“THERE IS NO ESCAPING THE REAPER” and More Strange But True Stories! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: Charles died in a horrible train accident, but before anyone knew he was dead, his family received 35 calls from his phone after the tragedy. (He Kept Calling His Family After He Was Dead) *** Weirdo family member Christa Aurand describes something about herself that is somewhat unusual. Unusual to her – and kind of creepy to those around her. You see, sometimes people think she’s dead. (I Am Not Dead) *** Army First Lieutenant Paul Byron Whipkey was as brave as he was handsome. After telling his fellow troops that he was going out for a drink he never came back – and was never heard from again, by anyone. (The Vanishing Lieutenant and the Disappearing Cadet) *** Final Destination is a massive franchise with numerous films, novels, and comic books in the universe it has created. Fortunately it’s all from the minds of horror fiction authors. Or is it? There are real cases where some narrowly escaped death, only for death to catch up to them soon thereafter. Very soon. (You Can’t Escape The Reaper) *** (Originally aired June 16, 2020)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
“Messages a Deceased Emily Sent To Her Boyfriend”: https://tinyurl.com/ybwjeoza
“He Kept Calling His Family After He Was Dead” by Eric McCann for Ranker: https://tinyurl.com/y926db7g
“I Am Not Dead” by Weirdo family member, Christa Aurand, submitted at WeirdDarkness.com
“You Can’t Escape The Reaper” by Ryan Davis for Ranker: https://tinyurl.com/y6v4hhmv
“The Vanishing Lieutenant and the Disappearing Cadet” from Strange Company: https://tinyurl.com/yan75oha;https://tinyurl.com/yc7f83mt
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OTHER PODCASTS I HOST…
Paranormality Magazine: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/paranormalitymag
Micro Terrors: Scary Stories for Kids: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/microterrors
Retro Radio – Old Time Radio In The Dark: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/retroradio
Church of the Undead: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/churchoftheundead
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(Over time links seen above may become invalid, disappear, or have different content. I always make sure to give authors credit for the material I use whenever possible. If I somehow overlooked doing so for a story, or if a credit is incorrect, please let me know and I will rectify it in these show notes immediately. Some links included above may benefit me financially through qualifying purchases.)
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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…
Charles died in a horrible train accident, but before anyone knew he was dead, his family received 35 calls from his phone after the tragedy. (He Kept Calling His Family After He Was Dead)
Weirdo family member Christa Aurand describes something about herself that is somewhat unusual. Unusual to her – and kind of creepy to those around her. You see, sometimes people think she’s dead. (I Am Not Dead)
Army First Lieutenant Paul Byron Whipkey was as brave as he was handsome. After telling his fellow troops that he was going out for a drink he never came back – and was never heard from again, by anyone. (The Vanishing Lieutenant and the Disappearing Cadet)
Final Destination is a massive franchise with numerous films, novels, and comic books in the universe it has created. Fortunately it’s all from the minds of horror fiction authors. Or is it? There are real cases where some narrowly escaped death, only for death to catch up to them soon thereafter. Very soon. (You Can’t Escape The Reaper)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: HE KEPT CALLING HIS FAMILY AFTER HE WAS DEAD=====
Mysterious phone calls from the dead make for excellent horror movie plots, but this eerie phenomenon also happens in real life. Many stories of unexplained phone calls show that they’re not just the result of grief-stricken imaginings. Although people try to explain these odd occurrences by blaming malfunctioning cell phone technology, reports of phantom phone calls go back to at least 1967.
Charles E. Peck’s Metrolink death is one of the most prominent and creepy stories about phone calls from dead people since author Dean Koontz’s deceased mother phoned to give him a warning. Peck was killed instantly in a horrible 2008 Metrolink commuter train accident where a total of 25 people died and 135 were injured. But before anyone knew Peck was dead, his family members received 35 calls from his phone for several hours following the disaster. Whether it was due to phone damage or Charles reaching out from beyond, we may never know, but it’s nice to believe that even those who have passed are only a phone call away.
49-year-old Charles Peck worked for Delta Airlines. He was considering leaving his job in Salt Lake City International Airport for a job at Van Nuys Airport in Los Angeles to be closer to his fiancée, Andrea Katz, and had an interview there. Although the couple was ready to get married, the fact that they didn’t live in the same state was an issue.
Then, the disaster occurred. Katz was on her way to pick him up from the train station when she heard the news of the accident on the radio. Peck had three children from a previous marriage, one of whom was on his afterlife phone call list.
Andrea Katz heard about the crash on the radio as she was driving to pick up Peck from the train station and was relieved when she received a call from his phone. Other friends and family members of Katz were in the same position. After the crash, Peck’s phone placed calls to his son, sister, brother, and stepmother.
Charles Peck was a passenger on a Metrolink commuter train traveling through the San Fernando Valley in California on September 12, 2008. It collided head first with a Union Pacific freight train at 83 miles per hour when the conductor failed to stop at a red light. The impact was devastating, and of the 225 people aboard the Metrolink, at least 25 died and more than 100 were seriously injured. The engineer sitting at the front of the train was killed instantly as well. The freight train was carrying only three crew members, but it was demolished in the accident.
The disaster later became known as the Chatsworth train crash and is still considered the worst commuter train accident in the history of California.
At first, Peck’s loved ones must have been excited when they saw his name pop up on their phone screens. As the calls continued, they had hope that he was still alive and trapped within the rubble of the crash. Unfortunately, they were unable to actually talk to him; all they heard when they answered his calls was static. However, Andrea Katz used the opportunity to communicate with her fiancé and to let him know she was with him, shouting messages of encouragement like: “Hang in there baby. We’re gonna get you out. You’re gonna be okay.”
Other people who claim to have received phone calls from beyond also report hearing static or a voice that seemed very faint and far away.
Before rescue workers discovered Charles Peck’s body in the wreckage, they had no reason not to believe the calls placed to his family meant he was still alive. As it became clear they probably weren’t going to find any survivors in the crash, their rescue efforts turned into a mission to recover bodies. But when yet another call came from Peck’s phone, they decided to trace it to find his location.
Unfortunately, they discovered his body and knew that he died on impact. Police never revealed if Peck’s phone was found.
Although rescue teams were excited because the phone calls might mean Charles Peck was still alive, that wasn’t the case. They discovered Peck’s body an hour after the last phone call was placed.
According to anecdotal sources like forums and unsolved mysteries sites, the coroner was unable to find signs that Peck had survived for any amount of time after the crash, confirming the calls were not made while he was still alive.
Anyone who has ever butt-dialed a number knows it’s possible to make a phone call accidentally. Perhaps an object was sitting on top of Peck’s phone, causing it to make random calls. The phone was most likely severely damaged during the disaster, so it may have malfunctioned.
Peck’s broken phone may have called his speed dial list. When this story was posted on Reddit, several users shared their own creepy stories of malfunctioning phones and posted eerie phone activity stories from online forums. The possibility that Peck’s phone suffered some technical issue shouldn’t be overlooked.
Although rescue workers were able to locate Charles Peck’s body successfully, his phone was never discovered. It’s possible that it was completely destroyed in the disaster or damaged to the point of malfunctioning, but why it made calls to several of the people Peck was closest to we may never know.
Perhaps he was reaching out to tell his loved ones not to worry or say goodbye. Maybe he took it with him into the afterlife, like ghosts who are seen in the clothes they were wearing when they passed. Since the rescue team was able to trace the calls to locate his body, maybe Peck was simply leading them to it. No one will ever know for sure, so this story may forever remain a mystery.
Investigators believe the conductor of the Metrolink train was responsible for the crash after he failed to stop at a red light. The commuter train was running on the same track as the freight train and was directly in its path. It’s likely that the conductor was distracted by his phone and was too busy texting to notice his mistake.
After the disaster, a teen came forward and admitted that they had received a text from the conductor immediately before the crash. The last text sent from the conductor’s phone happened 22 seconds before the impact.
Intrigued by the many stories of people receiving phone calls from the deceased, psi investigators D. Scott Rogo and Raymond Bayless did research and published a book about their findings in 1979.
Their research has recently been continued by another paranormal researcher, Callum Cooper.
While some people have reported seeing the name or number of a deceased acquaintance appear on their caller ID, others claim to have spoken to someone they later discover passed away before the call was made.
According to list of true accounts by a paranormal researcher, someone named Crystal S. shared:
“I was at my mom’s house and I was calling a friend who lived nearby. She was at her cousin’s house. So I looked up the number in the phone book. It was the only ‘Owens’ in the phone book, so I knew it was my friend’s cousin’s number. I called and it didn’t even ring, but an old lady answered. She said, ‘Hello.’ I asked, ‘Is Amelia there?’ (Amelia is my friend Jessica’s cousin.) The old lady said, ‘No, dear. Amelia isn’t here. I should be expecting her any minute now.’ So I thought nothing of it and hung up…I told Jessica about it and she said, ‘Amelia’s grandma is dead. And we were there all day long. We were sitting right by the phone. It never rang all day.’”
In another anecdote from the same list, a salesperson named Mary B. remembers:
“I made a sales call to Pennsylvania. It started just like any other call. ‘Yes, I need to speak to Mr. or Mrs. B_____.’ The woman identified herself as Mrs. B_____, and I continued on with the normal sales call. She seemed very interested and asked a lot of questions, but when I came to the decision making… she quickly stopped me, insisting that I had to talk to her husband. Her objections were the same every time I attempted to close… She also quickly pointed out that since his retirement he spent a great deal of time fishing and was not easy to get in touch with, and it would be best to try early in the morning before he left for his favorite hobby….On the callback, the husband did answer the phone. I introduced myself in the normal fashion and explained that I had been talking to his wife the previous day and she had suggested that I speak to him. You can imagine the shock and horror, when he stated to me, distraught, ‘Lady, I don’t know who you were talking to, but my wife died and I am not in any mood to speak to anyone!’ With that, he quickly hung up the phone.”
People who have passed on aren’t limited to phone calls or hauntings in the modern age. They often use email and social media sites such as Facebook to contact their loved ones. For instance, Jack Froese passed unexpectedly in 2011 from a heart arrhythmia only to contact his friends through email approximately six months later. Froese’s friends reported emails sent from his account that included details from some of their last conversations. One friend tried replying but never received a response.
People sometimes claim their deceased friends have liked their posts on Facebook or sent them messages, like the viral Reddit thread about messages a deceased Emily allegedly sent to her boyfriend. But I’ll let you read those for yourself – I’ll place a link in the show notes.
Charles was already dead. But one of our Weirdo family members, who is still very much alive, has the problem of people mistaking her for being dead – more than once! Her story is coming up.
And speaking of living and dying – it appears the premise of the “Final Destination” movie franchise might not be all that far fetched, as there are numerous stories of people barely scraping past a fatal incident – only to meet their demise shortly thereafter. These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: I AM NOT DEAD=====
I don’t think this is exactly scary per say, but to me it is weird.
There have been exactly four times in my life that while sleeping or even just laying still I have apparently appeared dead to people.
I can’t exactly explain why, maybe my breathing is too shallow to where they couldn’t even see the rise of my chest, but whatever it was I definitely appeared to them as if I were dead.
The first time this happened I was 15; I only remember the age because this was the 2 weeks during the summer my grandmother paid for me to go to a camp, and I only know that I was 15 because that was the last age you could go to the camp before being considered as a possible counselor (aged 16 -18).
It was night time and everyone in my cabin decided to go to take their showers for the night, I was too tired so I decided to stay behind and just take my shower in the morning.
It must have been at least 20 or 25 minutes before anyone came back, at this point I was just awake enough to hear them.
“She looks dead” one of them had said.
At the time I didn’t think much of it other than, this is the perfect time to pull a prank.
So I shot the upper half of my body up out of bed and said “Who looks dead?”.
They screamed, I laughed and apologized, then promptly fell asleep.
The second time happened a year or so after high school, around 2015 or 2016 it was the summer, 2 friends and I decided to take a week long vacation from our individual jobs to go to a water park.
My friend who planned the trip decided to get each of us our own separate rooms so after a long day we wouldn’t get on each other’s nerves.
Our rooms were located on a low floor, half finished due to construction. I don’t know if it was because we were two-hours from our home and this was the first time being in a hotel room by myself, or that the part of the building we were in was under construction, but I didn’t like it.
The only nights I actually spent the night in my room were the first and second nights – usually with all the lights on; the rest of the days there I slept with my friend in her room, even she was creeped out by the hotel.
The night I appeared dead to her wasn’t anything unusual, we had went to the mall there earlier in the day, I had gotten a pullover sweatshirt to sleep in, we went to eat and then back to the hotel to sleep.
Nothing was unusual when we went to sleep, but later I woke up feeling a pressure on my chest, it was her hand.
“What are you doing?” I asked.
“It looked like you weren’t breathing and when I tried the finger under your nose thing I still couldn’t tell, couldn’t even see the rise and fall of your chest, so I put my hand there to test if you were breathing” she told me.
The next thing I noticed was that the pullover sweater I had on when I went to sleep was completely off, (I had a tank top on underneath) this wasn’t your average large sweatshirt where there was no struggle getting it on, this was one where the hole was just snug enough you had to force your head through.
“Did you take off my sweatshirt?” I asked her thinking maybe she did because she couldn’t tell if my chest was rising.
“No it was already off” she responded.
I’m not saying I wasn’t the one to pull it off, but I had never had an article of clothing come completely off when I was asleep.
The next morning she told me what caused her to think I was dead.
“I had a dream,” she said “where I woke up and you were still on the bed, I thought you were asleep, I was getting ready for the day and J came in, he sat on the bed next to you and just looked at you, he said you were dead, I told him that couldn’t be, sure enough when I checked you were dead” she concluded.
“That’s when I woke up and I had to check on you to make sure”.
I was a little freaked out having remembered the summer camp incident but once again thought nothing of it.
The 3rd and 4th times were by my mother, nothing special really about these times just that she had come to check up on me when I was sleeping, just to see how I was doing, and both times I woke up with her hand either on my throat or chest trying to see if there was movement to make sure I was breathing, the same response from her as all the other times, “I thought you were dead”.
I don’t really know why to some I appear dead in my sleep I actually find it quite funny what for my love of the mysterious and paranormal, along with my love of horror movies.
Another weird thing I have noticed was that it doesn’t matter that I shower every day, or even if I am in a room with 5 other people, flies will just always come to me almost as if I were a decaying corpse – but still alive.
I thought I would share this story to see if anyone else had ever experienced the same thing that I have and I recently got really into your podcast so I thought, why not the guy I spend my work hours listening to?
Love the podcast and can’t wait to hear more stories in the future.
STORY: YOU CAN’T ESCAPE THE REAPER=====
The Final Destination films have exposed audiences to bizarre accidents that could happen to anyone. Although the movie version is over-the-top, freak accidents are a lot more common than one might think. There are many instances in which people survived tragic experiences, events that most would likely never have walked away from – only to perish in an equally unlikely incident shortly thereafter. The following true stories depict people who have evaded natural disasters, insect attacks, mid-air malfunctioning, mass shooters, car crashes, fires, terrorism, and drowning – only to later to be felled by unexpected circumstances, and in one instance, an orange peel.
In October 2016, Austin McGeough, a 21-year-old soldier stationed at Fort Campbell on the Tennessee-Kentucky border, was on his way back to base after attending a party. Reportedly, he was disoriented and tried to break into a nursery. While attempting to do so, he struck a wasp’s nest. Toxicology reports indicated McGeough was intoxicated. In an attempt to evade the wasps, he inadvertently ran onto Highway 41-A, where an oncoming vehicle fatally hit him.
In April 2013, an unnamed California driver lost control of his SUV on the windy Malibu Canyon Road. The man crashed onto the mountainside’s ledge and was able to jump out of the vehicle onto the road. He barely managed to escape plummeting off a cliff – a fatal fall. Moments after abandoning the car, an oncoming tour bus struck and killed the man.
On July 6, 2013, 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan survived the plane crash of flight Asiana 214 at the San Francisco Airport. She laid down 30 feet from the crash site. Injured and waiting for help, Ye Meng remained curled up in a ball. When first responders arrived, a fire truck didn’t see the teen and ran her over, killing her instantly. City officials cited the chaos of the wreckage as the main factor, but Ye Meng’s family sued the city for negligence.
Jessica Redfield was an up-and-coming sports broadcaster from Denver, CO. In 2012, she died at the hands of the Aurora shooter, who entered a midnight screening of the latest Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” and opened fire on the audience. Before Redfield was a victim of the Aurora theater shooting however, she had survived an attack at a mall in Toronto only a month prior. Redfield managed to sneak out of the Eaton Centre when the gunman started shooting.
26-year-old Hilda Yolanda Mayol worked in a restaurant on the ground floor of the World Trade Center. She was present during the September 11 attacks in 2001 but miraculously was not injured. Two months later, on a trip to the Dominican Republic, Mayol died on American Airlines Flight 587, which crashed in Queens, NY. At the time, many feared that the crash was a second terrorist attack, but the accident was attributed to the pilot’s mishandling of the rudder controls during turbulence.
In 1977, the entire University of Evansville Men’s Basketball team – except for one player – died in a crash only 90 seconds after the plane took flight. An ankle injury prevented 18-year-old David Furr from playing with the Purple Aces, so he skipped the flight that would ultimately fell all his teammates. Although the team had previously only ever traveled by bus, the coach requested they fly in style for this one particular away-game. Two weeks later, Furr and his 16-year-old brother were involved in a driving accident that resulted in both of their deaths.
Jessica de Lima Rohl had spent weeks organizing a university party at a local Brazilian club in Santa Maria, Rio Grande do Sul. However, when her boyfriend asked her to stay in and skip the event, Rohl agreed at the last minute. This proved to be a lifesaving decision: 233 died from a fire that broke out in the nightclub. A week later, 21-year-old Rohl and her boyfriend died when their car collided with an oncoming truck.
5-year-old Ayden Evans and his family escaped a massive tornado in Moore, Oklahoma. The May 2013 tornado did enormous damage, and the Evans left their son with family in Jessieville, Arkansas, while they dealt with the aftermath. According to police, the boy threw a tantrum while his parents were out. Reportedly, 50-year-old Lynn Geiling, the neighbor of Ayden’s aunt, went to comfort him, but her 150-pound bull mastiff reacted aggressively and attacked the boy. Geiling screamed for help and tried to pry the dog’s teeth away, but the boy sustained fatal injuries. The dog was euthanized following the attack.
In 2007, “Bud” Warren and his daughter, Phyllis Ridings, survived a potentially lethal emergency landing after crashing in an open field. The father and daughter were a part of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The incident near Magnolia, TX, did not change their passion for flying. Four years later, the duo’s plane again malfunctioned. Warren, 70, and Ridings, 52, were on their way to an air show in Temple when the cockpit began to fill with smoke. Their plane crashed near Montgomery County Airport, killing them both.
In June 2007, 6-year-old Abigail Taylor from Edina, Minnesota, experienced near-fatal trauma after an accident in a wading pool. Abigail got caught in a pool drain at the Minneapolis Golf Club in St. Louis Park. She had extensive damage to her organs but survived. Nine months later, Abigail died in a special surgery intended to transplant some of the organs that had been damaged in the incident. Her death sparked outrage, and Minnesota state officials instated new laws to make swimming pools safer throughout the county.
Bobby Leach was a famed daredevil in the early 1900s. He was a professional stuntman in the Barnum and Bailey’s Circus, and he performed many of his stunts to live audiences. His most notable (and illegal) achievement is surviving a barrel ride over Niagara Falls in 1911 – the second person to ever do so and survive. Leach traveled internationally, and he toured to New Zealand in 1926. While there, Leach reportedly slipped on an orange peel and gravely injured his leg. His wound ultimately developed gangrene, leading to doctors’ decision to amputate. Even still, Leach passed two months later from his injuries at approximately 68-years-old.
Typically the obituary comes after the death, but not in this case. Considered a trailblazer for the Black Nationalist movement, Marcus Garvey was a fierce Jamaican politician who advocated the return of those affected by the African diaspora. It came as no surprise to Garvey that he had many political opponents. However, the politician was shocked after coming across a fake obituary in the Chicago Defender. The obituary, which was reportedly negative and demeaning about Garvey’s opinions, enraged the man so much that he suffered two strokes and passed away on June 10, 1940.
I’ve left this one for last because it is the strangest of all. In 2011, medical professionals had declared a Kazan, Russia woman dead at 49 years old. Her family began the grieving process and arranged a funeral. At the memorial, the woman who everyone thought was dead awoke in the casket the sound of prayers as the family prepared her body for the burial. Realizing that she was now attending her own funeral, the woman reportedly bolted upright and screamed for help. At that moment she suffered a heart attack and subsequent heart failure, which resulted in her death.
With stories like these, you have to wonder if perhaps the Grim Reaper isn’t in fact a real entity, and once you’re on his list, you must be crossed off.
When Weird Darkness returns… Army First Lieutenant Paul Byron Whipkey was as brave as he was handsome. After telling his fellow troops that he was going out for a drink he never came back – and was never heard from again, by anyone.
STORY: THE VANISHING LIEUTENANT AND THE DISAPPEARING CADET=====
To paraphrase Gilbert & Sullivan, Paul Byron Whipkey was the very model of a modern Army First Lieutenant. The 26-year-old was smart, brave, serious and disciplined, described as “an all-American young man and a superior officer.” He was, in short, one of the last people you could imagine being enveloped by The Weird.
However, since he is featured in this episode of the podcast, you have probably already guessed that this is exactly what happened.
The young aviator and company commander was stationed at Fort Ord, California. On July 10, 1958, he told some friends at Fort Ord’s bachelor officers quarters that he was going into town to “get a drink.” Instead, he drove to Mojave, hundreds of miles away, and checked into a motel. The next day, he bought 14 gallons of gas.
After that, the Lieutenant was never heard from again. Five weeks after he was last seen, Whipkey’s car was found in “a desolate and forbidding region” of Death Valley, about 400 miles from Fort Ord. The car appeared to be in perfect order, containing the missing man’s suitcase, dog tags, and other personal belongings. There was nothing indicating what might have happened to the car’s owner. Whipkey’s bank accounts had not been touched immediately before he disappeared, and they had not been used since.
The Army listed Whipkey as “absent without leave,” and then as a deserter. His superiors seemed curiously incurious about what had become of this highly promising young man. According to the FBI, the Army made only the most cursory investigation about Whipkey’s disappearance, assuming that “he would eventually return.”
There matters rested until the spring of 1982, when the Army Board for Correction of Military Records held a three-day hearing into Whipkey’s disappearance. The board concluded that Whipkey died the day after he vanished. They added enigmatically that “his unauthorized absence…(is) excused as unavoidable…that his death was incurred in the line of duty, not due to his own misconduct.” The board theorized that Whipkey “may have wandered out into the desert…and succumbed in the extreme heat; and that the shifting sands have made it a near impossibility to find, or recover, his remains.” The Army Adjutant General’s office issued a certificate of honorable service, and, as far as the Army was concerned, that was that. The military offered no possible explanation for Whipkey’s “unauthorized absence.”
All this was not nearly enough for Whipkey’s brother Carl. An Army veteran himself, he was convinced from the start that the military knew far more about Paul’s disappearance than they wanted to say. His suspicions were first alerted when, just the day after his brother vanished, he learned that officers were already packing Paul’s belongings for shipment home. This odd haste, he commented dryly, left him “superhyper superquick.” “They must have known he wasn’t coming back,” Carl argued, “or they’d have waited before writing him off.” Carl also dismissed the Army’s contention that Paul had deserted. “They said he ran away into Death Valley, then they hinted that he killed himself. I can’t buy that. Nobody would go AWOL in a hellhole like Death Valley, and there are easier ways to kill oneself than dehydration.” Carl was of the belief that members of the Army drove Paul’s car into the desert some time after the lieutenant disappeared.
“The government knows what happened to my brother,” Carl said in a 1983 interview. “They can’t shake me of that. There are so many questions still unanswered.”
Carl Whipkey made it his “life’s work” to find the truth about his brother’s end. In June 1977 Carl sought information from the FBI under a FOIA request. His petition went unanswered until 1978, when he was informed that the FBI had destroyed all their files on the Whipkey case in December 1977.
Undaunted, Carl accumulated thousands of government documents, as well as many sympathetic allies in Congress and the military, but all these efforts just left him going down darker and darker rabbit holes.
Carl claimed to have discovered that Paul flew in five atomic test explosions in Nevada. His theory was that Paul was exposed to dangerous levels of radiation, and may have seen evidence that the Army was conducting classified experiments on human beings. Although the Army confirmed that Lt. Whipkey was assigned to temporary duty at Camp Desert Rock, Nevada between July and October 1957, they dismissed Carl’s other claims as unsupported by the evidence.
However, even the Army report acknowledged that after Paul returned from Nevada, he developed black moles and plantar warts on his hands and body. Whipkey began to complain of unaccountable feelings of sickness. He lost a large amount of weight, and the normally cool-headed officer became nervous and depressed. Several months before he disappeared, the Lieutenant had all his teeth removed, and was fitted with full dentures. A fellow officer, Charles Lewis, recalled that after Whipkey’s Nevada flights, Paul was interviewed by Army intelligence agents. It was noted that these interviews left Whipkey “nervous and uptight.” “Paul’s actions were always ethical on and off the base,” said Lewis. “But Paul became suspiciously silent to others when the agents were mentioned or appeared on the scene at the airfield or the officer’s club.”
Carl Whipkey developed even more sinister theories regarding his brother’s disappearance. He believed it possible that Paul was a secret agent murdered by his fellow spies. Or that he flew covert missions over the Soviet Union, only to be shot down. Or that he died as a result of Army testing of nerve gas or atomic weapons. Or that his discovery of the military’s use of human guinea pigs led him to be murdered. Just to make things even stranger, Carl also learned that his brother may have used the alias “Paul B. Whipper,” for reasons unknown. “I would be satisfied even if the Army would say they can’t tell us for security reasons. But until then, we can’t rule anything out.”
The truth about Paul Whipkey’s fate probably cannot be called “unsolved.” Carl Whipkey was very likely correct that someone somewhere knew the truth about what had happened to the young lieutenant. However, to date, this information has never been revealed. Until that day comes, Carl Whipkey once said, “there will be no peace in our family.”
If you follow strange disappearances of military personnel, this story may have sounded somewhat familiar. That’s because it does have a resemblance to another bizarre disappearance of another young Cold War-era man, West Point cadet, Richard Cox.
It is a curious fact that many of history’s most bizarre mysteries center around people who had appeared to be the most “normal,” or even “ideal” figures imaginable.
An outstanding example is Richard Colvin Cox. The 21-year-old West Point cadet was handsome, highly intelligent, ambitious, well-liked, hard-working and clean-living. After a fine two-year Army career, where he was stationed in Germany, he achieved his life’s great dream when he secured an appointment in the Military Academy. He was very much in love with his fiancée, a pretty girl from his hometown of Mansfield, Ohio, and appeared to have sterling future ahead of him. In short, he seemed to be the last person in the world to have his life engulfed by The Weird.
But that was exactly what happened.
Cox’s Golden-Boy existence began to tarnish on January 7, 1950. The cadet who was Charge of Quarters in Cox’s company received a phone call from a man asking if “Dick Cox” was there. The caller left a message: “Just tell him George called–he’ll know who I am. We knew each other in Germany.” (Unfortunately, the cadet who took the call could only be “fairly certain” the man gave his name as “George.”) When Cox was told of this phone call, he claimed to have no idea who the man could be. However, when “George” came to see him later that evening, he recognized him at once. The two men seemed happy to see each other, and they left together. It was presumed they were headed for the Hotel Thayer, the one dining establishment open to cadets other than the mess hall. Instead, they sat in “George’s” car, drinking whisky.
When Cox returned to his room an hour and a half later, he was drunk, which was very much out of character for him. He was so inebriated he immediately fell asleep at his desk. When the 10:30 tattoo sounded, his two roommates were startled to see Cox suddenly spring to his feet and run into the hallway, shouting something peculiar. The two roommates thought it sounded like “Alice!” but it has also been speculated that he was crying “Alles kaput,” German for “All is ended.” We will never know for sure what Cox was saying, or what this unguarded heart-cry could have meant.
Cox quickly pulled himself together somewhat. He returned to the room, and, ignoring his roommates’ questions, fell on his bed and went instantly back to sleep. The next morning, he told his roommates something about his experiences the previous night. He claimed that his visitor, whose name he never mentioned, had been part of his outfit in Germany. Cox described him as “a morbid guy,” who liked to talk about all the killing he had done in the army. Cox added that “this guy” had also impregnated a German girl, and then murdered her. Despite his expressed disgust with his acquaintance, he had another meeting with the stranger that afternoon.
The following week seemed perfectly normal. Cox’s grades remained high, and his behavior impeccable. Then, on January 14, despite the fact that he had expressed hope that “he wouldn’t have to see that fellow again,” Cox was seen talking with “George” near his barracks. Soon afterwards, he told a friend that he would be having dinner with his mysterious acquaintance, although he did not appear to relish the idea. His fellow cadet later said that Cox seemed to think of seeing “George” as an unpleasant duty, but one that, for whatever reason, he could not avoid. A little after six p.m., Cox left his room to see “George.”
That was the last indisputable sighting of Richard Colvin Cox. Although he had signed out, no one reported seeing him leave the barracks. There is no record of him dining at the Thayer that night, or anywhere else for that matter. He simply vanished.
When Cox failed to return the next morning, the police and C.I.D. were called in. The search for the cadet became the biggest manhunt in West Point’s history. And it was all in vain. Although the case has spawned much fanciful theorizing, no one has ever determined what became of this young man whose promising life ended so quickly and bizarrely.
“George” has also remained a phantom. Rigorous investigation never found a clue indicating who he was, or where he went. Although it is generally assumed that he was behind Cox’s disappearance, it is a complete mystery how or why he would spirit off the cadet.
As can be imagined, the usual wild theories floated around. Did the cadet flee in fear for his life as a result of his testimony in a court-martial? Was he somehow involved in the murder he claimed “George” had committed? Was he kidnapped by the Soviets in retaliation for his counter-espionage activities in Germany?
Most speculation about Cox’s fate focuses on his earlier military career, where he had been part of an Intelligence Unit. 1950 was the height of the Cold War, and it has been suggested that Cox was involved in some sort of espionage program that led to him being enlisted as a secret agent by the CIA. While this is probably the most plausible (least implausible?) theory, no real evidence for it has been found.
In their book about the case, “Oblivion,” Marshall Jacobs and Harry Mailhafer presented a claim from a retired CIA official that Cox was given a new name by the intelligence community, and spent the Cold War smuggling scientists connected to Russia’s nuclear program across the Iron Curtain. Allegedly, Cox died of cancer some time in the 1990s, his true identity still a secret. These authors believed that Cox was likely gay. (A theory however, based mainly on thin rumor.) They argue that this secret–which would have jeopardized his career–inspired the cadet to stage his own disappearance. (For what it’s worth, Cox’s family rejects this entire scenario, insisting that he would have found a way to contact his mother, to whom he had been very close. Mrs. Cox died in 1986, still tormented by the puzzle of her son’s disappearance.) It is impossible to say if Jacobs’ and Mailhafer’s source–who offered no proof whatsoever for all this–was credible. Their theory also fails to satisfactorily explain why it was necessary for Cox to “disappear” and take on a new persona to his very grave.
Jacobs and Mailhafer also mentioned a curious link to the case. They learned of a suspect in an 1985 murder named Robert W. Frisbee. Many years earlier, Frisbee, under the name of Robert Dion, had been stationed at Fort Knox at the same time as Cox. It was probable that the two had known each other. Frisbee/Dion–who had once been involved in making phony IDs–was said to resemble descriptions of “George.” This was all intriguing, but as no one was ever able to conclusively tie Frisbee to “George,” and Cox’s disappearance, it all proved to be just another brick wall.
There are at least two reports of someone allegedly seeing Cox after he disappeared. In 1954, Ernest Shotwell, who had known Cox in the army, told the FBI that two years earlier, he had run into Cox at a bus station in Washington D.C. The two men spoke briefly, with Cox mentioning that he was on his way to Germany. Shotwell said his old friend was clearly displeased to see him. Cox was agitated and curt, and after a few minutes, abruptly broke off the conversation and stalked off. Shotwell said he had not spoken of this encounter before because he had not known at the time that Cox was a missing person case.
Another reported encounter with the vanished cadet supposedly took place in a Florida bar in 1960. An undercover FBI contact made the acquaintance of a “R.C. Mansfield,” who eventually admitted that his real name was “Richard Cox.” When this FBI agent later learned of the Cox mystery, he tried to set up another meeting with “Mansfield,” but he never heard from the man again. While these reports are considered plausible, they still don’t answer the question of why Cox vanished.
Or, to take the simplest theory, did the sinister “George”–for who knows what personal reasons–murder the young cadet and hide the body somewhere in the woods around West Point or deep in the Hudson?
Richard Cox will likely always remain one of America’s classic enigmatic disappearing acts.
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“He Kept Calling His Family After He Was Dead” by Eric McCann for Ranker
“I Am Not Dead” by Weirdo family member, Christa Aurand, submitted at WeirdDarkness.com
“The Vanishing Lieutenant and the Disappearing Cadet” from Strange Company
“You Can’t Escape The Reaper” by Ryan Davis 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… “Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” – 1 Peter 5:6-7
And a final thought… “No color, no religion, no nationality should come between us, we are all children of God.” – Mother Teresa
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.