“SKINWALKER WITCHES” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

SKINWALKER WITCHES” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““SKINWALKER WITCHES” and More Terrifying True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: The Navajo believe there are places where the powers of both good and evil are present and that those powers can be harnessed for either. And the masters of these powers are the skinwalkers. (Skinwalking Witches) *** If you hear the words “murder” and “London” you immediately think of Jack the Ripper – but he is only one of many brutal murderers who prowled the foggy city looking for victims. We’ll look at some of the most gruesome in London’s history. (Murderous London) *** Since it was built in 1981, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge connecting St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida has been a harbinger of tragedy. The four-mile-long bridge rises like a mastodon 430 feet into the bright sunlight. On or around the bridge, there have been hundreds of suicides, as well as deadly shipwrecks. And in 2016, there was the heinous murder of a child let down by the very system designed to protect her. (The Bridge to Tragedy) *** You’ve probably seen a street artist in person or on video appearing to defy gravity – floating as in mid-air, hoping you’ll give them some of your pocket change. And of course you’ve seen magicians levitate the beautiful assistant, or levitate themselves. But then there are those who say they can do it for real – no trickery involved. Some are laughable, but others make you wonder. (Gravity-Defying Geezers)

“Murderous London” by Lea Rose Emery for Unspeakable Times: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/9fs2mcwk
“Skinwalking Witches” by Kathy Weister-Alexander for Legends of America: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/35pskwcv
“The Bridge to Tragedy” by Robert A. Waters for Kidnapping, Murder and Mayhem: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/8ss6j3jy
“Gravity-Defying Geezers” by Ben Gazur for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2vcbc4em
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.

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Originally aired: December 27, 2022


DISCLAIMER: Ads heard during the podcast that are not in my voice are placed by third party agencies outside of my control and should not imply an endorsement by Weird Darkness or myself. *** Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.


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…

If you hear the words “murder” and “London” you immediately think of Jack the Ripper – but he is only one of many brutal murderers who prowled the foggy city looking for victims. We’ll look at some of the most gruesome in London’s history. (Murderous London)

The Navajo believe there are places where the powers of both good and evil are present and that those powers can be harnessed for either. And the masters of these powers are the skinwalkers. (Skinwalking Witches)

Since it was built in 1981, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge connecting St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida has been a harbinger of tragedy. The four-mile-long bridge rises like a mastodon 430 feet into the bright sunlight. On or around the bridge, there have been hundreds of suicides, as well as deadly shipwrecks. And in 2016, there was the heinous murder of a child let down by the very system designed to protect her. (The Bridge to Tragedy)

You’ve probably seen a street artist in person or on video appearing to defy gravity – floating as in mid-air, hoping you’ll give them some of your pocket change. And of course you’ve seen magicians levitate the beautiful assistant, or levitate themselves. But then there are those who say they can do it for real – no trickery involved. Some are laughable, but others make you wonder. (Gravity-Defying Geezers)

If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!



London, one of the oldest cities in the world, has a storied history of gruesome crimes and murders. From the real Jack the Ripper to the fictional Sweeney Todd, murder and mayhem are an integral part of the history of London. It’s been the home to serial killers, poisoners, and those who neglect and torture. It’s where creepy historical murders occurred and where infamous murderers lived. And while Jack the Ripper might be the city’s most well-known killer, there are countless other nasty English killers who stalked the streets of London.

* The Barnes Mystery case is one that involves revenge, stolen identity, and an alleged pregnancy. In 1879, Kate Webster, a maid living in London, killed her employer, Julia Martha Thomas, by shoving her down the stairs. Before the body was found in the river, Webster posed as Thomas. She fled London, but she was arrested in Ireland and shipped back. After she was convicted of killing Thomas, she claimed she was pregnant to avoid the death penalty, but it was a lie. The night before she was killed, she confessed to killing Thomas after the two got into a heated argument. Just to add another twist, the head of Thomas was found in 2010 on property owned by Sir David Attenborough, the star of Planet Earth.

* The similarities to Jack the Ripper gave Gordon Cummins the nickname “Blackout Ripper” during his spree killing in 1942. Over the course of six days, he killed four women and attacked two more. The abuse was so severe and revolting that one of the pathologists examining a victim described Cummins as “a savage sexual maniac.” Luckily for the police, Cummins was interrupted while attacking Greta Hayward by a delivery boy. He left his gas mask behind at the crime scene, and being a Royal Air Force serviceman, the mask’s container had his ID number on the side.

* Thomas Neill Cream was an international killer, taking lives in Chicago, Canada, and London in the 1880s. Known as the “Lambeth Poisoner,” the Scottish-Canadian serial killer claimed multiple victims by poisoning them with strychnine. Cream was a doctor who studied the effects of chloroform while in medical school. He began killing in 1879 – his first victim was a patient of his who died behind his office from an overdose of chloroform. He evaded conviction and moved to Chicago, where he began killing again. He was convicted of murder there and served 10 years in prison. Upon his release, he moved to London. In London, he killed four young sex workers with overdoses. There were rumors that he confessed to being Jack the Ripper, but those were discredited, as he was in prison during some of those killings.

* In Victorian England, medical researchers were known to purchase bodies illegally, especially scientists working at universities. This was a specialty of The London Burkers, a gang of body snatchers in the early 19th century. The gang consisted of John Bishop, Thomas Williams, Michael Shields, and James May, and according to Bishop’s confession, they stole between 500 and 1,000 bodies to sell to anatomists. But it was the murder of a 14-year-old boy that gained them notoriety.  In 1831, Bishop and his crew tried to sell a body that was a little too fresh. After they tried to sell the 14-year-old’s body – later dubbed The Italian Boy – to the King’s College School of Anatomy, faculty at the school realized the boy had been murdered. Later, Bishop confessed to taking the boy, drugging him with rum and laudanum. Bishop and Williams were hanged for the murder with a crowd of 30,000 watching.

* When an arm showed up in the Thames River in 1888, some wrote it off to a bad prank by medical students. But when a torso and a left leg were found nearby, it became clear it wasn’t a joke. Upon closer inspection of the body, it appeared as though the uterus had been removed. It also appeared that whoever dismembered the body used a tourniquet, a sign they knew what they were doing. The other limbs and the head were never found. In an ironic twist, Scotland Yard, the police headquarters in London, happens to be built on top of the site where the torso was discovered, but it still remains a mystery. Although the body was discovered around the same time as the Jack the Ripper killings, police said there was no connection.

* The Ratcliffe Highway murders claimed the lives of seven, including that of an entire family in 1811. Timothy Marr, his wife Celia, their three-month old son, and James Gowan – a shop assistant working for the Marrs – were murdered inside the Marr house located off Ratcliffe Highway. They were discovered by one of their servants. The city was terrified that the killer would strike again, and they were right. Less than two weeks later, again on Ratcliffe Highway, John Williamson, and his wife, Elizabeth, as well as a servant named Bridget Anna Harrington, were all found dead. A man named John Williams was arrested for the murders and hung himself in his cell.

* While murders with a lot of blood and gore get the most attention, this murder-by-starvation is just as gruesome. Harriet Staunton was found dead in 1877 from starvation. Staunton’s husband, Louis, kept his wife and child locked in a room at the couple’s home in Kent while he carried on an affair with his live-in mistress, Alice Rhodes. Rhodes’s sister Elizabeth was married to Louis’s brother Patrick. The four lived in the home while Harriet was locked away. Every time Harriet tried to get out of the room, she was assaulted. The baby took ill and was brought to a hospital. He was found to be severely malnourished and died. When Harriet died days later, she was said to have weighed only half of what a normal person would. All four involved were arrested and charged in what the judge called one of the most “black and hideous” crimes on records.

* When a sex worker named Emily Dimmock was found with her throat slit, it caught the public’s attention. There was no motive and no suspect, leaving people to wonder about this cold-blooded murder. Artist Robert Wood was eventually arrested for the crime after his handwriting was identified on a postcard in her room. Wood’s trial became a landmark case for future murder trials in England because it was the first to allow an accused man to give evidence on his own behalf. Wood’s lawyer put him on the stand, and in a very dramatic fashion, cross-examined the suspected killer. The performance paid off – Wood was acquitted after only a 15 minute deliberation.

* Elizabeth Brownrigg was known to be downright cruel to her servants. So cruel, in fact, that she murdered one of them. She was known to chain them up and beat them with switches without giving their wounds any time to heal. Though one servant had run away and complained, nothing was done to stop Brownrigg. When one of her servants, Mary Clifford, died from infections in her wounds, Brownrigg was finally charged. Crowds watched her be executed while she prayed for salvation.

* Did Edith Thompson plot her husband’s murder with her lover, or was she a victim of an unjust law? Whatever her true motivations, Thompson was sentenced to death after her husband’s murder in 1922. Her husband’s killer was a man named Frederick Bywaters. He was also her former lover. Years before the murder, Bywaters was a friend of Thompson and her husband, Percy. The two began a secret romance. Then one day, as the Thompsons were walking, Bywaters attacked Percy and stabbed him to death. Thompson identified Bywaters as the killer, and as the police investigated him, they found the letters between the two secret lovers. Officers said the letters pointed to a conspiracy between Thompson and Bywaters to kill Percy so that they could be together. In her letters to Bywaters, she wrote that she wanted to get away from her husband and that she tried killing Percy by poisoning him. Thompson denied she had anything to do with her husband’s murder, saying she only wanted Bywaters to confront Percy civilly. Both were found guilty and hanged.

* And finally… you’ve probably never heard of Adelaide Bartlett, but she just might be responsible for one of the biggest murder mysteries in history. In 1885, Edwin Bartlett – Adelaide’s husband – was found dead with a fatal amount of chloroform in his stomach. The odd thing was, there was no damage to his throat or windpipe, so investigators were unsure how the chloroform ended up in his stomach. She struck up a friendship with George Dyson. Days before Thomas’s murder, Dyson bought a bottle of chloroform for Adelaide. Because of this, both were accused of Thomas’s murder, and both were subsequently acquitted. She disappeared shortly after, but doctors tried to get her to spill how exactly she got the chloroform in Thomas’s body – that is, if she did it.


When Weird Darkness returns… since it was built in 1981, the Sunshine Skyway Bridge connecting St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida has been a harbinger of tragedy. On or around the bridge, there have been hundreds of suicides, as well as deadly shipwrecks. And in 2016, there was the heinous murder of a child let down by the very system designed to protect her.

But first… the Navajo believe there are places where the powers of both good and evil are present and that those powers can be harnessed for either. And the masters of these powers are the skinwalkers. That story is up next on Weird Darkness.



In the Navajo culture, a skinwalker is a type of harmful witch who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as an animal.

This witch is called “yee naaldlooshii” by the Navajo, which translates to “with it, he goes on all fours.” It is just one of several types of Navajo witches and is considered the most volatile and dangerous.

For the Navajo people, witchcraft is just another part of their spirituality and one of the “ways” of their lives. As such, witchcraft has long been part of their culture, history, and traditions. Witches exist alongside humans and are not supernaturals.

The Navajo believe there are places where the powers of both good and evil are present and that those powers can be harnessed for either. Medicine men utilize these powers to heal and aid members of their communities, while those who practice Navajo witchcraft, seek to direct the spiritual forces to cause harm or misfortune to others. This type of Navajo witchcraft is known as the “Witchery Way,” which uses human corpses in various ways such as tools from the bones, and concoctions that are used to curse, harm, or kill intended victims.

The knowledge of these powers is passed down from the elders through the generations.

The Navajo are part of a larger culture area that also includes the Pueblo peopleApacheHopiUte, and other groups that also have their own versions of the Skinwalker, but each includes a malevolent witch capable of transforming itself into an animal.

Among these tribes, a number of stories and descriptions have been told throughout the years about the Skinwalkers.

Sometimes, these witches evolved from living their lives as respected healers or spiritual guides, who later chose to use their powers for evil. Though they can be either male or female, they are more often male. They walk freely among the tribe during the day and secretly transform under the cover of night.

In order to become a Skinwalker, he or she must be initiated by a secret society that requires the evilest of deeds – the killing of a close family member, most often a sibling. After this task has been completed, the individual then acquires supernatural powers, which gives them the ability to shape-shift into animals. Most often, they are seen in the form of coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, dogs, and bears, but can take the shape of any animal. They then wear the skins of the animals they transform into, hence, the name Skinwalker. Sometimes, they also wore animal skulls or antlers atop their heads, which brought them more power. They choose what animal they wanted to turn into, depending on the abilities needed for a particular task, such as speed, strength, endurance, stealth, claws, and teeth, etc. They may transform again if trying to escape from pursuers.

Because of this, the Navajo consider it taboo for its members to wear the pelt of any predatory animal. However, sheepskin, leather, and buckskin are acceptable.

The skinwalkers are also able to take possession of the bodies of human victims if a person locks eyes with them. After taking control, the witch can make its victims do and say things that they wouldn’t otherwise.

Once they were shape-shifted, one way that others could tell that they were not a real animal is that their eyes are very different than those of the animal. Instead, their eyes are very human, and when lights are shined on them, they turn bright red. Alternatively, when they are in human form, their eyes look more like animals.

The evil society of the witches gather in dark caves or secluded places for several purposes – to initiate new members, plot their activities, harm people from a distance with black magic, and perform dark ceremonial rites. These ceremonies are similar to other tribal affairs, including dancing, feasts, rituals, and sand-painting, but were “corrupted” with dark connotations. The evildoers are also said to engage in necrophilia with female corpses, commit cannibalism, incest, and grave robberies. During these gatherings, the Skinwalkers shape-shift into their animal forms or go about naked, wearing only beaded jewelry and ceremonial paint. The leader of the Skinwalkers is usually an old man, who is a very powerful and long-lived Skinwalker.

Skinwalkers also have other powers including reading others’ minds, controlling their thoughts and behavior, causing disease and illness, destroying property, and even death.

Those who have talked of their encounters with these evil beings describe a number of ways to know if a skinwalker is near. They make sounds around homes, such as knocking on windows, banging on walls, and scraping noises on the roof. On some occasions, they have been spied peering through windows. More often, they appear in front of vehicles in hopes of causing a serious accident.

It is said that, in addition to being able to shapeshift, the Skinwalker is also able to control the creatures of the night, such as wolves and owls, and to make them do its bidding. Some are able to call up the spirits of the dead and reanimate the corpses to attack their enemies. Because of this, the Indians rarely ventured out alone.

Its supernatural powers are uncanny, as they are said to run faster than a car and have the ability to jump high cliffs. They are extremely fast, agile, impossible to catch and leave tracks that are larger than those of any animal. When they have been seen, they have been described as not quite human and not fully animal. They are usually naked, but some have reported seeing the creature wearing tattered shirts or jeans.

The Skinwalker kills out of greed, anger, envy, spite, or revenge. It also robs graves for personal wealth and to collect much-needed ingredients for use in black magic. These witches live on the unexpired lives of their victims and they must continually kill or perish themselves.

Skinwalkers and other witches have long been blamed for all manner of unexpected struggles and tragedies through the years, including sickness, drought, poor crops, and sudden deaths. Even smaller or individual problems such as windstorms during dances, alienation of affection by mates, the death of livestock, and reversal of fortune, were often believed to be the work of a witch.

This was most apparent with the Navajo Witch Purge of 1878, which initially evolved from a cultural response to so many people moving across and onto their lands. After a series of wars with the U.S. Army, the Navajo were expelled from their land and forced to march to the Bosque Redondo (Fort Sumner) in New Mexico in what is known as the Long Walk of the Navajo in 1864.

There, the people suffered from bad water, failed crops, illness, and death, reducing their numbers dramatically. After four years, the government finally admitted they had made a mistake and the Navajo were allowed to return to their homeland in the Four Corners area.

During these years, many of the tribe’s members were said to have turned to shape-shifting to escape the terrible conditions. In the meantime, the rest of the tribe were convinced that their gods had deserted them.

Once the people had returned to their homeland, their conditions improved, but the dreaded skinwalkers, for whom they blamed for their years on the bleak reservation, were still among them. Accusations of witchcraft and the hunting of the skinwalkers began. When someone found a collection of witch artifacts wrapped in a copy of the Treaty of 1868, the tribal members unleashed deadly consequences. The “Navajo Witch Purge” occurred in 1878, in which 40 Navajo suspected witches were killed in order to restore harmony and balance for the tribe.

Today, most of the tales of sightings of these witches do not include death or injury, but rather, are more “trickster-like.”

Numerous people have told stories of swift animals running alongside their vehicles, matching their speed. After a short period, however, they run off into the wilderness. Along the way, these animals sometimes turn into a man, who sometimes bangs on the hood.

Another story tells of a man who was making repairs on an old ranch home when he began to hear loud laughter coming from the nearby sheep pens. Thinking he was alone, he went to investigate and found all of the sheep but one huddled in one corner of the pen. However, there was a lone ram separated from the group that was standing upright and laughing in a very human manner. After the man locks eyes with the ram, he sees that his eyes are not that of an animal, but very like a human’s. The animal then casually walked away on all four legs.

Some say they have seen them running through the night, sometimes turning into a fiery ball, leaving streaks of color behind them. Others have seen angry-looking humanoid figures looking down on them from cliffs, mountains, and mesas.

In the 1980s one of the most notable events occurred when a family was driving through the Navajo Reservation. As they slowed to make a sharp curve, something jumped from the ditch. It was described as black, hairy, and wore a shirt and pants. A few days after this event, at their home in Flagstaff, Arizona, the family was awakened to the sounds of loud drumming and chanting. Outside their home were three dark forms of “men” outside their fence. However, these shadowy creatures were seemingly unable to climb the fence and soon left.

These events have occurred in the Four-Corners area of southwest Colorado, southeast Utah, northeast Arizona, and northwest New Mexico.

In the 1990s, a ranch in northeast Utah, far away from the Navajo Reservation, became the partial focus of the Skinwalkers. Called the Sherman Ranch, the Skinwalker Ranch, and the UFO Ranch, this place has a history of UFOs, aliens, cattle mutilations, and crop circles. Located near the Ute Indian reservation, these people have long thought that the Navajo put a curse on their tribe in retribution for many perceived transgressions and since then, the skinwalkers have plagued the Ute people.

Witchcraft represents the antithesis of Navajo cultural values and is not tolerated. They work to avoid it, prevent it, and cure it in their daily behaviors. However, when it exists, their laws have always said that when a person becomes a witch, they have forfeited their humanity and their right to exist, so they should be killed.

However, skinwalkers are notoriously hard to kill and attempts are usually unsuccessful. Trying to kill one will often result in the witch seeking revenge. Successful killing generally requires the assistance of a powerful shaman, who knows spells and rituals that can turn the Skinwalker’s evil back upon itself. Another alternative is to shoot the creature with bullets that have been dipped into white ash. However, this shot must hit the witch in the neck or the head.

Traditionally, the Navajo will not speak with outsiders about these creatures, for fear of retribution by the skinwalkers. For that matter, it is a taboo subject amongst the natives themselves.


Phoebe Jonchuck lived for five years in obvious danger from her psycho father, yet few steps were taken to safeguard her. Somehow John kept custody of his daughter for those years. Along the way, many citizens reported odd, violent, and threatening encounters with him, but Florida’s Department of Family and Children did nothing…

…Then, on a night when strong winds shook cars crossing the Dick Misener Bridge, Phoebe’s father stopped his white PT Cruiser and stepped out into the swirling rain. William Vickers, an off-duty police officer who had spotted Jonchuck racing through the night at 100 miles per hour, pulled in behind him. Jonchuck emerged, holding Phoebe. Ignoring Vickers, her father peered into the water below. By now, the cop had drawn his gun and later testified he “felt fear,” both for himself and the child. He ordered Jonchuck to put her down. But the disturbed father mumbled several unintelligible phrases, then looked at Vickers and said, “You have no free will.” As Vickers looked on in horror, Jonchuck casually tossed Phoebe over the railing.

She fell 62 feet, her screams echoing into the darkness.

The Misener Bridge is part of a four-mile-long span called the Sunshine Skyway Bridge that connects St. Petersburg to Tampa. The “Skyway,” as it’s called by locals, has a dark history of deadly accidents, suicides, and murder. Nearly 400 people have died after jumping from its acrophobic heights since it was built in 1981. A United States Coast Guard cutter sank just beneath the bridge during a violent thunderstorm, drowning 24 guardsmen. A year later, during yet another storm, the Summit Venture, a ship from Texas, slammed into the pilings beneath the bridge, knocking away a portion of roadway. A Trailways bus plunged into the depths below, killing everyone on board. Several cars plummeted down, also sinking into the murky water. In all, 23 souls lost their lives in that catastrophe.

Phoebe Jonchuck lived her whole life in the shadow of that bridge. After her murder, a Hillsborough County Child Fatality inquiry summarized that “at her time of the death incident, Phoebe resided with her father (the custodial parent), and she occasionally visited with her mother, Michelle Kerr-29. The death occurred during an open investigation regarding concerns for the mother’s ability to meet Phoebe’s needs when the child would visit.”

As happens so often in these kinds of cases, heavy drug use seemed rampant among most, if not all, the adults in Phoebe’s life. During her five years, the child lived in at least fifteen different residences, and, with her father, was homeless for a period of time. Abrupt moves, violent encounters, and the ravings of a madman provided no safe haven for Phoebe. John, who rarely worked, hated his ex-partner. On the day of the crime, he had been attempting to keep Kerr from maintaining visitation rights.

Carol Marbin Miller of the Miami Herald wrote: “By age 5, Phoebe Jonchuck already had a significant history with child protection authorities: Her father, they were told, was habitually violent with domestic partners, and had been accused of ‘smacking’ his daughter in the face. Phoebe’s mother, according to reports to the agency, was a meth user who had been charged with cruelty to another child in 2008.” Six times in the past two-and-a-half years, the Department of Children and Family had received calls about possible abuse of the child.

Although John sometimes gave appearances of being a loving father, his life was riddled with turmoil, almost all caused by him. Phoebe told at least one acquaintance that she was afraid of her father. Her grandparents sometimes kept the girl, but according to newspaper reports, seemed terrified of their son. The Herald reported that Jonchuck had an arrest history “that included aggravated assault with a weapon, ‘multiple charges’ of domestic battery, and larceny. Kerr, the girl’s mother, had been charged with child abuse. A former landlord told an investigator he’d found ‘drug paraphernalia’ in the couple’s home, had found doors ‘kicked in’ on several occasions, and had been forced to replace windows that had been smashed in by the couple.” He told investigators that Jonchuck and Kerr’s behavior was extremely erratic.

Family members informed reporters that Jonchuck had been involuntarily committed to mental health facilities a staggering 27 times. On each occasion, he was released and Phoebe was sent back to live with him.

On July 10, 2016, the day Phoebe died, John went to see his court-appointed attorney, Genevieve Torres. Phoebe, dressed in a pink dress and blue jacket, tagged along. John wore pajamas and carried a huge antique Bible written in a foreign language. Torres stated that Jonchuck called her “St. Genevieve,” the “Creator,” and “God.” He insisted that she read the “Swedish” Bible he had brought. Recognizing Jonchuck’s mental instability, she quickly got rid of him. As he was leaving, Jonchuck commented, “None of this is going to matter tomorrow anyway.”

As soon as Jonchuck left, Torres phoned a child endangerment hotline, warning the operator that Jonchuck was deranged and taking his daughter with him while he was having an episode. The Florida Times Union reported that “Torres also told the operator, who was inexperienced, that the [Department of Family and Children] had an open investigation after an earlier caller accused Jonchuck of violence, substance abuse, and inadequate supervision.” Torres also informed the operator that Jonchuck kept calling her office every five minutes. She stated “he’s out of control.” The operator refused to report the call to authorities.

Later that night, Phoebe was dead. An autopsy revealed that she had died of a combination of hypothermia and drowning.

She’d been enrolled in kindergarten. Her teachers stated she was good-natured and smart. She loved to sing and the color purple. Attentive, curious, and sensitive, her grandparents enjoyed keeping her, as long as Jonchuck wasn’t there.

After he was arrested, Jonchuck spent four years in a mental hospital, having been found incompetent to stand trial. In 2019, he was finally adjudged sane enough to be tried. Jurors turned down his insanity defense and found him guilty of first-degree murder. Jonchuck received a life sentence with no chance of parole.

Phoebe was failed by both Florida’s mental health system and child protective services. Her father was an obvious danger to anyone around him, particularly his daughter. How he could maintain custody of Phoebe with his mental deficiencies, law enforcement issues, and drug usage baffles the mind.


Coming up… you’ve probably seen a street artist in person or on video appearing to defy gravity – floating as in mid-air, hoping you’ll give them some of your pocket change. And of course you’ve seen magicians levitate the beautiful assistant, or levitate themselves. But then there are those who say they can do it for real – no trickery involved. Some are laughable, but others make you wonder. That’s up next on Weird Darkness.



Who hasn’t at some point dreamed of being able to fly? It would certainly beat having to sit in economy on a plane. But flying is a very complex thing for an animal to do especially if, like humans, they lack wings. Perhaps we should temper our dreams and settle for something simpler like levitation. Many people throughout history have claimed to have been able to levitate. Here are ten of the greatest floaters around.

Saint Joseph of Cupertino: Guiseppe Desa, born in a stable in 1603, did not seem to have the natural makings of a saint. Poor and notably uneducated he was rejected by the Franciscan Friars when he attempted to become a monk. Eventually the Capuchins took him in but Desa continued to experience visions and moments of ecstasy that had happened from childhood. These moments of mystical wonder saw him drop plates he was carrying and fail to do even the simplest of tasks. Thought unfit for work he was ejected and only later found a place in another monastery taking the name of Joseph. His visions continued. He would “stand fixed as a statue, insensible as a stone, but nothing could move him.” Sticking him with pins or burning him could not make him move. But Joseph’s miracles really began in 1630 when, during a procession, he “suddenly soared into the sky where he remained hovering over the crowd.” At other times he floated in the air during Mass and during an audience with the Pope. A century after his death Joseph was made a saint by the Catholic church and became Saint Joseph of Cupertino – patron saint of aviation and astronauts.

Colin Evans: Not all people who claim to be able to levitate enjoy a stellar reputation. In the 19th and early 20th century there was a craze for psychics. These people claimed to have many supernatural powers. They could speak to the dead, summon ectoplasm, and even levitate. Colin Evans was one of these psychics. His claim to fame was his ability to float out of his chair. This claim was somewhat dubious because he mostly performed his feats of flight in a room so dark that the audience could not see him. The existing photos of Evans in flight were taken by flash photography and do indeed show Evans rising out of his chair. Unfortunately Evans was outed as a fraud. In the photos of Evans levitating you can see that he is holding on to a wire. To make his audience believe he was levitating Evans simply leapt out of his chair and triggered the flash on his camera. In the brief flash of light his audience would see Evans apparently hovering in mid-air. Not everyone who saw his act was impressed. One audience was so underwhelmed that they asked for their money back.

St Gerard Majella: Levitation is a surprisingly common ability for Catholic saints. When a person asked St Padre Pio (the 20th century priest with stigmata) what it was like to walk on air the holy man replied “I can assure you, my child, it’s just like walking on the floor.” St Gerard Majella packed a lot of miracles into his 29 years on Earth. He is said to have raised a boy from the dead, been able to read people’s souls, and made bread and wheat multiply by blessing it. But his most impressive miracles were his levitations. People who stopped by to visit Majella often found him several feet off the ground. The holy man was nothing if not polite about his floating however. Once when he was holding up a dinner because of his levitation he told a priest “Please do not wait for me. I do not wish to inconvenience you.” The priest wished to remember how high Majella had been levitating so he marked the spot on the wall. Sometimes Majella could be seen travelling nearly a mile by levitation or floating up like a feather caught in the wind.

Levitation as a Protest: For the hippies of the 1960s the Pentagon in Arlington was one of the most evil sites in the world as it was the place from which wars were planned and carried out around the world. As well as being symbolically evil there were those that thought it was also literally evil. In 1967 a group decided that the best way to demonstrate their beliefs was to surround the building, perform an exorcism, and “raise the Pentagon 300 feet in the air.” On the day of the protest many gods ancient and modern were called on to drive out the evil that infested the building. Bands started playing and encouraged the crowd to shout “Out, demons, out!” Abbie Hoffman, the man behind the idea of floating the Pentagon, got couples to perform acts of love around the building in hopes of cancelling out the hate. Flowers handed out to the attendees ended up in the barrels of the guns held by the soldiers protecting the building and became iconic images of protest. And then the moment of levitation came – and nothing happened. The physical building failed to lift off but for some the ritual was a success. Poet Allen Ginsberg said “The Pentagon was symbolically levitated in people’s minds in the sense that it lost its authority which had been unquestioned and unchallenged until then.” Yeah, okay… you go with that.

Yogi Pullavar: Hindu gurus have for centuries claimed to have the ability to levitate. In Sanskrit this is known as ‘dardura-siddhi’ – ‘frog-power’ – or ‘laghiman’ – ‘lightness.’ Some like Sai Baba are said to have routinely levitated while they were sleeping, but for many it is a power that only manifests with deep meditation or prayer.  This is not a supernatural power that only occurred in the deep past. Some Hindu mystics have demonstrated levitation in front of cameras, though not to everyone’s satisfaction. In 1936 Subbayah Pullavar is said to have levitated for four minutes in front of a large crowd and the photos of the event were published in London. Pullavar arrived at the site and entered into a tent. When the time came for the levitation his disciples removed the tent and revealed Pullavar hovering horizontally in the air with one hand resting lightly on a staff. After four minutes Pullavar decided to come down, but to do so he had the tent put over him again before emerging back on the ground. For some this has all the marks of a hoax. Indeed if you visit any major city you might see street performers appearing to float – but all of them have their hand on a staff or other item. A concealed support is really holding them up.

David Blaine: In 1996 the magician David Blaine was introduced to the world with his first TV special called ‘Street Magic.’ His act involved strangers on the street being amazed by his trickery. The one that seemed to blow his audiences minds the most was when Blaine spontaneously raised himself into the air. The people who saw Blaine hovering an inch or two above the ground seem truly baffled about how he could have done it. But a quick view of the trick gives some hints. Blaine always moves away from the audience and turns to the side. This puts the camera at an odd angle but we see his body move up and the astounded reaction of the crowd. How has Blaine floated? The answer lies in the Balducci trick. By turning to the side one of the magician’s feet is hidden from view. This allows the magician to use the hidden foot to raise their body and appear to levitate. Or Blaine really might be able to levitate and just doesn’t like cameras being pointed at his feet… but I think the former explanation is more believable.

Daniel Dunglas Home: The Victorians were pretty obsessed with the dead. Spiritual mediums were all the rage and seances where the dead were contacted could make mystics a fortune. One of the most successful and famous was Daniel Dunglas Home. Born in 1833 he claimed to have uncanny powers from a young age. Travelling to America Home won many admirers and turned many sceptics into believers when they saw his performances – which sometimes included him levitating up the ceiling. Not everyone was impressed. The writer William Makepeace Thackeray thought Home’s act was “dire humbug.” Harry Houdini called him “the forerunner of the mediums whose forte is fleecing by presuming on the credulity of the public.” Despite these opinions many people continued to believe in Home’s abilities and he was never publicly debunked. In one famous event Home was seen to float out of a third-floor window during a trance only for him to come hovering back into the building by another window.

Yogic Flying: Many people find a natural peace by pursuing meditation. A group known as the Transcendental Meditation movement, founded by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, believe that they can achieve not only world peace but they can do it while levitating. “In the silent, self-referral level of their consciousness, they introduce the technique for Yogic Flying, according to the specific procedure they’ve learned, and their bodies spontaneously lift up. At the same time, they experience great clarity of consciousness, energy, exhilaration, and unboundedness.” So says The Yogic Flying Club. Other people have described the act of Yogic Flying as “bouncing on your butt.” And that’s exactly what it looks like to outsiders. Practitioners are literally hopping about on their buttocks but to the meditators they really are levitating – and helping to bring about universal peace. Even the Maharishi knows his limits however. In 2005 after the invasion of Iraq he told his followers to stop flying in the United Kingdom. The maharishi explained to his followers that the poison in that country was so concentrated that he felt it was no use their continuing to nurture creativity and intelligence there.

Buddah: Levitation really has stopped a war however, at least if you believe the tale of Buddha floating in the air across the Rohini river. At the time the river was dammed and shared by the Sakiya and Koliya peoples. However when a drought threatened both sides wanted to claim the entire river to irrigate their crops and leave the other side’s to rot in the field. Neither side would budge and abuse soon turned to threats, which soon turned to violence. Armies lined up on either side of the Rohini. The Buddha was meditating at this time and psychically saw that there would be much bloodshed if he did not go to them. He levitated from his quiet spot and travelled to the Rohini where he floated cross-legged above the water. The Buddha asked both sides how much water was worth. When they said “Very little,” he asked them how much human blood was worth. “It is beyond price,” they replied. Realising they were about to kill each other over a bit of water both sides backed down and shared the river. One another occasion the Buddha needed to cross the Ganges. When the ferryman asked for a fee to carry him across Buddha remarked that he had no money – and so levitated across the river.

And finally…

Simon Magus: Miracles abounded in the ancient world but there was a problem with them. How could you tell which ones were miracles sent by God and which ones were powered by Demons? One case from the Book of Acts shows that resolving this issue could be fatal. Simon Magus, or Simon the Sorcerer, is said to have had a large following because of the many amazing feats he performed in front of crowds. When he saw the followers of Jesus, Peter and John, Simon wanted to receive the Holy Ghost and its powers for himself. He offered to pay money for them but was rebuffed. That’s as far as the Bible goes on Simon but later texts give more explicit accounts of his miracles. In the apocryphal Acts of Peter, Simon and St Peter (then already the first Pope) go head-to-head in a miracle-off. We are told “when Simon entered into Rome, he amazed the multitudes by flying.” Saint Peter then worries that Simon will lead people away from faith in Jesus if he keeps levitating so he prays “O Lord, and let him fall from the height and be disabled; and let him not die but be brought to nought, and break his leg in three places. And he fell from the height and brake his leg in three places.” Simon immediately falls from the sky and breaks his leg in three places. Despite Peter’s prayer that Simon not die however some doctors come and cut Simon to try and treat his wounds, killing the sorcerer. “And so Simon the angel of Satan came to his end.”


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