“THE OUIJA BOARD HORROR OF ZOZO” and More True Paranormal Horrors! #WeirdDarkness

“THE OUIJA BOARD HORROR OF ZOZO” and More True Paranormal Horrors! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““THE OUIJA BOARD HORROR OF ZOZO” and More True Paranormal Horrors! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: The Zozo demon has allegedly harassed hundreds via their Ouija boards. But is this demonic force from the spirit world or from our own minds? *** Citizens of Van Meter, Iowa were confronted with a tall, human-like figure with bat-like wings, a single horn on its head, and it, apparently, was bullet-proof. What was this supernatural creature people were seeing? *** A bride-to-be becomes worried when her fiance disappears – so she contacts a psychic friend to see if she can help. *** Something sinister creeps into a Christian boarding house. *** Bram Stoker wrote his classic novel “Dracula” in 1897… but vampires are much, much older than that. *** A supposedly cursed doll has remained in the protection of one family for over four generations. But why would this family keep hold of such a demonic item? *** They are almost always silent, enigmatic figures usually seen at a distance up on ridges silhouetted against the darkening twilight sky, always at around dusk or dawn, quietly looking over and surveying their domain with unknowable purpose and often vanishing in the blink of an eye. What are the dark watchers of California?

“Zozo and the Ouija Board” by Mark Oliver for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yc2rhvtz
“The Van Meter Visitor” by Troy Taylor for American Hauntings Ink: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8kupf3
“Spirit Drawn to Teenage Emotions” by Lemurian Emerald, posted at Your Ghost Stories: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4erh8ezb
“Older Than Dracula” by Sam George for Ancient Origins: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4hv6sdmc
“Joliet: The Haunted Doll” by Chris for Real Paranormal Experiences: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p9fmmx7
“Back to Say Goodbye” by Judy Rad, posted at MyHauntedLifeToo.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3bkkpbjb
“The Dark Watchers of California” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yckxrfkv
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.
= = = = =
(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.)
= = = = =
“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
= = = = =
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright ©2024, Weird Darkness.
= = = = =
Originally aired: June, 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.


When Darren Evans wrote about his horrifying experience with the Ouija Board demon named Zozo in 2009, hundreds of people claimed that the same thing had happened to them. The Zozo demon, Evans claimed, had come to him multiple times in various states. The demon sometimes pretended to be a different spirit, lied or tried to convince Evans that it was someone else. Eventually, though, the Zozo demon couldn’t help but make his truly malevolent self known. As it turns out, tales of the Zozo demon go back at least 200 years.

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…

Citizens of Van Meter, Iowa were confronted with a tall, human-like figure with bat-like wings, a single horn on its head, and it, apparently, was bullet-proof. What was this supernatural creature people were seeing? (The Van Meter Visitor)

A bride-to-be becomes worried when her fiance disappears – so she contacts a psychic friend to see if she can help. (Back To Say Goodbye)

Something sinister creeps into a Christian boarding house. (Spirit Drawn To Teenage Emotions)

Bram Stoker wrote his classic novel “Dracula” in 1897… but vampires are much, much older than that. (Older Than Dracula)

A supposedly cursed doll has remained in the protection of one family for over four generations. But why would this family keep hold of such a demonic item? (Joliet The Haunted Doll)

They are almost always silent, enigmatic figures usually seen at a distance up on ridges silhouetted against the darkening twilight sky, always at around dusk or dawn, quietly looking over and surveying their domain with unknowable purpose and often vanishing in the blink of an eye. What are the dark watchers of California? (The Dark Watchers of California)

But first… the Zozo demon has allegedly harassed hundreds via their Ouija boards. But is this demonic force from the spirit world or from our own minds? We begin with that story. (Zozo and the Ouija Board)

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!


Darren Evans told his story about the Zozo demon for the first time on March 24, 2009, on an online forum for true ghost stories.

He explained how the first time he had an encounter with the demon, the Ouija board went wild and flew between the “Z” and the “O”, frantically spelling: Z-O-Z-O-Z-O-Z-O-Z-O-Z-O.

Zozo said it had come to take Evans’ family to paradise. Evans asked where “paradise” was and the plastic arrow — known as the planchette — moved once more. Slowly, it spelled out the word “H-E-L-L.”

He reported also that Zozo spewed some obscenities in what seemed to Evans like Latin or Hebrew.

Evans reported how he then rushed into the bathroom, where his girlfriend had been giving their one-year-old daughter a bath. His girlfriend was gone. The tub was overflowing and his daughter was drowning. Though he managed to rescue her that time, Evans claimed the demon was responsible for sending his daughter to the hospital later with an inexplicable infection.

It sounds like something from out of a horror story – and it may well be. There’s every reason to believe that Evans made it all up. But his story has caught on for a reason: he isn’t the only person who claims to have been attacked by the Zozo demon. Hundreds have described their own harrowing experiences.

Indeed, the occurrence seemed so popular that a horror film on the Zozo demon, I am Zozo, was released in 2012. Evans also made an appearance on the popular show Ghost Adventures in an effort to contact Zozo.

All of the stories regarding the Zozo demon are more or less the same. Someone will sit down to play with the Ouija board – or anything even remotely resembling one. Sometimes, people will meet the Zozo demon on an Ouija app or even just after scribbling a makeshift board on a piece of paper.

At first, they think they’re talking to the spirit of some dead relative. They’ll ask questions and be startled at just how much “the spirit” seems to know about their loved one’s life. And then, suddenly, the arrows will start to fly between the letters “Z” and “O”.

That’s when the threats begin. The Ouija will spell out obscenities and blasphemies and promise to drag one’s firstborn son down to hell.

“My nephew … started running around the house screaming ZOZO ZOZO ZOZO!! and we frantically made him stop,” one woman wrote on another forum. “The next morning my nephew wakes me up and as we’re waking up he asks if we can go get breakfast so I put him in the car and pull out the driveway, not 2 minutes later a car runs a stop sign and slams into us.”

Many of these stories showed up on the internet after Evans’ creepy account went viral though some of these accounts were already out there. Evan claims that before sharing his story with the internet, he Googled the word “Zozo” himself and found more than a dozen blog posts describing the exact same encounter.

Creepier still is that the name “Zozo” has shown up for more than 200 years. The oldest “Zozo” story comes from the 1816 book Dictionnaire Infernal by Collin de Plancy. De Plancy tells the story of a young girl who claimed to be possessed by three demons named Mimi, Capoulet, and Zozo: “The girl went down the streets on all fours, sometimes forward, sometimes behind. Sometimes she walked on her hands, feet in the air, at the risk of putting passers-by in the confidence of her position.”

Her strange movements, the girl had told people, were commanded by the demons who possessed her. This created enough of a commotion that a priest came to perform an exorcism on her. When the Zozo demon left her body, it was said, the windows in the room shattered.

Collin de Plancy, though, was a skeptic. While he recorded this paranormal instance, he did note that he didn’t believe a word of it. But even his story wasn’t the first mention of Zozo.

Some speculate that Zozo is actually derived from the Mesopotamian god Pazuzu, who was known to be the ruler of the demons.

Further, a symbol etching out the name “Zoso” as a code for the god Saturn appeared in a banned occult book in 1521. This would later be copied by Led Zeppelin as the symbol for their guitarist Jimmy Page.

There could be a more real-world explanation behind this Zozo demon. In 1972, psychologists tested whether people can communicate with the paranormal through only persuasion or human will in what’s known as “The Philip Experiment”. The study made up a fictional person named Philip Aylesford and instructed a group of people to run a séance in order to summon his ghost.

The group became convinced that they could feel Philip’s presence. They heard knocking sounds coming from the table, felt the table vibrate, and at one point even saw the table tilt up onto two legs. They were sure that they had spoken to Philip’s ghost and that he’d answered their questions.

They did not know that in truth, Philip was just someone the researchers had made up.

The researchers concluded that the human mind can, in fact, create spirits on its own will simply through a bit of persuasion and imagination.

The Ouija board, consequently, is designed to play tricks against us by working off of a principle called the “Ideometer Effect”. Our muscles make small, subconscious movements without our realizing them, and when we see those movements shift the light piece of plastic on the board, we become convinced that it’s happening supernaturally. All this amounts to us being able to scare ourselves into believing the paranormal.

At least, that’s how skeptics explain what’s going on in the case of the mass Zozo demon terror.

But the terrifying reality is that, in either case, the demons are real and whether they are in our minds or elsewhere is to be debated. It’s hard to say which is more terrifying: the idea that a supernatural demon can possess a child’s toy or the idea that a demon of the mind exists in our own subconscious, convincing us that what we most fear is real.


On September 29, 1903, a series of strange events began in the quiet Iowa community of Van Meter. When the first sighting of what came to be known as the “Van Meter Visitor” occurred that night, it put the secluded town in the national spotlight. Briefly home to some sort of mysterious creature, Van Meter endured the terror for only a handful of days before the visitations came to an end. But they were not soon forgotten – and the mystery remains unsolved today.

In the early morning hours of September 29, a local tool dealer named U.G. Griffith was making his way home after a long and exhausting day of work. As he got close to his house, he noticed a strange light that was glowing on top of a nearby building. It was bright, beaming into the night sky. Griffith had lived in Van Meter his entire life and he knew the mysterious light was not supposed to be there.

His curiosity got the better of him and he drove down the road toward the source of the light. As he approached it, though, the light flashed off and then reappeared on another building on the opposite side of the street. Griffith slammed on the brakes – startled by what he’d seen. He knew that neither burglars nor pranksters could have done anything like that. A few moments later, the light jumped again, vanishing into the night and leaving Griffith to try and figure out what he’s seen.

The next morning, Griffith told several people about the incident. They were perplexed but had known Griffith for years. He had a reputation as a solid citizen and an honest man. They couldn’t guess what he’d seen, but they believed him.

Things got even stranger that night.

In the early morning hours of September 30, Van Meter’s local physician, Dr. Alcott, was frightened out his sleep by a blinding white light that was shining into his bedroom window. Alcott jumped out of bed and ran for the front door, snatching a pistol as he did so. He burst out of the front door – convinced that he was going to encounter trespassers – and instead, came face-to-face with a tall, human-like figure with massive bat-like wings. Strangest of all, the figure had a single horn on its head, which was emitting the blindingly bright light.

Dr. Alcott didn’t hesitate – he immediately opened fire and emptied his revolver at the creature. The bullets had absolutely no effect on it. It just stood there in the murky darkness, staring at him. Alcott spun around and stumbled back into the house. He locked the doors and hid in the kitchen until he was sure it was gone. When he gathered enough courage to look outside, the monster was nowhere to be seen.

Like Griffith, Alcott shared his encounter the following morning. It was widely believed. After all, he was the town’s respected doctor and was not prone to making up stories or playing practical jokes. Two different encounters with the white light creature put the whole town on edge. Something seemed to be out there, jumping on rooftops and lurking in the streets of Van Meter.

On October 1, Clarence Dunn, the manager of the town’s bank, was having trouble sleeping. The stories of the midnight prowler had upset him, and he feared the bank might be robbed. In the middle of the night, he decided to walk down to the bank. He took his shotgun with him. He had decided to stand guard at the bank to see what might happen. He got more than he expected.

Around 1:00 a.m., Dunn reported that he heard a weird sound outside, like someone gasping for air or being strangled. As he sat there in the dark with his shotgun gripped tightly in his hands, he suddenly saw the brilliant white light that had been described by Griffith and Alcott. A moment later, a shadowy figure appeared out of the gloom. Without thinking, Dunn fired at the creature. He was convinced that the shotgun pellets had struck the monster, but no trace of blood was left behind. He did, however, find a few three-toed footprints in the muddy street. They were unlike anything that Dunn had seen before. A plaster cast was made of the tracks, but it’s vanished over the years. No one in town could figure out what kind of creature would have made the tracks.

The next evening, the creature was back. Hardware store owner O.V. White was awakened by an unearthly wail in the darkness. He said that it sounded like scraping, grinding metal. White grabbed a nearby rifle – by this time, just about everyone in town was keeping a gun next to the bed – and peered out the window. He spotted a strange dark figure, perched on a telephone pole about 15 feet away. White threw open the window, took direct aim at the creature, and fired, scoring a direct hit. The only response from the creature was that it raised its head and looked at him with irritation. It was then that White later claimed he was overwhelmed by a potent stench that was so foul that it made him dizzy and caused him to lose consciousness.

The sound of White’s rifle had awakened his friend and business partner Sidney Gregg, who lived nearby. He came to investigate and once on the street, he also spotted the winged humanoid on the telephone pole. He claimed that it used its large, parrot-like “beak” to climb down the pole. When it reached the ground, he estimated that the thing stood almost eight-feet-tall and had legs like those of a kangaroo. He also saw the bright light that beamed from a horn on the monster’s forehead. Gregg said that the creature looked around for a moment and then vaulted off into the night, leaping and jumping until it finally took flight, flapping its giant wings.

On October 3, J.L. Platt, Jr. – manager of a brick and tile factory outside of town – was drawn to a nearby abandoned coal mine by strange noises that he heard. He colorfully described them as sounding like “Satan and a regiment of imps coming forth for battle.” When Pratt investigated the eerie sounds, he came face-to-face with the winged monster at one of the entrances to the mine. According to his story, the beast was not alone. It also had a smaller monster with it, which also emitted a bright light from the horns on its heads. The two creatures flew off together, vanishing into the darkness.

When word spread about this latest encounter, it was surmised that the old abandoned mine was perhaps the lair of the creature, or creatures. The mine extended deep underground and the tunnels and shafts would make the perfect hiding place for the monsters. It was quickly decided that the men in town would go in search of the creature. A contingent of heavily armed men, carrying any kind of weapon they could find, set up a camp at the mine’s entrance so that they could wait for the monsters to return.

No one was brave enough to go into the dark depths of the mine to confront the creature in its lair.

Late that same night, the two monsters returned to the mine. The men were ready for them. They opened fire, but the hail of bullets seemed to have no effect on it. According to one newspaper report:

“The reception they received would have sunk the Spanish fleet, but aside from unearthly noise and peculiar odor they did not seem to mind it, but slowly descended the shaft of the old mine.”

And that was the last time that the monsters were ever seen. The people of Van Meter sealed off the mine and, as the years passed, the eerie days in 1903 became more legend than fact. It has been told and retold over the years, but no one is any closer to understanding what happened than they were when the sightings occurred.

What was the “Van Meter Visitor”? Was it a hoax, a case of mass hysteria, or was it real? If it was, then what was it? An alien, a mystery animal, or a visitor from another dimension? No one knows and it’s unlikely that we’ll ever solve this mystery.


Up next… a bride-to-be becomes worried when her fiance disappears – so she contacts a psychic friend to see if she can help.

Something sinister creeps into a Christian boarding house.

Bram Stoker wrote his classic novel “Dracula” in 1897… but vampires are much, much older than that.

These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns…



It was 9 am on a Sunday morning. My friend Devon called me in a panic. I had not talked to her since we both graduated school a few months back. Hearing her in such a distraught manner was very different then the calm demeanor she had at school. Strange thing was, I had happened to be sitting at my desk on the computer scanning her Facebook page when she called. Devon then told me her fiancé, Corey had not return the prior evening.

She informed me that she called the friend he was supposed to hang out with the night before but he had never made it. She knew something was wrong. I scrolled down the page and saw pictures of the two of them and I immediately felt her pain. The feeling of dread and sorrow come over me. Corey and Devon been engaged for a short time, but they had known each other from high school and were madly in love.

I listened to Devon talk about how they had been planning the wedding and how everything was going great and then she asked me for a psychic reading to find out where he was.

I was not surprised by this response, during school I had “come out” as a psychic and surprisingly many of my friends were receptive to it. I gave readings to those who had asked, not only for the practice, but also to enhance my abilities. Devon had heard from one of our mutual friends about my accuracy in my abilities. At this moment however, I didn’t need my abilities to hear the worry in Devon’s voice. She asked me if Corey had run off or if he was kidnapped. She also stated that because it had not been 24 hours the police would not do anything. I had her on the phone with me and I was gazing at his picture and then a vision of him came to me. I saw him on the side of the road near a small bridge. He seemed to have stopped because of car trouble. There was another car with a mankind of rough looking. I see Corey getting into this man’s car and they drive away. The then vision comes to a dirt road and a trailer. I felt a cold and then a sharp pain. I knew Corey had been in grave danger but I didn’t want to tell her. So, I hoped that somehow they would find him.

Suddenly my door bell rang. I let it ring a couple times. I tell Devon about the man who picked up Corey but left the other stuff out. The door bell rang again. I got off the phone and went to look at the person at the door. It started to piss me off so I finished telling her and let her off the phone. I got up and peered out the window. I could see from the second floor of my house a young man with a red hat on and a white t-shirt and blue jeans standing at my door. “What?!” I yelled irritated. He did not move or respond. It was probably solicitor selling candy bars or something. I walked downstairs and see the young man through the fogged glass of the window. I opened the door and yelled “What!” There was no one there.

I looked around thinking maybe the kids in the neighborhood where messing with me. I walked out of the house and around the corner. There hadn’t been any bushes or trees for anyone to hide behind and there wasn’t a soul in sight. It was eerily quiet on the street. I was really weirded out and knew there had been someone at my door but ignored the weirdness and went back inside.

A few hours went by and I’m on my computer when I get a call from Devon again. She tells me she called the police and they found his car by a bridge. She said they put out a bolo for him and then I asked her what he looked like. She said he had a on white t-shirt on blue jeans. For a second I thought about the young man at my door. I lived hundreds of miles away. I ignored the thought. Devon then said the police would call her if they found him. We talked a little longer and I comforted her. I had a horrible feeling in my gut but didn’t want to admit it to myself. The next day I woke and saw on Facebook the missing persons posts. They had police out searching for Corey trying to find any leads that they could. From what they knew he must have gotten into another mans car and disappeared.

I drop my kids off at school and came back home. I made myself a cup of coffee and went to sit down when the door bell rang. I looked downstairs out of the window and its the same young man from the day before. “What the hell?” I said out loud.

I set my coffee down on my computer desk and ran down stairs flinging the front door open. The door opens and again no one is there. I run outside looking around everywhere and yet no one is around. I walk back into the house and the phone rings. I answered the phone and its Devon sobbing.

“What’s wrong?” I ask.

“He’s dead. He’s dead. I can’t believe he’s gone.” Devon sobs.

“Oh my God Devon I am so sorry.” Not knowing what else to say I was only wishing I had never given her a reading.

“They found him in some trailer. His red baseball he was wearing was how they knew it was him.”

“Wait a red baseball cap?” I was in shock then said, “The boy at my door was wearing a red baseball cap.”

“What?” She asked.

“Yesterday and today a boy wearing a red base ball cap, white shirt and blue jeans showed up ringing my door bell, but when I opened the door no one was there. I thought I was going crazy.” I said.

Devon was quiet for a long moment.

“Thank you.” She said.

“For what?” I was surprised by her response.

“We made a pact that if one of us dies first we would come back to say goodbye.” she said.

“Your welcome?” I didn’t know what to say.

We said our goodbyes and when I got off the phone I sobbed sitting on my stairs. It reminded me of my husbands great grandma and how I knew when she was going to die, tried to get the family to go see her and the next morning a bird landed in my window and I knew she had passed.

But Corey, he was the only one who came back to say goodbye.


My story is one from England.

When I turned 16 (16 years ago) my mother sent me to live in a Hostel for young women as we simply did not get on. This was a christian lead organisation running a beautiful detatched house in Royal Tunbridge wells.

There was a ground floor level with residential lounges (one for smokers and one for non smokers) a staff reception, offices and a staff apartment at the end of the central hallway. A basement and first floor level each with four rooms and shared facilities.

Then my floor. The attic floor with five small rooms, and shared facilities. At each end of the house sat a flight of stairs, everyone used the front flight, no one used the back ones, they were cold and always poorly lit. You felt like you had to run up them as if someone was coming up behind you faster.

I was given the room at the back, upon opening the door the left is immediate wall (the other side of it was the back stair case) I had a four drawer clothes chest against it then a sink in the corner, along the opposite wall to the door was a central small sash window, a low coffee table pushed up near it with a 15″ tv on it, then on the right wall a built in closet in one corner and a bed pressed up to that wall with the headboard against the other wall, also a bedside table. Floor space was about 4 metres by 4.

I feel it’s important to know my mental state at this point, teen hormones with feelings of abandonment and being unloved. As well as relief to be away from home, in a great environment surrounded by potential friends.

Things started to happen there after a few months, tv channels would tune out so I would have to retune them often, the old sash window was stiff and took a lot of work to wedge open, it would then slam shut in the night, I gave up opening it. Every so often it sounded as though someone was dashing up the stairs but then vanished as no one opened the door into the hall. My room always felt heavy and as if I was being watched, specifically from the left corner of the room by the sink. About four months in I was woken at around 11pm to the sound of someone knocking on the wall beside my bed in different areas, it was terrifying so I ran into the hall and knocked on the door of the girl’s room who shared the wall. She was awake and reading but a bit annoyed with me for disturbing her as she hadn’t heard a thing and thought I was nuts.

The other thing that happened was seen in a dream like half awake state, as if in my mind’s eye. A dark figure of a man crouching down in a squat leaning his elbows on his thighs, hands together. Smirking at me and asking “are you ready?” He gave me a feeling of pure terror.

Horrific to say the least and I told myself it was a nightmare.

The main incident, I feel it is not as explainable (everything else has a possible rational explanation) it was at about 6pm and I was propped up on my bed watching TV, from the corner of my eye I saw my shaving razor move from my chest of drawers to the centre of the room laying on the carpet in line with the TV. It went in one movement, no noise, no bouncing or hitting anything on the way down. It was kept with my toothbrush, paste and tweezers in a glass tumbler on my chest of drawers, central, not likely to fall or move on its own, the other items were not disturbed there was no breeze as the window was shut. It made no clanging sound as it came away from the glass. It moved at a speed slower than if it was thrown but faster than if it was carried.

I ran down stairs to the smoking lounge in a flash, I don’t know how I managed it haha!

A fellow resident, was there and she commented that I looked as if I had just seen a ghost, white faced with red rimmed eyes. I told her what had happened and she chuckled to herself telling me I was lucky, she has seen much more here. Very often a young service boy carrying a silver tray with two hands, looking straight ahead as he walks partially down the hall then turns through a wall, he has no feet as though he is walking on a lower floor level than us. She believed years ago, servants used the rear stair cases, and that they slept in the attic, also that the room layout was different then.

I have traced the property back to 1881 records, it was a family home at one point with servants, switching hands many times. I’ve yet to find out any details about what may have happened there over the years but it’s quite interesting.

Whilst I lived there I heard stories of it once being an old sewing house where ladies would go for tea to sew together, wearing beautiful dresses.


The story of Count Dracula, as many of us know it, was created by Bram Stoker, an Irishman, in 1897. But most of the action takes place in England, from the moment the Transylvanian vampire arrives on a shipwrecked vessel in Whitby, North Yorkshire, with plans to make his lair in the spookily named Carfax estate, west of the river in London.

But Dracula wasn’t the first vampire in English literature, let alone the first to stalk England. The vampire first made its way into English literature in John Polidori’s 1819 short story “ The Vampyre ”. Polidori’s vampire, Lord Ruthven, is inspired by a thinly disguised portrait of the predatory English poet, Lord Byron, in  Lady Caroline Lamb’s novel Glenarvon  (1816). So the first fictional vampire was actually a satanic English Lord.

It is nearly 200 years since this Romantic/Byronic archetype for a vampire emerged – but what do we know about English belief in vampires outside of fiction?  New research  at the University of Hertfordshire has uncovered and reappraised a number of vampire myths – and they are not all confined to the realms of fiction.

The Croglin Vampire  reputedly first appeared in Cumberland to a Miss Fisher in the 1750s. Its story is retold by  Dr Augustus Hare , a clergyman, in his Memorials of a Quiet Life in 1871. According to this legend, the vampire scratches at the window before disappearing into an ancient vault. The vault is later discovered to be full of coffins that have been broken open and their contents, horribly mangled and distorted, are scattered over the floor. One coffin only remains intact, but the lid has been loosened. There, shrivelled and mummified – but quite intact – lies the Croglin Vampire.

Elsewhere in Cumbria, the natives of Renwick, were  once known as “bats”  due to the monstrous creature that is said to have flown out of the foundations of a rebuilt church there in 1733. The existence of vampire bats, which sucked blood wouldn’t be  confirmed until 1832 , when Charles Darwin sketched one feeding off a horse on his voyage to South America in The Beagle. The creature in Renwick has been referred to as a “cockatrice” – a mythical creature with a serpent’s head and tail and the feet and wings of a cockerel – by  Cumbrian County History . But it’s the myth of the vampire bat that has prevailed in the surrounding villages and is recorded in conversations in local archives and  journals.

What picture emerges then in this history of the English vampire? The Croglin Vampire has never been verified – but it has an afterlife in the 20th century, appearing as The British Vampire in 1977 in an  anthology of horror  by Daniel Farson, who turns out to be Stoker’s great-grandnephew. But there is one case that has no connection to fiction, the little-known Buckinghamshire Vampire, recorded by William of Newburgh in the 12th century. Historical records show that St Hugh, the Bishop of Lincoln, was called upon to deal with the terrifying revenant and learned to his astonishment, after contacting other theologians, that similar attacks had happened elsewhere in England.

St Hugh was told that no peace would be had until the corpse was dug up and burned, but it was decided that an absolution – a declaration of forgiveness, by the church, absolving one from sin – would be a more seemly way to disable the vampire. When the tomb was opened the body was found to have not decomposed. The absolution was laid inside on the corpse’s chest by the Archdeacon and the vampire was never again seen wandering from his grave.

The Buckinghamshire revenant did not have a “vampire” burial – but such practices are evidence of a longstanding belief in vampires in Britain. Astonishingly, the medieval remains of the what are thought to be the first English vampires have been found in the Yorkshire village of  Wharram Percy . The bones of over 100 “vampire” corpses have now been uncovered buried deep in village pits. The bones were excavated more than half a century ago and date back to before the 14th century. They were at first thought to be the result of cannibalism during a famine or a massacre in the village but on  further inspection in 2017  the burned and broken skeletons were linked instead to deliberate mutilations perpetrated to prevent the dead returning to harm the living – beliefs common in folklore at the time. The inhabitants of Wharram Percy showed widespread belief in the undead returning as  revenants or reanimated corpses  and so fought back against the risk of vampire attacks by deliberately mutilating their own dead, burning bones and dismembering corpses, including those of women, children and teenagers, in an attempt to stave off what they believed could be a plague of vampires. This once flourishing village was completely deserted in the aftermath.

Just recently at an ancient Roman site in Italy the severed skull of a ten-year-old child was discovered with a large rock inserted in the mouth to prevent biting and bloodsucking. Then skull belongs to a suspected  15th-century revenant  which they are calling locally the “Vampire of Lugano”.

There has been a wealth of other stories from the UK and other parts of Western Europe – but, despite this, thanks to the Dracula legend, most people still assume such practises and beliefs belong to remote parts of Eastern Europe. But our research is continuing to examine “vampire burials” in the UK and is making connections to local myths and their legacy in English literature, many years before the Byronic fiend Count Dracula arrived in Yorkshire carrying his own supply of Transylvanian soil.


When Weird Darkness returns… a supposedly cursed doll has remained in the protection of one family for over four generations. But why would this family keep hold of such a demonic item?

What are the dark watchers of California?

These stories are up next.



Joliet is a doll – a haunted doll, at that – a so-called ‘cursed item’ that has remained in the protection of one family for over four generations. But why do this family keep hold of this demonic item?

The doll is currently owned by a lady that goes by the name of Anna – we’re not 100% sure that is her real name or a pseudonym to stay anonymous in this case.

Anna claims that the doll has been in the possession of her family for over a century and it’s always carried the spooky ability to cry at night – sounding a lot like a baby that has just woken up.

Sometimes there is only one cry, other times there is a chorus of four different babies in distress.

Anna believes that the she knows the four souls that are trapped inside the doll’s body, because they are actually linked to her family tree. This close bond with the trapped spirits is the reason behind her wanting to keep the doll.

This paranormal case seemed to have began when Anna’s great grandmother was given the doll when she was carrying her second child. It was a gift from a friend of the family that had a dark and hidden personality…and she really didn’t like Anna’s great grandmother.

Anna now believes that this woman was so jealous and twisted inside, that a dark force was created from her which entered the doll.

The great grandmother eventually gave birth to a lovely little boy…who tragically died three days later from an unexplained illness…

This same tragedy would unfold for at least four generations.

From this point onward – every female member of Anna’s direct family tree would have two children, a boy and a girl. The male infant would always die just three days after it’s birth.

Anna’s great grandmother also insisted that her dead son had somehow entered the doll – she would break her heart listening to him crying through the doll in the depths of night. She could never get rid of the doll – because she firmly believed that it contained her dead son’s soul.

When she died she passed the doll onto her daughter (Anna’s grandmother) for safekeeping. This turned out to be another deadly move…

Anna’s grandmother had two children – male and female…and the boy died three days after birth.

Anna also lost her son, three days after he was born, and she believes his cries have been ‘added’ to the doll’s disturbing orchestra.

Each mother in the family has refused to give up this paranormal doll – they all believe that it somehow contains a trace of their baby’s soul. The strange thing about this case is that the cries of the doll can only be heard by female members of Anna’s family.


Meandering along the coast of California from Monterey County all the way up into central San Luis Obispo County is the Santa Lucia Mountain Range, a rugged expanse of peaks and wilderness that is imposing enough to have posed a hurdle to early Spanish explorers making their way to the California coast. It is a place of undeniable natural beauty and history, and it has also long been said to be the haunt of inscrutable shadow beings that seem to stand and observe our world from afar.

What have come to be known as the “Dark Watchers” are typically said to be very tall humanoid entities ranging in height from 7 feet tall all the way up to around 15 feet tall, dressed all in black and wearing flowing cloaks and wide brimmed hats, with many sightings also mentioning some sort of staves or sticks in the beings’ hands. Facial features are not typically seen, and they are almost always silent, enigmatic figures usually seen at a distance up on ridges silhouetted against the darkening twilight sky, always at around dusk or dawn, quietly looking over and surveying their domain with unknowable purpose and often vanishing in the blink of an eye, especially if one is to try and draw closer. Such bizarre entities have been reported for centuries, with the accounts supposedly traced back to at least the Native Chumash tribe of the central coast of California and the Channel Islands, who apparently had a rich tradition of lore on these enigmatic beings and called them “The Old Ones.” Early Spanish explorers and Mexican ranchers also knew of them, referring to them as Los Vigilantes Oscuros, and they were often seen by early explorers and soldiers in the region, who described the unsettling experience of being observed by them from cliffs high above. These beings have been sighted ever since, going on to be mentioned in countless literary references and sightings reports. One very well-known literary mention of the mysterious beings was written of in John Steinbeck’s 1938 book The Long Valley, in which the creatures were written of in a short story called Flight, particularly in one passage that reads: ***Pepe looked up to the top of the next dry withered ridge. He saw a dark form against the sky, a man’s figure standing on top of a rock, and he glanced away quickly not to appear curious. When a moment later he looked up again, the figure was gone. Pepé looked suspiciously back every minute or so, and his eyes sought the tops of the ridges ahead. Once, on a white barren spur, he saw a black figure for a moment; but he looked quickly away, for it was one of the dark watchers. No one knew who the watchers were, nor where they lived, but it was better to ignore them and never to show interest in them. They did not bother one who stayed on the trail and minded his own business.*****

This is undeniably based on the pervasive lore of these entities, and other writers at around the same time made mention of the Dark Watchers, including notably poet Robinson Jeffers, in his poem Such Counsels You Gave to Me & Other Poems, in which he calls them “forms that look human… but certainly are not human,” and says of them: *****He thought it might be one of the watchers, who are often seen in this length of coast-range, forms that look human to human eyes, but certainly are not human. They come from behind ridges to watch. But when he approached it he recognized the shabby clothes and pale hair and even the averted forehead and concave line from the eye to the jaw, so that he was not surprised when the figure turning toward him in the quiet twilight showed his own face. Then it melted and merged into the shadows beyond it.*****

These literary accounts draw from the same local traditions, which have gone back centuries and continue on into this day. In the mid 1960s there was an alleged sighting of the Dark Watchers made by a high school teacher, who was out hiking in the range at the Monterrey peninsula. As he walked along he claimed that he had seen a tall dark figure looming up upon a ridge, which seemed to be in the process of merely standing and contemplating the scenery. The hiker called out to the mysterious figure and at that instance the entity simply dissolved from sight as if it had never been there at all. There have been numerous supposed sightings of these strange entities since, right up into very recent years. One strange occurrence was told of by a witness from Moreno Valley, California, who in 2011 said: *****Many many years ago I was with a friend driving through a dirt field here in Moreno Valley near Allessandro (old east part) near what I believe were old abandoned barns, that I always had heard were haunted when my friends car broke down. (could have been coincidence, it was a beat up volkswagen bug) It was dusk at best and there was no way we were going to make it out of the field before it was pitch black and instead of chancing getting retardedly lost and/or hurt in the dark we decided to sleep in the car and set out in the morning to go get help to tow the car. (it was wayyyyy before the days of everyone having cell phones and quick help) As we were killing time, in the pitch black now, we were hanging out inside and outside of the car, killing time, sharing smokes, and we started to distinctly see what looked like black shadows, evenly distributed completely encircling us, they did not move, they stayed motionless but were of significant size and based on the distance, I would say at least the size of a small car like the bug we ourselves were in. Whatever these were seemed hunched over, perhaps kneeling. Time passed, they never moved and though we walked around the car and got in and out of the car to see if what we were seeing was some sort of optical illusion, yet we couldn’t explain or discredit what we were seeing. To this day, it racks my brain.*****

In 2013 there was a report made by an Elizabeth Benitez of San Mateo, California, who claimed to have seen the specters in broad daylight near the San Luis Obispo reservoir. She would say of this encounter: *****I remember one day my friend and I were coming back from Los Angeles. We passed the San Luis Obispo reservoir, and as we drove on the road I saw something at a distance down at the end of the mountain. It was a really big human figure, but it wasn’t. It had a black cape kind of like the grim reaper and it was leaning over holding on to a staff at a “puddle of water” or so that is what it seemed at a distance. It was in daytime too, so I could identify it wasn’t a person. Even in mid light he was very black and reminded me of a raven. I told my friend that was driving to look over at the mountains, and surprisingly she was able to see a glimpse of it. I asked her what she saw without giving her my details, and she said exactly what I saw. She only looked at it for about 5 seconds, but she was able to see it. She almost lost control of the car too when she looked away at it, and I begged her to go back and see it, but she was very tired of driving already. These Dark Watchers are real!*****

Also in 2013 was an account from a witness known only as “Brian,” from Hollister, California, who claimed to have seen the entities as they were driving home. He would say of the incident: *****We where coming home to the San Juan Bautista/hollister side when we saw a very large dark figure standing at the edge of the mountains which is extremely weird since I’ve never seen anyone cross over the barbed wire fence and I travel that road daily and at all hours. We drove by it slowly behind the figure noticing it staring off into the distant valleys and mountains (fremonts peak). It appeared to have a large cape with straight shoulders that where very broad. It seemed to have a hunch on it’s back. At first from a distance I thought it was a condor but when I got closer it stood almost over 10 ft tall. It did not notice us driving behind it but when we found a spot on the cliffy road to turn around and get a better look it was gone. *****

In 2015 there was a report from a long distance runner calling himself Joey, in Sylmar California. The witness said that he had been out training for a race in the mountains when he saw something peculiar, saying of his experience: *****Time of day was 2:00 pm I was running and up in an area where no human could climb without gear I saw a black figure in plain day light. I never seen anything like it up in the mountain. Was darker than dark could not explain it. A year past and today again January 24th I saw it again and in the same spot.*****

There have been many other reports as well. As recently as 2018 there was a report from a witness from Ojai , California, who was out hiking in the mountains when he came across something very bizarre indeed. He would say: *****I was hiking up a remote trail up the 33 in Ojai, I was about an hour up the mountain, no people, no cars in sight. as I was hiking, I had this eerie feeling I was being watched. I looked up at the top of the mountain. It was a black figure. I waved, jokingly, not really thinking the object was a person. It waved back. Thinking I was maybe tripping, or that it was a tree waving in the wind, I took a puff of my cigarette, only to see the figure blow out a plume of smoke as well. I started seeing it flowing, and I say flowing, almost floating vertically. I ran like hell back to my car, spraining my knee in the process.*****

There are numerous other accounts of seeing these inexplicable shadow beings out in the wilderness silently surveying the land, to the point that, rather interestingly, John Steinbeck’s own son Thomas Steinbeck wrote an entire book on the subject after having his own encounter. He would go on to research the lore of the Dark Watchers and pen the book In Search of the Dark Watchers along with co-author Benjamin Brode, which goes into quite a lot of depth into the phenomenon and its cultural origins. Some have pointed to this being a trick of light or illusion, but that somehow seems to be an inadequate explanation for the entirety of this phenomenon.

It seems that this is a phenomenon for which there are no clear answers, and those enigmatic tall beings dressed in dark upon the cliffs and ridges of these mountains at twilight remain a baffling mystery. Are these just illusions or hallucinations? If so, why should they be confined to this one mountain range? There is also the idea that this may be due to the presence of infrasound signals in the area, which can be caused by natural processes such as the wind along the rocks and can have strange effects on the human psyche, but again why should the Dark Watchers legend take root here of all places if that is the case, and why would the reports be so consistent in the appearance and behavior of the entities? Could this be something else? Are these some sort of supernatural or even inter-dimensional entities here on some unknown mission? It is impossible to tell, and the Dark Watchers of California remain a compelling mystery that really captures the imagination.


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.

“Zozo and the Ouija Board” by Mark Oliver for All That’s Interesting

“The Van Meter Visitor” by Troy Taylor for American Hauntings Ink

“Spirit Drawn to Teenage Emotions” by Lemurian Emerald, posted at Your Ghost Stories

“Older Than Dracula” by Sam George for Ancient Origins

“Joliet: The Haunted Doll” by Chris for Real Paranormal Experiences

“Back to Say Goodbye” by Judy Rad, posted at MyHauntedLifeToo.com

“The Dark Watchers of California” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe

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… “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” – Ephesians 4:29

And a final thought… “When we feel empowered to overcome challenges, we become unstoppable.” – Tanya Dalton

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

Visits: 15