“THE GILL MAN OF NEW ORLEANS” and More True, Macabre Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: The creature had dark or black skin covered in masses of “skin or fins” that looked like algae growing all over its body. It seemed to have gills or matted hair that looked like gills on its face and head; two yellow eyes leered out from under a prominent forehead. That’s the description one witness had for the thing in City Park, New Orleans. (The City Park Thing) *** Anyone who knew the little family before that July day would say that one thing was certain, Vernon Plager loved his wife and daughter more than anything. But then Paul Reed moved to the neighborhood, and it led to more than just a broken marriage… it led to murder. (Wrapped in Ivy) *** The moose is said to be a ghostly white and a giant of stature and weight, antlers bigger than any other moose ever seen. Considered a harbinger of doom, it was first reported in 1891… but has been seen as recently as 2002. Could this giant, ghostly moose at Lobster Lake, North Dakota actually have existed – or still exist? (The Specter Moose of Lobster Lake) *** For the citizens of Brabant Province, Belgium, the era of the Brabant Killers, left behind traumatic wounds that have never really healed. Making matters worse is the fact that the killers were never brought to justice. (The Killers of Brabant)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“The City Park Thing” is from Haunted America Tours: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/rw3aza96
“Wrapped in Ivy” originally posted in “Rockford Writes”, edited by Heath Alberts for HauntedRockford.com:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2tn299te
“The Specter Moose of Lobster Lake” by Kathy Weiser for LegendsOfAmerica.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/bbb5jzbk
“The Killers of Brabant” by Benjamin Welton for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/jve5ku2d
“Haunted Wendy’s” by Weirdo family member, Ethan Hahn
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“I have come into the world as a light, so that no one who believes in me should stay in darkness.” — John 12:46
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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…
Anyone who knew the little family before that July day would say that one thing was certain, Vernon Plager loved his wife and daughter more than anything. But then Paul Reed moved to the neighborhood, and it led to more than just a broken marriage… it led to murder. (Wrapped in Ivy)
The moose is said to be a ghostly white and a giant of stature and weight, antlers bigger than any other moose ever seen. Considered a harbinger of doom, it was first reported in 1891… but has been seen as recently as 2002. Could this giant, ghostly moose at Lobster Lake, North Dakota actually have existed – or still exist? (The Specter Moose of Lobster Lake)
For the citizens of Brabant Province, Belgium, the era of the Brabant Killers, left behind traumatic wounds that have never really healed. Making matters worse is the fact that the killers were never brought to justice. (The Killers of Brabant)
But first… The creature had dark or black skin covered in masses of “skin or fins” that looked like algae growing all over its body. It seemed to have gills or matted hair that looked like gills on its face and head; two yellow eyes leered out from under a prominent forehead. That’s the description one witness had for the thing in City Park, New Orleans. (The City Park Thing)
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.
And this month we’re celebrating Weird Darkness’ birthday… this month makes seven years of Weird Darkness as a podcast. And to recognize our birthday, every October we ask you to make a donation to our Overcoming The Darkness fundraiser. Every dollar we raise through donations and the Weirdling Woods painting auction will go to organizations that help people who struggle with depression. You can learn more about the fundraiser and what we’re doing with it on the Hope in the Darkness page at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: THE CITY PARK THING==========
In the early morning hours of Sunday, February 7, 2010, a tractor driver who had worked the Caesar parade route in Metairie was heading home to his apartment in the Lake Terrace section of New Orleans when he decided to take a detour through City Park.
While driving down Harrison Avenue, approximately half way between the renovated New Orleans Police Department Mounted Unit horse stables and Scout Island, in the vicinity of the infamous Mona Lisa Drive, the man was startled to see a dark form lurch out of the shadows and approach the road.
The witness slowed his vehicle for a better look. The dark form ran along the treeline for several minutes, moving in and out of the misty and shadows under the oaks. The driver now came to a complete stop and observed what he described as a “troll” or a “gill man” dart across the Harrison Avenue turnaround, making its way toward Scout Island and the overgrowth of the abandoned City Park East Golf Course.
According to the witness, the creature had dark or black skin covered in masses of “skin or fins” that looked like algae growing all over its body. It seemed to have gills or matted hair that looked like gills on its face and head; two yellow eyes leered out from under a prominent forehead. Apparently aware of the man’s presence, once it had crossed the road, it stopped and looked back at the man who said it then opened its mouth in a growl, revealing a set of massive fangs and a lolling tongue that looked, according to the man, “too big for its mouth.” It lifted up a clawed hand as if to wave the man off, the driver clearly observed long claws at the fingertips in the ambient light, and then it turned, lurching off into the shadows of Scout Island.
The witness did not report his strange experience to the police because he assumed they would not believe him and since the “gill man,” “troll,” or whatever it was had not hurt him, he didn’t feel it was necessary to bring unwelcome scrutiny upon himself. When he joined a group of fellow tractor drivers for parade routes early the next morning, he told a friend what had happened. His friend put him in touch with Haunted America Tours.
There are numerous legends regarding ghosts and creatures lurking in the placid environment of the New Orleans City Park. The “urban legend” surrounding the Park’s Mona Lisa Drive is one example.
According to some reports there is an older legend, popular among the Allipoosa Indians who lived along nearby Bayou St. John in the colonial days of New Orleans, concerning a foul, ghoul-like creature inhabiting the woody tracts and marshy areas along the bayou shore. Descriptions of the creature by the Allipoosa, and accounts from slaves who worked on the Allard Plantation, which comprised all the acres that later became City Park, match the account provided by the tractor driver in 2010.
A Mid-City resident who lives in the City Park Avenue area claims to be a descendent of the Allipoosa tribe, and he confirmed that recently there have been numerous strange occurrences in City Park.
The resident, who asked not to be identified, suggested that the recent sightings might be connected to the numerous film projects that have used City Park and its surrounding areas as locations and backdrops for shooting. Some of these projects, he said, have supernatural or paranormal storylines, and it is his opinion that this activity has “stirred up” the spirits of the land – from the ghosts of Allard plantation slaves and long-dead Indians, to more modern phantoms. City Park, he said, has many, many guardians.
There is an interesting footnote to this story: On a recent visit to the Popp’s Fountain area in City Park, it was noticed that some of the heavy iron bars in the security fence now surrounding the fountain had been bent and broken, as if by tremendous force. The interesting thing, other than the fact that the black, wrought iron would be impossible to break without the aid of machinery or welding equipment, is that the breaks appeared to have occurred from the inside out.
Anyone who knew the little family before that July day would say that one thing was certain, Vernon Plager loved his wife and daughter more than anything. But then Paul Reed moved to the neighborhood, and it led to more than just a broken marriage… it led to murder. That story is up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: WRAPPED IN IVY==========
Anyone who knew the little family before that July day would say that one thing was certain, Vernon Plager loved his wife and daughter more than anything. His marriage was good, they had a rough patch the year before but now he and his wife Ivy were getting along really well. Vernon, who was 28, blamed most of their problems on the fact that Ivy, 22 in 1928, was so young when they fell in love. She was only 16 when they were married and then the baby, Lois, came. Ivy had gotten restless and she struggled with all the responsibility of being a young mother and wife.
Paul Reed, 22, entered the picture in 1927, and that’s when everything turned bad in Vernon’s and Ivy’s marriage. Paul lived across the street from Ivy and Vernon and saw her in the neighborhood and found her attractive. Ivy was small and fair skinned and she had “vivid blue eyes”. They met on July 4 when Paul and Ivy were outside on the sidewalk shooting off firecrackers. Reed got Ivy’s phone number and called her repeatedly through July and August. Paul was finally able to convince Ivy to go riding with him while her husband was at work. Ivy went for a drive with Reed and became smitten with the young man. Paul had never had a girl before and Ivy was bored with her life and Paul made her laugh. The rides led to more and then they spent a night in a local hotel, The Chick House, before they left on a train for Peoria and then for Davenport for two weeks in October of 1927. The papers would later call it an “elopement.”
Vernon’s brother Floyd had married Ivy’s sister, and one awful night when Ivy returned to Rockford, Floyd came to Vernon’s house and ask Vernon to come with him. Floyd and Vernon went to the police and asked them to come to Floyd’s house. Ivy was there with Reed, in what would be considered a “compromising position”. Later, when asked what the couple was wearing, the police officer replied, “sheets.” Ivy and Reed were arrested and taken to jail. Vernon let her spend the night in jail but went to talk to Ivy the next morning. He offered to let her come home, he said he would forgive her everything as long as she came home to him and their little daughter.
Ivy did return home and the couple worked on their marriage. Vernon even agreed to give up smoking the pipe he knew she hated. They were working together to repair their marriage and build a good life together. He bought her new furniture and surprised her with little bouquets of roses, her favorite flower. Vernon also bought her a very pretty ring for her birthday. Ivy told people that Vernon was good to her, he made sure they had a comfortable home, and that she and Lois were very happy. They had moved into a new upper apartment on Howard Avenue in the beginning of July. Paul Reed did not just go away, though. They would see him pass by the new house and sometimes when they were out with their daughter, they would notice Paul there in the background, watching them.
On Wednesday, July 18, 1928, the family went for a drive to Byron. There was an outdoor concert that Vernon knew Ivy would love. He came home from work and they drove there and listened to the music before heading back home. Vernon thought he saw Paul Reed going south on Route 2 when they were headed north. It worried him because he knew that Paul Reed had stopped by the house that morning to see Ivy. Reed still loved Ivy and wanted to know if she would run away with him again. Vernon trusted Ivy when she said she told Reed that she was staying with her husband and her little girl.
They followed their usual bedtime ritual that night and he knelt down by Lois’ bedside to say his prayers along with hers. Later, Ivy stated that they heard noises out in the alley but they didn’t think too much about it, Vernon didn’t even go check on it.
The next morning was a work day for Vernon and he kissed Lois and Ivy goodbye and walked around to the back where he parked his car, an old two door car that was owned by the Crosley Radio Company where he worked for his brother, C.A. Plager.
The quiet, summer morning was ripped apart by a loud explosion right before 9:00a.m.. Ivy looked out and saw Vernon’s car all blown apart. Witnesses would later say that they saw Vernon crank his car and it wouldn’t start. He went back into the house for a moment and came back outside. He crawled into the car and stepped on the starter button. Vernon’s body was lifted twenty feet in the air from the blast, “higher than the wires” according to one man, and then he fell back into the wreckage of his car. His hip area was obviously crushed and his left leg was twisted around his neck. His intestines were on the pavement next to him. He was unconscious but regained consciousness quickly.
Vernon was lying in the street and Ivy rushed to his side and grabbed his hand. Suddenly she stood up and said, “Oh, I can’t even look at you!” and ran back into the house, grabbing their little daughter on the way in. Lois, the daughter wanted to go see her daddy and was hysterically screaming for Ivy to let her go. Two policemen showed up and lifted Vernon’s horribly mangled body into the police ambulance and transported him to the hospital.
He was in a great amount of pain and Vernon begged the policeman to shoot him. He also told the police that they should find Paul Reed to question him about the explosion.
They rushed Vernon to the hospital but there was nothing the doctors could do for him. They just attempted to alleviate his pain. Vernon died shortly after arrival to the operating room.
Vernon’s funeral was held at the Fred Olson Undertaking Parlor. There were at least 500 “morbid” people wandering around outside attempting to see the pretty “girl-widow” as Ivy was called in the paper. Ivy was accompanied to the funeral home by Police Matron, Ida Patterson, since she was in police custody at the time. She cried during the ceremony, especially when the pastor said, “Death was on the track of Mr. Plager.” Ivy stepped up to the coffin to look at her husband’s face once last time, everyone mentioned how handsome he looked, even in death. The coffin hid the damage caused by the blast. A relative held little Lois up so she too could see her father. The family watched as the lid closed on Vernon for the last time.
When Ivy left the building, photographers actually jumped on taxis and other cars to get a good angle for a picture. Vernon’s body was sent to Pearl City for burial where most of his family lived. Ivy was allowed to go with police matron, Ida Patterson to the funeral in Pearl City. Lois, the Plager’s five year old daughter, rode with her mother and the police woman to Pearl City. There were over 500 attendees to Vernon’s funeral.
Paul Reed had been very busy all week prior to the bombing. He went to a store in Rockford to inquire about purchasing dynamite to blow up a spring on his camping spot in Wisconsin but they refused to sell it to him.
Reed picked up his 22 year old nephew, Kenneth Reed and they drove down to Dixon, where Kenneth’s father, Arthur lived. Arthur was Paul’s 45 year old brother. Paul told Arthur that he needed to buy some dynamite for the spring. Arthur had to ride over to the neighboring farm of Shelby Riddle to give a bid for a job that Riddle needed done on the farm and Arthur was meeting him. While he was there, Arthur asked Riddle about where to purchase dynamite and mentioned to Riddle that his nephew, Paul needed to blow up a spring.
Riddle told him that the only person that had any dynamite would be Ben Good, the Highway Commissioner. He kept the dynamite in a shed at a quarry near Polo. The men all headed back to Arthur’s place for a late supper. After supper, Paul asked Arthur for a crowbar and he and Kenneth left in Reed’s car.
They drove over to the quarry, according to Kenneth’s statement later. They parked up on the road and walked down to the shed. There was a lock on the door so Paul, used a ledge to gain access to the roof and lifted some rook planks off with the crowbar. He dropped down inside the shed, leaving Kenneth outside as a lookout.
Paul was inside about ten minutes. He crawled back out on the roof and then used the crowbar to hammer the planks back in place. It was dark and he didn’t notice that he actually left an open spot. This would be evidence used against him later. When Paul dropped back down to the ground, Kenneth could see a coil of wire and three sticks of dynamite in Paul’s pants.
Police arrested Paul Reed within hours of the murder when he surrendered to the Ogle County Police. They arrested Ivy Plager as well on the suspicion that she was an accessory to the murder of her husband, but she was released after several days. She went to stay with her sister, Mrs, Plager and her husband’s brother Floyd, Vernon’s brother on Greenwood Avenue while awaiting Reed’s trial.
After the bombing on the morning of July 19, 1928, Paul Reed’s car was found in Mount Morris, Illinois by Detectives Strote and Williams. They found a small coil of wire when they searched the car. They recognized it as being the same kind as the wire that was found twisted on the starter wire of Vernon’s car.
Paul was arraigned and hired a local law firm of Dixon, Bracken, Devine, and Dixon. They sent Attorney Charles H. Linscott to represent Reed.
At the Coroner’s Inquest in the undertaking rooms, Fred Olson asked Ivy Plager if she cared for Paul Reed. She said that she had loved Paul Reed once but not any longer. Paul Reed was described as a gaunt, hollow eyed, young man. He was also questioned at the inquest but on the advice of his attorney, he refused to testify.
Ivy’s father came to visit her in jail. He was a stern, hard old man who didn’t offer any comfort to Ivy. “What are you going to do when this is all over?” her father asked without so much as a greeting. Ivy wasn’t sure and stated that she was thinking of coming home. This statement was met by silence from her father. When Police Matron Ida Patterson mentioned to Ivy’s father that Ivy needed a little money to help her buy a new pair of shoes, he stood up and walked away without saying another word.
Police searched the rooming house where Paul Reed was staying but it was two newsmen that made the most dramatic discovery. They found sticks of dynamite and nitroglycerin fuses wrapped in old newspaper in a hole under the basement stairs. Chicago Tribune reporter, Robert W. Wood and Chicago Journal reporter, Michael Fielding found the incriminating evidence on July 23. They approached the Landlady of the rooming house, Mrs. Lena Hawkins and explained they were “special investigators” and she gave them access to the house and Reed’s rooms. They started in the attic and made their way down to the basement where there was storage for items belonging to the roomers.
Police had already searched the house, including the basement, twice, but missed the hole discovered under the stairway near the last step. Wood and Fielding called the State’s Attorney, William Knight and he came to the house. They extracted the packages holding the dynamite and fuses from under the stairway with Knight as a witness.
The men took the packages to the living room and Mrs. Hawkinson joined them. They were unsettled to see that s “small glycerine fuse, contained in a bright copper shell, was waxed onto the shell”, setting it in place. The three men felt that this must have been prepared in the basement since it made the dynamite very dangerous to move afterward. Oddly, Landlady Hawkinson was much more concerned about whether she would have to testify in court, than the fact there were dangerous explosives located in her house.
Paul Reed was charged with First Degree murder with the option of the Death Penalty. Reed’s trial was the first trial held in Winnebago County where the sentence could be execution by the electric chair. Winnebago County had previously held four cases that resulted in the death penalty but the guilty men were all hanged.
His trial started on December 3, 1928. His defense counsel was C.H. Linscott who was assisted by Jerome Dixon. The prosecutor was William D. Knight. The judge presiding over the case was Circuit Judge Arthur A. Fisher. The defense won a major point when it was ruled that Vernon’s dying words that Paul Reed had set the dynamite could not be admitted as evidence.
At the trial, every seat was taken. The courtroom normally seated around 350 people, but each day of the Reed trial, the spectators smashed together until the crowd reached around 500 people. Some of the more forward-thinking women brought sack lunches and ate right in their seats so they didn’t lose the seats when court resumed after lunch.
Both Arthur Reed, the defendant’s brother, and Kenneth Reed, the defendant’s nephew testified for the state. Arthur explained that Paul told him he was going on his annual camping trip and needed the dynamite for a spring that ran through his camp site. Kenneth told of the stealing of the dynamite from the shed.
Another witness who caused quite a stir on the stand was Edward Rydberg. Rydberg carried a little tin box that he bumped against several items of furniture on his way to the stand. Then he announced that he worked on the road construction crew and was the expert on handling explosives. He opened the little black box, and nonchalantly removed two sticks of dynamite from the box and plunked them down on the judge’s desk. This action caused some nervous laughter from the courtroom and understandably, the judge. Rydberg’s seemed to enjoy his effect on the crowd and a grin crossed his face as he testified.
The defense counsel’s questions of Rydberg and also of Motorcycle Policeman Stewart Mulford led spectators and news reporters to suspect that they were attempting to prove that the explosion was caused by a faulty gas tank rather than dynamite.
Everyone wanted to see the “star” of the case Mrs. Iva, or Ivy as she was best known, Plager. They wanted to see the young lady for whom one man was willing to kill another. She was described in the papers as “mysterious and elusive”.
The testimony of Police Detective Tony Shakotzus was by far the most dramatic point in the trial up to that point. He told the story of finding Ivy and Paul Reed together in the Floyd Plager home on Greenwood Avenue. Floyd was Vernon’s brother and his wife was Ivy’s flesh and blood sister. The couple were found together on the morning of November 5, 1927, when they returned from Iowa. The room was silent as Shakotzus gave his testimony. The several hundred people in the room seemed to lean forward to hear the story. These were the first details of the intimate relationship between Ivy and the man on trial for the murder of her husband. The crowd exploded with comments after the testimony and the judge actually banged the gavel and threatened to clear the room to get them to quiet back down.
Ivy finally testified on December 6 to a packed courtroom. Ivy answered as State’s Attorney William Knight hurled question after question at her. She hesitated on describing her husband’s death scene and a sob escaped her. Though she tried to avoid answering, Ivy was given no choice. She sobbed as she described the way she found her husband, “He was lying in the alley, his legs were off, as near as I can remember, his body was out, his stomach was out and lying beside him. Oh, Dear, it was terrible.”
Ivy endured a grueling 110 minutes of badgering by the State’s Attorney and the Defense Attorney. She told of meeting Paul Reed on July 4, 1927. The Defense Counsel Linscott tried to show that it was Ivy that pursued Reed for the illicit meetings.
Ivy also told of the day before the bombing. Paul Reed stopped at her house. She testified that he was angry, so angry in fact, that he was shaking. He kissed her and asked her if he had any chance at all with her. Ivy told him that he shouldn’t come back ever again. Reed told her , “You are going to wait too long, something bad is going to happen.”
Paul Reed testified in his defense on December 6. His testimony started with his personal history. He was born in Rockford but moved to Palisades, Colorado. While he was there he worked in a coal mine, on a cattle ranch and in an oil field. It was while he worked in the oil field that he learned to work with dynamite. He came back to Rockford and got a job at the National Lock Company and most recently, he worked as a draftsman at the Ingersoll Milling Machine Company.
After the jury deliberated, Paul Reed was convicted of the murder of Vernon Plager and sentenced to life in prison in Joliet. He left Rockford as a 23 year old young man, but when he arrived in Joliet, he became Prisoner number 2503. He was transferred to Pontiac Reformatory in 1940 with tuberculosis. He died there of the disease in 1947. He denied the killing of Vernon Plager until the day he died.
Vernon’s family was very hurt by some of the things reported in the paper. Some articles reported that Vernon had “stepped out” with other girls, that Vernon’s family were keeping Ivy’s daughter, Lois from her, and that Vernon had left the family penniless. These reports supposedly came from the Defense Council because they were trying to discredit Vernon, as if there would be any justification for blowing a man apart in front of his family.
C.A. Plager spoke for the Plager family. They had taken Lois, the 5 year old daughter of Vernon and Ivy, to Pearl City to stay with Vernon’s mother only while Ivy was incarcerated. C.A. also explained that his brother never would go out with another woman. Vernon worked as a brakeman at Central Amusement Park and it was his job to ride with young ladies (or young men!) that were by themselves. It was his job to accompany single riders. C.A. spoke of his brother as a hard worker that was willing to forgive his wife in order to keep his little family together. Vernon had once told his brother that he loved Ivy so much he couldn’t live without her.
Unfortunately, this is one of those stories where no one has a happy ending. Vernon was dead, Paul Reed never left prison, his life basically over at 22, little Lois had to grow up without her loving father. Ivy moved to Chicago for a while and then apparently came back to Rockford. In 1930, she was working as a live-in maid for a family on Harlem Boulevard. There was no mention of Lois. It was all so tragic and completely pointless. Newspapers stated that the couple’s relationship “was a progressively explosive one beginning with fireworks and climaxing in dynamite.”
When Weird Darkness returns…
For the citizens of Brabant Province, Belgium, the era of the Brabant Killers, in the 1960s, left behind traumatic wounds that have never really healed. Making matters worse is the fact that the killers were never brought to justice. (The Killers of Brabant)
But first… the moose is said to be a ghostly white and a giant of stature and weight, antlers bigger than any other moose ever seen. Considered a harbinger of doom, it was first reported in 1891… but has been seen as recently as 2002. Could this giant, ghostly moose at Lobster Lake, North Dakota actually have existed – or still exist? That story is up next. (The Specter Moose of Lobster Lake)
STORY: THE SPECTER MOOSE OF LOBSTER LAKE==========
In 1891, an extremely large white moose was first seen in Maine by Clarence Duffy of Oldtown, a hunting guide who was working around Lobster Lake. Though he did not get near enough to the animal to take a shot, he could see him plainly. Horrified by the encounter, when Duffy told his story, he was laughed at. However, a few months later, a Bangor lumberman named John Ross, who was also at Lobster Lake, also saw the big moose. With this second sighting, some people began to believe.
That same year, a New York hunter saw the big moose near Sourdnahunlt Lake and fired several slugs into the animal without the least apparent effect, except for making it angry. The moose then charged the man who took refuge in a bear cave, where he remained for about an hour before the large animal sauntered away.
However, these tales were still mostly discounted until a New York City sportsman, Howard Van Ness, saw the big moose and shot him several times in 1892. This event occurred about 30 miles northeast of Norcross, when Van Ness and three other New York men were hunting. Van Ness was separated from his companions when he shot the moose, which he described as “weighed a ton, and as tall as a camel, with magnificent head and antler.” After his shot hit the animal just above the shoulder, the moose let out a deep bellow and a grunt before coming after Van Ness, who took shelter beneath a tangled mass of fallen trees and branches. The moose then circled the area at tremendous speed and once jumped over his hiding place before finally giving up.
Afterward, many hunters began to look for the great white moose, but it wasn’t seen again until 1895. At that time, a Bangor taxidermist named Granville Gray spied the moose at a distance. A few years later, in 1899, Gilman Brown of West Newbury, Massachusetts, got close enough to the moose on the Roach River to count 22 points on one side of his antlers. Usually, moose antlers rarely have more than 8 to 12 points on a side. Brown also fired five shots at the large animal, which simply glowered at him and stalked majestically away.
The Specter Moose, called such because of its white or light gray coloring, is said to stand 10 to 15 feet tall, weighs nearly 2,500 pounds, and has an immense set of formidable antlers that stretch from 10 to 12 feet across. In comparison, an average male moose in Maine at the time weighed about 800-900 pounds, stood around six feet tall, and had an antler span of around four to six feet.
The story gained national attention when it was described in a New York Times article in November 1899. More sightings followed in the coming years, with one reported in 1901 when a hunter from Boston, Massachusetts, spotted the beast near Chairback Mountain in the Katahdin region.
In 1906, George Kneeland, of Sherman, Maine, came close to the moose when he was bicycling on the road between Sherman and Macwahoc. At first, he thought it was a horse, but when he stopped to take a closer look, he was surprised to determine that rather, it was a very large white moose. Suddenly the immense beast charged at him, and Kneeland was forced to climb a tree to safety. After investigating the bicycle, the moose vanished into the forest.
In addition to its massive size, many reports also described the moose as glowing faintly, having the ability to simply disappear, and walking through solid objects. Hunters often said they were never able to get near enough to get a shot, and on the few occasions that they did, the animal was unhurt.
n the following years, the moose would appear in waves of sightings, one of which occurred in 1917, only to disappear for years before it would be seen again.
Though albino moose are extremely rare, they do exist and skeptics often attribute these sightings to albinism. In fact, there is an area of Ontario, Canada, that is called the White Moose Forest due to the uncommon number of sightings of white moose, which the locals call “Spirit Moose.”
However, albino moose have eyes that are of a pink hue, and the Specter Moose has brown eyes. Further, the size of these moose is an anomaly in and of itself.
Moose can also suffer from a condition caused by an infestation of winter ticks that causes the lightening of an animal’s coat. However, this condition also causes the Moose to rub off most of its hair, and their bodies are described as skinny and emaciated, which does not fit the description of this giant beast.
Regardless of the skeptics, the locals take this beast quite seriously.
Another rash of sightings occurred in 1932 and then again in 1938. In the latter year, most of the Specter Moose were seen in the forests of the Chesuncook region along the west branch of the Penobscot River. One vivid report came from a hunter by the name of Houston who got a very good look at the beast when he came along a herd of about 16 moose with three males watching over the grazing females grazing in a group with three males watching over them. Two of the males were large healthy moose, but the third was of great size, making the others “look like pygmies” and was of a white luminous coloration. When Houston turned his back for a moment and then turned back around, the large white moose was gone, seemingly having vanished without a trace.
Other stories are even more bizarre. One tells of a group of hunters near the Molunkus Stream in east-central Maine that killed a large white moose. Afterward, they slit its throat and hung it from a tree overnight so they could skin and dress it the next day. However, when they awoke the next morning, the white moose was gone. That night, the dead and vanished moose simply walked into their camp with its throat still cut. The hunters shot at it again but the moose was unfazed and walked away. It was later seen near Ashland, some 90 miles to the north, at which time it was shot again with no effect.
Some tales say that the moose makes an appearance when something bad is about to happen. This allegedly occurred in Franklin, shortly before the town’s restaurant burned down in 2002.
Questions about this large creature remain today as to whether it is simply a very large breed of moose with a rare and anomalous color pattern or if it is a mystical ghostly animal that has roamed this region for over a century.
In either case, the creature remains a local legend that has accumulated volumes of local lore over the years.
STORY: THE KILLERS OF BRABANT==========
Belgium is a tiny country nestled between the Netherlands, Germany, and France. As a result, Belgium is home to one large community of Dutch-speakers, known as the Flemish, an equally large community of French-speakers, called the Walloons, and a small community of German-speakers. Despite its size, Belgium was once a colonial power that ruled the most resource-rich country in all of sub-Saharan Africa.
Since the 1960s, when Belgium lost control of the Congo, it has gone back to just being another small Western European country. However, Belgium’s bliss was brutally interrupted in the early 1980s when at least 28 people were viciously murdered by a pack of criminals later known as the Brabant Killers. Besides the 28 killed, the “Crazy Brabant Killers” also injured 40 and committed a string of very violent robberies.
For the citizens of Brabant Province, Belgium, the era of the Brabant Killers left behind traumatic wounds that have never really healed. Making matters worse is the fact that the killers were never brought to justice.
Beginning in 1982, a series of armed robberies saw at least three men terrorize the cities and small towns of Brabant Province. The first heist occurred on March 13, 1982, when two men armed with a single 12-gauge shotgun attempted to rob a store in Dinant.
Months later, an Austin Allegro and a Volkswagen Santana were stolen by armed men. Eyewitnesses, the police, and the media began to call the thieves the “Gang of Brabant.” Between March and August 1982, they specialized in small-time robberies that targeted grocery stores and restaurants.
The violence escalated on August 14, 1982. While robbing a French grocery store, members of the gang engaged in a shoot-out with the police, resulting in two wounded officers.
On September 30, three armed members of the gang pulled off a brazen daylight heist in Brussels. Their target was a gun store. Once inside, the armed robbers forced all customers and workers to the floor and then began to ransack the store for semiautomatic rifles, pistols, and shotguns. When police officers responded, one was shot and killed while two others were seriously wounded.
The true horror of the Brabant Killers was exposed on December 23, 1982. On that date, police found the corpse of caretaker Jose Vanden Eynde inside the Beersel Inn. Vanden Eynde, a retired taxi driver, was likely targeted as part of the robbery of the Beersel Inn. However, Vanden Eynde had been tortured by the thieves.
At this point in the investigation, the Belgian authorities were not yet convinced that all the crimes were connected. After all, the gang had stolen cars, coffee, food, wine, and other random items so far. With the murder of Vanden Eynde, Belgian police officers initially suspected a political assassination because of the caretaker’s well-known support for General Francisco Franco, the former strongman of Spain.
One of the first breaks in the case of the Brabant Killers occurred in 2014. Michel Libert was taken in for questioning in relation to the Brabant Killers case by the Belgian police. Libert had once been the second-in-command of the Westland New Post (WNP), a right-wing terrorist network formed in Belgium in 1981.
The WNP had close connections with the Front de la Jeunesse, a Francophone private militia that was found responsible for the murder of an ethnic Algerian man in 1980. The WNP was specifically tasked with attacking immigrant cafes and shops as well as Arab immigrants themselves.
Years later, during the 1990s, certain former members of the WNP and other Belgian right-wing organizations told BBC interviewers that they were encouraged to carry out random attacks by NATO. These attacks, including the work of the Brabant Killers, were all part of Operation Gladio, a supposedly Italian-centric “stay behind” operation established to fight communism in Europe.
According to several sources, the Central Intelligence Agency sponsored and equipped right-wing terrorist groups in Italy, Belgium, and France to terrorize left-wing individuals and groups. Operation Gladio is often blamed as the cause of Italy’s “Years of Lead.”
While the truth of Operation Gladio continues to be debated, it is true that Libert was not charged with any crime and was released by the Belgian authorities in 2014.
The ferocity of the Brabant Killers increased in 1983. Days before January 9, members of the gang murdered taxi driver Angelou Constantin and dumped his body in the trunk of his own taxi. When the police found Constantin’s body, they discovered the butt of a cigarette. Even though this cigarette end has been tested for DNA, no positive matches have yet been found.
Over a month later, three men wearing masks attacked a grocery store in the town of Genval. For the rest of February, the Brabant Killers engaged in several armed robberies that prominently featured the theft of automobiles. Amazingly, nobody was killed during this time.
This streak of no fatalities came to an end on March 3. On that day, three well-armed thieves attacked a grocery store in Halle, Belgium. The store’s manager was shot and killed after he opened the store’s safe for the gunmen. The survivors of this particular robbery also said that the three robbers repeatedly fired warning shots that came close to hitting bystanders.
This growing disregard for innocent life would become a major factor in the gang’s subsequent crimes.
On May 7, 1983, less than $22,000 was stolen from a grocery store in Houdeng-Gougnies, Belgium. The gang’s next crime, the armed robbery of a mechanic’s workshop, proved equally low-paying.
On September 10, the Brabant Killers forced their way into a textile factory late at night. It belonged to the company Wittock-Van Landeghem, which had just begun making state-of-the-art bulletproof vests for the Belgian police. In total, seven vests were stolen and the factory’s night watchman was killed. The man’s wife was seriously wounded during the robbery, while eyewitnesses were threatened with warning shots.
Seven days after this robbery, the gang was busy robbing a Colruyt supermarket when a couple driving a white Mercedes pulled into the store’s parking lot. Seeing this couple, the thieves took them hostage at the same time as police officers responded to the store’s security alarm.
In the ensuing shoot-out, one police officer was killed and another was seriously wounded. The couple was also murdered, and one group of the thieves made their getaway in the stolen white Mercedes. This car was later used as a battering ram against a police roadblock and received several bullet holes as a result.
The Brabant Killers ended their bloody year of 1983 by committing several robberies and murders. On October 2, the owner of a restaurant in Ohain was shot and killed by the gang after they led him outside during a robbery. Five days later in the town of Beersel, the gang attacked a Delhaize grocery store, wounded three customers, and killed the store’s manager.
The last crime of 1983 took place on December 1 in the small town of Anderlues. This time, the target was a novel one—a jewelry store connected to a family’s private residence.
After three gunmen entered the store, they shot and killed the storeowner’s wife, Marie Szymusik. Jean Szymusik, the murdered woman’s husband, shot back against the gunmen, but he was also killed. The Szymusik daughters, who were home during the robbery/murders, were unharmed and actually provided visual descriptions of the killers.
Like most of the gang’s robberies, this attack netted them little money or valuables.
For some unknown reason, the Brabant Killers took the entire year of 1984 off. When they returned to their criminal ways in 1985, they came back more bloodthirsty than ever.
On September 27, the gang attacked a supermarket in Braine l’Alleud. They took a child hostage and killed one customer before even entering the store. Once inside, they shot and wounded a man whom they felt was slow in getting prone on the floor.
When the gunmen made their escape, they shot at a white van that was pulling into the grocery store’s parking lot. This final attack killed the male driver and wounded the man’s child, who was merely sitting in the back seat of the van. Three people lost their lives at this location.
Half an hour after this attack, three gunmen attacked a grocery store in Overijse. One of the gunmen shot and killed one of the three children playing close to the grocery store.
When these gunmen entered the grocery store, they shot wildly at any customers they could see. They also took one man hostage. He was murdered after the gunmen made their getaway. Random cars were also shot at following the Overijse robbery. All told, five people died during this attack.
These crimes horrified the Belgian public and forced Prime Minister Wilfried Martens to publicly respond. In 1985, Belgium was also dealing with a Communist terrorist organization called the Fighting Communist Cells, which detonated 24 bombs that year that specifically targeted banks and NATO centers.
The final crime of the Brabant Killers was by far their most gruesome. On November 9, 1985, the gang invaded a supermarket in the town of Aalst. They mostly carried pump-action shotguns.
Even before they entered the store, they started shooting and killing victims in the parking lot. In one instance, the killers cornered an entire family that included a nine-year-old girl and her brother. All were murdered except for David Van de Steen, the brother, who is today an advocate for victims of violent crimes.
Like their September robberies, the killers shot at random customers inside the supermarket. Several eyewitnesses later told the Belgian police that the killers were laughing and smiling as they executed hostages and attempted to shoot store employees. This final massacre by the gang killed eight people.
During most of the gang’s crimes, they worked in groups of three. Oddly enough, eyewitnesses managed to describe at least three of the gangsters. One gang member was called “The Giant,” and he was said to be somewhere around 193 centimeters (6’4″) or 198 centimeters (6’6″). The Giant was described as being the gang’s leader, and at least one eyewitness said that he had a birthmark on his neck.
The second gunman was dubbed “The Killer.” Like The Giant, eyewitnesses described this man as tall and thin. Reportedly, he spoke with a high-class French accent (the entire gang was Francophone) and had a dark complexion. He was also the one responsible for 22 of the gang’s 28 murders. The Killer was the man seen laughing during the group’s final massacre.
Last was the man known as “The Old Man.” He was described as the gang’s getaway driver. Unlike the other two, he was about 50 years old and short in stature.
For years, Belgian detectives were troubled by the professionalism of the Brabant Killers. Specifically, they noticed that these men knew how to handle weapons, thus convincing some that the gang included former or current soldiers.
In early 2017, the brother of a dead man from the city of Aalst came forward to tell police that his brother had confessed on his deathbed in 2015 to being one of the Brabant Killers. This man claimed to have been the murderer known as The Giant. Most shocking of all was the fact that he was revealed to be a former police officer.
Christiaan Bonkoffsky (aka The Giant) had once served in the elite Diane Group before being fired in 1981. Bonkoffsky’s brother said that Christiaan had been fired for an accidental discharge while on duty. His resentment over this turn of events haunted him for the rest of his life.
As for The Killer, Belgian police officers have long suspected that he was killed after the November 1985 massacre. This is a complicated conclusion given that a body was never recovered.
In October 2017, British newspaper The Guardian quoted Belgian police officials as saying that saliva samples taken from Bonkoffsky in 2000 produced negative results when compared to the DNA samples that had been collected at some of the original crime scenes.
Other suspects in the Brabant Killers case include two former police officers Madani Bouhouche and Robert Beijer, known criminal Philippe De Staercke, drug addict and convicted rapist Patrick Haemers, and former prison director Jean Bultot.
Bouhouche and Beijer were involved in the illegal trade of firearms, and both men sold weapons to extremist groups based in Belgium. Bultot and De Staercke were supposedly connected to a gang of jewel thieves who committed heists that were very similar to the ones carried out by the Brabant Killers. As for Haemers, he was known as one of the gangsters who abducted and ransomed former Belgian prime minister Paul Vanden Boeynants.
Up next, one of our Weirdo family members tells the true story about a…. are you ready for it?… A haunted Wendy’s restaurant!
STORY: WEIRDO: THE HAUNTED WENDY’S==========
This story comes from Weirdo family member Ethan Hahn…
In late 2016 I was laid off from my job at the plumbing company I worked for and in early 2017 after convincing my wife that it was the best course of action I applied for a CDL-A driver trainee position at a local company that is the largest distributor to Wendys, Arbys and Popeyes. I went through the week-long orientation and was placed with a trainer named Ed.
Ed ran a Wendy’s/Arby’s route to Connecticut. The truck would leave Sunday night and run till Monday morning, we’d shut down for 14 hours and start back up around 2 am as the first store wouldn’t let us in till then after all the employees had gone and all the parking lot lights were out, which already gave it a creepy vibe.
The first night in question we pulled up in the drive thru and as Ed went into the store to open it up and disarm the security system I got the hand carts out of the back of the truck and opened up the freezer door on the trailer. Now this particular store had an out door freezer outside the back door which created kind of an alleyway between the store and the freezer. I was up in the freezer portion of the trailer moving load bars when I caught movement out of the corner of my eye coming out from the alleyway. I figured it was my trainer coming out of the store cause I saw the bright red shirts that were our company uniforms and didn’t pay it much mind. Then I noticed he was moving toward the cooler instead of the freezer which didn’t make sense as I’d already gotten the carts out and we didn’t have any paperwork for returns. I stood there waiting for him to finish whatever he was doing when I realized I never even heard the door open so I stuck my head out and looked down the trailer to see what he was doing but… there was nothing, absolutely nothing. Confused I started looking around for anything or anyone when I saw my trainer moving in the store through the drive thru window. Seconds later he popped out the back and walked over with his swift popping gate (which I might add matched the gate of the figure I had seen earlier).
“Alright we’ve got 23 fries, 36 all together”
He looked up at me and I must have been wide-eyed or my mouth agape
“What’s the matter?” He asked
“I could have sworn that i just saw you come out of the store and walk over to the cooler, and then when I looked you weren’t there and then I saw you through the drive thru window”
He looked at me for a second obviously creeped out and then looked around and under the trailer
“let’s knock this out and the hell outta here” he said
we knocked it out in 20 minutes.
Several months later after I had passed my CDL road test I had been given my own routes one of which was the same route but left on a different day and yes… I had to deliver to the same store.
At first nothing happened aside from being dark and creepy as the store’s parking lot lights were on a timer.
One night I was delivering to the store and I had finished with the freezer items and was just finishing up the cooler items when a skinny man of average height wearing jeans and a hoodie (I’m 6’1” and weigh 270) approached the door to the store by the drive thru.
As he reached for the door I called out
“Can I help you?”
He stopped and seemed to notice me for the first time
“Oh uh… Is the store closed?”
“Yeah, if you want there’s a 24 hour mcdonalds down the road”
The man turned and walked away without a word and I turned back toward my work. Then I realized that this may have been a masked way of asking if I was there alone. Truck drivers are seen as targets by thieves especially ones making these late night deliveries in dark parking lots such as this.
I turned around to watch this guy and see where he went. He was gone… It had only been a second that I had my back turned. I walked to the front of the store, nothing. I walked around the store and then checked the muffler place next door, still nothing. I debated calling the cops but I was almost done delivering. I finished up and got the heck out of there.
The next week as I drove past the store to pull in the main parking lot and drive around back, I saw a white utility van sitting in the drive thru. I pulled around back and pulled up behind the van and as I did so it pulled away. This time I DID call the police. 5 minutes later 2 cruisers pulled in and I told them why I was there and what happened and asked if they’d stay there while I delivered to which they agreed. I entered the store and as I was opening up the van pulled back into the parking lot. I came out and started setting up as the 2 officers chatted with the guys in the van. Eventually the van pulled away and one of the officers walked over to me to tell me what happened (this officer looked like he bench pressed train cars for fun) and told me that they said that they were there to clean the vent ducts and that I was supposed to let them in. It’s fairly common to show up to a delivery and have a cleaning or maintenance crew there doing work but they always have their own key. I said that was a good way for me to get fired and the officer concurred. I told them I’d hurry up and get done.
The last incident to occur at this store was one of the last times I delivered there. I went in, unlocked the back door and disarmed the security system. I delivered and closed up the store but I had to use the bathroom before I left. I did my business, switched off the interior lights and went to go arm the security system. I approached the key pad and saw that it was already lit up, I looked around in the office and checked the dining area for any intruders. When I was confident no one was in the store I went back to the still lit up keypad. I reached for the key pad and before I could even touch the button the alarm system started counting down, by itself. I noped out of there. I’ve had alarm keypads malfunction but only older ones and that one was brand new. I’d love to hear your thoughts.
SHOW CLOSE, CREDITS, A LITTLE LIGHT, AND A FINAL THOUGHT==========
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! And please leave a rating and review of the show in the podcast app you listen from! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, shop the Weird Darkness store, 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.
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Also on WeirdDarkness.com, 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.
“The City Park Thing” is from Haunted America Tours
“Wrapped in Ivy” originally posted in “Rockford Writes”, edited by Heath Alberts for HauntedRockford.com
“The Specter Moose of Lobster Lake” by Kathy Weiser for LegendsOfAmerica.com
“The Killers of Brabant” by Benjamin Welton for ListVerse
“Haunted Wendy’s” by Weirdo family member, Ethan Hahn
Again, you can find links to all of these stories in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness, 2022.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9
And a final thought… “Don’t compare yourself with other people; compare yourself with who you were yesterday.”
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.