“GRADUATION CAN BE MURDER” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

GRADUATION CAN BE MURDER” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

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IN THIS EPISODE: Joseph McKinnon strangled his girlfriend Patricia Dent, then died while trying to bury her body in their garden. (Killed By Karma) *** When you die, do you know that you are dead? A new study says that maybe… yes. You might still be conscious enough to know you are dead even after your body ceases to live. But for how long? (When You Die, You Are Conscious Long Enough To Know It) *** The term Zodiac in true crime circles invokes images of serial murder, cryptograms and bragging letters in and around San Francisco. But the California Zodiac is not the only Zodiac out there. (A Tale of Two Zodiacs) *** Graduation is a special time in just about everyone’s life when they make their way from childhood, to adulthood. And while that step might be a bit scary for some, we all get past it – we have to. But what if there is something truly to be afraid of at your graduation? Like the possibility of being murdered? (Murdered During Graduation)

“A Tale of Two Zodiacs” by Paul Drexler for Crime Traveller: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ycknuxfd
“Killed By Karma” by Kaleena Fraga for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/pzrdsmsy
When You Die, You Are Conscious Long Enough To Know It” by Matthew Lavelle for Ranker’s Graveyard Shift:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4kkcc9m7
Murdered During Graduation” by Mary Fetzer for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p92rn29

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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.


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…

Joseph McKinnon strangled his girlfriend Patricia Dent, then died while trying to bury her body in their garden. (Killed By Karma)

When you die, do you know that you are dead? A new study says that maybe… yes. You might still be conscious enough to know you are dead even after your body ceases to live. But for how long? (When You Die, You Are Conscious Long Enough To Know It)

The term Zodiac in true crime circles invokes images of serial murder, cryptograms and bragging letters in and around San Francisco. But the California Zodiac is not the only Zodiac out there. (A Tale of Two Zodiacs)

Graduation is a special time in just about everyone’s life when they make their way from childhood, to adulthood. And while that step might be a bit scary for some, we all get past it – we have to. But what if there is something truly to be afraid of at your graduation? Like the possibility of being murdered? (Murdered During Graduation)

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!


Graduation marks the successful end of one journey and the commencement of another. It’s a time for celebrating past accomplishments and bright futures. Sadly, such festivities are not immune to violence…or even murder.

***A May 2020 graduation party in southwest Indiana proved deadly for one young man. Paycin Kritlow, a South Dearborn High School graduate, was fatally shot at around 1:30 am. The party was hosted by the family of Tyler Baker, a fellow grad and good friend of Kritlow. It was Tyler’s father, William Baker, who committed the murder. He shot the 18-year-old, then pulled a knife and threatened to slit his own throat. William Baker, 47, told authorities he killed Kritlow because his 17-year-old daughter told him Kritlow had raped her. He took his .30-06 into a shed near the party, fixed his victim with the rifle’s scope, and shot the young man in the back. But investigators interviewed Baker’s daughter and her friends, and all denied that no sexual assault had occurred. Further, the daughter indicated that she had never suggested such a thing to her father. William Baker was convicted of murder in November 2021 and is now serving 55 years.

***In July 2019, one day before his graduation, Menhaz Zaman murdered his father, mother, sister, and grandmother in their home. The 24-year-old had dropped out of college and did not want his family to find out. Zaman, from Canada, told his family he was studying for an engineering degree at York University in Toronto. However, the young man had actually enrolled at Seneca College and failed his courses. He dropped out, spending time at the shopping mall and gym when his family thought he was attending classes. Zaman texted friends after the killing, saying he had been “planning this for three years” and that while he was a “pathetic coward subhuman,” his “shaking has stopped.” Several people turned the electronic confession over to authorities. Zaman told police that he killed his 50-year-old mother first. One hour later, he murdered his 70-year-old grandmother. Then he reportedly played video games and napped as he waited for his sister, 21, and father, 59, to arrive home to suffer the same fate. Autopsies revealed that the victims were struck in the head with a crowbar-like instrument before their throats were slit. The prosecutor said, “These were horrible, monstrous, brutal killings. They took place in the family home…a place of security and sanctity.” Zaman has been sentenced to life in prison. He will not be eligible for parole until he is 64 years old, nearly as old as his grandmother was when he murdered her.

***In June 2020, Tyana Johnson and 100 guests gathered in a Bronx park to celebrate the teen’s graduation. Johnson, 19, had completed her associate degree in business. Her friend Ahamad Branch, who had just graduated from high school, was serving as DJ. Johnson and Branch had announced the party via social media. At around 11 pm, two men wearing hoods and masks arrived and fired eight shots into the crowd. Branch heard the gunshots but mistook them for fireworks. Johnson was struck multiple times and killed by a shot to the head. Two teenage boys and a man were also wounded. Surveillance video showed three men walking close to the gunmen’s car when it pulled up near the party. One reached inside the front passenger window. After the shooting, four men got into the car and immediately picked up a fifth man before fleeing the scene. The chief of detectives reported that Johnson was not the intended target. He pleaded with the public to help identify the gunmen, who have yet to be apprehended.

***At a May 2021 graduation party in Pennsylvania, one man was killed, and another was arrested. Richard Rollison, 54, fired two shots into the chest of his 50-year-old neighbor, William Newman Jr. Party guests told police they heard a “pop” shortly before 10:00 pm. Rollison’s daughter entered the sunroom at the back of the house where the shooting occurred and immediately called for her mother. Mrs. Rollison entered the sunroom to find her husband standing just outside the room and the victim lying on his back on a nearby concrete slab. She asked if the victim had been stabbed, and Rollison responded, “No, I shot him.” The gunman was known to regularly carry a firearm on his person. He initially refused to answer investigators’ questions about the shooting, which witnesses report was a domestic dispute. Newman was an invited guest to the party. Rollins pleaded guilty to a manslaughter charge to avoid going to trial. He will serve up to eight years in prison and pay restitution to his neighbor’s family.

***When officers responded to reports of gunfire at a 2019 graduation party in Mississippi, they found Arsenio Johnson with multiple gunshot wounds. The 28-year-old was pronounced dead at the scene. More than 100 party guests were in attendance at the convention center. Shots were reportedly fired after an argument. Authorities believe Johnson was caught in the crossfire and was not the intended target. Two others were also injured, including a 15-year-old male who was shot in the butt as he walked from the convention center to his grandmother’s house nearby. The gunman, 25-year-old Xavier Anderson, was finally arrested in April 2021 and charged with Johnson’s murder.

***A dispute at a family graduation party in May 2021 led to a shootout that left one man dead. Shantee Humphrey, 46, was killed, and two others were injured. Investigators determined that the shooting stemmed from a dispute that took place at the graduation party one day earlier. The morning after the graduation party, Humphrey, a member of the family, returned to the Ohio home where the party was held and shot two of its residents. One of the victims, the homeowner, returned fire and killed Humphrey. His body was discovered by a SWAT team after the family was evacuated from the house. The recent graduate was one of the two injured.

***In May 2021, in Louisiana, 18-year-old Hailey Deickman overdosed just days before her high school graduation. Police arrested Franklin Senfles, 22, and charged him with second-degree murder in connection with the overdose death. Senfles sold fentanyl to Deickman, who believed she was purchasing oxycodone. The half-pill she ingested was enough to kill her. U.S. Drug Enforcement Special Agent Brad Byerley says it’s difficult to tell the difference between real and counterfeit drugs. These counterfeit pills are disguised to look like oxycodone, pain medications, or Xanax. “What happens is people are buying these pills off the street, thinking they’re buying something that a health care provider prescribed to someone. Two milligrams of fentanyl can be a lethal dose, so one of our slogans is ‘one pill can kill.’ It’s crazy dangerous.”

***In June 2020, Lashanti Aayania Hester was killed in a drive-by shooting in South Carolina. Four people—Javon Newson, 20, Greterrious Zyquan Calhoun, 19, Brunyjah Rappley, 17, and Onjayla Wiggins, 17—were taken into custody for the murder of the 16-year-old, who was shot in the head while driving her vehicle. The shooting appeared to be the result of an altercation among individuals attending a graduation party. The altercation started at the party venue, a local motel, and continued to a convenience store. Hester was pronounced dead at 2:39 am, and her death was ruled a homicide. “You imagine kids, teenagers so full of promise and potential, and to have their lives cut short is really tragic,” said a man who lives yards away from the scene. “Shocked that sort of violence would happen in this neighborhood that we love.”

***In May 2020, a large graduation party in Mississippi was breaking up when multiple cars drove by. A man with an automatic weapon appeared from the sunroom of the first car, and more shooters leaned out the windows of the other cars. More than 100 shots were fired into the crowd. Incredibly, only four people were hit. Robert Tatum, 18, was killed. Police found his body in the street with a bullet in his head. The other gunshot victims were not seriously injured. Brandon Walker, 20, and Sukrani Blakely, 19, were arrested and charged with tampering with evidence related to the shooting. No one has yet been arrested for the shooting. The party, organized by parents of high school and college graduates, was staffed by private security and attended by nearly 300 guests. After police responded to a noise complaint at around midnight, the organizers decided to shut down the party. The shootings began shortly after the police left. The police reviewed video footage and determined that multiple calibers of different guns confirmed there were multiple shooters. Based on the locations of the shell casings, it appeared that some of the shots came from the five cars, but others were discharged from the street.

***Four men were charged with killing two Maryland teens on the night before their high school graduation. Jose Canales-Yanez, Rony Galicia, and Edgar Garcia Gaona have been sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. Roger Garcia, who fired at least six of the shots, was sentenced to 100 years: 30 years for each murder charge and 20 years for each handgun count. Investigators determined that Shadi Adi Najjar, 17, was the intended victim, and Artem Ziberov, 18, was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The teens were found shot to death on June 5, 2017, in a blue Honda Civic. Najjar had been shot four times, and Ziberov ten times. Thirty shell casings were found at the scene. Just before he died, Najjar texted someone saying he was going to sell a spare graduation ticket to Garcia. A week before the shooting, Garcia befriended Najjar, 17, on Snapchat to arrange the fake sale. The motive: revenge. Court documents said the murder was “a violent ambush on two unsuspecting, defenseless teenagers,” motivated by revenge for Najjar’s having stolen “a fistful of marijuana” from Canales-Yanez’s girlfriend several months earlier. Shortly before the murder, the shooters searched Google for a song called “I Kill for My Family,” which inspired their actions.


Up next… The term Zodiac in true crime circles invokes images of serial murder, cryptograms and bragging letters in and around San Francisco. But the California Zodiac is not the only Zodiac out there.



The recent solution of the Zodiac case has surprised almost everyone.  The real killer was none of the hundreds of major suspects, suggested by investigators. He was not the father of any authors seeking a bestseller, or an already infamous serial killer. He was a total unknown. While the crime was still unsolved, a famous director made a movie based on the case. Over a decade after the movie was released, police caught the killer. I’m going to compare the director’s solution to the real facts of the case.

This Zodiac case did not happen in California. It occurred 5,700 miles away and is known as the “Korean Zodiac Killer case.”

On September 15th, 1986, Lee Wan-im, a 71-year-old woman was raped and strangled in the rural city of Hwaseong. Just one month later, on October  25th, 1986, Park Hyun-Sook, a 25-year-old housewife, was raped and strangled on a dark rural road. In December 1986  two more women were raped and strangled. South Korea was experiencing its first serial killer.  The killer had a unique pattern. Almost all the victims were killed in dark rural areas and were strangled with their own clothes.  Panic swept the country.

To call the police investigation merely incompetent would be like calling the Grand Canyon a hole in the ground. The police had little training in crime or murder investigation, crime scene investigation, or forensics. Their crime-solving strategy was often to beat suspects until they confessed. Such tactics, known as “the third degree,” have been standard practice for many police departments around the world.

From victims, who had been raped but not murdered, police learned that the killer was slim, had a long face and soft hands. Because many of his victims wore red, and it was believed that he attacked his victims on rainy nights, many Korean policewomen, dressed in red, hoped to lure him into a trap. In reality, only a few victims wore red or were killed on rainy nights.

In 1989, Yoon Sung-yeo, a disabled man with a pronounced limp was arrested for the murder of the eighth victim.  He was tortured and deprived of food and sleep until he confessed. Other than the fact Yoon’s hair was a partial match for a hair on the victim’s body, there was no evidence against him. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment.

When two more murders occurred, police called Yoon a copycat killer and not the real Zodiac.

By 1991 the murders had stopped but the Zodiac killer was still at large. The case became the  largest manhunt in Korean police history. The number of suspects reached a total count of 21,280 individuals. In addition, 40,116 individuals had their fingerprints taken, and 570 DNA samples and 180 hair samples were analyzed.

In 2003, with the case still unsolved, director Bong Joon-ho decided to make his second film, Memories of Murder, inspired by this case.

May you live in Interesting times” is reputed to be an old Chinese curse. If this is true, Korea in 1986, must have been an enthralling place to be.  An autocratic government in Seoul was fighting to hold on to its power, students and police were battling in the streets. Urban Korea was rapidly industrializing, but many rural areas seemed to be in the 19th century.

In October 1986, two women are found raped and murdered on the outskirts of a small agricultural city. From the beginning, local detectives Park Doo-man, and his partner, Cho Yong-ko are way out of their depth. Their only knowledge of murder investigation has been gained by watching American TV crime shows. They very quickly demonstrate the adage, “When you only have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

In this case, the hammer is brute force.  They pick up a mentally handicapped young man who used to follow one of the victims around town.

Park, believing that he can tell if a suspect is guilty by looking him in the eye, accuses the young man. Cho kicks him down the stairs and beats a confession out of him.  Sao, a more sophisticated detective arrives from Seoul to help.  Seo, with assistance from Officer Kwon, a local policewoman, locates previous rape victims who survived Seo and Kwan learn that the killer has a thin face and soft hands. Sao releases the young man whose hands are rough from working in the fields

In a way, Park, Cho, and Seo represent different parts of the brain. Park is the ego, cocky, and self-important. Cho is the id, primitive and violent and Seo is the super ego, logical and law-abiding.

Park comes up with a far-fetched theory and finds a suspect, Cho beats him to get a confession, and Seo proves that he is innocent.

As the murders mount up, panic sweeps the area. Police, under tremendous pressure, see a pattern.  The killer waits until a rainy night and kills women wearing red.  Then, Officer Kwon figures out that a local radio station is requested to play a particular song during the nights the murders are committed. The local police chief plans to saturate the area with police during the next rainstorm but lacks the resources because most of the police are away fighting student demonstrators. On the next rainy night, police wait in hiding but the killer claims another victim and escapes.

Although the detectives’ incompetence is almost comical, the case takes a huge toll on them and their personalities begin to change. Park becomes more thoughtful, Seo becomes more emotional and Cho, wounded in a bar fight,  leaves the investigation.

New clues lead the police to a factory worker who fits the killer’s profile and they believe they’ve solved the case. But when DNA results from the U.S. clear the factory worker,  Seo loses all control and tries to kill the factory worker, who is saved by Park.

The last scene takes place ten years later. Park is now a father and businessman. He happens to pass by the first crime scene and decides to visit it, learning from a little girl that the scene had recently been visited by an unknown man. The man said that he was reminiscing about something he had done there a long time ago. Park asks the girl what he had looked like, and she tells him that he was someone who looked very ordinary. The film ends as Park looks straight at the camera, seemingly trying to spot the killer amongst the audience.

Memories of Murder, now considered a masterpiece, was a huge hit in Korea and launched Boon into the top rank of directors. In 2019 Boon’s film, Parasite won four Academy Awards and became the first foreign-language film to receive the Oscar for best picture.

In 2018, fifteen years after Memories of Murder was released, new DNA results enabled police to identify the killer.  He was Lee Choon-Jae, who had been in jail since 1995 for raping and murdering his sister-in-law.  Lee worked for an electric parts company during the murders and lived in the district where the murders occurred.  Lee confessed to 14 murders and thirty rapes.

Yoon Sung-yeo, who was convicted of the 8th murder and had been released in 2009, asked for a new trial to clear his name.  With Lee’s confession at the second trial, Yoon was acquitted. Subsequently, eight of the original investigators in Yoon’s case were arrested for abuse of power for physically abusing Yoon when he was a suspect, forcing him to make a false confession, and falsifying investigative documents. It was also revealed that four men who had been abused by police in the investigation committed suicide in the 1990s.

We bow down and apologize to all victims of the crimes of Lee Chun-jae, families of victims, and victims of police investigations, including Yoon,” the police chief stated, noting others had suffered from “police malpractice” during the initial Hwaseong investigation.

When Lee was caught, director Bong Joon-ho was curious to see Lee’s reaction to the end of Memories of Murder,  when the detective looks into the audience. Like a true psychopath, Lee had no reaction. “It was just a movie”, he commented.

I still don’t understand why I wasn’t a suspect,” Lee was quoted as saying after confessing to the killings “Crimes happened around me and I didn’t try hard to hide things so I thought I would get caught easily. I bumped into detectives all the time but they always asked me about people around me.

Lee had been saved by an additional police error.  Police had mistakenly believed the killer’s blood was type B. Since Lee’s blood type was type O he was passed over.

Since the California Zodiac case has been covered so widely I’ll just give a brief summary here.

Between 1968 and 1971 a man calling himself “The Zodiac” killed at least five people in and around San Francisco. Many believe that his murders started before 1968 and that Zodiac may have had as many as 20 victims.

It was Zodiac’s overweening ego that grew this case to legendary status.  Zodiac sent letters to the newspapers bragging about his omnipotence and ridiculing the police. In some of these letters, he included cryptograms that he claimed would reveal his identity if correctly deciphered. He sent novelty postcards with hidden messages to reporters, detectives and others.  He threatened to shoot children on school busses, and included rough sketches of explosives he planned to bury.

Although over three thousand people were questioned by police, the only person they publicly identified was Arthur Leigh Allen of Vallejo California, a former schoolteacher who had been institutionalized in 1975 for child molestation.  Allen first came to the attention of authorities when he was placed in the vicinity of one of the murders.

Allen became a serious suspect when a Don Cheney, a former friend, told police that Allen had talked about killing couples, wanted to call himself Zodiac, made other incriminating statements, and owned a Zodiac watch.   Police served two search warrants against Allen but found no incriminating evidence in his home. Partial DNA evidence, fingerprint evidence, and handwriting analysis also seemed to exclude Allen. Zodiac continued sending letters until May of 1974. The case is still unsolved.

Robert Graysmith’s book Zodiac, published in 1986, is largely responsible for sparking interest in the case. Graysmith was a political cartoonist at the SF Chronicle during the Zodiac killings.  He became obsessed with the case and researched it for the next thirteen years.  Graysmith’s Zodiac, the first book written about the case, became a best seller.  Zodiac the movie based on the case was released in 2007.

In the opening scene, Michael Mageau and Darlene Ferrin are together, parked in a lover’s lane when a car comes up behind them. A man emerges from the car and walks over to the couple’s car.  When the man arrives at the car he pulls out a gun and starts shooting. Ferrin is killed and Mageau is badly wounded.

Four weeks later, a letter written by the Zodiac arrives at the San Francisco Chronicle. He describes his crimes and demands that the letter is published. The letter includes a cipher that Zodiac states will reveal his identity if decoded. Robert Graysmith, a political cartoonist, is in the newsroom when the Zodiac’s first letter arrives at the SF Chronicle.  Intrigued by the letter, Graysmith begins trying to figure out the cipher.  Graysmith strikes up a kind of friendship with Paul Avery, the Chronicle crime reporter.

The Zodiac killer strikes again in September of 1969, killing one and severely wounding another victim. Soon afterward, Paul Stine, San Francisco taxicab driver is shot and killed in the city’s Presidio Heights district. San Francisco police detectives, Dave Toschi and his partner Bill Armstrong, are assigned to the case,
The Chronicle receives a new Zodiac letter, with a piece of Stine’s bloody shirt.

The Zodiac states in the letter, that he plans to attack city school buses. Toschi and Armstrong soon find themselves working with detectives from Vallejo and Napa. Napa police had found “Wing Walker” boot prints on the ground, while the SFPD was able to get a partial fingerprint from the taxi cab crime scene.,

Soon afterward, the Zodiac ( or someone claiming to be him), requests to call into an early morning talk show, and speak with celebrity lawyer Melvin Belli. A deep-voiced man who goes by the name of “Sam” calls in and proposes a meeting, but Sam is a no-show, and it is soon revealed that the caller was from a mental institution.
Another letter soon arrives at the Chronicle, taunting the police, and including instructions for creating an explosive device. Reporter Avery writes a number of unflattering stories about the Zodiac, and is “rewarded” for this with a personal letter from the Zodiac, along with a piece of the cab driver’s bloody shirt. Paul Avery is fearful and starts carrying a gun after receiving this letter. He later turns to drugs and alcohol.

Avery’s article soon brings many people claiming to know the Zodiac’s identity.  A man named Don Cheney tells them about Arthur Leigh Allen, a former friend, who talked about hunting couples before the killings started. Cheney is presented as a reliable witness. Toshi and Armstrong question Allen at work.  In this scene Allen is wearing wing walker shoes the same size as Zodiac. Allen makes several suspicious statements though he denies being the Zodiac. A handwriting analyst says that Allen’s handwriting does not match the Zodiac, although Allen is ambidextrous, and might have written the notes with his other hand. Allen’s fingerprint does not match the partial print found on Paul Stine’s cab.

It is 1975 and four years have passed.  Graysmith has remarried and decides to write a book about the Zodiac. Throughout this time, the Zodiac has been silent. Graysmith tells Toschi about the evidence he has collected. Though Toschi claims he can’t help, he quietly gives Graysmith additional people to question.

Graysmith follows one of these leads, in which another detective claims that a man named Rick Marshall might be the Zodiac. By now, the case has consumed Robert’s life. He loses his job at the Chronicle, and his wife takes the kids and leaves, fearful that the Zodiac may target their family.

Graysmith soon after goes to visit the sister of Darlene Ferrin, Zodiac’s first victim. Graysmith asks her about a party where he heard that there was a man who was making Darlene feel uneasy. Graysmith is convinced this was Rick Marshall, but Linda claims it was not a person named Rick…it was some man named “Lee.”
Graysmith, convinced that Lee is Arthur Leigh Allen, rushes to Toschi’s house in the middle of the night to tell him. In their meeting, Graysmith points out a number of things that could link Arthur to the Zodiac, but Toschi claims all he has is circumstantial evidence. Toschi encourages Graysmith to finish his book on the Zodiac.
The time then cuts to December of 1983. Robert walks into a hardware store in Vallejo and finds himself face-to-face with Arthur Leigh Allen. No words are exchanged before Graysmith exits the store.
Eight years later, after Graysmith’s book “Zodiac” was released, Mike Mageau, the survivor of the first Zodiac killing, meets with a detective, and is shown a number of mugshots. Mageau points out the photo of Arthur Leigh Allen as the Zodiac.

Both movies are excellent, with first-class, acting, writing, directing, and cinematography.

Memories of Murder is “based on the True Story” and on a play. Director Bong interviewed many of the people involved in the Korea Zodiac case, but the movie does not claim to be an authentic recreation of the actual crimes.

While the characters and some of the events are fictional, the overall themes are accurate. The Korean police were brutal and incompetent in both the case and the movie. In both the case and movie, a lower-class disabled man was accused of the crime.  One of the strongest themes is the portrait of South Korea  in the 1980s;  an autocratic government clinging to power,  police who are both brutal and uncertain,  a  populace skeptical of government, all of them clueless.

It seems like the only one who really knows what he’s doing is the killer.

Zodiac is “based on actual case files” and on Robert Graysmith’s books “Zodiac” and “Zodiac Unmasked”. Director David Fincher and scriptwriter James Vanderbilt spent months interviewing witnesses, family members of suspects, retired and current investigators, the two surviving victims, and the mayors of San Francisco and Vallejo. The presentation of San Francisco in the 1970s is convincing. The movie received positive reviews and many people praised its accuracy and its fidelity to the real events.

You expect any movie based on a real event to fudge a bit for dramatic purposes.  Time and characters are compressed, dialogue and scenes are created for storytelling purposes. But even including this proviso, Zodiac, the movie, gives a slanted perspective.

The problem is Graysmith’s book.  He is a compelling writer, but an examination of  Zodiac, and Graysmith’s other true crime books, reveal that he never lets facts get in the way of a good story.

In the movie, Graysmith, who played no role in the real police investigation, becomes the main character. In reality, Graysmith and Zodiac reporter Paul Avery had no relationship when they worked at the San Francisco Chronicle. The dialogue and scenes between Robert Graysmith and Detective Toshi are almost totally fictional.

Don Cheney, who claimed that Arthur Leigh Allen was the Zodiac has made many contradictory statements in the last thirty years and is not considered a reliable witness. Cryptologists have debunked Graysmith’s cipher solutions.  The forensic evidence; fingerprint, DNA, and handwriting analysis, seem to exclude Arthur Leigh Allen as the Zodiac.

A movie’s ending is perhaps the most carefully designed part of a film. It is the audience’s last impression, the last chance for the filmmaker to create a satisfying ending. The ending was a challenge because both movies were mysteries without a final solution.

Zodiac had a two-part ending.  The first, where Graysmith silently confronts Allen, fits the typical murder ending, in which the detective reveals the killer.

The second takes place years later when Graysmith’s book is a best seller. Michael Mageau, Zodiac’s first victim, is shown pictures and asked whether he recognizes his assailant.

Mageau points out a photograph of Allen and says, “That’s the man.

The end of Zodiac implies that Allen was the Zodiac, but that police didn’t have enough evidence to convict him.

In reality, Mageau’s identification, given twenty years after the crime, meant very little.  In 1968, at the time of the shooting, Mageau told police that  he did not get a good look at the killer and that he saw the killer only in profile.  Studies have shown that a person’s memory is most accurate at the time of the event. Memory, unlike a new haircut, or a bottle of good Bordeaux, does not improve with age.

The end of Memories of Murder takes place ten years after the crime spree has ended.  Park, now a businessman and father, meets a girl who might have seen the Zodiac killer. The girl describes the man as ordinary looking. Park stares into the camera lens giving the audience an ending that is both ambiguous and intriguing.

Suppose the American and Korean police switched cases. Had Toshi investigated the Korean Zodiac case, it is likely that Lee Choon-Jae would have been caught. Had Park investigated the Zodiac case, there’s a good chance Arthur Leigh Allen would have been convicted.


When Weird Darkness returns…

Joseph McKinnon strangled his girlfriend Patricia Dent, then died while trying to bury her body in their garden.

But first… when you die, do you know that you are dead? A new study says that maybe… yes. You might still be conscious enough to know you are dead even after your body ceases to live. But for how long? That story is up next.



Recent scientific studies reveal that we might know we’re dead after we die. Our consciousness and awareness linger on after our heart stops pumping blood to our brains. The implications of such a finding are not only shocking but re-define consciousness in a philosophical way – and death in a medical and scientific sense. The findings come on the heels of scientific studies that followed patients who were resuscitated after their hearts stopped pumping and were considered clinically deceased. The patients were able to recall the specific actions of doctors and nurses bringing them back to life.

The idea that we are aware of our own passing after it happens can be unsettling for many. It’s like being trapped in a coffin while you’re still alive. Our other functions stop, and our brains can no longer voluntarily control our actions. Nonetheless, perhaps one of the most defining characteristics of being alive still lingers – and that’s our ability to perceive our being. Only, we actually perceive the onset of our non-being because the brain still works after our bodies have gone. It’s a lot to think about, isn’t it?

The experience of being close to passing but being brought back to life has caused much debate in recent science. Many people who have experienced such a moment have described not only a transcendental sensation of floating and a reunion with deceased family but also a degree of cognitive awareness. Science has traditionally explained this near-death phenomenon as a physical experience that coincides with a brain that’s fading. It’s the neurochemical response to a brain deprived of blood and oxygen.

Nonetheless, science has continued to dig for better answers, as countless numbers of these experiences seem remarkably similar.

Speaking to Newsweek, Dr. Sam Parnia went into detail about what transpires at a cellular level. He stated that the cells in our bodies don’t automatically shut down following our passing, but rather they gradually move towards a “death” of their own: “I’m not saying the brain still works, or any part of you still works once you’ve died. But the cells don’t instantly switch from alive to dead. Actually, the cells are much more resilient to the heart stopping – to the person dying – than we used to understand.”

And as it turns out, our cells are not only gradually shutting down, it’s possible they’re multiplying, according to Peter Noble, a microbiology professor at the University of Washington. When conducting research on both mice and zebrafish, he found that cells were actually growing in number following the subjects’ passing: “We didn’t anticipate that […] Can you imagine, 24 hours after [time of death] you take a sample and the transcripts of the genes are actually increasing in abundance? That was a surprise.”

This gradual shutdown could certainly help to validate the claim that we’re somewhat conscious following our own demise.

Researchers in New York recently moved closer to answering the question of what happens after we die – at least, in the immediate sense. The team of researchers found that while the heart stops, the brain continues to function slightly. Specifically, the part of the brain that keeps functioning post-mortem is the part which is responsible for consciousness.

This finding is significant in that we get to experience our final moments objectively, even though we can’t interact or function otherwise.

So, what is consciousness? Consciousness, in the simplest definition, is awareness. However, the neuroscience behind awareness is not well understood – at least not as well understood as neuroscientists would like. The human brain has billions of interacting neurons that process information.

The heart pumps blood to the rest of the body, including the brain, so that it can function. When our human brain absorbs and computes information that we take in, some scientists believe this is the phenomenon of consciousness.

And the definition of death – from a medical viewpoint? Medically, expiration occurs when the heart stops circulating blood. When the heart stops pumping blood to the rest of the body, the brain ceases to function. The lack of blood circulation causes the body’s temperature to drop and also causes breathing to cease. Without the blood flow of oxygen to the brain, the organ begins the process of dying along with the rest of the body.

If the brain is the control center for life, the heart is the core component that feeds the brain to keep it operating. When the heart stops pumping blood and breathing stops, clinical death has occurred.

Dr. Sam Parnia, director of critical care and resuscitation research at NYU Langone School of Medicine in New York City, and his team recently advanced the concept that we know we’re gone after we’ve passed. Dr. Parnia’s team explains that they agree with the traditional notion that death occurs when the brain stops receiving blood from the heart. So, the team of doctors and researchers reviewed cardiac arrest patients. The results of their research revealed that the brain expires slower than the heart.

Dr. Parnia and his team discovered that there is a burst of energy to the brain after we pass. His team found that cardiac arrest patients who were revived were able to recall specific conversations about their resuscitation, as well as their surroundings after the heart stopped functioning. While this is similar to near-death experiences, it’s not the same.

Dr. Parnia’s team examined clinical passings and considered the energy output of the brain. The stories that accompany the research only serve to bolster their findings, but it’s the imaging and scientific research that monitors brain activity post-mortem that has everyone so interested, and, well, concerned.

After passing, the brain’s functions stop working because it lacks the needed blood and oxygen. This causes the brain’s cerebral cortex, or “thinking part” of the brain, to slow and then flatline. When a brain flatlines, there are no brainwaves visible on an electronic monitor within 2 to 20 seconds.

However, expiring in a medical sense doesn’t mean that the consciousness part of the brains ceases to function immediately. Instead, it only suggests that brain waves aren’t registering. Other studies, like the one carried out by Dr. Parnia and his team, have suggested that consciousness after death is similar to the consciousness experienced while sleeping.

Dr. Parnia and his team aren’t suggesting anything about the after-life. In fact, he admits that much more research is needed. Instead, the research is significant only in that when the heart stops, people usually can’t get resuscitated, so continued brain function after this experience tells us more about the process and the brain’s almost independent demise from the rest of the body. The study tells us more about our societal concept of passing when compared to the medical community’s definition.

In the simplest of terms, our brains are still alive after the rest of our body has expired. While it’s not exactly what people want to glean from Dr. Parnia’s research, it’s still considered an interesting look at the process because researchers don’t know how long the phenomenon lasts.

The implication of Dr. Parnia’s study comes down to the idea that if you know you’re gone, you’re not really gone. We like to associate life with an interactive exchange between ourselves and our environments. However, if we continue to be aware, even though we can’t interact, that means we haven’t fully passed.

The idea of living after the medical definition of passing is more significant for Dr. Parnia’s team of researchers at the critical care and resuscitation center at NYU. While we lose reflexes after the traditional expiratory stamp, the continued function of consciousness could be medically significant to Dr. Parnia’s efforts to understand and improve resuscitation.

When scientists, neuroscientists, and philosophers attempt to define consciousness, a precise definition seems so unattainable. However, Dr. Parnia’s study reveals something very physical – and less metaphysical – about consciousness. In a number of cases, patients can recall specific conversations that occurred even after medical professionals couldn’t electronically track brain function. This suggests that consciousness results from brain function that’s almost independent of the traditional brain activity medical professionals can track: “Conscious awareness appears to have continued for up to three minutes into the period when the heart wasn’t beating, even though the brain typically shuts down within 20-30 seconds after the heart has stopped.”

The idea that consciousness arrives physically, but seems independent from other brain functions, could leave scientific and philosophical communities chewing on the implications and arguing about its significance more than ever.

Like… maybe there is a real heaven and hell?


When police first answered a 911 call about an “unresponsive man” lying in his yard in Trenton, South Carolina, it seemed like a simple tragedy. Authorities found Joseph McKinnon dead of a heart attack, but then they also found the body of his girlfriend, Patricia Dent, in a nearby pit.

McKinnon, police realized, had died while trying to bury his girlfriend’s body.

“Evidence gathered at the scene, along with statements from witnesses aided investigators to build a timeline, leading us to believe that Mr. McKinnon attacked Ms. Dent while inside their home,” Sheriff Jody Rowland and Coroner David Burnett of Edgefield County told NPR.

Their statement added: “Mr. McKinnon then bound her and wrapped her in trash bags before putting her in the previously dug pit. The pit was then partially filled in by Mr. McKinnon. While covering the pit, Mr. McKinnon had the cardiac event, causing his death.”

As Rowland told People, police swiftly determined that McKinnon had died of a heart attack when they arrived at the scene. There was no trauma to his body, and he seemed to have died of natural causes.

“However,” he added, “we had a hard time finding his significant other.”

After searching the home that McKinnon and Dent shared, police reached out to Dent’s colleagues at the Mount Vintage Golf Club in North Augusta. Her co-workers said that Dent had uncharacteristically missed work that morning and that she hadn’t responded to any messages.

Police then searched the premises. After finding blood inside McKinnon and Dent’s home, they returned to the garden where McKinnon had died — while filling in a large pit. A neighbor had told police that McKinnon had dug the pit for a new water feature. But police found something else inside.

“We got down in the pit and started digging around,” Rowland told People. “We uncovered it enough that we found black garbage bags.”

Inside the bags, he said, police found the bound and bruised body of Patricia Dent.

According to WJBF, an autopsy confirmed what police had suspected. McKinnon had died of cardiac arrest; Dent had been strangled.

Police believe that after hitting then choking Dent, McKinnon had bound her with tape, then wrapped her body in garbage bags. He brought it to their garden, where he suffered a heart attack as he tried to bury her.

“He was feverishly covering the pit, and so we just kind of put things together,” Rowland told People. “He attacked her, killed her, put her in the pit, and he died covering her up.”

“Basically,” Rowland added, “this case is over.”

But the tragedy of Patricia Dent’s murder has just started. Her twin sister described her devastation about Dent’s death in a post on Facebook.

“My life is now forever changed,” Pamela Briggs wrote, as reported by Oxygen. “What am I going to do without her? I’m so broken. I loved my twin with my everything.”

To KMOV, Briggs added, “I’m shocked. I didn’t see any of this coming. Everybody who ever met her liked her. She was just full of energy and working at 65.”

And to WRDW/WAGT, Briggs said, “I would say a nightmare, and I want to wake up, and it’s a dream. I know it’s not. This is reality and life, and a big part of me is gone, and now I’m going to have to live with that.”

Police noted that McKinnon and Dent had had no known history of domestic violence, and that police had never been called before to their Trenton residence before.

Indeed, it seems that if Joseph McKinnon hadn’t suffered a heart attack while burying Patricia Dent, his girlfriend may have simply vanished.


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! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from – doing so helps the show to get noticed! You can also email me anytime with your questions or comments through the website at WeirdDarkness.com. That’s also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for the email newsletter to win monthly prizes, 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. Plus if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY – or call the DARKLINE toll free at 1-877-277-5944. That’s 1-877-277-5944.

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.

“A Tale of Two Zodiacs” by Paul Drexler for Crime Traveller: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ycknuxfd

“Killed By Karma” by Kaleena Fraga for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/pzrdsmsy

When You Die, You Are Conscious Long Enough To Know It” by Matthew Lavelle for Ranker’s Graveyard Shift:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4kkcc9m7

Murdered During Graduation” by Mary Fetzer for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p92rn29

Again, you can find link to all of these stories in the show notes.

WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.” — Proverbs 10:19

And a final thought… “We must shift our interest from the seen to the unseen. For the great unseen Reality is God.” — A.W. Tozer

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

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