“THE LEAPING TERROR OF LONDON” and More Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“THE LEAPING TERROR OF LONDON” and More Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““THE LEAPING TERROR OF LONDON” and More Disturbing True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: Was the legendary Spring Heeled Jack an Irish nobleman? (The Terror of London) *** During the early morning hours of August 11, 1887, a terrible train crash occurred near the small town of Chatsworth, Illinois — and left ghostly legends in its wake. (Hauntings of Illinois’ Worst Train Disaster) *** It was a beautiful old home – a Queen Anne Victorian, with gingerbread-like shingles and trim all the way around, painted beige. One look, and you knew joy-filled years were lived in that home. But you know what they say… don’t judge a book by its cover. (Noises and Unexplained Happenings) *** Seventeen years after he disappeared, has a man’s killer been brought to justice? (The Strange Case of Zebb Quinn’s Disappearance) *** A man shares his belief that he is being stalked – by something paranormal. (The Gray Lady) *** One of our Weirdo family members shares how the strange Elisa Lam case creeped into a terrifying case of sleep paralysis. (Terror From The Elisa Lam Case) *** The Bermuda Triangle is not the only vortex of missing ships, and half a world away, in a whole other ocean, there lies a counterpart in the waters near Japan, which by all accounts is just as strange as its Bermuda cousin. (The Devil’s Sea) *** A man who has had no issues before is suddenly finding the energy in his house is out of whack. (Something Is Messing With The Energy In My House) *** With all the men of the house gone fishing, an axe murder chooses the perfect time to attack and kill the women inside. (The Smuttynose Murders)

“Hauntings of Illinois’ Worst Train Disaster” by Troy Taylor: https://tinyurl.com/ryh3m8x
“Noises and Unexplained Happenings”: https://tinyurl.com/txp3haq
“The Terror of London”: https://tinyurl.com/wkgr663
“The Strange Case of Zebb Quinn’s Disappearance” by Orrin Grey for The Line Up: http://ow.ly/MTpL30lUmaF
“The Devil’s Sea of Japan” by Brent Swancer: https://tinyurl.com/sprcpur
“Terror From the Elisa Lam Case” submitted anonymously to WeirdDarkness.com
“The Gray Lady”: https://tinyurl.com/uymg3y5
“The Smuttynose Murders” by Robert Wilhelm: https://tinyurl.com/a6kue74
“Something Is Messing With The Energy In My House” by Russel James: https://tinyurl.com/r3ygrco
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.
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Originally aired: September 21, 2018

DISCLAIMER: Ads heard during the podcast that are not in my voice are placed by third party agencies outside of my control and should not imply an endorsement by Weird Darkness or myself. *** Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.

In late 1837, a ripple of panic began to spread around Clapham in South London. Something terrible was lurching out of the fog and attacking local residents. An elderly lady visiting the cemetery at Clapham was one of the first to see the chilling figure. Clad in a dark cloak, with a hat pulled over its face, she saw it make an ungodly jump over a high fence and disappear into the darkness. Around the same time, a young girl by the name of Mary Stevens reported an encounter with the same strange character. Making a giant leap out of a dark alley, it launched a fearsome attack on the girl, ripping at her clothes with its cold, clammy claws. The girl screamed for help and the creature fled. The next night, a similar figure jumped out at a coach causing it to crash. Several witnesses saw the figure escape the scene by bounding over a 9ft high wall, its high-pitched laughter disappearing into the distance. Soon, news of the attacks would reach the authorities. Sir John Cowan, the Lord Major, received an anonymous letter alerting him to the spate of attacks. Cowan initially dismissed the letter as wild nonsense. However, within weeks he was flooded with similar accounts of attacks all across London and was forced to call a public meeting to discuss the crime wave. News had also started to reach the flourishing tabloid press. Whilst early accounts varied wildly, it was here that Jack’s appearance and modus operandi became fixed, and his famous name — ‘Spring Heeled Jack’ was first born.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.

Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

Coming up in this episode…

During the early morning hours of August 11, 1887, a terrible train crash occurred near the small town of Chatsworth, Illinois — and left ghostly legends in its wake. (Hauntings of Illinois’ Worst Train Disaster)

It was a beautiful old home – a Queen Anne Victorian, with gingerbread-like shingles and trim all the way around, painted beige. One look, and you knew joy-filled years were lived in that home. But you know what they say… don’t judge a book by its cover. (Noises and Unexplained Happenings)

Was the legendary Spring Heeled Jack an Irish nobleman? (The Terror of London)

17 years after he disappeared, was a man’s killer finally brought to justice? (The Strange Case of Zebb Quinn’s Disappearance)

A man shares his belief that he is being stalked – by something paranormal. (The Gray Lady)

One of our Weirdo family members shares how the strange Elisa Lam case creeped into a terrifying case of sleep paralysis. (Terror From The Elisa Lam Case)

The Bermuda Triangle is not the only vortex of missing ships, and half a world away, in a whole other ocean, there lies a counterpart in the waters near Japan, which by all accounts is just as strange as its Bermuda cousin. (The Devil’s Sea)

A man who has had no issues before is suddenly finding the energy in his house is out of whack. (Something Is Messing With The Energy In My House)

With all the men of the house gone fishing, an axe murderer chooses the perfect time to attack and kill the women inside. (The Smuttynose Murders)

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, listen to my other podcasts including “Retro Radio: Old Time Radio In The Dark”, “Church of the Undead” and a sci-fi story podcast called “Auditory Anthology,” listen to FREE audiobooks I’ve narrated, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression, dark thoughts, or addiction. 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!

According to the papers, “Spring Heeled Jack” had pointed ears and a hooked nose, fierce claws and glowing red eyes. Beneath a dark cloak, he wore a tight oilskin suit. Always present was his miraculous ability to jump great heights.
By the 1830s, taxation on paper and printing had been greatly reduced, leading to a boom of cheap popular printed media, newspapers and a kind of early graphic novel called the penny dreadful.
These publications were hungry for lurid tales of crime and horror and the stories of Spring Heeled Jack immediately caught their imagination.
It was in the penny dreadfuls that Jack became a kind of early Victorian supervillain, his abilities and appearance massively exaggerated. Now his leaps were over entire building; sometimes he could even fly. His eyes glowed red, and he could spit blue fire from his mouth.
Meanwhile, the real Spring Heeled Jack was about to make his most famous and well-documented attack.
In a well to do home in London’s east end in February 1838, teenager Jane Alsop answered the door to be greeted by a shadowy figure. “I’m a policeman. For Gods sake, bring me a light, for we have caught Spring Heeled Jack here in the lane!”
Fetching the man a candle, Jane was startled by his strange appearance. Suddenly he flung off his cloak and started to attack the girl. His eyes glowed red, and he spewed blue flames as he clawed at the girls clothes with his metal talons.
With the help of her sister, the girl eventually managed to free herself from Jacks’s grasp and retreated to the safety of the house.
Whether Jane had exaggerated the outlandish aspects of Jack’s appearance, perhaps influenced by press accounts, is lost to history. But the police and the magistrate treated her report as a real attack.
Indeed, despite the seeming supernatural qualities Jack possessed, John Cowan, the Lord Mayor and the Metropolitical police were certain the attacks were committed by a flesh and blood man.
There had been similar sightings in the weeks before the Alsop case and several culprits were suggested — a bricklayer called Payne was suspected, along with a carpenter called Millbank. However, no positive identifications were made.
One theory going round was that the attacks were committed by a bunch of decadent aristocrats for a wager. The idea that the debauched young aristocracy could be a menace to society was a popular one at the time, especially in the working class popular press.
The individual most often mentioned in the press, especially later in the 19th century, was the 3rd Marquis of Waterford, Henry de La Poer Beresford.
Beresford was popularly known as the ‘Mad Marquis’ for his outrageous drunken pranks and antics. He was also in London at the time of the first assaults.
Could he be behind the mysterious attacks of Spring Heeled Jack?
Aristocrats were first singled out as the culprit in an anonymous letter to the Lord Major in 1838. Soon after, the Marquis of Waterford’s name was first linked to the case.
It’s not hard to see why he had become a suspect. He was notorious in the late 1830s for his drunken vandalism, pranks and outrageous behaviour.
Many of his hellraising antics were widely reported in the press, especially the notorious incident in Melton Mowbray that gave rise to the phrase ‘painting the town red’.
After a day at the races, Waterford and his fox hunting friends vandalised the town centre with red paint during a drunken rampage.
The Marquis, a former boxer, was young and athletic at the time of the sightings and could have matched Jack’s less outlandish physical exploits. He was also said to have a particularly cruel streak.
It did not seem much of a stretch to suggest that he could also be behind the Spring Heeled Jack attacks, perhaps as an idle wager amongst the group.
In 1880, E. Cobham Brewer, author of Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, named Waterford as Jack, although it’s unclear as to what he based this on.
Brewer wrote that the Marquis — “…used to amuse himself by springing on travellers unawares, to frighten them, and from time to time others have followed his silly example”.
Author Peter Haining wrote the most influential modern account of the Spring Heeled Jack phenomenon in 1977.
His book ‘The Legend and Bizarre Crimes of Spring Heeled Jack’, also named the Marquis of Waterford as the offender. However, the reliability of Haining’s evidence has been questioned by some historians.
Haining theorized that the Marquis had felt humiliated by bad experiences he had had with women and the police. Along with his rich companions, he dreamt up the idea of Spring Heeled Jack to get his revenge.
With the help of friends who had experience in mechanics, Waterford was able to construct special spring heeled boots to achieve Jack’s incredible leaping prowess.
According to Haining, to round off the horrifying effect, the Marquis even learnt fire-breathing!
One of the reasons Waterford’s name has cropped up as a suspect was the fact his presence in London coincided with the first Spring Heeled Jack assaults.
The Marquis of Waterford lived in the area of the first attacks in 1837 and 1838, and upon his departure from London in 1842, reports of further Jack sightings dried up.
Waterford returned to Ireland with his new wife and reportedly turned his back on cruel jokes to live a respectable life, until his death in 1859.
Intermittent reports of further Spring Heeled Jack sightings continued after this. If Waterford was responsible for the early attacks, then, as Brewer suggested, these later cases were copy-cats.
One further piece of evidence to suggest the Marquis of Waterford may have been the original Spring Heeled Jack was the reported similarity between a crest spotted on Jack’s chest with Waterford’s coat of arms.
One of Jack’s victims, a young servant boy in a South London household, escaped an encounter with the monster with no more than a fright.
He did, however, allegedly observe an elaborate embroided crest on the assailant’s costume, topped with a letter W.
Could the W have stood for Waterford? Perhaps the Marquis had appropriated an old piece of family garb, complete with crest, to complete his costume?
The main issue with the identification of the Marquis of Waterford as Spring Heeled Jack is the lack of verifiable historical evidence to back it up.
Like much of the story, fact and fiction have merged into one over the course of countless retellings. By the end of the 19th century, outright fictions about Jack were regularly been reported as historical facts.
The penny dreadfuls, in particular, would gleefully exaggerate the real attacks and even invent entirely new ones. Many of the supposed supernatural attributes of Jack also originated with these publications.
According to some historians, many of the facts linking Waterford to Spring Heeled Jack were almost certainly based on later fictional embellishments.
The story of the servent boy observing the letter W on Jack’s costume is not present in any contemporary newspaper report. It probably originates in one of the countless later retellings that sought to link the crimes to Waterford.
Another frequently cited Spring Heeled Jack encounter also appears to be entirely mythical. A young girl called Polly Adams recalled a ‘devil like nobleman’ with bulging eyes assaulting her at Blackheath Fair.
Again no record of this attack appears in any contemporary sources. The purpose of this clearly fictional story becomes clear when the Marquis of Waterford’s physical appearance is taken into account.
The Irish aristocrat was said to have unusually protruding eyes, indicating the apocryphal Polly Adams attack was another scurrilous attempt to link the crimes to Waterford.

It had been a dry, brutally hot summer that year. A severe drought held the entire state in its grasp. By August, newspapers were reporting that stream beds were dry, wells were running out of water, and that cornfields were scorched beyond recovery. It was so bad that even sporadic showers and thunderstorms became newsworthy events. According to the news reports of the time, railroad section workers were kept busy putting out fires that had been caused by sparks from passing locomotives. For some reason, supervisors on the line thought the dry weather was a good time to put the men to work burning the dry weeds that grew along the tracks – it was a poorly thought out plan that would become deadly.
During the afternoon of August 10, 1887, workers along a section of the Toledo, Peoria & Western line near Chatsworth spent most of the day burning weeds and brush. The men would later state that all of their fires had been extinguished when they left for the day, but during the night, a small bridge that was close to where the men had been working managed to catch fire. Whether it burned because of the weed clearing or as a result of sparks from a passing locomotive will never be known. Whatever the cause, by midnight, the fire had burned through the wooden trestle that was just west of the Ford-Livingston County line. Just as the clock struck the hour, an excursion train roared toward the smoldering bridge.
The excursion train was one of hundreds of such trains that operated in the nineteenth century. For a small fee, ordinary folks could get away from home for a few days and enjoy scenic and natural sites that they might not otherwise see. Some of the most popular places to visit for the excursion trains were Mammoth Cave in Kentucky, Hot Springs, Arkansas, and Niagara Falls. It was to that New York natural wonder that the train was heading when it crossed Illinois in August 1887.
The train had departed from Hancock County, Illinois. A large crowd of excited travelers, mostly from Galesburg and from neighboring Iowa, was on board the train. Fatefully, or perhaps it seemed so in hindsight, the train was being pulled by Engine No. 13. Even those who were not superstitious could agree that the engine turned out to be unlucky for those on board the train.
The train traveled eastward, picking up passengers from many of the small towns along the way. The train steamed into Peoria in the early evening hours with 15 coaches. At the Peoria station, switchmen added several more coaches and dozens of additional passengers climbed aboard. After the train crossed the Illinois River, Engine No. 21 was coupled to the front of Engine No. 13. The train now consisted of two locomotives, pulling at least 20 cars with about 800 passengers on board.
With all of the stops and the addition of more cars, the train had fallen about two hours behind schedule. It was nearly midnight by the time that it arrived in Chatsworth. After a brief stop, the train left the depot and began to pick up steam. About two miles east of town, the lead locomotive crossed a small hill and from this vantage point, the engineer spotted flames ahead on the rails. Horrified, he realized that a wooden trestle ahead of them was burning. There was no possible way, he knew, to stop the train.
The engine roared ahead, despite his immediate attempt to apply the brakes, and as No. 21 passed over the trestle, the engineer “felt the engine sink a little and felt a shock.” The locomotive rumbled across the bridge. Engine No. 21 was safely across but as No. 13 began to shudder its ways across the treacherous bridge, the trestle began to collapse. The engine tipped over on its side, as it was still moving forward at a speed of about 25 miles an hour, it skidded along the ground, churning up rock, sand, dirt, and wood.
As the heavy coaches, filled with passengers, collided with the overturned engine, they slid sideways off the tracks. The coaches plowed into the engine, ramming into one another with a metallic fury. Metal screamed with a horrific grinding noise and wood splintered and broke. Even in the darkness, many would recall a rolling cloud of soot, cinders, ash, and dust. The railroad cars slammed together with a telescoping effect, each coach slicing into the one in front of it. The flying metal whirred like the blades of a saw, producing a grisly death toll. Many of the passengers were cut into pieces, their bodies savagely sliced apart. Many more of them were crushed and died instantly.
As the wreck finally ground to a halt, 11 of the railroad cars now occupied the space that was once occupied by two. The sound of the tearing metal faded and was immediately replaced by a chorus of human screams and wails. The survivors of the disaster began to stumble about, looking for family members, friends, and anyone else who might have lived through the terror.
The engineer of locomotive No. 21 climbed down from his cab and stared in awe at the unbelievable wreckage that loomed behind him. Only the dim light of burning fires illuminated the scene, but the flames showed him more than he wanted to ever see. The scene would live on his nightmares for many years to come. Two firemen from No. 21 took over the controls of the engine and rushed east to Piper City. They blew their whistles, hoping to alert as many people as possible to the awful news about what had happened. A brakeman from the train ran off in the opposite direction, following the tracks back to Chatsworth. As he ran, he began to see flickers of lightning in the dark sky. A storm was coming.
Almost impossibly, the horror at the crash scene became worse. The wreckage of the train caught fire, trapping many of the injured survivors inside. As screams filled the night, other survivors, who had managed to make it out of the ruined cars, began to throw handfuls of dirt onto the flames. As rescuers began to arrive from Chatsworth, and from small farms nearby, they joined them and clawed at the dirt with their bare hands to keep the blaze from spreading. Meanwhile, telegrams were sent out from Piper City and Chatsworth and rescue trains began steaming toward the accident.
Then, around 3:00 a.m., the summer drought finally broke and torrents of rain began to fall from the sky. The storm, which had been only flickering lightning in the distance at the time of the wreck, reached the awful scene and unleashed its fury on the survivors, the rescuers, and the dead. The rain managed to put out the remains of the fire but it also turned the nearby fields and dirt roads into a muddy swamp, making them nearly impassable.
By sunrise, Chatsworth was swarming with both volunteers and curiosity-seekers. People came from all over the region to provide comfort and aid and to see the carnage for themselves. Over the days that followed, the gruesome task of removing and identifying the dead was carried out. The twisted metal coaches made this job nearly impossible and newspapers repeatedly used the word “pulp” to describe the condition of the human remains.
Many of Chatsworth’s buildings were turned into temporary morgues and the crowds who came to view the remains became so troublesome that armed guards had to be posted at the doors. One newspaper account noted, “Charnel houses and hospitals make up tonight what has been the peaceful village of Chatsworth.”
Fanned by sensational newspaper reports and wild rumors, terrible stories spread through the area. The rumors included reports that belongings had been stolen from the dead and that the bridge fire had been set on purpose. Responding to public anger, a section foreman was arrested and blamed for the fire, but he was later released. To this day, much about that night remains a mystery, including the cause of the fire and the number of people who died. Some accounts claim 81, others place the tally at 85. Regardless, it was one of the worst disasters in Illinois and one of the greatest losses of life for railroad crashes in American history.
Four days after the disaster, the railroad gathered most of the debris into an enormous funeral pyre. A Bloomington newspaper described the scene: “A match was touched to the mass and in a few hours heaps of ashes hid whatever secrets the wreck still contained. A smell of burning flesh from time to time filled the air.”
It should come as little surprise that the horrific disaster has inspired a few ghost stories over the years. Locals often told tales about the sounds of screams and moaning at the site of the crash and teenagers often claimed to see eerie lights that appeared near where the train had burned. Some said that they were the spectral lights of rescuers, hurrying to the grisly scene with lanterns in their hands. Many years later, when a freight train derailed in Chatsworth on the anniversary of the disaster, a local resident quipped, “I guess the ghosts are still out there.”
But the most enduring ghostly tale that was connected to the crash did not occur in Chatsworth, but rather in the LaSalle Cemetery, just outside of Chillicothe, Illinois, near Peoria. According to the accounts, one of the survivors of the crash was a man named Ira Hicks. He and his wife, Nancy, were traveling to Niagara Falls aboard the excursion train. After the wreck, Hicks searched in vain for his wife. Amidst the carnage at the scene, he stumbled about calling her name, but she did not answer. The days that followed were bloody and chaotic. The injured and the dead were scattered about in makeshift hospitals and Hicks was unable to find her. In hopes that she might also be looking for him, he returned to his home in Chillicothe, believing that, if she was alive, she would look for him there.
Sadly, nearly two weeks passed with no sign of Nancy, so Hicks returned to Chatsworth. When he arrived, he was met with terrible news – his wife was dead. To make matters worse, she had been incorrectly identified as the wife of a man named Henry Clay. Her body had already been taken to Eureka, Illinois, where she had been buried in the Clay family plot. Nancy’s body was exhumed a short time later and she was reburied at the LaSalle Cemetery in Chillicothe.
And, after that, things started to get strange.
Years later, stories began to circulate in the community that the gravestone of Nancy Hicks was behaving in a very odd manner. People who passed by the cemetery at night began reporting that the stone was giving off an eerie glow in the darkness. Some even claimed that it looked like the light of a steam locomotive. Scores of curiosity-seekers flocked to the graveyard after dark to witness the glowing stone. No one could explain what caused the stone to glow. Tests were made on the stone of the monument to see if it had any special reflective qualities, but it seemed to be ordinary granite. Could the phantom light be a sign from the ghost of Nancy Hicks, still making her presence known after all of these years?
Unfortunately for ghost enthusiasts, the story was debunked in the late 1980s when burlap bags were used to form a barrier between the gravestone and the headlights on the road next to the cemetery. Somehow, with a number of bizarre angles that could not easily be seen, auto headlights were bouncing reflections off the stone, making it appear to glow. A few years later, homes were built between the road the cemetery, permanently blocking the auto headlights.
The “ghost” of Nancy Hicks had finally been laid to rest.

It’s been well over three decades since 12-year-old Johnny Gosch vanished while on his paper route in a suburb of Des Moines, Iowa. The case is heartbreaking, and made all the more haunting by the strange theories that now seek to explain his disappearance.
That morning of September 5, 1982 started out like any other for the Gosch family. Johnny set out on his local paper route. On this particular day, however, his father did not accompany him as he usually did. By 6:00 A.M., the Gosches received calls from their neighbors complaining that their newspapers had not been delivered. Johnny’s father, John, set out to search the neighborhood. Just two blocks away from the family home, John found his son’s abandoned wagon, full of undelivered newspapers. Johnny was nowhere to be found.
There were no witnesses around at the time of Johnny’s disappearance, though a neighbor later claimed he’d seen Johnny and another paperboy talking to a man driving a Ford Fairmont convertible. Another neighbor also reported seeing a man in a blue car talking to Johnny. However, with no further evidence of abduction, the Gosches faced considerable obstacles in convincing the police their son had been kidnapped.
After a 23-day search, authorities were unable to uncover any evidence as to Johnny’s whereabouts or any motive as to his kidnapping. His parents, in particular his mother Noreen Gosch, lobbied intensely to keep the case in the public eye.
The same year that Johnny vanished, Noreen established a foundation in her son’s name. The organization pushed for legislation that called for an immediate police response to reports of missing children. The bill became a law in the state in 1984, after receiving support from the likes of John Walsh, the host of America’s Most Wanted, whose own son was kidnapped and murdered in 1981. In addition, Johnny’s face appeared on a milk carton in 1984: one of the first missing children whose case was publicized that way.
Then, just a few years later, Johnny’s story went from tragic to downright bizarre.
In 1989, a man named Paul Bonnaci came forward with some shocking assertions. He claimed that he had been abducted by human traffickers as a teenager and was forced to help in the kidnapping of Johnny Gosch. This sex ring, Bonnaci claimed, was the work of a man named Lawrence E. King, then director of the Franklin Credit Union in Omaha, Nebraska.
Bonnaci claimed he knew Johnny—he identified a birthmark on Johnny’s chest and said that Johnny had talked about going to yoga classes with his mother, a fact his family had not shared with the public. Nevertheless, the FBI did not consider Bonnaci a credible witness. They believed his testimony was a hoax and declined to seek an indictment against King. In 1990, two of the accusers against Franklin were indicted for perjury.
Years went by with no new leads. Then, in 1997, Noreen claimed that one early morning, at 2:30 A.M., she was awakened by the sound of knocking. When she opened her front door, her son Johnny, now 27, was standing there, with a man she had never seen before. Noreen claimed that the two entered her apartment and that they spoke for over an hour before departing.
“Johnny would look over to the other person for approval to speak,” she told the Des Moines Register. “He didn’t say where he is living or where he was going.” Though Noreen worked with the FBI to create a new sketch of Johnny’s current appearance, the case went cold again. She claimed that she did not contact the police when Johnny showed up, because he warned her that doing so would be detrimental to his safety.
The next bizarre development came on September 1, 2006. Noreen Gosch returned home to find several disturbing photographs at her doorstep. She claimed that one of the photos showed Johnny, bound and gagged, with a brand-mark on his shoulder. Another photo showed three boys bound and gagged. Just two weeks later, the Des Moines police department received an anonymous letter, which read:
*****Gentlemen, Someone has played a reprehensible joke on a grieving mother. The photo in question is not one of her son but of three boys in Tampa, Florida about 1979-80, challenging each other to an escape contest. There was an investigation concerning that picture, made by the Hillsborough County (FL) Sheriff’s Office. No charges were filed, and no wrongdoing was established. The lead detective on the case was named Zalva. This allegation should be easy enough to check out.*****
In fact, a detective in Florida named Nelson Zalva confirmed that he had investigated the photo of the three boys and could find no evidence that anything criminal had taken place. Despite this, Noreen maintains that the other photograph is indeed of Johnny, that he was the victim of a child prostitution ring run out of Omaha, Nebraska, and that there is a cover-up that stretches from local law enforcement all the way up to the FBI.
Two similar disappearances in the area could support an active child predator theory. In 1984, Eugene Martin, another young paperboy, vanished on his route in the early morning hours. In 1986, 13-year-old Marc Warren Allen disappeared on his way to a friend’s house just down the street.
What really happened to Johnny Gosch on that fateful day in 1982? Could the rash of disappearances be connected? Sadly, decades later, the case remains unsolved.

For three years, I rented different rooms in an old Victorian home in suburban Massachusetts, built in 1890. Due to changing roommate circumstances, and the fact that the house was split up by floor for different family sizes and the two units were separated from one another, I was required to move each time as leases changed. Much changed about my home life as people came and went, but there was one constant: I was always experiencing some creepy, unexplained circumstance in that house. Not a moment went by where everything just made sense and could be logically explained.
A brief description of the home: it is a Queen Anne Victorian, with gingerbread-like shingles and trim all the way around, painted beige. There are pointed gables on both sides of the house, and it is three floors including the attic. There is a small winding driveway that circles the house. There are two front doors, the downstairs one opening into to a small closet connected to what is now a downstairs bedroom on the lefthand side by way of a door, and the other front door opens to a staircase leading upstairs, which stops at a landing three quarters of the way up, to turn leftward into a small upstairs hallway. There was a wall separating the staircase from the closet, thereby separating the two units. There is a second staircase accessed from a door on the back side of the house which leads up to the kitchen on the second floor, and a side door on the opposite back side of the house leading to the downstairs kitchen. The middle of the downstairs consisted of a large living room.
The first room in the house that I rented was on the first floor, connected to the living room. There was a door in the corner of my room leading to a closet, which could also be accessed from the living room. I found it very strange that the closet could be accessed both from the living room and from my bedroom, and I realized it did not look much like a closet at all. There was a small window in the closet and it was located directly under the stairs, behind the closet accessed when walking in through the front door and separated from it by a wall.
The first night I slept in the house, I felt as if I was being watched from that “closet.” I could not see anything in the dark, but I expected to see creepy eyes staring at me, watching me lying in bed. I also felt very exposed, because if there was ever an intruder, there were many ways they could access my room. I got up in the middle of the night to shut that door, and I checked to make sure the window in the closet was locked. To my relief, it was firmly locked. I was lying in bed when I begun to hear a noise that would plague me for weeks: a quiet, but high-pitched “beep.” This sound occurred once every three minutes. It resembled the sound a smoke detector makes when its battery is dying, and this is what I assumed was making the noise. I eventually managed to fall asleep, as it was not the one in my room that was making the noise and it was far enough away to not keep me awake. At this point, the sound was only a minor annoyance.
The next morning, I walked to each smoke detector downstairs, trying to see which one was making the noise. None of them were chirping, but I could still hear the beep. I could not tell whether it was coming from above or below, but instinctually when I heard it, I looked upward. I went to each room, but no matter where I went, it sounded as if it was coming from somewhere else. If I stood in the kitchen, it sounded like it was coming from the living room. If I stood in the living room, it sounded as if it was coming from the kitchen. I checked every appliance that could possibly be making the sound. It wasn’t the dishwasher. It wasn’t the washer or the dryer. The noise was a mystery. I checked the basement, but it was not coming from there and could barely be heard while down there. Finally, I got the courage to knock on the upstairs tenants’ front door, asking them if they could hear the sound. Not only could they not hear it, but they assumed I was crazy because if it was loud enough to be that noticeable, they were in disbelief they could not hear it too. At this point I felt chills down my spine: if it wasn’t coming from the basement and it wasn’t coming from the upstairs, it was coming from somewhere in my immediate living space, and I was still unable to identify it.
Eventually, my roommate, who had lived in the house for a full year before I moved in, remarked that she had, too, heard the noise in the past from time to time but never for days on end, and that guests of hers had inquired about what it was. No one ever had an answer and they never thought much of it, and eventually my roommate had adjusted to the sound and barely noticed it. Two weeks later, at 3:00 AM, the noise suddenly stopped. I never heard it again. To this day I am perplexed and wonder what could have been making that sound. Eventually, I forgot about the sound and decided to move on.
About two weeks later, around 1 in the morning, I woke up to the sound of pacing up and down the front staircase and across the upstairs landing, which woke me up due to the heavy thudding sound. I could hear it distinctly, as my room was located directly beneath. The sound began at the top of the stairs, and made its way down. I assumed that it was one of the upstairs tenants going outside for a cigarette, but I was proven wrong when I did not hear the front door open. About ten seconds after the footsteps reached the bottom of the stairs, they climbed back up, paced around the landing, and then came back down. I wondered, why would someone be pacing up and down the stairs? This continued for about half an hour, and it kept me awake. The next morning, I knocked on the front door of the upstairs unit (which, ironically, opened to the staircase I heard the footsteps on) and demanded to know who was making such a racket. I was unsettled to find out that there was only one tenant home that night and that they did not get home until 2 in the morning from a party. The upstairs was empty at 1 AM.
Every now and again, I would hear, around the same time, what sounded like a ball rolling down those stairs and hitting the front door. My roommate heard it as well, but the upstairs tenants claimed they could not hear it. My roommate assumed they were drunk and rolling items down the stairs for fun, but I thought differently.
Over the next several months, I could not sleep well because I felt as if there was someone, or something, staring at me from outside the house. My room jutted out of the side of the house, part of one of the gables, so my bed was surrounded by windows on three sides. Out of the window to my left, I could see the side of the house and the outside of the window looking into the closet. I eventually put curtains on each of these windows, and the feeling of being watched subsided. When I began using this closet to store my clothes and suitcases, I noticed the window in the closet was unlocked. I asked my roommate if she had unlocked it: she had not. I DISTINCTLY remembered checking to make sure it was locked the first night I stayed in the house. I came to find that if I left the window locked, I would find it unlocked within the next day or two. I eventually got so creeped out that I removed all my belongings from the closet, put my dresser in front of the door connecting the closet to my room, and placed a table against the door connecting the closet to the living room.
Not long after, I woke up to the sound of footsteps toward the front of the house: slow, heavy footsteps that clearly belonged to a man in boots. They sounded as if they began at the front door, and ended at the door I had blocked off between my room and the closet. It was impossible, however, for anyone to make this entire trip, for there was a wall separating the two closets. I heard this happen three times, always in the early hours of the morning while it was still dark outside. Each time, I froze in place, put the covers over my head, and sat as still as I could until the footsteps stopped. I would later find out that before the separating wall was built between the front staircase and the downstairs, that both of these “closets” had once formed a continuous hallway from the front door to the living room and to my room, once a dining room.
Occasionally during the day, I heard very similar footsteps from the upstairs down the back staircase, but they did not stop at the door leading to the outside, but right behind my refrigerator in the kitchen. Shortly after they stopped, I would hear what sounded like a doorknob turning. There was no door behind the refrigerator to even open, and there was no place opposite that wall to stand to even open a door had there been one. I vaguely remember my landlord stating that the back staircase once faced the opposite direction and led to the downstairs kitchen, but this was changed in the 1950s when the house’s partitions were formed to make the home for two families.
I am not religious, but I prayed to whichever higher power may exist to allow these strange occurrences to cease. I had reached my limit.
From December of that year until my lease ended in May, most occurrences were minor. Items would disappear and turn up in other rooms. Doors I had distinctly remembered leaving open would be shut when I returned to the room. The living room overhead light, which could be turned on via a handheld clicker, would not work because the wall switch, which must be in upward position for the clicker to work, would be found in downward position, but neither myself nor my roommate flicked the switch down.
At this point, my roommate began to think I was going mad. She still believed there is a logical explanation for each of these events. However, this would change one night.
It was a Friday night in May, the last week of the lease. The upstairs tenants were throwing a wild party: music blasting, feet stomping, and the front door opening and shutting as new guests arrived. Suddenly, I heard a knock on my door. I went to the door, assuming that it was a guest for the party upstairs who had mistakenly knocked on the wrong door. I opened the door to see a pale-faced boy around my age standing there, asking where his brother was in a deep, dazed voice. I still assumed he meant to knock on the other door, and assumed his brother was a party guest. I began to tell him that the door to the upstairs was the next one, but he shoved past me and into my apartment, stating that his brother lived in my apartment and that I was “hiding” him. He ran through my roommate’s room, through the living room and into the kitchen. I ran after him, demanding an explanation, shaken up and grabbing my pepper spray from my bag and my phone to begin dialing 9-11.
When I reached the kitchen, there was no one there.
I ran outside, to my car, locked the car doors and dialed the police, explaining that there was an intruder hiding somewhere in my house. When the police showed up, they searched every possible space in the apartment. They even checked the blocked off closet, but he could not have been in there, because the furniture I had placed in front of the doors was undisturbed, and it would have been impossible to reposition it from inside the closet. There was no one to be found anywhere in the apartment. They assumed that he had run out of the house when he heard the police sirens, but this could not have been possible. From my car I would have seen him exit through either of the doors, and the police found that all but one of the windows were locked.
All of the windows except the one in the closet.

In 1866, John and Maren Hontvet left hard times in Norway for the promise of America. They spent some time in Boston but did not like the city life. As soon as they could afford it, the Hontvts moved up the coast to and bought a house on Smuttynose Island, in the Isles of Shoals – belonging to the State of Maine, but geographically closer to New Hampshire. John bought a fishing schooner and soon had earned enough money to send for his brother Mathew and Maren’s sister Karen Christensen.
Mathew was a great help to John but he felt he needed another hand on the schooner. In the spring of 1972, he offered a job to Louis Wagner, a Prussian immigrant living in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in exchange for room and board. Louis Wagner was down on his luck, working when he could for local fishermen. Though he was not happy to be working without pay, Wagner welcomed the stability this situation offered and enjoyed having two women to feed and take care of him. Wagner worked on the boat through the summer, though he was often laid up with rheumatism. That fall more relatives arrived from Norway, Maren and Karen’s brother Even Christensen and his new bride Anethe. Louis Wagner’s arrangement with the Hontvets ended soon after.
On the morning of March 5, 1873, John, Mathew, and Even took the schooner to Portsmouth, New Hampshire to pick up a shipment of bait arriving from Boston. The shipment was delayed and they sent word back to Maren, by another fishing boat, that they would be staying in town that night. In Portsmouth they ran into Louis Wagner and offered him a job helping them with the bait. He knew shipment was late and they would not be heading home that night. When the bait did arrive, Louis Wagner could not be found.
Around 8:00 that night, a rowboat was stolen from Pickering Wharf in Portsmouth. The thief rowed for five hours, though the bitter March winds, across ten miles of frigid sea from Portsmouth to Smuttynose Island. The man knew his way around Smuttynose, he docked the boat on the south side of the island and walked through the snow directly to the only occupied house on the island, the Honvets’.
Karen had been working at a hotel on Appledore, another of the Isles of Shoales, but that night she was visiting her sister. Because of the cold and their loneliness without the men, the three women stayed close together downstairs, Maren and Anethe in the downstairs bedroom, and Karen on a makeshift bed in the kitchen.
The hinge on the kitchen door creaked as the intruder opened it and the family dog, Ringe, barked waking Karen. She thought it was John returning from Portsmouth after all. The man was startled to find someone sleeping in the kitchen, and he sprang to life grabbing a chair and raising it over his head.
Karen screamed, shouting, “John scares me! John scares me.”
The man started beating her with the chair. Still thinking it was her brother-in-law, Karen shouted, “John is killing me! John is killing me!
The screaming woke Maren who opened the bedroom door and saw the dark form of a man standing over her Karen. He had paused for a moment and Maren was able to drag her sister into the bedroom and bolt the door. The killer pounded on the door, it would not keep him out for long. Maren persuaded Anethe that the only hope was to leave through the bedroom window. Anethe went through the window but only went a few paces before freezing with terror. The killer ran out of the house, grabbed the dull axe that was kept by the door for chopping ice, and ran toward Anethe.
Anethe now recognized the man and shouted, “Louis! Louis! Louis!”
From the bedroom window Maren saw the man raise the axe and, with one blow, crushed Anethe’s skull killing her. The killer ran back into the house and started pounding again on the bedroom door. Maren tried to get Karen through the window but saw that her sister was dying too. Maren’s only hope was to climb out the window and leave her sister behind. As she went for the window, he burst into the room and rushed at her with the axe. She jumped out the window as he swung the axe, hitting the sill with so much force that the head of the axe broke off. From outside the window she heard Karen scream has he finished her off.
Maran ran quickly looking for a place to hide. She was carrying the dog, afraid that if she let him down his barking would give away her position. She first thought of hiding in the henhouse but rejected this idea as too obvious. She then ran to the dock thinking she could escape the island in the killer’s boat, but there was no boat there, he had come from the other side of the island. Finally she found an isolated section of rock. There, barefooted, in her nightclothes with only the dog for warmth she waited until dawn.
In the daylight, not knowing whether or not the killer was still on the island she hurried to Malaga, a small island connected to the north end of Smuttynose by a breakwater. From there she could shout to Appledore Island. She got the attention of some children playing on Appledore and was rescued.
Witnesses in Portsmouth said that Louis Wagner looked haggard that morning, as if he hadn’t slept. He ate breakfast at his boarding house, then packed his bags and took the 9 A.M. train to Boston. When Maren told the story of the murders and accused Louis Wagner, a manhunt began. In Boston, Wagner bought a new suit of clothes and new boots, then had a haircut and shaved his beard. But he went straight to the North End neighborhood where he had previously lived and was well known. By 7:00 that night, Wagner was arrested and on the train back to Portsmouth.
In Portsmouth, a crowd carrying torches was waiting at the depot when the train came in. He was hurried into a waiting police wagon which was pelted with stones all the way to police station. Another crowd was waiting there and a line of police carrying shotguns was required to guarantee his safe entry.
With Wagner safely inside the Portsmouth jail, the authorities needed to address some procedural matters. The Isles of Shoals are divided between New Hampshire and Maine, and while geographically close to New Hampshire, Smuttynose Island is part of the state of Maine. Wagner had to be extradited to Maine and he would run the gauntlet of the rock throwing crowd once more. He was taken by train to South Berwick, Maine, then to the supposedly more secure prison in Alfred, Maine.
Louis Wagner’s trial began June 9, 1873 and lasted nine days. The circumstantial evidience against him was strong. Before leaving Portsmouth he had hidden a bloody shirt in the privy of his boarding house. Fifteen dollars and some change had been stolen from the Montvet’s house (Wagner had paid fifteen dollars for his new suit and boots) and among the coins was one of Maren’s buttons. The button was found in Wagner’s pocket when he was arrested. Witnesses testified that Wagner, at his lowest moments, said he would commit murder for money. He knew John Montvet had money in the house that he was saving for a new boat. Maren Montvet’s testimony was compelling, stating without hesitation that the killer was Louis Wagner and relating Anethe’s last words, “Louis, Louis, Louis.”
But the most damaging testimony came from Wagner himself. His testimony was rambling and sometimes incoherent. He claimed he was working that night baiting trawls for a fishing boat. He could not remember the name of the boat, the name of the captain or even the location of the pier. Then, he claimed, he went to a saloon, had two beers, then went to sleep outside. He could not remember the name of the saloon or its location. No witnesses were presented to verify any of his testimony. The Verdict:  Guilty of premeditated murder.
Louis Wagner had been working on an escape plan since he arrived at Alfred prison and he knew he had to act on it before he was transferred again. The night after the verdict he picked the lock with the end of a wooden toothbrush, put a stool and other items under his blanket to make it appear he was sleeping soundly, then during the guards’ regular 3 A.M. break he made his escape.
Once again he was free, and once again did not know where to go. He was afraid to take to the woods so he followed the roads. He was shown some hospitality by a local farmer by was captured at the farmer’s house by a group of vigilantes and taken back to Alfred prison.
On March 26, 1875, Louis Wagner was hanged along with a man named John True Gordon who murdered his brother’s wife and child. Though Gordon begged for his life, Wagner remained silent. Louis Wagner strongly professed his innocence and never wavered.
In spite of overwhelming evidence against him, Louis Wagner’s steadfast assertion of innocence, together with incomprehensible nature of his crime, have lead some people to seek alternative answers.
1. Maren Hontvet was the killer – As the only eyewitness, her testimony was given much weight, but she had more opportunity than a man in a rowboat from Portsmouth. An unsubstantiated rumor published by a number of newspapers in 1876 claimed that Maren confessed on her deathbed. The theory that Maren committed the murders was fictionalized by Anita Shreve in her 1997 novel The Weight of Water.
2. John Hontvet was the killer -In Maren’s own testimony, Karen thought the man was John Hontvet, even as he was beating her with a chair. Perhaps John did the murders and Maren covered for him. For obvious reasons this story would be hard to substantiate.
Those who have looked at the case objectively believe that the state of Maine executed the right man.

There is something stalking me. I don’t know what it wants, but almost every night since I started seeing it, it has terrorized me. It doesn’t touch me, it doesn’t communicate in any sort of way, it just fills me with horror. If I seem to ramble, please forgive me… I haven’t slept in several days.
Six days ago, I was going down to the basement to bring up some laundry and I glanced out the door as I passed. There was a figure standing at the far edge of our yard. Her back was to me, and she was just standing there, looking into the woods beyond our yard. She was dressed in nothing but a light gown. It had lots of flowing material coming off of it that was whipping around in the air slowly. The whole scene creeped me out instantly, but I thought she might be a friend of our downstairs neighbor, so I continued to the basement. When I came back up, she wasn’t there.
The next night, I went down again, and as I passed the back door, I looked outside. The woman was back. She was exactly like she was the night before, facing away, not moving. The hair on my arms and neck stood up straight when I saw her. I was even more creeped out when I realized she was in the same clothes as the night before. That’s when I did something I shouldn’t have… I opened the back door. Leaning out, I called to her to see if she was okay. She didn’t respond. She didn’t make any sort of indication that she’d heard me. It was freezing cold, so I shut the door and locked it. Coming back upstairs afterward, I looked out the window and she was gone again.
Later that same night, I was in the bedroom, getting ready to go to sleep. Everything was dark, because my wife had gone to bed before me. Our bedroom looks out over the backyard, and my side of the bed faces the windows, so I have to go past them to get in. As I was doing so, I suddenly got that same deep dread feeling in my stomach that I had gotten the first time I saw the figure in the backyard. Something compelled me to hesitate by the windows. My hands were shaking as I pulled the curtain back a bit and peeked through the shades into the backyard. It was a clear night, so the backyard wasn’t shrouded in darkness. The woman was standing in the middle of the backyard, no longer at the edge of the woods, facing the house with her head tilted up to look directly at the window I was peeking from. I jerked away instantly, afraid she had seen me. Her face was covered in shadow and hair, but I saw her chin and nose. A sharp nose and a thin chin. Gray. Her skin looks gray, I think. Her hair is black and long. I was so scared, I jumped into bed and covered myself with the covers.
The next day, I played outside in the snow with my four year old daughter. She wanted me to pull her on her sled in the backyard, but just the thought of going back there made me scared again, so I talked her into digging holes in the snow in the front yard. That night, things went from bad to worse. Somehow, I had managed to forget about the woman. Then, in the middle of the night, my daughter started crying. Our bedroom is just across the hall from hers. I thought she might need to use the bathroom or just be having a bad dream, so I went into her room to see if she was okay. She was uncovered, curled into a ball on her mattress. I pulled her covers over her and that’s when she whispered to me.
“Daddy, there’s someone in my closet.”
Instant goosebumps. I turned my head slowly toward the closet door at the end of her bed. Normally, the closet is shut, but now it was open. The woman was standing in my daughter’s closet. Not even when it was clear that I saw her did she move or make a sound, just stood there and looked at me through the cracked-open door. My blood ran cold when I saw her.
“Get up,” I told my daughter, “Get in my arms, quickly. QUICKLY.” she scrambled up and hugged me tightly and I walked backward out of the room, watching the closet the entire time. In my mind I imagined her throwing the closet door open and running at us, arms outstretched. I just hugged my daughter and walked backward into my room. The woman never appeared in the doorway. I heard no movement from my daughter’s room. I tucked her into my bed and stood there watching the doorway to her bedroom. I did not go back in, I just stood there and watched and listened. When I finally got the courage to climb into bed, I didn’t sleep.
Sunday, I told my wife everything. I told her about the first time I saw this woman, I told her about calling out to her and seeing her from the window. I told her that she had appeared in our daughter’s closet. She told me it wasn’t funny, that it was my fault for our daughter’s bad dreams and that I shouldn’t encourage her to be afraid of her closet.
Sunday night, my daughter called to me from her room again. Call me a coward, but I couldn’t go back into that room. I called her quietly to come get in our bed, but she cried and said she was scared. I wanted to go and get her, but I was scared too. I told her to pull her blankets up and cover herself. Just cover yourself, honey, and you’ll be okay. I prayed that it was true. I lay there, peeking over the sleeping form of my wife and out into the hallway at the closed door of my daughter’s room and just kept praying. I heard her cry a while longer, then she went quiet and I hoped that she was asleep.
Monday, I piled toys in front of the door to her closet. By that time, there was no doubt in my mind that this was some sort of ghost or apparition, but I piled things in front of the closet anyway. Like a pile of toys could stop a ghost.
Monday night, my daughter did not cry, but I didn’t sleep. I lay there, looking at the ceiling, tense. Around 2:00, I heard her bedroom door creak open and I knew something was wrong. She must be scared, I thought, so I called to her like before, “Just come to me and you can sleep in our bed, Sweety.” But she didn’t come. I peeked over my my wife.
The woman was standing there in the doorway to my daughter’s room. Her arms hung at her sides, her shoulders slouched down. Her gown was dirty, like it hadn’t been washed in years, and hung off her likes torn rags. I wasn’t breathing, I wasn’t blinking, I just looked at her and she looked at me and I thought this is it, I’m going to die. She never moved, never made a sound. I whispered, “Please, go away. Please, leave me alone. Please, I’m sorry.” I couldn’t look away. If I look away, she will get closer. I was sure of it. If I close my eyes, when I open them, she’ll be standing over me, looking at me. At some point, she was gone. It’s like I fell asleep with my eyes open. I don’t remember her disappearing, just that I was looking at the doorway, and she wasn’t there anymore.
Last night, I lay awake, waiting. I asked my wife to shut our bedroom door because the night light in the hallway was keeping me awake. It was stupid. I don’t know what I was thinking. Like clockwork, I heard my daughter’s bedroom door creak open. I held my breath. Then I heard the floorboards in the hallway creaking and I started shaking uncontrollably. I heard our bedroom door open, and I knew she was standing there, in the doorway, not moving, just looking at me. I didn’t look. I couldn’t. I did what had I told my daughter to do and pulled the covers over my head.
I am a complete mess. A zombie at work. I don’t want to go home anymore. I think I see the woman in other places. A glance while driving and I think she’s sitting in the passenger seat of the truck behind me, or standing down the street asI drive off. Just sitting here at my desk, someone passes by behind me and I jump. I’m afraid that if I turn around, she’ll be there, waiting for me to look at her. And what if I saw her face? I don’t want to see it. I don’t want to see her anymore, but I don’t know what to do. The only hope I feel is that, for unrelated reasons, my wife is talking about moving. But our lease isn’t up until May. I don’t know if I can hold out that long.

For the last few months I’ve been having some problems with the clocks in my house. Every now and again they just die. The clocks stop working. I’m constantly replacing batteries and they seem fine. I come home from work and the batteries are dead. I also have been having some strange incidents with items in my house. In the morning I went to work and left my iPad charging. In the afternoon I came home and found the iPad sitting where I’d left it and the cable had been unplugged and wrapped up.
A lot of little things have been happening too. The TV remote isn’t where I could have sworn I left it. My alarm clock went off for absolutely no reason in the middle of the night. I was in bed and heard the kettle downstairs turn on for absolutely no reason. It’s just little things that make absolutely no sense. The alarm clock incident was the strangest because it was actually unplugged when it went off. I was lying in bed, asleep, when all of sudden I heard three, or four, beeps. Woke up. Looked over and the thing was dead. No electricity.
One of the lightbulbs in the kitchen exploded. I was sitting watching TV when I heard an almighty CRACK. When into the kitchen and found glass all over the floor. The lightbulb had exploded.
And on, and on it goes. I haven’t seen anything or heard anything it’s just the electrics and energy in my house. It’s like something is overloading or draining anything that needs energy. Has anyone come across anything like this?

Hi Darren, I was excited to see your coverage of the bewildering Elisa Lam case. A few months ago, I had a strange semi-paranormal experience involving this case. This was something that happened on the border between sleeping and waking. I have had sleep paralysis events from time to time, but this was by far the most vivid because it was somewhat tied to reality. I had been reading all night about the murder of a young woman – news reports, PDFs of the autopsy, third-party investigations, documentaries, etc. Her death had been ruled an accident but I believed this was highly unlikely. Finally after hours of searching, I found a man who I believed could have killed her. I looked at photos of him on his social media profiles and was struck by a chilling fear. That night I went to sleep and had a dream I will never forget. I was in a hotel with my best friend, on one of our ghost hunting missions, looking for someone or something. I believe we must have been trying to find the murderer. We came upon a door with a small slit in the window, through which I could see the thickest black darkness. Believing I had found what I was looking for, I opened that door to find another door. I opened the second one and found an entirely pitch black room. That room contained nothing but the purest form of evil, the spirit of the killer. Panicking, I rushed around in the darkness and tried to leave the room. In my panic, I woke myself partially out of the dream, but woke up into my own bed in sleep paralysis. I saw a disturbance in the air, similar to when you are playing a video game and someone is invisible but you can still see them. It was the silhouette of a man and he was pounding hard on the foot of my bed. He was angry and he was after me. I had entered the room and discovered him. After a length of time that was physically short but emotionally long, I was finally able to wake myself up. I have never been conventionally religious, but after waking up that day, I felt like I truly understood evil and vowed never to mess with its forces.

The sprawling oceans of our planet have long been a wellspring of tales of the strange and the unexplained, perhaps not surprising considering the sheer vastness of their largely unexplored depths. Among all of the various phenomena of the sea, perhaps the most well-known is that famous anomalous region of vanishing ships and planes called the Bermuda Triangle, which has long been a persistent paranormal mystery and the subject of much debate and speculation. Yet, the Bermuda Triangle is not the only such vortex of missing ships, and half a world away, in a whole other ocean, there lies a counterpart in the waters near Japan, which by all accounts is just as strange as its Bermuda cousin.
The area that has come to be known variously as the Devil’s Sea, the Dragon’s Triangle, Ma-no Umi in Japanese, and the Taiwan Triangle, is an expanse of ocean lying off the coast of Japan that has over the centuries accrued a sinister reputation for swallowing vessels up to never be seen again. The exact location of this dreaded patch of malevolent ocean remains nebulous, with most estimates putting it as a triangle with one corner in Taiwan, another at the Japanese island of Miyake-jima, and another at the island of Iwo-jima, although reports vary and the exact geographical dimensions and perimeter fluctuate and are uncertain. What is consistent is that this place has a dark history that goes way back, and involves ships and aircraft disappearing without a trace, sort of like a Bermuda Triangle of the Orient.
The region has apparently been seen as a menace since around 1,000 BC, when it was widely believed that dragons lurked in the depths here, pulling down various fishing and military vessels to their doom. One story tells of how the warlord and 5th Khan of the Mongol Emprire, Kublai Khan, tried to invade Japan twice in the years 1274 and 1281 by crossing the Devil’s Sea and ended up losing many of his ships and around 40,000 men in the process, with many of these wrecks still dotting the ocean floor in their watery graves. Through the centuries since, the area was supposedly known as a place to be avoided, and countless fisherman and travelers were said to venture out over the waves to vanish off the face of the earth here.
However, for all of these alleged mysterious disappearances the phenomenon remained largely unknown to the outside world until the notable author Charles Berlitz published his 1974 book on the matter, titled The Bermuda Triangle, which mentions the Devil’s Sea, as well as a follow-up 1989 book The Dragon’s Triangle, which was devoted to it and provided numerous modern cases of supposed vanishings in the area. Berlitz claimed that Japan had lost at least 5 military vessels between the years of 1952 and 1954, along with their crews totaling 700 men, all of whom were supposedly never heard from again. The Japanese government also sent a research vessel called the Kaio Maru No. 5 into the area on September 24, 1953, but it too disappeared with its crew of 31, becoming one of the most well-known casualties of the Devil’s Sea and also prompting the government to issue a warning that the area was unsafe for travel.
Interestingly, besides ships or planes seeming to cease to exist, the Devil’s Sea has allegedly produced reports of many other weird phenomena as well. UFOs are frequently spotted in the area, as well as ghost ships and mystery lights out over the waves. In addition, there are accounts of people experiencing lost time, inexplicably malfunctioning equipment, or anomalous magnetic disturbances.
Due to this high strangeness and the number of missing ships in the region, and greatly helped along by Berlitz’s mainstream book, the Devil’s Sea has become known as a phenomenon similar to the more well-known Bermuda Triangle, and has such generated plenty of theories as to why this particular stretch of ocean should claim so many lives. Perhaps the most rational lies in the fact that the two islands most often associated with the triangle, Miyake-jima and Iwo-jima, happen to lie right along a line of very active undersea volcanoes called the Izu-Bonin volcanic arc, which spans 2,500 km across the Pacific all the way to Guam. Considering this, violent volcanic activity or related underwater seismic events could very well be causing some of these reported vanishings. Indeed, in his book The Bermuda Triangle Mystery Solved, skeptical researcher Larry Kusche blames a volcano called Myōjin-shō on the incident with the Kaio Maru No. 5, pointing out that debris actually was found that suggested this, and going even further to mention that this particular volcano wasn’t even in the traditional Devil’s Sea to begin with.
Other rational theories are that these vessels were lost due to storms or some environmental phenomena, or were just the victims of the any one of the other many perils inherit to the ocean. With the sheer size of the purported Devil’s Sea and the heavy boat traffic through the region, it seems only natural that there should be wrecks and even vanishings, and perhaps these have been over exaggerated as being caused by supernatural phenomena focused on this one area.
One of the more fringe theories about the Devil’s Sea is linked to a concept put forward by the cryptozoologist and paranormal researcher Ivan T. Sanderson. In the 1960s and 70s Sanderson came up with the idea that the earth was intersected with lines of power that converged at 12 portals located throughout the world, which he referred to as the “Vile Vortices.” He believed that these vortices formed triangles in a certain pattern along particular lines of latitude, including the infamous Bermuda Triangle, that were responsible for making ships and planes vanish through mysterious means, possibly even to other dimensions through some sort of doorway. These vile vortices have been blamed for the phenomena of the Bermuda Triangle, as well as for other areas of the planet that have been ground zero for strange disappearances or paranormal phenomena, and the Devil’s Sea apparently lies right in the middle of one. Sanderson would write of these vortices and the Devil’s Sea in an article in Saga Magazine called The Twelve Devil’s Graveyards Around the World.
Then of course there is the idea that the Devil’s Sea never really existed at all outside of the minds of the writers who have covered it. Many skeptics have pointed out that there seem to be no reports or mentions of the Devil’s Sea or its bizarre vanishings in newspapers or other publications prior to Sanderson’s work on vile vortices and the publication of Berlitz’s book, even in Japan, and that almost every piece of literature on the phenomenon can be traced back to these works on the matter, with little verification or sources to back up their vague claims and frequent bending of certain facts to fit in more with the Devil’s Sea mystery. All of the books and articles on the phenomenon seem to begin there, gradually building upon the history and mythology of the Devil’s Sea to the point where it is no longer possible to disentangle any fact from fiction. Is the whole mystery of the Devil’s Sea and its claimed history of centuries of unexplained vanishings and paranormal phenomena merely a relatively recent invention based on a figment of the imagination and a twisting of facts?
We are left with an intriguing tale of the high seas, of a realm with a fearsome dark history where people venture to drop off the face of the earth without explanation, but is any of it true? Does a mysterious force thrum beneath the waves in this corner of the world, or is it all due to normal, natural phenomena? Is it somehow connected to other similar places such as the Bermuda Triangle? Or is it all tall tales and speculation? Indeed, has the Devil’s Sea ever even existed outside of the imagination at all? Whatever the case may be, it is all certainly an entertaining case of yet another supposed mysteries place in our world’s vast and little-understood oceans.

On March 17, 2015, Robert Jason Owens was arrested for the murder of celebrity chef and former Food Network Star contestant Cristie Schoen Codd, her husband Joseph Codd, and their unborn child. As part of a plea deal, Owens admitted to killing the Codd family and dismembering their remains. When the police searched Owens’s home, they found “fabric, leather materials, and unknown hard fragments” buried under a layer of concrete, as well as human remains in Owens’ wood stove.
The murder of the Codds wasn’t the first time that Owens had been involved in a mysterious disappearance, and it would soon become clear that those unknown fragments and human remains were remnants of an earlier case.
Some 15 years earlier, Owens seems to have been the last person to see Zebb Quinn alive. At the time, Quinn was a young man of 18, working in the electronics department of a Walmart in Asheville, North Carolina. On January 2, 2000, Quinn got off work at around 9:00 P.M. and met his friend and coworker Robert Jason Owens in the parking lot. The two were planning to go to the nearby town of Leicester to look at a car that Quinn was interested in buying.
Quinn and Owens drove separately and stopped at a gas station along the way to buy drinks. Surveillance footage from the gas station provides the last known photographs of Zebb Quinn alive. After leaving the gas station, Owens later told police that Quinn signaled for him to pull over, saying that he had been paged and needed to return the call right away.
After going to a payphone, Owens claimed that Quinn was “frantic” and had to call off the trip, speeding away in such haste that he actually struck Owens’ vehicle. Later that same night, Owens was treated at a nearby hospital for broken ribs and a head injury that he claimed to have acquired in a separate accident, though no accident report was ever filed for either collision.
This was just the beginning of the bizarre circumstances surrounding Zebb Quinn’s disappearance. Police eventually traced the call that was placed to Quinn’s pager to the phone of his aunt, Ina Ustitch. Ustitch told police that she wasn’t even home at the time of the call: She had been having dinner with a friend named Tamra Taylor.
Taylor was the mother of Misty Taylor, with whom Quinn had a relationship that may or may not have been becoming romantic at the time of his disappearance. However, Misty and her boyfriend Wesley Smith were both present at the dinner as well. Ustitch later reported to the police that her house had been broken into while she was out to dinner with her friend, though nothing was stolen.
The next day, Quinn’s mother filed a missing person’s report for her son, but it wasn’t until four days later, on January 6, that his car was found abandoned in the parking lot of the Little Pigs Barbecue restaurant, near the hospital where his mother worked. She later told police that she believed the car had been left there on purpose, so that whoever had abducted her son would be sure that she would find it.
In the car was a live puppy, several empty bottles, a jacket that didn’t belong to Quinn, and a hotel key card that the authorities were never able to match with a particular hotel. The headlights had been left on, and a pair of lips and an exclamation point had been drawn in pink lipstick on the rear windshield. Of Quinn, however, there was no trace.
Two days after Quinn’s disappearance, before his car had yet been found in the Little Pigs parking lot, a phone call was placed to the Walmart where he worked. The caller claimed to be Quinn, saying that he was calling in sick, but the coworker who took the call said that the voice didn’t sound like Quinn’s. Robert Jason Owens would later confess to placing the call, at the time saying that he was doing it as a favor to his friend.
For 15 years, the investigation went on, though seemingly little progress was made. Misty Taylor and her boyfriend were questioned, as were others, but nothing could link them to the disappearance of Quinn. In 2012, the case was featured on the show Disappeared, but still no answers were forthcoming. Quinn’s case became well known on the internet, where many communities attempted to discover the evidence that would either bring his killer to justice or make clear exactly where the teen had disappeared to.
While Robert Jason Owens remained the chief suspect, it wasn’t until the murder of the Codd family that he was finally charged with a crime. According to Owens, he ran over the Codds while on painkillers and then dismembered and hid their remains in a panic. He never confessed to the murder of Zebb Quinn, but in 2017 a grand jury finally handed down an indictment charging Owens with Quinn’s death some 17 years before. Authorities said that the indictment was “the result of years of investigative work and persistence,” but whether it was ultimately prompted by new evidence discovered during the investigation into the murder of the Codd family hasn’t been revealed by the police.

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 and follow me on social media through the Weird Darkness website. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on sponsors you heard during the show, listen to FREE audiobooks I’ve narrated, get the email newsletter, find my other podcasts including “Retro Radio: Old Time Radio In The Dark”, “Church of the Undead” and the sci-fi podcast “Auditory Anthology”. Also on the site you can visit the store for Weird Darkness tee-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise… plus, it’s where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, addiction, or thoughts of harming yourself or others. And if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell of your own, 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.

“Hauntings of Illinois’ Worst Train Disaster” by Troy Taylor
“Noises and Unexplained Happenings” posted at YourGhostStories.com
“The Terror of London” posted at The Unredacted
“The Strange Case of Zebb Quinn’s Disappearance” by Orrin Grey for The Line Up
“The Devil’s Sea of Japan” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe
“Terror From the Elisa Lam Case” submitted anonymously to Weird Darkness
“The Gray Lady” by an unknown author
“The Smuttynose Murders” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight
“Something Is Messing With The Energy In My House” by Russel James, posted at MyHauntedLifeToo.com

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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” — Hebrews 11:6

And a final thought… “Having good days is a decision that we make every day before we even walk out the door.” – Sumit Gautam

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

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