“HOUSKA CASTLE AND ITS GATEWAY TO HELL” and More True Paranormal and Crime Stories! #WeirdDarkness
Constructed near Prague in the 13th century, Houska Castle has housed mad scientists, Nazis, and perhaps even “demons.” (Houska Castle And Its Gateway To Hell) *** In the 1980s, Theresa Knorr brutally murdered her two daughters—with the help of her sons. (The Murder Of The Knorr Daughters) *** Due to the fact that they are homes for children who are unwanted, abandoned, or orphaned… orphanages are naturally sad places even when shown in the light of day. But in the dark, the sadness can turn to terror as a whole different crowd of children make themselves known… the ghosts of those who died there. (Ghost Stories From Orphanages) *** Hannah Upp was a teacher who developed a severe and rare form of amnesia – she disappeared twice, but was located each time. But then she disappeared again in 2017 and is still missing today. What happened to Hannah? (The Teacher With Amnesia Who Disappeared Forever)
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SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
HAVE YOU SEEN HANNA UPP? Call the Virgin Islands Police Department at 340-772-5605
BOOK: “Mother’s Day” by Dennis McDougal: https://amzn.to/3vnGypv
“Houska Castle And Its Gateway To Hell” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/mw2kus5z
“The Murder Of The Knorr Daughers” posted at The Line Up: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3wkt93r4
“Ghost Stories from Orphanages” by Elle Tharp for Graveyard Shift: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yjhkvhs7
“The Teacher With Amnesia Who Disappeared Forever” by Stephen Morin for Unspeakable Crimes: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/mwaweaad
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A medieval fort built seemingly in the middle of nowhere – protecting seemingly nothing, and apparently built to impress and/or intimidate absolutely no one. So why was Houska Castle built? Could the legend be true – that its purpose is to guard a gateway to hell?
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…
In the 1980s, Theresa Knorr brutally murdered her two daughters—with the help of her sons. (The Murder Of The Knorr Daughters)
Due to the fact that they are homes for children who are unwanted, abandoned, or orphaned… orphanages are naturally sad places even when shown in the light of day. But in the dark, the sadness can turn to terror as a whole different crowd of children make themselves known… the ghosts of those who died there. (Ghost Stories From Orphanages)
Hannah Upp was a teacher who developed a severe and rare form of amnesia – she disappeared twice, but was located each time. But then she disappeared again in 2017 and is still missing today. What happened to Hannah? (The Teacher With Amnesia Who Disappeared Forever)
Constructed near Prague in the 13th century, Houska Castle has housed mad scientists, Nazis, and perhaps even “demons.” (Houska Castle And Its Gateway To Hell)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: HOUKA CASTLE AND ITS GATEWAY TO HELL=====
Hidden by thick forestry, Houska Castle in Czechia is shrouded in nightmarish myth and occultist legend. It was built atop a cliff in Prague’s countryside, mysteriously isolated from all trade routes. It had no source of water or fortification. Some say it wasn’t built to keep evil from entering — but to prevent it from spilling out.
According to the castle’s official website, it was built in the 13th century as an administrative hub for the king, but Czech folklore maintains that the true purpose of its construction was to seal a gaping crack in the limestone. Locals believed this was a gateway to Hell from which demonic beings emerged to feed on villagers and drag them back into the abyss, never to be seen again.
Legend has it that prisoners who were facing the gallows were offered full pardons, but only if they agreed to be lowered into the bottomless hole and report on what they saw. The first man to do so was young and healthy, and he happily accepted. Within seconds, however, he cried to be raised up. When he was pulled from the chasm, his hair had turned white.
The castle’s eerie history doesn’t stop there, though. Nazi experiments took place within its walls during World War II. Some say the Wehrmacht occupied this castle precisely to investigate whether the gateway to Hell was real, as feverish occultism had consumed its higher ranks. Today, Houska Castle remains one of the most haunted places on Earth.
While Houska Castle now welcomes countless tourists from around the world, the limestone cliff on which it sits has drawn people in since antiquity. Archaeological evidence shows Celtic tribes inhabited the land far before the Middle Ages, and Slavic tribes migrated to the region in the sixth century.
As Bohemian chronicler Václav Hájek detailed in his Czech Chronicle in 1541, the first known structure at the site was a small wooden fort in the ninth century. Hájek also recounted local folklore that described the emergence of a crack in the cliff. It revealed a seemingly endless abyss that villagers deemed an entrance to Hell.
Locals were terrified of the half-human hybrids that began to crawl out of the hole at night and tear livestock apart. Fearful of turning into these demonic entities themselves, villagers avoided the rocky entrance. They tried to block it with stones, but the abyss allegedly gobbled up anything they dropped into it, refusing to be filled.
King Ottokar II of Bohemia had the gothic structure built sometime between 1253 and 1278. Oddly, the original construction omitted stairs from the courtyard to the upper floors, and most of the structure’s defenses were built facing inwards. It was as if the purpose of the castle wasn’t to keep invaders out but rather to keep something trapped within.
Perhaps most notable of all, the king had the gateway to Hell sealed with stone plates and had a chapel built above it. The chapel was dedicated to the Archangel Michael who led God’s armies against Lucifer’s fallen angels, leading some to believe the gateway truly existed — or still does.
By 1639, the castle was occupied by a Swedish mercenary named Oronto. The black magic practitioner allegedly toiled nightly in his laboratory in an effort to create an elixir for eternal life. This instilled villagers with so much mortal fear that two local hunters assassinated him. Despite Oronto’s death, locals continued to avoid the area.
Scholars have since discovered cracks in Hájek’s histories, and any evidence of Oronto’s existence is rather dubious. Houska Castle did trade hands between various nobles and aristocrats in later centuries, however. It was renovated in the 1580s, fell into disrepair by the 1700s, and was fully restored in 1823. A century later, Josef Šimonek, president of Škoda Auto, purchased the castle for himself.
In the 1940s, the Nazis overtook the castle during their occupation of Czechoslovakia, though their reasons for doing so are unclear, as the castle lacked defenses and was 30 miles from Prague. According to Castles Today, some believe they needed to secure the 13,000-manuscript library of SS leader Heinrich Himmler, who was obsessed with the occult and believed that its power would help the Nazis rule the world.
Himmler allegedly feared his trove of blasphemous materials would be destroyed in the war, but was something even more sinister afoot? Locals at the time reported strange lights and horrifying sounds coming from the castle. Some say that many top Nazi officials, including Himmler, attended dark ceremonies at Houska Castle in which they attempted to harness the power of Hell.
After the war, the Šimonek family regained ownership of Houska Castle, and they still own it to this day. The castle has been open to the public since 1999. The Prague Daily Monitor reports that many visitors are baffled by its counterintuitive architecture and unnerved by the fresco paintings in the chapel.
The strangest of these paintings depicts a creature with the upper body of a human woman and the lower body of a horse. While it was unheard of at the time to include depictions of pagan mythology in a church, even more staggering is the fact that the centaur is using its left hand to shoot an arrow — as left-handedness was associated with service to Satan in the Middle Ages. Historians believe the painting is a hint to the creatures that lurk beneath the church.
Indeed, to this day, visitors claim to hear screams and scratching noises from beneath the chapel floor.
When Weird Darkness returns… in the 1980s, Theresa Knorr brutally murdered her two daughters—with the help of her sons, even going so far as to burn one of her daughters alive. That story is up next.
STORY: THE MURDER OF THE KNORR DAUGHTERS=====
When you think of a mother, you imagine someone who loves you unconditionally—a person to whom you give your absolute trust. But what happens when that trust is violated in the most heinous of ways? What if the woman who tucks you in at night is a mother, a murderer, and a monster?
Such is the case of Theresa Knorr, a mother and serial child abuser who murdered two of her daughters—and forced her two sons to help. Seasoned true crime author Dennis McDougal examines the chilling case of Theresa Knorr, her six children, and the horrific abuse they suffered at the hands of their mother in Mother’s Day.
Theresa Knorr was born on March 14, 1946 to Jim and Swannie Gay Cross in Sacramento, California. Theresa was the younger of two daughters born to the couple; Swannie also had a son and daughter from a previous marriage. The Crosses lived a relatively happy life in the early 1950s. Jim was an assistant cheesemaker at Sacramento’s Golden State Dairy while Swannie worked at the Essex Lumber Company running a machine that made pencils. With money saved, the Cross family purchased a bigger home in nearby Rio Linda.
But by the end of the 1950s, their budding domestic bliss came to a tragic end. Jim was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, and following an unsuccessful brain surgery, was forced into unemployment. Swannie did her best to support the family—until she suffered a fatal heart attack on March 2, 1961. Theresa, days away from her 15th birthday, was with her mother on the day Swannie’s heart gave out; she held her mother in her arms as she died.
The year after her mother’s death, at age 15, Teresa dropped out of high school and married her first husband, Clifford Clyde Sanders. The following summer, she gave birth to her first child, Howard Sanders. By all accounts, Theresa’s marriage to Clifford was a tumultuous one; the couple frequently clashed, and Theresa claimed that her husband was abusive and an alcoholic. On one memorable occasion, Theresa filed charges against her husband after being punched in the face, but the charges were later dropped. At the peak of their brawling, and less than a month later, on July 6, 1964, during a heated argument, Theresa shot Sanders with a rifle.
Theresa was charged with murdering Clifford Sanders. She pleaded not guilty, claiming self-defense. At the trial, Clifford’s relatives testified that Theresa was capable of killing her husband. “I believe with all my heart that Theresa Sanders planned to kill my brother,” stated Clifford’s sister, Lydia.
On September 22, 1964, Theresa was found not guilty in the murder of Clifford Clyde Sanders. The following spring, she gave birth to her second child, Sheila Gay.
On July 9, 1966, Theresa married U.S. marine Bob Knorr. The couple had four children together: Suesan in 1966, William in 1967, Robert in 1968, and Theresa “Terry” Marie in 1970. As with her first marriage, Theresa’s relationship with Bob was fraught with alcohol-fueled arguments and accusations of infidelity. The couple soon called it quits.
Theresa Knorr married two more times after her divorce from Bob Knorr: first, to Ron Pulliam and then to Chet Harris. Her fourth and final marriage lasted only a little over two months in 1976. And it was upon the dissolution of this marriage that Theresa Knorr went over the edge. Her drinking increased. Her neuroses worsened. And, most tragically, her violent and vile outbursts against her children escalated to full-fledged murder.
Envious of her two older daughters, Theresa directed the brunt of her abuse at Sheila and Suesan. Both girls met gruesome ends at their mother’s hands. In the summer of 1984, Theresa burned 17-year-old Suesan alive with the help of her sons, Robert and William. Several savage assaults on Suesan preceded the incident: a shot in the back, a stabbing, and a crude operation with an X-Acto knife. Theresa’s motivation? She believed Suesan had used magic to make her gain weight.
The following summer, Theresa killed her 20-year-old daughter Sheila by beating and then locking her in a closet without food or water for three days. Again, Theresa made wild claims to justify her actions. And again, Robert and William served as her brainwashed accomplices.
In 1993, Terry—the youngest of the Knorr children—courageously stepped forward with an account of her mother’s crimes. It was not, in fact, the first time she had reached out for help; previous attempts were dismissed. This time, however, the monstrous truth was believed. An investigation led to the arrest and conviction of Theresa Knorr, who received two consecutive life sentences. At last, Theresa Knorr was brought to justice, but the scars she left would never fade.
Dennis McDougal examines Knorr’s depths of depravity and the case that made headlines across the nation in Mother’s Day – which I’ll link to in the episode notes. The excerpt below begins in the aftermath of Knorr’s divorce from Chet Harris, when the mother’s capacity for violence took on a terrible new dimension.
Back at the house on Bellingham Way, Theresa grew more reclusive, more unpredictable, and more violent, but nobody outside of her immediate family knew anything about it. Though she had always been hard on her children, it was her last husband who finally turned her into a monster.
“She really went over the edge with Chet Harris,” said Terry. “After Harris, she dated for a little while, but then she got to the point where she wouldn’t date or remarry or nothing.”
Terry’s older brothers William and Robert agreed, recalling that their mother’s gradual transformation from angry disciplinarian to raging eccentric took place in the late 1970s.
“Sometime around when I turned 10 or 11 or so, she started becoming abusive, real short-tempered,” William recalled. “She stopped going out, seeing friends at all, on any level. She got rid of the telephone because she didn’t want any people calling. We weren’t allowed to have anybody inside the house.”
“When I was growing up, I hated The Brady Bunch because I knew that nobody lived like that,” said Robert. “I knew that because I knew what my family life was like. Nothing could be more different from the truth than that (expletive) TV show.
“I grew up in an insane asylum basically, but what’s worse is we didn’t know it was an insane asylum,” he continued. “I never really admitted or even knew that I was being abused or that my family was being abused, because I thought it was normal.”
And yet as far as the neighbors knew, the Knorr family was no different from any other.
“Not that I want to say that they were private, but they stayed to themselves,” said Janet Garrett, who lived next door. “It was difficult to strike up a conversation with the mother. She just didn’t want to, it seemed like. You try a few times, and after two or three times you just say, ‘Okay.’ You just give up.”
Theresa’s changing behavior even went undetected by the neighborhood kids, who generally had a closer view of their friends’ private life than their parents.
“Not having a father figure around—that was the only thing about their family that seemed different,” said Janet’s son Chris Garrett.
He was the same age as Terry Knorr and went to her house to play from time to time. Once, he went to her birthday party—a party at which he noticed that he was the only non-family member.
“Terry’s mom wasn’t the silent type,” he recalled. “In fact, she was real talkative. Kept to herself, but talkative when you talked to her. Even so, I don’t remember her ever saying anything that you could call ‘off the wall.’”
But Terry’s mom was definitely different from the other moms in the neighborhood. “I will say this about her,” Garrett added. “Terry’s mom definitely had control of the kids. I didn’t see a lot of back talk or argument coming out of any of them. If they were told to be in by a certain time, they were in. If they were told to do something, they did it. They never asked questions. They never made a point to second-guess authority.”
Theresa’s children may have accepted this dictatorial isolation, but they didn’t understand it. They complained about not being able to have friends over, but if they whined too much about it, they were slapped into silence. They did not see the gradual evaporation of their contact with the outside world as the logical result of shutting themselves inside the house. Instead, Theresa’s children saw the neighbors’ distancing from their mother and themselves as indifference and an unwillingness to get involved.
“Our neighbors backed off,” said Terry. “They knew better than to (mess) with our family. Everybody shuts their eyes, nobody wants to get involved.”
The Knorr children’s blind obedience to their mother stemmed from a constant state of terror that remained invisible to the Garretts and every one else who lived along Bellingham Way. Even in the early stages, the terror was so bizarre and their mother so skilled at keeping it “in the family,” it would have taken more than simple curiosity on the part of the neighbors to uncover what was going on. Had the Garretts or any of the other neighbors known about it, Terry wonders even today if they would have done anything.
“When my mother got drunk, she used to lick the ends of steak knives,” Terry recalled. “Serrated-edged knives. And she threw them at us to see if her aim was good.”
Knives weren’t Theresa’s only deadly playthings when she’d had a little too much to drink.
Terry still blanches, remembering the chill in her mother’s voice one evening when she went in to say good night. Eyes half-closed, her mother sat in a deep chair in the living room and motioned for Terry to approach. In her drunken stupor, Theresa howled at her shivering but stoic young daughter, boasting of that defining moment nearly fifteen years earlier when she pointed a gun at Clifford Sanders and pulled the trigger.
“She owned two guns, a derringer and a revolver,” Terry recalled. “At one point, she took out the bone-handled old cowboy gun. It looked like a toy, but it was a real six-shooter. A .22 pistol.”
Aiming the pistol at her daughter, Theresa told Terry, “I shot once and I can do it again.”
Terry froze, standing terrified before her.
“And she told me to come to her. And I did,” Terry said with a shudder, remembering. “And she put the gun to my head, so hard that the next morning I woke up and I still had a knot from where the barrel had sunk into my temple.”
On the evenings that followed, sobered and sentimental, Theresa would try to make amends by taking everyone out for a family ride, as if nothing had happened. She’d load them into the car and drive up Highway 50, past Placerville, into the High Sierras.
“It was one of those see-how-nice-I-can-be type things,” Bill recalled.
There was no point to it, other than to commune with nature. They never went to play in the snow or hike in the forest. It was just a tour through the mountains. Unlike six-lane Interstate 80, which cut through the relatively barren Donner Pass, the Placerville high- way had more vistas, more wildlife, and more trees, which appealed to Theresa’s aesthetic sense. But the family drives did little to make up for the savagery that went on back home.
“It was beat us, lock us in our room for days, and then, she’d be all lovey-dovey,” said Terry. “My mom was so blatantly contradictory. She played the part of a mother, but she also played the part of a very torturous, sadistic human being. Oh yeah, she was schizo.”
But the older her children got, the more difficult they were to control. They wanted to visit friends, not stay at home for readings from It or Ecclesiastes. William was among the first to begin plotting his escape.
“When we got to a certain age, we were no longer permitted to go outside,” Bill recalled. “We were always grounded. Friends that came over were told by my mom that we were grounded, or asleep, or not there. We had everything taken away from us.”
Theresa timed her children’s visits to school, to the grocery store, to church—and administered the third degree if they were a few minutes late getting home.
“She would never just go off and beat all the kids just to beat all the kids,” Bill explained. “It was, if you did something wrong, or that she saw wrong, like coming back late from the store, that was a beating right there. If I came home late from school, she knew I was out talking to somebody, so I was getting a beating.”
But while William dreamed of his eventual getaway, his older sisters were made to understand that they were different. They were girls. For girls, there was no escape.
When the family was out together, Theresa went so far as to make all of her daughters go to the bathroom with her so that she could keep an eye on them. When she warned them not to talk to strangers, there was a cold-steel edge to her voice that made each of the girls understand that she meant “don’t talk to anyone.”
She was still bigger than most of her children, but wielding the Board of Education [a board about an inch thick and four feet long with a grip at one end that Theresa used for punishment] was no longer as effective as it had been when they were small. Howard became her new tool of discipline. During her fits of terror, Theresa solicited help from her oldest son.
“Howard was the first one that was made to help hold us down,” said William.
Coming up… due to the fact that they are homes for children who are unwanted, abandoned, or orphaned… orphanages are naturally sad places even when shown in the light of day. But in the dark, the sadness can turn to terror as a whole different crowd of children make themselves known… the ghosts of those who died there. Ghost Stories From Orphanages, when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: GHOST STORIES FROM ORPHANAGES=====
There’s something inherently chilling about old orphanages. Maybe it’s the fact that scary orphanage stories abound – after all, the buildings are associated with heartbroken and lonely children. And not all of these tales concern the living. Plenty of real life ghost stories feature orphanages filled with restless and vengeful spirits. These scary orphanage ghost stories all take place at actual haunted orphanages or abandoned orphanage sites around the world. These creepy stories aren’t just campfire fodder, but are based off of real life tragedies that actually occurred at these places. You can even visit these locations, if you’re in the mood for a firsthand ghostly encounter. Just be warned – you never know what might come home with you.
***A privately owned orphanage known as The Fairmount Children’s Home opened in Alliance, OH, in the 1870s. Unfortunately, the headmaster of the orphanage was said to be a cruel man who tortured and even slayed the children who lived there. That is, until one night in 1944. According to legend, the children rose up against the headmaster and hanged him from a pipe in the basement. The headmaster supposedly began to haunt the orphanage, looming over children’s beds and appearing as a shadowy figure in the back of class photos. The orphanage eventually shut down and was abandoned in the 1990s before it mysteriously burned down.
*** Raleigh’s Crybaby Lane was once the spot of a Roman Catholic orphanage. When a fire broke out in the dormitory in 1958, it gutted the building and slayed many of the orphans. All that remains is a patch of grass and the cornerstone of the original building. Months after the fire, neighbors continued to complain to the city about the strong smell of smoke. People walking through the field felt as though they were being suffocated. And, creepiest of all, they heard the cries and screams of the orphan children. Because of this, the surrounding houses have now been abandoned.
***Opened by Sisters of Mercy and the Catholic Church in 1905, St. John’s Orphanage in Goulburn, Australia, housed 200 boys at its peak. By many accounts the boys were treated as slaves and cruelly punished. They were given one set of clothing upon arrival, and they were beaten and caned regularly. Neglect was common, and most of the orphans were not educated beyond fifth grade. As it wasn’t the happiest of places, it’s no surprise that it is now known as one of the most haunted locations in Australia. Disturbing messages are written on the walls, seemingly by someone who once lived there, and the spirits of little boys supposedly still roam the premises.
***The Montana Children’s Center, also known as the Twin Bridges Orphanage, was established by the state in the 1890s, as the mining boom of the area declined. While some of the children there were orphans, many were simply abandoned by parents who couldn’t afford to care for them. Tales of abuse at the orphanage were numerous; children were whipped for wetting the bed or hung on coat hooks and locked in dark rooms as punishment. Many children also perished on the property from disease. One former employee said there were 30 headstones in the yard for children, but they’ve since disappeared. The orphanage closed in 1976, and the current owner claims to hear children singing when alone on the property. It was investigated by the TV show Ghost Adventures, who communicated with the spirit of an orphan girl and found flashing lights dancing from room to room.
***According to Ohio legend, Gore Orphanage in Vermillion burned down in the 1800s. Rumor has it that the fire was started by a disgruntled employee, or by the owner himself to collect insurance money. None of the children survived the fire. The site has since been razed and abandoned. But visitors to the area claim that you can see ghosts of the orphan children frolicking about the woods. Others report smelling burning flesh and hearing the screams of children, and even finding tiny hand prints on their parked cars.
***The Holy Family Orphanage in Marquette, MI, opened in 1915. While it was initially meant to be a whites-only orphanage, the first occupants were 60 Native American children. These children weren’t all orphans – some had been taken from their mothers in an effort to assimilate them into white culture. Rumors of abuse were common. One story says that a young girl who had disobeyed orders and stayed out in the cold perished of pneumonia. Her body was put on display as a warning to the other children that they had better behave.
The Holy Family Orphanage closed in 1965, and visitors report hearing moaning children and sighting ghosts on the property.
***During the Civil War, orphans of Union soldiers were often taken to The National Soldiers Orphan’s Homestead in Gettysburg. The orphanage ran without problems for years, until Rosa Carmichael was appointed the orphanage’s matron. Said to be an abusive disciplinarian, Carmichael reportedly tortured children in the cellar of the orphanage. Eventually a runaway outed her abuse, and she was fined for her transgressions. Apparently, the spirits of the children she tormented don’t believe justice was served. The building is now a tourist attraction, and said to be highly haunted. Some visitors claim to have sighted Rosa Carmichael herself, trapped and angry in the cellar.
***An abandoned Victorian building that was first an orphanage, then a mental institution is just asking to be haunted. Originally the Liverpool Seaman’s Orphan Institution, it operated as a medical hospital and a mental asylum before it was closed down by the city council in 1997. It once housed 400 orphans, who risked being locked in unlit “naughty cupboards” in an attic corridor if they misbehaved. There have been many ghost sightings at the location, on the building roof and in Ward G. Visitors have also reported hearing dragging noises in the dining room and have feelings of uneasiness in the basement. One popular photo supposedly shows a small ghost girl crying in the window.
***The Guthrie Boy’s Home in Oklahoma opened its doors sometime in the early 1920s. According to legend, one employee of the orphanage took his own life in the bell tower. Another employee, a nurse maid, abused many of the boys and slayed several. The building was closed in 1978 with the emergence of the foster care system. Today, visitors to the Guthrie Boy’s Home claim to hear footsteps in the bell tower, bells ringing, and even gasping. The ghosts of the boys can be heard screaming late at night and the spirit of the nurse maid supposedly lurks in the main entryway.
***St. Mary’s Orphanage housed children in Galveston Island, TX. That is, until a hurricane wiped out nearly all of the orphans. In 1900, the “Great Storm” descended upon the island. As the orphanage began to flood, the Sisters working there tied the children to them with rope as they sought higher and higher ground. Eventually, the roof collapsed, trapping them inside and slaying 90 orphans and 10 Sisters. Their bodies were discovered still tied together by the rope. Today, the site is home to a Wal-Mart. Employees report toys going missing and hearing kids’ phantom laughter. One employee was certain they heard a child calling for her mother, but upon a store-wide search, no one was found.
***The Odd Fellows Home was constructed in 1900 in Liberty, MO, as a place for unfortunate souls. It included a hospital, a home for the elderly, and an orphanage. It was run by the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.), a fraternal order meant to help others. But the order may have had a more sinister purpose. Many residents at the Odd Fellows Home passed – 600 bodies are buried in the cemetery. That’s a lot of spirits. There’s also suspicion that the I.O.O.F. had some creepy secret practices, which included using human remains of their residents in their societal rituals. This supposedly upset the spirits, who are said to haunt the location, now a winery, to this day.
***An Old Orphanage in Savannah, GA, was built in 1810. The stone mansion was once an all-girls orphanage, until a fire trapped slayed 11 of the 17 girls who resided there. Today the owners claim to hear young girls singing and playing, and say they often move items around the rooms.
***There’s little factual evidence to be found on the Good Servant (later known as Good Serpent) Orphanage in Vallejo, CA. There was an orphanage built in rural Vallejo in the 1800s that closed amid investigations of child abuse and passings. Less substantiated rumors claim the orphanage housed mentally unsound children who were experimented on and lobotomized. Whatever the real story, the orphanage was eventually destroyed. A golf course was built in its place, and later a housing development. Many residents of the housing development claim their houses, despite being new, are haunted. They hear footsteps and moaning and see the ghosts of children.
***The Elizabeth Orphan Asylum opened as an orphanage for girls in Elizabeth, NJ, in 1858. It closed in 1962 and was eventually razed in 1996, but during its years of abandonment, it was the site of a lot of creepy folklore. The basement was rumored to be used for satanic rituals. The house became considered a sort of magnet for evil, as it was hit by a small airplane in the 1970s, and partially burned a few years later. People often claimed to see demons or satanic nuns in the area. Visitors also reported noticing glowing green orbs, almost like eyes, in various sections of the house.
***There are many haunted buildings in New Orleans, and St. Vincent’s Guest House is no exception. It was originally built as an orphanage in the 1860s, a time when many children would have died from yellow fever. Today, the orphanage has been turned into a hotel. Guests constantly report hauntings, specifically that children laugh inside the walls, the apparition of a nun stalks the top floor, and spirits move their possessions and wake them up at night.
***The Wise County Orphanage in Wise, VA, was abandoned in the 1920s. Not much is known about the orphanage itself, but those daring enough to venture into the area have reported hearing bouncing balls and laughing children, and seeing orbs of lights.
When Weird Darkness returns… Hannah Upp was a teacher who developed a severe and rare form of amnesia – she disappeared twice, but was located each time. But then she disappeared again in 2017 and is still missing today. What happened to Hannah?
STORY: THE TEACHER WITH AMNESIA WHO DISAPPEARED FOREVER=====
Hannah Upp was a young woman with a positive attitude and a zest for life. Despite having divorced parents and struggling with her personal understanding of religion, she was a seemingly happy, successful woman aspiring to become a Montessori teacher in order to effect positive change in the world.
Unfortunately, she also suffered from a rare disorder best known for afflicting Jason Bourne, the fictional protagonist from The Bourne Identity and its sequels. Because of this condition, she went missing twice and was later found with no recollection of what had happened. In 2017, Upp went missing for a third time and has never been found.
On the first day of the school year in the Harlem neighborhood of New York City, students waited at their desks without a teacher. Hannah Upp was nowhere to be found. Her roommate managed to find her wallet and cell phone in her bedroom, but there was no sign of her whereabouts.
Upp was in her early 20s, and by all accounts, she was a loving individual who radiated positive energy. One of her friends even joked: “She lives in this separate place where there are butterflies and birds, and they follow her around. Everything is good and everyone is happy, and there’s no conflict, ever.”
Those close to her maintain she wasn’t the type of person to blow off work or take an extended trip without notice.
Upp’s loved ones organized a large search party that scoured the city for any sign of her. Hannah Wood, one of Upp’s closest friends, even started a Facebook page dedicated to finding her that acquired over 1,200 members. Meanwhile, the United Federation of Teachers offered a $10,000 reward for any information leading to Upp’s discovery.
The investigation into Upp’s disappearance took a strange yet hopeful turn as security cameras revealed multiple sightings of the young woman wandering through various city locales. A detective asked Hannah’s mother, Barbara Bellus, to come to the 30th Precinct in Harlem to identify whether the woman on camera was her daughter or not.
Surveillance footage from an Apple Store showed a young woman wearing a sports bra and running shorts ascending the store’s staircase. A man stopped to ask her if she was the missing woman he had seen on posters around the city, but she quickly dismissed him with what her mother called a “characteristic gesture.”
She was also spotted in a Starbucks in Soho, and she had even logged onto a public computer to check her email. She was wandering around New York City as if nothing was wrong, but none of her friends or family had heard from her in weeks.
On September 16, 2008 – 20 days after Hannah Upp vanished – a Staten Island ferry captain saw a female body bobbing in the water near Robbins Reef Light Station, a lighthouse on a rocky reef just southwest of the Statue of Liberty. Two men steered a small boat toward the body, assuming they were retrieving a corpse. One of the men said, “I honestly thought she was dead.”
As they grabbed her ankles and shoulders, Upp gasped for air and began to cry. Half her body was severely sunburned, and she looked as if she had been in the water for a long time. She was taken to the hospital and received treatment for dehydration and hypothermia.
Even after looking at the security footage in which she appeared, Upp had no recollection of what she had done during her disappearance. In fact, she mentioned needing to set up her classroom as if only a few hours had passed, completely unaware that nearly three weeks had gone by.
One night, she jolted awake and mentioned being at a lighthouse, but when her mother inquired about this the next morning, she couldn’t remember anything about it. However, she did remember everything that happened before the incident. Some people accused her of faking the whole ordeal, but her friends and family were supportive and happy to have her back.
Even so, they agreed there had to be an explanation.
Upp was diagnosed with a rare disorder called dissociative fugue, the same disorder that afflicted the fictional Jason Bourne in the Bourne novels and films. Someone experiencing a dissociative fugue episode forgets their identity and recent movements, and it’s not rare for them to take long journeys across cities, countries, or even continents over periods of time ranging from hours to years.
According to Dr. David Spiegel of Stanford University, humans have two types of memories: episodic and procedural. Episodic memories allow us to recall what we did, who we did it with, and where we were. In short, this is our autobiographical memory. Procedural memory allows us to take care of functions like checking our emails, using an ATM, or ordering a coffee. Both types of memories are stored in different parts of the brain, so it’s possible someone with dissociative fugue has access to their procedural memory but not their episodic memory.
Though rare, dissociative fugue has been documented several times throughout modern history. One Minnesota reverend traveled across the country and enlisted in the Navy without realizing it. Another professor was missing for years and began working as a dishwasher in an entirely different location.
The most famous American fugue patient was preacher Ansel Bourne, who traveled 200 miles away from home and opened a stationery and candy shop. A couple of months passed before he experienced a return to reality and asked his landlord where he was.
Psychologists believe that dissociative fugue usually occurs after serious trauma – such as physical abuse, sexual abuse, or combat experience – that prevents the mind from developing as a unified whole. Investigators hypnotized Upp in hopes of accessing her lost memories, but she couldn’t recall any traumatic event that might have triggered a bout of fugue.
Her work might have brought on her lapse in memory, as the beginning of the school year was always a stressful time for Upp and the other teachers. Another possible explanation is that her father, a religious man, was extremely devout and denied that homosexual relationships were natural; Upp had previously been in a relationship with another woman, but even so, she respected her father and traveled with him almost every year.
While the world speculated about what caused Upp’s fugue, she wanted to move on. Her friend Ramirez pointed out that even while she was in the psychiatric ward, she was back to her normal, upbeat self.
Upp cycled through possibilities: Was she drugged? Was she the victim of a hit-and-run? Was she mugged? Despite not having an answer, she was ready to return to her normal life. She wanted to get back to her classroom, spend time with her friends, and move past the incident.
After teaching in New York City, Upp was hired as a teaching assistant at a Maryland Montessori school. Unfortunately, on the first day of her new job, déjà vu struck Bellus as police notified her that her daughter hadn’t shown up to work that day. Upp’s wallet and cell phone were discovered on a trail in Kensington.
One of Upp’s co-workers claimed they saw her driving in the wrong direction that morning. Investigators also discovered that Upp hadn’t slept at her apartment the night before.
Two days after Upp’s second disappearance, Bellus received a call at 10:30 pm from an unknown number. The woman on the other line only said, “Mom?” Upp had awoken in a creek in Wheaton, MD. For the second time, Upp felt as though only 10 minutes had passed. She had gone for a run, and the next thing she knew, she was in an ambulance missing a significant chunk of time.
Police proposed she keep track of her movements using an ankle bracelet typically for people under house arrest, but Upp declined, saying she wanted to live freely and not feel imprisoned by her condition.
Upp had become infatuated with the Montessori method of education and believed it had the potential to change the world. After becoming fully certified to be a Montessori teacher, she got a new position on St. Thomas, an island in the Caribbean. She enjoyed life in the tropics and went for long swims almost daily, often at her favorite spot, Sapphire Beach.
In 2017, Hurricane Irma devastated the island, and Hurricane Maria was set to strike just a few days later. While many people evacuated, Upp decided to stay on the island. She spent her time trying to clean her flooded apartment and preparing for the school year.
Just a couple of days before Hurricane Maria struck, Upp disappeared once again. She didn’t arrive at school as planned, and she missed a faculty meeting. Workers discovered her car in a parking lot near Sapphire Beach and her belongings on a stool at a burger stand.
People combed the island, and the Coast Guard sent out three helicopters to search for her, but the search had to be called off due to the impending hurricane. Upp has not been found since.
Upp’s friends and family still don’t know what happened to her. Some worry she might have gone for a swim at Sapphire Beach and drowned; others speculate she was the victim of a crime or that she had another bout of fugue and wandered off.
She was a strong swimmer and spoke fluent Spanish, so it’s possible she swam to another island and lived on with a new identity. Her family and friends hope she’s dealing with another bout of fugue – if that is the case, she could still be alive and may eventually remember who she is.
Upp experienced two – potentially three – bouts of dissociative fugue. Each case was different, but some links can be drawn between them. For example, each of them occurred at the onset of autumn when the school year was set to begin. Upp reportedly said that fall was a particularly difficult time for her.
In her first two bouts of fugue, water seemed to rekindle her memory: She woke up near a reef the first time she went missing and in a creek the second time. Her friends assumed she would be found near the water the third time, and searchers did locate her belongings at Sapphire Beach.
Upp is still missing to this day. She may still be alive, so if you think you’ve seen her, contacting the authorities is paramount.
As of now, it’s best to contact the Virgin Islands Police Department at 340-772-5605. You can also contact a local police authority if you’ve seen her elsewhere.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“Houska Castle And Its Gateway To Hell” by Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting
“The Murder Of The Knorr Daughers” posted at The Line Up
“Ghost Stories from Orphanages” by Elle Tharp for Graveyard Shift
“The Teacher With Amnesia Who Disappeared Forever” by Stephen Morin for Unspeakable Crimes
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Deuteronomy 3:16 = [God, the Lord, said to Joshua,] “So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”
And a final thought… “If we knew what another person is going through, we’d be quicker to show grace.” –Chuck Swindoll
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.