“PATIENCE WORTH AND THE OUIJA BOARD” and 5 More Strange But True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: How did Pearl Curran, an ordinary St. Louis housewife, become the center of one of the greatest paranormal mysteries of all time? (Patience Worth And The Ouija Board) *** A home in India is grappling with an angry ghost that apparently has chosen to throw potatoes at it. (Terrifying Tater Tosser) *** It began with a blast the power of a nuclear bomb, lights filled the skies, a fireball the size of the moon streaked across the sky. But this wasn’t a UFO or anything paranormal or supernatural. This was all man-made – and it was only the beginning of something much more sinister that was planned. (The Japanese Death Cult’s Plan To Split The World In Two) *** John Hatfield could not stay out of trouble. Probably due to the fact that he kept making up false identifies for himself, and getting into trouble with those identities. His antics were so well known that later, a woman who created a falsehood about herself was accused of being an imposter just like him. We’ll look at both of their strange stories! (The Keswick Imposter, and the Fasting-Woman of Tutbury) *** Long before Sybil and the Three Faces of Eve, there was Doris Fischer and her case is still considered a classic. (Multiple Personality Doris) *** (Originally aired August 17, 2020)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Patience Worth and the Ouija Board” by Dr. Romeo Vitelli for Providentia: https://tinyurl.com/yybffe6z and Troy Taylor for American Hauntings: https://tinyurl.com/y3ma4gk5
“Terrifying Tater Tosser” posted at The Shillong Times: https://tinyurl.com/y3gnqhp2
“The Japanese Death Cult’s Plan To Split The World in Two” from Motherboard: https://tinyurl.com/9unt6b9
“The Keswick Imposter and the Fasting-Woman of Tutbury” by Geri Walton: https://tinyurl.com/y3fda3jh,https://tinyurl.com/y4fo7ov7
“Multiple Personality Doris” by Dr. Romeo Vitelli for Providentia: https://tinyurl.com/yxtq5ht6
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Paranormality Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
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Spiritualism was tremendously popular during the early years of the twentieth century with countless occult believers across most English speaking countries. Mediums like Eusapia Palladino and Helene Smith regularly conducted seances for the rich and not-so-rich alike and news of “spooky” happenings definitely sold newspapers. While Houdini’s anti-spiritualism crusade helped deflate spiritualist claims, there was still enough interest for ouija boards to be a common item in many homes.
Which brings us to Pearl Curran having a quiet tea with her mother and a family friend at her home in 1913. Pearl was reluctant about using the ouija board that the friend had brought to her home but, after some initial success with messages from someone on the other side calling themselves “Pat-C”, the three of them decided to keep trying. On July 8 of that year, they received the following message: “Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth my name. Wait, I would speak with thee. If thou shalt live, then so shall I. I make my bread at thy hearth. Good friends, let us be merrie. The time for work is past. Let the tabby drowse and blink her wisdom to the firelog.”
The “entity” in question identified herself as Patience Worth – and Pearl’s life, as well as the lives of her family, and everyone who believed in the paranormal, were about to change forever.
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…
A home in India is grappling with an angry ghost that apparently has chosen to throw potatoes at it. (Terrifying Tater Tosser)
It began with a blast the power of a nuclear bomb, lights filled the skies, a fireball the size of the moon streaked across the sky. But this wasn’t a UFO or anything paranormal or supernatural. This was all man-made – and it was only the beginning of something much more sinister that was planned. (The Japanese Death Cult’s Plan To Split The World In Two)
John Hatfield could not stay out of trouble. Probably due to the fact that he kept making up false identifies for himself, and getting into trouble with those identities. His antics were so well known that later, a woman who created a falsehood about herself was accused of being an imposter just like him. We’ll look at both of their strange stories! (The Keswick Imposter, and the Fasting-Woman of Tutbury)
How did Pearl Curran, an ordinary St. Louis housewife, become the center of one of the greatest paranormal mysteries of all time? (Patience Worth 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, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: PATIENCE WORTH AND THE OUIJA BOARD=====
Born Pearl Lenore Pollard in 1883, her childhood seemed normal enough. By all accounts, she was extremely sensitive about her appearance and wished that she were more attractive. While not a good student (who eventually dropped out of high school), she had a passion for singing. Pearl’s parents arranged for voice lessons and she eventually moved to Chicago to continue her voice training. To support herself, she worked in a music company and taught music herself. Whatever dreams Pearl had for a career as a singer or actress ended when she married John Howard Curran at the age of 24 and settled down to be a housewife in St. Louis, Missouri.
At the time, Pearl had no interest in the occult, other than a little dabbling with a Ouija board (not uncommon at the time). She played piano, never read much and had little education. She briefly thought of becoming an actress but gave that up when she married John.
Her marriage was as uneventful as her childhood had been. The Curran’s were not rich, but they did make a comfortable living. Pearl had a maid to take care of the household chores and she and her husband enjoyed going to restaurants and to the theater. They were a social couple and enjoyed meeting friends and playing cards with neighbors in the evening. They seldom read anything, outside of the daily newspaper and some of the periodicals of the day and never really had an opportunity to associate with well-educated writers or poets. They were happy though and content in their middle-class home with their close friends and acquaintances.
In the afternoons, while their husbands were at work, Pearl would often have tea with her mother and with a friend who lived nearby, a neighbor named Mrs. Hutchings. She believed that Ouija boards were a boring and silly pastime having seen the pointer spell out nothing but gibberish. Then, to the ladies surprise, the message on the board seemed to make sense. “Many moons ago I lived. Again I come. Patience Worth is my name,” it spelled out.
According to the spirit who called herself Patience Worth, she had lived in Dorsetshire, England in either 1649 or 1694 (the pointer included both dates) but even that information was difficult to obtain. Patience spoke in an archaic fashion, using words like “thee” and “thou” and sometimes refusing to answer their questions directly. When Mrs. Hutchings pushed for more information, the spirit first replied by saying “About me ye would know much. Yesterday is dead. Let thy mind rest as to the past.” Eventually though, the ladies would learn that Patience claimed to come to America, where she was murdered by Indians.
The initial contact with Patience Worth came through the Ouija board when Pearl and Mrs. Hutchings controlled it. But it was soon evident that Pearl was mainly responsible for the contact, for no matter who sat with her, the messages from Patience would come only with Pearl present.
Pearl was fascinated with the messages that they were receiving and began devoting more and more time to the Ouija board. Eventually though, the messages began coming so fast that no one could write them down and Pearl suddenly realized that she didn’t need the board anymore. The sentences were forming in her mind at the same time they were being spelled out on the board. She began to “dictate” the replies and messages from Patience to anyone who would write them. She would first employ a secretary, but later Pearl would record the words herself, using first a pencil and then a typewriter.
For the next 25 years, Patience Worth dictated a total of about 400,000 words. Her works were vast and consisted of not only her personal messages, but creative writings as well. She passed along nearly 5,000 poems, a play, many short works and several novels that were published to critical acclaim, supposedly written not by Pearl, but by Patience Worth.
People came from all over and the Curran’s, always gracious and unpretentious, welcomed visitors who wanted to witness the automatic writings sessions where Pearl received information from Patience. Authorities in the field of psychic investigation came, as well as people from all over the country who had begun to read and admire the writings attributed to Patience. The Curran’s never charged any admission to the house and all of the writing sessions were conducted with openness and candor. There were no trappings of Spiritualism here with darkened rooms and candles. Pearl would usually just sit in a brightly lit room with her notebook or typewriter and when the messages began to come to her, she would begin to write. The stories were filled with ancient languages, words and objects that had not been in use for hundreds of years and more. Things that there is no way that Pearl could have known about.
Pearl explained that as the words flowed into her head, she would feel a pressure and then scenes and images would appear to her. She would see the details of each scene. If two characters were talking along a road, she would see the roadway, the grass on either side of it and perhaps the landscape in the distance. If they spoke a foreign language, she would hear them speaking but above them, she would hear the voice of Patience as she interpreted the speech and indicated what part of the dialogue she wanted in the story. She would sometimes even see herself in the scenes, standing as an onlooker or moving between the characters. The experience was so sharp and so vivid that she became familiar with things that she could have never known about living in St. Louis. These items included lamps, jugs and cooking utensils used long ago in distant countries, types of clothing and jewelry worn by people in other times and the sounds and smells of places that she had never even heard of before.
On one occasion, Pearl was shown a small yellow bird sitting on a hedge. Patience wished to include it in a poem, but Pearl had no idea what type of bird it was. Finally, Patience became frustrated and said, “He who knoweth the hedgerows knoweth the yellow-hammer.” Pearl and her husband later consulted an old encyclopedia and saw that the yellow-hammer in her vision was not a type seen in America, but only in England.
In spite of the visions and odd experiences though, Pearl never went into a trance during the writing sessions, as a Spiritualist medium would have done. She understood the writing as it came and yet while calling out the words to the stenographer, she would smoke cigarettes, drink coffee and eat. She seemed always to be aware of her surroundings, no matter what else might be going on with her.
The controversy over Pearl Curran and her writing quickly polarized into two camps. On one side, the skeptics picked up on the various inconsistencies of her story. Not only was there no evidence that Patience Worth had ever existed, but at least one of the novels she wrote was set in Victorian England, long after Patience “lived”. On the other side, Pearl’s supporters stressed her limited education making it unlikely that she could have written everything on her own.
One researcher in particular who took an interest in Pearl’s case was Walter Franklin Prince (who had already made a name for himself through the Doris Fischer multiple personality case – which we will look at later in this episode). He first began studying Pearl Curran in 1926 and, after a thorough investigation, published The Case of Patience Worth in 1927. Prince described the case as representing “an unexpected display of literary genius, ability to carry on complex mental operations, together with apparent divination of other minds“. While he was ambivalent about whether Pearl Curran was actually “channeling” Patience, Prince wrote an article that was published in the 1926 issue of Scientific American titled The Riddle of Patience Worth. In the article, he specifically asked anyone with information that could related to the case to come forward. Nobody took him up on the offer.
Whatever reservations John Curran might have had about his wife’s link to a long-dead woman, he would keep careful records of the sessions until his death in 1922. Afterward, Pearl supported herself and her family through lecturing and financial help from friends but the sessions went on.
As time passed, Patience became tolerant but condescending of her host’s abilities. Patience often scorned Pearl, but never failed to show her kindness. She simply seemed to think that her human counterpart was slightly stupid and that only by perseverance was she able to make herself known, especially when Pearl failed to grasp the spellings and meanings of certain words. But they plodded on together, continuing to amass a great body of work until about 1922.
In this year, the connection between the two of them began to deteriorate, possibly due to changes in Pearl’s life and the fact that she had become pregnant for the first time at age 39. After her husband and her mother both died, the contact between Patience and Pearl became less and less often and eventually it died away completely. She received her final communication from Patience in November, 1937, a little more than a month before Pearl’s own death from pneumonia (which Patience reportedly predicted). While later mediums would claim to receive messages from Patience over the years (Pearl didn’t seem inclined to make contact herself), nobody would ever match the quality of the original writing.
But by this time, public interest in the mystery had faded, especially as no solution had ever been posed as to how the St. Louis housewife was accomplishing such remarkable feats. After the publication of several books and hundreds of poems, interest in Patience Worth vanished and cynicism replaced it. Debunkers accused Pearl of hiding her literary talent in order to exploit it in such a bizarre way and become famous. However, exhaustive studies have shown this to be highly unlikely, if not impossible. Scholars have analyzed Patience’s works and have found them to be accurate in historical detail and written in such a way that only someone with an intimate knowledge of the time could have created them.
Pearl Curran died in California on December 4, 1937. The St. Louis Globe-Democrat headlined her obituary with the words: “Patience Worth is Dead.” And whatever the secret of the mysterious “ghost writer”, it went to the grave with her.
So, what really happened in this case and why does it remain today as one of our great unsolved mysteries? Was there actually an entity speaking to Pearl from beyond the grave? Or could the writings have simply come from her unconscious mind?
No verification was ever made that Patience Worth actually lived in the 1600s and yet experts who studied Pearl Curran doubted that she could have produced the works attributed to the ghost on her own. She was a woman of limited education with no knowledge of the language used or the history and subject matter that was written of by the alleged Patience Worth. Pearl simply could not have created the works of literary quality that have become known as the works of her spiritual counterpart.
Although Patience Worth is still considered to be a genuine example of spirit writing by true believers, skeptics tend to regard the case as being an example of dissociation (if not an outright hoax). Although automatic writing has long been recognized as a clinical tool by Freudian psychoanalysis, its value has been hotly disputed by other clinicians. Research into automatic writing tends to be limited although the phenomenon has been linked to hypnosis and suggestibility. There have been more recent examples of literary works being produced through automatic writing but the case of Pearl Curran is still the most well-known of its kind.
So, what was it? What did happen here? Was it a true case of afterlife communication or the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on both the literary and paranormal communities? It’s unlikely that we will ever know for sure. In the meantime, ouija boards continue to be sold (Parker Brothers still owns the trademark) but they’re not as common as they used to be. Fledgling writers hoping to get published would probably be better off signing up for a good writing class.
Up next on Weird Darkness… John Hatfield could not stay out of trouble. Probably due to the fact that he kept making up false identifies for himself, and getting into trouble with those identities. His antics were so well known that later, a woman who created a falsehood about herself was accused of being an imposter just like him. We’ll look at both of their strange stories!
But first… As mentioned in the previous story, one researcher who took an interest in Pearl Curran’s case was Walter Franklin Prince who had already made a name for himself through the Doris Fischer multiple personality case. We’ll look at Doris Fischer’s case, up next.
STORY: MULTIPLE PERSONALITY DORIS=====
Long before Sybil and the Three Faces of Eve, there was Doris Fischer and her case is still considered a classic (although little-known these days). It was in 1910 when she first came to the attention of Walter Franklin Prince, then-rector at an Episcopal church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Prince, who was born in 1863, received degrees in theology at Yale and Drew Theological Seminary. He would go on to become a prominent psychic researcher and psychotherapist but it was the Doris Fischer case for which he was best known. When he met the twenty-one year old “Doris Fischer” in his congregation, she appeared to be an extremely unhappy and lonely individual who was prone to odd mood and behaviour shifts. She also seemed to experience bouts of amnesia in which she would forget what she had previously said or done.
While Prince initially diagnosed her as suffering from hysteria (a common diagnosis for women patients of the time), he carefully studied her and concluded that she matched the clinical description of what was then known as “multiple personality“. Over the years in which Prince followed the case, he came to identify at least five different personalities including “Margaret”- a child of about ten, “Sick Doris” who was a perpetual invalid, “Real Doris” whom Prince regarded as the core personality, “Sleeping Real Doris” and “Sleeping Margaret” who only seemed to emerge when Doris was in a hypnotic state. It was “Sleeping Margaret” who seemed to have the best insight into how Doris’ different personalities worked together and often helped Prince as he attempted to get to know each personality individually.
Through sessions with “Sleeping Margaret”, Prince was able to piece together some of Doris’ background. She was born in 1889 of German parents and her father was an alcoholic who frequently abused her. The possibility of sexual abuse was never raised (it was a taboo topic at the time) although it was never ruled out either. It was apparently in her early childhood that “Margaret” first emerged as a defense against the abuse and alternated with “Real Doris”. The third personality “Sick Doris” emerged after her mother’s death when she was sixteen years old. She reported a total amnesia surrounding the five-year period between her mother’s death and when she first began attending Prince’s church. “Sleeping Margaret” only emerged once Prince began treating Doris.
Gaining access to Doris became much easier after Prince and his wife formally adopted her as their daughter (not the usual clinical approach, I’ll admit). He published a massive 1300-page treatise on his prize patient in 1915 (he named her “Doris Fischer” in his publications although her real name after the adoption was Theodosia Prince). Prince would later publish another thousand-page treatise on the psychic experiments that he did with “Doris” (I mentioned that he was a psychic researcher) making this case the most well-documented example of multiple personality disorder on record. Over the years that he worked with Doris, Prince was able to reintegrate all of her personalities into “Real Doris” (although “Sleeping Margaret” still resurfaced at times whenever Doris/Theodosia was in hypnosis).
Multiple personality disorder (now known as Dissociative Identity Disorder) remains a controversial diagnosis, not to mention fairly rare these days. There are some researchers who are of the opinion that many reported cases are iatrogenic in nature (meaning the illness is actually caused by the physician in some way). In the Doris Fischer case, there was a considerable blurring of the relationship between Doris and her therapist. Not only did she become Prince’s adoptive daughter but she was also his prize patient (he often introduced visiting clinicians to “Sleeping Margaret”) and she was a test subject in different psychic experiments. A later clinician would report that “Doris’ love for her adopted father was no ordinary love. She loved him not merely as a devoted daughter, she adored him almost as her God, in that he had saved her from hell and had, one might almost say, given her a soul”. Did Prince’s expectations impose demand characteristics that shaped his adopted daughter’s reported symptoms? Given the current controversy over recovered memory and the potential impact of directed psychotherapy on suggestible subjects, the possibility seems all too real. Information concerning Doris/Theodosia’s later life tends to be scarce although she experienced a relapse following Prince’s death in 1934. Aside from the clinical report of the treatment that she received at that time, there seems to be nothing else available.
STORY: THE KESWICK IMPOSTER=====
John Hatfield was born in 1758 or 1759 at Mortram in Longdale, Cheshire. As a teenager he found himself employed as “a rider to a linen-draper in the north of England,” and, in this capacity, he met a young lady from a neighboring farm. The young lady had been brought up to believe the people she lived with were her parents, but the farmer and his wife were nothing more than guardians to her. In actuality, she was the “natural daughter of the British Army General, Lord Robert Manners, who was to receive a dower of 1,000l. if she married with her father’s approbation.” Hatfield discovered this and immediately paid his respects to the lady representing “himself as a young man of considerable expectations in the wholesale linen business.” When Hatfield met with Lord Manners, he also deceived him, for Manners “conceiving the young man to be what he represented himself, gave his consent at the first interview; and the day after the marriage … presented the bridegroom with a draft on his banker for £1500.”
Flush with cash, Hatfield soon busied himself living the high life in London, and, from the mid-1770s on, he was seen “perpetually at the coffee-houses in Covent-garden.” It was also during this time that Hatfield exaggerated his kinship and relationships with important people. His exaggerations were to such a degree, he acquired the title of “Lying Hatfield.” Eventually he squandered away the £1500 given him by Lord Manners, and with no way to continue his high life, Hatfield disappeared from London, abandoning his wife and three daughters.
After an absence of several years, Hatfield reappeared in London in 1782 but was imprisoned for a debt of 160l. He soon claimed to be related to Charles Manners, 4th Duke of Rutland, and was able to induce the Duke to send him 200l, which secured his release. Later, when the Duke became the lord-lieutenant of Ireland in 1784, Hatfield used his supposed relationship with the Duke to live for some time on credit, but ultimately found himself committed to Marshalsea, where the Duke once again paid his debts, but also temporarily sent him out of the country.
John Hatfield could not stay out of trouble. In April 1792 he misrepresented himself, which was discovered when he failed to pay a hotel bill at Scarborough and was arrested. He remained in Scarborough’s local gaol (jail) for seven to eight years, during which time a Devonshire lady, named Miss Nation, took pity on him. Perhaps, it had something to do with his good looks: ““His face was handsome, the shape of which, in his youth, was oval, his person genteel, his eyes blue, and his complexion fair.”
On September 13, 1800, Miss Nation “paid his debts, and, [supposedly] though she … [had] never … spoken to him till he quitted the gaol, married him the next morning.” He and his new wife then traveled to Dulverton in Somersetshire. Once again, as Hatfield had no means to support himself or his new wife, he relied on fraud and deceit to acquire both money and credit. Hatfield soon returned to London, but this time when he arrived, he arrived in magnificent style. Unfortunately, just as he had done before, Hatfield spent every shilling and when pressed by creditors to pay his bills, he used a tried and true strategy: he abandoned his second wife and two children.
The same year that Madame Tussaud left Paris for London was the same year that Hatfield arrived at Keswick in Cumberland under the assumed name of Honorable Alexander August Hope, M.P. for Linlithgow, brother of the Earl of Hopetoun. To help alleviate suspicions Hatfield was who he said he was, he offered forged letters attesting to the fact. He also quickly made some beneficial acquaintances in and around Keswick. In addition. he made a fortunate acquaintance with a Liverpool gentleman named Crump, whose name and credit he employed as needed. The Tamworth Herald described Hatfield’s appearance at Buttermere:
“One fine morning … a handsome travelling carriage rattles up to the inn-door, and out steps a fine gentleman in the breeches and boots of the period. His powdered hair … tied in a club behind. His chocolate fustian coat…open at the throat to reveal a finely laced white cravat. With smiles and bows, the beau announces himself … He spends the summer months partly at Keswick, partly at Buttermere … To young ladies his nice combination of deference and presumption was irresistible; their mothers listened eagerly to the … references to his estates in Derbyshire and Cheshire and his ancient lineage; the martial envy of the men was stirred by stories of his exploits in the American War; desperate duels in France, travels in Egypt, Turkey, and Italy.”
His exquisite manners, fine dress, and station in life attracted the attention of Mary Robinson, also known as the “Buttermere Beauty” or “Maid of Buttermere.” The daughter of the innkeeper of Fish Inn, Mary quickly became enamored with Hatfield as much as Hatfield was enamored with her money. On 2 October 1802, John Hatfield carried off the “flower the mountains” when he married Mary at Lorton Church. Newspapers announced the marriage, and it was at that point that certain community members learned the real Colonel Hope was living in Vienna. Before Hatfield could be arrested for being an impostor, he escaped, but he was soon apprehended at a village sixteen miles from Swansea.
Ultimately, John Hatfield, became known as “The Keswick Impostor.” He was charged with three indictments for forgery, found guilty, and sentenced to hang on 13 September 1803. The Buttermere Beauty returned to her “parents at … Fish Inn and married a respectable, God-fearing farmer of Caldbeck.” Newspaper publicized the doomed romance between Mary and Hatfield, and, for many years after: “‘The Beauty of Buttermere,’ became an object of interest to all England: dramas and melo-dramas were produced in the London theatres … and … shoals of tourists crowded to the secluded Lake and the little homely cabaret, which had been the scene of her brief romance.”
STORY: THE FASTING-WOMAN OF TURBURY=====
Ann Moore became famous as the “fasting-woman of Tutbury.” That was because she claimed that from 1807 to 1813, she ate nothing at all. Of course, such a claim was ludicrous and eventually her claims were proven to be a hoax and she was declared an impostor, just like the Keswick impostor John Hatfield.
Ann Moore’s story begins with her birth on 31 October 1761, the same year that Eliza de Feuillide and Madame Tussaud were born. Moore’s parents were a day-laborer named Thomas Pegg and a midwife named Mary. Moore was born in Rosliston, Derbyshire, a small village and civil parish in South Derbyshire, England close to the county boundaries of Leicestershire and Staffordshire.
In 1788, when Moore was seventeen, she tricked a Derbyshire farm servant by the name of Thomas Moore into marrying her when she declared she was pregnant with his child. (Some people said it was James Moore, but Ann Moore claimed his name was Thomas.) Regardless, Thomas, which is what we will call him, soon deserted her and she was forced to survive by working as housekeeper to a widowed farmer in the market town of Aston about fifteen miles from Tutbury. She became pregnant by the farmer and gave birth to two children, a girl and boy.
Around 1800, the same year that French artist Jacques-Louis David undertook a commission to paint Madame Récamier, Ann Moore left Aston and made her way to Tutbury, located in Staffordshire, England, in the ownership of the Duchy of Lancaster. Moore had by this time converted to Calvinism and in Tutbury she began to work as a cotton beater pounding cotton with sticks. Times were tough, wages were low, and she was suffering from dire poverty. To survive, she was forced to subsist on the minimum amount of food necessary to sustain human life.
Tutbury locals soon learned that she was surviving on a meager amount and they were also astonished to learn that she was conducting long fasts, which eventually helped her undertake the deception that she did not require food to survive. By November 1806 she had gained notoriety for her non-eating habits and it was around this time that reports surfaced that she had lost all desire to eat. Six months later, she took to her bed and then on 20 May 1807 it was noted that she attempted to swallow a piece of biscuit but that she suffered such great pain she began to vomit blood. It was then reported:
“The constantly repeated assertion of Ann Moore was, that since the spring of 1807 she had not swallowed any kind of solid food, with the exception, once in the month of June following, of the inside of a few black currants; and that since the autumn of 1808 she had not swallowed any liquid whatsoever. … She also maintained that she could not swallow, … without danger of immediate suffocation; that she felt neither appetite nor thirst, and had no evacuations.”
Of course, there were people who did not believe her assertions that she could survive without food. She therefore offered to satisfy the public curiosity by submitting to be watched for a considerable time. In September 1808 she was therefore removed from her home to the house of the local grocer, a Mr. Jackson, where all Tutbury inhabitants were invited to watch her and ensure that she ate no food and drank no liquids.
An official investigation was then established in September 1808. It included a succession of four hour watches that were undertaken by the chief inhabitants of the district and was arranged to cover a period of sixteen days. During this period, bulletins recording her progress were published and posted, as was a list of the watchers. At the commencement of the ordeal Ann Moore was described as terribly worn and emaciated, but as it progressed, she “sensibly improved” in health and spirits. Details of Ann Moore’s undertaking were also reported in the pamphlets and according to the Dictionary of National Biography:
“One learned writer proved that she lived on air, another that the phenomenon was due to disease of the oesophagus, while a third was convinced that her condition was a manifestation of the supernatural power of God. Joanna Southcott declared that the advent of the fasting-woman presaged a three years’ famine in France.”
Robert Taylor and John Allen, two local doctors, submitted reports on Moore’s case to the Edinburgh Medical and Surgical Journal in November and December 1808. Their report was generally held to be conclusive evidence of Ann Moore’s veracity. Thus, for the next four years Ann Moore attracted crowds of visitors to Tutbury with many of these visitors making substantial donations that helped to support her.
Among the many visitors to see Anne Moore was Mary Howitt, the famous poet known to have written The Spider and the Fly. She saw her when she was a child and reported in her autobiography that her father told her that most people did not believe Ann Moore ate nothing but rather thought that she ate “very little.” Another visitor to see Ann Moore was Mr. Corn of Birmingham. He provided the following description of Moore in October 1811:
“Her person is rather about the common size; and the just proportions of her features evidently show the remains of a fine face. She seems naturally to possess a lively disposition, her understanding exceeds much the attainments usually made by women in her sphere of life. She is ready in conversation, of a religious turn of mind, … her voice is at times amazingly strong, but greatly weakened by the proxysms of pain. In her person she is clean and there is not offensive smell in her room.”
In the summer of 1812, Alexander Henderson, physician to the Westminster General Dispensary, wrote Examination of the imposture. It showed inconsistencies and absurdities in Moore’s statements. He also noted the curious parallel between her case and that of Anna M. Kinker, of Osnabrück, who likewise practiced a similar imposture in Germany in 1800. Like Ann Moore, Kinker claimed she had not eaten solid food, drunk liquid, and had not passed urine or any other matter for several years.
Henderson’s allegations soon subjected Ann Moore to another watch by Legh Richmond, the well-known evangelical rector of Turvey. Moore was supposedly reluctant to submit to a second watch, and she also objected to the introduction of a weighing machine. But having survived one watch, she must have believed she could survive another and so the second watch began on 21 April 1813 and continued until 30 April. However, this watch did not end in Moore’s favor as she was soon shown to be a fraud as indicated by the Chester Chronicle:
“The public are much indebted to the Gentlemen who instituted, and have with so much vigilance and impartiality conducted the Watch of Ann Moore, of Tutbury. They have detected an imposture, which has the extraordinary art and success, been carried on for some years; and which during that period, has obtained, in regard to the supported validity of the woman’s assertions, upon the article of abstinence from food, the sanction of a great number of medical, philosophical, and other visitors of every description from all parts of the kingdom. ― It is remarkable, that although many in various places had disbelieved the fact, yet those who have had the longest and minute opportunities of enquiring into the circumstantial evidence of the case, as it stood, till now, thought themselves justified in their assent to its integrity. The cloak is, however, now torn off from the imposition, and the question connected with the truth or falsehood of this singular mater, set at rest for ever.”
There were many things that indicated Moore was a fraud. For example, Moore’s daughter, Mary Laikin, admitted that her mother had always taken tea and that apples disappeared when set near Moore. Moreover, it was believed that Laikin had somehow smuggled food into her mother during the watch and it was also evident that Moore was able to survive for some time on small amounts of liquids.
Other proof included the fact that a gentleman was able to obtain the linen Moore wore. He reported that he found marks of “copious evacuations,” thereby destroying any idea that Moore was not eating and drinking. A gentleman who lived near Derby also wrote a letter dated 3 May 1813 with the following extract being taken from it:
“The Tutbury humbug is over. The watch on Mrs. Moore began on Wednesday, the 21st of April, at two o’clock in the afternoon and continued until the morning of Friday the 30th, when it was broken up at her own request. A machine had been provided for weighing her, and her average loss of weight was 16 ounces every 12 hours. Mr. Wright, a surgeon of Derby, sat with her for 8 hours preceding the time when the business was closed; and she must have sunk from inanimation had he not supplied her with vinegar and water to the extent of six or eight ounces, which she sucked from a moistened handkerchief. Such was her state when the watch left her, that the pulse was entirely gone at one wrist, and at the other was like a fine thread … It was thought that she could not survive, but in the course of Friday and Saturday she took some tea and a considerable quantity of milk, and she is now fast recovering. The state of her bed and clothes at the end of the watch I hear was quite shocking.”
Having been proven to be a fraud, Ann Moore confessed that she had long been practicing an “imposture” on the public. She then signed a declaration stating as much. It was witnessed on 4 May 1813 before Thomas Lister, one of his Majesty’s Justices of the Peace. Moore’s confession stated:
“I, Ann Moore, of Tutbury, humbly asking pardon of all persons whom I have attempted to deceive and impose upon, and above all with the most unfeigned sorrow and contrition imploring the Divine Mercy and Forgiveness of that God whom I have so greatly offended, do most solemnly declare, that I have occasionally taken sustenance for the last SIX Years.”
Many people were upset when they learned they had been duped by Moore the impostor. In response to her fraud and confession, the Liverpool Mercury reported:
“When we reflect upon the gross impositions which have been successfully practised upon the credulity of modern times, we must abate somewhat of that air of triumph in which we are apt to indulge, when we contrast the age in which we live with what are called the dark ages. Scarcely more than a century and a half has elapsed since Old Women were burnt for Witches … the temporary eclat which has successively attended the Virgula Divinatorin, or Devining Rod, the Cock-lane Ghost, Perkins’ Metallic Tractors, Dr. Graham’s Earth Bathing and Celestial Bed, Animal Magnetism, Magnetic Belts, Perpetual Motions, and an endless rariety of other successful humbugs, seems to shew that there has been a mere change of superstition … other Old Women or QUACKS have taken their place, with about as much pretension to the miraculous, as the withered bags, whose supernatural gifts were once so formidable to their neighbours, and often so fatal to themselves. These reflections are suggested by the recent detection of the celebrated Ann Moore, whose pretended abstinence from food for so many years has occupied a large share of the public attention, and almost given rise to a new theory of the Animal Economy.”
After the discovery of Moore’s imposture, it was reported that she had received as much as £400 from her visitors, although it was also noted that she and her daughter had carelessly spent most of it. Some newspapers also maintained that she was so unpopular in Tutbury, she was hissed and booed whenever she appeared in public. That resulted in her leaving the city with 250l., which she had deposited with the grocer Smith.
Ann Moore and her daughter then commenced to “ramble” about the countryside. They eventually ended up settling in Macclesfield, a market town and civil parish in Cheshire, England. The same time that Napoleon Bonaparte was moved to Longwood House on Saint Helena in December 1815 was the same time that Moore was accused of decamping with the wearing apparel and property of a woman with whom she had lodged. A search was made for Moore and her daughter, but authorities turned up nothing because the women had by then settled in Stockport, a large, major town in Greater Manchester, England.
Unfortunately for Moore, she was soon “discovered, apprehended, and committed, with her daughter Mary, to Chesterfield Castle, where they were … lodged the 22d of February, 1816.” (Although there are some reports that Ann Moore and her daughter were sent to the Knutsford house of correction for robbing their landlord.) After serving their time they were supposedly released from custody. A friend of Moore’s arrived and together Moore, her daughter, and that friend left for Manchester never to be heard of again.
When Weird Darkness returns… a home in India is grappling with an angry ghost that apparently has chosen to throw potatoes at it.
It began with a blast the power of a nuclear bomb, lights filled the skies, a fireball the size of the moon streaked across the sky. But this wasn’t a UFO or anything paranormal or supernatural. This was all man-made – and it was only the beginning of something much more sinister that was planned.
STORY: TERRIFYING TATER TOSSER=====
Stones, potatoes and assorted materials have been raining down on a house at Umtrew in Ri Bhoi district, India recently, but nobody knows from where or by whom.
Intrigued residents are now wondering whether this is paranormal activity.
Kingstar Thongni, who is the owner of the house, told The Shillong Times that the chain of events began on a Friday night in late July around 10 pm.
He said there was sound of knocking on the door of his parents’ house located within a few metres thrice.
Suspecting the handiwork of miscreants, the family informed the village leaders who then visited the house and started a search.
A few hours later, stones started landing at the front verandah of his house.
On seeing this, the villagers who were patrolling the area, started looking around to see if any miscreant was involved.
However, none was found prompting the villagers to think that there might be some kind of paranormal activity going on.
Since reporting it, Thongni informed that no one from the family has taken any material from the house as they were staying with their parents.
Strangely, an opened box of potatoes was found with a finger mark, which Thongni said was not theirs.
From that time, potatoes, stones as well as other household articles were being thrown inside and out of the house despite the presence of people who were on patrolling duty.
Even as this correspondent was talking to Thongni at around 9 pm, stones were thrown at the verandah of the house.
Thongni, who is father to two sons and a daughter, also informed that this was the first time that such an incident was witnessed. He has been staying in this house for six months now.
Villagers, who were also present at the spot, informed that they were witness to the incident.
They said that as some of them were inside the house, some were also outside, but the stones and other materials kept being thrown from the back of the house to the roof and the verandah and some of the stones even fell on them, but fortunately, no one was injured.
This is not the first time that such activity has been reported in Ri Bhoi district.
Earlier, a man at Pahamriniai village was also alleged to have had fights with a ghost at his house.
It is said that paranormal activities do occur though it cannot be proven scientifically.
Only those who face it can express how horrible it is to witness or face such things.
Old-timers say that if there are incidents similar to the one at Umtrew village, it is because the deities or some kind of supernatural force is moving through this route.
STORY: THE JAPANESE DEATH CULT’S PLAN TO SPLIT THE WORLD IN TWO=====
On May 28, 1993, a remote and dusty thicket of the Australian outback shook for hundreds of miles around. Deep reverberating explosions could be heard far and wide, the night sky illuminated by sporadic flashes of unexplained light—all this allegedly witnessed by heavy goods drivers, gold prospectors and nomads traipsing the bush. Three truckers even spoke to an Australian geologist about the lights, claiming that they’d seen a “moon-sized fireball” which flew “from south to north with the speed of a jet plane.” They said “it was yellow-orange in colour and had a small blue-white tail, which lit up the sky as it headed immediately west for Banjawarn station.”
The strange event registered just shy of 4.0 on the Richter scale. Its blast could be heard over a radius of 90 square miles. The Australian government later dismissed the mysterious temblor as “probably being natural in origin”. IRIS, the U.S. federal seismology agency, said that the Earth-shaking detonation was “170 times larger than the largest mining explosion ever recorded in that Australian region” and was proven to have the force of a nuclear bomb.
Some scientists speculated that it could’ve been a meteorite. But authorities found no signs of a crater as they searched for one via helicopter. Despite the fact that the epicentre of the ominous blast pointed in all directions to a remote research facility manned by Aum Shinrikyo, the notorious Japanese death-cult noted for its attempts at mining uranium and its grim obsession with alternative weapons technology, the whole event was eventually shrugged off and forgotten about.
That is until two years later, when Aum waged its most brutal and notorious attack to date.
On March 20, 1995, deadly sarin nerve gas was released on the subways of Tokyo via five trains. The stunt killed 13 people and harmed over 5,000 others in what is considered the worst act of terrorism in Japanese history. The caustic gas – a Nazi invention used to kill Jews – was pumped into plastic bags and dispersed by five men who pierced the sacks with their umbrellas while shuffling out of the tube. These men were all members of Aum Shinrikyo, whose ideology centers around preparing for a final nuclear skirmish with “The Powers That Be” as the end of days approach.
Those behind the gassing weren’t your average brainwashed cultists, though. These men all held professional qualifications that would hang prestigiously on any office wall. Among their ranks were a senior medical doctor and four graduated physicists—one of whom even finished with honors and a Master’s degree. They had the whole thing planned to a T, with getaway drivers and maps detailing their poisoning route. Most of the accused were eventually caught and hung for their crimes.
But the oddball leader of the cult, Shoko Asahara, seems to have slipped through the cracks. Asahara was likewise condemned to being hanged, only the guy has mysteriously vanished within the Japanese prison system. There’s no clear evidence confirming he’s ever kicked the gallows, or not, because Japanese authorities say he’s alive. Yet his execution date passed years ago. What’s certain, though, is that Asahara founded the cult in 1984 on a mixed bag of beliefs, which he deemed “The Supreme Truth”. He also believed he was a reincarnation of the Hindu god Shiva. And as commander of the sarin gas attacks, his aim was to throw authorities into chaos, hoping it’d hinder their snowballing investigations into the cult.
The group, now known as Aleph, is said to have over 50,000 members worldwide. They’ve kidnapped and murdered an anti-cult lawyer and his family for speaking out against them. They even have a lavish commune at the base of Mount Fuji. In 1990, members of the cult were convicted of murder after injecting toxins into the neck of an escapee’s brother at the mountainside compound.
The ruthless Aum Shinrikyo was back in the news when a senior member turned himself in on New Year’s Eve. He’d been on the run for 17 years. And so there he sat, guilty in the dock, trying to prove he wasn’t too deeply involved with this insane cult by making strange faces and growling noises at the jury. By June, two more at-large Aum members were arrested – then one more, believed to have been a driver in the tube attacks and reportedly the “last remaining Aum member”, was caught.
But at the time, rumors were circulating on the dark web that diehard Aum Shinrikyo followers were reforming to fight off whatever evil was headed our way come late December 2012. They were only rumors, but some saw the Mayan prophecies and were convinced the world was visibly slipping into a state of imminent collapse at the time. The thought of Aum Shinrikyo starting a nuclear war to combat the unlikely apocalypse is terrifying. Especially if you look at the group’s previous history. They’ve been investigated by the CIA for trying to buy nuclear warheads, and it’s even said that they had at one point infiltrated the Kremlin—you’d be hardpressed to wholly ignore what could’ve been the Aum’s biggest and most terrifying accomplishment to date: a Tesla death ray potentially capable of causing ground shaking knells not unlike a severe earthquake. It sounds a bit ridiculous, sure. But that brings us back to the 3.9 Richter-scale explosion out in the Australia outback.
The bizarre cult came to be after the almost blind Shoko Asahara took a trip to the Himalayan Mountains and found “enlightenment” at high altitude. The doctrine for Aum Shinrikyo followed: an amalgamation of Hindu and Buddhist spirituality beliefs, Bible scriptures and Nostradamus-like endtimes predictions. Asahara claimed he could save his followers when the end of the world strikes, and that he could teach them the art of levitation. He even offered up his blood and bathwater for them to drink—for a price, of course. Somehow, the cult gained a huge following and earned itself a cut-throat reputation after its ranks began murdering anyone who attempted to leave or argued with their beliefs.
As Aum’s following intensified, so did their plundered finances. And shortly after a failed attempt at dispersing botulinum bacteria (the most powerful neurotoxin on earth, which is injected regularly into the faces of rich housewives in the form of botox) from their main offices in Japan in 1993, they decided to pack up and head for Australia.
With a collective fortune then reported to be around $1 billion, Aum Shinrikyo used some spare change to purchase 500,000 acres of land in a desolate part of Western Australia called Banjawan. So now, with a totally isolated plot the size of London situated in the wild outback of Oz to play around with, the doomsday cult members began transporting hulking gear into the country. The imported items included a JCB mechanical digger, mining equipment, an underground excavating machine, huge electric generators, gas masks, respiratory devices and manual quarrying equipment. The self-proclaimed alchemists also attempted to import lethal chemicals—substances like hydrochloric acid, sodium sulphate and ammonium water. Some of these were labelled falsely as harmless liquids and confiscated by Australian Customs on the way in.
The Australian police filed a report at the time stating that the travelling cult members as a collective paid $20,000 in extra fees for their lethal baggage. But despite the would-be tip off, Aum members were allowed to move into Banjawan, where they set up a “research facility”. Staff at this nerve-gas producing, uranium-mining laboratory are said to have not only represented highly educated and unhinged cult members, but also included two recently resigned Soviet nuclear scientists.
To say that a 50,000-strong Japanese doomsday cult bent on stockpiling weapons for the Four Horsemen’s arrival; with privately-owned land the size of a major city; hundreds of millions of dollars; a pair of Soviet scientists in tow; an unrelenting desire to spur death and destruction; and what would become a deep understanding of Tesla weaponry, worked with Soviet professors on their rural Australian experiments, may at first sound like something spouted from lips of the lizard-fearing David Icke. But sure enough, in 1992 Asahara was pictured rubbing shoulders with Oleg Lobov. Lobov was one of Boris Yeltsin’s closest confidantes, and the chairman of the Russia-Japan College.
This hardly proves the theory. But the cult’s trip to the Yugosphere before their Australian outing flags up some interesting information—as does the fact that the CIA later discovered they’d been trying to buy nuclear warheads from the Russians.
It was reported by the New York Times in 1997 that a collective of Aum Shinrikyo members were sent to former Yugoslavia in 1992 to study the life and works of the seismic weapons expert, AC-current discoverer, scientist and lightning provocateur, Nikola Tesla. The cult members poured over Tesla’s thesis and researched many of his electromagnetic weapon theories, possibly with the aim to learn how to create them and stockpile them for their own armoury.
Their interest in plasma, earthquake and weather altering weaponry became so serious that the U.S. Senate and Air Force slyly launched an investigation into the cult. As a representative of the International Tesla Society told the investigators: “Aum’s interest focused on Tesla’s experiments with resonating frequencies, in connection with artificially creating earthquakes.” They also tried to get hold of patents to some of Tesla’s inventions, contraptions that the man himself stated could “split the world in two”.
After this, of course, the U.S. Senate and the CIA properly delved into the group’s Australian antics. A full investigation was launched, the true evidence of which will probably never see the light of day unless someone like Wikileaks manages to unearth the secret documents. The whole thing then just conveniently drifted into the grey areas of tinfoil-hatted folklore.
So for now, at least, we’re left with more questions than answers. Is Shoko Asahara still alive? Did his singular cult in fact create (and test!) something akin to Tesla’s notorious death ray at an abandoned sheep station in the Australian outback? I don’t know. But you just cannot make this stuff up. Join the dots with an open mind and, well, the whole awful thing is plausible. There is a distinct possibility that Aum Shinrikyo were the first, and so far the only people to have ever created and tested a non-government-sanctioned nuclear weapon.
Think about it. They have tens of thousands of members worldwide. They’ve had university trained physicists pop what were essentially giant nerve-agent balloons on Tokyo subways, killing more than a dozen and harming untold thousands of others, all to roadblock the hounds. They have around $1 billion in their bank account and have evident links with a once despotic government. If there was ever the perfect recipe for a cult procuring killer, earthquaking Tesla weaponry, this was surely it.
Fortunately, they were all focused on the Mayan end of the world in 2012. Let’s hope there’s no plan-B in the works, because no amount of doomsday prepping will protect anyone from a makeshift Tesla tractor beam tearing through your apocalypse shelter.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“Patience Worth and the Ouija Board” by Dr. Romeo Vitelli for Providentia and Troy Taylor for American Hauntings
“Terrifying Tater Tosser” posted at The Shillong Times
“The Japanese Death Cult’s Plan To Split The World in Two” from Motherboard
“The Keswick Imposter and the Fasting-Woman of Tutbury” by Geri Walton
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… “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” — John 3:20-21
And a final thought… “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.