“THE QUEEN MARY: THE GREY GHOST WITH A HAUNTED HISTORY” and More True Tales! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Although the Queen Mary’s rich history may have garnered the vessel some impressive titles, she has recently earned a more notorious designation. Ghost stories from the Queen Mary suggest that it may be one of the most haunted ships in the world. (Haunted History of the Queen Mary) *** One of the last mezzo-sopranos of the 19th Century, Elena Theodorini was also one of the most beloved. Except for that time when… well… when she was accused of being a spy. (The Spy Who Came In From The Sea) *** Joseph was walking down the street, minding his own business, when he was jumped by a group of men armed with scissors and razors… they were after his long, luxurious beard. And that’s just the beginning of the insanity that Joseph Palmer had to go through simply because he refused to shave. (Joseph Palmer and the Beard of Justice) *** Weirdo family member and paranormal researcher John Parrish shares a true story with a simple lesson – don’t ever use a Ouija board. (The Repercussions of Using a Ouija Board) *** (Originally aired November 11, 2020)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Haunted Destination: RMS Queen Mary” from Travel Channel: https://tinyurl.com/yyau84x3
“Haunted History of the Queen Mary” by Sabrina Ithal for Ranker’s Graveyard Shift: https://tinyurl.com/yyj26het
“The Spy Who Came In From The Sea” by Elyse for Second Glance History: https://tinyurl.com/yxpaxsz7
“The Repercussions of Using a Ouija Board” by Weirdo family member, John Parrish
“Joseph Palmer and the Beard of Justice” from Slightly Odd Fitchburg: https://tinyurl.com/y4roch9r
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In the 1930s, the RMS Queen Mary was the ultimate luxury liner: big names of the day like Winston Churchill, Greta Garbo and Clark Gable all journeyed across the Atlantic on her majestic decks. When World War II broke out, the Queen Mary was painted grey and re-dubbed the “Grey Ghost” to ferry soldiers to the frontlines. Today, you can find her docked off the port of Long Beach, CA, where she now serves as a floating hotel. But before you book, beware: the ship’s 1,001 trans-Atlantic crossings of yore were accompanied by 49 recorded deaths. Today, as many as 150 different spirits may still call the Queen Mary home. Some notable residents include a crew member who was crushed to death by a watertight door, a woman dressed in all-white who dances by herself in one of the luxury suites, and several adults and children in 1930s-era garb whose apparitions have been spotted wandering the pool decks. Watch out for drastic temperature changes, slamming doors, knocking, screams, lights flickering and children crying — all aboard a ship that’s earned its reputation as one of the most haunted structures in America.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – (I’m Darren Marlar and) this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
One of the last mezzo-sopranos of the 19th Century, Elena Theodorini was also one of the most beloved. Except for that time when… well… when she was accused of being a spy. (The Spy Who Came In From The Sea)
Joseph was walking down the street, minding his own business, when he was jumped by a group of men armed with scissors and razors… they were after his long, luxurious beard. And that’s just the beginning of the insanity that Joseph Palmer had to go through simply because he refused to shave. (Joseph Palmer and the Beard of Justice)
Weirdo family member and paranormal researcher John Parrish shares a true story with a simple lesson – don’t ever use a Ouija board. (The Repercussions of Using a Ouija Board)
Although the Queen Mary’s rich history may have garnered the vessel some impressive titles, she has recently earned a more notorious designation. Ghost stories from the Queen Mary suggest that it may be one of the most haunted ships in the world. (Haunted History of the Queen Mary)
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: HAUNTED HISTORY OF THE QUEEN MARY=====
When the RMS Queen Mary was launched in 1936, she was the flagship jewel in the Cunard-White Star Cruise Line crown. At 1,019 feet long, the Queen Mary was the longest ship in the world – even longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall. She was a giant of the sea and heralded for being bigger, faster, and more powerful than the ill-fated Titanic. Her craftsmanship was unparalleled at the time, and today the Queen Mary is still considered to be one of the most elegant passenger ships ever built.
During her reign, this stately North Atlantic liner carried a veritable who’s who of celebrities, artists, and political dignitaries across open waters. From Bob Hope and Elizabeth Taylor to President Dwight D. Eisenhower and the Kennedys, the elite clamored to enjoy this mobile luxury hotel and its upscale amenities. Life aboard the ship was glamorous, and the evenings rivaled the gala affairs held in palaces.
Because of her sheer power and swiftness, the Queen Mary was drafted during WWII to ferry Allied troops to the heart of the fight. The Queen Mary was decommissioned in 1967 and permanently docked in Long Beach, CA, where she operates today as a luxury hotel and living museum.
Although the Queen Mary’s rich history may have garnered the vessel some impressive titles, she has recently earned a more notorious designation. Ghost stories from the Queen Mary suggest that it may be one of the most haunted ships in the world. Scary stories about the Queen Mary say she is riddled with phantom figures, cold spots, and disembodied voices, and the craft has made her way onto the ultimate ghost hunting bucket list for good reason. Whether the haunted Queen Mary is dominating history or paranormal lore, she continues to prove that she is the queen of them all.
In the early morning hours of July 10, 1966, the crew of the Queen Mary ran a routine emergency drill. While near the engine room during the drill, 18-year-old crew member John Pedder attempted to squeeze through door 13 while it was completing its 60-second closing process. Pedder gravely miscalculated, and was caught in the door. Today, “Half Hatch Harry,” as Pedder is affectionately known, is often spotted in corridors and elevators surrounding the engine room. Those visiting “Shaft Alley” – the narrow passage from the engine room to the stern – have reported seeing a bearded man in dated work overalls following them, and then suddenly disappearing near door 13. There are also claims of clothing or purses being tugged on, banging on pipes, and greasy hand prints appearing out of nowhere. Former tour guide Nancy Anne disclosed her own encounter with Pedder: “I don’t know why I turned around, but I turned around, and standing right behind me on the step was a man. He had on blue overalls, and they were dirty. When I stepped aside to let him go by, he wasn’t there. He was gone.”
One of the saddest tales from the Queen Mary involves what presumably happened in room B-474. A man slayed his wife and child, then proceeded to the bathroom, where he executed his other daughter before annihilating himself. Some say that the daughter found with him in that B deck restroom has continued to roam the Queen Mary ever since. Referred to as “Dana,” the girl is said to haunt the archive and cargo areas of the ship, and can be heard playing and hiding among the crates. Ghost hunters often investigate the cargo hold in search of the lost girl, and claim proof of her existence in the form of orbs and misty shadows that appear in their photos. Visitors have also reported seeing Dana wandering near the second-class pool, desperately crying out for her mother.
One of the most famous spirits aboard the Queen Mary is known as Jackie. While it’s unknown whether or not Jacqueline Torin perished in the second-class pool, she has continued to spook both guests and investigators for decades. Jackie is one of the most recorded spirits aboard the Queen Mary, and is known for audibly answering questions and leaving behind lively EVP exchanges. Tour guides often try to coax little Jackie into singing the guests a song. Occasionally, she does. A playful ghost, Jackie often interacts with visitors in either the first- or second-class pool areas. Many have claimed to hear her giggling, laughing, singing, splashing in the pool and asking for either her parents or her teddy. Guests say they have even heard her playing with other children. “We came into the pool and I heard giggling. The sound of a little girl playing in the area. And at that point, I noticed there was splashing,” said Kathy Love, a maintenance supervisor on the ship. “The splashing stopped, the giggling continued and we observed the wet footprints of a small child walking across into the locker room. I know that I saw what I saw. I’m not sure exactly why I saw it but I know it was there.”
During WWII, the Queen Mary was put into active duty for her country. Because of the gray paint job that she was given as a new Allied troop transport ship, she was nicknamed “The Grey Ghost.” At that time, it was customary for ships to sail in a zigzag pattern in order to counter any U-boat strikes. Larger craft would often be escorted through open water by smaller vessels that would provide anti-aircraft cover. Germany had made it clear that the Queen Mary was a target, and at one time there was a $250,000 reward and an Iron Cross to any submarine captain capable of sinking her. Because of this, the vessel was given orders to never stop while out in open sea, or else she was likely to become the target of intense U-boat fire. In October 1942, the Queen Mary’s escort ship, the HMS Curacoa, was struggling to keep up and tried to recoup some ground by running straight instead of zigzagging. The Queen Mary collided so hard with the Curacoa that the smaller ship was severed in two. Due to her orders, the Queen Mary sailed on. The Curacoa sank in less than six minutes, and only 99 men survived. While working in the bow of the ship, marine engineer John Smith claimed to hear sounds of rushing water, metal tearing, and men screaming on several different occasions. Much later, after Smith read an article about the Curacoa, he said, “the very area where I heard that mysterious water rushing was the exact same area that was damaged when the ship hit the Curacoa. I said, ‘This is what it would have sounded and felt like if I had been in that compartment at the time.’ But I knew it couldn’t be.” Others have had similar experiences. Some have said that they heard what sounded like dozens of hands pounding on the sides of the ship, begging to be let aboard.
A man named John Henry is rumored to have passed near the generator room while working on the construction crew of the Queen Mary in the 1930s. Today, unexplained noises and sightings of a shadowy figure plague that area. People inside the room have reported being touched, having their cheeks brushed, and being pushed or tugged on. There have also been claims of spirits looking down at people through a hole in the, ceiling and then darting away. The most common sounds from the area are persistent clanks and taps on the hull. Some say the sounds are consistent with men working on a ship.
Server Carol Leyden had been working on the Queen Mary for 14 years before she had an encounter she would never forget: “For some reason I picked up a cup of coffee, went out to the tables, and there was a lady sitting there. I was so fascinated by her dress. She appeared to be in a late afternoon cocktail-type dress from the ’40s. She had dark hair, rolled at the sides, no makeup on. She seemed very pale, but I never saw her move. I left the table, went up about ten feet, turned around because I wanted to take another look, and there was nothing there.” Leslie Schirmacher, a bartender in the Starboard Lounge, claims that she has been personally haunted by a specter named “Bruce.” Schirmacher says she can feel someone watching her, and that Bruce tends to moves wine glasses.
One of the most common occurrences aboard the Queen Mary is also one of the most mysterious. Figures known as “Shadow People” seem to lurk around every corner without rhyme or reason. Guests and investigators alike have photos supposedly showing Shadow People slinking through the ship. These apparitions have acquired this moniker because they look like human-shaped shadows. Most describe them as darting along their peripheral vision, or skirting along the edges of rooms and hallways.
A distinctive presence is said to linger in the first-class pool. When the area is quiet, visitors have claimed to see the infamous “Woman in a Bathing Suit.” While the name seems a little lackluster for a resident wandering spook, it’s an accurate description. The Queen Mary’s passenger history is too dense to identify the woman, who appears to be in her late 20s or early 30s, and is seen in a 1930s-style bathing suit. The woman is often seen heading to the changing rooms or walking along the edge of the pool. Some have claimed to see footprints or puddles appear just before the specter materializes.
Most of the Queen Mary’s 355 rooms are considered haunted. Upon check-in, the front desk actually produces a list of every room that has a reported instance of paranormal activity associated with it. But of all twelve decks, the B deck is considered to be a hub of supernatural energy – especially room B-340. Persistent complaints of strange noises, footsteps, faucets turning on and off, hangers moving in the closet, furniture moving, voices, guests being touched, the comforter being ripped off of the bed, and numerous other incidents caused management to close B-340 up. Even with the room no longer available to guests spending the night, the activity continued, and the room was stripped completely bare. Guests in neighboring rooms still report unusual noises, as well as sightings of full-bodied apparitions appearing in front of them and then vanishing through the walls into room B-340. The origins of the wild activity in B-340 are unclear. One story says that a staff member was slain in the room, and now drives out anyone who tries to stay there. Other rumors swirl of a pregnant bride isolating herself inside the room, and going insane when her lover ultimately rejected both her and her baby. There’s another possibility: Disney could have made it up. In 1988, Disney acquired the Queen Mary when it bought out the Wrather Corp., which managed the attraction. For their Haunted Passages tour, they hired actors and decorated certain areas to look more decayed or rotting. Author Brian Clune claims that Disney needed a scary story for B-340, since that room was empty enough to be used for the new haunted tour. But if the story is indeed invented, it doesn’t explain the ongoing activity reported by visitors to the ship.
As an Allied transport ship during WWII, the Queen Mary carried 800,000 soldiers overseas. By removing the lavish furnishings and décor, the ship was able to double her normal capacity. The Queen Mary still holds the record for the most people aboard a floating vessel at one time, at 16,683. Soldiers were dangerously overcrowded on the ship. “Unfortunately, as part of security, records weren’t kept from WWII,” ship archivist Bill Winberg said. “But when the ship was in the Red Sea, there was no getting away from the fact that troops were crowded below in 120-degree temperatures. There was no ventilation, portholes were welded shut because of blackouts, and they were losing people from heat prostration.” It was estimated that, because of such extreme conditions, there was a burial at sea every four hours. This could explain the numerous sightings of men clad in WWII-era soldier uniforms roaming the A, B, and M decks. It also sheds more light on the possible origins behind numerous EVPs that have been collected by paranormal investigators, in which men’s voices speaking of military duties and commands have been captured.
The origins of the Lady in White are unknown, but this spirit is frequently seen dancing the night away in a shadowy corner of the Queen’s Salon, formerly known as the First-Class Lounge. She has also been reported to hang around the ship’s lobby near the piano, which was originally housed in the lounge. She is described as a young, beautiful woman decked out in a white evening gown from the 1930s. When she isn’t dancing, guests can usually see her gliding down the stairs towards the lobby, walking past corridors, or disappearing near the elevators. She has even appeared during some of the ghost tours that frequent the ship.
On September 18, 1949, Second Senior Staff Officer William E. Stark was on the hunt for some gin. His captain had given Stark permission to have a drink, but he was unable to locate the liquor. A steward, F.R. Stokes, located the wayward alcohol and handed it over to Stark. What Stokes didn’t know was that a fellow shipmate had used the empty gin bottle to store some cleaning fluid – specifically, tetrachloride. Immediately, Stark knew something wasn’t right. According to Stokes’s report, “Mr. Stark came to my cabin again and said, ‘I have drunk some kind of acid.’ I said, ‘I am sorry, sir, I thought it was gin.” In the days following the incident, Stark fell into a sleeping state and passed. The ethereal form of Officer Stark has been spotted walking through his personal quarters and along the main deck and promenade. Tony Ashlin, who is a tour guide on board the Queen Mary, said that he saw the apparition standing near the control panel in the aft engine room with a clipboard in hand. Some visitors speculate that Stark is only lingering around the Queen Mary because he’s still looking for his nip of gin.
The Queen Mary’s Sir Winston’s Restaurant and Lounge takes its name from frequent guest, Churchill himself. The restaurant is known for its fine foods, sumptuous decor – and resident spirit. The ghostly figure appears in a top hat, tails, and slicked-back hair, and is known simply as “The Dude.” While some passengers have spotted him traipsing down the corridors, this entity is mostly encountered in the bar section of Sir Winston’s. The Dude is known to clear his throat loudly behind guests in order to gain their attention, and then beat a hasty retreat through the wall leading to the men’s restroom. He has also been seen enjoying a drink at the bar with a bright smile on his face. When anyone approaches this jovial patron to strike up a conversation, he vanishes from sight.
The Queen Mary was a magnet for stars and the crème de la crème back in her heyday. But perhaps her most famous frequent visitor was British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. This historical powerhouse stayed on board the Queen Mary several times throughout WWII. The entire M Deck was reserved for him and his entourage, and Churchill often stated that the ship was his headquarters on the sea. It was during one of these trips that he signed the D-Day Declaration. Today, guests can visit the lounge named after him, and his own private suite that he inhabited during WWII. Many hotel guests claim that those aren’t the only touches Churchill left behind. Lodgers have reported sighting Churchill himself near his private quarters, as well as on the Promenade, Sun, and Sports decks. Thumps, bumps, disembodied voices, and someone clearing their throat have been heard emanating from Churchill’s empty suite. The most common occurrence is an overpowering smell of heavy cigar smoke near his room and on the M Deck, even though no one can smoke in those areas.
And one last item. Visitors to the Queen Mary often tell stories about ghostly cats haunting the ship. The changing rooms near the first- and third-class pools have garnered plenty of EVPs featuring “meows,” and some guests report feeling something invisible brushing up against their legs. Skeptics maintain that strays must have taken up residence on the vessel. However, searches have yet to turn up any living, breathing animals.
Coming up… One of the last mezzo-sopranos of the 19th Century, Elena Theodorini was also one of the most beloved. Except for that time when… well… when she was accused of being a spy.
Weirdo family member and paranormal researcher John Parrish shares a true story with a simple lesson – don’t ever use a Ouija board. These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE SPY WHO CAME IN FROM THE SEA=====
According to the Daily News, August 17, 1918: “[In 1892,] a young girl singer of bewitching beauty, destined to worldwide fame thereafter, made her debut at the Costanzi Opera House in Rome in ‘The Huguenots.’ She was ‘billed’ alongside the celebrated tenor, Marconi. Her name was Elena Teodorini.”
Actually, her name was Theodorini, but if that’s the newspaper’s worst misprint, it’s a good day in the early 20th century.
Elena’s cosmopolitan destiny was evident from the beginning. She was born on March 25, 1857 in Craiova, Romania to parents of Greek extraction. Since she came from a family of actors, it’s not surprising that she studied singing and piano at the Milan Conservatory in Italy. In 1880, she shattered a glass ceiling—probably not literally—when she became the first Romanian singer to debut at La Scala, a renowned opera house in Milan.
The Daily News article of that same date went on to say: “At the very outset of her career she took the Roman musical world by storm, by force of the qualities of her voice and her dramatic interpretation. Soon her talents were being competed for by impresarios in most of the great European centres and in cities beyond the Atlantic.”
She went on to perform as a soprano and mezzo-soprano in opera houses from Milan and Madrid to Lisbon and London. Her meteoric rise was underway.
I know, I know: You’re here for a spy thriller. But before you accuse me of false advertising, keep listening. I have to set the stage and get all the bad puns out of my system.
Perhaps the international stardom weighed on Elena, or maybe she really wanted to learn how to tango. In either case, a change of scenery was in order. After first performing in Buenos Aires in 1884, she, according to the El Paso Herald in December 22, 1917: “. . . afterward became so attached to Argentina audiences that she made her home in this city. Since then she has figured in the musical and theatrical life of Argentina, although she had retired from the operatic stage.”
The feeling was mutual. The paper continued: “Few women ever have been so popular and so believed by the Argentine public as Elena Theodorini.”
Elena’s adopted homeland dubbed her “La Theodorini.” You know you’ve made it when you get a definite article in front of your name. She joined the ranks of such illustrious stars as Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Billy the Kid and Kenny “The Jet” Smith, who Wikipedia tells me is a sports commentator and former professional basketball player. On second thought, maybe “the” is not such a distinction.
However, unbeknownst to her adoring fans, Elena had a secret. According to the El Paso Herald story: “. . . the general public did not know, as did diplomatic circles, that she had been in recent years a great friend of Count Luxburg and a member of a circle of theatrical women who were dined and wined at the residence of the German diplomat.”
If you thought middle school was the last time lunch tables mattered, think again. Count Karl von Luxburg was Germany’s representative to Argentina during the First World War and the resident bad boy of Buenos Aires—but not the cool kind you used to have crushes on, girls. He was more akin to the emotionally disturbed type who would set things on fire.
Like every middle schooler, Karl passed notes. In a secret dispatch to Berlin, quoted in the American Journal of International Law, May 19, 1917, he wrote: “. . . there has been a great change in public feeling. Government will in future only clear Argentine ships as far as Las Palmas. I beg that the small steamers Oran and Guazo, thirty-first January, 300 tons, which are [now] nearing Bordeaux with a view to change the flag, may be spared if possible, or else sunk without a trace being left.”
Unfortunately for Karl, the teacher caught him and read his note out loud to the entire class. In this case, that teacher was U.S. Secretary of State Robert Lansing, who published Karl’s dispatches advocating the sinking of a neutral nation’s ships. No matter how rough your middle school years were, at least you didn’t get caught suggesting unrestricted submarine warfare. . . right?
Consequently, “Count Luxburg received his passports from the Argentine government,” which is just like getting expelled from school. Elena’s parents should’ve been worried about the crowd she was hanging out with.
On October 5, 1917, Elena boarded the Spanish steamer Queen Victoria Eugenia en route to Paris “in company with a group of theatrical persons who were known to be friends of Count Luxburg.” She was reportedly coming to the aid of her poverty-stricken sister, who had lost everything during the war.
But was that all she was doing in Europe? According to the Daily News, August 17, 1918: “Teodorini (still misspelling her name) had by the American authorities been long suspected of espionage. These suspicions were intensified through her incessant tripping to and from New York and Buenos Ayres, and yet, so far all efforts to establish any guilt were foiled — till, just after her embarking on October 2, on the Spanish trans-Atlantic boat, Queen Victoria Eugenia, the American police wirelessed the Anglo-French watchers, telling of their grave misgivings that Teodorini was, perhaps, bearing confidential dispatches to Germany’s Secret Service agents in Spain.”
Shortly after the ship set sail, it was stopped and searched by a British cruiser. The sailors were looking for Karl. When they didn’t find him, they arrested some of Elena’s traveling companions but allowed her and the ship to continue on their merry way. She must have exhaled deeply and ordered a stiff drink.
However, her relief would be short lived. On October 25, off the coast of Cádiz, Spain, a British destroyer approached the Queen Victoria Eugenia. The ship was boarded by warrant-toting officials looking for Elena. From the same article, a fellow passenger is quoted later saying to reporters: “On being told that they were to ransack her baggage, Signorina Teodorini turned deadly pale; but, quickly recovering herself, she assumed a more haughty demeanor, demanding, “Why mine more than anybody else’s?” She assisted at the search, maintaining an attitude of apparent indifference. Some amusement was caused among bystanders by the seizure, among other articles, of a bulky roll of curl-papers, the wrapper of which was still intact.”
You know that feeling when all the embarrassing stuff you crammed into your school locker spilled out into the hallway in front of everyone? Elena sure did. Still quoting the Daily News: “On being subjected to a special acid test, however, these papers appeared to be covered with curious hieroglyphical writing.”
. . . Never mind. I don’t know about you, but my locker didn’t double as a chemistry lab. Continuing the article: “The searchers confessed that the cypher surpassed their understanding. After an English stewardess had been fetched on board to replace Teodorini’s maid orders were given to get the vessel again under way. While British officers could still be seen tackling their task of decipherment with all the patience of enthusiastic cryptologists, the passengers, on their part, were beginning to forget the incident in the fond imagination that they were at last nearing their port of destination. Instead of that, they suddenly found themselves alongside a French cruiser.”
At that point, no one could have blamed them if they’d opted to swim the rest of the way.
“Then Miss Teodorini’s artist acquaintances [on board the ship] learned that the suspected spy had been stripped as for the bath, when, ‘lo! and behold, inscribed on her shoulders was discovered a complete key to the mystic writing on the roll of curl-papers. Thus was delivered into the hands of Britain’s Ally Signorina Teodorini, now accused of treasonable communications with the enemy.”
I’m not sure if a tattooed key to a code is the most devious or dumbest idea I’ve ever heard of.
Elena was promptly arrested by the commander of the French ship. She found herself in dire straits. According to the Daily News: “During her sojourn in the Argentine Republic the famous prima donna, Elena Teodorini, seems to have been caught in the toils of Count Luxburg (the Kaiser’s envoy) and his gang, and thereby to have become involved in the alleged conspiracy for the undoing of France. . . Like the executed dancing spy, Mata-Hari, it is into the clutches of the rejuvenated France that Signorina Teodorini has at length fallen.”
The headline of the El Paso Herald on December 22, 1917 read: “ARREST OF OPERA SINGER AS GERMAN SPY ASTOUNDS PEOPLE OF BUENOS AIRES – Elena Theodorini, Taken From a Vessel on Charge of Being Spy for Luxburg, Had Been Popular Favorite in Buenos Aires; Too Close Friendship With Luxburg Causes the Arrest of Brilliant Singer.”
“These revelations go to make a chapter of a story every whit as startling as that of the ill-fated Dutch variety hall dancer, Mata-Hari.” said the Daily News on August 17, 1918.
Every whit as startling – but not every whit as true. Plot twist!
Headline in the New York Tribune, February 27, 1918: “Opera Singer, Called Spy, Back In Argentina to Defend Name”.
Then the story in that same edition: “La Theodorini, as Argentinians have long called her, announced that she had come back to defend herself against the imputation that she had been engaged in espionage work here, of which the French authorities were reported to have accused her.”
Let’s all give a slow clap for the 20th-century press’ uncanny ability to turn an admittedly egregious misunderstanding into a sensational international scandal.
Once back in friendly territory, Elena gave the performance of a lifetime as she set the record straight in a number of tell-all interviews published in early 1918.
According to Joquin E. Riambau in “Conversing with La Theodorini”: “La Theodorini could not suppress the crying that broke her words. Her paleness and the trembling that shook her lean body, told us something about the strength that animated this old lady, in an hour that could be supreme.”
As best Google Translate and I can figure, Elena picked up right where the newspapers left off. After an agonizing 24 hours aboard the French cruiser, military authorities apparently realized the error of their ways and ordered her immediate release. She was set free in Tangier and probably kissed the ground before hightailing it to Paris.
Count Luxburg? Never met him. Secret messages in curl papers? Hogwash. That supposed tattoo on her back? Don’t even start.
I admit, for a spy thriller, it’s a little anticlimactic: no bombs, no high-speed chases and no evil villain laughing manically as he presses a big red button. I can understand why the newspapers ended with the secret code and Elena’s arrest. But at least there’s betrayal.
According to Elena herself, “I learned that the accusation of which I was a victim came from Buenos Aires, addressed to the North American government. I suspect two ‘close friends’ who always showed a strange interest in my trip, and who, later, did not even remember me. . . They are foreigners. I forgive them. . . Now, am I not rehabilitated? Am I proud to have received from France, through its heroes, the honor of an apology?”
Considering La Theodorini was a literal prima donna, that was very magnanimous of her. We may never know who accused her of espionage, but I suspect that story, if true, would be even more compelling than her ordeal on the high seas.
The next few years of Elena’s life are a mystery. Her name doesn’t appear after 1918 in any of the English-language newspapers I scoured. After that kind of publicity, perhaps some anonymity was a welcome change. Let’s hope she spent her time mingling with a nicer crowd of friends. In 1924, she moved back home to Romania and taught in Bucharest and Athens before passing away on February 27, 1926.
The moral of this story: When you assume, you make an ass out of U and ME. . . and the millions of people who read your newspaper. Now that’s a lesson they ought to teach in middle school.
STORY: THE REPERCUSSIONS OF USING A OUIJA BOARD=====
This next story is from Weirdo family member, John Parrish.
First off, I have been investigating the paranormal for 49 years. Having seen so much in this time, I have investigated some of the most haunted places here in Indiana. One place that stands out in investigating Central State Mental Asylum in Indianapolis, Indiana. Some of the best evidence was gathered there. Knowing the history of Central State made me want to investigate it even more. The story I am about to tell you is true and I will state my reputation on it.
Back in 2003, my late wife bought my daughter a Ouija Board. I immediately told her to get rid of it. She asked me why and I told her, these devices can cause harm. She laughed it off and said, “Everything will be fine.” I said, “we’ll see.” One day I was at work and received a frantic phone call from my daughter wanting me to come home right away. I asked her what was wrong and she told me she will explain when I got home. I got home and saw that her and her friend were huddled together, scared. My first words out of my mouth were, “You didn’t open the Ouija Board, did you?” My daughter said with some hesitation, “Yes.” I said, “I told you the ramifications of opening this device.” She said yes but was curious.
As the month’s went on, we kept experiencing activity around the apartment. Subtle noises like knocking on walls and doors, footsteps going up and down the stairs, whispering voices. This was just the start of things much worse. One day my daughter was up in her room when her door slammed shut by itself. She told me her window was closed so, no wind would have caused this to happen. She told me several time when she would be asleep, she would be woken up around 5am every morning from a voice that would yell at her to get up. After a while she said, it would annoy her and told whatever it was to stop and leave her alone. There were times she would go downstairs to the basement get some clothes and would her a voice from the otherside of the basement, saying “Hello!” This frightened her so much, she ran upstairs. This would probably scare anyone.
After further investigating, I did find we did have 3 spirits in the house. One was a female child and the other 2 were adult males. The female she named Neela, the first male she named Dennis and the second male she named “The Shadow man.” The Shadow Man was the worst of all 3. This was the one who caused most of the problems, mostly against my daughter. This was believed to be the one responsible for yelling at her at 5am every morning and the one who slammed her bedroom door. This went on for about 6 to 7 month’s. Then the worse happened, my wife was up in our room when the phone rang, I said to her I would answer it, but before I could, she answered it. She said it was for me and so I picked up the phone. Just before I hung up, I heard my wife upstairs, screaming on agony. I ran upstairs and found her on the floor. She said she had broken her leg. I asked her how she did it and she said she didn’t know. She said she didn’t trip over anything that she knew of. We did have a wicker clothes hamper at the end of the bed but she said she didn’t trip over that.
Later on after my wife had passed away, I got to thinking, I wondered if the Shadow Man had anything to do with this? My daughter thought the same thing because anytime we would try to intervene between this entity and our daughter, the Shadow Man would retaliate against us. This was our conclusion of what happened. Several other times I would witness our bedroom door, slowly closing by itself. Other times I would be watching TV when it would shut off. The timer wasn’t set. In understanding the incidences that went on, I did some research of the apartment complex where we lived but, didn’t find anything abnormal. The spirit Neela, well she was a little prankster, she loved hiding things from us. Like car keys and remotes. She at times would look over the banister, looking at either my daughter or myself as we sat at the computer. One night I was doing to EVP analyzing when I had this feeling of being watched. I slowly looked over and saw her standing just at the opening of the stairwell and the wall. The smile she gave me was so cute, we never really had anything bad happen from her, just her pranks of hiding stuff. The other spirit, Dennis, I believe he was a protector of my daughter. He would from time to time peak just above the second floor landing, she’d look over seeing he was looking at her. He would go away but seems he would spend most of his time in the stairwell, walking up and down. At night we could hear footsteps going up and down the stairs, as if he was pacing.
Not knowing why he was doing this, we just let him do it. Neela was just the opposite of Dennis, she would spend most of her time in the basement, noting wanting to disturb us. Except for when she would play pranks on us, which was ok. However, the Shadow Man was down right hateful, he would do anything to harm any of us, which was prevalent to what happened to my wife. The Shadow Man didn’t like me at all because I believe he knew I could get rid of him at any moment. Just after my wife had passed away, my daughter and I moved from the apartment. But before we did, I asked a friend of mine who was a demonologist, how to bid a spirit to a particular room. She told me so, I did a binding spell to keep the Shadow Man in my daughter’s room for good. After we left, my daughter and I could fell total relief from this entity. My daughter asked me he could ever follow her and I said no because it is bound to that room forever, it can not ever escape.
Some years later we went back to that apartment complex and went to our old apartment. We didn’t go inside but looked from the outside. As we got out of the car, we could feel anger, hatred and resentment from the apartment. We knew it was still there and hated us being there. So we got back in the car and vowed to never ever go back and we never did.
When Weird Darkness returns… Joseph was walking down the street, minding his own business, when he was jumped by a group of men armed with scissors and razors… they were after his long, luxurious beard. And that’s just the beginning of the insanity that Joseph Palmer had to go through simply because he refused to shave.
STORY: JOSEPH PALMER AND THE BEARD OF JUSTICE=====
I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that the world is full of jerkwads. I know, it’s a tough pill to swallow, but here we are. You get jerkwads who just can’t stand it when someone else does something they don’t understand and you get jerkwads that can’t bear someone being happy and keeping to themselves. Luckily, there are occasional heroes who stand up for the God given right to exist without having to answer to these drooling buffoons.
One of those heroes was Joseph Palmer, who hailed from an olde timey village just outside of Leominster. He had the courage to live life the way he wanted and he never made a single excuse for it. This was a man who knew the glory of a luxurious full face beard and suffered in its name. That’s right; our hero Joseph Palmer was… “Persecuted for wearing the beard!” It even says that on his tombstone.
Joseph’s story began in 1798 when he was born in Massachusetts. He grew up and turned into a farmer living is Notown, MA. Although it’s now just a bunch of sweet looking ruins and a reservoir, it used to exist where Fitchburg, Leominster, and Princeton meet. It served as a small farming commune where the early 19th century version of filthy hippies used to do their thing.
He was a veteran of the War of 1812 and, most importantly to some, he had a magnificent beard. He started wearing it in the 1820s and loved it like a very hairy child.
The problem was that, at this point in history, men didn’t really wear beards anymore. They had fallen out of fashion sometime around 1720. That meant that Palmer had the audacity to go around in a style that hadn’t seen the light of day since before the United States was actually born. This method of quietly doing his own thing was enough to drive all of the local jerkwads into a violent rage.
You know who these kinds of people were, by the way. You see them all of the time. They’re the jerkwads who think they’re better and smarter than anyone else on the planet, even though they’ve never cracked a book or traveled more than three miles from home. They’re the types of lame-ass dorks who travel in packs and pick on anyone they deem to be smaller and weaker than they are. Then, once their targets actually stand up for themselves, these jerkwads suddenly become the victims.
You saw a lot of them come out of the woodwork in the earlier days of the COVID-19 quarantine. They were the ones setting off fireworks in your neighborhood at 3am on a Tuesday, then rushing to Facebook to ask why everyone was “butt hurt” by the explosions. They have no consideration for the people around them and cry about their freedoms being oppressed just because their neighbors want to actually sleep at some point. They enjoy all of the benefits of living in a community but do nothing to make it better. If they need help, it’s the rest of the world that has to provide it because they deserve it. If the rest of the world needs help though, it can just go jump in a big fat wet lake, then do it again, because they’ve always taken care of themselves and that’s what everyone else should do! So there! Nyah!
So, ole beardy was just minding his own business one day and delivering fruits and vegetables from his commune to a Fitchburg hotel. Four bros saw him and decided that his facial hair was their business and attacked him with scissors and razors. They were intent on shaving him because this was the 1800s and they had nothing better to do.
They would have gotten away with it, but this was a war veteran who was used to living off the land. He fought back and managed to stab two of them in the leg with a knife that he always carried with him. Just like the bros of today, his insistence on not being overpowered and assaulted by them immediately turned them into the victims. Joseph was arrested and charge with “unprovoked assault.” That’s what you get for fighting back and bringing a knife to a scissor fight.
Palmer got arraigned a few days later and was found guilty by a judge named David Birmingham. The resultant sentence had him paying a $10 fine, court fees of $40, and a full $700 court bond. That $700 is a lot today, but keep in mind that this is 1830s money. Adjusted for inflation, that would amount to almost $20,000 in 2020. That’s a heckuva lot of cash for defending yourself – and he just flat out refused to pay it.
He may have had the moral right on his side, but he got thrown into jail nonetheless. He wound up in Worcester County Jail for fifteen months and nary a thing happened to the people who attacked him.
Once inside, Joseph Palmer kept a detailed journal of all the crap that was going down in the place. He recorded the fact that he got sick as a dog as soon as he got tossed into his cell. After he recovered, he was treated to regular beatings from the guards, starvation, and still had to deal with other prisoners threatening him over his glorious but unfashionable beard.
On top of his journal, he was also making good with his time by sending a constant barrage of letters to the sheriff of Worcester County, one Calvin Willard. He made sure the guy was kept up on all of the beatings and punishments that rained down on him. He even sent him every last bit of food that he was given on one entire day, which was almost nothing, especially given the fact that every bit of it fit inside a single envelope.
All of this led to entire committees visiting him in prison and begging him to leave. They even agreed to waive the $700 bond so he would just have to pay the fines and fees and be done with it. Palmer was all like, “Hey, 50 bucks is 50 bucks” and told them to go screw themselves.
Okay, actually what he said was much more mature and a whole lot deeper. He was quoted as saying: “If I ain’t a safe person to have my liberty I ought not to go out. And I am willing to stay in confinement til I am.”
Finally, the judge who put him there in the first place, David Birmingham, realized that the punishment he gave him far outweighed his crime. He visited Joseph with a letter from his mother in hand and he relented. It turns out that when your 80-something-year-old ma begs you stop being tortured for her sake, you just have to listen. He paid the $50 and peaced out of that place for good.
Joseph Palmer spent the next few decades working for prison reform and was an early adopter of the abolitionist movement. He also palled around with the likes of Amos Bronson Alcott, father of the one and only Louisa May Alcott. If you’ve ever read her book “Transcendental Wild Oats” and remember the character Moses White, that was him. She based that character off of him, and that’s pretty cool, right?
He also worked on growing communes in Harvard and Leominster and eventually passed away at the age of 84 in 1873. Coincidentally, beards had come back into fashion by that time. It’s very possible that the last few things he would have seen in his life were scraggly faces as far as the eye could see.
He’s buried at Evergreen Cemetery in Leominster and his headstone stands as a bold reminder that jerkwads are everywhere, but screw’em. Keep your beard long and your head held high. Maybe someday you’ll be in a book!
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
“Haunted Destination: RMS Queen Mary” from Travel Channel
“Haunted History of the Queen Mary” by Sabrina Ithal for Ranker’s Graveyard Shift
“The Spy Who Came In From The Sea” by Elyse for Second Glance History
“The Repercussions of Using a Ouija Board” by Weirdo family member, John Parrish
“Joseph Palmer and the Beard of Justice” from Slightly Odd Fitchburg
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… (Jesus replied,) “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” – Luke 18:27
And a final thought… “Don’t count the days, make the days count.” – Muhammad Ali
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.