually me not being able to move with no hallucinations, but when I do and the pale man is not in them sometimes I see shadow people, or I feel things walking on my bed and on top of me (this one time it was an invisible sog growling at me) or the whole room moving with my bed tilting back and forth, it’s weird. The weirdest thing that happens to me sometimes and I dunno if it’s sleep paralysis but I feel like I get up from bed and I am going on my normal every day life but then I realize I am still on my bed and I am having a hard time trying to get up for real because that experience keeps repeating itself and this usually lasts for an hour, it’s like sleeping awake.”

***From Redditor /u/snaps_pro: “When I met my SO he had mentioned to me that he would often wake up and see black shadows standing next to his bed or walking in his room. At this point I had never experienced sleep paralysis and I didn’t know much about it, but ever since he told me I have had roughly 20-30 occurrences. Ranging from simply waking up and not being able to move/ breathe, waking up on my left side facing the wall and feeling someone pull on my right shoulder, having the feeling someone is pulling me out of bed by my ankles or wrists, feelings of people in my room but beyond the range of what I can see (because I can’t turn my head), and the scariest one to date – I was sleeping with my SO at my friends house, we usually sleep on the floor but this time we got a bed. I wake up and I cant move, I’m on my back, it’s morning out so it’s not dark, but I can hear this very deep voice talking very loudly and in what I can imagine to be Latin, I do not know any Latin but I have looked it up and it seems like that is the language that was being spoken/yelled. The voice continues to get louder and louder until I pass out/ fall asleep. The worst part about this is that this same exact thing has happened twice. Same voice same room. I can sleep anywhere in the house but in that room. I’m also very nervous to tell my friend, the home owner, and his wife, for fear of freaking them out. I have started using an app called Sleep Cycle which is supposed to wake you up when you’re out of REM, I think it has helped. I also believe that sleep paralysis happens to me when I am really tired and I wake up and go back to sleep to quickly.”

***From Redditor /u/vashtistraeth: “Two years ago I would have sleep paralysis so often that I was terrified to even try to sleep. The first hallucination I remember having while undergoing sleep paralysis was it felt like something was dragging it’s (sic) claws down my left arm. I had fallen asleep on my back on the couch in the living room and I remember opening my eyes a few hours later but I couldn’t move a muscle and it felt as if I was suffocating. I could feel these claws dragging down my arm but I couldn’t scream. No sound would come out. I felt terrified and felt as if something was watching me. I had a dreadful feeling that I would die and no one would help me. After I had control of my body again I sat straight up and began to cry and had to call one of my friends to talk to her to maybe keep my mind off of the horrible situation.”

***From Redditor /u/zerojjc: “I’ve been getting them off and on since highschool. It used to scare the crap out of me until I looked it up and learned about it. Now when it happens I try to stay calm, which is easy if I’m aware that I’m having it and not still partially in a dream. Then I still try to move my hand/arm and keep trying off and on until it eventually breaks free. One night I woke up in it and didn’t feel like fighting so tried to go back to sleep. However I had a horrible feeling, I can’t explain it other than it felt like as I started to fall back into sleep that I was slipping away or possibly dying. So I quickly began fighting it again. Since then I’ve just always fought it until I snap out, then I’ll sit up, have a sip of water, roll over and go back to sleep.”

***From Redditor /u/lovestheonlyway: “I’ve had it multiple times! I mainly find it happening after a night of partying, or maybe the first full sleep after. I always know it’s going to start by this strange buzzing sound and pressure on my head. I’ve heard voices, felt presences and been convinced there were aliens standing around me. But on of the most realistic ones was a hallucination of me falling off my bed and having a seizure. Half crawling and screaming for help but no noise would come out. Eventually I was able to shake my self out of it. But sometimes if I don’t give myself time between shaking myself out and trying to sleep again I’ll fall right back into it.”

***From Redditor /u/sellbsmcphelps: “I used to get these a lot and for some reason they still happen when I sleep at my parents house but luckily I haven’t had one in my own house in my own bed (I even used to get them at my ex-boyfriend[‘]s house) I ALWAYS feel an evil presence either floating over me or standing next to me. Always black and cloaked, the feeling they give me is the worst feeling I have ever felt. Like impending doom. Even if it happens when I am on my stomach it’s like I can feel the shadow above my back and I know exactly what it looks like. I honestly thought for a long time I was just messed up and I had evil following me around and I wasn’t sure why … that was the scariest part. Luckily surfing through Vice I saw that they had written and article about it and I realized I wasn’t alone. It’s always the worst when I feel in the clear and then as soon as I can get back to sleep I am right back in that place with the evil.”

***From Redditor /u/SteTheImpaler: “During my teenage years and up until about 21-22 years old I would get sleep paralysis often. I am 25 now and I almost never get it anymore. I only had one time I had a hallucination and till this day it’s the scariest thing that’s happened to me. At my old house I had a big room with one side of the wall being a sliding glass door that led to an outside patio. There would be times when at night you could hear animals and strange sounds from the woods and stream by our house. Anyway, one night I remember I was tired from playing my GameCube and I laid down and got ready for bed. I remember not being able to move although I was completely awake. I remember white bluish light coming from around my bed and lighting up the room. When I was able to move my eyeballs I for a moment saw four white alien figures at the corners of my bed. I felt as though the room was moving and I was being abducted. As the aliens started coming closer to my paralyzed body I fought through the paralysis and immediately got up. My body was in cold sweats and I turned on all the lights in my room. For awhile I was trying to fight off the notion that what I actually happened to me was real.”

***From Redditor /u/Scarysleepy: “My sister passed … in February and my ex pushed me too far so we broke up, I ended up staying with my Mom for a month until she found a place and left. It’s been so hard to get a good sleep since we lost my sister, so I was extremely exhausted by this point. My Mom’s basement room was a little creepy and I was thinking a lot about schizophrenia at the time for some reason, kind of wondering what it was like to visualize terrifying monsters. I would imagine kind of like the old creepy woman from insidius almost.  As I started falling asleep I saw a different woman come at me swinging briefly before she was gone and I just felt the pressure. When I realised I couldn’t move I thought something was wrong, I could barely breathe and I thought I was having a stroke. Calling out to my Mom and my step dad obviously didn’t work. It felt like I blacked out then just snapped out of it. It really scared the sh*t out of me but I tried to get back to sleep after realizing it was a weird half dream thing. It happened again in a lesser form with no hallucination, except I fell right asleep after. The next night it happened again. Except this time it was a little demon thing that jumped on to my bed and crawled over my leg and moved its way up to my chest and just held me down. It was definitely one of the strangest things I’ve experienced.”

***From Redditor /u/TinyGigan: “I have sleep paralysis fairly regularly, especially if I’m sleeping alone and/or in a different place than usual. Happily, if there’s real movement in the room, like the cat milling about or my wife making noise, it’ll bring me right out of it. I’ve had it enough over the years that it doesn’t bother me too much except when I’m also having a nightmare ‘over’ it at the same time. The worst one ever happened while staying at the guest room at my in-laws. They have a slightly creepy house to begin with – it’s been added onto over the years and has weird indoor windows, settles constantly, etc. My wife and I weren’t married yet at the time so I had to sleep alone (Catholic in-laws). Long and short is that I found myself having a bout of sleep paralysis in a room I’m rarely in (for some reason that makes it worse) and I slowly become aware of an arm draped across my chest – not seeing it so much as just feeling that it’s there. ‘Oh,’ I think to myself, ‘that’s just Shelly.’ Then I remember that she doesn’t sleep with me at her parents house. My mind immediately switched gears to ‘Well, it must be a dead, drowned woman because gruesome nightmares are the absolute best.’ That particular experience set the bar for bad SP events for me.”

***From Redditor /u/kreabs: “Night terrors around 4-6 years old, walking round the house screaming in my sleep, dad tried to wake me up and I wouldn’t, he knelt in front of me at eye level shaking me for a good five [minutes] apparently before I finally woke, told him to get off me and give me some space for a minute while I collected myself, always needed a wee for some reason.  About 18-24 at least once a week had sleep paralysis with the hallucinations, first one I recall was a gypsy looking old wrinkly woman, green silky see through head scarf with little coins? Attached sat on the edge of my bed staring at me, nothing more, just staring, that one happend a few times, another was a little blonde haired lad sat in my computer chair also just staring. Dark figures walking towards me down the hall way, someone cloaked in shadow peering round my door, a man sat on my bed stroking my dog smiling, probably the last one was someone with a mask walking away from me down the hall getting to the top of the stairs looking up at me and waving then going down stairs, I say probably last because it ‘felt’ like he was waving good bye and I’ve had next to none since then. I got so used to it that it didn’t bother me anymore. Still wake up hallucinating now and then but not paralyzed, startles my gf when I’m grabbing the imaginary spiders off her and throwing them across the room.”

***From Redditor /u/tkida1007: “I used to get them a lot as a kid. I remember it starting around [junior] high and eventually stopping in high school. The first time it happened I had no idea what was going on with my body. Funny enough, just before they started I was at a summer day camp and played ‘Bloody Mary’ in a supposedly haunted restroom at the park with a few friends. The sleep paralysis started after that, so I was convinced whatever was haunting that bathroom followed me home. I don’t remember hallucinating anything but I do remember that feeling of not being able to breathe or move, immense pressure in my chest, and not being able to call out for help. I think I would eventually just pass out and wake up later feeling really scared about what happened. I never told anyone but a few friends who just laughed it off. Eventually I realized if I didn’t sleep on my back I would be ok. I still try not to sleep on my back. Now every once in a while I have dreams where like if I have to be active (fight someone off, etc.) I physically feel like I’m moving through water or jelly. Not sure if it’s related, but it’s a similar feeling without the trouble breathing and chest pressure.”

***From a former Redditor: “One time I was laying (sic) on my back at night and when I woke up I couldn’t move and there were about 12 short figures in brown robes standing around me. I’ve seen them in a dream before and when I looked them up it seemed that they’re a phenomenon all over the world to be seen. I’ve never seen them in person before (movie etc.). They were just standing there staring at me though.”

***From Redditor /u/RadioactiveCoffee: “Suffered from sleep paralysis a lot in the past. Always knew what they were and knew people were prone to hallucination when on them. Then I had another one and suddenly thought: Oh no what if I hallucinate something terrifying. And instantly I started hallucinating that there was a massive source of light outside the windows coming in, even though it was night, accompanied by a deafening deafening sound. Weird (stuff) man, weird (stuff)…”

***From Redditor /u/Inmate_95123: “I have two to three of these episodes a month on average. Thank god I don’t have the hallucinations. I’ve only had hallucinations twice and once it sounded like my entire room was shaking as if it was full of plastic trash bags. Next I felt a pressing on my feet that quickly ran up my legs to my chest. As soon as it happened I suddenly set straight up in bed and gasped just as you would imagine someone would do in a horror movie. It was the only time in my life I’ve ever made a gasping noise. Most of the time I’m just froze, can’t move, or speak. I feel overwhelmed with claustrophobia and fight to move or break free with no avail at times. Growing up in the Bible Belt I thought it was some sort of demonic experience for years and kept it to myself until I talked to a friend I knew from church who was also a psychologist. She quickly said ‘I think you may be having some sort of seizure or similar sleep disturbance.[‘] I can’t believe I never even thought of considering that. After that I got online and quickly found an explanation for all my random night time and sleep oriented experiences.  Guess I’ll hold off buying that bottle of holy water.”

***From a former Redditor: “Luckily haven’t had them in a long time but when I was younger I got them virtually every time I took a nap during the day. Sometimes it felt like i was being squeezed and people were standing over me. Scary. I’m assuming this is why some people think they’re abducted by aliens and stuff like that.”

***From a former Redditor: “This used to happen to me A LOT when I was younger. Especially when I was in middle school. I just randomly wake up from my naps and found myself in that state. I was able to wiggle my toes and move my eyes around but the rest of my body was unable to move and I couldn’t talk no matter how hard I tried. I just calmed down, waited a few seconds then everything went back to normal. I told two of my friends about it one of them (who was spiritual) said that ghosts was pinning down my body while my other friend said your mind was still operating but your body wasn’t or body wasn’t in sync with my mind or something.”


Mermaids are multicultural mythical figures, reflecting the continuing human fascination with the sea in stories echoing thousands of years into the past. Mermaids are found in cultures across the globe.

In Australia, special water spirits appear in the rock and bark art of First Nations people in Arnhem Land.

Across the continent of Africa, mermaid-like water deities such as Yemaya and Mami Wata reflect the powerful connection between human communities and their environment.

Among the most well-known mermaid narratives is Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale, The Little Mermaid, which most of us know as a Disney character.

By the time of its publication in 1837, The Little Mermaid was already a relative latecomer to the genre. Indeed, Hans Christian Andersen himself was raised with much earlier stories involving mermaids.

His childhood bedtime reading included the works of Shakespeare and the Tales of the Arabian Nights.

Shakespeare’s mermaids from A Midsummer Night’s Dream are noted for their song. Oberon observes beautiful mermaid melodies could calm the sea and draw down the stars:

Since once I sat upon a promontory,
And heard a mermaid on a dolphin’s back
Uttering such dulcet and harmonious breath
That the rude sea grew civil at her song
And certain stars shot madly from their spheres,
To hear the sea-maid’s music

Andersen’s other bedtime book, the Arabian Nights, is a collection of Indian and Persian stories assembled over many centuries. Among these are narratives about merfolk, some of whom live in wonderful undersea palaces.

In one story, a human fisherman visits his merman friend under the sea. There he finds communities of Jewish, Christian and Muslim merfolk, before their friendship ends over religious differences.

Images of human-fish hybrid creatures can be found from the third millennium BCE in ancient Mesopotamia, a geographical area relating roughly to modern day Iraq.

The Apkallu, or the seven divine sages of Mesopotamian myth, can take the shape of human-fish hybrids. This is particularly interesting due to their connection to ancient wisdom traditions predating the great flood. In Mesopotamian literature, as in the Bible, a great flood event destroys most of humanity.

As human-fish hybrids, the Apkallu were well-equipped to survive the flood and carry forward their wisdom traditions. According to Mesopotamian literature, the useful information given to humanity by the Apkallu included knowledge of medicine and building cities.

The connection of mermaids to wisdom and medicine extends to other ancient traditions. In Southern Africa, mermaids play a complex role in ages-old healing rituals.

The ancient Near Eastern connection between mermaids and Flood traditions can be seen in the illustrated Nuremberg Bible of 1483, where merfolk are depicted swimming around the ark with their merdog.

Across the world and across traditions, mermaids have been accompanied by many different creatures. Their close connection to the sea extends to animals who share their home.

As in the Nuremberg Bible, mermaids and seadogs are said to swim together in Inuit mythology from North America.

In folklore from the Orkney Islands in Scotland merfolk are instead accompanied by seals, and are described milking whales.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, mermaids are accompanied by dolphins. In myths from East Asia and South America, they are friendly with turtles.

Similarities with the Danish fairy tale can be found in a famous story from South Korean folklore, dating to the 13th century CE.

In the story, the mermaid Princess Hwang-Ok (also known as Topaz) marries a prince and becomes more human.

The princess is homesick for her underwater life, so her turtle companion helps her to use the moon to turn back into a mermaid and regain her wellbeing.

Turtles and whales appear with mermaids as helpers to the Mesoamerican storm deity Tezcatlipoca. The myth is an aetiological tale about the creation of music in the world.

Another theme shared by many mermaid myths is that of music. Powerful and persuasive song is a feature of numerous folkloric tales containing mermaids, including varieties of the Little Mermaid tale and Shakespeare.

In his fairy tale, Andersen’s mermaid uses her special abilities with music to win a contest in the royal court. In a disturbing scene, the voiceless mermaid participates in a song and dance contest against decoratively attired enslaved women, all competing for the prince’s attention.

In 1989, the animated Disney film’s soundtrack won both a Grammy award and two Oscars.

In Shakespeare, mermaids are sometimes conflated with the Sirens of Greek myth by the poet. The two mythical figures were commonly viewed as interchangeable from the medieval times.

Sirens in ancient epics such as Homer’s Odyssey were known for their ability to lure people to their death with their sweet-sounding songs – and their promise to share secret wisdom with their listeners. Sirens, like merfolk, are known as hybrid creatures with powerful voices, but are usually depicted with bird-like, rather than fish-like, qualities.

The power of merfolk to seduce with their charms may reflect the ability of the sea to capture the hearts of seafarers, and keep them away from their homes on land – by accident or design.

The dynamic nature of mermaid mythology contributes to their continuing popularity in the 21st century.

Mermaids build bridges between land and water (at times in Southeast Asian and South American myths, quite literally), between human and animal, and between wilderness and civilization, giving a human face to the mysteries of the deep.


It was the single most destructive fire in American history, on October 8, 1871 a large portion of the midwest burned to the ground… but this wasn’t the Great Chicago Fire. The story of the Great Peshtigo Fire, when Weird Darkness returns!



On October 8, 1871, the single most destructive fire in American history devastated a portion of the Midwest. It was not the Great Chicago Fire, which occurred on this same date, but a much less widely known conflagration a few hours to the north in Wisconsin. To those who experience the terrifying events of the Peshtigo Fire, it must have seemed that the world was coming to an end. The smoke blocked out the sun, the rising moon turned red and one witness later wrote that, “the woods and heaven were all on fire.”

The blaze, pushed by hurricane force winds, consumed more than one million acres of farms, forests, sawmills and small towns in Wisconsin and upper Michigan. In the path of destruction, an estimated 1,500 people lost their lives, making this the greatest natural tragedy of its kind in North America. With the fire occurring on the same day as the Great Chicago Fire, it has been relegated to a lesser place in the annals of American disaster and yet it left perhaps even a greater mark on the landscape of the country than this much more famous blaze.

The summer of 1871 had been a dry season for the upper Midwest. Almost no rain had fallen between July and October and the Peshtigo and Menominee rivers were at their lowest levels in years. The forests of Wisconsin were ready to burn.

Despite the ever-present threat of fire, those who lived in the region went about their everyday lives. Farmers worked their fields and kept their livestock healthy and fed. The dry weather even gave them the opportunity to clear more land and smoldering stumps of trees littered the newly cleared and parched landscape for much of the summer and into the early fall. Even with the drought-like conditions, the slash and burn method was still the best way to clear hundreds of acres of ground. This left scattered piles of flammable debris, just steps away from homes, barns and fields that had been baked dry by the weather.

Loggers in the region worked hard all summer, too. The vast tracts of immense white pines and the numerous fast-moving rivers had lured lumber and railroad magnates like Chicago millionaire William Butler Ogden to Wisconsin and provided a way of life for the increasing number of immigrants arriving in the area. Communities like Peshtigo and Marinette were supported by the lumber industry and logging camps dotted the landscape for miles around.

William Ogden was the man responsible for much of the growth that had come to the region. He was greatly respected and admired, both in Peshtigo and Chicago, where he had served as the city’s first mayor. His venture in the north woods made him a millionaire many times over. He built and owned the prosperous Peshtigo Company and built a community for his employees that included a company store, schools for the workers’ children and a rooming house for two hundred of the unmarried men.

Lumber was a booming business in the region but this summer it had been problematic. The unusual low river levels had prevented the lumberjacks from floating logs downriver to the mills. They were usually ordered to leave the cut timber in piles alongside the Peshtigo and Menominee rivers, providing potential fuel for any fire that might break out. The logging practices of the era also produced a large amount of waste, called slash, made up of unusable tree branches. Tons of this material littered the logged-over land north and west of Peshtigo and Marinette. In their wake, lumberjacks had unknowingly left behind a deadly fuel to help the coming inferno.

Where there was logging, there were sawmills. Thanks to the massive amount of trees cut down in the surrounding forests, there were eight sawmills in the towns of Peshtigo and Marinette alone. They turned out millions of boards and thousands of finished goods every year. These mills so dominated the landscape that a fine layer of sawdust blanketed the towns. The dust was carelessly disposed of – shoveled into the streets, placed under wooden sidewalks and pine board houses or simply piled into enormous mounds near the mills. The sawdust was merely a by-product of progress, the locals knew, and they learned to embrace the inconvenience of it with a sense of grim resignation. And while the sawdust represented prosperity, it added more fuel for the fire to come.

The new work being done by rail gangs added to the volatile nature of the forests. Prior to the Civil War, the region had been slow to grow and during the war itself, nearly all of the men left the woods and marched into battle. After 1865, though, Wisconsin’s population nearly tripled and the lumber industry contributed greatly to those numbers. Peshtigo soon became one of the three largest cities in the state, north of Green Bay. William Ogden, always with an eye for expansion, encouraged the railroads to move north. The railroads could move both men and machinery and link farm and industry together. It was faster, less expensive, and safer than shipping lumber by barge via Lake Michigan to Milwaukee and Chicago. The lake was notoriously dangerous during the winter months, and gale-force winds could easily sink a cumbersome lumber barge, taking product down with it. Railroads seemed to be the answer to the problem and by September 1871, the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad was piercing the north woods, bringing rail and telegraph lines along with it.

The rail gangs worked feverishly and by October, the line had advanced from Green Bay to a point just south of Peshtigo. In their haste, they left smoldering logs and vegetation piled along the railroad right-of-way.

The nineteenth century methods of land clearing, logging and rail construction, combined with the drought-like conditions, created the perfect setting for a massive forest fire. The only thing missing was the right combination of metrological conditions that would create such a destructive scenario. On October 8, 1871, the elusive weather conditions arrived – and the region would never be the same again.

By late September, the area was experiencing small fires in the woods. The eyes of Peshtigo residents were red from the ever-present smoke that choked the air. At night, they watched the flames from the fires stretch beyond the canopy of the forest and into the black sky. Some of the railroad crews were nervous enough about the situation – both the small fires and the lack of drinking water– that they went on strike. They could find plenty of whiskey and beer in the saloons of Peshtigo, but good clean water was getting harder and harder to come by.

The residents of Peshtigo and surrounding communities like Oconto and Little Suamico began to prepare for the worst. Logging crews dug fire ditches along the forest edge, and in the towns, workmen set aside barrels of what water could be spared in order to wet down the sawmills.

On September 23, a slight change in the wind sent sparks across the Peshtigo River and set fire to some sawdust and boards adjacent to the woodenware factory. Loggers, lumbermen and shopkeepers alike turned out to fight the fire, passing buckets along a human chain that stretched from the river to the blaze. Several other fires broke out on the same day in a number of surrounding communities, destroying barns, homes and mills.

Fires burned in every direction from Peshtigo and it seemed that as soon as one was extinguished, another started in a neighboring town. There were later reports of a fire so intense that it burned up from under the ground. Months of drought and very low humidity levels had caused organic materials under the earth’s surface to dry out. Not only were the trees on fire, even the ground beneath them crackled with flame.

Peshtigo’s makeshift fire company successfully fought several fires over a three-day period, starting on Saturday, September 23. On Monday, the wind cleared the smoke away and miraculously, the town had been saved. By Wednesday, the tired and worried residents tried to resume their usual activities, hoping that the worst danger had passed. Many believed that the burned trees bordering the town would provide a natural fire barrier and would protect them if a large blaze broke out. Instead, the trees would act like giant sticks of charcoal in the days to come.

Outside of Peshtigo, farmers began to bury their possessions in an attempt to save them from certain destruction, while others wrestled with the decision to evacuate the area for safety in the city of Green Bay. No one was sure what to do for it seemed hard to believe that a danger could be created that they could not face. One local resident later wrote, “The surrounding woods were interspersed with innumerable open glades of crisp brown herbage and dried furze, which had for weeks glowed with the autumn fires that infest these regions. Little heed was paid them, for the first rain would inevitably quench the flames. But the rain never came…”

During the first days of October, thick smoke blanketed Peshtigo, forcing the inhabitants to cover their mouths with handkerchiefs in order to breathe. The sun, which was barely visible, threw an eerie, yellowish pall over the land.

Then, on October 8, a low-pressure system over southwestern Minnesota, coupled with a slow-moving high-pressure system over the Mid-Atlantic states, created moderate southwesterly winds in northeastern Michigan. It was this terrible weather scenario that would create a nightmare for the entire region. This cyclonic storm, with counterclockwise winds that would eventually reach more than sixty miles an hour, fanned the flames of the small fires into a hellish inferno that could devour the forests, homes and residents of the north woods.

As the wind began to blow in Peshtigo, one resident later remembered, “the forest rocked and tossed tumultuously.” The air became saturated with heat – enough to almost burn the skin. The noise of the wind became louder and impossible to ignore. Father Pernin, a priest in Peshtigo, later wrote that the deafening sound was like “the confused noise of a number of cars and locomotives approaching a railroad station, or the rumbling of thunder, with the difference that it never ceased, but deepened in intensity each moment.”

Terror mounted as the people listened and looked at the town around them, hazy and yellowish from the smoke. Some came from church, others poured from the saloons, but all came to stand on the sidewalks and in the streets, looking at the towering, swaying trees past the edge of town. Suddenly, at 9:00 p.m., the first fire alarm was raised in Peshtigo. Swirling blasts of fire came from every direction at once. One witness wrote, “A great flame shot up in the western heavens, and in countless fiery tongues struck downward into the village.” In less than ten minutes, the entire town was engulfed in flames.

The fires that came on October 8 were unlike any of the fires that had previously threatened Peshtigo and the surrounding areas. Many of the survivors claimed that the winds from the fire whirled about like a tornado, attaining speeds like the famers, loggers and rail gangs – all experienced with past fires – had never seen before. It seemed to feed on itself, sucking up everything in its path, including trees that had already been burned.

What the witnesses experienced was a phenomenon known as a “fire vortex” and these vortices contributed to the speed and destructive nature of the Peshtigo fire. Fire whirlwinds of this nature consisted of violent updrafts forming over the fire center. When survivors told of “fire tornadoes,” they were referring to the rotating movements of the fire whirlwinds, which developed within, and immediately downwind, of the wildfire. They made it virtually impossible to escape the flames. The rapidly moving vortices scattered burning debris in a wide area, torching buildings and people located miles from the edge of the main fire.

The whirlwinds seemed almost alive. A series of events provided the necessary fuel to keep the deadly vortices spinning. The burning ground cover provided heat for the whirlwind air column, destabilizing the air and creating strong updrafts and drawing surface winds inward toward the center of the tornado. Horizontal surface winds fed the insatiable fire by transporting fuel into the whirlwind, heating the air, enhancing its buoyancy, and increasing the whirlwind circulation. The fire was not only feeding itself, it was creating its own weather pattern.

Survivors from Peshtigo said that the “tornado swept in currents and eddies of fire, in which many were caught and smothered on the spot, while others with great difficulty worked their way, some to the river and some to an open field on one side of town.” Others believed that the large boarding house in town simply would not, on the basis of its size, succumb to the flames. Hundreds crowded into the structure only to be burned alive as the fire swept over it. After the disaster, the building was described as “a mass of ashes.” No one escaped from the boarding house alive and all that remained was “a pile of human ashes, from which can be picked out pieces of human bones, the largest not two inches long, and these split and broken.”

Those who could make it sought refuge in the river. Unfortunately, the speed of the fire prevented many from reaching the water. Panicking onlookers groping their way to the river watched as waves of fire ignited everything in their path. Men, women, and children burst into flames in an instant. Many believed that the river bridge led to safety, but flames engulfed both sides of the river. People attempting to escape from either side collided in the middle of the bridge. Then, the bridge caught fire, dumping everyone into the water below and many drowned. Others poured into the water from the riverbanks and immersed themselves in the protective water. For the next five hours, they watched in horror as their city burned to the ground. In the glare of the flames, they saw “the sloping bank covered with the bodies of those who fell by the way. Few living on the back streets succeeded in reaching the river, the hot breath of the fire cutting them down as they ran.”

Those who plunged into the river thought they would be safe in the water, but even the river could not provide complete protection from the superheated air, burning logs that floated downstream and flaming embers from the sky. Only by constantly throwing water upon their heads did the waterlogged survivors manage to avoid injury from the flames. Many of them had every hair burned off their head during the fire and many lost their lives protecting others. But fire was not the only danger. The cool waters of the Peshtigo River began to chill the refugees and despite the superheated air around them, many were in danger of succumbing to hypothermia. People finally emerged from the river at daylight but others, caught in the chaos of fleeing people, panicked livestock and burning logs, did not survive. A report taken from an observation of the scene the next day spoke of mothers and children, unable to escape the clutches of the fire, lying in “rigid groups, the clothes burned off and the poor flesh scarred to a crisp.”

Peshtigo had been literally wiped off the map. The fire had destroyed everything. The heat and tornado-like winds of the firestorm had melted the wheels of railroad cars, leveled buildings, and uprooted the charred remains of trees. Less than seven hundred people remained from the once happy and prosperous town of two thousand souls Survivors began the heart-breaking search for friends and loved ones. Nearly everyone had lost someone to the blaze. The dead were not always recognizable and lay in the streets where they had fallen. One account stated, “Where houses stood the ground was whipped clean as a carpet and the hope of identifying human ashes was idle.” One horror-stricken man found the remains of his nephew only recognizable by the boy’s treasured pen knife – which was embedded in a mound of ashes.

On Monday evening, about twenty-four hours after the fire arrived at Peshtigo, the long-awaited rain finally arrived. It came, one survivor wrote “gratefully to the living, and kindly to the fleeting ashes of the dead.”

Stories of heroism and horror followed in the wake of the fire. The inferno had struck with such suddenness that there was hardly time for people to save themselves and yet many risked their lives to save others. One farmer west of Peshtigo found himself in a clearing with his wife and fourteen children when the fire swept over the forest. The children were not all his own – eight of them belonged to a neighbor who had sent them to the clearing for safety. The farmer kept his wits about him as the fire came closer. Using only his hands, he dug a hole and then covered all of the children and his wife with dirt and then threw handfuls on himself. All survived.

A little girl who had managed to survive the fire in Peshtigo, and yet had lost her entire family, was taken in by generous strangers in Oconto who eventually adopted her.

A poor cobbler who was fleeing to the river stopped and picked up a frightened little girl and carried her to safety. The child turned out to be a relative of the governor of Michigan, who handsomely rewarded the cobbler’s bravery.

Some preferred to die by their own hand rather than face a painful death by fire. One young man reportedly returned to his family home, found his parent’s dead and slashed his own throat in despair. Another, apparently uncertain whether he was safe from the flames by hiding in his well, wrapped the bucket chain around his neck and hanged himself. One man, search parties believed, murdered his children and then himself after watching his wife die in the flames.

About two hundred and sixty people died in the Upper, Middle and Lower Sugar Bush settlements west of Peshtigo. The farms were isolated and the residents had nowhere to flee once they found themselves surrounded by the flames. The desolation caused by the fire was so complete that many who survived the fire starved to death before rescue parties could find them.

It is estimated that at least 1,500 people perished in the October 8 fire. At Peshtigo, it was written, “The names of half the dead will never be known. They are buried all over Peshtigo, and the boards that mark their graves are marked ‘2 unknown’, ‘3 unknown,’ etc.”

The injured packed into a nearby, understaffed and overwhelmed hospital and spoke of the tragedy. “Most of them suffer more from hurts of the mind than hurts of the body,” it was reported. One woman cried of hearing the screams of her daughter and her crippled son as they perished in the flames.

To make matters worse, communications between the burned-out areas and the outside world were hampered by the destruction of the telegraph lines. A telegram from Green Bay did not reach the state capital of Madison until October 10. By that time, news of the Great Chicago Fire was known throughout the country. At the same time that Chicago was burning, an even greater fire was engulfing the land a few hundred miles to the north. It was America’s greatest natural disaster but was overshadowed by the fire in Chicago. William Ogden turned out to be a victim of both fires, losing well over $3 million to the flames.

By the time that news of the Peshtigo Fire reached Madison, Governor Lucius Fairchild was already on his way to Chicago with a trainload of supplies for fire victims in the city. It was the governor’s young wife, Frances, who received the telegram with news of the north country devastation. She immediately took charge of the situation and began to organize a relief effort to provide material goods to meet the needs of Wisconsin’s fire victims. She even commandeered a supply train headed for Chicago. In a matter of hours, Mrs. Fairchild had gathered enough blankets to fill a train car, and it was soon on its way to Green Bay. Over the following days, Mrs. Fairchild continued her efforts to acquire more supplies, and with the return of her husband from Chicago, the state began a massive relief effort for the survivors. A number of private agencies and communities throughout the state offered their assistance, and support eventually came from every state in the Union as well as from foreign countries. Frances Fairchild is still considered a hero to the people of northern Wisconsin.

The Peshtigo Fire remains today a unique disaster in American history. It was a “perfect storm” of various events that came together to create a conflagration unlike any other. Specific weather conditions and an abundance of fuel combined to create a series of tornado-like fires that dramatically – and permanently — altered the landscape of northwestern Wisconsin.

Entire towns were destroyed, homes were wiped out and entire families perished in the flames and yet, the people of the region wasted little time in rebuilding their lives. William Ogden vowed to resume operations as soon as possible, to rebuild Peshtigo and “do a larger winter’s logging than ever before.” His positive, and much-publicized outlook infected others and the area became a hive of activity in the aftermath of the fire. Homes were rebuilt, stores reopened and farmers returned to their land.

In the face of tragedy, strong wills prevailed.


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 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” and a retro-style science fiction podcast called “Auditory Anthology”, you can 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.

“Stories of Sleep Paralysis” by Christoper Shultz for Ranker, and US Ghost Adventures
“The Great Peshtigo Fire” by Troy Taylor from the book “And Hell Followed With It”

“Mermaid Mythology” by Louise Pryke for The Conversation

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… “Reckless words pierce like a sword, but the tongue of the wise brings healing.” — Proverbs 12:18

And a final thought… “We make up horrors to help us cope with the real ones.” — Stephen King

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



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