“TERRIFYING TRUE STORIES OF SHADOW PEOPLE” and More Real Paranormal Stories! #WeirdDarkness
Listen to ““TERRIFYING TRUE STORIES OF SHADOW PEOPLE” and More Real Paranormal Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: Some believe them to be ghosts, others feel they are creatures or even humans from a different dimension. Still others believe they are demonic entities. Whatever the truth about what they are, the one thing everyone agrees about is that an encounter with a shadow person is undeniably terrifying. (Terrifying True Stories Of Shadow People) *** The townsfolk of Beaver County, Pennsylvania saw something very strange in 1966 – and now, so many decades later, it’s just as much of a mystery as it was the day the encounter occurred. (The Unsolved Sighting in 1966) *** Some are beloved favorites like “The Wizard of Oz”, others you may never have seen, like Atuk. Some are dark in tone like “Poltergeist”, or heroic like the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. But one thing all of these films and the others I’ll share in this episode have in common is that they are all supposedly cursed. (Infamously Cursed Films)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Terrifying True Stories Of Shadow People” from Anomalien.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/5f3vxdh4
“The Unsolved Sighting in 1966” by Scott Tady for EllwoodCityLedger.com and The Beaver County Times:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3ck54nvr
“Infamously Cursed Films” by Randolph Strauss for Ranker: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/uh8xjj9j
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.
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Originally aired: July 21, 2021
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…
The townsfolk of Beaver County, Pennsylvania saw something very strange in 1966 – and now, so many decades later, it’s just as much of a mystery as it was the day the encounter occurred. (The Unsolved Sighting in 1966)
Some are beloved favorites like “The Wizard of Oz”, others you may never have seen, like Atuk. Some are dark in tone like “Poltergeist”, or heroic like the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. But one thing all of these films and the others I’ll share in this episode have in common is that they are all supposedly cursed. (Infamously Cursed Films)
But first… some believe them to be ghosts, others feel they are creatures or even humans from a different dimension. Still others believe they are demonic entities. Whatever the truth about what they are, the one thing everyone agrees about is that an encounter with a shadow person is undeniably terrifying. We begin with that story. (Terrifying True Stories Of Shadow People)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, listen to my other podcasts like “Retro Radio: Old Time Radio In The Dark”, “Church of the Undead” and a classic 1950’s sci-fi style podcast called “Auditory Anthology,” listen to FREE audiobooks I’ve narrated, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression, dark thoughts, or addiction. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: TERRIFYING TRUE STORIES OF SHADOW PEOPLE=====
Appearing at the corner of your eye, as you try to sit up and wake up from what you think is a nightmare, you suddenly see dark figures–darker than darkness–standing next to you, staring directly into your eyes. So-called ‘shadow people’ are supposedly humanoid like creatures often associated with a spirit or entity. Most of them appear to be male and some people have even claimed to see them wearing hats and long coats. They rarely communicate and seem eerily interested in human beings. There’s truly no explanation for them or their reason for visitation. They even seem to share the same characteristics as the “Night Hag Syndrome,” such as night terrors, paralysis and even feelings of suffocation. Some people believe that shadow people come from another world and others think they might be demonic entities. No matter what the case is, shadow people will keep materializing all over the world and we may never know the reason for their existence. Following are some experiences our friends at Anomalien.com have gather from around the net, from people who claim to have been visited by these bedroom watchers:
(From JL): One night I awoke paralyzed. I looked towards the window, my eyes being the only things that could move. Sitting on the window was a dark shape of a man who was watching me. Inside my head, I could hear a faint voice saying “come with me.” I could slowly feel myself dying or what I thought was the experience of dying. My breathing stopped, and I could feel my heart beat slower and slower. I was terrified and with every ounce of energy, I forced my body to sit up. The moment I sat up in bed the apparition disappeared. I was completely drained physically. I noticed that the time on the clock was 3:15 AM. This occurred a couple more nights during that month. The last time, I almost gave into the urge to follow him. The death sensation was scary at first, but it was exciting at the same time. Kind of like the first hill on a roller coaster. It has been a couple years since this first meeting, and I have been moving from place to place hoping to avoid contact with this being. It always seems to find me within a few months, no matter where I go. Sometimes I want to be left alone, but this being and the other things that haunt me are always around. They don’t understand how tired I can get at times.
(From Courtney): I was about 10 or 11 when I went to this house. It was daytime and the building was well lit. I looked into a few rooms and nothing out of the ordinary until I turned into a hallway and there it was, suddenly at the other end of the hall, just looking at me, even though it had no eyes. The shadow person and I looked at each other for some time, and I didn’t think it was real until it started walking towards me slowly. I turned around and he had traveled about 7 meters in a split second. I finally made it out of the house and I looked again. It had stopped at the door, almost like he was unable to leave the house, then he just simply turned away and walked back to where it was.
(From KatBowl): A few months before my mother died, she and my sister were discussing strange happenings at our old home. My mother stated that she had seen a dark shape originate from the closet in her bedroom several times, and she proceeded to describe this being as appearing to be wearing a dark cowl covering the upper torso. My sister was amazed by my mother’s description of the shape that she had remembered as standing over her crib and poking her with a bony finger. They called me and asked if I had had any sightings in the house and I told them of the shadowy being that constantly stood at the foot of my bed, leaving me with a fear of the night so strong that I would not go to sleep without my covers wrapped around my head forming a blindfold for my eyes. But I can still remember sensing this thing and knowing if I looked out from under my makeshift blindfold that I would see it standing there. My brother also told us of the little man that would come out of the closet just about every night and stay in his room. His shadow figure was more viewable even allowing my brother to describe that strange tam-like hat the being wore. All of us will admit to the fact that going up to our rooms, a sense of anxiety would start at the base of your feet as you started up the steps, easing somewhat after you got to your room and checked out for the dark ones. But, none of us would come down those steps alone and turn our backs to the landing. We would back down those steps, believe it or not. It still makes my skin crawl when I talk about it.
(From KJM): The night before my experience, I had been the target of poltergeist activity. I don’t mean the mischievous kind of poltergeist, the presence in my room was downright evil. That’s another story, but I do believe the events were related. The night I had my experience, I went out to the bathroom (this was in the middle of the night, around one or two am). As I walked into the kitchen (the bathroom is connected to the kitchen in my house, go figure), I was still jumpy because of the previous night. Therefore, I turned on every light on my way to the bathroom. When I walked into the kitchen and reached for the light, a shadow oozed out of the sink. I told myself it was just my imagination until it turned around and came towards me. There were glowing red eyes glaring at me from the area the face should have been. The feeling I got was a definite presence of evil (again, like the night before). I screamed and ran out of the room, then spent the rest of the night in my parents’ room on the floor (I’m not ashamed to admit it, even if I was twenty at the time).
(From Francisco): It was probably ten years ago back in 1999 don’t recall the month, when I was living in a rental mobile home in Pleasanton south of San Antonio, TX. My ex-girlfriend and I experienced a shadow person in the form of a child. It was early in the morning around 3:30 to 4:15 when my ex and I were in the living room sleeping on the floor. When all of a sudden I just woke up; I opened my eyes and in front of me was a shadow that looked like a little boy, it was just a dark black that you can’t describe. It had no physical appearance of clothing but just pure blackness. It was facing me for just a few seconds when it took off running to my right or down the hallway. The hallway light was on at the time and I could see the shadow very clearly. When it ran off all I could hear were the footsteps being created as it ran down the hallway. The noise sounded like feet running across a wood floor, but the weird thing was that it was carpet with a vinyl plastic cover so we wouldn’t get the carpet dirty. At that time, I was so scared that when I saw it I didn’t move. Another weird thing about the experience was that my ex-had woken up at the same time. When It ran off, all I heard was “Did you see that?” I knew I wasn’t the only one that had seen it and that it wasn’t just my imagination. After that, we both stayed awake the rest of the morning, just trying to understand what had just happened. My ex would always tell me she would hear a scratching noise coming from outside but I didn’t believe her. But this had gotten my attention. After this, I never experienced another encounter with the shadow. A couple of months later we moved out.
Coming up… The townsfolk of Beaver County, Pennsylvania saw something very strange in 1966 – and now, so many decades later, it’s just as much of a mystery as it was the day the encounter occurred. That story is up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: THE UNSOLVED SIGHTING IN 1966=====
Peering through bifocals at the sky over Northern Lights shopping center, Frank Panzanella sees nothing but a gray, cloudy swath and a stray bird or two.
Fending off the chill of an early spring morning, he’s wrapped in a brown leather jacket, his white hair tucked beneath a ballcap. He’s standing on the smooth asphalt outside Red Carpet Cleaners in Conway.
It’s exactly where he stood in the early hours of April 17, 1966.
Then, the cleaners was an Atlantic service station, and Panzanella wore the navy blue uniform of a Conway police officer. Then, when he looked toward nearby Northern Lights, the sky wasn’t so uncluttered.
“It was over there,” Panzanella says, repeating the story he’s told his fascinated grandchildren many times. Above the shopping center parking lot, he says in his deep rumbling voice, that’s where he saw it.
A half-football-shaped metal object beaming down an intense cone of light. It was about the size of a three-bedroom ranch house hovering about 100 feet off the ground.
A thought flashed through Panzanella’s head at the sight: I’m gonna pretend I didn’t see this; nobody will believe me.
But that option vanished as two patrol cars came racing southward toward him, smoke pouring from the balding tires of one car. They squealed to a halt beside the two gas pumps next to Panzanella.
Three Ohio lawmen jumped out. “Do you see that?” they excitedly asked Panzanella? He said, “See what?” Then he reluctantly admitted he did indeed see it.
We’ve been chasing it for 86 miles, the lawmen told him. Their pursuit started near Akron. At times, they were rocketing up to 100 mph, they said, and the thing seemed to be leading them along.
The story they would tell is probably what inspired the nighttime police chase scene in Steven Spielberg’s blockbuster movie “Close Encounters of The Third Kind.”
It would lead to UFO infamy, another in a long line of government denials.
The decision to chase the object from Akron to Conway also would dramatically affect the Ohio men’s lives and possibly cause one to suffer a breakdown.
But Panzanella, now 73, still believes.
“Whatever we saw, the government didn’t want people to know about it,” Panzanella said. “They had to cover it up.”
In the final full hour of darkness on the clear, mild morning of April 17, 1966, Portage County, Ohio, Deputy Sheriff Dale Spaur, 35, radioed a dispatcher to report a remarkable sight — a huge silver object hovering 50 to 100 feet above the ground.
Spaur had been driving Car 13, with sheriff’s Deputy W.L. “Barney” Neff, on a routine patrol of Route 224, near the rural town of Randolph, east of Akron.
Shortly after 5 a.m., they had pulled over to investigate an abandoned red car. Examining the 1959 Ford, Spaur noticed walkie-talkies on the seat and on the outside was painted a triangle-and-lightning bolt emblem with the words “Seven Steps to Hell.”
Moments later, Spaur heard a loud hum, much like an electrical transformer. Turning around, he spotted a flying object rising from the tree line. Neff, too, was out of the patrol car, and the two men stood frozen as they watched the approaching object, which they later estimated to be 40 to 50 feet long and 20 feet high.
Topped with a dome with what looked like a protruding antenna, the object flew directly above them, beaming a cone-shaped shaft of white light so intense it made the deputies’ eyes water. Spaur looked at his hands and clothes to make sure they weren’t burning.
After nearly a minute of standing motionless in disbelief, the deputies snapped to their senses, sprinted to their car and radioed a dispatch center in the Portage County seat of Ravenna.
Dispatcher Bob Wilson confirmed similar sightings had been pouring in from residents near the Mogadore Reservoir outside Akron and from six or seven police departments in Portage County and neighboring Summit County.
“Shoot it,” advised Wilson, prompting Spaur to warily draw his gun before desk Sgt. Henry Shoenfelt got on the radio worried the object might be a weather balloon. He ordered Spaur to lower his weapon and keep the object under surveillance until another officer could arrive with a camera.
The UFO started to soar eastward, so Spaur slid behind the wheel, and Neff piled into the passenger seat.
The deputies began their pursuit.
An April 18, 1966, front-page article in The Times, and testimony Spaur and Neff gave to an Air Force official a month later, provide the following account:
The object accelerated quickly, and soon the deputies were speeding 85 mph southeastward on rural Route 14 in Ohio to keep pace.
“Spaur said the object didn’t make any attempt to get away, and it followed the main highway almost as if it knew it,” Times reporter Tom Schley wrote.
Having heard Spaur’s radio dispatches, East Palestine patrolman Wayne Huston was ready when the chase crossed Columbiana County. Spotting the object 800 feet in the sky, Huston joined the pursuit, following Spaur’s car as the chase crossed into Pennsylvania down Route 51 through Darlington and Chippewa townships. Both drivers clocked the flying object at 103 mph.
The patrol cars got stuck behind slow-moving trucks near the Bradys Run Park entrance, and the lawmen didn’t see the flying object again until they reached Bridgewater.
Interviewed later, Spaur said it was as if the object had waited for the officers above Rochester, allowing them to catch up and continue the chase.
By 6:25 a.m. the chase had reached Conway. The sheriff’s car was running on fumes and balding tires, so Spaur screeched into an Atlantic service station, where the deputies encountered Panzanella, the Conway policeman.
With his shift nearly over, Panzanella, 33, had decided to take one more lap through town. Climbing 11th Street Hill, he spotted a strange light in his rearview mirror, which he suspected was the landing lights from a low-flying jet. Fearing a plane crash, he did a U-turn toward Route 65, pulling into the Atlantic station where he watched, in bewilderment, as the brightly lit object hovered above the Northern Lights shopping center parking lot.
“I rubbed my eyes three or four times but didn’t say anything to anyone for the time being,” Panzanella later told investigators.
Told by the Ohio men of the high-speed chase, Panzanella radioed a police dispatcher in Rochester and asked him to notify the Greater Pittsburgh Airport Tower in Moon Township. By that time, the Ravenna, Ohio, dispatcher also had contacted a Youngstown airport.
The police officers and deputies watched what appeared to be fighter jets soaring to intercept the flying object, which the men then estimated to be 3,500 feet high. Spaur and Panazanella said they heard chatter on a police radio indicating military pilots were chasing the craft.
Police officers in Salem, Ohio, later reported they, too, had monitored radio reports of jets chasing a bright object toward Beaver County.
But Air Force officials later insisted that no military planes had been dispatched.
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder in Conway, Spaur, Neff, Panzanella and Huston saw a plane they assumed had taken off from Greater Pitt fly about 1,000 feet directly below the unidentified flying object.
Meanwhile, piqued by Panzanella’s radio report, Economy policeman Henry Kwiatanowski drove to a hillside vantage point along Route 989 near Shafer Road to see what was happening.
Kwiatanowski spotted two commercial jets trailed by a “squashed football-shaped” UFO, as he later told investigators in a typed report.
Spaur, Neff, Panzanella, Huston and Kwiatanowski — five men representing four law enforcement agencies — watched moments later as the UFO rose straight up and out of sight.
“The last time I saw it, it was the size of a pencil eraser,” Panzanella said. “It shot straight up in the air, and that was the end of it.”
Only one of them would ever claim to see it again.
The incident made national headlines, coming several weeks after a series of UFO sightings in Michigan, and 18 days after the Pentagon and U.S. Defense Secretary Robert McNamara felt compelled to issue a formal statement saying there weren’t any flying saucers.
As they did in Michigan, federal officials withheld comment initially. Then a few days later, without visiting the Portage-to-Conway chase route, an Air Force leader announced his investigation had concluded the skyward object clearly was not visitors from outer space.
From his desk at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton, Ohio, Maj. Hector Quintanilla, head of Project Blue Book, the government’s UFO investigation agency, said the deputies must have been chasing a routine satellite, or due to an optical illusion caused by “atmospheric conditions” had mistaken the planet Venus for a flying object.
Nonsense, said Spaur and Neff, who insisted to reporters the flying object had moved vertically and horizontally in a way a satellite simply couldn’t.
Portage County Sheriff Ron Dustman supported his men, reminding Quintanilla that many residents also had reported seeing strange lights in the sky.
Gerald Buchert, the police chief in Mantua, Ohio, hoped to verify his fellow officers’ claims with three photographs he snapped that April 17 morning.
His photos turned out to be overexposed, except for one that showed a dark, disc-shaped object surrounded by a ring of light to the right of the crescent-shaped moon. Buchert offered his film to the Cleveland FBI, which forwarded him to Quintanilla in Dayton. At Quintanilla’s insistence, Buchert sent the negatives to the Dayton airbase, where Project Blue Book was opened in 1952.
Quintanilla wasn’t swayed by the evidence, writing that Buchert’s film was “severely fogged” and the disc-shaped dot was a processing defect.
Buchert still believed he saw a UFO, commenting to the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper, “I feel like an idiot saying this, (but) it looked like a saucer, two table saucers put together.”
With the public sniffing a government cover-up, and the law enforcement witnesses sticking to their UFO claim, U.S. Rep William Stanton of Painesville, Ohio, demanded the Air Force conduct a more thorough investigation.
So Quintanilla came to the Portage County Courthouse on May 10, and with a Norelco reel-to-reel tape recorder rolling, interviewed Spaur and Neff. Also present were Sheriff Dustman, radio dispatcher Wilson, Times reporter Schley, Ravenna newspaper reporter Carol Clapp and William Weitzel, of an independent, Washington D.C.-based UFO investigation agency, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.
The recording of that hour-plus interview, later put on cassette tape, is available from the Maryland-based Fund for UFO Research.
Throughout that recording, Spaur and Neff sound lucid, displaying moments of self-deprecating humor, but remaining firm in their belief that what they saw was no satellite or planet.
At the beginning, everyone but Quintanilla and the lawmen are asked to leave the room as the deputies recount their story. Spaur chuckles and says, “You’re not going to believe it. … The thing was like a three-bedroom ranch house.”
But the mood grows tenser and Quintanilla sticks to his stance that the lawmen initially had spotted a routine satellite, and in the course of their chase had mistaken Venus for a flying object.
“I know damn well I wasn’t chasing a satellite,” Spaur, a former Air Force gunner, says.
As the interview formally ends, Weitzel, the UFO investigator, is let back into the room. With the tape still rolling, Weitzel, a Pittsburgher who nine months earlier investigated a UFO sighting in Brighton Township, implores Quintanilla to reconsider the evidence.
“You seem to be skeptical about the physical reality of unidentified flying objects,” Weitzel says.
“I’m not skeptical about anything,” Quintanilla says. “I look at peoples’ statements and the information that is given to me.”
Quintanilla revealed that Project Blue Book listed more than 10,200 cases of “misinterpretations of conventional objects and natural phenomena” dating to 1947.
“Do you think there is a common denominator among the reports?” Weitzel asks.
“No, there isn’t,” Quintanilla replies. “There is no parallel whatsoever.”
As Weitzel continues his pointed questioning, Quintanilla says, “Look, young fella, I’m finished with you,” before leaving the room.
“It is incredible to me that anyone familiar with the details of the sighting could believe Maj. Quintanilla’s explanation,” Weitzel, a philosophy instructor at the University of Pittsburgh-Bradford, later wrote in his NICAP report. “He either rejected or ignored portions of the testimony, which make a satellite-Venus explanation ridiculous.”
Weitzel’s report included testimony from Northwestern University astronomer J. Allen Hynek, who said Venus had risen at 3:35 a.m. that day and thus would have been too high in the sky to have been mistaken for a flying saucer.
Hynek, the founder of the Center for UFO studies and the man who coined the phrase “close encounters of the third kind” to describe human contact with space aliens, was hired in 1977 by filmmaker Steven Spielberg to be the technical adviser for the same-named movie that includes an Indiana-to-Ohio police chase said to have been inspired by the Ohio-to-Conway chase 11 years earlier.
Meanwhile, Spaur and Neff bristled at Quintanilla’s ruling.
“He seemed to have his mind made up before he got here,” Spaur said after the interview. “I don’t believe for an instant that I was following Venus.”
But the deputies soon piped down, as did the other witnesses.
Their lives would never be the same
Six months after the April 17, 1966, sighting, the Akron Beacon Journal published a story showing the heavy emotional toll suffered by the Ohio witnesses as public support turned to skepticism and then ridicule.
Portage County Sheriff Deputy Neff refused to be interviewed. His wife said he had stopped talking about the incident because he was tired of people poking fun at him.
Also reluctant to talk was Buchert, the Mantua police chief, who tried to play down the incident to the Akron reporter.
Shortly after the UFO sighting, Wayne Huston, a seven-year veteran of the East Palestine police force, turned in his badge, changed his name to Harold Huston and moved to Seattle to drive a bus.
“Sure I quit because of that,” Huston said. “People laughed at me, and there was pressure. … You couldn’t put your finger on it, but the pressure was there. The city officials didn’t like police officers chasing flying saucers.”
No one was more emotionally damaged than Portage County Sheriff’s Deputy Spaur, the driver of the lead chase car, whose marriage and career crumbled.
Two months after the sighting, Spaur was on another routine patrol when he looked up into the nighttime sky and saw it again. Radioing the dispatcher, he whispered, “Floyd’s here with me.”
Floyd was the code name the sheriff’s department had come up with if someone saw a UFO again, but didn’t want to alarm citizens listening to police scanners.
Feeling Floyd’s presence above his patrol car, Spaur pulled over and lit a cigarette. He stared at the floorboard, reluctant to look out his window. After 15 minutes, he warily looked skyward, concluded the UFO was gone, and drove away, this time not in pursuit.
Four months after that second sighting, newspapers nationwide published the Akron article written by John de Groot, a future Pulitzer Prize winner for his coverage of the Kent State shootings. De Groot described Spaur as alone and bitter, subsiding on cereal and sandwiches in a Solon, Ohio, motel. Having left the police force, Spaur had lost 40 pounds and had to walk three miles to his painter’s job.
Spaur said he often awoke in a sweat, reeling from nightmares that relived that April 17 morning.
“My entire life came crashing down,” Spaur said. “Everything changed. I still don’t really know what happened, but suddenly it was as though everybody owned me.”
Unsolicited letters from around the world arrived at his house. Some offered advice on what to do if space aliens tried to contact him; others urged him to stay away from flying saucers.
Spaur’s wife, Daneise, a waitress, said he was never the same after the sighting and chase.
“He came home that day, and I never saw him more frightened,” she told the Akron newspaper. “He acted strange, listless. He just sat around. He was very pale. Then later, he got nervous. And he started to run away. He’d just disappear for days and days. I wouldn’t see him.
“Our marriage fell apart. All sorts of people came to the house; investigators, reporters. They kept him up all night. They kept after him, hounding him, and he changed,” she said.
Spaur reached his emotional breaking point on another night soon after, when he returned home after an unannounced absence and allegedly grabbed Deneise and began shaking her, deeply bruising her arms. She filed assault-and-battery charges, and Spaur was thrown into jail, which became a big story in their small town.
The day he entered jail, Spaur turned in his badge.
In one of his last-known interviews, with de Groot, Spaur expressed regret about the morning of April 17, 1966.
“I have done in my life. To everyone I am Dale Spaur, the nut who chased a flying saucer,” he said.
A few months after the sighting, Spaur’s father ended years of silence between the two feuding men by telephoning his son.
“Do you think he called me to ask how I was?” Spaur said. “To say, I love you son? To see if I wanted to go fishing or something? Hell no. He wanted to know if I’d seen any more flying saucers.”
Spaur tried finding solace by going to a new church.
“The minister introduced me to the congregation (by saying), ‘We have the man who chased a flying saucer with us today,'” Spaur said.
Reflecting on the troubled path his life had taken after the UFO sighting, Spaur said, “I would change just one thing, and that would be the night we chased that damn thing. That saucer.”
Spaur lived reclusively in subsequent decades.
A great-nephew, Jody Spaur of Portage County, confirmed two months ago that Dale Spaur moved to West Virginia a few years ago and dropped out of contact with family members.
“He is in poor health,” said Michael Nelson, a former Portage County sheriff’s deputy writing a book on the incident.
“Dale will not speak directly with the media,” Nelson said. “He was not dealt a kind hand by newspapers in the past.”
If Dale Spaur wanted to vanish from public life, he achieved his goal.
Neff, too, keeps a low profile in northern Florida.
“He’s out in the pasture right now,” said his wife who answered the phone a few months ago. “I’ll tell him you called, but he probably won’t want to talk about that,” she said of the UFO incident. “When that came out, he went through a lot of ridicule.”
Indeed, Neff never returned a phone message.
The Cleveland Scene, an alternative weekly, also failed two years ago to contact Spaur or to get Neff and Huston to share their thoughts on the UFO sighting.
“When I left Ohio, I just got away from it all,” Neff told The Scene. “I just want to forget.”
Huston, the East Palestine officer, said “The chief of police and I didn’t get along (and the incident) didn’t help. I really don’t want to go further than that.”
Huston has since died.
Quintanilla, the lead Air Force investigator, died in 1997 after a golf cart accident.
Buchert was still the Mantua police chief in 1986 when he died from a brain aneurysm. His son, Harry, took over the post, and keeps a scrapbook of accounts from that April 17, 1966, incident.
“He believed he saw a UFO, and always claimed that he did,” Harry said. “But he was glad when the incident was over.”
That leaves just the two Beaver County police witnesses who don’t mind sharing their memories.
“I remember it pretty clearly,” said Kwiatanowski, 62, the former Economy policeman. “I saw a jet plane and something behind it that was shiny.”
For Kwiatanowski, whose name didn’t make the initial newspaper accounts, the matter soon died down, though not until he endured several weeks of razzing.
“There were some people there who were a little sarcastic who thought you were a nut when that first came out,” said Kwiatanowski, who later left police work for a railroad job, from which he’s semiretired.
Forty years later, he still isn’t sure what he saw in the sky.
“You could have told me it was anything. It could have been another plane, I don’t know,” Kwiatanowski said.
Yes, he said, it could have been a UFO.
“We’ve always wondered that,” Kwiatanowski said. “Everybody has wondered about that.”
With amazement and a touch of amusement, Panzanella, the former Conway policeman, has thought a lot about the incident lately, now that his granddaughter Sarah is mesmerized by the story.
Now 73 years old and a shuttle driver for Friendship Ridge nursing home, Panzanella said a UFO remains the best possible explanation.
“I still think it was something from out there,” he said. “It’s got to be.
“Unless one of the other countries has something we didn’t know about,” he said. “We weren’t sitting too good with Russia then.”
The weeks after the incident were chaotic, Panzanella recalled.
Strangers relentlessly tracked him down, even calling his unlisted phone number to ask him about the UFO. Two nuns from Philadelphia mailed him a pin bearing a message that the Lord would take care of him. He wore it inside his police jacket.
Air Force investigators came to his home in Ambridge twice to interview him. The second visit occurred unannounced at 2 a.m., with uniformed Air Force officials pounding on the door.
“I said, ‘Why did you come here to ask me these questions again?’ said Panzanella, who by that time felt the government owed him some answers.
Panzanella thinks they picked a time when he would be asleep, hoping he would groggily change his statement, which he never did.
And while he long ago stopped being bitter about the government’s skepticism, he said, “I wish the heck I could have found out more.”
Like the Ohio deputies, Panzanella endured teasing, primarily from fellow policemen. But they also told him they believed him.
Weeks after the incident, Panzanella tried to contact Spaur at the Portage County Sheriff’s Office, but the sergeant there sounded reluctant to leave the message, so Panzanella gave up, and never spoke again to Spaur.
But he still thinks about Spaur and feels sorry for him.
“He cracked up,” said Panzanella, who many years ago refused to be interviewed for a book about the incident because the author didn’t plan to give any proceeds to Spaur.
“I said if you can’t give him some of the money, then I’m not going to do it,” Panzanella said.
Panzanella speculates that the razzing became too much for Spaur to handle.
“Some people can’t take it,” Panzanella said. “They take it to heart, and in his case, he cracked.”
As far as the federal government is concerned, the incident is over and done.
“The case was closed and never reopened,” said Brian Seese, a paranormal researcher from Hopewell Township, who includes the incident in his new book, “Unexplained Events in Beaver County.”
In late 1966, Weitzel, the NICAP investigator assigned to the case, delivered his final report to his Washington, D.C., supervisor, Richard Hall.
“I personally hand-carried a copy of Weitzel’s very thick and extremely well-documented report to Dr. Edward Condon,” Hall recalled last month.
Condon, a scientist, was in charge of a UFO study conducted by the University of Colorado under the sponsorship of the Air Force.
“Years later, I learned to my astonishment that he never turned over the case to his staff, and it gathered dust in his personal files,” Hall said.
And so when the Air Force turned the Colorado report over to Congress, the Ohio-to-Conway incident wasn’t mentioned.
“Maj. Hector Quintanilla tried to pass it off as a sighting of the planet Venus and an Earth satellite, which was quite preposterous,” said Hall, who wrote “The UFO Evidence, Vol. II; a Thirty-Year Report,” published in 2001. “I think he may have changed it to an unexplained case later on.”
According to the files of a leading UFO researcher, Brian Sparks, the Air Force ultimately did categorize the case as “unexplained” and probably left it at that, Hall said.
Project Blue Book files would show the final status of the incident, Hall said.
But trying to get someone to share Project Blue Book details isn’t easy.
The feds closed Project Blue Book in 1972, ending at least publicly the Air Force’s role as a UFO investigation agency.
Representatives of the U.S. Air Force Historical Research Agency contacted last month said documents from Project Blue Book are kept at the National Archives and Records Agency, though two representatives at that agency said they couldn’t confirm the status of the case, ultimately transferring a reporter’s phone call to a third person who never returned the call.
“Getting someone from the government to talk is almost impossible,” said Leslie Kean, an investigative reporter who backed by cable’s Sci-Fi Channel, sued NASA under the Freedom of Information Act to see files on a UFO sighting Dec. 9, 1965, in Mount Pleasant, Westmoreland County.
NASA maintains the “fireball” that dozens of witnesses spotted that night was a remnant of a Russian satellite that disintegrated after re-entering the atmosphere. But official documents from that investigation were lost in the 1990s, NASA claims.
As for the Conway sighting, Kean speculated the Air Force proclaimed that matter dead after Quintanilla’s ruling, or once the University of Colorado-Air Force report didn’t list it.
UFO investigators claim that Air Force report “was a totally bogus thing” anyway, designed from the onset to debunk UFO theories, Kean said.
In the first few years after Project Blue Book ceased, UFO sightings continued to crop up nationally, including a six-month span from 1973 to 1974 that included separate sightings in Center Township, Ohioville and West Mifflin. Gradually, the phenomenon faded away, and recent years have been devoid of similar sightings.
“The UFO sightings may have appeared to slow down,” Seese said, “but these may only be reported sightings. As a general rule, most people do not report what they observe.
“According to veteran UFO researcher Paul Johnson, the internet changed the way people report their sightings,” Seese said.
“Instead of contacting the state police or local researchers, they can now send their report directly to the internet and remain anonymous and not have to deal face to face with an investigator initially.”
The internet certainly has kept the Portage-to-Conway incident alive.
Dozens of sites, many suspecting a government cover-up, recount the morning of April 17, 1966.
Meanwhile, the men who saw the flying object are left with their own unique perspectives.
“I don’t know what I would have done if it had landed,” Panzanella said. “I don’t know if I would have run or not.”
When Weird Darkness returns… some are beloved favorites like “The Wizard of Oz”, others you may never have seen, like Atuk. Some are dark in tone like “Poltergeist”, or heroic like the first Superman movie starring Christopher Reeve. But one thing all of these films and the others I’ll share in this episode have in common is that they are all supposedly cursed. Up next.
STORY: INFAMOUSLY CURSED FILMS=====
A variety of films have been released that are thought to carry with them a “curse,” due to the troubles faced by the cast and crew either during or immediately following the film’s production. These incidents range from the tragic (as in the accident that cost Superman star Christopher Reeve the use of his legs) to the simply unfortunate (such as Tower Heist director Brett Ratner’s use of a homophobic slur costing him a gig as Oscar producer). What are some of the most well-known movie curses? Regardless of whether you believe these creepy stories about cursed films truly represent something supernatural – or if they are simply regrettable coincidences – nevertheless the existence of so many such productions is uncanny and fascinating.
SUPERMAN: Christopher Reeve played the titular hero in Superman: The Movie and three sequels. The actor was paralyzed from the neck down after being thrown from his horse in a cross country riding event in 1995, and subsequently passed in 2004 due to heart failure stemming from his medical condition. Reeve isn’t the only person involved in the Superman films to face personal struggles. Margot Kidder, who played Lois Lane, suffered a bout of mental illness in 1996. She was found dazed and filthy, wandering the streets of Los Angeles. Richard Pryor, who appeared in Superman III, passed from multiple sclerosis only a few years later. Believe it or not, this franchise wasn’t the only troubled Superman series – spurring the nickname the “Superman curse.” George Reeves, who played the Man of Steel in the 1950s television program Adventures of Superman, passed at the age of 45 in 1959. The official finding was that he ended his own life, but some believe he was a victim.
THE CONQUEROR: A number of principals involved in John Wayne’s The Conqueror succumbed to cancer in the years following the film’s release. Director Dick Powell passed from cancer less than seven years after the movie’s 1956 debut. Actor Pedro Armendáriz was diagnosed with terminal cancer in the early ’60s, filmed one last movie (the James Bond thriller From Russia With Love) to leave his family with money, then took his own life in 1963. Actress Agnes Moorehead passed from cancer a decade later, in 1974. Thereafter, both principal stars, John Wayne and Susan Hayward, were diagnosed with cancer and passed within four years of one another. Combine this with the knowledge that above-ground atomic tests were run at Nevada’s Yucca Flats – very near where the movie was filmed, in Utah’s Snow Canyon State Park – and it seems obvious what happened. It’s speculated that the cast and crew were exposed to radiation while making the movie (a controversial take on Genghis Khan), which caused their cancers. This theory was dismissed as an urban legend, as the passings could likely be traced to either the unhealthy lifestyles or coincidence.
POLTERGEIST: How’s this for a statistic: four actors who appeared in Poltergeist films passed within six years of the first movie’s release. Dominique Dunne, who played Dana in the first movie, was slain by her former boyfriend at age 22. Julian Beck, who played Henry Kane in Poltergeist II: The Other Side, passed in 1985 of stomach cancer at age 60. He had been diagnosed before he had accepted the role. Will Sampson, who played Taylor the medicine man in Poltergeist II, passed as a result of post-operative kidney failure in 1987, at age 53. Heather O’Rourke, who starred as Carol Anne Freeling in all three Poltergeist films, passed in 1988 at age 12 after being misdiagnosed with Crohn’s Disease. During the course of being treated for a disease she didn’t have, O’Rourke became ill and suffered cardiac arrest. Her family filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Kaiser Permanente Hospital, which treated her for Crohn’s rather than the actual condition – a bowel obstruction – that in part led to her passing. The case was settled out of court.
ROSEMARY’S BABY: Director Roman Polanski’s deeply unsettling film about a pregnant woman who may be in the thrall of a Satanic cult carries with it a number of unsettling stories from behind the scenes. Most famously, one year after the movie’s release, Polanski’s wife, actress Sharon Tate, was struck down by the Manson Family. She was eight months pregnant with the couple’s first child at the time. The film’s producer, William Castle, suffered painful gallstones immediately following the film’s production, eventually requiring a series of treatments and surgery. Composer Krzysztof Komeda passed from an unexpected fall. Castle later wrote in his memoirs that it felt like Rosemary’s Baby was coming true in real life and that the cast and crew were being stalked by witches.
THE WIZARD OF OZ: Actress Judy Garland became a cinematic legend playing Dorothy Gale in The Wizard of Oz, but her personal life proved rocky after the film, in large part due to abuses heaped on her by the studio. She suffered four divorces, a string of infamous insecurities and neurosis, financial instability, and addiction struggles before passing from an overdose at age 47. Problems for the Wizard cast didn’t stop there. Four months after the movie was released, Frank Morgan, who played The Wizard, was involved in a serious car accident. Although he was left largely unharmed, his wife Alma suffered a crippling knee injury that would plague her for the rest of her life, and his chauffeur perished. Morgan passed in 1949, never seeing the film become a staple of television and an all-time childhood favorite. Uncle Henry and Auntie Em met with bad luck following Oz. Charley Grapewin – who played Henry – passed in 1956, just before the film debuted on television, where it became a staple. Clara Blandick, who played Auntie Em, ended her own life when she was 81 years old. The production of Wizard was similarly troubled, as a number of notable misfortunes took place on set. Several actors playing flying monkeys accidentally broke the wires holding them up and crashed down to the set (they had a net to prevent grievous injury). The actress playing the Wicked Witch of the West – Margaret Hamilton – was badly burned while filming a scene in which she explodes into flames. When she took time off to recover, a stand-in tried to replicate the stunt in her stead, only to be burned in the same fashion.
ATUK: Atuk is so cursed it never made it to the screen. The screenplay, based on the satirical novel The Incomparable Atuk, about an Eskimo who moves to New York City, has been kicking around Hollywood since 1971 when producer Norman Jewison bought the book rights. Most major actors attached to the project have passed. John Belushi passed a few months after agreeing to star in the film. Comedian Sam Kinison signed to play the lead in 1988 and even filmed a few scenes, but the production fell apart due to disagreements between the actor and pretty much everyone else. He passed not long thereafter in a car accident. In 1994, John Candy was attached but passed from a heart attack. A few months later, Michael O’Donoghue, a friend of Candy’s who, according to rumor, went over the script with the actor, passed unexpectedly of a cerebral hemorrhage. Chris Farley was attached when he passed of a heart attack and, according to unverified rumors, Phil Hartman was also interested in or attached to the script when his wife ended his life.
THE EXORCIST: While there’s ultimately no logical reason to assume horror movies are more likely to be cursed than any other genre, seeing The Exorcist on a list of cursed movies is kind of like finding pickles in a pickle jar. During production, The Exorcist was beset by a slew of problems. The set for the home in which most of the movie takes place burned down. Actress Linda Blair injured her back when some rigging failed, and Ellen Burstyn was hurt so badly during a take the issue plagued her for decades after filming wrapped – the scream when possessed Reagan (Blair) throws her mother (Burstyn) to the ground, is real. Meanwhile, the son of Jason Miller, who played Father Karras, was seriously harmed when hit by a motorcycle during production. Actor Jack MacGowran (Burke Dennings) and actress Vasiliki Maliaros (Father Karras’s mother) both passed shortly after filming wrapped. MacGowran of the flu, Maliaros of natural causes. Linda Blair’s grandfather and actor Max Von Sydow’s (Father Merrin) brother also passed during production. The son of Mercedes McCambridge, who voiced the demon, felled his wife and two daughters before taking his own life after being accused of fraud in November of 1987. All told, nine people associated with the movie passed violently, mysteriously, or during or immediately after filming. Various problems plagued The Exorcist upon its release. A woman at one screening broke her jaw and sued Warner Brothers. The case was settled out of court. The movie was banned for some time in the UK, and American evangelists believed running the film through a projector would bring about demonic possession.
REBEL WITHOUT A CAUSE: Rebel Without a Cause introduced the world to a variety of young actors, many of whom met grim fates in the years following the film’s release. Most famously, star James Dean perished while racing his Porsche 550 Spyder before the film’s release, at the age of 24. He became one of the most recognizable and beloved actors of his generation, despite making only three films. Dean’s co-star, Natalie Wood, drowned amidst unusual circumstances in November 1981. She, husband Robert Wagner, and friend Christopher Walken had gone to Catalina Island for a weekend and were staying on a yacht. It’s thought Wood awoke at some point during the night and attempted to get off of the boat, causing her to slip, fall, and drown. Her body was found floating face down nearby, and she was wearing only a jacket, nightgown, and socks. A witness from another yacht later recalled hearing Wood calling for help, only to be ignored by someone else on the boat. The incident was deemed an accidental drowning, but suspicions of foul play have always surrounded the case, and Wood’s sister Lana has made attempts to get the LA County Sheriff’s Department to reopen the investigation. Another Rebel actor, Sal Mineo, passed five years before Wood, after being stabbed in an alley in West Hollywood. He was 37. Finally, in a last bizarre twist on the Rebel curse story, Beverly Hills orthopedic surgeon Troy McHenry fitted his own car with parts from the Porsche Spyder in which James Dean passed. A year later, he perished when his Porsche Spyder hit a tree.
THE OMEN: The Omen is a film about a couple raising a child who may, in fact, be the son of the Devil. (Shades of Rosemary’s Baby!) It’s only natural there would be some superstitious rumblings around the production. But the making of The Omen was surrounded by genuine tragedy on all sides. Two months before filming commenced, star Gregory Peck’s son ended his own life. Later that year, when Peck was flying to London to make the movie, his plane was struck by lightning. A few weeks later, executive producer Mace Neufeld was flying to London and his plane was also struck by lightning. Neufeld’s hotel was later bombed by the IRA, as was a restaurant where a number of the cast and crew were planning to dine. A tiger handler on the site perished in an unlikely incident, while another plane hired to do aerial work on the film went down while working on another production, terminating everyone on board. Even after the film was finished, troubles and tragedies abounded. Eight months after working on the film, special effects consultant and designer John Richardson suffered injuries in a collision in Holland that dispatched his assistant, Liz Moore. A road sign by the incident read: Ommen, 66.6 km (Ommen is a city in the Netherlands). Richardson was in Holland working on the film A Bridge Too Far along with a colleague from the set of The Omen, stuntman Alf Joint. While performing a standard stunt on A Bridge Too Far (jumping off of a rooftop onto a large inflatable cushion) Joint slipped awkwardly and was badly hurt. He later told friends he felt like he had been pushed. Rumors of the curse of The Omen have abounded for years, and director Richard Donner, Neufeld, and others associated with the film eventually spoke in interviews about the superstitions. Actor Harvey Stevens – who played young Damien in the movie – and Gregory Peck both refused to speak about the curse for the remainder of their careers.
THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST: You’d think a movie about Jesus and the loving sacrifice he made so we all could enter paradise forever would be the last place you’d find a curse attached. But well, here we are. Mel Gibson’s retelling of the story of Christ’s passing faced numerous challenges while filming, and they weren’t even related to the Gibson’s run-ins with the law. Jim Caviezel, who plays Jesus in The Passion of the Christ, suffered numerous injuries during the production, including being struck by lightning (witnesses reported seeing smoke rising from his head), dislocating his shoulder while carrying the crucifix, and having a portion of his flesh ripped off while being fake-whipped. The film’s assistant director, Jan Michelini, was also struck by lightning – twice – on set. John Debney, who wrote the score, called the job the most difficult assignment of his life and claims he closely felt the presence of Satan in his studio while working on the film. The film’s release also brought with it a slew of tragedies. On the movie’s opening day, actor Carl Anderson – who played Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar – passed following a prolonged fight with leukemia. The film’s Kansas advertising sales manager, Peggy Scott, passed after suffering heart failure during the film’s brutal crucifixion scene.
THE CROW: The Crow starred Brandon Lee, son of the legendary martial arts star Bruce Lee, as an anti-hero who was slain by gang members and then rose from the grave to seek revenge. Only eight days before the film was scheduled to wrap production, Brandon Lee perished after receiving an unintentional shot to the abdomen. A metal tip from a dummy bullet became lodged in a prop gun that was fired at the actor. The incident takes on creepy overtones when you consider the pedigree of Lee’s father, Bruce, who passed at the age of 32 from acute cerebral edema due to a reaction to compounds present in the drug Equagesic. Bruce had also been filming a movie when he passed, 1973’s Game of Death. A variety of supernatural causes have been offered for the early demise of father and son. Many of these legends are tied to an early recollection of Bruce’s, which he describes as seeing a ghost – looking like a black shadow – which held him down and refused to release him. It’s said that, when Bruce Lee’s father passed at the age of 64, Bruce had a premonition he would only live to half his dad’s age, 32 years. Some have speculated Bruce – and possibly his son – were targets of an underground organization. Brandon allegedly believed that there was a curse on his family, which may have related to an incident when his grandfather became a target for shady Chinese businessmen.
APOCALYPSE NOW: Whether Apocalypse Now was cursed or plagued – with bad decision-making, worse timing, a mountain of drugs, and an unfortunate series of coincidences – is in the eye of the beholder. Suffice it to say, it was such a mess that there’s a documentary about it: Hearts of Darkness, which was famously dubbed better than Apocalypse Now on Community. The shoot has been called “hell on earth,” and director Francis Ford Coppola has said: “Little by little, we went insane.” Things started going wrong from the get-go. Steve McQueen, Jack Nicholson, Al Pacino, and Robert Redford all turned down the lead role, then Harvey Keitel was fired shortly after being hired. Martin Sheen stepped in to take the part as his alcoholism spiraled out of control. The opening sequence in the film, during which Sheen has a drug-induced breakdown, was not staged; he was really losing it. At one point during filming, Sheen, who suffered a heart attack during filming, told friends in the US (the movie was filmed in the Philippines) he thought he was going to perish. Coppola, meanwhile, had a seizure, partly endued by stress from blaming himself for Sheen’s heart condition. Pretty much everyone was high all the time. Dennis Hopper demanded cocaine as part of his payment, and Sam Bottoms was taking speed and LSD the entire time. The crew used real bodies rather than dummies in some scenes, monsoons destroyed sets that took months to build (and months to rebuild after they were destroyed), helicopters would zip away to fight guerilla paramilitary groups in the middle of filming (at the behest of the country’s dictator), tigers roamed the set late at night, and cast and crew members were stricken with a variety of tropical diseases. Perhaps a coincidence, or a natural result of aging, the two actors most well-known for doing copious amounts of drugs on the film’s set, Sam Bottoms and Dennis Hopper, passed within two years of one another, the former of a brain tumor, the latter of cancer.
FITZCARRALDO: When German mad man Werner Herzog elected to tell the tale of a similarly crazed man pulling a giant steamship over a mountain in South America to raise funds to build an opera house in the jungle, he thought it prudent to actually pull a giant steamship over a mountain in South America for the production. If that film, Fitzcarraldo, wasn’t cursed, then it’s one of the great cases of Murphy’s Law you’ll ever read. Fitzcarraldo was in pre-production for two years, during which newspapers throughout the world ran stories on how indigenous crew members were being exploited (which seems not to have been the case). A production camp set up in Peru as a base for filming was abandoned and burned to the ground when a conflict broke out with neighboring Ecuador. Still, Herzog forged onward, completing nearly half the film with Jason Robards in the lead role. Then Robards contracted dysentery and was unable to continue filming, which rendered all Herzog’s footage useless. This was especially tough for Herzog because the footage featured what was apparently a great performance by Mick Jagger as “retarded actor sidekick.” Klaus Kinski replaced Robards and the film was completed, which required refilming everything shot with Robards. During the process, the production was caught in a tribal war and suffered two plane crashes as well as a drowning. Kinski, reportedly a deranged diva, was so difficult to deal with that the local tribesmen working on the film offered to slay him for Herzog.
ROAR: Roar is an exploitation film about volatile wild animals made by people who elected to go whole hog and use actual wild animals. Despite bringing some serious problems upon themselves, the filmmakers were so beset by problems it’s hard not to believe the film was cursed. In 2015, Roar was dubbed “the most dangerous movie ever made.” The lions used in Roar wreaked havoc. One scalped cinematographer Jan de Bont (who went on to direct Speed), another bit star Tippi Hedren on the neck. Hedren, who starred in The Birds broke a leg and suffered scalp injuries when she was bucked off an elephant. Melanie Griffith was mauled in the face by a lion, Director, writer, and co-star Noel Marshall got gangrene after an attack, and an assistant director had his throat ripped open. All told, 70 members of the cast and crew were harmed by animals, and hundreds of stitches were sewn. Roar took 11 years to finish, during which a massive flood caused $3 million in damages to Marshall’s ranch, where filming took place. The film was a financial disaster during its European release and didn’t appear in theaters in the US until 2015 because no one wanted to distribute it. Many of the real unfortunate incidences ended up in the film, making it as much a documentary of a disaster as it is a film about animal ambushes.
THE MAN WHO KILLED DON QUITOXE: This film was so cursed it never came into being, and you can watch the documentary Lost in La Mancha to see how it failed. The script follows the story of a 21st-century ad executive sent back in time and mistaken for Sancho Panza by Don Quixote. When writer-director Terry Gilliam first tried making the film, starring Johnny Depp, in 2000 (the movie went back into production in 2017), things went wrong from day one. On the first day of filming, Gilliam and crew realized their location was overwhelmed by deafening noise from a nearby NATO airbase, meaning sound would all have to be recorded in post-production for that location. Flash floods and hail damaged equipment and permanently altered the look of the landscape, meaning no footage recorded previous to the flooding could be used because it wouldn’t match. Actor Jean Rochefort, who was playing Don Quixote, herniated a disc during production, which made it impossible for him to continue filming. This shut down the production for good. The screenplay ended up in the hands of the company that insured the film, making it impossible for Gilliam to make the film without first getting the rights back.
THE HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, AND THE INNKEEPERS: Writer-director Ti West had such a haunted experience while filming The House of the Devil he based his follow-up film, The Innkeepers, on it. Both films were perhaps more haunted than cursed – no strange passings or serious harm sustained, but a whole lot of creepy stuff going down during production. Speaking with IndieWire, West describes all the spooky things that went down at the hotel where the cast and crew stayed while making The House of the Devil. “We would go and shoot this satanic horror movie nearby, but the weirder stuff would happen back at the hotel… The staff at the hotel believe it’s haunted. The whole town believes it’s haunted. So it has this kind of mystique to it… I’m a skeptic so I don’t really buy it. But I’ve definitely seen doors close by themselves; I’ve seen a TV turn off and on by itself; lights would always burn out in my room. Everyone on crew has very vivid dreams every night, which is really strange.” To recapture the cursed vibe of The House of the Devil, West filmed The Innkeepers, West filmed the latter at the same hotel the cast and crew stayed in for the former. He recounts his experience returning to the hotel: “The dreams came back the first day I walked in. The vibe was there. [Actress] Sara Paxton would wake up in the middle of the night thinking someone was in the room with her. Everyone has stories, but I was too busy saying, ‘Let’s shoot this! We have 17 days!’”
TOWER HEIST: Tower Heist, originally conceived by star Eddie Murphy as an African-American nod to the Ocean’s films, opened in November to a disappointing first weekend (especially considering the all-star cast). But the film’s string of disappointments went beyond the financials. The film’s director, Brett Ratner, lost his job as producer of the Oscars telecast just days after the film opened. (While promoting the film at a Q&A session, Ratner stated that he felt “rehearsals are for (word that rhymes with bags),” and the ensuing controversy over his use of the derogatory term led to his resignation from the Academy Awards show.) Far more tragically, rapper Heavy D, who had a cameo in the film, was found in his driveway only 5 days after the movie was released. He had suffered from a pulmonary embolism and perished.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to FREE audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Retro Radio: Old Time Radio In The Dark”, “Church of the Undead” and a classic 1950’s sci-fi style podcast called “Auditory Anthology”. Also on the site you can visit the store for Weird Darkness tee-shirts, mugs, and other merchandise… plus, it’s where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression, addiction, or thoughts of harming yourself or others. And if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell of your own, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“Terrifying True Stories Of Shadow People” from Anomalien.com
“The Unsolved Sighting in 1966” by Scott Tady for EllwoodCityLedger.com and The Beaver County Times
“Infamously Cursed Films” by Randolph Strauss for Ranker
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” – John 11:25-26
And a final thought… “Everyday is a bank account, and time is our currency. No one is rich, no one is poor, we’ve got 24 hours each.” – Christopher Rice
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.