“PENNHURST: THE LIVING DEAD ASYLUM” and More Freaky True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
Find Weird Darkness wherever you listen to podcasts: https://weirddarkness.com/listen. #paranormal #truecrime #weirdhistory #ghoststory #horrorstory #cryptid #trueparanormal #truestory
Listen to ““PENNHURST: THE LIVING DEAD ASYLUM” and More Freaky True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: We all love cute pet photos – so often those photos almost make our furry friends look human – even smiling in some cases. But one particular type photo being shared via email – a photo of a smiling dog – would never be described as cute, as it drives some people literally insane. Is it real, or just another cyber-located urban legend? (Smile.Dog) *** Being kidnapped by gypsies is a somewhat negative stereotype towards those who truly live the lifestyle. They don’t typically go out of their way to snatch people away… but in one particular circumstance it truly did happen – and it created an incredibly strange tale. (Kidnapped By Gypsies) *** Albert Coe’s story sounds more like a Stephen Spielberg film as opposed to a true story. But Coe insists it really did happen – that he saved the life of an extraterrestrial – and it resulted in them becoming lifelong friends. (I Saved E.T.’s Life) *** Pennhurst Asylum was shuttered in 1987 – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any souls still living there. (The Living Dead Asylum)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Smile Dog” from TheScareChamber.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3rxbtb3t
“I Saved E.T.’s Life” by T. R. Swartz for SpectralVision.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/aw2467d4
“Kidnapped By Gypsies” from Strange Company: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3rdvmarz
“The Living Dead Asylum” by Elisabeth Tilstra for The Line Up: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/55f8ftwf
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library. Background music provided by Alibi Music Library, EpidemicSound and/or StoryBlocks with paid license. Music from Shadows Symphony (https://tinyurl.com/yyrv987t), Midnight Syndicate (http://amzn.to/2BYCoXZ), Kevin MacLeod (https://tinyurl.com/y2v7fgbu), Tony Longworth (https://tinyurl.com/y2nhnbt7), and Nicolas Gasparini (https://tinyurl.com/lnqpfs8) is used with permission of the artists.
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
(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
Weird Darkness®, Weird Darkness© 2022
= = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =
If you played “IDENTIFY THE IMPOSTER” in the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook Group for this episode of the podcast, the story title that was a hoax and is not one of the stories tonight is: “Me And My Shadow”.
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…
We all love cute pet photos – so often those photos almost make our furry friends look human – even smiling in some cases. But one particular type of photo being shared via email – a photo of a smiling dog – would never be described as cute, as it drives some people literally insane. Is it real, or just another cyber-located urban legend?
Being kidnapped by gypsies is a somewhat negative stereotype towards those who truly live the lifestyle. They don’t typically go out of their way to snatch people away… but in one particular circumstance it truly did happen – and it created an incredibly strange tale.
Pennhurst Asylum was shuttered in 1987 – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any souls still living there.
But first… Albert Coe’s story sounds more like a Stephen Spielberg film as opposed to a true story. But Coe insists it really did happen – that he saved the life of an extraterrestrial – and it resulted in them becoming lifelong friends. We begin with that story.
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to 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: I SAVED E.T.’s LIFE=====
The modern era of UFO contactees is most often said to have begun in the late 1940s when George Adamski encountered Orthon, a blond-haired, blue-eyed Nordic-looking entity, in the California desert. Adamski would go on to make a career writing and lecturing about the aliens with whom he was “in contact,” thus the term “contactees.”
But in a recent repackaging of a book about another classic contactee case, called “Starfall: I Saved the Life of a Space Alien,” publisher Timothy Green Beckley has pushed the beginnings of the contactee phenomenon back to more than two decades prior to Adamski, to 1920, to be exact, and offers the story of the very first contactee, one Albert Coe. Coe writes about his experiences in a first-person, autobiographical manner, finally revealing what he had promised his alien friend he would keep secret.
“The author’s experience has been lost to time and space,” Beckley explains, “with Coe having passed away several decades ago. But we are determined to provide a legacy for him. This is his story. His cosmic adventure began when he was enjoying some fishing in a remote section of the Canadian woods. He happened to stumble across an alien in distress with a very badly injured leg.”
Coe himself writes that, “I was climbing up the side of an outcropping of rocks. Near the top, I heard a muffled cry for help. I looked around, but could see no one, for the area was thickly overgrown. So I climbed up over the edge and let out a yell. Slightly to the right and ahead of me came an answer: ‘Oh, help, help me.’”
Within minutes, Coe came face-to-face with an alien who looked as human as any one of us. The alleged alien was called “Zret,” a reworking of the letters in “Mister X” spelled backwards and shortened. The alien was close to death and extremely grateful to be lifted out of the narrowing crevice in which he had been trapped. Coe told the alien he was canoeing in the area with a friend and planned to rejoin him soon.
Zret told Coe that he was not himself canoeing but had come to the area in a plane, which was parked in a clearing three or four hundred yards downstream. When Coe offered to help Zret go back to his plane, the offer was declined. Zret finally gave in and agreed to have Coe help him, but on the condition that Coe promised not to divulge to anyone, not even his fishing buddy, anything that had taken place or whatever he might see.
Zret then told Coe a complete fabrication, saying his father had developed a new kind of plane that was still in the experimental stage and highly secret. As sort of a test, Zret’s father had permitted him to use the plane for this fishing trip. With Coe half-supporting and half-carrying Zret over some rough spots, they finally made their way to a small clearing.
“The clearing was not more than seventy or eighty feet wide,” Coe writes, “and near its center stood his ‘plane.’ I had been trying to figure out how to get a plane in or out of there, without hitting a tree or protruding rocks. What secret gimmick could launch one without a runway? I had fully expected to see some type of conventional aircraft, and the reason for the reluctance in my accompanying him became crystal clear, for what I was looking at astounded me!
“A round silver disc, about twenty feet in diameter, was standing on three legs,” he continues, “in the form of a tripod, without propeller, engine, wings or fuselage. He said, ‘Surprised?’ That wasn’t actually the word for it, but I did not press him with questions, realizing he was suffering a great deal of pain.”
Zret then boards the ship. It lifted a few feet above the ground and paused with a slight fluttering and then swiftly rose with effortless ease and was gone. Coe headed back to camp to join his friend. He was left with an uneasy feeling, of witnessing something that did not actually exist, an impression of disconnected sequences only found in dreams.
During the fishing trip rescue incident, Zret had asked Coe for his name and address. Six months later, Coe received a letter from Zret inviting him to lunch. Thus began a lifelong friendship between Coe and Zret in which the alien answered Coe’s numerous questions and provided him with an alien’s perspective on mankind and our struggle with life on Earth.
For example, Coe asked Zret about the nature and reality of God.
“The glimmerings of present religious beliefs or philosophies on your planet,” Zret told him, “stretch into its dim, unrecorded mists of 10,000 years but did not become an obsession of the mind until about 8800 years ago. But its fragmentary principles were nurtured on greed, fear and a lack of complete understanding that eventually developed the mental hybrid which has given life to the millions of gods, totems, images and charms.”
Each of the myriad groupings of men contributed an imaginative piece of this mysterious puzzle of creation and the personification of energy, as godhead, to which he endowed his own exclusive emotion of love and its opposite. Mankind attempted to control his environment through a cajoling or appeasement of these fearful and incomprehensible forces of nature, in the supplication of prayer or ritual of sacrifice.
Each tribe or race created its own “True God” or complex of “True Gods,” and although they all worshipped the same true essence in the Deity, selfishness led to the narrow-minded chaos of intolerance and brutality as each sect has fought to defend or impose on others its own conception of this divinity.
According to Zret, Christian doctrine combines several branches from earlier cosmologies, notably Magi, Egyptian, Babylonian and Hebrew, along with the findings of later Greek philosophers in their diligent search for the primal stuff from which everything is made.
Zret seemed to foretell our present struggles with global warming and ecological pollution.
“I cannot but wonder,” he said, “how long this heritage of beauty that nature so lavishly entrusted to the custody of Earthmen will endure. I have watched the green mantles of her hills and forests converted into the green of dollar bills, her sparking waters thoughtlessly desecrated by pollution of population and industry, because it is a convenient and ‘economical’ means of disposal, the birds and magnificence of her wildlife on land and in the sea decimated for profit or sport.”
Zret ponders the possibility that nature, in bringing forth man, may have created one of the greater potentials of destructive force in the universe, if sadistic motivation is coupled to mental genius.
Coe was also told of an early pioneering flight to Planet Earth that Zret’s ancient ancestors had made. At one point, shortly after landing, Zret’s people met a group of six Earth children.
“They came forward slowly, hesitantly” Zret recounted, “with several backward glances. Six small, light blue-skinned female children, with brown eyes and straight black hair. All were naked and, although they were very cautious, they seemed a bit more curious than frightened, like a little flock of birds ready to take wing at the first sign of danger.”
Curiosity must have collectively outweighed their fear because shortly one hundred and thirty men, women and children came out of the woods, all of them blue-skinned and scantily clad. Once it was established that both the aliens and the Earthmen had friendly intentions toward one another, the aliens spent the next two weeks with the primitives, developing a kind of sign language that permitted them to communicate.
The primitives were basically nomads without any basic code of law, merely the rule of right by might, just as the more powerful bull of the animals led his herd. There was no religion, but they lived in constant fear of spirits. And everything had a spirit, with very little differential between the living and the dead.
Their perception of the world wavered between reality and hallucination. Due to negative thinking, their sleep was plagued with dreams and nightmares. The swift lunge of the animal, the hiss of the snake, the howling winds and storms, falling trees and rocks to crush them and the agonizing screams of dying comrades filled their nights. They actually gave more credence to the so-called spirit world than to reality, for the objective was something with which they could cope.
The Earth people held the craft of Zret’s ancestors in awe and wonder and would touch it each time they passed it.
“We tried to explain that we had come from one of the stars in the sky,” Zret told Coe, “and this completely mystified them. But they did consider us all the good spirits rolled into one. It came time to move on and they were very reluctant for us to leave. But we told them to watch the sky, for we would return with many of our people to teach and to free them from fear, strife, and want.”
Up next… We all love cute pet photos – so often those photos almost make our furry friends look human – even smiling in some cases. But one particular type photo being shared via email – a photo of a smiling dog – would never be described as cute, as it drives some people literally insane. Is it real, or just another cyber-located urban legend?
Plus… Being kidnapped by gypsies is a somewhat negative stereotype towards those who truly live the lifestyle. They don’t typically go out of their way to snatch people away… but in one particular circumstance it truly did happen – and it created an incredibly strange tale. Those stories and more coming up on Weird Darkness.
STORY: SMILE DOG=====
How many people can resist looking at a picture of a cute dog? I can’t think of any, even if you’re not a dog person, I’m guessing their pictures still make you go, “aww.” I think it’s safe to say that if you got an email with the subject “smile” you’d probably open it, especially if you knew who it was from. The email has a short message, and an attachment – smile.jpg.
Opening the picture, it’s just a dog, well – sort of. It looks like a Siberian husky, but its mouth is wrong. The dog has a wide grin, featuring two rows of very white, very sharp, and very human-looking teeth.
While still a college student, a man known as “Mr. L” was interested in the story. He had heard about Smile.jpg, (also known as Smile.dog) when he was still in high school. Now, in college, his interest was sparked once again. You see, Mr. L was an amateur writer, interested in gathering information for college assignments, and possibly some pieces of fiction.
In the story, people’s reaction to the image is one of contempt. The image is considered truly ridiculous. Some people even refuse to acknowledge the existence of the photo, whether out of fear or disbelief is unknown. Regardless, according to the story, a woman by the name of “Mary E.” had encountered the image and though it is believed that at least 400 people had seen the image, she was the only one to ever openly speak about it. The rest remained anonymous, or worse – dead.
He had to interview her.
Alas, the interview never happened though. When he showed up at her home, she locked herself in her bedroom and refused to come out.
About a year later, Mr. L received an email from Mary. In this email was an attachment, “Smile.jpg.”
So, what is Smile.jpg? Well, Smile.jpg is supposedly a haunted image, dating back to the beginnings of the internet. It is believed that those who look upon it are driven insane. The image appears innocent enough. As mentioned before, the dog, or dog-like creature, appears to be a Siberian husky with a wide grin containing two sets of very white, very straight, very sharp, and very human-looking teeth. But that’s not all that’s in the image. The dog is illuminated by a camera flash. The room is dim/dark, and the only detail that can be seen is a human hand, reaching out. The hand is empty but is described as “beckoning.”
Not a single description of the photo has been given immediately after viewing it, however the account that is given is a recollection from memory. All the victims have a similar, if not same, description.
The image, though it may have only been looked upon once, and possibly only briefly, remains in the viewers mind, making them see it almost constantly. It is believed that there is a correlation between seeing this image and epileptic seizures, however the causation is not yet understood.
Since Mary’s experience, others have seen the picture, and have spoken out. Not only do they see the image in their minds eye, but they believe they’ve been visited by the dog as well. When they sleep, and dream, they are subjected to the dog, listening while it tells them that the only relief they will ever get is if they “spread the word.” Not long after these dreams, the person receives a piece of mail, containing removable media, which contains another copy of the Smile.jpg file. The mail has no return address.
Smile Dog is a patient creature, waiting, wearing down its victims until they give in and give him what he wants. Once they do, he backs off and leaves them alone, though some accounts claim that he is capable of murder and dragging their souls to Hell.
Now, to the truth of it all. Smile.jpg is not real – at least so far as we know. It is a Creepypasta, and this author has yet to discover the original author of the story.
I first met in person with Mary E. in the summer of 2007. I had arranged with her husband of fifteen years, Terence, to see her for an interview. Mary had initially agreed, since I was not a newsman but rather an amateur writer gathering information for a few early college assignments and, if all went according to plan, some pieces of fiction. We scheduled the interview for a particular weekend when I was in Chicago on unrelated business, but at the last moment Mary changed her mind and locked herself in the couple’s bedroom, refusing to meet with me. For half an hour I sat with Terence as we camped outside the bedroom door, I listening and taking notes while he attempted fruitlessly to calm his wife.
The things Mary said made little sense but fit with the pattern I was expecting: though I could not see her, I could tell from her voice that she was crying, and more often than not her objections to speaking with me centered around an incoherent diatribe on her dreams — her nightmares. Terence apologized profusely when we ceased the exercise, and I did my best to take it in stride; recall that I wasn’t a reporter in search of a story, but merely a curious young man in search of information. Besides, I thought at the time, I could perhaps find another, similar case if I put my mind and resources to it.
Mary E. was the sysop for a small Chicago-based Bulletin Board System in 1992 when she first encountered smile.jpg and her life changed forever. She and Terence had been married for only five months. Mary was one of an estimated 400 people who saw the image when it was posted as a hyperlink on the BBS, though she is the only one who has spoken openly about the experience. The rest have remained anonymous, or are perhaps dead.
In 2005, when I was only in tenth grade, smile.jpg was first brought to my attention by my burgeoning interest in web-based phenomena; Mary was the most often cited victim of what is sometimes referred to as “Smile.dog”, the being smile.jpg is reputed to display. What caught my interest (other than the obvious macabre elements of the cyber-legend and my proclivity toward such things) was the sheer lack of information, usually to the point that people don’t believe it even exists other than as a rumor or hoax.
It is unique because, though the entire phenomenon centers on a picture file, that file is nowhere to be found on the internet; certainly many photomanipulated simulacra litter the web, showing up with the most frequency on sites such as the imageboard 4chan, particularly the /x/-focused paranormal subboard. It is suspected these are fakes because they do not have the effect the true smile.jpg is believed to have, namely sudden onset temporal lobe epilepsy and acute anxiety.
This purported reaction in the viewer is one of the reasons the phantom-like smile.jpg is regarded with such disdain, since it is patently absurd, though depending on whom you ask the reluctance to acknowledge smile.jpg’s existence might be just as much out of fear as it is out of disbelief.
Neither smile.jpg nor Smile.dog is mentioned anywhere on Wikipedia, though the website features articles on such other, perhaps more scandalous shocksites as ****** (hello.jpg) or 2girls1cup; any attempt to create a page pertaining to smile.jpg is summarily deleted by any of the encyclopedia’s many admins.
Encounters with smile.jpg are the stuff of internet legend. Mary E.’s story is not unique; there are unverified rumors of smile.jpg showing up in the early days of Usenet and even one persistent tale that in 2002 a hacker flooded the forums of humor and satire website Something Awful with a deluge of Smile.dog pictures, rendering almost half the forum’s users at the time epileptic.
It is also said that in the mid-to-late 90s that smile.jpg circulated on usenet and as an attachment of a chain email with the subject line “SMILE!! GOD LOVES YOU!” Yet despite the huge exposure these stunts would generate, there are very few people who admit to having experienced any of them and no trace of the file or any link has ever been discovered.
Those who claim to have seen smile.jpg often weakly joke that they were far too busy to save a copy of the picture to their hard drive. However, all alleged victims offer the same description of the photo: A dog-like creature (usually described as appearing similar to a Siberian husky), illuminated by the flash of the camera, sits in a dim room, the only background detail that is visible being a human hand extending from the darkness near the left side of the frame. The hand is empty, but is usually described as “beckoning”. Of course, most attention is given to the dog (or dog-creature, as some victims are more certain than others about what they claim to have seen). The muzzle of the beast is reputedly split in a wide grin, revealing two rows of very white, very straight, very sharp, very human-looking teeth.
This is, of course, not a description given immediately after viewing the picture, but rather a recollection of the victims, who claim to have seen the picture endlessly repeated in their mind’s eye during the time they are, in reality, having epileptic fits. These fits are reported to continue indeterminably, often while the victims sleep, resulting in very vivid and disturbing nightmares. These may be treated with medication, with some more effective than others. According to Mr. L…
Mary E., I assumed, was not on effective medication. That was why after my visit to her apartment in 2007 I sent out feelers to several folklore- and urban legend-oriented newsgroups, websites, and mailing lists, hoping to find the name of a supposed victim of smile.jpg who felt more interested in talking about his experiences. For a time nothing happened and at length I forgot completely about my pursuits, since I had begun my freshman year of college and was quite busy. Mary contacted me via email, however, near the beginning of March 2008.
Subj: Last summer’s interview
Dear Mr. L.,
I am incredibly sorry about my behavior last summer when you came to interview me. I hope you understand that it was no fault of yours, but rather my own problems that led me to act out as I did. I realized that I could have handled the situation more decorously; however, I hope you will forgive me. At the time, I was afraid.
You see, for fifteen years I have been haunted by smile.jpg. Smile.dog comes to me in my sleep every night. I know that sounds silly, but it is true. There is an ineffable quality about my dreams, my nightmares, that makes them completely unlike any real dreams I have ever had. I do not move and do not speak. I simply look ahead, and the only thing ahead of me is the scene from that horrible picture. I see the beckoning hand, and I see Smile.dog. It talks to me.
It is not a dog, of course, though I am not quite sure what it really is. It tells me it will leave me alone if only I do as it asks. All I must do, it says, is “spread the word”. That is how it phrases its demands. And I know exactly what it means: it wants me to show it to someone else.
And I could. The week after my incident I received in the mail a manila envelope with no return address. Inside was only a 3 ½ -inch floppy diskette. Without having to check, I knew precisely what was on it.
I thought for a long time about my options. I could show it to a stranger, a coworker… I could even show it to Terence, as much as the idea disgusted me. And what would happen then? Well, if Smile.dog kept its word I could sleep. Yet if it lied, what would I do? And who was to say something worse would not come for me if I did as the creature asked?
So I did nothing for fifteen years, though I kept the diskette hidden amongst my things. Every night for fifteen years Smile.dog has come to me in my sleep and demanded that I spread the word. For fifteen years I have stood strong, though there have been hard times. Many of my fellow victims on the BBS board where I first encountered smile.jpg stopped posting; I heard some of them committed suicide. Others remained completely silent, simply disappearing off the face of the web. They are the ones I worry about the most.
I sincerely hope you will forgive me, Mr. L., but last summer when you contacted me and my husband about an interview I was near the breaking point. I decided I was going to give you the floppy diskette. I did not care if Smile.dog was lying or not, I wanted it to end. You were a stranger, someone I had no connection with, and I thought I would not feel sorrow when you took the diskette as part of your research and sealed your fate.
Before you arrived I realized what I was doing: was plotting to ruin your life. I could not stand the thought, and in fact I still cannot. I am ashamed, Mr. L., and I hope that this warning will dissuade you from further investigation of smile.jpg. You may in time encounter someone who is, if not weaker than I, then wholly more depraved, someone who will not hesitate to follow Smile.dog’s orders.
Stop while you are still whole.
Terence contacted me later that month with the news that his wife had killed herself. While cleaning up the various things she’d left behind, closing email accounts and the like, he happened upon the above message. He was a man in shambles; he wept as he told me to listen to his wife’s advice. He’d found the diskette, he revealed, and burned it until it was nothing but a stinking pile of blackened plastic. The part that most disturbed him, however, was how the diskette had hissed as it melted. Like some sort of animal, he said.
I will admit that I was a little uncertain about how to respond to this. At first I thought perhaps it was a joke, with the couple belatedly playing with the situation in order to get a rise out of me. A quick check of several Chicago newspapers’ online obituaries, however, proved that Mary E. was indeed dead. There was, of course, no mention of suicide in the article. I decided that, for a time at least, I would not further pursue the subject of smile.jpg, especially since I had finals coming up at the end of May.
But the world has odd ways of testing us. Almost a full year after I’d returned from my disastrous interview with Mary E., I received another email:
I found your e-mail adress thru a mailing list your profile said you are interested in smiledog. I have saw it it is not as bad as every one says I have sent it to you here. Just spreading the word.
The final line chilled me to the bone.
According to my email client there was one file attachment called, naturally, smile.jpg. I considered downloading it for some time. It was mostly likely a fake, I imagined, and even if it weren’t I was never wholly convinced of smile.jpg’s peculiar powers. Mary E.’s account had shaken me, yes, but she was probably mentally unbalanced anyway. After all, how could a simple image do what smile.jpg was said to accomplish? What sort of creature was it that could break one’s mind with only the power of the eye?
And if such things were patently absurd, then why did the legend exist at all?
If I downloaded the image, if I looked at it, and if Mary turned out to be correct, if Smile.dog came to me in my dreams demanding I spread the word, what would I do? Would I live my life as Mary had, fighting against the urge to give in until I died? Or would I simply spread the word, eager to be put to rest? And if I chose the latter route, how could I do it? Whom would I burden in turn?
If I went through with my earlier intention to write a short article about smile.jpg, I decided, I could attach it as evidence. And anyone who read the article, anyone who took interest, would be affected. And even assuming the smile.jpg attached to the email was genuine, would I be capricious enough to save myself in that manner?
Could I spread the word?
Yes. Yes I could.
STORY: KIDNAPPED BY GYPSIES=====
Whenever children unaccountably disappeared in the 19th and early 20th centuries, it was common for people to instantly suspect they were kidnapped by “gypsies.” These suppositions were generally proven false, to the extent that stories about such alleged abductions are now thought of as vintage “urban myths.”
However, on at least one occasion, this conjecture was apparently proven to be correct. And the case only got weirder from there.
Our story opens on October 21, 1896, in the small northern New York town of Sissonville. At around six p.m., a seven-year-old boy named Frederick Brosseau was seen playing on a bridge near the lumber mill where his father John Brosseau worked. The boy often waited there in the evenings to meet his dad and walk home with him. That was the last time anyone saw Frederick. Almost immediately, the entire community turned out to look for the child. The mill was shut down and carefully examined. The local river was dragged and the surrounding countryside diligently searched. Not a trace of little Frederick could be found anywhere. The frustrated townspeople could only assume that the boy had drowned, and his body had become lodged on the river bottom.
The years passed by, with the tragic mystery becoming nearly forgotten by everyone except the Brosseau family. Then, in August 1913, the puzzle of Frederick’s disappearance appeared to be resolved, and in an entirely startling way. On a boat traveling along the Ottawa River, a young man approached one of his fellow passengers, a Catholic priest. He explained that many years before, when he was a small child, he had been abducted by gypsies, who had treated him with great brutality. He stated that the gypsy caravan had taken him through a number of foreign countries, as they spent each winter abroad. Worse still, the gypsies had stolen a number of other children. The boys were used as virtual slaves, and the girls were sold for large amounts of cash. He had just now managed to escape from his captors. The caravan was still in Canada, with one kidnapped child, a girl, still in their possession. All the youth could remember about himself was that although the gypsies insisted on calling him “Patrick,” he knew his real name was Frederick, and he had come from someplace in northern New York. The priest, convinced the young man was telling the truth, brought him to a Trappist monastery in Oka, a village in Quebec.
In an effort to discover the stranger’s true identity, the little information he was able to provide about himself was broadcast in the local news media, along with his photo. The monks contacted a Father Marron, who lived in northern New York. Perhaps he would have some clues suggesting who the young man really was. By a remarkable coincidence, one Kate Perry, a sister of Frederick Brosseau’s mother, lived in Montreal, and saw the newspaper articles about the mystery man. She was intrigued enough to visit the Oka monastery, carrying with her a photograph of Frederick taken shortly before he disappeared. When she compared the photo to the as-yet-unidentified young man, she became convinced he was her long-missing nephew. She immediately shared her astonishing news with the Brosseaus. Mr. and Mrs. Brosseau, along with one of their other sons, Frank, and Father Marron, immediately headed for Oka. Upon their arrival, the parents immediately recognized the stranger as their son. It was established that the young man had the same distinctive birthmark on his arm that Frederick had had. Plus, he so resembled Frank Brosseau that the two could have passed as twins.
The Canadian police immediately went in search of this caravan of kidnappers. The authorities were forced to instruct the newly-discovered Frederick Brosseau to remain on the monastery grounds, as he would be a crucial material witness when the gypsies were caught and put on trial. His parents had no choice but to return home without their long-lost son, but at least they now had the assurance that before long, they would be reunited for good.
Unfortunately, a new danger soon emerged. The widespread publicity given to the return of the long-missing boy ensured that his former captors also learned where he was. It was reported that the gypsies made a number of attempts to steal the young man from the monastery, but the monks managed to foil all their evil plans.
Or so they initially thought. Just days after his joyful meeting with his family, the newly-identified Frederick Brosseau vanished from sight once more. On August 22, 1913, he was seen in the monastery’s courtyard, talking to a stranger. Frederick seemed worried and upset. A few minutes later, he was gone.
What had happened? It was presumed that the gypsies had somehow threatened or coerced him into returning to their custody, but no one could say for certain why the young man made a second disappearance. Soon after “Frederick” vanished from the monastery, someone matching his description was seen boarding a train from New York, in the company of a woman claiming to be his mother. Was this the missing man? No one could say.
Was this enigmatic youth even the real Frederick? The Montreal Chief of Police for one, was skeptical. He had information suggesting that the mysterious young man had, in reality, one “Patrick Saileure,” a barber who had been living in Montreal for years. The Police Chief was convinced the man identified as Frederick was either delusional or a sick practical joker.
Who really was this man? Why did he vanish so suddenly and oddly? Was any of his bizarre story true? And if he was an impostor, what happened to the real Brosseau boy?
We’ll never know the answers to any of those questions. Because this time, Frederick Brosseau never did come back.
When Weird Darkness returns, Pennhurst Asylum was shuttered in 1987 – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t any souls still living there.
STORY: THE LIVING DEAD ASYLUM=====
The Pennhurst State School and Asylum, originally called the Eastern Pennsylvania Institution for the Feeble-Minded and Epileptic, was authorized for construction in 1903. It was conceived as a state-funded and operated facility, to house any individual deemed “feeble-minded,” and thus unable to function in normal society. This included physically and mentally disabled persons; individuals with “abnormalities,” physical or psychological; and mute, deaf, and blind people. It also included those with “offensive habits” and “imperfect speech.” When admitted, patients were classified physically as either imbecile or insane; classified mentally as healthy or epileptic; and classified dentally as having teeth either good, poor, or treated.
As time went on, the institution would be pressured to also house and hold immigrants, criminals, and orphans. It became the solution for ridding society of all “undesirables.” In fact, the institution’s campus functioned as a self-contained city, with residents completing all the tasks necessary to run their small society.
It was a collective fear of the other that created the need for a place like Pennhurst. In 1913, legislature created a Commission for the Care of the Feeble-Minded, which declared that disabled individuals were both “unfit” for citizenship and a “menace to the peace.” It called for such people to be taken into custodial care by the government. This served to keep disabled people away from the general population—for everyone’s “safety”—as well as to keep them from reproducing.
Even more disturbing than the fact that such a facility existed is that it existed for so long. By the 1960s, Pennhurst was home to about 2,791 people—almost 900 more than maximum capacity. In 1968, a young reporter did a short TV series on Pennhurst, which was the first that most people had even heard of the institution. Many were appalled by the images they saw on their TV sets, including individuals chained to adult-sized cribs and children in cages.
Allegations of abuse surfaced in the following years. It wasn’t until 1987, however, that the facility finally closed. The closure came about after Pennhurst lost a large legal dispute filed by a former resident, who reported intense physical, emotional, and psychological abuses suffered at the hands of her nurses and caregivers. Apparently, those in positions of power were not only hurting the patients and residents themselves, but also arranging for patients to bully and assault each other.
If there’s a silver lining to Pennhurst, it’s that the horrors suffered there led to sweeping reforms. Its dark legacy changed the way the American legal system, as well as society, treats those with special needs.
Of course, today, the asylum is shrouded in ghost tales and reports of paranormal activity. As of 2010, one building was partially reopened as the Pennhurst Asylum Haunted House. Some visitors claim to hear voices, shrieks, and murmurs of pain from former residents and inmates of the facility. The hauntings are terrifying for multiple reasons. Aside from the typical fear of the paranormal, the ghosts of Pennhurst serve as a collective reminder of just how cruel society can be towards its own members.
STORY: WEIRDO: THE OLD FARMHOUSE by Marissa Harrington=====
When I was 2-3 years old my parents, sister and I rented an old farm house in upstate New York. My dad was a long haul truck driver and my mom was a secretary at a hospital. My parents went to view a rental listing for this old farm house literally right across the road from the house we were currently living in. After my mom got on the porch she stopped, looked at the landlord and asked him, “Is this place haunted?” She hadn’t even crossed the threshold yet! The landlord said he never had any experiences. So they decided to rent the house, which was HUGE and from what I remember the floorboards were painted olive green. The first night we stayed in the house, my dad and sister had run to the store and my mom was giving me a bath. My mom said that as she was getting my out of the bathtub, I grabbed her arms at hard as I could and said in a shaky voice, “There’s someone coming down the stairs.” The hair on the back of her neck stood up. She said she told me there was no one but us home, but I was adamant. After she got me out of the tub we went into the living room, which when we went to the bathroom for the bath, our tv was on and there was that static snow on the screen. But when we got to living room the tv was off and my dad and sister were not home yet, and we hadn’t lost power. A few months in to living there my dad was getting ready for work. It was the middle of the night and he was awake alone. As he was tying his workboots, he said he’d heard a woman scream upstairs. He ran up the stairs and checked on all three of us girls and we were all fast asleep. He went back downstairs to continue getting ready for work and he heard the scream again. So he ran back upstairs and saw we were all still sleeping. He went back down stairs and was finishing up getting ready, when he heard a third scream, which after he heard it a third time he grabbed his stuff and headed right out the door. Another instance happened where my mom was taking a shower because we had somewhere to go that day, and it was just me and her again. While she was in the shower she told me the phone rang and she heard my little voice say I’ll get it, and then the padding of my feet over to get the phone. She said the convo (on my end anyway) went like this:
“Hello? Ok. Ok. Ok. Ok bye!” My mom came out of the bathroom and asked who that was. I told her it was my friend Cheryl. She asked who Cheryl was and I told her “She looks like you mommy.” (I assume I meant she was an adult.) she asked me what she wanted, and I told her that Cheryl said she was coming over. Naturally she panicked and reminded me we had plans as she grabbed the phone and hit redial. When she hit redial she got that wrong number tone and a prerecorded message that said the number you have dialed is not in service. Following that I told my mom she was already at the house. My mom checked the front yard and there were no other cars in the drive and no one was there. She assured me that no one was there, and then I scared the piss out of her….. I looked at her and said “She didn’t come through that door mommy, she came through THAT door!” And pointed to our CLOSED AND LOCKED laundry room door, that had a swing latch I was far to short to reach. She told me she really didn’t wanna open the laundry room door, but she did and there was no one there. Then one night I was asleep in my room and was woken by something, I honestly can’t remember who/what woke me. But I stared into my closet, which my mom would not go in after dark, and apparently saw something because I asked “who are you?” But I don’t remember if I ever got an answer. The last thing that happened at that house that I remember, is my parent we’re down stairs watching tv and all of a sudden my mom said my sister was coming down the stairs her eyes wide open, her right arm twisted back behind her and up, talking like a zombie saying “Mom. Mom. Mom.” My sister was diagnosed with a seizure disorder while we were in that house. I’m not sure if the spirit there saw she was about to go into one and “guided” her down to my mom, or if she had already had one and was being lead to my mom for help. Either way it was terrifying she said. Also my mom HATED the room that was designated our play room and would never go in there after dark either…both my mom and I have tried to look up the history of that house and cannot find ANYTHING. But something bad happened there… if I had to guess my old friend Cheryl must have been murdered either on that land or in that house, specifically the playroom, and whoever caused it hung around too… I have other ghost stories, my family on both my parents sides must attract them or something.
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! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and 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 in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“Smile Dog” from TheScareChamber.com
“I Saved E.T.’s Life” by T. R. Swartz for SpectralVision.com
“Kidnapped By Gypsies” from Strange Company
“The Living Dead Asylum” by Elisabeth Tilstra for The Line Up
WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness, 2022.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” – James 4:7
And a final thought… “Always end the day with a positive thought. No matter how hard things were, tomorrow’s a fresh opportunity to make it better.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.