“STRANGE DUMPING GROUNDS” and More True, Weird and Dark Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“STRANGE DUMPING GROUNDS” and More True, Weird and Dark Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““STRANGE DUMPING GROUNDS” and More True, Weird and Dark Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: Where are bodies dumped most often? What are some of the strangest places bodies have been found, and what odd situations ended up in death? We’ll look at some weird stories of dead bodies being found. (Strange Dumping Grounds) *** A man is found dead – obviously murdered. But even after a positive identification, some believed the body was not of the man authorities thought it was – and an even larger mystery was, whose monogrammed handkerchief was stuffed in the corpse’s mouth? (The Ruttinger Mystery) *** In Florida, there is a short stretch of freeway that is so full of incidents of danger, death, and the paranormal, that many consider it cursed – and most definitely haunted. Locals have deemed it, the Dead Zone. (Hauntings On Highway I-4)
“Strange Dumping Grounds” by Jessika M. Thomas (http://bit.ly/2XwwVyc), Mariel Loveland (http://bit.ly/2XzEog1), and Rachel Stewart
“The Ruttinger Mystery” by Robert Wilhelm: http://bit.ly/2IAzhJh
“Hauntings On Highway I-4” by Brent Swancer: http://bit.ly/2XB62JG
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.
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Originally aired: December 06, 2021


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There’s something sad and gripping about bodies found in unexpected places. Even though the stories are usually horrific, one tends to be curious about such random discoveries. Some bodies are left out in the open for anyone to come across and find. Some highways and forests have become synonymous with body dumping grounds. But there are also some very strange places bodies have been discovered. Corpses have been found uncovered in everyday places like a church or a Walmart, while others were found in public, like in a shopping cart on the street.

Some of America’s infamous dump sites exist in the middle of highly populated areas, and some hide in plain sight along the shores of Long Island or in scenic vacation spots near Lake Tahoe. Predators have made parks, rivers, and locations near highways the final resting place for victims. These perps could be gangs, the mob, or serial killers, taking the bodies of their victims out to the middle of the desert or the dark woods of a rural area.

Bodies found in strange places will make you even jumpier about turning a dark corner late at night. People sometimes perish under odd circumstances and take awhile to find. Thankfully these are exceptions rather than the norm, but there are still plenty of corpses found in strange places.

What are the weirdest places bodies have been found? From a woman found in her cubicle after over a day, to a passed baby shark being found in a bathroom stall, to even someone being found in an elevator shaft frozen in ice, there are many strangest stories of this sort. The most frequent body dumping sites, the strangest places murder victims have been found, and odd locations dead bodies were discovered. Whatever the case may be, the person who made the discovery will not forget about it anytime soon.

I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.



Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.

Coming up in this episode…

A man is found dead – obviously murdered. But even after a positive identification, some believed the body was not of the man authorities thought it was – and an even larger mystery was, whose monogrammed handkerchief was stuffed in the corpse’s mouth? (The Ruttinger Mystery)

In Florida, there is a short stretch of freeway that is so full of incidents of danger, death, and the paranormal, that many consider it cursed – and most definitely haunted. Locals have deemed it, the Dead Zone. (Hauntings On Highway I-4)

But first… 
where are bodies most often dumped? What are some of the strangest places bodies have been found, and what odd situations ended up in death? We’ll look at some weird stories of dead bodies being found. (Strange Dumping Grounds)

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!



Regular citizens may not expect these concealed offenses to occur in the same places families take their children during summer holidays, but authorities have identified dump sites all across the United States. The unknown victims may never be found, and these sites contain unsolved mysteries.

While the New Jersey Pine Barrens are often linked with occult rituals and KKK meetings, the New York Central Pine Barrens is known as a spot for perps to bury evidence. The Central Pine Barrens are supposed to be protected grounds – a breath of fresh air in heavily populated Long Island, NY – but in recent years, investigators have uncovered a number of bodies.

Between 2000 and 2003, four victims were found in the forest, two of which were dismembered and had their heads removed. As many as 11 bodies have been found in the forest overall. The deaths are thought to be the work of the Butcher of Manorville. In 2007, these unsolved cases were featured in an America’s Most Wanted episode.

Although the temperature at Lake Tahoe may reach around 65 to 70 degrees in the late summer, making it an ideal place for a family vacation, the depth of the lake, which reaches an average of 1,000 feet, remains a cool 39 degrees. Investigators surmise this makes it a prime place to dispose of bodies.

The lake is just a couple of degrees shy of the temperature morgues use to avert decomposition. A body that has not decomposed cannot float to the surface. It’s believed that Lake Tahoe became a dumping ground for Mafia members in the 1950s. To this day, rumors abound about the number of bodies at the bottom of Lake Tahoe since most victims never re-surface.

The Everglades is more than just an expansive national park and wildlife sanctuary. This Florida haven is also a notorious dump site, as there’s an abundance of alligators. In 2016, two alligators were found eating a body, which authorities presumed had been abandoned at the location.

This was not the first time a body popped up in the swampy area. Before the Showtime drama Dexter informed viewers about hiding a body in south Florida, serial killer and sugar plantation owner Edgar Watson terrorized the area in the early 1900s. Watson built a cabin on the river in 1880. He allegedly ended the lives of several laborers every year when the harvest ended to avoid paying them.

Leakin Park is one of the largest parks in Baltimore, Maryland. While some people may enjoy the hiking trails or the gorgeous architecture of the Orianda Mansion, others use the park to commit and conceal an array of nefarious offenses. An upwards of 70 bodies have been found in Leakin Park since 1946. Residents are reportedly now terrified to wander the grounds alone.

Though Baltimore has a notorious gang problem (so notorious that it inspired the hit TV show The Wire), not every body recovered from Leakin Park is related. Known victims include a slain mother as well as scorned lovers.

In an effort to clean up the park and deter wrong-doing, the city started closing the most dangerous and secluded areas in 2011. Officials also created bike trails hoping foot traffic would help diminish unsavory activity. The number of bodies found in Leakin Park has since declined, but the reputation remains.

The Texas Killing Fields are so notorious that they actually inspired a film of the same name. The fields are located on a 25-mile-patch of land near I-45 between Houston and Galveston, Texas. Unknown predators have abandoned dozens of bodies in this area.

The Fields is desolate and navigable only by a winding path of dirt roads. Since 1971, when 13-year-old Colette Wilson was found dead five months after disappearing on her way home from school, 30 bodies have been recovered. Four of those bodies were found just a mile off of I-45. While most of the cases remain unsolved, there has been at least one conviction related to a discovery in the fields.

In 2012, suspect Kevin Edison Smith was apprehended on unrelated charges. A DNA test revealed that he was a match for samples taken from the dress and underwear of Krystal Jean Baker, a 13-year-old girl whose body was found in 1986. Smith was given life without parole, but not much is known about the other 29 bodies that were discovered within the Fields.

The Mojave Desert is somewhat of a horror movie trope. As evidenced in The Hangover and Casino, bodies left may disappear forever. The Mojave Desert is expansive and desolate, stretching through four western states. In the desert area between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, the temperature reaches upwards of 135 degrees Fahrenheit – a conducive temp for decomposition.

Unlike the Texas Killing Fields, there have been a few convictions related to the illicit Mojave burials – where investigators have recovered over 100 bodies. Among the arrests include William Bradford and William Floyd Zamastil.

In 1987, LA County convicted Bradford, a photographer, for the deaths of 21-year-old Shari Miller and 15-year-old Tracy Campbell. In 1978, the bodies of teen siblings Jacqueline and Malcolm Bradshaw were found in the desert. 26 years later, San Bernardino County convicted Zamastil of the Canoga Park teens’ deaths.

Gilgo Beach is a scenic stretch of land in Long Island, NY. It’s also home to a notorious serial offender who dumped between 10 and 17 bodies off Ocean Parkway, a few hops from the sandy shore. Cops have been unable to find the perp – who has been claiming lives for over 20 years.

As of 2015, investigators have uncovered 17 victims, with deaths spanning back to the early ’90s. Three of these victims were Craigslist call girls who went missing between 2007 and 2010. All three were strangled, thrown into a burlap sack, and dumped near Gilgo.

Authorities have speculated a connection between the Long Island Serial Killer (LISK), the Craigslist Ripper, and the Gilgo Beach Killer.

Pelham Bay Park is one of the largest parks in New York City. Despite its dense population, this spot has been the site of numerous abandoned bodies since the late 1980s. According to The New York Times, at least 65 bodies were found in Pelham Bay Park between 1986 and 1995.

Investigators connect the spot to a wealth of offenders, including gangs, drug dealers, and the mob.

Those familiar with popular series such as Law & Order: SVU know that bodies turn up in the East River. Bodies left during the winter can take months for investigators to recover. The East River’s frigid temperatures ensure that remains don’t surface until April when the temperature hikes and decomposed bodies are able to float.

In 2010, the NYPD’s harbor unit uncovered 26 bodies during April, May, and June. Law enforcement has linked some of these to the mob, and in 2016, a body washed up on Brooklyn’s shore with actual cement shoes as a result of NY gang-related disputes.

The Pocono Mountains is known as a peaceful vacation retreat, but the area has been home to suspicious deaths. The winding mountain highways lead to areas so secluded that some of the bodies deposited there may never be located.

In 2008, a severed head was found in a trash bag off of I-380 near the Poconos. It was the first of eight bags found containing severed body parts. The following year, a tree-cutting crew found more human remains in Mount Pocono.

In 2011, a headless torso wrapped in a plastic bag was uncovered, marking the third dismembered body discovered in a decade.

Washington State’s Green River is a gorgeous escape from city life. It could also be the resting place for over 50 victims. Gary Ridgway, better known as the Green River Killer, was captured in 2001. Over the course of approximately two decades, he ended the lives of at least 49 women. Five were found in the Green River.

In 2015, two bodies were uncovered in this idyllic Washington State expanse. In May, a female victim was found in a suitcase. Shortly after in July, another victim was found in a duffle bag. Authorities did not connect the two deaths.

Elmer McCurdy was an everyday outlaw who didn’t become infamous until long after his passing. In 1911, McCurdy lost his life to police after robbing a train of $46 and two jugs of whiskey. At the mortuary home, no one claimed McCurdy, and the undertaker decided to preserve his body with arsenic and charge visitors to see it.

This display went on for a few years until one day, a man arrived at the mortuary home claiming to be McCurdy’s brother. The mortician took the stranger at his word and allowed the man to take McCurdy. It turned out that the man was not McCurdy’s kin, he was just a carnival worker. The man put McCurdy’s corpse on display as the “Oklahoma Outlaw” in his traveling show. Years would go by, and as McCurdy was sold to other carnivals, the story of who he was became lost. Eventually, people assumed he was just a prop and treated him as such. McCurdy’s corpse eventually made it’s way to The Pike, an amusement park in Long Beach, CA.

In 1976, 65 years after his passing, a production crew for The Six Million Dollar Man was filming an episode of the show at The Pike. One of the film crew moved McCurdy’s corpse out of the way thinking it was just a mannequin. The arm broke off, and the film crew was stunned to see bone and tissue where the arm once was. The police were called, and officers were able to identify the man as Elmer McCurdy. They sent him back home to Oklahoma, and on April 22, 1977, a service was held for McCurdy as he was buried in Guthrie, OK.

The Phantom Manor is Disneyland Paris’s version of the popular Haunted Mansion attraction. The fictional narrative told inside the ride tells the story of a previous inhabitant who was visited by a phantom and subsequently passed. She is said to now haunt the house. It’s a scary tale for kids visiting Disney’s European outpost, but the haunted house got even creepier in April of 2016.

An actual body was discovered in the Phantom Manor by employees. The corpse belonged to a fellow employee who had worked at Disneyland Paris for 14 years. The 45-year-old was fixing a faulty piece of lighting behind the scenes when he was electrocuted.

In June of 2015, some ghost hunters paid a visit to the Kuhn Memorial State Hospital in Vicksburg, MS. The abandoned hospital was reportedly haunted, so the ghost hunters wanted to check it out for ghost sightings. What the ghost hunters discovered was much more chilling than a specter. They found the corpse of a woman outside of the hospital with a bloody trail leading to the hospital entrance.

The body belonged to 69-year-old Sharon Wilson, a woman who was reported missing. Two suspects were later arrested for the crime when they were discovered driving Wilson’s car.

In May 2017, neighbors in Laredo, TX, became concerned about Gabriel Martinez after not seeing the septuagenarian out and about for a while. Martinez lived with his mother, who no one had seen in years. The lights remained on at all times, and the grass was getting high around his property. Concerned citizens called the police for a welfare check, and the police made an unsettling discovery.

Martinez’s body was found inside the home in a homemade wooden coffin. What’s more, there were remains of another body in the coffin that police believed to be Martinez’s mother.

In October 2017, a 61-year-old man disappeared after receiving abdominal surgery at a hospital in Stellenbosch, South Africa. A nurse said that they left the room to get some bed linens, and when the nurse returned, the man was missing. Almost two weeks later, the man’s body was discovered in the ceiling of the hospital.

It is unclear why or how the man got up into the ceiling. The hospital was under construction at the time of his disappearance, which a hospital spokesman said complicated the search for the patient.

In December of 2016, fishermen in Cape Cod, MA, discovered something shocking in their nets. Among all the fish in their haul was a human body. The fishermen took the body to Provincetown and contacted the local police. Police were able to identify the body as Robert Carnevale of Rhode Island. As it turns out, Carnevale suffered from lymphoma and chose to be buried at sea.

While most prefer cremation for burials at sea, Carnevale opted to be interred in one piece. It is unknown what the family decided to do with Carnevale’s body after he was found by the fishermen.

In 2017, surveillance cameras recorded 29-year-old Katherine Caraway entering Walmart in Sand Springs, OK, on Friday, June 23, but she was never seen exiting the establishment. It wasn’t until the following Monday when store employees discovered Caraway’s body in a locked bathroom stall with an out-of-order sign on the door.

An employee remembered going into the bathroom on Friday evening and noticing the door locked. Instead of investigating, they figured something was wrong with the stall and placed the out-of-order sign on the door. Autopsy results found that Caraway’s passing was accidental, ruling out any foul play. Medical examiners determined she passed from difluoroethane toxicity caused by “huffing” air duster, which investigators found in her car.

Thirty minutes after family reported her missing, the body of 70-year-old Carolyn New was discovered by a pastor at the church she attended in Somerset, KY. New went to the church on Thursdays to clean and in August 2017, someone took New’s life while she was in the church. Surveillance showed a man, Dwight Bell, taking New’s car, which was eventually found abandoned in a parking lot in Indiana.

Police issued a warrant for Bell’s arrest, and the suspect was captured a month later in Knoxville, TN. During a news conference after apprehending Bell, police disclosed that Bell confessed to ending New’s life, although his motive is unclear.

In August 2017, two men were walking on a New York street in the Bronx looking for bottles to recycle. The men came across a shopping cart and decided to look in it for recyclables. Instead of bottles, they discovered a decomposing corpse hidden inside a cardboard box. The men went to the police about their findings, and examiners were able to identify the victim as Nivela Hassan.

The 27-year-old Hassan was concealed in a cardboard box and placed inside of the shopping cart. Police were able to obtain surveillance footage, which showed a man, Darryl Orr, wheeling the cart in the street. Orr was apprehended, and he confessed to meeting Hassan and doing drugs together in his apartment, where he later discovered Hassan. He put Hassan’s body in the box and then pushed it three blocks away from his apartment in the cart. Orr was charged with concealing a human corpse and drug possession.


Up next… what are the weirdest places bodies have been found? We’ll look at some very bizarre incidents.

Plus… in Florida, there is a short stretch of freeway that is so full of incidents of danger, death, and the paranormal, that many consider it cursed – and most definitely haunted. Locals have deemed it, the Dead Zone. These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!



What are the weirdest places bodies have been found?

A woman’s body was discovered in an elevator in Xi’an, China after she apparently starved until she was no longer alive. Workers found the body, which had been trapped in the elevator for more than a month, when they returned to work at the building after the Chinese New Year. They were supposed to have checked the elevators before taking them out of service before the holiday, but authorities said the workers neglected to perform a visual inspection.

When they finally did discover the poor woman, they noticed that her hands were mangled from repeated attempts to escape.

Twenty-two-year-old Lauren Moss was first reported missing in November 2015, but she wasn’t found until the following February. For months, Moss’ body sat in her parked car in the parking lot of a Walmart in Salinas, California. Police suspected that she ended her own life, and surveillance cameras noted that the car had been in the lot since December.

Moss was finally discovered when employees finally looked inside the tinted windows.

In July 2014, 20-year-old Tito Morales was discovered between the 18th and 19th floors of the building he was living in in the Bronx. Police don’t know for sure how he got there, but pronounced him as someone who had perished after they were able to pull him out.

It is unknown whether or not foul play was involved.

Possibly the grossest – yet most famous – instance of finding a corpse in a weird place, Canadian tourist and University of British Columbia student Elisa Lam was found floating in one of four water cisterns situated on top of the Cecil Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles. This was not a situation of her falling in one night and being found the next day; Lam was left decomposing in the tank — which provided water for bathing and drinking to the residents of the hotel — for as many as 19 days.

Patrons of the budget hotel had reported that water pressure was almost non-existent and that the water coming from the taps had an off taste to it, but it was over two weeks before anyone from the maintenance staff of the building investigated the cause of the issues.

When Rebecca Wells, an auditor for the Department of Internal Services, was found passed at her cubicle in an office building, it wasn’t because her co-workers noticed her and immediately called the paramedics. She had been no longer living for over 24 hours when she was found, hunched over at her desk.

She normally worked in East Los Angeles, but was conducting an audit in the Downey area. Her body went unnoticed for a day; she was working on the second floor of the office building in a row of cubicles where no other workers were stationed. She was found by a security guard on Saturday, February 12, 2011, and was last seen alive the previous day at 5 p.m. after a staff meeting.

According to the neighborhood parking enforcement officials, the issue wouldn’t even have been flagged in the system for another full week after the seventh ticket was placed on the man’s car, had the man not been discovered as perished and not sleeping.

John Waldo was reported missing nearly two weeks before the first ticket was issued, and the toxicology reports that will determine Waldo’s cause of perishment will take a month and a half to process.

Embedded in this item is a fan’s American Idol audition. It’s one of the greats. It includes her full personality, her street attitude and her inability to sing more than two correct, consecutive, notes of music.

Her name was Paula Goodspeed. At 30, she was found to be passed in a car outside former American Idol judge Paula Abdul’s house in Sherman Oaks, around the 3800 block of Beverly Ridge Drive.

Police investigated her death with the possibility Goodspeed ended her own life. Goodpseed had auditioned for one of Idol’s earlier seasons, but she didn’t make it past the first round of recruitment. She sang “Proud Mary” and wore a pink frock that caused fellow Idol Judge Simon Cowell to comment that Goodspeed looked a like Abdul.

Anonymous police officials of the Los Angeles Police department’s threat management unit commented that they were familiar with Goodspeed because of her involvement a number of stalking incidents, this one just happened to be a little more final. Officials declined to comment further.

Ingrid Rivera’s corpse was discovered in a utility closet after one of rapper Lil Kim’s birthday parties at Spotlight Live, a popular karoake club. She was 24.

Spotlight Live shut its doors for weeks after the incident in order to clean up the utility closet and figure out what happened. Rivera was reported missing by her mother on Tuesday, and Lil Kim didn’t even hear about the body until Wednesday.

According to club patrons, the woman was thrown out of the club by the reportedly very heavy-handed security after being found drunk in the men’s bathroom. She wasn’t seen after the incident until someone discovered her in a closet.

An employee of the club was later charged with the slaying of her.

According to a multiple reports, it took three calls to Detroit authorities and over two days before they recovered the body of a man frozen in ice in the elevator shaft of a vacant warehouse.

A Detroit News reporter working from an anonymous tip found the body, and it was eventually removed from the ground with a saw.

Investigators estimate the body was frozen in the ground for months; no word on how the man came to be trapped in the elevator shaft in the first place. It’s a mystery. The cause of death were also under investigation, with no leads in sight at the time.

While filming an episode of CSI: New York in Los Angeles, a set that was supposed to be Downtown New York was filmed in Downtown LA and, just to not let anyone down, the criminals of LA decided to leave a mummified corpse right where the cast and crew happened to be filming.

Huge coincidence, yes. Did they roll with it and use it in the show for authenticity’s sake? No.

The body was mummified remains of a man found on the fifth floor of the same building where CSI: New York was being filmed.

According to the manager, the tenant “was discovered by a building engineer who checked on the tenant because he had not paid rent for the month.”

Body dumps aren’t always human. A baby shark, like, a real, 3-4 foot long baby shark, was found in a public restroom by two women taking a walk who had to use the bathroom. Needless to say, they didn’t use the toilet, since the baby shark was actually positioned so that it looked like it was busting out of the toilet and into the world.

Betty Williams, 28, was found as a corpse in a suitcase in East Harlem, New York City, near a place called Rao’s restaurant. The video to the left has footage of an unidentified man seen carrying the suitcase, and, nonchalantly dropping it off.

This is not the first incident of a suitcase operation at Rao’s; nearly a year earlier another victim was found in an area nearby the popular eating establishment, also in a suitcase.

Police investigators suspect mafia influence. Jody White, the innocent bystander who found the suitcase, comments, “I was just walking by and came across it.” Autopsy results show that Williams was strangled.

She was found with all of her clothes on.

This isn’t exactly “public,” but when you go to your parents’ house to look for some free food and find baby corpses, it doesn’t really seem like “home” anymore.

A German housewife, who should never be allowed to reproduce again, slayed three of her infant children, packaged their bodies in freezer-safe wrapping, and likely forgot about them after stuffing them into a fridge.

That is, until her other (adult) children discovered the gruesome frozen treats when they were rifling through the freezer for some frozen pizza.

After the grown-up kids found the babies, they confronted their parents and the mother turned herself in. She was too psychologically disturbed to endure any police questioning.

It is estimated that the babies were born during the 1980s, and spent their 30 years in the freezer among pounds of expired food.

Never hook up near the edge of a roof. You know when you’re really getting into it and you start neglecting certain things you wouldn’t otherwise, like your volume, the pounding of the headboard against the wall or that cup on your dresser that’s about to fall?

Well, never underestimate the ability of people to do that, even when their lives are in danger.

Two people were found at the base of a building after driving to the top floor of an adjacent parking garage and climbing onto the roof unclothed. Their car was in the garage, their clothes on the (actually really steep) roof.

Wildfire rangers harpooned a crocodile and found a lot a human head, a torso and a few appendages inside its stomach. The man’s legs were found farther upstream.

Police said that the man was attacked the previous night by a crocodile as he slept on the river banks.

Aquan Lewis, 10, was found unresponsive hanging from the hook in the boy’s bathroom at Oakton Elementary School and was later pronounced as no longer living at the Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago.

The school janitor Elliott Lieteau attempted to perform CPR after the boy was initially discovered; police commander Tom Guenther commented that Aquan’s death was an “isolated incident” and that police did not consider the rest of the children at the school in danger of any foul play.

Joshua Maddox was reported missing by his mother in 2008. Seven years later, a demolition crew found the remains of the Colorado boy’s body stuck in the chimney of a cabin that belonged to his parents. Officials identified Maddox from his dental records, but couldn’t immediately determine what ended his life. They didn’t find any signs of physical injury or gunshot wounds, which means Joshua might have simply gotten stuck in the chimney while trying to shimmy down into the house.

HAUNTED I-4=====

Some places seem to pull tales of the weird to them, with the strange and the paranormal gravitating towards them for reasons we can not yet begin to fathom. In the U.S. state of Florida there lies one such place, a short stretch of highway that has become ground zero for all manner of anomalous phenomena, strangeness, and even death; a haunted, accursed place they call the “Dead Zone.”

There was a time when Florida was nothing more than untamed wilderness ruled by the proud Native peoples of the area, yet by the 1860s and 70s the region was steadily built up and settled by Europeans en masse. The Natives of the area would go on to be displaced, sent to reservations, or killed in fighting such as the Seminole Wars, and the pristine area witnessed a surge of settlers looking to make a life out of this new, uncharted land, along with numerous railroads and roads that penetrated and crisscrossed the wilds. People poured into the region at the time, and cities and towns began to pop up all over the place, transforming the landscape in the process.

One of the first of these settlers was a businessman named Henry Sanford, who in 1877 bought up land just north of present day Orlando along the St. Johns River, for the purpose of creating a Catholic farming community called St. Joseph’s. It was more of a get-rich-quick scheme than anything religious as far as Hawkins was concerned, and he sat back waiting for suckers to come rolling in. Things would not go according to plan, and instead of the vast profits Sanford had imagined making on the land, he only ended up selling a few plots, and not long after the settlement experienced a devastating fire and an epidemic of Yellow Fever that swept out from the mosquito-choked swamps. The disease was catastrophic for St. Joseph’s, with quite a few who died simply buried out in the woods or on their property, and by 1887 the settlement was all but a ghost town.

Sanford would go on to found the bustling nearby town of Sanford, Florida, and the area would later make a comeback at the turn of the century, while the site of St. Joseph’s would become absorbed by a township called Lake Monroe, but this dark history remained there to haunt it, perhaps literally. In 1905, a settler named Albert Hawkins bought up some land on which a family of Dutch immigrants had once lived before becoming victims of the Yellow Fever epidemic that had helped to wipe out the original St. Joseph’s colony. He figured out the grim secret buried on his rural land quite by accident, stumbling upon the weed infested unnamed graves as he explored the area one day, but he was respectful and decided not to have the bodies moved, rather maintaining the plot and their decrepit unmarked wooden crosses like a miniature cemetery, complete with a fence around it, and telling people to stay away from it. However, it would soon appear as though these mysterious graves held some sort of dark power that infused them.

Neighbors sometimes complained to Hawkins that they could see mysterious lights roaming about at night in the vicinity of the graves, and that all manner of ghostly phenomena such as moving objects and strange noises had been plaguing their homes. On top of this were some ominous claims that the graves were actually cursed, seeking grim revenge on those who would try and defile them. In one instance, a neighbor allegedly got tired of the graves being there and tore down the fence surrounding them, yet later that same day this man’s house would supposedly be struck by lightning and razed to the ground. In another incident from the 1950s, a grandson of Hawkins himself was fooling around at the gravesite and kicked over one of the wooden crosses marking one of the graves. The very next day he would be killed in an auto accident involving a hit and run, with the perpetrator never caught. Even Hawkins himself purportedly had his own house catch fire after he tried replacing the time-worn, rotted old wooden grave markers with new ones, prompting him to take it as a warning to leave them as they were.

All of this strange phenomena and death earned the area of that little cemetery the name “The Field of Death,” and locals became too terrified to go anywhere near it. Despite this, Florida’s popularity at the time, and the surging population and droves of tourists coming through, meant that more and more highways were being built in order to meet the demands of the rampant development going on. One of these was the proposed Interstate-4 (I-4), which was meant to connect Tampa and Daytona Beach, and which would cut right through the property on which those haunted graves rested. Hawkins had died in 1939, but he was survived by his widow, and there was not much that she could do at the time because she had sold the land and it had become imminent domain. However, she did inform the state of the secluded little cemetery and suggested that they move the graves before construction began.

The officials supposedly promised that they would have the bodies moved and interred at a proper cemetery, but this apparently never happened, and when construction commenced in 1960 the highway just ended up going up right over the graves and their forgotten remains. This would seem to have been a bad idea, because almost immediately there was tragedy that befell the project in the form of the catastrophic Hurricane Donna, which tore across the Florida at that exact time and even eerily changed directions to follow the path of the proposed I-4. Also odd was that meteorologists had predicted that Donna was going to just pass by relatively harmlessly off the coast, yet it suddenly made a sharp turn right towards the state for no apparent reason, and even more eerily still, passed right over the construction site. Whether this was all merely coincidence or not, it was one of the worst hurricanes the state has ever seen, and stalled construction on the highway for months.

When the highway was eventually finished, it began to accrue a sinister reputation almost immediately, when a truck went wildly out of control and crashed right in the vicinity of the graves, claiming several lives on the very day I-4 opened to traffic in 1963. This would be merely the beginning of an ongoing phenomenon that has plagued the stretch of highway where the graves are said to be, which is right at the banks of the St. John’s River at the interstate bridge overpass, and has earned the ominous name “The Dead Zone.”

By far the most notorious of the many strange and quite frightening phenomena linked to this patch of road is the inordinately high concentration of traffic accidents that occur here. Depending on the source, there have been anywhere from 1,500 to over 2,000 traffic accidents in this one spot along a mere quarter mile stretch since the opening of the highway, with the Florida State Highway Department saying that there were 44 accidents over the course of 1995 and 1996 alone in this one place, and from 1999 to 2006 there were 440 accidents, many of them fatal. The rate of accidents at the Dead Zone of I-4 is so intense that many locals still absolutely refuse to drive over that area, instead going through great lengths to take roundabout routes around it. Officially this is explained away as the unfortunate result of so much traffic through the area, but even considering this the rate is quite high, and there are even the reports of people claiming that it often seems as if something has actually taken control of their vehicle. is there something more supernatural going on here, and if there is does it have anything to do with those graves? It is hard to say.

In addition to the uncommonly high rate of traffic accidents along the road are the frequent tornadoes that tear through, often seeming to follow the path of the I-4 as if attracted by it, as well as yet another strange hurricane, hurricane Charley, which eerily passed right over the cursed site in 2004 as if aiming for it. Researcher and author of the book Strange Florida, Charlie Carlson, has said of this particular hurricane: *****Charley followed almost the same route as Donna. They referred to Charley as the ‘I-4 Hurricane.’ Strangely enough, there was construction going on around the graves. The land where the graves are was being disturbed again. It was almost like a repeat of Donna.*****

Besides harrowing car crashed and deadly tornadoes and hurricanes, the I-4 Dead Zone has gathered about itself all manner of other assorted paranormal phenomena and high strangeness. One very frequently reported oddity is that radios, cell phones, and CBs go dead and refuse to work over the site, or that there will be picked up ghostly disembodied voices or anomalous static on the devices. Commonly reported are the sounds of children’s laughter, or of voices that desperately ask “Who’s there?” or “Why?”, yet never responding if one is to try and talk with the entities. Some people have even reported hearing not voices, but rather an ominous growling or snarling echoing out from their radios as they drive through. Considering that the immediate area has no radio or cell phone antennas, nor any microwave emitters, it is hard to tell what could be causing these disturbances. Is there a rational explanation, or something far odder at work here? Who knows?

There are numerous other strange phenomena reported from the I-4 Dead Zone as well, including ghost lights, shadow people, roving cold spots, sudden thick fogs from nowhere, phantom hitchhikers, and ghostly vehicles. Add all of this to the death and tragedy that also seem to cling to it like flies to a corpse, and I-4 has gone on to be considered one of the strangest, most haunted places in the state. Is this just urban legend mixed with spooky history and superstition? Is it all overactive imaginations? Or could it be that this length of highway holds to it the specters of the dead, damned to remain tethered here and compelled to lash out at those who have desecrated their graves?


When Weird Darkness returns… a man is found dead – obviously murdered. But even after a positive identification, some believed the body was not of the man authorities thought it was – and an even larger mystery was, whose monogrammed handkerchief was stuffed in the corpse’s mouth? That story is up next.




Samuel Mortin, who was employed to keep watch over six coasting schooners laid up for the winter just below Tottenville, Staten Island, New York, found the body of a man lying in the mud, half floating, next to one of the vessels on March 11, 1891. The man’s arms were crossed behind his back tied together at the wrists and above the elbows with heavy packing twine. Mortin secured the body and went to tell the police.

An autopsy revealed that the man had not drowned but had died of strangulation. The body had probably not been killed where it was found but had been carried by the tide from somewhere else, but it had not been in the water more than four or five days. He had been about six feet tall, weighing 200 pounds, powerfully built, but his hands were soft, and he was fashionably dressed. If robbery was the motive, the thief left behind a gold and platinum watch chain and other pieces of jewelry. There had been no attempt to hide his identity; in his coat pocket was a passport issued by the Royal Police Department of Saxony, to Karl Emanuel Ruttinger, Jr. There was also a receipt for a registered letter from England to Ruttinger at an address in Stuttgart, Germany. Both documents were dated December 20, 1890.

There was no question that Herr Ruttinger had been murdered. In addition to strangling the victim, the killer had stuffed a linen handkerchief in his mouth and rammed it down his throat with a stick. Stitched into the handkerchief was the monogram “W.W.”

As the investigation into Ruttinger’s murder progressed, the mystery surrounding the case grew ever more dense and each new discovery prompted more questions than it answered. In his pocket were numbered receipts for two ferryboat tickets from Tottenville to Perth Amboy, New Jersey which had been sold on February 2, for two people. The tickets had been used, presumably soon after their purchase, but if the body had only been in the water four or five days, where had he been in the month between? A big German stranger would have stood out in both Tottenville and Perth Amboy, but no one in either community remembered seeing him.

The other question raised by the tickets was who used the second ticket? That question was answered when a boarding house keeper named Gustav Neu went to the German Consul’s office with information on Karl Ruttinger. Ruttinger had come to his house on January 10 and shared a room with a young Englishman named Wright whom he introduced as his wife’s brother.

Neu was questioned by New York City Police, and he told them that Ruttinger was a lace salesman and expert from Dresden who had come to America to find employment. He was an educated man who spoke German, English and French fluently. Wright, whose first name Neu did not know, was a diamond setter. On January 26 both men traveled to Boston and returned three days later. On February 1, Wright packed his bags, paid his bill and left again for Boston where he said he had found employment. The next morning Ruttinger left the house early, leaving his things in his room as if he expected to return that night. Mr. Neu never saw him after that.

On the passenger list of the steamer City of Chicago, which arrived in New York on January 10 from Liverpool, were the names Charles Ruttinger and William Wright. Of course, it was lost on no one that the initials on the handkerchief stuck in Ruttinger’s throat were “W. W.” Wright, who could not be located, was now the prime suspect in Ruttinger’s murder. But William Wright, aged 28, was described as five feet, four inches tall weighing about 120 pounds there was no way he could have overpowered a man of Ruttinger’s size and build. Did he have an accomplice? In any case, there was now a pressing need to locate William Wright, and his description was sent to Boston and every other city within reach of the telegraph wire.

On March 15, a man, whose name was withheld from the press, visited New York Police Headquarters with additional information on Ruttinger and Wright. He had known the Ruttinger family in Germany, and he confirmed that Karl Ruttinger was a lace manufacturer, well-educated and well-traveled. On a trip to London, Ruttinger became acquainted with the Wright family, and subsequently married the daughter, Madge Wright. The family was well-to-do and Ruttinger’s new bride had a healthy income of her own. Her brother William—who the informant described as “an idle, cigarette smoking, bicycle riding young man”—accompanied the newlyweds when they moved to Germany. Since then, Ruttingers had two children, and they were all living with Karl’s mother in Stuttgart. Madge Ruttinger had not been heard from since Karl’s death.

With the police unable to locate William Wright, speculation grew that he was dead as well. Mr. Neu, their landlord during January, did not believe that Wright was the killer. He was a mental as well as a physical weakling, Neu said. He couldn’t have planned anything so intricate as the murder and couldn’t have executed it if he had a plan. He also said they had been inseparable when he knew them and felt if Wright were alive he would have written long ago to inquire about his friend.

The theory that Wright was dead was given a boost when people began to notice that Wright’s description matched that of an anonymous man who committed suicide in the Astor House on February 2. The man who checked into the Astor House under the name Fred Evans was short, slightly built, and spoke with a strong English accent. He carefully destroyed everything that could lead to his identification, stripped to his underwear and cut his own throat.

Among Ruttinger’s effects were some photographs of himself and Wright. When shown the photograph of Wright, members of the hotel staff were convinced that he and Evans were the same person. Likewise, Gustav Neu was positive that Wright resembled a photograph of Evans. The shoes of the dead man were German, and the back of the uppers had “W.W.” scratched into the leather. The collar worn by Evans was marked “Pluto, 15-3s” and collars left at Neu’s house were also marked “Pluto, 15-3s.” Inspector Byrnes of the New York City Police considered this conclusive proof that Evans was Wright. It was now speculated that Wright had killed himself out of remorse for killing his brother-in-law, or that it had been a suicide pact and after assisting Ruttinger’s suicide had taken his own life.

But the identification of the dead man was not absolutely positive, Evans was described as being 5’ 6” tall while Wright was 5’ 4”. Gertrude Norman, a New York actress, was absolutely convinced that Evans was actually George Edgar, whom she had known well for two years. On March 22, she announced that she would “believe to her dying day that it really was Edgar.”

Around the same time, Gustav Neu received a letter from a man in Rochester, New Hampshire, saying that a man with an English accent who fit Wright’s description took a room at his boardinghouse on February 25. He spoke of setting up a business in Boston with goods coming from Germany and seemed to take an unnatural interest in news of the Ruttinger murder. Witnesses in Boston said a nervous man who fit Wright’s description left town on a cattle steamer. Inspector Byrnes may have believed one of these clues or he may have had new information that he was not sharing, but five days after saying conclusively that Wright was the Astor House suicide, he was now saying he believed that Wright was still alive.

Others went so far as to say that Ruttinger was also still alive. It was discovered that Karl Ruttinger’s life was insured for more than $20,000 with a $10,000 policy purchased just one month before the trip to America. It may have been an elaborate plot to defraud the insurance company, with Ruttinger and Wright already hiding out in Europe awaiting payment. The body discovered in Tottenville was not Ruttinger’s; some believed it was the body of a man named Schneider, first mate of the German oil ship Mommsen who was missing when the ship left Perth Amboy for Copenhagen.

On March 31, 1891, an inquest was convened in Tottenville to hear testimony from everyone with direct evidence in the murder case. Among the witnesses was Dr. Caleb Lyon, the doctor who performed the autopsy who said that in his opinion Ruttinger had committed suicide with the aid of another person who bound his arms after death. The jury returned the verdict that the body was that of Karl Emanuel Ruttinger and that he was suffocated at the hands of a person or persons unknown to the jury.

Though the investigation continued, no evidence was ever uncovered to revise that verdict. In February 1892, the Equitable Life Assurance Society paid $22,000 (in German marks) to Mrs. Therese Ruttinger, mother of Karl Ruttinger. Statements made by the insurance company implied that they were not convinced that it was not suicide or other fraud but decided it was cheaper to pay the claim than to continue investigating.


Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at darren@weirddarkness.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.

All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.

“Strange Dumping Grounds” by Jessika M. Thomas, Mariel Loveland, and Rachel Stewart for Ranker

“The Ruttinger Mystery” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight

“Hauntings On Highway I-4” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe


WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, 2023.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty.” – John 6:35

And a final thought… “You do nothing to remove your limits if you do nothing to help others remove theirs. To do this is to live-and-let-live, and keep an open mind.” – David A. Stewart

I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.


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