“PARANORMAL FLAMES” and Darkly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“PARANORMAL FLAMES” and Darkly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““PARANORMAL FLAMES” and Darkly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: In the late 1950s, the Tuck family of Alabama found themselves at the center of a terrifying ordeal as mysterious fires spontaneously erupted in their home. Despite their best efforts to escape the flames, the fiery phenomenon followed them from one residence to another, consuming their possessions and leaving them homeless. We’ll look at this case and other similar ones where the seeming explanation is nothing short of paranormal. (Paranormal Flames) *** In the sleepy Kentish hamlet of Charing, a centuries-old mystery unfolds every May Day. As the clock strikes midnight, ghostly children emerge from their moss-encrusted graves, their ethereal feet dancing to the silent fiddle’s tune. It’s all part of the “Night of the Dancing Feet.” (Dancing After Death) *** Before his wife’s murder in June 2009, Eli Weaver had numerous affairs with women he met through online dating sites, where he called himself an “Amish Stud.” But only one mistress was willing to kill for him. (Eli Weaver, Amish Stud and Murderer) *** The American West evokes iconic images often seen in movies: bold adventures, noon shootouts, resolute sheriffs and marshals maintaining order, and the cavalry arriving just in time. However, the history of the Wild West, replete with myths and stereotypes, presents a more complex and sometimes disturbing reality about justice in that era. (Wild West Justice) *** On the morning of July 13, 1997, the body of Denise Johnson was discovered inside her burning childhood home in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Emergency responders quickly realized they weren’t dealing with a simple arson, but a murder as well.  Now, more than two decades later, the case remains unsolved. (The Unsolved Murder of Denise Johnson) *** Hachishakusama, often referred to as the “Japanese Slender Man,” is a haunting figure from Japanese urban legends that rivals the terror of her American counterpart. While the Slender Man has gained a cult-like following and has even inspired real-life horror stories, Hachishakusama’s tale is equally spine-chilling and capable of keeping you up at night. (The Japanese Slender Man)

00:00:00.000 = Introduction/Show Open
00:05:20.724 = Paranormal Flames
00:26:22.890 = The Unsolved Murder of Denise Johnson
00:40:03.507 = Dancing After Death (Night Of The Dancing Feet)
00:48:36.820 = Wild West Justice
00:58:36.687 = Eli Weaver, Amish Stud and Murderer
01:08:23.238 = The Japanese Slender Man

BOOK: “Ablaze – The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion” by Larry E. Arnold: https://amzn.to/3Uqdhmz
BOOK: “A Killing In Amish Country” by Gregg Olsen and Rebecca Morris: https://amzn.to/44wghmb
“Paranormal Flames” source: Marcus Lowth at UFO Insight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4eb8xht2
“The Unsolved Murder of Denise Johnson” source: Jacob Shelton at Ranker: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8t3b7p
“Dancing After Death” by Ken DaSilva-Hill submitted directly to Weird Darkness and used with permission
“Wild West Justice” source: Christy Box at Weird History: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8db9vj
“Eli Weaver, Amish Stud and Murderer” source: Hannah Reilly Holtz at AllThatsInteresting.com:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4jfmybjh
“The Japanese Slender Man” source: Curry L Mitchell at ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/bdd7fthz
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: May 01, 2024


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.

Poltergeist activity is always eerie, and spontaneous human combustion is deeply mysterious on its own. But when these two phenomena mix, the result is even more baffling and unsettling. One such notable instance occurred with the Tuck family in Alabama during the late 1950s. This case is an especially disturbing example of these rare occurrences where mysterious fires start out of nowhere and initially cause minimal damage to the surrounding area.

These events raise questions about whether they add another layer to the already complex nature of poltergeist phenomena. Are these incidents simply more poltergeist activity, or something entirely different? They certainly merit deeper consideration and possibly further investigation, as they could offer insights into these peculiar happenings.

The Tuck family’s experiences stand out as some of the most provocative and disturbing on record. As we explore other cases, we’ll start with this particularly chilling story, aiming to understand more about these mysterious and unsettling events.

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…

In the sleepy Kentish hamlet of Charing, a centuries-old mystery unfolds every May Day. As the clock strikes midnight, ghostly children emerge from their moss-encrusted graves, their ethereal feet dancing to the silent fiddle’s tune. It’s all part of the “Night of the Dancing Feet.” (Dancing After Death)

Before his wife’s murder in June 2009, Eli Weaver had numerous affairs with women he met through online dating sites, where he called himself an “Amish Stud.” But only one mistress was willing to kill for him. (Eli Weaver, Amish Stud and Murderer)

The American West evokes iconic images often seen in movies: bold adventures, noon shootouts, resolute sheriffs and marshals maintaining order, and the cavalry arriving just in time. However, the history of the Wild West, replete with myths and stereotypes, presents a more complex and sometimes disturbing reality about justice in that era. (Wild West Justice)

On the morning of July 13, 1997, the body of Denise Johnson was discovered inside her burning childhood home in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Emergency responders quickly realized they weren’t dealing with a simple arson, but a murder as well.  Now, more than two decades later, the case remains unsolved. (The Unsolved Murder of Denise Johnson)

Hachishakusama, often referred to as the “Japanese Slender Man,” is a haunting figure from Japanese urban legends that rivals the terror of her American counterpart. While the Slender Man has gained a cult-like following and has even inspired real-life horror stories, Hachishakusama’s tale is equally spine-chilling and capable of keeping you up at night. (The Japanese Slender Man)

In the late 1950s, the Tuck family of Alabama found themselves at the center of a terrifying ordeal as mysterious fires spontaneously erupted in their home. Despite their best efforts to escape the flames, the fiery phenomenon followed them from one residence to another, consuming their possessions and leaving them homeless. We’ll look at this case and other similar ones where the seeming explanation is nothing short of paranormal. (Paranormal Flames)

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, hear my other podcasts including “Church of the Undead” and a sci-fi 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!


In August 1958, the Tuck family from Talladega, Alabama—Calvin, his wife Willie Bell, and their six children—were already facing tough financial times when they encountered a series of mysterious and unexplainable fires in their home. These fires seemed to start out of nowhere, with unusual targets like a loaf of bread suddenly bursting into flames and a single piece of clothing igniting without damaging others around it. The flames were noted for their peculiar red and blue colors, and there was often a sulfur-like smell accompanying them.

As time went on, these fires became more frequent, occurring over 50 times, and even a contractor visiting their home reported seeing fires flare up as often as every 15 minutes. With no rational explanation and the authorities just as baffled, the Tuck family was left frightened and unsure of what to do.

Interestingly, these fires seemed to start from the ceiling, yet the home had no electricity, so electrical faults were quickly ruled out. The local fire department was also stumped. Neighbors and locals, feeling sympathetic, would stand by with buckets of water, especially at night, ready to help extinguish any fires to protect the family while they slept.

Despite these efforts, the situation escalated, and one day, a series of intense fires broke out one after another, eventually burning down their entire home. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the Tucks were left without a home. Without insurance, rebuilding wasn’t an option, so they moved to a nearby property, hoping for a fresh start away from the mysterious fires. However, their relief was short-lived; fires began in the new home just hours after they moved in.

Driven to desperation, Calvin pulled all their belongings outside and set them on fire, hoping to end what he believed was a curse. Unfortunately, this drastic action did not stop the fires, and their new home also burned down completely.

With nowhere else to turn, the Tuck family moved in with Calvin’s brother-in-law, Darnell Suttle. But, the strange and frightening occurrences followed them there as well.

Shortly after the Tuck family moved in with Suttle, more fires erupted, which were quickly extinguished by the family and Suttle. They placed buckets of water in each room for rapid response to any new fires. When the police were called in, something even stranger happened: as officers arrived, they noticed a blanket draped over a tree in the yard which suddenly burst into flames, stunning everyone. Oddly, the fire seemed to extinguish itself in an unnatural manner.

Adding to the mystery, when one officer tried to light a part of the blanket that was unburned, the fire wouldn’t catch. Inside, Willie Bell informed the officers that various clothing items had similarly ignited. Burn marks around the house confirmed her story.

After enduring several days of these distressing incidents, Suttle, worried about his own home, asked the Tucks to leave. With nowhere to go and no money, the family’s situation looked dire. They moved in with Calvin’s father, but the mysterious fires followed them there too.

In desperation, Calvin sought help from a Voodoo witch doctor who claimed a “fire curse” was to blame. The witch doctor provided herbs for the family to chew for three days and a concoction to bury in their yard, which they did, but the fires persisted.

The local authorities, concerned for the family and the community, launched a thorough investigation. A significant lead emerged when a fire chief witnessed a rag spontaneously combust, leaving behind a peculiar green residue. Initially, this clue led investigators to suspect arson, thinking someone might be setting the fires deliberately.

The family moved to a friend’s house, their fourth place in two weeks, but they remained under close surveillance. Investigators examined previous residences for traces of accelerants but found none. Despite eyewitness accounts of spontaneous combustion from police and fire officers, the prevailing theory among authorities was arson, partly influenced by small amounts of phosphorous found in the wallpaper at some fire sites, which could potentially support the arson theory.

Phosphorus is highly volatile and can be very dangerous if not handled by professionals. Its storage is also challenging due to its reactive nature. Just when it seemed the case couldn’t become more bizarre, a surprising confession emerged. Calvin Jr., the Tucks’ 9-year-old son, admitted to starting the fires. According to the police report, he used matches or made rags smolder to burst into flames, tricking his family into thinking their house was haunted or cursed.

Calvin Jr. reportedly wanted to scare his family into moving back to Birmingham and did not intend for the houses to burn down completely. Following his confession, he was held for psychiatric evaluation, and the police were quick to close the case, believing they had found the culprit.

However, not everyone was convinced by this explanation. There were several puzzling aspects to consider. For instance, how had Calvin Jr. mastered the technique to make it appear as if rags were spontaneously combusting? Also, how could the incident of the blanket bursting into flames on its own in the yard be explained, especially since a police officer couldn’t ignite it later? Additionally, many fires reportedly happened when Calvin Jr. wasn’t even in the house or nearby.

In high-profile poltergeist cases, there’s often a rush to get a confession publicized to quell any potential public hysteria. Could this have been such a case? Were the local authorities too eager to defuse a potentially explosive situation?

There’s also the question of whether Calvin Jr. was really away from the house during the fires or simply unnoticed. It’s possible he was around but not seen, though one would expect him to have been spotted at some point.

Even if Calvin Jr. was responsible for the fires and managed to set them without detection, how did he control them so precisely that they burned specific items quickly and then stopped without spreading? This pattern is curiously similar to spontaneous human combustion, a phenomenon we will explore further in a moment.
While the Tuck family’s experiences are certainly puzzling, they are not the only instances of unusual fires linked to supposed poltergeist activity.

One of the most compelling cases occurred in 1987 in Yenakievo, Ukraine, then part of the Soviet Union. A young boy known only as Sasha K became the focus of unexplained fires that would start around him spontaneously. Objects around him would burst into flames without any apparent cause. The situation became so concerning that Sasha’s father, worried about his son’s safety and mental health, sent him to Moscow for medical evaluations. The professionals’ diagnosis suggested that Sasha might have been possessed by an evil spirit using him to ignite fires, or that a poltergeist was at play. Disturbingly, there is no further information on what became of Sasha after his evaluation.

Going further back, in 1922 in Caledonia Mills, Nova Scotia, a farm owned by Alexander McDonald experienced strange occurrences typically associated with poltergeists. In one bizarre incident, cattle were found with their tails braided together. Another time, a fire started spontaneously in the farmhouse, and some family members reported physical assaults by an invisible force. These phenomena were investigated by Dr. Walter Prince from the American Psychical Society, who concluded that much of the activity centered around Mary Ellen, the McDonalds’ 16-year-old adopted daughter who had the mental age of four. Dr. Prince believed that Mary Ellen, possibly possessed or manipulated by an unseen entity, was unknowingly responsible for the disturbances.

More recently, in 2011 in the Malaysian village of Kota Baru, a 78-year-old woman encountered mysterious fires breaking out randomly in her home, affecting clothing, papers, and furniture. Over 200 incidents were recorded in just a few weeks. Theories about the cause ranged from a Djinn to a poltergeist, attracting many paranormal investigators. Ultimately, one investigator managed to stop the fires through a spiritual ritual, akin to an exorcism.

Just four years before the Tuck family’s eerie experiences, the Parsons family in Newfoundland, Canada, faced a similarly mystifying situation in November 1954. Over about two weeks, they experienced a series of sudden fires. Incidents included a dictionary igniting spontaneously, a sack of sugar bursting into flames, and even a box of religious literature catching fire in a particularly fierce blaze that was difficult to extinguish. A doll was also consumed by fire that seemed to appear out of nowhere.

The Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigated these strange occurrences but couldn’t find any explanation for what might have started the fires. The fires continued to appear, leading one investigator to describe the situation as involving “unnatural goings-on.” Then, as suddenly as they had started, the fires stopped.

The cause of these events—whether paranormal or a prank by one of the Parsons children—remains a topic of debate. Interestingly, despite the mention of “unnatural goings-on,” there was little speculation in the media that a poltergeist could be involved, nor were there any obvious reasons for anyone in the household to have started the fires deliberately.

This case remains unresolved to this day.

Rewinding to the summer of 1948 in Macomb, Illinois, the Willey family farm witnessed similar mysterious fires… we covered this recently in a previous Weird Darkness episode. Initially, dark spots would appear on the wallpaper, quickly leading to flames. The ceiling and eventually papers around the house began to spontaneously combust. Items stored away, such as newspapers in a box, were found smoldering, and books, curtains, and clothing would suddenly catch fire.

These incidents were just the beginning of a series of tragic events. On August 14, the Willey family’s home was completely destroyed by fire. Thankfully, no one was injured. The next day, one of their barns was reduced to ashes, and a few days later, another barn was entirely engulfed in flames.

Then, just as abruptly as they started, the fires stopped when the family moved to another property. Almost immediately after they ceased, a supposed explanation for these strange and destructive events was discovered.
In a twist similar to the Tuck family’s story, the fires at the Willey family farm were also explained through a confession. Charles Willey’s 13-year-old niece admitted to starting the fires after she was caught with a box of matches left by the police as bait for the suspected arsonist. After about an hour of questioning by the officers, she confessed to setting the fires in hopes of moving back to live with her mother in Bloomington, away from her father and uncle who had custody following a divorce. A psychiatrist evaluated her and described her as a “nice kid caught in the middle of a broken home.”

This confession raises questions. Were the police just eager to find an explanation to close the case? The fires did stop after her confession, but how could a teenager manage to start fires in such specific and peculiar ways, like making walls and documents spontaneously combust?

The case remains intriguing to those who study such mysterious incidents.

One of the earliest suspected cases of a fire-causing poltergeist occurred in early 1932 in Bladenboro, North Carolina. On January 30th, the first of 20 sudden fires erupted in the home of Council H. Williamson and his wife Lydia, starting with a dining room curtain. The following day, bedclothes, trousers, and various papers also inexplicably caught fire. In one alarming incident, the Williamsons’ granddaughter’s dress burst into flames, though she was unharmed and the fire was quickly put out. There was no explanation for these fires, which stopped abruptly on February 1st at noon.

The events captured the attention of local and national media. The Bladen Journal reported extensively on the phenomenon, noting that the couple was well-respected and considered reliable witnesses. The family temporarily moved out to allow investigators to examine the house, which was kept under close watch by authorities. Despite the initial flurry of interest, the story eventually faded from the headlines, only to resurface years later with the advent of the Internet and the widespread sharing of such mysterious tales.

Over half a century later, Larry Arnold documented this incident in his book Ablaze! The Mysterious Fires of Spontaneous Human Combustion. He described it as resembling the classic poltergeist fire phenomenon, where objects spontaneously ignite—similar to human spontaneous combustion, but affecting objects instead of people. We’ll delve deeper into this comparison in just a bit.

In 2016, it seemed a breakthrough might have been made in understanding these bizarre events. Like many similar cases of apparent poltergeist activity, it was suggested that a household member—in this case, the granddaughter whose dress had caught fire—might have been responsible. Some questioned whether she had the knowledge or daring to set such fires without harming herself.

However, this theory doesn’t fully address the odd specifics of these cases, leaving some experts unsatisfied. If the granddaughter did cause the fires, perhaps the mechanism was more extraordinary than merely setting slow-burning fires or igniting something in solitude. It’s possible the fires were caused by a type of mental energy transfer that she couldn’t consciously control or understand.

There might also be connections to spontaneous human combustion, often reported as having flames that are a mix of red, orange, and blue—the color of which depends on what is burning. Could something otherworldly be fueling these fires?

Additionally, the strong odor of sulfur, commonly reported in both poltergeist and alien abduction cases, was noted. This detail might hint at a broader connection, possibly linking poltergeist activity and spontaneous human combustion.

These questions lead us to consider if there could be a paranormal aspect to spontaneous human combustion, perhaps related to intense poltergeist activity that turned deadly. This remains speculative but is a question worth exploring further.

The cases of the Tuck family and others remain open to debate. Are they genuine paranormal incidents involving fire-starting poltergeists, or merely the actions of a clever but misguided young child? If these events are truly paranormal, we must wonder why these fires occur. Is it merely individual poltergeists acting on their own, or is there another factor at play?

Interestingly, no other typical poltergeist activities like mysterious sounds or physical interactions were reported in these cases. This absence might suggest that these fires might not be caused by poltergeists after all, and we should consider other explanations.

It’s also curious that these cases, though separated by decades, share similar details and often involve young children—some of whom have confessed to starting the fires. While it’s possible these children could have staged these incidents to scare their families, it seems unlikely that all would choose fire as their method. Perhaps they might have chosen to create noises or messes instead, more commonly associated with hauntings.

Regardless, these cases remain a mystery, raising questions about the nature of these strange fire incidents and whether they might ever be fully understood.


When Weird Darkness returns… On the morning of July 13, 1997, the body of Denise Johnson was discovered inside her burning childhood home in Kill Devil Hills, NC. Emergency responders quickly realized they weren’t dealing with a simple arson, but a murder.  Now, more than two decades later, the case remains unsolved.

Plus… In the sleepy Kentish hamlet of Charing, a centuries-old mystery unfolds every May Day. As the clock strikes midnight, ghostly children emerge from their moss-encrusted graves, their ethereal feet dancing to the silent fiddle’s tune. It’s all part of the “Night of the Dancing Feet.”



In the early hours of July 13, 1997, tragedy struck in Kill Devil Hills, NC, as Denise Johnson’s lifeless body was found within the smoldering ruins of her childhood home. First responders quickly realized that this was no ordinary house fire; Johnson had been brutally stabbed multiple times in the neck before succumbing to smoke inhalation.

Initially, investigators believed that solving the case would be a straightforward process, but as leads dried up and the trail grew cold, the murder remained unsolved for over two decades. Johnson’s family was left to grieve without the solace of justice or closure.

However, in 2020, a glimmer of hope emerged when the ClockCatcher podcast decided to delve into Johnson’s case. Rather than causing further distress, the podcast’s investigation breathed new life into the search for her killer. Although the case remains unsolved, the tireless efforts of a local investigator have transformed Johnson’s murder from a cold case to an active investigation, renewing the possibility that her family may one day find the answers they so desperately seek.

In the early hours of July 13, 1997, the tranquility of Norfolk Street in Kill Devil Hills, NC, was shattered by the fierce blaze engulfing the childhood home of 33-year-old Denise Johnson. As emergency crews rushed to the scene just after 4:30 am, they quickly realized that the situation was far more dire than a simple house fire – a lifeless body lay within the smoldering ruins.

Firefighters bravely entered the inferno and discovered Johnson’s incapacitated form. Despite their valiant efforts to resuscitate her, it was too late; she had already succumbed to the flames before help could arrive. Initially, the rescue team assumed that Johnson had fallen victim to smoke inhalation or suffocation, but as they delved deeper into the case, a more sinister truth began to emerge, hinting at a tragedy that extended beyond the reach of the fire’s destructive grasp.

As first responders pulled Johnson’s lifeless body from the smoldering ruins of her home, a grim realization began to dawn upon them: her death was not merely the result of smoke inhalation. A closer examination revealed a series of vicious stab wounds on her neck and hands, hinting at a far more sinister fate. The medical examiner’s report from 1997 painted a chilling picture, stating that Johnson had been “stabbed at least half a dozen times, almost all in the area of her neck.”

The presence of these brutal injuries raised a flurry of unsettling questions. Was the fire a calculated addition to the crime, meant to conceal the true nature of Johnson’s death? How long had she been left to suffer in the house before help arrived? And perhaps most disturbingly, was this the work of a lone assailant, or had they enlisted the aid of an accomplice? Johnson’s sister, Donnie, later reflected on the savagery of the attack, stating, “I just know it was somebody full of rage or out of their mind on something. Just, no normal person would even want to do something like that.”

Upon discovering that Johnson had been brutally murdered within the confines of her own home, investigators swiftly arrived at the conclusion that her killer was likely someone she knew. In 1997, The Coastland Times reported that an investigator closely involved with the case expressed confidence in a swift resolution, citing Johnson’s well-known status in the tight-knit community of Kill Devil Hills.

However, the investigation encountered an unexpected roadblock almost immediately, despite the high priority assigned to the case by both the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation and the FBI. Authorities diligently interviewed more than 150 individuals with connections to Johnson, hoping to uncover a crucial lead that would bring her killer to justice. Frustratingly, none of these conversations yielded any substantial breakthroughs, leaving investigators grappling with an increasingly complex and perplexing case.

To process the crime scene, authorities enlisted the expertise of Agent Dennis Honeycut, a renowned crime scene technician from the North Carolina SBI (State Bureau of Investigations). Honeycut’s reputation as a “crime scene guru” preceded him, with a law enforcement official interviewed on the CounterClock podcast describing him as “the best of the best,” capable of “lift[ing] a fingerprint out of thin air.”

Despite the wealth of evidence collected by Honeycut and his SBI team, much of it had been compromised and deteriorated due to the dual ravages of fire and time. Now, more than two decades later, investigators are holding out hope that advancements in forensic technology will allow them to retest the DNA evidence gathered in 1997 before it further degrades. Additionally, they remain optimistic about the possibility of uncovering new DNA samples from previously undiscovered pieces of evidence, potentially breathing new life into the investigation and bringing them one step closer to solving this haunting cold case.

Despite the swift response of state and federal investigators to the crime scene, a significant portion of the evidence was compromised by the multiple small fires deliberately set throughout the house. The destructive nature of the blaze itself, coupled with the inevitable damage caused by the efforts to extinguish the flames, rendered much of the evidence found at the epicenter of the crime scene essentially unusable. As a result, investigators were left with limited material to work with in their pursuit of the perpetrator.

In total, 59 pieces of evidence were recovered from the scene, but the fire’s fury had consumed anything that might have pointed directly to a specific suspect. However, this setback does not necessarily mean that all hope is lost. Advancements in DNA technology have opened up new possibilities, allowing investigators to reassess many pieces of evidence previously thought to be damaged beyond repair or too contaminated to yield meaningful results. As the case continues to unfold, only time will reveal whether any of the remaining evidence holds the key to unlocking the mystery surrounding Denise Johnson’s tragic murder.

On the night before her untimely demise, Denise Johnson worked her shift at the Barrier Island Inn, clocking out around 11 pm. In the early hours of the following morning, at approximately 1 am, she made a stop at a nearby convenience store to purchase a pack of cigarettes and a beverage. However, Johnson was not alone during this seemingly routine errand.

Theresa Rogers, the gas station attendant on duty that night, revealed to the CounterClock podcast in 2020 that a blonde woman had followed Johnson into the store, closely monitoring her movements until she departed. As soon as Johnson completed her transaction and left the premises, the enigmatic blonde hastily pursued her.

Rogers emphasizes that her initial statement to the police focused on the tall, blonde woman who shadowed Johnson. Despite investigators creating a composite sketch based on Rogers’ description, the resulting image proved too generic to yield any significant leads.

While the presence of the tall blonde could potentially be a misleading detail, the CounterClock podcast managed to establish a connection between her and a man named Eric, with whom she was romantically involved in the 1990s. Intriguingly, during his relationship with the blonde, Eric was also engaged in a clandestine sexual affair with his next-door neighbor, none other than Denise Johnson herself. Despite the apparent link between Johnson, Eric, and the mysterious blonde, the gas station attendant laments, “[The blonde] disappeared and [the police] let her disappear,” suggesting a missed opportunity in the investigation.

The brutal murder of Denise Johnson has left the tight-knit community of Kill Devil Hills grappling with a haunting question since 1997: Who would want to end the life of such a beloved and well-regarded individual? Johnson’s popularity and positive reputation within the community make the circumstances surrounding her death all the more perplexing.

During the second episode of the CounterClock podcast, Detective Jim Mulford emphasized the incongruity between Johnson’s character and the vicious nature of her killing. He pointed out that Johnson did not have the type of adversaries one might typically associate with someone who met such a violent end, having been stabbed to death before her home was set ablaze.

According to a report filed by Denise Johnson with the Kill Devil Hills police in September 1996, she had been the target of a barrage of menacing phone calls originating from Florida. Johnson’s sister, Donnie, shared chilling details with the CounterClock podcast, stating, “This guy kept calling her from Florida and threatening her. She told me he would call and she would just look, I mean, fear would be in her eyes. She was very scared of him, whoever this guy was.”

The identity of the mysterious man from Florida remains a crucial piece of the puzzle. In the years leading up to her final residence in North Carolina, Johnson had spent some time living in Florida. Disturbingly, near the end of her stay there, an unidentified assailant had attacked her, prompting Johnson to file a police report. However, when the CounterClock podcast team managed to uncover the microfiche containing the report, they discovered that the attacker’s name had been redacted.

While the redaction does not render it impossible to establish a connection between the threatening phone calls and Johnson’s ultimate fate, it undoubtedly complicates the process of unraveling the truth behind this perplexing case.

For more than two decades, the investigation into Denise Johnson’s murder remained at a standstill, with no significant progress made in bringing her killer to justice. That is, until Delia D’ambra, a North Carolina-based investigative journalist, took it upon herself to delve into the unsolved crime that had left an indelible mark on her hometown. Starting in 2018, D’ambra committed herself to reinvestigating Johnson’s tragic death, tirelessly pursuing new leads and conducting interviews with anyone connected to the case.

In 2020, D’ambra launched her podcast, CounterClock, which introduced the cold case to a national audience, casting a fresh spotlight on the mystery surrounding Johnson’s murder. Rather than dismissing the podcast’s efforts, Dare County officials acknowledged its role in breathing new life into the investigation. District Attorney Andrew Womble expressed the renewed determination to pursue justice, stating, “We’re chasing all the leads that we can. There have been some in the last 18 months we are trying to chase down.”

Despite the destruction of crucial evidence in Johnson’s case by the fire, authorities are not shying away from thoroughly examining the remaining pieces of the puzzle. Instead of basking in the glory of her podcast’s success in prompting the reopening of the case, Delia D’ambria expressed to Oxygen that her sole concern lies in the authorities’ ability to bring the investigation to a satisfactory conclusion. She stated, “I would expect and hope that law enforcement in that area would do the job that it takes to follow the leads like the podcast has, talking to people, vetting people, looking at transcripts done back then, and interviewing people again… I would like to see them potentially retesting evidence. There are so many things that are available now that weren’t available in the late ’90s that you can look at.”

Dare County District Attorney Andrew Womble acknowledged the podcast’s role in providing the impetus needed to reinvigorate the investigation. With more than two decades’ worth of technological advancements at their disposal, authorities are optimistic about the possibility of uncovering DNA evidence that was previously unattainable at the time of the crime.

The CounterClock podcast has garnered an unprecedented level of attention for the Johnson case, surpassing all expectations. Beyond motivating authorities to reopen the investigation, the miniseries has ignited hope within Johnson’s family that it will uncover previously unknown information. Denise’s sister, Donnie, expressed her optimism, saying, “[Listeners] might remember something that they think is not even important. But if they could call Crime Line, that could be the missing link.”

Moreover, Donnie seeks to ensure that Denise is remembered for more than just the tragic circumstances of her death. She wants people to remember her sister as “a sweet girl who loved the beach and her animals,” emphasizing that “she was a good person and not just a statistic.” Through the podcast’s efforts to shed light on the case and humanize Denise Johnson, there is renewed hope that justice will finally be served and that her memory will be honored in the hearts and minds of those who hear her story.


The graveyard around St Peter and St Paul church in the sleepy Kentish hamlet of Charing, a ‘Blink and you will miss it’, village on the main road in a shallow valley of the Kentish Weald, is notable for the number of children’s graves, each marked by a tiny headstone, and which are mostly unmarked with a name or date. There are over one hundred and thirty, almost all dating from about the same period in history.  Most folk miss this interesting place, as Charing is a village which boasts a high street of buildings dating back seven hundred years or more, a Palace, once the home of archbishops from nearby Canterbury, the large meadow named Clewards which was once the site of the fishing lakes for the Palace, and the now hidden but still extant ice well. Clewards meadow tumbles it’s erratic way down across the past lake beds to a spring of fresh water, which in the time that King Henry stopped here for a few days at the Palace, back in 1420, and on his way to ‘The Field of the Cloth of Gold’ in France, fed what was then a large moat, a protection for both the palace and the village too. A triangle of trees and grass, outside of the two rustic cottages here, marks the place where once stood the village stocks and gallows, on the old road to Ashford, the market town just six miles away.  The gallows long gone, this area still has the remnants of sadness hanging over it. The church, built around nine hundred years ago, but in the time which I have known it, has lost some of its detail around the arch of the fine porch and doorway, to the effects of the twentieth century and acid rain, but the interior is much as it has always looked, though these days a congregation can be counted on the fingers of one’s hand, and for most of the time it is left open, cared for but deserted by humans, the odd bat fluttering about at dusk, the mice beneath the pews, and  black crows squawking at the break of day, being the only noise apart from the rumble of traffic from the motorway just across the hill. So Charing is a slow dreary place these days, – no longer is there a bustling market by Royal charter in Market place, but for those in the know, Charing still has some fascinating secrets, and ghostly happenings, though only the older residents can nowadays still recall or tell the tales. As the first of May approaches, yes, May Day, it brings to mind a strange occurrence which, still to this day fascinates those who live in the centre of the village, and known in the hamlet as the ‘Night of the Dancing Feet’.

Back in the history of the village, a little paganism rustled on in the shadow of Christian worship, and is said by some to still be followed today, although as far as I know, none of those there, who I feel I know well, seem to be the type of folk to be involved – but who can tell what goes on behind the leaded windows, and around the sunken well’s, or roaring fire hearths in the prim and pristine cottages?

But here I go, getting away from the facts of the enduring mystery of the dancing feet, so let’s get back on track!

It is said, that in the early morning hours of May Day, and within the dew laden mist of the early morning, as it hovers like a cloud of foam above an invisible sea, silently forming swirls of white in the light of the full moon upon the grassy blackness of the ground, the lightly dancing feet and merry sounds of children’s voices are apparent, but muffled by the mists of time.

In ages past the decorated pole was erected by the men folk of the village, with garlands of spring flowers around the top, and the many strands of gaily coloured silk ribbons hanging from its crown fluttered in the gentle breeze. But this was in the past, and many years have been and gone since the last village maypole was set for dancing upon the meadow.

But still they dance, it seems, ethereal within the mist, a score of children tread lightly to the music of past days and beneath the silver rays of moonlight.

The older folk of the village talk of the dance but none will venture upon Clewards meadow at this witching hour, in fear of unknown pain and memory. But still the children dance, the frenzy of excitement growing with every step as the silent fiddler encourages them on and on. The ribbons intertwine their spectrum of colour down the ghostly pole and the tiny feet waltz on in a mazurka of passion and will to live again, a dance of ghosts, of spirit, and of the joy of death, before the joy of life was ever fulfilled with hope.

And as the sun glances across the meadow, and in the shadow of the church tower, it’s subtle heat dispersing the mist of night, now, seen in the glow of sunrise appears an ephemeral circle in the grass, grass crushed flat beneath the naked toes of children from another age and a past dimension.  A circle of magic and untimely passing.

Should you venture across the dew wet grass at first light on the first of May, then you might see not only the bold circle left by dancing feet, but also observe the path those tiny feet  took on their way back to their homes, worm and dust infested homes deep beneath the earth of the graveyard, in the shadow of the church, where the stones lean at crazy angles, moss encrusted, but still supported by the bones below.

It is said that around midnight, as May the first develops as a new day, muted lights move silently across this place, hovering at different heights, and bobbing around as the ghostly children make their way to the pole around which they will celebrate their short lives, appearing once more to bring life to death, and to remain fixed within the traditions of the meadow forever more. I have seen a photograph of this illuminated stream, wending its way towards the church, taken many years ago by a villager who left a simple pinhole camera at the scene. The image is weird, but clearly shows what has been seldom seen by human eyes. On May the first, this year, I will be upon the meadow, what I will see I do not know, but curiosity will hold my hand in the face of childhood death.


Coming up… Before his wife’s murder in June 2009, Eli Weaver had numerous affairs with women he met through online dating sites, where he called himself an “Amish Stud.” But only one mistress was willing to kill for him.

But first… The American West evokes iconic images often seen in movies: bold adventures, noon shootouts, resolute sheriffs and marshals maintaining order, and the cavalry arriving just in time. However, the history of the Wild West, replete with myths and stereotypes, presents a more complex and sometimes disturbing reality about justice in that era. That story is up next.



In the Wild West, life wasn’t always like what we see in the movies. While there are lots of exciting stories about brave cowboys, quick draw shootouts, and heroic lawmen, the real history of the American frontier was much more complicated and sometimes even troubling.

Back then, violence was a big problem in the West. As more and more settlers moved there to start new lives, they faced a lot of crime and danger. These small towns were far away from big cities and didn’t have much help, so they often had to take care of justice on their own. This meant that they sometimes had to come up with new and unusual ways to deal with criminals. It wasn’t always as fair or noble as what we see in Western movies. People accused of crimes often faced punishments that were very harsh, unfair, and even against the law.

In fact, the number of people killed in the West was shockingly high. It was almost as bad as the violence during the Civil War and the years after in the American South. For example, if you lived in Dodge City, Kansas, between 1876 and 1885, you had a 1 in 61 chance of being killed. In San Francisco, California, from 1850 to 1865, the odds were 1 in 203. Some other parts of California were even worse, with a 1 in 72 chance of dying violently. Oregon was the safest place in the West at that time, but living there still meant a 1 in 208 risk of being killed.

In the Old West, when a crime made people very angry, some settlers decided to punish the criminal themselves instead of waiting for the law to handle it. These people were called vigilantes. Back then, many stories made vigilantes seem like heroes, but the way they punished criminals was often very cruel.

Vigilantes did more than just catch and kill the accused criminals. Some would even hurt them badly before killing them. In one case in 1891, a vigilante group hanged a bandit and then made souvenirs out of his skin. The vigilantes tried to explain their actions by saying the criminals had done really terrible things.
In the Wild West, breaking the law could seriously shorten someone’s life, especially if they were accused of murder. Justice back then could be harsh and quick, whether it came through an official trial or by the hands of vigilantes seeking immediate retribution.

In California, for instance, those found guilty were quickly tried and hanged at the local courthouse, often very soon after their conviction since appeals were rare. If the public felt that an execution was taking too long, vigilantes sometimes took matters into their own hands. In 1851, vigilantes decided a man who stole gold dust was guilty and hanged him only three hours later.

The Wild West also saw the rise of the Pinkerton detectives, a private group hired to track down and capture the most troublesome criminals. They went after famous outlaws like the Reno gang and Butch Cassidy’s Wild Bunch. However, the Pinkertons lost public support when their methods became too extreme. For example, during a raid on outlaw Jesse James’s mother’s house in 1875, they threw an explosive through a window, which killed James’s young half-brother and severely injured his mother. James had already fled the scene, and the backlash from this event forced the Pinkertons to stop chasing him.

Even when criminals were caught and jailed, waiting for a trial wasn’t always an option for some. In 1878, a group of about 20 to 30 masked vigilantes broke into a jail the night before a trial, took the accused murderer, and hanged him right away.

Legitimate lawmen like town sheriffs, marshals, and US Marshals were also part of the Western justice system. US Marshals, appointed by the attorney general to uphold federal law, often formed posses with local men for backup. Sadly, being a lawman was extremely dangerous during this time, with many losing their lives in the line of duty.

Gun control was a simple but effective approach for many Western towns trying to prevent violence. Towns like Tombstone, AZ, and Dodge City, KS, required people to give up their guns when they entered. The famous 1881 shootout at the OK Corral in Tombstone actually started over a dispute about this gun control law. Author and cowboy Andy Adams once wrote about Dodge City’s strict gun laws in 1903, warning that anyone who tried to defy these rules would likely face deadly consequences. He noted that the local officers were fearless and well-prepared to enforce the law, emphasizing that cowboys’ pistols were no match for the officers’ more powerful weapons.
Vigilante justice often reflects the biases of the public, which can lead to the targeting of certain racial groups. In the American West, ethnic minorities like Hispanics, Native Americans, and Chinese were often seen as threats by white settlers and became common victims of vigilante acts. For example, in 1878, a Native American named Juan La Cruz was accused of attacking a woman and child while intoxicated. Although no one was harmed, the community was outraged. A mob took him from jail, and he was later found hanged in the woods. A bystander criticized the act by questioning why the person who sold La Cruz the alcohol wasn’t also punished.

Many Western towns struggled with high crime rates due to their weak political structures and limited resources. This often led to a lack of punishment for crimes, prompting people to take justice into their own hands. During the California gold rush, Los Angeles became notorious for its lawlessness. With a population of about 6,000, mostly young single men, it had a higher homicide rate than New York City, along with frequent assaults and other violent crimes. One potential settler expressed concerns about the lack of security, saying the town was too dangerous to walk in at night.

San Francisco also experienced a surge in violence due to the gold rush. In 1851, fed up with ineffective law enforcement, residents formed a vigilance committee of about 200 members who hanged many criminals and deported others. The committee disbanded when things improved, but it reformed in 1856 after James Casey, an Irish Catholic politician, shot a newspaper editor who accused him of illegal activities. Although Casey was already arrested, 500 committee members surrounded the jail, gave him a quick trial, and hanged him. This act of vigilante justice showed a clear bias, as the vigilantes were mostly native-born American Protestants who opposed the increasing political influence of Irish Catholics like Casey.
The Wild West had its fair share of issues with vigilante justice, and often, the so-called legitimate lawmen were part of the problem. Many law enforcement officers worked without steady pay, earning their income through fines or bounties on wanted criminals. This led some to commit crimes themselves during tough times.

Corruption among lawmen was rampant. For instance, Sheriff Dave Allison faced multiple accusations of misusing funds. Deputy Sheriff Henry Newton Brown, while on a mission to capture a wanted individual for a bounty, ended up robbing a bank with three others. In response, a vigilante mob took swift and lethal action against them.

Timothy “Longhair Jim” Courtright exploited his law enforcement role to run a protection racket, extorting money from gambling dens and saloons. He ultimately died in a duel with Luke Short, a saloon owner and former friend who refused to pay for Courtright’s so-called protection.

The tension between the Santee Sioux and U.S. settlers, exacerbated by famine and land encroachment in 1862, led to conflict under General John Pope. After the fighting, hundreds of Native Americans were captured and swiftly sentenced to death in military trials that lasted only about 10 minutes each. Although 303 were sentenced, President Abraham Lincoln, concerned about the implications of mass executions, approved the execution of only 38, making it the largest mass execution in U.S. history.

This event did not mark the end of harsh policies against Native Americans. Generals William Tecumseh Sherman and Philip Sheridan, applying their Civil War strategy of total warfare, ordered the destruction of entire Native American villages, including killing all inhabitants.

In remote mining camps, far from any governmental presence, miners often established their own systems of justice. They formed vigilance committees that assumed the roles of judge, jury, and executioner. Louise Clappe, a settler in 1851, described a mining camp trial where a man accused of stealing gold dust was tried, found guilty, and executed within hours, with his body displayed as a warning to others.

Furthermore, the aftermath of the Civil War contributed to the violence in the Wild West. Many veterans, skilled in weaponry but left with little else, moved west in search of new opportunities, often resolving disputes with guns. This era was marked by frequent shootouts, including the notable one between Wild Bill Hickok, a former Union soldier, and Dave Tutt, a former Confederate, which ended with Tutt’s death.

From the outside, Barbara Weaver seemed to have an idyllic life. At 30, she was a decade into her marriage with Eli, living with their five young children in the conservative, picturesque Amish community of Apple Creek, Ohio. But beneath the surface, her life was far from perfect. On June 2, 2009, this facade tragically fell apart when Barbara was found shot to death in her home, with suspicion quickly falling on her husband, Eli.

The Weavers were part of a conservative subgroup of the Old Order Amish, who strictly adhere to prohibitions against modern conveniences like cell phones, the Internet, and photography. They traveled by horse and buggy, living a life that seemed untouched by the modern world. However, as the investigation into Barbara’s death unfolded, it became clear that Eli was not as devoted to these traditions as he appeared.

Eli owned a secret cell phone and was active in an online chat room, where he referred to himself as “Amish Stud” and brazenly posted, “Who wants 2 do an Amish guy!” His digital persona was a stark contrast to his real-life image as a faithful Amish husband. This online activity led to several extramarital affairs.

To those who knew them, Barbara and Eli Weaver seemed to have a stable marriage and a strong network of friends and neighbors. Barbara was known for her friendly and sociable nature. “She was kind of laid back but super nice. A gentle soul,” recalled neighbor Mary Eicher, a Mennonite taxi driver who occasionally provided rides for the Amish, including Eli, who was seen as outgoing and charming.

However, the later years of their marriage were marked by increasing turmoil. Eli withheld money from Barbara, which her sister, Fannie Troyer, interpreted as a means of control rather than financial necessity. “Eli ran a gun store, and business was fine,” Fannie told the New York Post. “It wasn’t about the money—it was about control.” This financial withholding was part of a broader pattern of abusive behavior that reportedly extended to physical abuse, witnessed by their children. Barbara never reported these incidents, deterred by the community’s likely response asking what she had done to provoke such treatment.

The strain on their marriage was profound. Barbara expressed her distress in a letter to her counselor, writing, “Where did my friend, love, trustworthy husband go to? He hates me to the core.” Eli’s dissatisfaction with his life led him to leave his family and the church twice to live as “English,” the term the Amish use for non-Amish people. Both times, he returned within a few months, seeking forgiveness and reintegration into the community.

“Eli found that life outside was hard. He had to figure out how to make a living. I think he wasn’t mature enough to handle life and responsibilities and marriage,” noted Morris, who explored the complexities of this case in the book A Killing in Amish Country: Sex, Betrayal, and a Cold-blooded Murder.

Eli’s struggle to reconcile his desires with his responsibilities, his secret life clashing with his public persona, and the tragic outcome of these tensions culminated in a scenario that shocked both his community and the wider public. The stark contrast between the apparent serenity of Amish life and the dark undercurrents of control, betrayal, and murder in the Weaver household underscores the profound complexities and challenges hidden behind the facade of simplicity often associated with the Amish way of life.
Barbara Raber, a Mennonite taxi driver in the Apple Creek community, and Eli Weaver, a married Amish man, began an illicit affair after meeting in 2003. Over the years, their relationship deepened into something far darker. In the months leading up to June 2009, Eli Weaver began expressing his desire to kill his wife, Barbara. Although many people he mentioned this to didn’t take him seriously, Barbara Raber was different; she embraced the idea, leading them to plot the murder together starting in the fall of 2008.

Their planning included Raber performing 840 internet searches on poisoning methods. Text messages exchanged between Weaver and Raber reveal their sinister dialogue, discussing potential methods like poisoning Barbara’s food or blowing up their house. Despite Raber’s concern about the safety of the Weaver children in such scenarios, Eli chillingly responded that the “kids will go to heaven because they’re innocent,” showcasing his ruthless disregard. Ultimately, they decided to use a gun instead of poison or an explosion.

On the surface, one might wonder why Eli Weaver would choose murder over simply leaving his wife. According to his attorney, Andrew Hyde, leaving her would have led to Eli being shunned by the Amish community—a fate apparently worse than becoming a widower.

The tragic culmination of their plot occurred early in the morning on June 2, 2009. One of the Weaver children discovered Barbara dead and bloodied in her bed and ran to a neighbor’s house for help. Investigators determined she had been shot with a .410 shotgun. With money still present in the room, it was clear robbery wasn’t the motive.

At the time of the murder, Eli was conveniently away, fishing on Lake Erie with friends, having left home at 3 a.m. Suspicion quickly fell on Barbara Raber, especially as she had no alibi during the time of the murder. Raber later confessed to taking a gun from her husband’s cabinet and entering the Weaver home around 4:30 a.m. She claimed her intention was only to scare Barbara Weaver and that the gun discharged accidentally.

The legal unraveling began on June 10, when Eli confessed to conspiring with Raber to kill his wife. He struck a deal with the prosecution, pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit murder in exchange for testifying against Raber, who faced murder charges. During the trial that started in September 2009, Weaver claimed that he had coordinated with Raber about the murder plans, including leaving a basement door unlocked for her entry.

Raber initially claimed she entered the Weaver home but later recanted, insisting she was never there. The murder weapon was never found, and no physical evidence like fingerprints tied her to the scene. Her defense argued that Eli himself could have been the murderer, having potentially killed his wife before his fishing trip.

Despite the lack of physical evidence directly linking Raber to the crime scene, Eli Weaver’s detailed testimony about their plans and his claims of their meeting after the murder where Raber supposedly admitted to the act and asked about cleaning the gun played a crucial role in the trial. Raber was convicted and sentenced to 23 years to life in prison, while Eli received a 15-year to life sentence as part of his plea deal.

This murder shook the Apple Creek community deeply, being a rare instance of spousal homicide among the Amish, which has seen only three such cases in the past 250 years. In one of her final letters, Barbara Weaver reflected on her faith, echoing Christ’s words of forgiveness, a poignant reminder of her gentle spirit amidst the devastating betrayal and violence that ended her life.


When Weird Darkness returns… Hachishakusama, often referred to as the “Japanese Slender Man,” is a haunting figure from Japanese urban legends that rivals the terror of her American counterpart. While the Slender Man has gained a cult-like following and has even inspired real-life horror stories, Hachishakusama’s tale is equally spine-chilling and capable of keeping you up at night. Hachishakusama is just as terrifying as the infamous Slender Man, proving Japanese urban legends consistently manage to create scarier and more sinister versions of popular American tales. Up next.


In the world of urban legends, Japan’s tales often overshadow their Western counterparts in terror and mystery, and the legend of Hachishakusama exemplifies this perfectly. Known as the “Japanese Slender Man,” Hachishakusama brings a story so chilling it could haunt your dreams. The Slender Man, originating from internet folklore, has ingrained itself in real-world culture with a nearly cult-like fascination. So, the question arises: how terrifying can Hachishakusama really be in comparison?

Picture yourself as a young child, glancing out of your bedroom window only to see an 8-foot-tall woman staring back at you from the second floor. There’s an inherent horror in encountering a figure with human features that are grotesquely disproportionate to the norm, and Hachishakusama embodies this fear with her unnerving height. If the sight of such a towering figure wouldn’t make your knees weak, perhaps the eerie, deep, masculine voice she uses would. When she draws near, her victims hear her signature whisper in threes: “Po . . . Po . . . Po.” This haunting sound is a dire warning of her approach, leaving her prey virtually powerless.

Hachishakusama, much like the Slender Man, preys on the innocent. However, while Slender Man has been said to target both children and young adults, Hachishakusama exclusively hunts young children. It is speculated that she feeds off their youthful essence, which perhaps explains why she occasionally appears young herself. Her ability to primarily target children might also stem from their greater susceptibility to manipulation, a chilling tactic in her arsenal.

The legend became starkly real for one young boy who encountered Hachishakusama and reported the chilling experience to his grandparents. They reacted with understandable alarm and promptly performed a ritual to protect him. During this ritual, Hachishakusama attempted to trick the boy by mimicking his grandparents’ voices, beckoning him to let her in. If he had complied, he would have been kidnapped, never to be seen again. The next day, he recounted hearing their voices outside his door, although his grandparents confirmed they hadn’t spoken to him then.

Hachishakusama selects her victims seemingly at random, making any child in Japan a potential target. Once she sets her sights on a child, the outcome is grim unless she is stopped. Her method of stalking her prey until the moment is right to strike adds an extra layer of dread to her legend.

The attire of such ghostly entities often includes a long white dress, typically what the character wore at the time of a tragic, untimely death. Both Slender Man and Hachishakusama don such formal, albeit ghostly, attire, contributing to their spectral allure. There is something deeply unsettling yet fascinating about a well-dressed phantom, a distortion of our expectations of formality and decorum.

Escaping Hachishakusama is nearly impossible once she has chosen someone as her victim. However, there is a glimmer of hope through a specific ritual that the victim’s family can perform. This involves placing the victim in a sealed room with newspapers covering the windows and placing four bowls of salt in each corner and a Buddha statue in the center. The victim must spend the night in this setup, praying frequently. By morning, if the salt has turned black, it indicates that Hachishakusama was indeed lurking outside, and the ritual was necessary for protection. The ultimate safety measure involves the victim leaving Japan, with no option to safely return.

Adding to her terrifying aura is her long black hair, a common trope in horror cinema seen in films like The Grudge and The Ring. This feature often obscures the face, building suspense until a ghastly reveal shows the true horror beneath. Hachishakusama’s appearance—both elegant and evil, with her hair and dress—creates a lasting image of dread.

Interestingly, Hachishakusama might be considered an onryo, a vengeful spirit prominent in Japanese horror stories. Onryos are typically women who, wronged by loved ones in life, return with enhanced powers to exact revenge. Whether Hachishakusama is truly an onryo or not remains part of her mysterious allure, but her abilities to manipulate and instill fear certainly align with those of a vengeful spirit.

While the origin of Hachishakusama is murky, the details of her legend paint a vivid picture of a predator who uses both her appearance and supernatural abilities to lure and trap the most innocent of victims. Her story is a disturbing reminder of the dark, captivating power of folklore that crosses cultural boundaries, tapping into our deepest fears.



Thanks for listening! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me 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 “Church of the Undead” and a 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, authors, and sources I used in the episode notes.

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… Hebrews 11:1, 3 – “Faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. … By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.”

And a final thought… “Any man worth his salt will stick up for what he believes right, but it takes a slightly better man to acknowledge instantly and without reservation that he is in error.” – Andrew Jackson

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



Views: 23