“PUNISHMENTS WORSE THAN DEATH” and More Dark True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: If you are concerned about a family member’s excessive drinking, what do you do? Hold an intervention? Call Alcoholics Anonymous for advice? Perhaps confide in a close friend who might know what to do. In the case of teenaged sisters Sandra and Elizabeth Andersen, they were so frustrated with their mother’s drunken ways they decided to kill her. (Murderous Sisters) *** One reason people don’t like going to dentists is pain – even if there is no pain, just the idea of pain is enough to keep people away. But in the early 1900s there was a dentist so confident he could give you a painless tooth-extraction that he even changed his name to “Painless Parker”. But did his name live up to his claim? (A Dentist Named Painless Parker) *** Cliff Taylor reported seeing not just one, but two UFOs – and even more interesting, one of his sightings sounds like an extraterrestrial mothership… which appeared right next to his own house. And his was only a fraction of the hundreds of sightings that took place in 2008 just north of Philadelphia. (The Bucks County UFO Encounter) *** Of all the sites that are unexplained, the Bermuda Triangle is usually the first one that comes to mind. Located in the Caribbean, it is renowned for the ships and radio signals that have disappeared without explanation in recent years. Yet, there is another, perhaps lesser known region in which the inexplicable occurs. This location is often referred to quite simply as Mexico’s Zone of Silence. (The Mexican Zone of Death) *** The definition of “punishment” is, “the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed.” In most cases we look to serve punishment in proper proportion to the crime being committed – reserving the most severe punishments for the worst of the worst. But that has not always been the case – and there have been a lot of punishments doled out that we would consider worse than death – and for crimes we might not even consider crimes today. (Punishments Worse Than Death)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
BOOK: “The Jesuit Relations” by Allan Greer: https://amzn.to/441pgd9
BOOK: “Torture And Democracy” by Darius Rejali: https://amzn.to/3OseYgr
BOOK: “The History of Torture” by George Ryley Scott: https://amzn.to/44XZA2l
BOOK: “Execution” by Geoffrey Abbott: https://amzn.to/3KtWUS3
ARTICLE: “Bermuda Triangle Explained?” https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3n4u8knf
“Murderous Sisters” by Trilby Beresford for Ranker: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8wvcj8; and A.W. Naves for Medium: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/59bek3w6
“The Bucks County UFO Encounter” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/46jx9md6
“Punishments Worse Than Death” by Christopher Myers for Weird History: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yc3kbzp8; and Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/cfh4a9jc
“The Mexican Zone of Silence” by Riley Winters for at Ancient Origins Unleashed: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yht827h6
“A Dentist Named Painless Parker” by Kaushik Patowary for Amusing Planet: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/ycknn9ar
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OTHER PODCASTS I HOST…
Paranormality Magazine: (COMING SEPT. 30, 2023) https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
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(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
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The most horrendous conditions in human life have been created by other humans. We maim, torture, and humiliate individuals to penalize them for their actions with callous indifference to their suffering, or in some cases, with the intent to cause as much pain as possible. The purpose of punishment is arguable: some believe human beings punish criminals to reduce crime through deterrence or maybe to rehabilitate offenders. Some think it’s to rid criminals from society in efforts to protect the public, but undoubtedly there have been punishments intended to cause pain to the condemned. There are cases, both ancient and modern, of men and women burned, drowned, and torn apart all with the intention of punishing them for their real and, in some cases, suspected crimes in the most painful manner… punishments in cases where death would be preferable.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – 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…
If you are concerned about a family member’s excessive drinking, what do you do? Hold an intervention? Call Alcoholics Anonymous for advice? Perhaps confide in a close friend who might know what to do. In the case of teenaged sisters Sandra and Elizabeth Andersen, they were so frustrated with their mother’s drunken ways they decided to kill her. (Murderous Sisters)
One reason people don’t like going to dentists is pain – even if there is no pain, just the idea of pain is enough to keep people away. But in the early 1900s there was a dentist so confident he could give you a painless tooth-extraction that he even changed his name to “Painless Parker”. But did his name live up to his claim? (A Dentist Named Painless Parker)
Cliff Taylor reported seeing not just one, but two UFOs – and even more interesting, one of his sightings sounds like an extraterrestrial mothership… which appeared right next to his own house. And his was only a fraction of the hundreds of sightings that took place in 2008 just north of Philadelphia. (The Bucks County UFO Encounter)
Of all the sites that are unexplained, the Bermuda Triangle is usually the first one that comes to mind. Located in the Caribbean, it is renowned for the ships and radio signals that have disappeared without explanation in recent years. Yet, there is another, perhaps lesser known region in which the inexplicable occurs. This location is often referred to quite simply as Mexico’s Zone of Silence. (The Mexican Zone of Death)
The definition of “punishment” is, “the infliction of some kind of pain or loss upon a person for a misdeed.” In most cases we look to serve punishment in proper proportion to the crime being committed – reserving the most severe punishments for the worst of the worst. But that has not always been the case – and there have been a lot of punishments doled out that we would consider worse than death – and for crimes we might not even consider crimes today. (Punishments Worse Than Death)
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: PUNISHMENTS WORSE THAN DEATH=====
Many today think removing a person’s skin from their body is a medieval European form of punishment and torture due to popular culture depictions, most notably in Game of Thrones, but it was rarely ever used in medieval Europe. According to medieval historian Dr. Larissa Tracy, there is only one verifiable case of flaying between the 11th Century to the 16th Century: a Venetian commander Marcoantonio Bragadin was flayed by the Ottoman Turks after surrendering at the siege of Cyprus in 1571 AD. Flaying was most prevalent in the Assyrian Empire from the 14th Century BC until 610 BC. The Assyrians were known for their military strength. By the 9th Century BC, Assyria dominated northern Mesopotamia. After defeating their enemies in combat, the Assyrians punished anyone who opposed them by destroying their cities and flaying the nobility. King Ashurnasirpal recorded his victory over one city that resisted his conquest: “I flayed as many nobles as had rebelled against me [and] draped their skins over the pile [of corpses]; some I spread out within the pile, some I erected on stakes upon the pile … I flayed many right through my land [and] draped their skins over the walls.” Flaying was not only used to punish those who opposed the Assyrians but also to instill fear in anyone who considered to do the same.
The Vestal Virgins were the priestesses to Vesta the goddess of home and hearth and held one of the most important religious roles in Rome. They acted as religious symbols of Rome as well as representations of the city and its citizenry. As such, Vestal Virgins were expected to make a lifetime commitment to the role, and the rules that come with it. The Vestals had to remain abstinent from sex their entire lives; they were expected to remain a symbol of purity, for as long as they were to remain both pure and unharmed, so will the city they signify. The role was not taken lightly, for if any Vestal Virgin were to break her oath, she was executed as a sacrifice. Because of the symbolic and sacred aspect to the Vestals, if one broke her vow of celibacy, many perceived her as a former purity now tainted. No one wanted to be responsible for her death, and become tainted themselves, so the solution was to bury the Vestal alive and allow nature to kill her. The Vestal was paraded around the city until she was brought to a small chamber by the Colline gate. Given only a lamp and a small amount of food, she was sealed in and left to die.
In Roman law, different forms of murder entailed different forms of punishment depending upon the severity of the murder. Parricide, killing one’s own parent or parents, sought a crueler form of punishment than other forms of homicide. When a person was convicted of the crime, they were condemned to Poena Cullei. This form of capital punishment required the condemned was whipped, before putting a wolf-skin bag over their head, and made to wear wooden-sole clogs. They were then tied in an ox-leather sack with a dog, a rooster, a viper, and a monkey, taken to a river or sea by black oxen, and thrown in the water to drown. Poena Cullei was rarely used as a form of punishment. Roman biographer Suetonius wrote only those who confessed to patricide were actually sentenced to Poena Cullei. In 118 AD Emperor Hadrian allowed Poena Cullei to be substituted by “being thrown to wild beasts”, but only a century later the practice was considered obsolete.
Breaking on the wheel, aka breaking with the wheel, was a form of punishment primarily used in Western Europe during the early modern period to penalize murderers or thieves. Though the specifics were different from region to region, the condemned was generally tied to a wheel or cross, then struck with either a wooden wheel or an iron bar. Depending on the desired amount of pain inflicted before the death blow, the executioner chose where to strike. If he was feeling merciful, the executioner started at the neck, but if not, he began by striking at the condemned’s legs.
Impalement is a crude form of torture and execution used from antiquity into the 20th Century in which a large, sharpened stake is thrust through a person’s body from between their legs and is pierced through their entire body. The victim died after anywhere between a few hours and a couple of days of agonizing pain. The most notable use of impalement was by Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia, aka Vlad the Impaler. When Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II invaded Wallachia in 1462, he was greeted by the impaled corpses of Ottoman prisoners of war rather than the Wallachian army.
The rack was a form of torture and punishment commonly associated with the medieval era, but it originated in ancient history. The criminal was tied down by their limbs, and the executioner spun a crank, which pulled the criminal’s limbs apart. The punished was stretched until their limbs were dislocated, and there were moments when the condemned’s limbs were completely separated from their body. Emperor Nero used the rack to force a confession of an assassination conspiracy from one of the head conspirators, Epicharis. On the first day, the rack dislocated her legs so by the second day she was unable to walk herself to the rack. Rather than suffer the rack, she tied a noose around her neck and used her body weight to suffocate herself.
During the Eighty Years’ War, Northern Holland governor Diedrich Sonoy used torture to legitimize and strengthen his authority over the region. He arrested eight men and charged them for a conspiracy to burn down a number of villages in Holland. For one of the condemned victims, Nanning Koppezoon, Sonoy put him on the rack and placed rats on him under a ceramic vessel. He put hot coals on the vessel, and with nowhere else to run from the heat, the rats burrowed into Koppezoon’s body. Sonoy then put the hot coals into Koppezoon’s wounds. Though this method of torture is prevalent in movies and popular culture, there are not many cases when this method was actually used.
A modern form of torture referred to colloquially as “White Torture” was used as a punishment and silencing measure on political dissidents, and reporters in Iran after an attempt of political reform in the 2000. Used primarily to force detainees to sign confessions and provide information on their political affiliations, White Torture was a form of psychological torture, which combines prolonged solitary confinement and sensory deprivation. Former prisoner Amir Fakhravar said the pain and anguish from white torture far exceeded any physical torment he received from beatings and broken bones.
Though prevalent mostly in the North American colonies, cases of tarring and feathering in the United States are recorded up until the early 20th Century. The punished individual was covered in hot tar and feathers. Tarring and feathering was primarily enacted or provoked by revolutionary organizations, for example, the Sons of Liberty, as well as by mob justice, rather than as a state-sanctioned form of punishment. It gained much of its popularity the decade leading up to the American Revolutionary War. Crowds gathered to tar and feather British officials or individuals with anti-revolutionary predilections as an act of punishment and humiliation. Tarring and feathering continued into the early 20th Century. A notable case was on the night of August 19th, 1918 in Luverne, Minnesota when German-American farmer John Meints was kidnapped, whipped, tarred and feathered, then ordered out of state with the threat of death. He was accused of being a German sympathizer in the later years of World War I because he refused to participate in a war bond drive.
Crucifixion was a combination of punishment and political spectacle used by the Roman Empire. Individuals were whipped, forced to carry a wooden cross, or a similar structure, and fixed onto the cross by rope or nails and finally left until the condemned died. The cross could be propped in any orientation, but it depended mostly on how long the executioners wanted the condemned to live before their inevitable death. Those who died were rarely buried; their remains were usually left to be eaten by wild animals.
The Auto Da Fe was a ceremonial procession and burning at the stake during the Inquisition most notably in Spain and Portugal. The ceremony was used partially as a punishment for all heretics, a recognition and display of sin for those who repented, a symbolic reaffirmation of religious faith for all within society, and lastly an execution of those who refused to repent. The ceremony was not execution simply for the sake of killing those who were found to be heretics but as a form of punishment, which incorporated the whole society in the cleansing of heresy. Heretics were lined up according to the hierarchy of their guilt. They included Jews, Muslims, Protestants, foreigners, sodomites, and blasphemers. Those with lesser crimes started the procession while those with greater crimes were last. They were led in procession throughout the city, both in an act of repentance and humiliation. They were given opportunities to repent their heresies, but at the end of the procession, those who did not repent were led out of the city and burned.
Ordeal by Water, aka swimming a witch, was a form of combined trial and punishment used on suspected witches in the East Slavic world and later England. Women suspected of witchcraft were tied up and cast into deep water. Those who sunk were considered innocent while those who floated were considered witches and promptly executed by fire. Regardless of the outcome of this ordeal, the woman was killed. Many believed water was a pure and cleansing element. Thus if a person was thrown into the water and they floated, they must have dabbled with the occult, because the water did not accept them.
Yubitsume is an act of self-penance still utilized by the Japanese Yakuza. Individuals within the Yakuza, or indebted to them, sever parts of their own finger with a hammer and chisel to demonstrate a sincere apology or as a punishment if they were to violate the Yakuza code or not pay their bets. This practice is not limited to a single cut, but rather another knuckle is severed with each mistake made. The punishment is multi-faceted in purpose; firstly the victim suffers through the pain of amputating their own finger thus deterring them from making more mistakes. Secondly, it identifies the offender as someone who broke the Yakuza’s rules in an effort to deter others from doing the same.
And then there is the Spanish Donkey. The Spanish donkey might sound like an overpriced cocktail, but the pain it delivered was far worse than a hangover. Otherwise known as the wooden horse or chevalet, it was a torture device utilized by Jesuits, Civil War soldiers, and even Paul Revere himself.
While there were numerous iterations of the implement, all known versions essentially operated in the same manner. According to History of Yesterday, the Spanish donkey was typically constructed out of wood. The earliest known model was built in the shape of a triangular prism on stilts, with victims forced to straddle the sharp corner of the wedge.
It’s unclear exactly who invented the torture device, but it was likely devised by the Spanish Inquisition and used to punish nonbelievers. Victims were stripped of their clothes and bound before being placed atop the wooden horse, and they were often tickled and had weights tied to their feet to exacerbate the agony. They remained on the device until they could no longer take the excruciating pain — or bled out.
Other medieval torture devices may have seemed more gruesome at first glance, but this unsuspecting wooden horse was right up there with the rack and the wheel — and it was ridden for centuries to come.
While the Spanish donkey was invented in Europe, it soon made its way to the New World. One of the first recorded uses of the device was by Jesuits in modern-day Canada. According to The Jesuit Relations, which chronicled the Christian order’s missionary expeditions in French colonies across North America, several criminals endured this torture in February 1646.
“On the night of Shrove Tuesday to Ash Wednesday, some men… began to quarrel,” the record reads. “Jean le Blanc ran after the other, and came near beating him to death on the spot, with a club… Jean le Blanc was sentenced to make reparation, by the Civil authority, and to mount the Chevalet.”
“On the 15th, a Domestic of Monsieur Couillar’s, a public blasphemer, was put on the Chevalet,” details another account. “He acknowledged his fault, saying that he had well deserved punishment, and came of his own accord to confess, that evening or the next day.”
Most grueling was a report from later that month describing a man who “acted at the fort as such a glutton, that he was put on the Chevalet, on which he was ruptured.” Indeed, many suffered for days atop the cruel device. The fortunate walked differently for weeks, while others were rendered infertile, left permanently disabled, or dropped dead from blood loss or exhaustion.
Although the Spanish donkey aimed to inflict pain rather than cause death, many victims nevertheless lost their lives to the device. With a pointed piece of wood jammed between their legs, its victims’ genitals were almost always mangled. The perineum and scrotum commonly split open, particularly when victims were dragged from one end of the wooden horse to the other. Other unfortunate souls suffered shattered tailbones.
And though it was first used in medieval times, the Spanish donkey unfortunately didn’t remain in the distant past. According to Geoffrey Abbott’s Execution, the Spanish army relentlessly continued using the device until the 1800s. It was generally employed to discipline soldiers, and some victims purportedly even began to split in half as heavier and heavier weights were added to their ankles.
The British used the Spanish donkey as well, and they even added a carved horse’s head and tufted tail to the device, turning it into both a method of punishment and a form of entertainment for onlookers. Ultimately, however, the British abandoned the practice due to the glaring risk of death. Since the sustained injuries often led soldiers to become incapacitated and unfit for battle, the punishment was eventually discontinued, according to The History of Torture.
But with Jesuits bringing the device to the New World and an ever-growing population of British colonists and soldiers in America, it wasn’t long before the Spanish donkey appeared in the United States.
A version of the Spanish donkey torture method called “riding the rail” emerged during the American colonial period. Unfortunate offenders were forced to straddle a fence rail carried by two sturdy men who paraded them through town. This method added shame to the pain — and was often accompanied by the practice of tarring and feathering.
There was even a public chevalet that was 12 feet high in New York City. According to the book Torture and Democracy, in September 1776, none other than Paul Revere himself ordered two Continental soldiers to ride it when they were caught playing cards on the Sabbath.
Union guards utilized this cruel device during the American Civil War, as well. As documented by Mississippi-born private Milton Asbury Ryan, even minor infractions by Confederate prisoners were punished by forcible rides on a 15-foot-high makeshift Spanish donkey christened “Morgan’s mule.”
“The legs were nailed to the scantling so one of the sharp edges was turned up, which made it very painful and uncomfortable to the poor fellow especially when he had to be ridden bareback, sometimes with heavy weights fastened to his feet and sometimes with a large beef bone in his hand,” wrote Ryan.
“This performance was carried on under the eyes of a guard with a loaded gun, and was kept up for several days; each ride lasting two hours each day unless the fellow fainted and fell off from pain and exhaustion. Very few were able to walk after this hellish Yankee torture but had to be supported to their barracks.”
While the Spanish donkey has fortunately become a relic of times past, it most certainly maimed and killed thousands over the centuries. It would be easy to applaud its discontinuance and bask in the progress humanity has made were it not for the evolution of torture — and its modern shadowy practice.
I’ll place a link to the books I mentioned in this story in the show notes.
Up next… if you are concerned about a family member’s excessive drinking, what do you do? Hold an intervention? Call Alcoholics Anonymous for advice? Perhaps confide in a close friend who might know what to do. In the case of teenaged sisters Sandra and Elizabeth Andersen, they were so frustrated with their mother’s drunken ways they decided to kill her.
Plus… off all the sites that are unexplained, the Bermuda Triangle is usually the first one that comes to mind. Located in the Caribbean, it is renowned for the ships and radio signals that have disappeared without explanation in recent years. Yet, there is another, perhaps lesser known region in which the inexplicable occurs. This location is often referred to quite simply as Mexico’s Zone of Silence. These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!
STORY: MURDEROUS SISTERS=====
It’s frightening to think about children who murder their parents, especially when those children are now living free. The case of Linda Andersen and her two daughters, Elizabeth and Sandra, is no exception. Because the crime occurred when both girls were under 18 years old, the crown in Canada placed a publication ban on their real names, and their story was published using aliases. Perhaps you know these sisters and didn’t even realize it.
Linda Andersen’s murder happened on January 18, 2003, when the woman’s two daughters decided they couldn’t tolerate their mom’s alcoholism, depression, and listlessness any longer. The two girls drugged and drowned Linda in the bathtub at their home in Mississauga, Ontario. They were still teenagers at the time, and authorities discovered their crimes because they bragged about them to friends. The girls were convicted to 10 years in prison and were released on parole after four. Both went off to college, and the pair are currently in their 20s.
On the evening of Linda’s murder, Elizabeth and Sandra plied their mom with liquor and six Tylenol 3s, a pain reliever that includes acetaminophen and codeine, then drew a bath for her. They asked her to lie on her back so they could scrub her, but when Linda rolled over, they forced her head down into the water and held it there for four minutes. When she resurfaced, she was dead. After the deed was done, the girls went to a restaurant called Jack Astor’s to provide an alibi for the murder.
After returning home from the restaurant, Sandra and Elizabeth dialed 911 and informed police that they’d found their mom dead in the bathtub. They initially believed the girls’ story, so the pair felt like they got away with murder. It wasn’t until a family friend went to the police and recorded the sisters’ confessions that they became prime suspects.
According to Bob Mitchell’s original report of the murder, the girls talked about it to their friends. Sandra told her friend Ashley via an online messaging system; Ashley phoned her several times to try to convince her not to do it. Sandra also told Jay, who helped formulate their Jack Astor’s alibi but decided not to go at the last minute out of fear.
After the murder, they told more friends, speaking openly about the crime at the shopping mall and at school. Sandra confided in her boyfriend, Donny, who opted to breakup with Sandra instead of turning her in. All of their friends were around 15 and 16 at the time of the murder.
Apart from their issues with Linda’s parenting style, Sandra and Elizabeth were supposedly interested in her life insurance policy, which was over $100,000. According to Inquisitor, they wanted her dead so they could receive money from the policy and live a better life. They wanted to travel and buy a bigger house with a backyard and swimming pool. During the trial, both sisters allegedly emphasized that the insurance policy had nothing to do with wanting Linda dead, but their friends told a different story.
For a whole year after Linda’s murder, it appeared that the girls had gotten away with the heartless crime. But one of their friends finally went to police and confessed that they told him the details of the drowning at a party. The police wired him with a recording device, and he captured the confessions that lead to their arrest. According to City News, Elizabeth and Sandra were sentenced to 10 years, which is the maximum sentence for minors who commit first-degree murder. But they didn’t serve all of that time behind bars.
After serving four years in prison, during which the girls had little communication with one another, they were released on parole. Both Sandra and Elizabeth went on to pursue higher education; Sandra studied engineering, and Elizabeth went into law. Their parole period ended in 2016, and the two are now living anonymous lives.
In Bob Mitchell’s 2009 Toronto Star article, he reports that the youngest sister’s prison therapist says that she has little empathy and is manipulative, which led one Crown prosecutor to oppose her release into a halfway house so she could attend the University of Waterloo. “She is still in the offense cycle and exhibiting the same pattern of behavior she did prior to the murder,” Dr. Janine Cutler told the court at the time. Nevertheless, the sister was eventually released into a halfway house and went on to study at a Canadian university.
Because Elizabeth and Sandra were under the age of 18 at the time of the murder, their real names were hidden from the public under Canadian Law. When Bob Mitchell reported on the case, he created the aliases Sandra, Elizabeth, and Linda Anderson, which is what they’ve been referred to since. An internet sleuth has discovered their real names, but their identities are still protected under Canadian law.
In 2014, director Stan Brooks made a Lifetime movie called Perfect Sisters based on the book by former Toronto Star reporter Bob Mitchell titled The Class Project: How To Kill A Mother: The True Story of Canada’s Infamous Bathtub Girls. It starred Abigail Breslin and Georgie Henley as the sisters and Mira Sorvino as their mother.
According to Mitchell, the film offered a more sympathetic look at the situation than the book. “If you didn’t know the whole story, the movie comes across as these poor girls… who were pushed to the limit and this is how they figured out how to get out of it, but then in the end they get caught,” Mitchell said in an interview with City News. “I don’t think the movie dealt with how cold blooded and calculating they were.”
Nikki’s life had begun in prison, where she was born to a mother doing time for drug possession. By the age of 17, she found herself pregnant with twins. After their birth, on November 27, 1993, she and her daughters continued to live with Nikki’s grandmother until they were seven years old.
In 2000, then 25-year-old Nikki met Robert Head, a truck driver who was 30 years her senior. Soon after they began seeing one another, she and her daughters moved into Robert’s Conyers, Georgia home with him.
The twins were very bright and active girls. In their early years, Nikki wasn’t always a constant presence in their lives, being young herself. They were mostly raised by their great-grandmother, Della Frazier. However, in 2007, Nikki asked for full custody to be returned to her. Frazier gave her a chance to be a full-time mother to her children, but it quickly soured.
The twins didn’t get along with their mother. They resented her attempts to keep them on the straight and narrow and thought her rules were far too strict. They argued constantly and soon began having physical fights that resulted in mandatory counseling and juvenile court appearances after repeated police interventions.
The conflicts resulted in Frazier once again being given custody, but in January 2010, a court ordered the twins to live with their mother for a two-week trial period, despite their protests. The twins returned to their mother’s home on January 5. On January 13, they claimed they had found their mother dead in the bathtub at the Conyers, Georgia home she still shared with Roberts. She had been beaten with a vase and stabbed more than 80 times. The medical examiner determined that Nikki’s death was a crime of passion and therefore, not likely someone unknown to the victim.
However, no one considered it might be the two girls who seemed panicked and distraught at their mother’s death. The twins pointed detectives in the direction of Nikki’s boyfriend, claiming that she had another boyfriend named “Joe” and Roberts had confronted her about him after catching her on a phone call talking with him. After questioning and DNA testing, Roberts was cleared as a suspect and Joe didn’t seem to exist.
The police had also noticed something strange about the twins. They had caught one of them biting her own arm and when asked about it, she said she did it when she was nervous. In interviews, they didn’t seem to have much empathy for their mother’s death and were highly critical of her. At one point, when they were hugging and seemed to be upset, a policeman asked if there was anything they needed. They asked to watch “CSI”.
Now suspicious of the victim’s daughters, police began to question them further. They caught them in lies about the day of the murder. The twins told them they had been ten minutes late for school when they were actually not there until much later in the morning. They separated them in hopes of wearing them down but were only able to build a circumstantial case against them.
The girls were returned to their great-grandmother’s care and spent the next four months living as if nothing had happened. They hung out with friends. They went to parties. They even went to prom. Detectives watched and waited, but turned up nothing.
Then, a review of the forensics turned up something interesting. There had been a hair caught in Nikki’s teeth as if she had bitten someone. One of the police recalled the incident with one of the girls biting herself and realized she had been trying to cover up a bite mark made by Nikki with her own teeth. A mold was made of Nikki’s teeth and matched to the indentation on her daughter that had been photographed earlier.
They were both charged with her murder in May 2010. Police were still trying to build their case, but with the end of school, they were concerned the girls might try to flee the country. Both pleaded not guilty to the charges.
By January 2014, Tasmiyah had changed her plea to guilty after her attorney negotiated a lesser charge of voluntary manslaughter. She was sentenced to 30 years in prison. The following month, Jasmiyah pleaded guilty to the same charge and received the same sentence. During their pleas, they were required to admit what they had done and it was a shocker.
They claimed they had been up until two or three in the morning and didn’t want to get out of bed when their mother came to wake them. They were angry and decided to go through with the plan they had been making for some time to kill her right then and there. So, they killed their mother, cleaned up the crime scene, and then went to school so they could claim they had an alibi. Detectives even found a journal they kept which cataloged some of the plans they had been working on for a while.
They shared the journal, taking turns writing in it about how much they hated their mother and had to get rid of her soon, but instead, they had been enraged and just went ahead with things. Their attack on their mother was brutal. There was a bloody path outside the home that looked as if Nikki had even tried to get away at some point when the fight had begun escalating but had been dragged back into the house.
It would appear that she had even made it to the neighbor’s house. A man next door had told police that he recalled someone yelling outside that morning and that the doorbell had rung, but he was in bed at the time and ignored it. The girls apparently pulled her away and forced her back home. Once the girls had their mother back inside the house, they smashed a vase over her head and began stabbing her with a kitchen knife. They then dragged her to the tub and left her for dead.
STORY: THE MEXICAN ZONE OF SILENCE=====
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert (not titled such for an unexplained number of dogs), Mexico’s Zone of Silence is precisely what it sounds like: a pocket of land in which radio signals die, preventing communication to and from the area, and directionality loses all meaning. According to reports from visitors of the area, which is also known as the Mapimí Silent Zone, if one brings a compass as a backup tool, that person is out of luck—the arrow of the compass will spin uncontrollably, confusing all sense of direction. Consider the spinning compass from Disney’s Pocahontas…just without the sage old Grandmother Willow to decipher the compass’ meaning.
One of the most prominent investigators of the Zone is a man called Benjamin Palacios, known for his somewhat touristy home and the tours of the Zone he provides to visitors to the region. However, it seems that the mysteries of this site were not always known.
Rumors abound that the Mexican government hid the unexplained occurrences, possibly evidenced by the lack of tourist sites, hotels, etc. nearby the desert. Supposedly the site was only exposed to the public as unusual when an American missile mistakenly crashed in the Zone of Silence. While retrieving the missile, United States agents were exposed to the unexplained.
An article regarding the statement from the US government claims that, “On July 11, 1970, the United States Air Force launched an ATHENA V-123-D rocket from Green River Launch Complex in Utah. While its intended target was the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, it impacted ‘180-200 miles south of the Mexican border,’ according to a recently released memorandum sent from the desk of Henry Kissinger, then serving as National Security Advisor to President Nixon.”
It appears, if this quote is accurate, that a technological error revealed the Zone of Silence as an unexplained, possibly alien, site.
As is the case with most locations described as unexplained, “research” is ongoing to determine what other factors might be playing a role in the strange activity of the site. Reports of plant and animal investigations are plentiful, as well as an examination of the geological make-up of the region.
And, of course, as with all locations in which the words “unexplained” or “inexplicable” are attached to their names, rumors of alien investigations are equally extensive.
It appears that numerous people have reported UFOs in the region, strange lights, and burning bushes, not unlike those described anywhere near Roswell, New Mexico or Area 51. It is also intriguing for theorists to point out the Zone of Silence falls on the same coordinates as the Bermuda Triangle, itself only recently (likely) explained.
Yet, aside from the numerous theories of UFO and alien influence in the Zone’s fifty-kilometer (31-mile) radius, the unexplained occurrences might, in fact, have explanations. Scientists have discovered underground deposits of meteorite debris called magnetite. Essentially, magnetics beneath the surface of the desert are what disrupt radio waves and the metal arrow of compasses.
This theory further explains the enigmatic site when one realizes that meteorites striking the Chihuahuan Desert were not uncommon in the 1900s; three have been reported striking the desert between 1938 and 1969. Those that prefer the theory of aliens likely do not hold much stock in the meteorite claims. Perhaps these people prefer to insist on a government cover-up, or an extraterrestrial trick.
Regardless, it appears that the Zone of Silence remains among the list of the unexplained, more than likely because it is far more beneficial for tourist revenue than the title “the Zone of the not-so-unexplained Silence.”
Did I say the Bermuda Triangle was recently explained? Yes, I did – and I’ll place a link to the article which was published in 2016 in the show notes if you’d like to read about it.
Coming up on Weird Darkness… Cliff Taylor reported seeing not just one, but two UFOs – and even more interesting, one of his sightings sounds like an extraterrestrial mothership… which appeared right next to his own house. And his was only a fraction of the hundreds of sightings that took place in 2008 just north of Philadelphia. That story is up next!
STORY: THE BUCKS COUNTY UFO ENCOUNTER=====
Sitting around thirty miles north of Philadelphia, Bucks County is one of the most affluent and typically “successful” American urban residential areas of Pennsylvania. Beginning in early 2008, however, and stretching well into the summer, sighting after sighting of UFOs and strange lights would emerge from the skies over this otherwise quiet and sprawling suburb.
Perhaps one of the strangest of the hundreds of sightings on record is that of Cliff Taylor, who would have not one but two experiences to tell of. What makes Taylor’s sightings unique is that they appear to be of some kind of “mothership” that each time vanished in the vicinity of his home. He would, unfortunately, be the only witness to the events. However, he is regarded as a credible, intelligent witness with full control of his own mind and someone not prone to deception of any kind. Furthermore, given his good name in the community, he had little to gain by making a public report of such an outlandish event.
Retired contractor and businessman, Cliff Taylor, was doing what he did every night on 3rd June 2008. He was walking his dog, Rusty, around the picturesque residential neighborhoods of Bucks County before getting ready to turn in for the night. That evening, their walk was non-eventful and pleasant, much like it always was. Later that evening, however, would come a night unlike any other in Cliff’s life.
Due to Cliff’s intense snoring, he and his wife would sleep in separate bedrooms. Rusty would sleep at the foot of the bed with Cliff. This particular night, around 4 am, Cliff awoke to Rusty’s agitated barks. He noticed a random flashing as well as a cloudy presence outside the property. He pulled himself from his bed and went to the bedroom window for a closer look.
As he stared intently into the mysterious cloud, he began to make out the very definite outline of a solid shape. A hexagon-shaped craft slowly emerged in all its glory for Cliff to see. He would later describe the scene as though he was watching an old cine-film but with every other frame removed such was the stop-start-stop-start nature with which the huge craft moved. He would estimate it to be the size of a sports stadium. Cliff would call out to his wife to come and look. However, by the time she heard him, the craft was long gone, disappearing over the house. Not convinced with his story and having to get up in only two hours, she went back to bed.
Certain of what he had seen, Cliff would feel a sense of hopeless frustration over the coming weeks that he was the lone witness to such a monumental incident. That was until the huge craft appeared again several weeks later.
Although he would place calls to the local police and newspaper, Cliff Taylor could find no reports that matched his. Over the next few weeks, the sighting dominated his thoughts. Then, just short of two months later in the early hours of 27th July, at around the same time of 4 am, he once again awoke to Rusty’s nervous and anxious barks.
An intense electrical storm was raging outside sending flashes across the bedroom. He immediately got out of bed and dashed to the window. There, outside in full view, was the “mothership” he had witnessed weeks earlier. As he watched in awe, he noticed that the “lightning” was intensely blinding lights from the underside of the ship.
He rushed outside to the yard in front of his house. As he stared at the craft above him, he soon realized that the “mothership” was actually five or six individual crafts that were somehow linked together, almost as if they were on a cosmic aircraft carrier. He would estimate that each craft was at least the size of a commercial jet airliner.
Of the hundreds of sightings that can be placed within the files of the Bucks County Wave, only the encounters of Cliff Taylor attest to a “mothership” or UFO of such magnitude being seen. It is interesting that such a craft should appear twice over the same property during such a wave. Perhaps there is an “alien base” nearby and the Taylor property just happens to be on the route of this base? Or perhaps, as speculative as it might be, his property sits on an “energy spot” that results in a manipulation of natural phenomenon that allows the opening of a portal to somewhere else in the cosmos?
Not including a January sighting, one of the first significant sightings of the Bucks County 2008 wave came at a little after 10 pm on the 28th March in the Montgomery County region of Bucks County when a local resident was walking his dog. As he was doing so, he noticed a high-flying aircraft that appeared to be moving at a particularly fast pace. He continued to watch the aircraft as he strolled on his way.
However, a short time afterward, he noticed a further “four unusual looking shapes” moving in his direction. And these were flying at a much lower altitude. Despite their relatively close proximity to him, he noticed that these four objects were seemingly completely silent. They also each had a flashing red light on the top of them.
Before they could reach his location, though, they changed their direction to the north and began to move away from him. A little unnerved the witness began to make his way home. Upon arriving he immediately informed his wife of the strange incident before heading to the window of their home to peer outside.
Much to his surprise, when he looked out, he could see the four, strange objects once more. They appeared to be circling in the sky overhead. He immediately called out to his wife, imploring her to come and see them for herself. She ran over to the window and did indeed see the strange aerial vehicles, as did their son.
They would later agree that the objects resembled “quick-moving helicopters” but with no sound. It was also their opinion that the strange objects appeared to be “looking for something”. They continued to watch the objects moving around overhead for around a quarter of an hour before they disappeared into the distance.
However, just as the family was about to settle down and put the strange event out of their minds, they suddenly heard the sound of several military jets flying overhead. Whether these jets were there by chance or whether they were there as part of an intercept mission remains unknown.
On the evening of 20th April in the Falls Township area another intriguing sighting unfolded. An unnamed woman awoke in her apartment to her dog growling. His attention was focused towards the sliding doors at the back. As she came to, she noticed a “ripping” sound, “like someone was ripping someone’s (window) screen”. She got up to take a look and her eyes caught “an object hovering around the sky”. This caused her to back away from the window immediately. She would later state “I thought I would be sucked up, that’s how believable it was”. She woke her husband. Both watched the object, well back from the apartment window for around thirty minutes before it vanished.
Three nights later, at a baseball game in Newtown numerous people witnessed an “orange fireball” descending from the sky. The following night a man smoking a cigar on the deck of his property near the Lincoln Highway would report an “egg-shaped UFO” flying in a straight line above the road. It would suddenly drop “straight down like an elevator” before hovering momentarily just below the clouds. It would then speed off into the distance until its bright white lights were no longer visible.
Similar sightings of this nature continued throughout the months of May and June, including one witness who saw a “disc-shaped object fly out of the clouds” from their Bucks County apartment, and a police officer witnessing a silent craft shaped like a “sideways comma” which then morphed into another shape beyond description in front of his eyes.
One of those sightings in early June occurred at 4:20 am on the morning of 3rd June. The witness was sleeping when they suddenly awoke and went to his bedroom window. As he looked outside, he saw what appeared to be a “small cloud”. And what’s more, it appeared to be heading in his direction.
The “cloud” continued to get closer, so much so that he realized it was an object more akin to an “elongated hexagon”. It appeared to be a solid object that clearly stood out against the lightening sky. He would estimate that it was at an approximate altitude of a little over 500 feet, while also estimating it was approximately 100 feet by 100 feet in size.
He watched in awe as the strange object slowly circled his house, making absolutely no noise whatsoever as it did so. Then it suddenly began to ascend and disappear into the early morning sky.
Another similar sighting occurred several weeks later on the evening of 23rd June, a Bucks County resident would take several pictures of “weird cloud formations” in the dark summer’s evening sky. However, when she returned home to download the pictures from her camera to her laptop, she saw something strange. The cloud formations were some kind of “vortexes”. She would also report that as she was taking the pictures, several black helicopters were present in the skies above.
Less than forty-eight hours later, at around 1 am on the 25th June, came a sighting of a “boomerang-shaped object” with blue, white, and green lights. The witness was on their front porch when a strange sound disturbed the usual serenity of the night. They would describe the sound as “similar to a passenger jet but not as low and at a higher pitch”. It was then that the witness glanced upwards to the night sky. As he did so he witnessed the craft, “fairly low to the ground” and moving “at a fairly slow pace”. White lights were spaced evenly along the boomerang shape, while a “football-shaped body” contained lights of white, green, and red.
The following week, on 2nd July, several witnesses would report strange lights hovering over the Oxford Valley Mall. On the same evening, came reports of an orange light “falling from the sky” over I-95 between Bucks County and Philadelphia.
Two more incidents took place in the early hours of 8th July. Two orange lights, both different sizes, hovered in the sky in one report. While another mentions “pink light with blue fog” as well as “three other bright lights”. These may have been part of the same object. Two nights later on the 10th July came an even stranger incident. A strange craft, according to witnesses, was sending “fairy dust” out from its underside. The sightings would continue deep into the summer.
At just before noon on the 16th July in Philadelphia County a local resident was driving home after finishing work when he noticed a strange “H-shaped object” in the noon sky overhead. He watched it for several moments as it hovered before it disappeared behind the trees that lined the roadside.
The witness noted later when she reported the sighting that the object made no noise whatsoever and moved much slower and controlled than a typical airplane. She also stated the craft, whatever it was, reminded her of an X-wing fighter from the Star Wars movies.
She would later ask her husband, who was at home at the time of the sighting, if he had seen anything from their home. Unfortunately, however, he stated he had not seen or heard anything out of the ordinary.
On the evening of 3rd August, at a little after 10 pm, one of the most intriguing sightings of the 2008 wave unfolded. The witness on this occasion was out on their balcony when they suddenly noticed a strange “humming sound”.
A second or two later he noticed a “bright ball of light” move across the sky at a considerable pace. He quickly scanned the sky to see if there was any other traffic (due to him living near to the Philadelphia International Airport). However, aside from the brightly lit object, it appeared there were no other vehicles overhead.
He continued to watch the strange light, which now moved much slower, certainly much slower than an airplane. The object would eventually disappear into the distance.
What is interesting about this particular sighting is that there are reports of similar objects from the New Jersey region – which is a relative stone’s throw from Philadelphia. The report described a “bright ball of light” moving across the sky overhead. Even more intriguing, later that same day, both in West Virginia and in Michigan, came reports of almost identical objects.
While it might be tempting to say the strange light was likely a natural object, given its apparent route and changes of direction, as well as the timespan between all of the sightings, as well as the controlled way in which it moved, it is likely that the object was most definitely a vehicle of some kind. Of course, whether the object was an extraterrestrial craft remains open to debate.
Although the incidents would die down as Fall and Winter came to Bucks County, by January 2009 a conference would be held by MUFON to address the situation. The UFO research group would state that reports in the region tripled, in some cases, quadrupled the organization’s workload. They would not only look at UFO sightings but also of alien abductions, and even alien-human hybridization programs.
Incidentally, sightings still continue fairly consistently in the Bucks County region, and although figures have not reached the same levels as 2008, across the state of Pennsylvania as a whole they have actually increased. However, Bucks County still leads Pennsylvania in UFO activity with more sightings for its population size than anywhere else.
Up next… one reason people don’t like going to dentists is pain – even if there is no pain, just the idea of pain is enough to keep people away. But in the early 1900s there was a dentist so confident he could give you a painless tooth-extraction that he even changed his name to “Painless Parker”. But did his name live up to his claim?
STORY: A DENTIST NAMED PAINLESS PARKER=====
At the Temple University’s dental museum in Philadelphia, there is a small section dedicated to one of the most notorious dentist of America—a so called “Painless Parker,” who claimed that his tooth extraction procedure was so painless that he would willingly refund ten times his fees if the operation caused any pain. In fact, the moniker “Painless” wasn’t just a nickname; he had legally changed his name to Painless Parker. The truth was anything but.
Painless Parker was born Edgar Randolph Parker in Tynemouth Creek, New Brunswick in 1872. Edger showed evidence of being a natural born salesman from a very young age. At the age of 7, he sold the school playground to a fellow classmate for 20 cents. At age 9, Edgar bartered with a neighbor to obtain a hen, eggs, and a chicken coop, with plans to become a chicken farmer. Edgar was rebellious and mischievous. He often feigned illness so that he could skip school. Once he acquired a wagon and a horse and became a street peddler selling trinkets. His father did not approve of Edgar’s peddling and sold off his wagon. In protest, Edgar left home and signed on to one if his uncle’s ships heading to Barbados.
While at sea, Edgar sustained an injury and ended up in hospital in Buenos Aires. Having spent the entire summer in the hospital, Edgar began to appreciate the kind of work doctors did and decided to become a doctor himself. Because his mother was a devout Christian and did not believe in medicine, Edgar choose a career in dentistry. He liked the idea that he might be able to save people the type of pain that his mother had endured over a period of time with an impacted wisdom tooth.
In 1889, Parker enrolled in the New York College of Dentistry. In order to support himself financially, he performed door to door dentistry and set up an office shortly after taking admission. This was a violation of college policy, and Parker was expelled from the college. The same year, he attended the Philadelphia Dental College (now the Temple University’s Kornberg School of Dentistry), graduating in 1892 at the age of twenty. Parker was a poor student, and he only graduated because he pleaded with his dean to pass him. After the dean did, Parker moved home to Canada to start work as a dentist.
At that time, it was considered unethical in the profession to solicit patients. He could join clubs and he could be active in the community endeavors but he should never directly ask for patients business. After 6 weeks without seeing a single patient, Parker decided to toss ethics aside and started an advertising campaign. In exchange for a new set of dentures, the desperate dentist bartered with a sign maker for a placard that read “Painless Parker.”
Parker set up shop at a street corner, and talked about horrors of tooth decay to attract customers. Parker promised extraction would be completely painless, and offered $5 if the patient wasn’t satisfied. He concocted a solution of cocaine and water, that he called “hydrocaine” to numb the pain. Surprisingly, the narcotic did its job, and soon parker was making money as a travelling dentist, extracting tooth for 50 cents.
Some years later Parker and his family moved to New York, where he met William Beebe, a former employee of PT Barnum’s circus. Beebe advised Parker to take the act to the road, just like Barnum did, and accordingly Parker launched the Parker Dental Circus, a traveling medicine show. He would start the show with a few facts about oral hygiene, then invite a volunteer from the crowd up to the stage. A stooge already planted among the crowd would step up and Parker would pretend to pull out a molar from the fake volunteer’s mouth, who would admit the operation was painless. When a real patient would climb on his horse-drawn wagon for the procedure, a band of musicians would start playing their instruments at full blast drowning out the patient’s screams.
Parker was sued many times for his false claims and his lack of ethics, which he fought it out in the courts. In 1930, the dental board of California told Parker that he could no longer call himself “Painless Parker”, and suspended his license for false advertising. So Parker legally changed his name from “Edgar” to “Painless”. His colleagues detested him too—the American Dental Association even called him “a menace to the dignity of the profession.”
Notwithstanding, Parker’s business thrived. On one notable day, he claimed to have pulled 357 teeth in a single day, which he wore on a necklace. He also hired assistants and established a chain dentistry business. At its peak, Parker ran 28 West Coast dental offices, employing over 70 dentists, and grossing $3 million per year. His clinics hawked dental services as well as a line of dental care products such as mouthwashes, toothpastes and powders for brushing at home.
Despite being a huckster, Parker’s contribution to the dental world is undeniable. He believed in inexpensive healthcare and wouldn’t charge for preliminary assessments. He gave out vouchers, allowed patients without means to use credit, and educated the public on the importance of dental hygiene.
“Parker’s most indisputable legacy to the field of dentistry is his contribution, through his bad acts, charlatanism and relentless pursuit of profits, to the development of professional ethics in dentistry,” said, Dr. Amid Ismail, the dean of Kornberg School of Dentistry, Temple University.
Today, a section of the exhibits at the Temple University’s museum is dedicated to Painless Parker. There you can see a selection of tools that Parker used along with the infamous teeth necklace and a bucket full of teeth that Parker extracted throughout his lifetime.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me 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.
“Murderous Sisters” by Trilby Beresford for Ranker; and A.W. Naves for Medium
“The Bucks County UFO Encounter” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight
“Punishments Worse Than Death” by Christopher Myers for Weird History; and Marco Margaritoff for All That’s Interesting
“The Mexican Zone of Silence” by Riley Winters for Ancient Origins Unleashed
“A Dentist Named Painless Parker” by Kaushik Patowary for Amusing Planet
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… (Proverbs 10:2) “Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death.”
And a final thought… “The only way to fail is to stop showing up.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.