“THE NECROPOLIS RAILWAY” and Other True, Creepy Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Deep in the bowels of London is a railway built to serve not the living citizens of the city above… but of the dead below. (Railway of the Dead) *** Sometimes they are kind towards humans, even assisting them if in distress, or giving gifts. But some consider them lustful and evil, and still others claim they are the risen dead of brutally killed women. And there are reports of them being seen even today. We’ll look at the history and lore of mermaids. (Mythical Mermaids) *** For years, Country singer Johnny Horton told friends of a premonition he couldn’t shake. A premonition of his own death. Not just THAT he would be killed… but HOW. And he was eerily accurate. And that wasn’t the end of his tragic story. (The Last Ride of Johnny Horton) *** Camping can be an amazing experience, especially when with friends or family. But even surrounded by those you love, when it gets dark, the wilderness gets creepy. Was that just an animal in the woods you heard, or something more? Was that blur you just saw a trick of the light or is there really something circling your campsite? I’ll share some true stories of campers who experienced much more than what they bargained for. (Camping With Ghosts and Monsters) *** (Originally aired August 19, 2020)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Railway of the Dead” posted at the website History ASM: https://tinyurl.com/yyyz2bhu
“Mythical Mermaids” by Gemma Hollman from JustHistoryPosts.com: https://tinyurl.com/y2zq4nng
“The Last Ride of Johnny Horton” by Robert A Waters for the website Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem: https://tinyurl.com/y2gkdl35
“Camping With Ghosts and Monsters” by Stephen Wagner for LiveAbout.com: https://tinyurl.com/y6h5lhht
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OTHER PODCASTS I HOST…
Paranormality Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
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(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
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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…
Sometimes they are kind towards humans, even assisting them if in distress, or giving gifts. But some consider them lustful and evil, and still others claim they are the risen dead of brutally killed women. And there are reports of them being seen even today. We’ll look at the history and lore of mermaids. (Mythical Mermaids)
For years, Country singer Johnny Horton told friends of a premonition he couldn’t shake. A premonition of his own death. Not just THAT he would be killed… but HOW. And he was eerily accurate. And that wasn’t the end of his tragic story.(The Last Ride of Johnny Horton)
Camping can be an amazing experience, especially when with friends or family. But even surrounded by those you love, when it gets dark, the wilderness gets creepy. Was that just an animal in the woods you heard, or something more? Was that blur you just saw a trick of the light or is there really something circling your campsite? I’ll share some true stories of campers who experienced much more than what they bargained for. (Camping With Ghosts and Monsters)
Deep in the bowels of London is a railway built to serve not the living citizens of the city above… but of the dead below. (Railway of the Dead)
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: RAILWAY OF THE DEAD=====
The gruesome sounding ‘London Necropolis Railway’ was opened in 1854 as a purpose built railway to serve the needs of dead! It was a reaction to severe overcrowding in London’s existing graveyards and cemeteries. It aimed to use the recently developed technology of the railway to move as many burials as possible out of the city to the newly built Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
In the first half of the 19th century the population of London more than doubled, from a little under a million people in 1801 to almost two and a half million in 1851. The city’s dead had been buried in and around the local churches and despite the rapid growth in population, the amount of land set aside for use as graveyards remained unchanged. Even relatively fresh graves had to be exhumed to free up space for new burials, their contents being unearthed and scattered. Decaying corpses contaminated the water supply, and the city suffered regular epidemics of cholera, smallpox, measles and typhoid, so in 1851 new burials were prohibited by law in the built up areas of London.
As a result a proposal was drawn up to use the emerging technology of mechanized transport to resolve the crisis. The scheme entailed buying a single very large tract of land around 23 miles from London to be called the London Necropolis (now Brookwood Cemetery). At this distance, the land would be far beyond the maximum projected size of the city’s growth. If the practice of only burying a single family in each grave were abandoned and the traditional practice for pauper burials of ten burials per grave were adopted, the site was capable of accommodating 28,500,000 bodies. Even with the prohibition of mass graves it would take over 350 years to fill a single layer of this monstrous cemetery!
Using parts of the existing London and South Western Railway, trains could ship bodies and mourners from London to the site easily and cheaply. Its founders envisaged dedicated coffin trains, each carrying 50–60 bodies, traveling from London to the new Necropolis in the early morning or late at night, and the coffins being stored on the cemetery site until the time of the funeral. Mourners would then be carried to the appropriate part of the cemetery by a dedicated passenger train during the day.
The scheme found widespread support, although the Bishop of London considered it inappropriate that the families of people from very different backgrounds would potentially have to share a train, and felt that it demeaned the dignity of the deceased for the bodies of respectable members of the community to be carried on a train also carrying the bodies and relatives of those who had led immoral lives.
On 7 November 1854 the new cemetery opened, at the time it was the largest cemetery in the world. On 13 November the first scheduled train left the new London Necropolis railway station (today the site of London Waterloo). The building was specifically designed for the use of mourners. It had many private waiting rooms, which could also be used to hold funeral services, a hydraulic lift to raise coffins to platform level and existing railway arches were used (somewhat atmospherically) for the storage of bodies.
The London Necropolis Company offered three classes of funerals, which also determined the type of railway ticket sold to mourners and the deceased. A first class funeral allowed the person buying the funeral to select the grave site of their choice anywhere in the cemetery; at the time of opening prices began at £2 10s (about £236 in 2020 terms. Second class funerals cost £1 (about £95 in 2020 terms) and allowed some control over the burial location. The right to erect a permanent memorial cost an additional 10 shillings (about £47 in 2020 terms); if a permanent memorial was not erected the LNC reserved the right to re-use the grave in future. Third class funerals were reserved for pauper funerals; those buried at parish expense in the section of the cemetery designated for that parish. The trains were divided both by class and by religion, with separate Anglican and Nonconformist sections and separate first, second and third class compartments within each. This separation applied to both living and dead passengers!
The trains were capable of transporting large numbers of mourners when required; Charles Bradlaugh, Member of Parliament for Northampton, was a vocal advocate of Indian self-government and a popular figure among the Indian community in London, many of whom attended his funeral on 3 February 1891. Over 5,000 mourners were carried on three huge special trains, one of which was 17 carriages long. The mourners included the 21-year-old Mohandas Gandhi, who recollected witnessing a loud argument between “a champion atheist” and a clergyman at the cemetery station while waiting for the return train.
A site for a bigger terminus was bought by the LSWR in 1899, south of the existing site and on the opposite side of Westminster Bridge Road. It was completed on 8 February 1902, and the LSWR viaduct was widened to serve a greatly enlarged Waterloo station, destroying all traces of the original LNC terminus.
The new building was designed for attractiveness and modernity to contrast with the traditional gloomy decor associated with the funeral industry. A narrow four-story building on Westminster Bridge Road held the LNC’s offices. Behind it was the main terminal; this held a communal third-class waiting room, mortuaries and storerooms, the LNC’s workshops, and a sumptuous oak-paneled Chapelle Ardente, intended for mourners unable to make the journey to Brookwood to pay their respects to the deceased. This building led onto the two platforms, lined with waiting rooms and a ticket office.
Sadly the necropolis railway never achieved the capacity its founders had envisaged, most people still aspired to be buried near to where they lived and worked. The idea of being buried nearly 30 miles out of central London was never an easy choice to make. Coupled with the invention of the motor hearse in 1909, passenger numbers (living and dead) steadily declined across the first half of the century.
During the night of 16–17 April 1941, in one of the last major air raids on London, bombs repeatedly fell on the Waterloo area with multiple high explosive bombs striking the central section of the terminus building. While the office building and platforms survived, the workshops, driveway and Chapelle Ardente were destroyed, along with the third class waiting room. On 11 May 1941 the station was officially declared closed.
In September 1945, following the end of hostilities, the directors of the LNC met to consider whether to rebuild the terminus and reopen the London Necropolis Railway. Although the main line from Waterloo to Brookwood had remained in use throughout the war and was in good condition, the branch line from Brookwood into the cemetery had been almost unused since the destruction of the London terminus. Even before the outbreak of hostilities increased use of motorised road transport had damaged the profitability of the railway for both the LNC and the SR. Faced with the costs of rebuilding the cemetery branch line, building a new London terminus and replacing the rolling stock damaged or destroyed in the air raid, the directors concluded that “past experience and present changed conditions made the running of the Necropolis private train obsolete”. In mid-1946 the LNC formally informed the SR that the Westminster Bridge Road terminus would not be reopened.
The last recorded funeral party carried on the London Necropolis Railway was that of Chelsea Pensioner Edward Irish, buried on 11 April 1941.
Most of the site of the second station was sold by the LNC and built over with new office developments in the years following the end of the Second World War, but the office building on Westminster Bridge Road, over the former entrance to the station driveway, remains relatively unaltered externally although the words “London Necropolis” carved into the stone above the driveway have sadly been covered and the Westminster Bridge Road building is the only surviving part of the London Necropolis Railway in London.
When Weird Darkness returns… sometimes they are kind towards humans, even assisting them if in distress, or giving gifts. But some consider them lustful and evil, and still others claim they are the risen dead of brutally killed women. And there are reports of them being seen even today. We’ll look at the history and lore of mermaids.
And… for years, Country singer Johnny Horton told friends of a premonition he couldn’t shake. A premonition of his own death. Not just THAT he would be killed… but HOW. And he was eerily accurate. And that wasn’t the end of his tragic story.
STORY: MYTHICAL MERMAIDS=====
Mermaids are creatures that appear time and again throughout history and across cultures. Typically a mermaid is portrayed as having the top half of a woman, and the bottom half of a fish, though this sometimes varies slightly. The first known stories of mermaids come from Assyria around 1000BC; the goddess Atargatis, who was the mother of the Assyrian Queen Semiramis, loved a mortal and accidentally killed him. Ashamed and distraught, Atargatis jumped into a lake and took the form of a fish, but the waters would not conceal her divine beauty. She then took the form of a mermaid – human above the waist, fish below. After the death of Alexander the Great’s sister, Thessalonike, a popular Greek legend emerged that she had turned into a mermaid. According to the legend, she would ask the sailors on any ship she would encounter only one question: “Is King Alexander alive?”. If the sailors answered “He lives and reigns and conquers the world” then she would calm the waters and bid the ship farewell. Any other answer would enrage her, and she would stir up a terrible storm, dooming the ship and every sailor on board.
Elsewhere, in Norman England, a chapel built in Durham Castle around 1078 by Saxon stonemasons has what is probably the earliest surviving artistic depiction of a mermaid in England. In British folklore, mermaids were unlucky omens, both foretelling disaster and provoking it. Mermaids from the Isle of Man, known as ben-varrey, are considered kinder toward humans than stories from other regions, with various stories of assistance, gifts and rewards.
In Eastern Europe, mermaids have a different origin to elsewhere, as all mermaids – or Rusalkas – are restless spirits of the unclean dead. Usually they are the ghosts of young women who died a violent or untimely death, often by murder or suicide, before their wedding and especially by drowning. They can be found at night, dancing together under the moon and calling out to young men by name, luring them to the water and drowning them.
Mermaids are also found in other cultures across the world, including China, Africa, and the Caribbean. The common threads usually are that they are beautiful women who either try to lure men to their death, or fall in love with them. Sometimes due to magic, the mermaids are able to walk on land, although there is usually a caveat to this. Whilst there are legends of mermen, the idea that these sea creatures are beautiful women seems to be a far more popular and prevailing legend.
In Medieval Western Europe, the mermaid was often portrayed as an evil, lustful creature, and the fact that they were women only heightened this imagery because contemporary sexism against women meant they were viewed as the weaker sex who tempted men to sin. Part of this reputation probably came from the enduring appeal of the mermaid in folklore whilst the Church was trying to establish Christianity’s dominance in conquered territories and eradicate pagan imagery. Mermaids went against the Christian worldview, and so needed to be vilified. Many medieval depictions of mermaids show them holding a comb and mirror, meant to symbolize the sinful vanity of the mermaids. They became a symbol of lust and temptation, their beauty deceiving young men to go to their deaths. This perhaps explains the frequency of depictions of mermaids in medieval churches – as most of the medieval population was illiterate and couldn’t understand Latin, the language of the Mass, imagery around churches were there to explain doctrine. The pictures and carvings of mermaids were to remind the congregation of the sins of lust and pride.
Under this understanding, then, it is perhaps unusual that the House of Luxembourg, a late medieval royal family, chose a mermaid as their mythical ancestor. In the medieval period, it was not unusual for royals or members of the nobility to claim descent from mythical creatures or legendary men for propaganda purposes – the legend of King Arthur proliferated under Henry II to extend his royal authority. The Luxembourg family claimed that their ancestor, Count Siegfried of the Ardennes, married the female water spirit, Melusine.
Melusine was a popular legend of a water spirit in the medieval period. The story went that Melusine was a form of fairy, spirit, or mermaid, who inhabited forest lakes and streams. One day, a handsome nobleman (his identity changes depending on who is telling the legend) came across Melusine, and persuaded her to marry him. She agreed on the condition that 1 day a week was to be hers alone, and her husband was to never intrude upon her privacy on this day. The man agreed, and they were married and the couple had many children. One day, however, the man lets his intrigue get the better of him and he hides himself in order to watch Melusine bathe. When he sees her in the water, he sees that she has gained the tail of a fish (or sometimes serpent). Melusine flees never to be seen again (in some legends she turns into a dragon before fleeing and curses the magical castle she had created for her and her husband with her disgruntled spirit).
The Luxembourgs claimed their link to Melusine from Count Siegfried, who in 963AD bought the feudal rights to the territory on which he founded his capital city of Luxembourg. After this, his name became connected to the local version of the legend of Melusine. In their version of the legend, Melusine magically creates the Castle of Luxembourg on the Bock rock (the historical center point of Luxembourg City) the morning after their wedding. Her legend continues today, with Luxembourg issuing a postage stamp commemorating her in 1997. Jacquetta of Luxembourg, mother of Queen Elizabeth Woodville (who married Edward IV and was mother of the infamous Princes of the Tower), was part of the House of Luxembourg who continued the legend of Melusine in their ancestory. In Philippa Greggory’s works of fiction, The White Queen and The Lady of the Rivers, Jacquetta’s belief of descent from Melusine ties in with the idea that Jacquetta and Elizabeth had magical powers. In reality, we do not know how much Jacquetta seized upon the legend of Melusine; whilst we know that she had a copy of a medieval romance entitled Mélusine, the romance was a popular one at the time, and copies were found among the inventories of other high-born ladies.
The legend of Melusine was not just one the Luxembourg family seized upon, and many other families and regions of northern Europe used the story and included mermaids in their heraldry. French heraldic tradition includes double tailed mermaids and mermen being used on the shield to symbolize eloquence – again, surprising considering the association of mermaids with negative qualities. A shield and sword-wielding mermaid (Syrenka) is on the official coat of arms of Warsaw and images of a mermaid have appeared on its arms since the middle of the 14th century.
Reported sightings of mermaids continue to the modern day, and the medieval period was no different. Whilst sailing off the coast of Hispaniola in 1493, Columbus reported seeing three “female forms” which “rose high out of the sea, but were not as beautiful as they are represented”. There was also an apparent merman found in Suffolk a few centuries earlier. According to the chronicler Ralph of Coggeshall, a naked wild man, covered in hair, was caught in the nets of local fishermen around 1167. The man was brought back to Orford Castle where he was held for six months, being questioned or tortured. The man never spoke and would only eat fish, and behaved in a feral manner throughout his captivity. The wild man finally escaped from the castle and was presumed to have returned to the ocean. Later accounts described the captive as a merman, and the incident appears to have encouraged the growth in “wild men” carvings on local baptismal fonts – around twenty such fonts from the later medieval period exist in coastal areas of Suffolk and Norfolk, near Orford.
Many theories abound for the legends of mermaids. Many believe that sightings such as Columbus’ were probably of manatees or dugongs. As legends of mermaids are prevalent in areas with a strong coastal tradition, such as the United Kingdom or northern Europe, it is natural that those who were often out at sea and relied on good weather for their lives would create superstitions related to their work. Rather than blame God for a storm that sunk a boat, or a ship mysteriously wrecking on rocks, it is easier to blame a malicious creature who wants to kill human men. In a medieval culture where the beauty of a woman could often hold her under suspicion of being of ill-intent and evil character, luring men to lustful acts, it is easy to see how mermaids were usually associated with beauty and vanity. Popular interest in mermaids continues today, and there are over 130 public art mermaid statues across the world, not to mention their popularity in film and television. It seems that even 3,000 years after their first appearance in legend, we cannot resist the allure of a mermaid.
STORY: THE LAST RIDE OF JOHNNY HORTON=====
It was 1960. Hank was long-dead and old-time country music was dying. Elvis, a country boy from Mississippi, had inadvertently started the trend. Suddenly, teens weren’t listening to sad songs like “Fraulein” and “Send Me the Pillow that You Dream On” anymore. A new, driving energy was taking over the airways as electric guitars and rock ‘n’ roll created new heroes.
For years, Johnny Horton, a sharecropper’s son and singer from East Texas, had struggled to find a niche in the country music industry. He’d been signed by several record companies, but his star had flamed out with each unsuccessful record he made.
Then, in 1956, Horton recorded an up-tempo song called “Honky Tonk Man.” Traditional country music lyrics about a rake who loved barflies melded with hot electric guitar licks in just the right blend, and suddenly, Horton hit the jackpot. Later, that song and others recorded by Horton would be called “rockabilly.” Songs like “Cherokee Boogie,” “Honky TonkHardwood Floor,” and “Sleepy-eyed John” fused rock and country at just the right speed.
By 1959, Horton had again changed his style. He recorded his biggest hit, “The Battle of New Orleans.” This historically-based frolicking song soared to the top of the charts in both country music and pop music. It was followed by smash hits such as “Sink the Bismarck,” “Johnny Reb,” and “North to Alaska.”
Horton had come a long way from the sharecropper life led by his mother and father. He’d married a Louisiana beauty, Billie Jean Jones Williams, Hank’s second wife. He’d bought a new home in Shreveport, and was at the very pinnacle of his career. Money, once a scarce commodity around the Horton home, was now rolling in.
But for years, Horton had told friends of a premonition he couldn’t shake. He believed he would die at the hands of a drunk driver. Horton even practiced scenarios in which he would drive his car into a ditch to escape an oncoming driver. He hoped to outwit death by being prepared. A teetotaler, Horton would soon discover that even a drunken grim reaper would not be denied.
Close to midnight, on November 4, 1960, Johnny Horton climbed into the driver’s seat of his shiny-new white Cadillac sedan. He and his band had just played a packed session at the famous Skyline Club in Austin, Texas. Horton had been skittish about the gig, thinking he might be killed by a drunk in a barroom fight. So, between sessions, he hung out in the dressing room, away from the crowds.
After loading their gear into the trunk of the Caddie, Horton, bass player and manager Tillman Franks, and guitarist Gerald Tomlinson headed home to Shreveport. Horton planned to go duck hunting with future country music star Claude “Wolverton Mountain” King later that morning
At about one-thirty, in Milano, Texas, Horton’s Cadillac “approached a bridge over a train trestle.” Coming the opposite way, 19-year-old college student James Evans Davis drove a 1958 Ford Ranchero pickup. Davis, who had been drinking, lost control of the truck and slammed into a guard rail. He bounced off, weaved across the road, hit the opposite guard rail, then smashed head-on into Horton’s Caddie.
The carnage on the bridge left Horton dead, and Franks and Tomlinson severely injured. As happens often, Davis walked away with only minor injuries.
At Horton’s funeral, his long-time friend Johnny Cash read from the Biblical book of John. Horton was interred at Hillcrest Memorial Park in Bossier City, Louisiana.
In March, 1961, the Dallas Morning News reported that Davis had been convicted of “murder without malice” and “given a 2-year probated sentence in a no-jury trial.”
Horton had told his friends that if he died, he would contact them from the grave. Franks believed Horton, and later recounted an eerie story that he thought proved contact had occurred.
Clay Coppedge, in “Letters from Central Texas,” published the tale:
“As for Horton’s promise of coming back from the grave, Franks believed Horton made good on his promise. It happened when Franks was driving to Nashville with singer David Houston. The radio was out and the CB radio was out. It was a quiet drive. Then, according to Franks, the CB kicked in with the opening riffs from Horton’s ‘One Woman Man.’ ‘It sounded like a juke box, real full, much louder than a CB would be,’ Franks told music writer Colin Escott. ‘The whole song played, and then the CB cut out again. I just froze. David did too… I told Merle Kilgore, and he said, ‘Johnny’s telling you that the song’s gonna be a hit all over again.”’
It was. In 1989, George Jones recorded the song and it hit the charts, stopping at number 5.
While that may have been Johnny himself reaching out from the other side, it wasn’t the only time his legacy and music was resurrected. It was a few years before George Jones recorded that hit song in 1989.
It was on a night in 1981, The Old Hangin’ Tree Tavern was packed like never before. Virginia Iler, owner of the joint, had placed ads on KZUN, the local country music station in Spokane, Washington, promoting the appearance of country-western singer Johnny Horton’s son. While the wavy-haired stranger sang with the stage band, Mrs. Johnny Horton sat in the back of the smoky bar. The singer, sometimes off-key, wailed out the “The Battle of New Orleans,” “Springtime in Alaska,” and an original song about his memories of the country music icon who’d died in a car crash twenty years earlier.
At 48, Billie Jean Horton was not there to revel in her son’s success. She had flown up from Louisiana to confront the imposter.
Still as beautiful as she was when she met her first husband, Hank Williams, she sobbed silently as the impersonator sang. Her bodyguard, Jim Howard, later told reporters that “you can imagine how Mrs. Horton felt. It’s like resurrecting the dead to sit there and have to listen to this composition he gave from the stage of his life as he remembered it with the late, great Johnny Horton.” Particularly so since none of it was true.
To make the surreal episode even more unreal, the imposter stopped his songfest long enough to get married. He’d met a 29-year-old woman from Coer d’Alene, Idaho, and brought in a cake and a preacher to tie the knot. To the cheers of the crowd, he solemnly kissed his bride. After the ceremony was over, the groom continued his concert while the bride sat beaming.
It had all started two weeks earlier when a stranger called Iler and said his tour bus had broken down in Spokane and he wanted to arrange a booking at her tavern. Iler invited the man, who called himself Johnny Horton, Jr., to meet with her. He quickly convinced her of his identity and she hired him. But Iler and members of the band soon became suspicious.
When Billie Jean got a phone call from Mrs. Iler, the bar-owner explained the situation and asked if Johnny Horton, Jr. was her son. Billie Jean heatedly let Iler know she’d had no male offspring with the dead singer. Having successfully sued record companies for years to receive royalties from the estates of Hank Williams and Johnny Horton, Billie Jean was in no mood to let an interloper make money off her husband’s name. While she was younger, she’d known hard times, but now she was wealthy, and she decided to fly to Spokane to confront the fraudster.
As the final song mercifully faded into the suffocating smoke-filled darkness, a group of official-looking men, including the bodyguard and two Spokane County deputies, asked Horton to accompany them to a nearby office. Inside were icy-faced Billie Jean and Mrs. Iler.
Horton quickly confessed that he wasn’t Billie Jean’s son.
He had no identification, except a union card for a man with a different name. He had no tour bus, no home except for a one-night room at a cheap hotel. In fact, he was a drifter and grifter from Texas. He claimed his name was David Jonathan Horton, Jr., but even that was questionable. “I’ve been singing professionally for about nine years,” he said. “When times got bad, I drove heavy equipment.” At that, Billie Jean lit into the fraudulent wannabe singer with a volley of foul language, advising him that he may have a civil suit coming his way.
After the confrontation, investigators advised Billie Jean that no crime had been committed and the drifter was free to go.
On learning that the man she’d married was not the son of the famous singer, Horton’s bride stormed out of the tavern and disappeared, never to be seen again. The rueful groom, out of a gig and a night of wedding bliss, said, “I think she married me for the name rather than for myself.”
Billie Jean flew back to Shreveport, satisfied the imposter had been exposed. Mrs. Iler told patrons she’d learned a lesson about not taking people at face value. And Horton (or whoever he was) continued his misdeeds. It turned out he had a prison record, and was on parole at the time. The fraudulent singer later ended up serving time in a California prison for committing real crimes.
Up next, true stories from campers who found something a lot scarier than Mother Nature on their camping trips. When Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: CAMPING WITH GHOSTS AND MONSTERS=====
There are many things that are immensely enjoyable about camping in the wilderness: the isolation, the solitude, the wilds of nature, the quiet. At the same time, there are things that can be deeply unnerving about camping in the wilderness: the isolation… the solitude… the wilds of nature… the quiet.…
In other words, it depends on your experience. Yes, it’s good to get away from the job, the rat race, the nagging responsibilities of everyday life. On the other hand, you don’t know what’s out there in the untamed woods, mountains and deserts. Usually, it’s peace and a recharging of one’s spirit. Occasionally, however, it’s a nightmare that is so deeply terrifying that it changes one’s life.
Consider, for example, these true camping encounters.
White Mountains Creature: In late October, 1995, Tango and his family, including the dog, were searching for a suitable camping spot in the White Mountains of Arizona. The sun was already beginning to disappear behind the mountains and they hadn’t found a spot yet. They were all growing tired, and the dirt road they were traveling was becoming narrower and darker. As the trees closed in around their car, Tango’s dad, who was at the wheel, realized they weren’t going to find a good spot on this road and decided to turn around. His dad stopped the car and began to make a three-point turn to go back in the other direction. It was then they saw something quite unexpected. “As we turned our car halfway around, we saw a little girl,” Tango says. “She was in tattered clothes, and she looked up at us. Her eyes grew wide in fear, like she had seen a ghost. My dad rolled down the window and asked, ‘Are you alright?’ The little girl trembled and said, ‘You shouldn’t be here. Please go back!’” Tango’s dad was confused. Did this girl need help? What was she trying to tell them? The little girl just repeated that same phrase. Tango’s mom was scared and finally said, “Let’s go back.” Tango’s dad finished turning the car around and headed off in another direction. About 30 minutes later, they finally found a camping spot. Oddly, no one seemed to feel tired anymore. They unloaded the car, set up the tents and built a warm campfire. As they sat around the fire, they couldn’t help trying to sort out their experience with the strange girl. Suddenly, Tango’s dad said, “Shhhhh!” His mom chuckled because he was always making jokes. But he was serious. His face went white, and it was clear that they were all struck with the feeling that they were being watched. “I looked around the forest, my heart pumping fast,” Tango vividly recalls. “I didn’t hear anything, but I was scared.” A spine-chilling roar came from the woods. What was it? Tango was on the verge of screaming in terror. The bushes rustled and something bolted out of the forest and into the light of the fire. “It had sharp teeth and no fur,” Tango says. “It was the size of a bear, but its eyes were yellow. I was frozen in fear. It stood for ten seconds in the light, then galloped off into the forest. I was horrified. My dog was whimpering and it curled its tail between its legs. This was the most horrifying experience in my life. This creature was extremely skinny, it looked like flesh and bones. This disturbing image of this… ‘thing’ is implanted in my head forever.”
The Glowing Beast: It’s not uncommon to see wild animals on camping trips, of course – raccoons, deer, and even more exotic creatures, if we’re lucky. But what can account for what Ben saw one summer? He, his sister and a few friends always camped in the same place – a small wooded area surrounded by fields, moors and rock quarries, and they had been there many times. On this particular night, the group of young adults were sitting around the campfire having a drink and a laugh, when suddenly Ben’s sister screamed, “Oh my god!” and pointed toward the field next to their camp. They all stood to see what she was pointing at. As best they could make out, right there in the center of the field was some kind of animal – a very unusual animal. “It was white and about the same size as a big dog,” Ben testifies. “It had large red eyes and it was glowing very brightly. It was late at night in a pitch-black field in the middle of nowhere. We had no torches shining on this thing, and yet it still stood out like a sore thumb. It really did glow!” Bravely, Ben and his friends cautiously began to walk toward the creature. They wanted to try and scare it away because his sister was getting very upset. They got to within about 40 feet of this thing, Ben estimates, when suddenly it began to dart away. It moved so fast it was hard for their eyes to keep up with it. “In less than a couple of seconds, it ran 30 feet and scaled a 7-foot stone wall, jumping down to the other side,” Ben says. “It then ran another 50 feet to the end of the wall and jumped back up onto it. It then stood on its hind legs watching us! When it stood like that, it was about the same size as a man and looked rather daunting. But we plucked up our courage and carried on toward it. Again, very quickly it jumped down the other side of the wall and ran up and over the hill. I know of other people who have seen the same thing in this area, but no one has any explanation as to what it could be.”
Green Creature: Al tells us he had an encounter with a peculiar creature as well. In the spring of 2003 (April or May, he believes), Al had been night fishing with his girlfriend in a remote part of a nature reserve near where he lived. The lake is surrounded by thick shrubbery and woodland, so they had set up a tent and the fishing equipment at a small clearing at the edge of the water. The jeep was parked a few hundred meters away as it was impossible to get it any closer. The night was dark and clear. Al and his girlfriend were lying in the tent with their heads outside the entry, looking up at the stars. Moonlight illuminated their surroundings. Al had set up a device on his fishing rod that beeps when there’s a bite. Suddenly, it started beeping like crazy. Al jumped up and grabbed the rod – and whatever was on the other end of the line was powerful. Al wrestled with the strike so violently that his rod snapped! He was disappointed that he lost what might have been an amazing fish, but decided to let it go and just enjoy the camp out. At around 4 a.m., Al was awakened by the noise of splashing. With dawn slowly breaking, he thought it was fishermen loading boats in the water. He opened the flap of the tent and was terrified at what he saw. He stepped out to get a better look. “About 100 or so meters away in the lake was a humanoid-looking creature,” Al says. “It was a dark green color with red, glowing eyes. It looked like it was standing on the water. I rushed back in to wake my girlfriend, and when she came out to look, the creature was now about 50 meters away from us. It was literally walking on the water! Not giving a second thought, we ran through the woodland back to the jeep.” As they sped off, Al looked in the rear-view mirror and saw the creature standing in the road behind them. He figures he must have sped out of there at a good 90 mph. “I told friends, who thought I was crazy, but persuaded four of them to come with me to gather my equipment that I had left behind,” he says. “Armed with an aluminum baseball bat and tire iron, we returned at around one in the afternoon. We eventually found where I had been camping, and as I came across the clearing, my tent had been completely ripped apart and the fishing equipment had been thrown into the lake. My friends said it was probably teenagers who destroyed it, but I have a feeling it was the creature.”
The Silver Lady: It’s not just bizarre creatures who lurk out there on the campgrounds; ghosts have been encountered, too. London tells us about her experience, which took place when she was 15 years old during her family’s annual Christmasholiday in 2003 at a beachfront caravan park near Killala Beach, New South Wales, Australia. This is no isolated wilderness spot, but an ordinary family camping ground with all the amenities: general store, pool, restaurant and kids club. And at the front is a row of 20 or so luxury villas suitable for a family with 1-3 children. “I hate camping,” London says. “I hate it with a passion, so my family – dad, mum and younger brother and sister – stayed in one of these villas. Our villa was facing the sea, but we couldn’t immediately see the beach as there was a row of pine trees blocking the view.” This being Australia, kangaroos freely hopped around the caravan park in search of food. On the third or fourth night of their stay, London says she went out into the front deck of their villa to hang her bikini on the railing to dry in the warm night air. It was about 10 p.m. The rest of the family was asleep, but she was doing her usual pre-bedtime cleanup. “I flicked the deck light on because I heard what I thought was a kangaroo,” she says. “I turned my head to the pine trees and almost died of shock because of the lady standing there. She was standing there, staring at me. She glowed silver and was very illuminated. She had flowing clothing that was waving in the wind. She looked beautiful, but I was frozen in fear. I stood glued to the spot for a few seconds… then she was gone.” The next morning, London ventured outside to the tree where the woman had been standing. There in the bark of the white ash was a burn mark in the shape of an L that was crossed on the top. She doesn’t know if this has anything to do with the apparition she saw or not, and if it’s a symbol, she doesn’t know what it might mean. About the ghost she says, “I never saw her again, and I never want to.”
Ghost or Premonition?: David was one of those people who never believed in ghosts… until he met one face to face. It was September, 2001 when David and his girlfriend were camping along an unpaved forest road in the Manzano Mountains in northern New Mexico. “It was a place I had hiked before and was told that there were homesteaders there in the old days who were unsuccessful in their attempts to survive,” David says. On this night, the sky was clear with just a bit of light from the moon. At about 2 a.m., David was awakened by a single, distant coyote howl. He listened to it for awhile and thought it was strange there was only one coyote howling. Suddenly, wild barking, howling erupted from what sounded like just ten feet outside his tent. “I turned over to see if my girlfriend was listening, and I thought I saw her leaning up from her sleeping bag on one elbow with her head tilted upward, looking toward the roof of the tent,” David says. “She had a terrified expression on her face. I was about to laugh and ask her why she was so afraid of a coyote when I realized it was not her, but some sort of strange, dark figure with a distorted, translucent face. The figure was right above my girlfriend’s body.” David sensed that it was a spirit of some kind, but felt strangely calm. Since he didn’t have his glasses on, he leaned forward to get a better look at the entity. As he drew closer, the spirit’s eyes became very vivid and clear, and he sensed that it was female. “It seemed that she had reddish hair and was wearing a black cloak with a hood,” David remembers. “In my mind I wondered: Why are you so scared? I tried to get the spirit to look in my eyes, but it looked past me into the distance. I couldn’t make eye contact. Soon the figure dissolved into thin air and I could then see the top of my girlfriend’s head as she was lying in her sleeping bag. The howling coyote was gone as well.” At first, David didn’t tell his girlfriend about the apparition, and perhaps he should have stuck with that instinct. When he did tell her, she freaked out, wondering why the ghost had been floating over her body. “Our relationship crumbled soon afterward,” he says. “I had a strong feeling that I had to move back home to Illinois from New Mexico. Within a few months after seeing the ghost, my sister called and told me that my mom was diagnosed with a deadly form of lymphoma and she had a 50/50 chance to survive. I often wondered if the ghost had been a premonition. I moved back into my parent’s home to help take care of my mother. She passed away a year after I moved back. I found it interesting that I had met my future wife during this time, who has red hair. Also, my mother had red highlights in her hair when she was younger. It made me think about the ghost I had seen.”
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
“Railway of the Dead” posted at the website History ASM
“Mythical Mermaids” by Gemma Hollman from JustHistoryPosts.com
“The Last Ride of Johnny Horton” by Robert A Waters for the website Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem
“Camping With Ghosts and Monsters” by Stephen Wagner for LiveAbout.com
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… “We love because HE first loved us.” – 1 John 4:19
And a final thought… “Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.” – Karen Kaiser Clark
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.