“HISTORY’S MOST VIOLENT GHOSTS” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Many ghost stories are frightening but leave the person encountering them shaken, but no more worse for wear. Perhaps a light touch on the shoulder, the moving of an object, a whisper in the ear, or a cold chill for the more intense cases. But then there are those hauntings that leave the person hysterical… or physically hurt… or even dead. We’ll look at some of the most violent ghosts and hauntings of all time. (History’s Most Violent Ghosts) *** Dixon, Illinois needed a bridge – Mr. L.E. Truesdell was an expert bridge builder. But people had doubts as to whether what he was being asked to do could be accomplished. The naysayers were ignored – and tragedy arrived, (The Truesdell Bridge Disaster) *** The witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts were horrid… the trials in Europe even more so. Now, imagine being a soldier tried as a witch because you returned with supernatural knowledge imparted to you after you were abducted by extraterrestrials. It sounds like the makings of a terrible novel and an even worse movie… but it’s the true story of Major Thomas Weir. (The True Story of the Alien Abduction Witch Trial) *** He’s believed to have killed over 50 women inside his soundproof torture trailer – which he called his “toy box.” We’ll look at the case of serial killer David Parker Ray. (Evils of the Toybox Killer) *** Our criminal justice system tries to be the most fair in the world – considering the accused “innocent until proven guilty.” And while our system is not perfect, for the most part it does its job well. But because it is not perfect, once in a while a murderer walks… or even worse, an innocent defendant goes to prison. And in some cases, that innocent person is convicted and imprisoned based on one thing – they confessed to the crime that they didn’t commit. Why would someone do that? (Why Do Innocent People Confess?) *** Port St. Lucie, Florida is full of disturbing urban legends – some true, many false – as urban legends go. But somehow, most all of these terrifying stories tie back to a single oak tree in a neighborhood park, and Florida’s first serial killer. (The Devil Tree Hauntings)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“History’s Most Violent Ghosts” by Robert F. Mason for Ranker: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3x42y575
“The True Story of the Alien Abduction Witch Trial” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/bdhrv3hu
“The Devil Tree Hauntings” posted at MiamiHaunts.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2sp2wakz
“Evils of the Toybox Killer” by Jaclyn Anglis for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/jep7tnxf
“The Truesdell Bridge Disaster” by Kathi Kresol for HauntedRockford.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4c94hvjy
“Why Do Innocent People Confess?” by Lea Rose Emery for Ranker: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/bjtvenfv
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Hey, Weirdos. If you played “IDENTIFY THE IMPOSTER” on my Patreon page for tonight’s show, the story title that was a hoax and is NOT one of the stories tonight is: “The Wedding Day Specter.”
DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Every town has an urban legend. The abandoned house at the end of the street that’s haunted. The ghost girl seen on the side of a certain backroad. Unexplained lights over your town’s lake. For residents of Port St. Lucie, Florida, there are numerous urban legends… but what is strange is that despite the dozens of different stories, they all revolve around a single oak tree in a neighborhood park, a tree they call, “The Devil Tree.” And while most urban legends can be dismissed as fanciful tales of would-be horror writers wanting to scare their friends, this one begins with the reality of a true monster in human form.
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…
Many ghost stories are frightening but leave the person encountering them shaken, but no more worse for wear. Perhaps a light touch on the shoulder, the moving of an object, a whisper in the ear, or a cold chill for the more intense cases. But then there are those hauntings that leave the person hysterical… or physically hurt… or even dead. We’ll look at some of the most violent ghosts and hauntings of all time. (History’s Most Violent Ghosts)
Dixon, Illinois needed a bridge – Mr. L.E. Truesdell was an expert bridge builder. But people had doubts as to whether what he was being asked to do could be accomplished. The naysayers were ignored – and tragedy arrived, (The Truesdell Bridge Disaster)
The witch trials in Salem, Massachusetts were horrid… the trials in Europe even more so. Now, imagine being a soldier tried as a witch because you returned with supernatural knowledge imparted to you after you were abducted by extraterrestrials. It sounds like the makings of a terrible novel and an even worse movie… but it’s the true story of Major Thomas Weir. (The True Story of the Alien Abduction Witch Trial)
He’s believed to have killed over 50 women inside his soundproof torture trailer – which he called his “toy box.” We’ll look at the case of serial killer David Parker Ray. (Evils of the Toybox Killer)
Our criminal justice system tries to be the most fair in the world – considering the accused “innocent until proven guilty.” And while our system is not perfect, for the most part it does its job well. But because it is not perfect, once in a while a murderer walks… or even worse, an innocent defendant goes to prison. And in some cases, that innocent person is convicted and imprisoned based on one thing – they confessed to the crime that they didn’t commit. Why would someone do that? (Why Do Innocent People Confess?)
But first… Port St. Lucie, Florida is full of disturbing urban legends – some true, many false – as urban legends go. But somehow, most all of these terrifying stories tie back to a single oak tree in a neighborhood park, and Florida’s first serial killer. We begin with that story. (The Devil Tree Hauntings)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, to 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!
STORY: THE DEVIL TREE HAUNTINGS=====
Found in Port St. Lucie, the Devil Tree is a big oak in a county park on canal C-24. A mighty oak, an ordinary tree, nothing to write home about…except the fact that thing might as well growl and snatch up little old ladies and unsuspecting kids and gobble them up like a throwback from a Grimm Fairy tale. The Devil Tree has an evil, macabre, and incredibly blood-soaked reputation; one that’s entwined with Florida history and its amazing capacity to attract the worse of the worse humanity has to offer… and it all began with Florida’s first serial killer.
The story of the Devil Tree begins on January 8, 1971, way before Hammock Park – where the mighty oak now stands – was created. The tale begins in a most bloody and shocking manner when a serial killer sexually attacks and mutilates two teenage girls. The monster, after having his fill with the two girls, hangs them from the oak tree. He then buries the two victims in a shallow grave underneath the tree… only to return numerous times later to have his way with the decomposing bodies.
The man’s name: Gerard John Schaefer.
“The homicidal Broward County, Florida, ex-policeman, though convicted in 1973 of only two mutilation murders, is believed to be responsible for at least thirty more killings. A sadistic sex-beast by nature, Schaefer would lure young women off the roads with the help of his badge to rape, torture, mutilate and murder.”
To say Schaefer was a tormented soul would be an oversimplification. The man was a monster, the sort whose very presence makes Anti – Death Sentence zealots re-thing their stance. Schaefer began experimenting with bondage and sadomasochism at around age 12. The man would inform his state psychiatrist that he loved to tie himself up to trees and get sexually excited by the lack of freedom. Schaefer would hurt and pleasure himself thinking about assaulting women from a very early age.
Schaefer’s earliest childhood memories were that he desired to be a lady… mainly because his sis’ was favored by his alcoholic, verbally abusive father.
By the age of 14, Schaefer had a sweetheart named Cindy. Their relationship was sordid and strange. He would make her take part in role-play fantasies; fantasies that revolved around raping scenarios.
In 1966, the man tried to enter the priesthood; he was rejected because he “lacked faith”. By now, Gerard Schaefer was a ticking time-bomb. That same year, enranged, faithless, and going down a black hole the bomb exploded. By now, Gerard had graduated to animal cruelty.
Gerard was so angry that he just quit the Catholic religion and allowed his inner demons to run amok in his cerebellum. The bomb went kaboom and Gerard decided to start his true calling… he became a serial killer.
Everything came to a head on that fateful year. On October 2, 1966, Nancy Leichner age 20, and Pamela Nater age 21 were having fun with their boyfriends in Alexander Springs Park in the Ocala National Forest. While the boys dove and played in the lake, the girls went out for a stroll… Their bodies turned up – molested and choked – a couple of hours after their boyfriends called in the cops and a manhunt ensued. They were Gerard’s first victims and he had gotten away with the deed and no-one even looked at him funny… he wasn’t even a suspect.
Schaefer turned to law enforcement as a profession, graduating as a patrolman at the end of 1971 at age 25.
Schaefer was convicted of only two murders, we’ll get to those, but investigators would later uncover a slew of possible victims and missing person reports that were most likely part of Gerard’s handiwork. In prison, Gerard boasted of killing more than 30 girls and women.
The man who became a Sherif’s deputy in Martin County, Florida, would prowl the streets and byways of the state using his badge to attract his victims. He was a charming and oftentimes gregarious person and his demeanor worked for his advantage.
On July 21, 1972, Schaefer plucked up from the streets two teenage girls named Nancy Trotter and Paula Sue Wells; both were hitchhiking. The next day, he kidnaped them, took them to a remote woodland, and tied them to trees where he threatened to kill them or sell them into prostitution. He was about to get rid of the girls when his radio screeched and he was called away to a police emergency. He left both girls tied up and promised to return. Miraculously they managed to wiggle out of their bonds. That call saved their lives.
The girls, who were aged 17 and 18, escaped their ropes and ran to the nearest police station; ironically their kidnapper’s own station. When Schaefer returned to the groves and discovered that his would-be victims had vanished, he called his station and insisted that he had done “something foolish”. He went on a longwinded explanation… telling the Sheriff that he had simply pretended to kidnap the two girls in order to “scare them silly.” Schaefer’s boss didn’t buy it. Gerard was stripped of his badge and slapped with a battery of charges.
Somehow, in spite of everything, Schaefer managed to post his bail and was released from prison. Two months later, on September 27, 1972, Schaefer abducted, tortured, and butchered Susan Place, aged 17, and Georgia Jessup, 16. He buried their corpses right underneath the now-famous Devil Tree in Oak Hammock Park in Port Saint Lucie, Florida.
Months later, after Schaefer had beaten the rap for kidnapping Nancy and Paula, a couple of hikers came upon the decomposing and mutilated remains of Place and Jessup. The autopsy revealed that both girls had been tied to a tree at some point, and further investigation turned up documented eye-witness account that the girls were known, hitchhikers. There were too many similarities; a warrant was issued for Schaefer’s house.
In Schaefer’s boudoir, the police recovered violent stories he had written that were full of accounts of the torture, rape, and murder of women, whom he routinely referred to in disgusting and evil terms we won’t mention here. A diary of all his victims. Even more damningly, the experts found personal possessions such as jewelry, diaries, and in one case, teeth from at least eight young women and girls who had gone missing in recent years.
Schaefer was charged with the deaths of Place and Jessup. In October 1973, he was pronounced guilty and given two life sentences. Officials soon declared that he was linked to around 30 missing women and girls.
How many women were tied and killed on the Devil Tree is still up for debate, nonetheless many believe that the Devil’s Tree is permeated with the darkness that Gerard John Schaefer freed into the world. It is a skin-crawling locale full of nasty things and supernatural events.
- Satanists heard about the killings and chose the Devil’s Tree as a new sacrificial site and meeting place.
- More than 4 women and counting have been found in the nearby area. Many showing signs of having been tied or chained to a tree and violently abused.
- There are countless reports of hikers hearing odd sounds and singing through the pines and oaks.
- Hooded figures are known to prowl the area. Sightings of these strange hooded figures have only swelled during the years.
- The trails have become ominous and, in many cases, vegetation has even ceased to grow in certain patches.
- Authorities have made various arrests in the area, particularly of Ku Klux Klan members, and other white supremacist groups.
- The area is filled with ghost sightings. Many believe that the spirits of the victims of Gerard haunt the forest.
- Visitors who have taken a piece of the tree, say a branch or bark, oftentimes come to some sort of misfortune immediately afterward.
- It’s been described that the screams of young women can sometimes be heard emanating from the nearby bathrooms.
On December 3, 1995, Schaefer was found knifed to death in his cell. Fellow inmate Vincent Rivera was sentenced in 1999 of stabbing Schaefer and had 53 years and ten months added to the life-plus-twenty years’ sentence he was already serving for double murder.
Gerard John Schaefer was quoted as saying: “I am probably at least one of the top serial killers of this century, I am certainly one of the most interesting and maybe the most articulate and introspective. I am no doubt the most skillful killer….I killed women in all ways from shooting, strangling, stabbing, and beheading to odd ways such as drowning, smothering and crucifixion.”
Coming up… many ghost stories are frightening but leave the person encountering them shaken, but no more worse for wear. Perhaps a light touch on the shoulder, the moving of an object, a whisper in the ear, or a cold chill for the more intense cases. But then there are those hauntings that leave the person hysterical… or physically hurt… or even dead. We’ll look at some of the most violent ghosts and hauntings of all time, when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: HISTORY’S MOST VIOLENT GHOSTS=====
Most ghosts are seemingly passive or even benevolent, appearing to scare people only by accident, never by intent. Ghosts that are violent (also known as poltergeists), however, are in a class by themselves. Stories suggest that some of these malevolent spirits have actually killed people. The most famous cases of violent hauntings have inspired multiple books and movie adaptations.
Most people think of hauntings as something ghosts do, but the entity haunting 50 Berkeley Square in London, England, has paranormal enthusiasts and experts a bit baffled. By all accounts, it seems to be something other-worldly, but precisely what is still up for debate. The earliest verified account of the horror dates from the 1840s, when 20-year-old Sir Robert Warboys took a dare to spend the night in the supposedly haunted upstairs bedroom of a house surrounded by scary rumors for years. He went in with a gun and a candle, and a bell system for alerting the landlord, just in case. He never came out alive. Just an hour after he entered the bedroom, the landlord heard the bell ringing frantically, followed by a gunshot. When he got to Warboys’ room on the second floor, he found the young man dead, with a look of horror on his face and a bullet hole in the wall opposite the body. It seemed he had perished because of fright, but due to what, no one could ever figure out. After a series of residents, many with stories of hauntings, the home was left to sit vacant. A second, better-documented incident occurred a few decades later in 1887. This time, two sailors – Edward Blunden and Robert Martin – found themselves without a place to stay on Christmas Eve and decided to stay in the empty house on Berkeley Street. Martin fell asleep but was awakened in the night by the sound of Blunden fighting something. Martin awoke to a scene that caused him to flee the building in terror: Blunden was being strangled by a brown, formless shape that had tendrils, one of which it was using to strangle Blunden. (These tentacle-like appendages have led some to suspect the entity is not a ghost, but a “semi-aquatic, predatory, cryptid phenomenon” that surfaces from the London sewer system.) Martin ran from the house and returned with a police officer, only to find that Blunden had been thrown from the second story of the house and crushed on the street below. (In another version of the story, Blunden’s mangled body was found in the basement, at the foot of the stairs.) The house is still there today, complete with an antiquarian bookshop on the first floor. By police order, no employee or customer of the store are allowed to explore the building’s upper floors, though they do report strange noises from that part of the house. It’s probably for the best, since the creature – or whatever it is – that lives upstairs has reportedly claimed at least two lives so far.
If you’ve seen ‘The Conjuring 2’, this story may sound familiar. Loosely based upon the Enfield haunting, the movie embellished some of the details for dramatic effect. Nonetheless, the Enfield haunting remains one of the most widely debated and, if true, most violent episodes of ghost activity in the 20th century. The trouble started on the night of August 30, 1977, when two of the Hodgson children witnessed a wardrobe inexplicably sliding across the floor and loud banging noises. After alerting their mother, Peggy, she called the police. Once there the police reportedly witnessed a chair sliding across the room by itself. All were left to conclude that some invisible force was at work in the house. Before long, the Hodgson family’s youngest daughter, Janet, became the focus of paranormal activity in the house. It seems she became possessed by the ghost of the house’s previous resident, Bill Wilkins, who died of a brain hemorrhage in the home before the Hodgsons moved in. Janet was levitated by the alleged spirit, and he also spoke through her in a creepy male voice, sharing details of his passing. Objects flew through the air, family members and visitors were physically assaulted, and matches were spontaneously lit by the restless spirit. Some people dismissed the case as an elaborate hoax, but several eyewitnesses came forward with stories to corroborate their claims. One of them was a policewoman who signed an affidavit attesting that she had seen a chair levitate and move on its own in the house. The alarming activities eventually subsided. Family members said they continued to feel a presence, but active hauntings stopped. A subsequent family to live in the house reported hearing voices and feeling a presence, but nothing as extreme as those reported by the Hodgson family. The public and countless experts continue to debate whether the haunting the Hodgson family reported was a hoax or real. The surviving Hodgson children continue to maintain that the events truly happened.
Maria Jose Ferreira was just 11 years old when she became the target of a malicious poltergeist – and she did not survive the ordeal. It happened in Jaboticabal, Brazil, in 1965. The angry spirit manifested stones and bricks out of nowhere and targeted little Maria with various physical assaults, including scratches, slaps, and bites, leaving her constantly battered and bruised. A visit by an exorcist did little to help; in fact, it seems to have provoked the spirit even further, to the point where it was setting Maria on fire in public places, in full view of many witnesses unconnected to the case. A visit to a spirit medium revealed the source of the poltergeist’s animosity: Maria had apparently been a witch in a previous life and was now being tormented by the spirits of people her previous incarnation had sent to their deaths with black magic. The medium beseeched the spirits to leave the innocent girl alone, but to no avail. Maria returned home and continued to be tormented until she took her own life with pesticides. After her passing, the manifestations stopped in the Ferreira home.
The legend of the Bell Witch has been described as America’s greatest ghost story, and some versions of the tale even involved a future US president. That last bit is likely an embellishment, but some claims about the story have been documented. In the early 1800s, the Bell family settled in what would one day be Adams, TN, near the Red River. John Bell and his wife, Lucy, had three children: Elizabeth (Betsy) was born in 1806, Richard in 1811, and Joel in 1813. Beginning in 1817, John and daughter Betsy became the targets of violent attacks by an invisible entity that eventually spoke to them. “Kate,” as the spirit came to be called, would slap, bite, scratch, and otherwise assault everyone in the family from time to time, but seemed to hold special animosity towards Betsy and John. Before long, the spirit’s manifestations became accompanied by curses, one of which supposedly slayed John Bell in 1820. The Bell Witch legend was so famous in its own time that the family’s quest for help is said to have reached the ears of future president Andrew Jackson, who came to visit the home with his men, armed with silver bullets to protect themselves. But like all others who tried to help the Bells, they were driven away by the vengeful spirit. Eventually, “Kate” gave up her vendetta against the Bells and is said to have retreated to a cave on their old property, where hauntings and bizarre occurrences continue to be reported to this day.
It’s one of the creepiest unsolved mysteries in Los Angeles history, but the death of Elisa Lam at the Cecil Hotel wasn’t the first time this building had been associated with strange passings. Indeed, the hotel has a long history of murder and the macabre, which is one reason it became the inspiration for American Horror Story: Hotel. Elisa Lam’s case is exceedingly hair-raising, even to skeptics. Security camera footage shows she spent almost four minutes in an elevator, alternately talking to and trying to hide from someone who isn’t visible. All the while, the elevator doors don’t close, staying open much longer than they’re designed to. She then leaves the elevator, never to be seen alive again. She was reported missing, and eventually her body was discovered in the hotel’s rooftop water tanks after hotel residents complained about the water’s taste and color.
There’s no plausible way Elisa could have gained easy access to the water tanks, and despite the fact that the coroner ruled her death an accident, it sparked numerous conspiracy theories, one of them being that she was either possessed by or trying to evade one of the spirits who haunts the Cecil. Elisa’s passing is only the latest in a long series of strange deaths and macabre incidents at the Cecil. Almost from the beginning of the building’s history, it has attracted violence and tragedy. In recent times, the Cecil Hotel was the home of two serial killers, Richard Ramirez (“The Night Stalker”), and later, his admirer and copycat, Jack Unterweger. It’s also said that the Cecil Hotel is the last place Elizabeth Short (“The Black Dahlia”) was seen alive.
The South Shields poltergeist is a recent case of spiritual harassment and assault where the entity seemed to have a fetish for toys. Specifically, the toys belonging to a 3-year-old boy, which the spirit used to terrorize the boy’s parents. In December 2005, “Marc and Marianne” (not their real names), a couple living with their young son Robert in South Shields, England, began to notice strange things happening in their house. Furniture moved by itself. Doors opened and closed of their own accord. Chairs would be found stacked in bizarre configurations. Then, the entity reportedly became violent. One evening while Marianne and Marc were in bed together, Marianne got hit in the back of the head with one of her son’s toys. Marc was beside her, and it appeared as if no one else was in the room. The couple was then pummeled with toys being thrown at them seemingly out of nowhere. As they tried to shield themselves with their covers, they found themselves in a tug-of-war with an invisible entity that tried to steal their blanket. The encounter ended when Marc felt a searing pain on his back, and 13 red scratches appeared on his skin. That’s when the poltergeist’s toy fetish fully manifested. It left a rocking horse dangling from a ceiling fan. Marc and Marianne found a stuffed rabbit sitting in a toy chair at the top of their stairs, with a box cutter in its lap. Malicious messages began to appear on their son’s doodle board and even their cell phones (always from untraceable sources), saying things like “go die” or “you’re dead.” Sometimes, young Robert would go missing for long periods of time, only to be discovered hiding in strange parts of the house, like closets and cupboards. Paranormal investigators were called in, who claimed to witness several incidents themselves, and even to have seen the entity manifest. They described it as a midnight black, three-dimensional silhouette that “radiated sheer evil.” And then, as abruptly as it had begun, the haunting stopped. Though Marianne says she will never be the same and remains traumatized, reportedly no additional paranormal activity has occurred at their home.
Yorkshire, England, 1966: the Pritchard family wasn’t expecting trouble. And at first, the haunting seemed fairly innocuous: strange noises now and then, the occasional chair moved around, etc. But sometime around August of that year, the entity at work in their home at 30 East Drive on the Chequerfields Estate decided to ramp up the horror. Like many poltergeists, the thing focused a great deal of attention on children – in this case, the Pritchard’s daughter, Diane. She was thrown from her bed, and at one point dragged up the stairs by her neck, leaving welts and bruises in the form of a handprint. The entity began to manifest itself visually, in the form of a dark-robed figure that hovered at the feet of family member’s beds. And then, like many poltergeist cases before it, the haunting stopped abruptly, never to resume. Years after the events, a paranormal investigator discovered the Pritchard’s house stood near the former grounds of a medieval rectory, and across the street from an old gallows where many people had been sent to their demise over the centuries. Among those hanged there in the past was a Cluniac monk who’d been convicted of raping and murdering a young girl, not much older than Diane had been at the time of the haunting. Based on this information, and the entity’s description, it was concluded that the haunting of the Pritchards was carried out by this monk’s angry ghost, who lost interest in Diane after she became too old for his sick desires. “The Black Monk” now had a moniker, and went down in the record books as one of Europe’s most violent hauntings.
The haunting of Esther Cox is one of the most famous haunting accounts in all of ghost lore. It centered around Cox and her home in Amherst, Nova Scotia, Canada, beginning in 1878. It seems to have been triggered by Esther experiencing a violent attack and near sexual assault by a male friend. The attack understandably left Cox in great emotional distress, and there may have been a connection between that and the events that followed. There was knocking and banging throughout the night, and Esther’s body began to swell as she alternated between high fevers and periods of very low body temperature. Then objects in the house began to fly around. The doctor who was called in to help Cox witnessed her bedclothes being moved, heard scratching noises from an undetermined source, and saw the words “Esther Cox, you are mine to kill” appear on the wall at the head of her bed. Esther tried moving to other houses, but whatever hurtful entities haunted her followed along. Among their tactics were the setting of small fires, one of which burned down Cox’s host’s farmhouse and resulted in her serving jail time for arson. It would have been easy to chalk this all up to mischief on her part; however, multiple credible witnesses saw several of the events happen while Esther was under close observation. Eventually, attempts to communicate with the spirit through seances and spirit rapping revealed that there were at least five different ghosts following Cox around for unknown reasons. The phenomena calmed down after Esther’s jail sentence in 1879, and eventually ceased altogether. Esther Cox went on to marry twice and have sons from each marriage. Whatever plagued her seemed satisfied with the damage it had already done.
And finally… the Ghosts of Greyfriars Cemetery: Lord Advocate Sir George Mackenzie (known to his victims as “Bluidy Mackenzie”) was a vicious war criminal and torturer in the service of King Charles II. He imprisoned and tormented thousands of dissident Presbyterians in Scotland during the King’s attempts to unify the country under one state religion. He carried out his grisly work at Greyfriars Kirkyard, a small cemetery of the Greyfriars Kirk parish, owned by the Church of Scotland. Hundreds of his victims were buried there, and ironically, so was Mackenzie himself when he passed in 1691. There he remained interred until the 20th century. However, one night in 1998, a homeless man seeking shelter disturbed Mackenzie’s mausoleum, and unleashed one of Great Britain’s most well-known poltergeists. The homeless man himself fell through a hole in the floor of Mackenzie’s tomb, into a forgotten chamber that housed the remains of plague victims. This sent him screaming into the night, never to be heard from again. The next day, a woman looking through the iron gates of the cemetery was “blasted back off its steps by a cold force.” Shortly thereafter, another woman was found unconscious near the tomb, with bruising on her neck indicating someone or something had tried to strangle her. Since then, there have been nearly 500 reports of ghostly attacks near Mackenzie’s tomb, including burns, scratches, unexplained bruises, broken fingers, punches, kicks, pulled hair, strange smells and sounds, and wall and floor knocks, many seen by multiple witnesses. Some people even claimed the ghost had followed them back home or to a hotel to continue its torments. The only person who ever tried to exorcise the restless spirit(s) from the cemetery failed and was reportedly found dead a few days later. To this day, the ghost, presumed to be that of Bluidy Mackenzie himself, reigns supreme in the area and shows no signs of leaving or refraining from hurting others.
When Weird Darkness returns…he’s believed to have killed over 50 women inside his soundproof torture trailer – which he called his “toy box.” We’ll look at the case of serial killer David Parker Ray. (Evils of the Toybox Killer)
But first… imagine being a 1600’s soldier tried as a witch because you returned with supernatural knowledge imparted to you after you were abducted by extraterrestrials. It’s the true story of Major Thomas Weir, up next! (The True Story of the Alien Abduction Witch Trial)
STORY: THE TRUE STORY OF THE ALIEN ABDUCTION WITCH TRIAL=====
If we accept that alien abductions are real, then given the wealth of reports throughout recorded history of strange objects in the sky and equally strange creatures roaming the Earth, then it is highly likely that alien abductions have also occurred for centuries.
And while in our contemporary era the reactions to such revelations can be anywhere from mocking and ridicule on the one hand to being the subject of a serious investigation to your claims on the other, hundreds of years ago such claims would almost certainly draw accusations of satanism, Devil worship, and witchcraft. And what’s more, it would appear they often did.
While there are several cases that could perhaps be examined and interpreted in such a way, one of the most intriguing occurred in Scotland toward the end of the 17thcentury. It features the apparent confessions of a respected former military officer of the Scottish army, who along with his sister, seemingly sealed their own fate with claims of strange creatures, “fiery coaches” and bizarre walking sticks.
If the following account is one of misunderstood alien abduction, possibly even by those claiming to have experienced the strange incidents, then it should alert us to the fact that this can’t have been the only such account of the times. It is perhaps the case that many other similar accounts can be found elsewhere in other official records of the past.
The account we will examine here comes to us from the writing of Charles McKay in his 1841 publication “Memoirs of Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds.” We have, of course, put our own speculation around the account.
The case we will examine here is that Major Thomas Weir a one-time respected Scottish soldier and commander of the Edinburgh Town Guard, who upon his sickbed in early 1670 apparently confessed to the Lord Provost some obscure and bizarre activities, not least an apparent practicing interest in the occult. What’s more these activities involved his sister, Jean Weir.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of these confessions came when Jean herself appeared to break down and tell of a lifetime of strange occurrences. Most interesting to us here as far as UFOs go is how a mysterious stranger arrived seemingly out of nowhere in a “fiery coach” to take her brother away. During this bizarre journey, said to have occurred in 1648, this strange entity would impart “supernatural intelligence”, mainly in relation to a battle taking place at Worcester that very day, a battle the Scots lost.
We should perhaps pause here to examine the wording of “fiery coach”. Anyone with half an interest in the ancient astronaut theory will be familiar with terms such as “fiery chariots” or “chariots of fire” and how many perceive these descriptions to be of a nuts-and-bolts, metallic, futuristic craft. Might this be the case here – if we assume Jean Weir was being truthful of the account – that the fiery coach was a craft that we would call today, a UFO.
And even stranger, the fact that her brother was “taken away” during this sudden appearance also has all the hallmarks of an alien abduction encounter. However, it would appear that whatever the truth of the matter, this incident seemingly set off a chain of events that would eventually lead to the confession of the Weirs to activities that would result in nothing less than their execution.
While the confession was not taken seriously at first, in part due to the noble standing Weir enjoyed but also due to the suspicion he was suffering senility, following the bizarre confessions of Jean both were arrested and tried for witchcraft. They were ultimately found guilty, although it is perhaps worth taking note – and certainly an indicator of the hypocritical times – while his sister was found guilty of witchcraft, he was found guilty on the “lesser” charges of incest and bestiality.
While awaiting execution (in different locations), however, further details would come out. These would revolve around, as the charges above suggest, incest with his sister, and consorting with strange creatures, one of whom was the Devil himself, who would often disguise himself as an old woman.
This description is also of interest to us here. Was the “old woman” the same demonic hag experienced by many who suffer from sleep paralysis, a condition often associated with cases of alien abduction, rightly or wrongly. Or might it be that the “old woman” was actually something we might recognize as a grey alien today? Might an old woman have been the best way Weir could describe it, especially if he suspected occultism to be at the heart of these strange sightings?
What’s more, a walking stick which Weir would carry with him (which had a strange carved head as its topping), was regarded as an item of distrust and wickedness. So much so, that many townsfolk would later spread the rumors of seeing the walking stick moving of its own accord in front of the major.
While it is again speculation on our part here, might it be that this walking stick – if it did have some kind of strange power – was not magic but a technical device?
It is also interesting to examine the final moments and words of Major Weir. As he was taken to the location of his execution, he was urged to repent his sins and beg God for forgiveness. However, both he, as would his sister the following day, would refuse to repent. Major Thomas’s apparent last words were that he had “lived as a beast and must die as a beast!”
This is perhaps an interesting development. If we believe that the Weirs were so guilt ridden and so fearful of what might await them in the afterlife, then repentance would have been the first thing they would have done, regardless if it would do little to avert their brutal fate.
While Major Weir was garroted and then burnt at the stake, his sister Jean was hanged the following day before also burnt at the stake. A final twist in the whole macabre affair was that the stick with the carved head was thrown into the flames after Weir. Witnesses would state that it appeared to “turn” strangely in the flames.
In the years that followed, Weir’s one-time home had claims of being haunted and of general strange activity. In fact, so convinced were most of these bizarre and otherworldly happenings in the property that it would remain virtually abandoned for over a century. It was eventually purchased in 1780 by a former soldier, William Patullo. However, he and his wife would flee the property after one evening after experiencing strange activity in their bedroom with the sudden appearance of a bizarre calf heading toward them.
The house would then remain empty for another half a century before being demolished in 1830.
Just what did happen during the lifetime of Major Thomas Weir and his sister, Jean, will remain a mystery. Was it merely a case of the Weirs falling foul of the moral expectations of the times and the brutal justice of the Church, whose own influence over the justice system at the time, while diminishing was still strong? Or is this a case of repeated alien abductions over several decades? Abductions that might very well have disturbed both of their minds to the degree where they would attempt to make reason of the happenings using the logic of the times.
What should we make of both of the Weirs’ refusal to repent? Had they simply lost their faith in God? Had they come to accept and understand the true nature of the strange visitations? Or might they have genuinely believed the strange happenings to be the work of the Devil? Was the interest in the occult also genuine for which the siblings expressed no regret?
There is little doubt if we or others were to search through the records and writings of the centuries that we would find other such cases that could very well be those of alien visitation. Perhaps the whole subject of witchcraft – at least as it was perceived in the past – and connections to UFO sightings and alien abduction is worthy of our time a little more in-depth in the future. If we accept the reasoned chance that different aspects of the paranormal likely share the same truth, then it would make sense that such fields of interest as the occult and witchcraft would also share those truths.
STORY: EVILS OF THE TOYBOX KILLER=====
On March 19, 1999, 22-year-old Cynthia Vigil was hooking in a parking lot in Albuquerque, New Mexico, when a man claiming to be an undercover cop told her she was under arrest for solicitation of sex work and put her in the back of his car. That man was David Parker Ray, and he brought Vigil to his nearby soundproof trailer, which he called his “Toy Box.”
Then, he chained her to a table in the trailer. Over the next three days, he raped and tortured Vigil, with help from his girlfriend and accomplice Cindy Hendy. Ray and Hendy used whips, medical and sexual instruments, and electric shocks to torment Vigil. Just before her torture, Ray would play a cassette tape with a recording detailing what she would be forced to endure.
On the cassette, Ray explained that she was to refer to him only as “Master” and the woman with him as “Mistress” and never to speak unless spoken to first. He then went on to explain exactly how he would rape and abuse her.
“The way he talked, I didn’t feel like this was his first time,” Vigil said in a later interview. “It was like he knew what he was doing. He told me I was never going to see my family again. He told me he would kill me like the others.”
On the third day, while Ray was at work, Hendy accidentally left the keys to Vigil’s restraints on a table near where Vigil was chained up. Seizing the opportunity, Vigil lunged for the keys and freed her hands. Hendy attempted to stop her escape, but Vigil was able to stab her with an ice pick.
She ran out of the trailer naked, wearing only a slave collar and padlocked chains. In desperation, she knocked on the door of a nearby mobile home. The homeowner brought Vigil inside and called the police, who promptly arrested both Ray and Hendy — and learned of their many sickening crimes.
David Parker Ray was born in Belen, New Mexico in 1939. Little is known about his childhood, outside of the fact that he was mainly raised by his grandfather. He also regularly saw his father, who often beat him.
As a young boy, Ray was bullied by his peers for his shyness around girls. These insecurities eventually drove Ray to drink and abuse drugs.
He served in the U.S. Army and later received an honorable discharge. Ray was married and divorced four times, and he eventually found work as a mechanic with New Mexico State Parks.
To this day, it’s unclear exactly when Ray began his crime spree. But it’s believed that it started at some point during the mid-1950s.
And it only came to light after the escape of Vigil.
After arresting David Parker Ray for the abduction of Vigil, the police quickly obtained a warrant to search his home and trailer What the authorities found inside the trailer shocked and disturbed them.
Ray’s “Toy Box” contained a gynecologist-type table in the middle with a mirror mounted to the ceiling so that his victims could see the horrors delivered upon them. Littering the floor were whips, chains, pulleys, straps, clamps, leg spreader bars, surgical blades, saws, and numerous sex toys.
Authorities also found a wooden contraption, which was apparently used to immobilize Ray’s victims while he and his friends raped them.
Chilling diagrams on the walls showed different methods for inflicting pain.
But of all the disturbing discoveries found in the Toy Box Killer’s trailer, perhaps the most horrifying one was a videotape from 1996, which showed a terrified woman being raped and tortured by Ray and his girlfriend.
Amidst the publicity of the arrest of David Parker Ray after his abduction of Cynthia Vigil, another woman came forward with a similar story.
Angelica Montano was an acquaintance of Ray’s who, after visiting his house to borrow cake mix, had been drugged, raped, and tortured by Ray. Montano was then left by a highway out in the desert. Luckily, she was found there alive by the police, but there had been no follow-up on her case.
Ray often drugged his victims while tormenting them, using substances like sodium pentothal and phenobarbital so that they could not properly remember what happened to them if they survived their torture.
But now, since both Vigil and Montano were willing to testify to Ray’s crimes, the case against the Toy Box Killer grew stronger. Police were able to press Ray’s girlfriend and accomplice Cindy Hendy, who quickly folded and began telling authorities what she knew about the abductions.
Her testimony led the police to discover that Ray had been helped by multiple people during the kidnappings and rapes. Ray’s accomplices included his own daughter, Glenda “Jesse” Ray, and his friend, Dennis Roy Yancy. And at least some of these vicious attacks ended in murder.
Yancy later admitted to participating in the brutal murder of Marie Parker, a woman who had been abducted, drugged, and tortured for days by Ray and his daughter, before Yancy strangled her to death in 1997.
Despite this horrific story — and its chilling implications for David Parker Ray’s other unknown victims — at least one more woman survived the Toy Box Killer’s torture chamber. Surprisingly, it was the same victim who was seen being raped and tortured in the 1996 videotape found in Ray’s trailer.
After some details were released to the public about the woman in the video, she was identified by her ex-mother-in-law as Kelli Garrett.
Garrett was a former friend of David Parker Ray’s daughter and accomplice Jesse. On July 24, 1996, Garrett had gotten into a fight with her then-husband and decided to spend the night playing pool at a local saloon with Jesse to cool down. But unbeknownst to Garrett, Jesse roofied her beer.
At some point afterward, Jesse and her father placed a dog collar and leash on Garrett and brought her to the Toy Box Killer’s trailer. There, David Parker Ray raped and tortured her for two days. Then, Ray slit her throat and dumped her on the side of the road, leaving her for dead.
Garrett miraculously survived the brutal attack, but neither her husband nor the police believed her story. In fact, her husband, believing that she had cheated on him that night, filed for divorce that same year.
Due to the effects of the drugs, Garrett had limited recollection of the events over those two days — but remembered being raped by the Toy Box Killer.
David Parker Ray’s crime spree is believed to have spanned from the mid-1950s to the late 1990s. He was likely able to get away with it for so long because he targeted many women who were of low socioeconomic status. In addition, the fact that he drugged his victims made it far less likely for the few survivors to remember exactly what had happened to them.
Chillingly, much about Ray’s crimes remains unknown, including how many victims he may have killed. Though he was never formally convicted of murder, it’s been estimated that he killed over 50 women.
While police were investigating the Toy Box Killer’s trailer, they uncovered evidence of numerous murders, including diaries written by Ray, which detailed the brutal deaths of several women. Authorities also uncovered hundreds of pieces of jewelry, clothes, and other personal effects, according to the FBI. These items were believed to have belonged to Ray’s victims.
That plus the effort that David Parker Ray put into his “Toy Box” points to a horrifically large number of potential murder victims. But despite all the evidence, the authorities were unable to create additional cases. And although both Hendy and Yancy identified areas they believed Ray disposed of bodies, police found no human remains in any of these locations.
But while we may never know exactly how many people Ray murdered, his confirmed crimes against his surviving victims Vigil, Montano, and Garrett were fortunately enough to put him away for life.
The Toy Box Killer was ultimately sentenced to 224 years in prison. As for Jesse Ray, she received a sentence of nine years. Cindy Hendy was given 36 years in prison. Both were released early — and they walk free today.
David Parker Ray died of a heart attack on May 28, 2002, not long after his life sentence began. He was 62 years old at the time of his death.
Though several years have passed since then, authorities are still working to connect the Toy Box Killer to his many suspected murder victims.
“We’re still getting good leads,” FBI spokesman Frank Fisher said in an interview with the Albuquerque Journal in 2011. “As long as we’re getting those leads, and as long as the exposure in the press keeps generating interest in the case, we’re going to keep investigating this.”
Coming up… Dixon, Illinois needed a bridge – Mr. L.E. Truesdell was an expert bridge builder. But people had doubts as to whether what he was being asked to do could be accomplished. The naysayers were ignored – and tragedy arrived. (The Truesdell Bridge Disaster)
Plus… our criminal justice system tries to be the most fair in the world – considering the accused “innocent until proven guilty.” And while our system is not perfect, for the most part it does its job well. But because it is not perfect, once in a while a murderer walks… or even worse, an innocent defendant goes to prison. And in some cases, that innocent person is convicted and imprisoned based on one thing – they confessed to a crime that they didn’t commit. Why would someone do that? These stories, when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE TRUESDELL BRIDGE DISASTER=====
Dixon, Illinois has always been an important city because it has been a crossing point for the Rock River for centuries. The first white settler in the area was a man of French descent named Ogee that built a cabin along the riverbank in 1828. One of Ogee’s major contributions was continuing a ferry that had been operated by the Native Americans that lived in the area for years. Ogee sold his land to John Dixon, who became the town’s namesake.
The first bridge to cross the Rock River at this point was built around 1846. Between 1846 and 1868, there were eight bridges built to cross the river at Dixon. These only lasted a few years each because of the periods of high water and flooding which brought large amounts of debris down the river. This debris smashed into the bridges causing them to break apart quickly.
Eventually, city officials decided to look for bridges designed with better materials that would outlast the wooden bridges. The proposal required a bridge that was six hundred sixty feet long. It would be quite an engineering marvel for that period.
City authorities looked at many different plans before finally deciding on a bridge made from iron that was designed by L.E. Truesdell from Massachusetts. Truesdell designed other bridges in Illinois but none of his previous projects were as long as the Dixon bridge required. Not all the people involved were convinced that Truesdell’s design was the best, but their doubts were silenced by the majority.
The bridge was built for a cost of $83,000. It opened to great fanfare January 21, 1869, with music and a parade to highlight the accomplishment. Large loads were carried across the bridge to show the sturdiness of the design.
Four years later on May 4, 1873, all seemed well with the bridge. Reverend J. H. Pratt from the Baptist Church had scheduled a special event for the Baptist Church for that day. Pratt had been Reverend of the church for about nine years by 1873. This year his flock had brought in six new candidates to the church and the reverend wanted to highlight this success with a special occasion. He scheduled a mass baptism that would involve full-immersion in the river. People gathered all along the banks and onto the bridge for a chance to watch the ceremony. There were even families in carriages that stopped on the bridge.
One of the excited onlookers was 18-year old Clara Stackpole. Clara had a busy schedule that day but she brought her little sister Rosa to see the baptism. This was to be Clara’s last day in Dixon. She was moving to Chicago where she was scheduled to begin work as a teacher. It would be an understatement to say that Clara was excited. Her little sister, Rosa was only 10 years old in 1873. Both girls were well known with their community.
Another family that joined the crowd was part of the Dana family. Minnie Dana was 7 years old and attended with her mother’s sister, Agnes Nixon. Agnes was 17 years old and staying with the Dana family.
Most of the candidates that were being baptized that day were young women who had moved to the area to work in the factories. Their families came to take part in the event and were proudly watching the festivities. Later, it was estimated that at least 200 people lined the bridge for the event.
The first two baptisms went as expected. When the third woman stepped into the water and the choir began to sing once again, another sound rose. As the voices of the choir swelled a horrible shrieking noise rose above the music. At first the crowd stood stunned, confused by the sound that rose above all others. Then as the realization of what was actually happening rushed over them, the folks on the bridge began to move. The mass of people turned almost as one and made toward the closest bank. But they moved too late and only a handful on each end of the bridge escaped.
The iron tresses which had seemed so decorative only minutes before became like giant metal jaws as they closed down over the helpless people standing on the bridge. The jaws ripped flesh before it fell, dragging the victims into the water below. Over 175 people were dumped into the river.
Almost as soon as the shrieking of the bridge stopped, it was replaced by a sound even more terrible than the one before. Screams from family members filled the air as people began to realize what had just taken place. The screams were soon joined by the wails of the wounded.
Grown men were screaming for their children and wives, women that were there to witness their co-workers or friends welcomed into the house of God, fainted at the sight of the mangled bodies piled under the wreckage. Some witnesses were struck by the fact that one moment the day was bright and shining as if the heavenly gates were thrown open to celebrate this joyous occasion and the next moment it was as if the Angel of Death himself had spread his dark wings over everyone and everything.
Help began to arrive almost immediately. Men jumped in to save the survivors. Many victims were pulled up on the bank to safety. The injured were grabbed by others who carried them to the nearest houses to set up makeshift hospitals. Wooden planks from the bridge were used to pull both living and dead victims from the water. One man mentioned in the newspapers of the day was William Dailey who saved at least 16 people single handedly with a plank from the broken bridge.
The houses closest to the river were quickly filled with the injured, the dying and the dead. Family members staggered from house to house looking for their loved ones. Heartbreaking scenes took place of family members reunited after hours of searching after thinking all hope was lost, only to find their loved ones alive. And the other scenes, even more heart wrenching, of people searching through the crowds of survivors, only to find their family members laid out on the bank in the makeshift morgues.
Special machines arrived to help lift the wreckage so that they could search for the missing bodies with long lines containing grappling hooks at the end. After 11 days the last of the missing was found. One body, that of 17-year-old Lizzie Mackey was found by the dam in Sterling over 14 miles downstream of the accident.
Minnie Dana and her Aunt Agnes and the Stackpole sisters were in the mass of dead and dying caught in the river. Little Minnie was pulled out alive but died shortly afterwards. Her Aunt Agnes was found trapped in the metal work of the bridge. The men who were recovering the bodies were heartbroken at the sight of the victims, especially the young children like Rosa and Minnie. These men would talk of seeing the faces of the victims in their nightmares even years later.
It is no surprise that there was a lot of finger pointing after this disaster. One surprise though was the people who blamed the Baptist Church for the accident. The emotions against the Baptists rose so high that the newspaper felt the need to comment. “There are some people in this town—those in the habit of censuring Christians whenever they have an opportunity—who consider the Baptists, especially the Rev. J. H. Pratt, the minister who was immersing the converts, responsible for the accident. This is unfair …”
Reverend Pratt must have been devastated by the tragedy. He left the church in Dixon by the end of the year and moved away. He was brought back to Dixon ten years later to be buried in Oakwood Cemetery. In fact, he is buried near Clara and Rosa Stackpole.
The news of this accident spread quickly. The Dixon Sun reported that it had spread around the world by the next day. Some of the headlines in the different papers told the tale, “Baptism of Death” , “Dixon Horror”, “The Great Bridge Murder.”
This accident shut the town down for days. Businesses and schools stayed closed as folks mourned their dead. In the end, 46 people lost their lives. 37 of those that died were females while 9 were male. The focus in town was the cleanup and the churches were the busiest places in town as funerals were held for the victims.
A Coroner’s Jury was gathered the next day, but the emotions were so high on both sides that it was hard to determine where the true issue of blame should rest. Some blamed the City Council while others felt that the City authorities had been tricked by Truesdell. The Dixon Sun reported on May 7, ““Give no ear to those men who accuse their neighbors of murder, as stated in the Chicago Times. Many good men believed the Truesdell bridge to be a perfect structure, and were as honest in their belief as those who were of a contrary opinion. Scientific men and bridge builders knew the faults of the miserable structure; and the rotten iron of which it was built was well known to the rotten contractors.”
Truesdell never built another bridge. He opened a silver mine back east. It eventually failed. Truesdell died in 1890 and was buried in Massachusetts.
There are two different plaques on the riverwalk to honor those killed. Many articles have been written about this terrible event and they all contained many tales of heroic deeds conducted by ordinary men that would later say they only did what anybody else would have done. Though this tragedy took place so long ago, the courage and compassion demonstrated by those heroes, the survivors, and the family members of those lost is awe inspiring.
STORY: WHY DO INNOCENT PEOPLE CONFESS=====
It seems mind-boggling that anyone would confess to a crime if they haven’t actually done anything wrong. So who are these innocent people who confessed to crimes, and why do people confess to crimes they didn’t commit? Arrested individuals make false confessions for a variety of reasons, though unfair circumstances and abuse figure in many cases. If you’re vulnerable and being treated inhumanely while being questioned, there’s a good chance you’ll say anything just to have it all be over. But that’s the problem – it’s not over. False confessions often lead to years in prison and even the execution of guiltless parties. So why do innocent people confess to crimes? Usually because they’re forced to, because they feel like they have no other choice. But once that admission of guilt is out there, it’s hard to take it back.
One of the biggest arguments against torture – besides the fact that it’s inhumane – is that the information and confessions received during torture are often unreliable or untrue. For example, Mohamed Ramadan, a police officer at Bahrain International Airport, was arrested in 2014 under suspicion of attacking other officers. He was innocent, but was tortured until he made a false confession. The torturers even admitted that they knew he was innocent, but they were angry with him for attending pro-democracy rallies. Ramadan was convicted, and is sentenced to be executed.
Sometimes, an innocent individual can become so convinced of their own guilt that they actually believe they committed a crime. Peter Reilly discovered this firsthand when he found his mother dead in their home in 1973. He was brought in by the police, who told him he had failed a lie detector test (he hadn’t). Between that lie, and hours of questioning, investigators essentially bullied him into believing that he had killed his mother. He even wrote a confession, saying, “I remember slashing once at my mother’s throat with a straight razor I used for model airplanes.” Reilly was eventually exonerated – but only after he spent time in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
Sometimes, confessing is presented by the authorities as the easy way out. Stefan Kiszko was accused of the brutal murder of a young girl, Lesley Molseed, in 1975. He was told there were two options: if he confessed, he would be eligible for parole; if he didn’t, then he would spend the rest of his life behind bars. So, he confessed, knowing that his confession was false. Kiszko assumed that the police would look into his story, find out it wasn’t true, and let him go. They didn’t. Despite recanting as soon as he was given a lawyer, Kiszko spent 16 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit.
In 1934, three black farmers, Arthur Ellington, Ed Brown, and Henry Shields, were accused of murdering white planter Raymond Stuart. They had confessed to police, but only after an extremely violent interrogation that included brutal whippings. They were convicted and sentenced to be hanged, but appealed. In the resulting landmark case Brown v Mississippi, the Supreme Court ruled that confessions obtained through violence undermined the right to due process. The men’s sentences were reversed, though they ended up serving time for manslaughter.
After 14 to 30 hours of interrogation, you’d probably confess, too. That’s exactly what happened to the Central Park Five. Raymond Santana, Kevin Richardson, Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, and Kharey Wise confessed to the rape of a female jogger in Central Park in 1989. They later recanted their stories, saying that they had only confessed because they were worn down and forced to by the police. In fact, a serial rapist was later found guilty of the crime with the help of DNA. The wrongfully imprisoned men received a $41 million settlement because of their treatment.
Plea bargains can tempt false confessions. In 1990, Michael Phillips was misidentified in a photo line up for the rape of a 16-year-old girl. But because he was black and the victim was white, he worried that a jury wouldn’t believe his innocence. Rather than risk a longer sentence, he plead guilty and received 12 years in prison. Phillips ended up serving 24: he was finally exonerated when another man’s semen was matched to the rape kit in 2014.
Some cases really catch the public eye, and that makes them magnets for false confessions. Maybe people want to become famous for being associated with the crime, or perhaps they’re just obsessed. Whatever the reason, crimes like the infamous Black Dalia murder in 1947 led to multiple false confessions. One of the men who confessed, Daniel S. Voorhees, insisted he was guilty of the murder. But his story fell flat when he couldn’t pick the victim, Elizabeth Short, out of a lineup of photographs.
Children are sometimes put in incredibly tense situations, and they don’t always understand the consequences. When 16-year-old Felix was brought in for the 2005 shooting of Antonio Ramirez and questioned without a lawyer, he slowly went along with interrogators. He picked up pieces of what they said had happened and used them in his confession, even claiming to have left the gun at his grandfather’s (though he didn’t have a living grandfather). Studies have shown that children are more likely to give false confessions than adults. They are also more likely to think that going along with the interrogators will lead to them getting released, while maintaining innocence and disagreeing will lead to them getting jailed.
Some people will go much farther to protect their loved ones than they will to protect themselves. The show trials conducted in the USSR under Stalin included many false confessions. Some were obtained through violence, but others involved threats against the families of those involved. Authorities would say that they were just as guilty as the accused individuals, and could also be executed. Many people confessed to save their families from that fate.
Floyd Brown spent 14 years paying for a murder he didn’t commit. Why? In part, because of a lengthy confession he supposedly had written, detailing how he had killed an 80-year-old woman in 1993. But his lawyers maintained that he has the mental capacity of a seven-year-old, and was only able to speak in two or three word phrases. He was put in a mental hospital to await trail, but was left in purgatory for over a decade before he was released. The mentally handicapped have been shown to be very vulnerable to producing false confessions.
False confessions are more likely to happen when someone is drunk or under the influence of drugs. But in many cases, being drunk alone won’t get you off the hook – or get the confession thrown out.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host like “Retro Radio – Old Time Radio in the Dark”, “Micro Terrors; Scary Stories for Kids”, “The Church of the Undead”, 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 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.
“History’s Most Violent Ghosts” by Robert F. Mason for Ranker
“The True Story of the Alien Abduction Witch Trial” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight
“The Devil Tree Hauntings” posted at MiamiHaunts.com
“Evils of the Toybox Killer” by Jaclyn Anglis for All That’s Interesting
“The Truesdell Bridge Disaster” by Kathi Kresol for HauntedRockford.com
“Why Do Innocent People Confess?” by Lea Rose Emery for Ranker
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “A person is praised according to their prudence, and one with a warped mind is despised.” — Proverbs 12:8
And a final thought… “All love grows when it’s nurtured and dries up when it’s not. That’s because love is not only a noun—it’s also a verb. It requires action.” – Joanne Stern
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.