“THOSE FREAKY FRESNO NIGHTCRAWLERS” and 4 More Creepy True Tales! #WeirdDarkness
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Listen to ““THOSE FREAKY FRESNO NIGHTCRAWLERS” and 4 More Creepy True Tales! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.
IN THIS EPISODE: There are roads on Long Island that are much more than a line between two points. Some roads contain legends that travel with you on your journey. (Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road) *** In 1981, a cabin in the woods played host to a brutal family murder. We’ll look into the still unsolved murders of the Keddie killings. (The Unsolved Keddie Killings) *** During the grueling Great Northern Expedition, naturalist Georg Wilhem Steller came face-to-face with one of the sea’s most mysterious creatures. Or did he? (Steller’s Sea Ape) *** Weirdo family member Jamie Tyroler shares what happened to her and a few friends when they rummaged through a demolished building, only to find something still existing there. (The Ninth Street Entity) *** Sightings of strange, pale creatures are being reported in California – and now over two decades from the first sighting, we still don’t know what the Fresno Nightcrawlers truly are. (Freaky Reports of Pale Crawlers)
SOURCES AND ESSENTIAL WEB LINKS…
“Freaky Reports of Pale Crawlers” by Brent Swancer: http://bit.ly/2O9fG6C
“Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road” by Arthur Criscione: http://bit.ly/2LXUr4K
“The Unsolved Keddie Killings” by Orrin Grey: http://bit.ly/2LYC8fK
“Steller’s Sea Ape” by Andrew Thaler: http://bit.ly/2XMpxDM
“The Ninth Street Entity” by Weirdo Family member Jamie Tyroler
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Among the many strange encounters in the world of the paranormal, there are often those that serve to be particularly baffling. These are the cases that hover out beyond our ability to really classify them or put a name to them. Are they ghosts, mysterious animals, aliens, or what? No answers are clear in such accounts, and they lurk out there in the periphery of the fringe. Among these bizarre accounts are tales from all over of what appear to be some sort of thin, pale beings, often hunched over, crouching, and crawling, that have come to be collectively known as “Pale Crawlers,” and which are every bit as creepy as you might imagine.
I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness.
Welcome, Weirdos – I’m Darren Marlar and this is Weird Darkness. Here you’ll find stories of the paranormal, supernatural, legends, lore, the strange and bizarre, crime, conspiracy, mysterious, macabre, unsolved and unexplained.
Coming up in this episode…
There are roads on Long Island that are much more than a line between two points. Some roads contain legends that travel with you on your journey. (Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road)
In 1981, a cabin in the woods played host to a brutal family murder. We’ll look into the still unsolved murders of the Keddie killings. (The Unsolved Keddie Killings)
During the grueling Great Northern Expedition, naturalist Georg Wilhem Steller came face-to-face with one of the sea’s most mysterious creatures. Or did he? (Steller’s Sea Ape)
Weirdo family member Jamie Tyroler shares what happened to her and a few friends when they rummaged through a demolished building, only to find something still existing there. (The Ninth Street Entity)
Sightings of strange, pale creatures are being reported in California – and now over two decades from the first sighting, we still don’t know what the Fresno Nightcrawlers truly are. (Freaky Reports of Pale Crawlers)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, enter contests, to connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: PALE CRAWLERS=====
Probably one of the most well-known cases of the Pale Crawler entities is that of what have come to be called the Fresno Nightcrawlers. The first account of these truly bizarre and unidentifiable creatures surfaced in the 1990s, when a video came forward showing something very strange indeed lurking about in the area of Fresno, California. There was a family who were concerned about trespassers on their property, as their dogs had begun to bark out into the darkness nearly every night, and this prompted them to install a security camera outside by their garage, facing the front lawn.
That next morning after they set up the camera they were in for quite a shock, as there in the video was a pair of pale beings a few feet in height, with no discernible arms and two long, spindly, almost stilt-like legs that appear to bend backwards. Interestingly, there seems to be some sort of fabric flapping around the legs, drawing many comparisons to a pair of disembodied walking pants. In the footage the creatures smoothly and fluidly move across the front lawn and out of view, and that’s that.
The quality of the footage is sadly low, making it nearly impossible to discern any real details, but the general shape and their odd way of moving were creepy enough to have the family contact the police. Before long the media got a hold of the footage and the “Fresno Nightcrawlers” became a hot topic. Although thought by many to be a hoax, others say that this footage has captured something truly otherworldly, and the footage was subjected to a detailed analysis on the SyFy Channel show “Fact or Faked,” which showed that the footage seemed to be genuine, and they were unable to reproduce the same results by intentionally faking the video.
Following on the heels of this video was another, this time taken over in California’s Yosemite National Park in March of 2011. In this case surveillance cameras had been set up by park officials for the purpose of identifying some intruders who had been vandalizing an area of the park, and again they seemed to have caught on tape something anything but human. Again there is a pair of spindly white entities loping across the frame on a hillside, one seemingly much smaller that the other, and both with what appears to be some sort of webbing connected from the knees to the upper body. Although they appear to be very similar, it is unknown if the Fresno creatures and the ones from Yosemite are related or not, and there have been theories ranging from that this was all a hoax, to that they are Native spirits from lore, ghosts, or even aliens. No one really knows.
Something similar to these entities was sighted in January 2004, in a case documented by researcher Albert S. Rosales. The sighting allegedly happened in Manchester, Dearborn County, Indiana, when a young man was driving along a remote rural road in the area. As the witness rounded a bend, his headlights illuminated a tall, frail looking, pale being crouched over a puddle of water. As the witness passed the thing he looked back and could make out that it moved in a disjointed, odd manner, and had, according to him, “protruding joints that buckled out.”
As he watched the thing flickering in the red light cast by his tailights, the crouched, bone white creature purportedly stood to a height of an estimated 6 feet 7 inches tall and began to walk about in a “strange manner.” Interestingly, as he watched there was apparently another car that came along and seemed to swerve to avoid the thing before stopping. The witness would talk to the elderly couple in the car and they would confirm having seen the same thing, of which they said, “It was no human being, it was no man.” They were all so spooked that they decided to drive out of there in close procession together. Indiana has produced some other similarly odd reports as well. In one case from the winter of 2016, the witness was out feeding goats on a farm in Daviess County, Indiana, at around 8 PM, and when she finished she started walking back. The witness would say of what happened next:
*****After I had finished I began to walk back. I had crossed one field and was about halfway through the narrow path when I started to hear rustling in the underbrush. All I had with me was a little flashlight that only shined about 10ft in front of me. I was almost to the end of the path when I spotted something. It was on all fours with a bony frame, elongated limbs, and pale skin. While the first part of that description sounds pretty generic, it did seem to have a long and highly flexible neck. Not long after I noticed it it noticed me and bolted down the path. It ran, almost skuttling into the second field. This field had a small hill in the center, this thing fled and disappeared over one side. I ran as fast as I could around the other side of the small hill and zig-zagged back to my house where I quickly locked all of my doors. This thing was terrifying, but it seemed watchful more than anything, for now.*****
In another account from Indiana, documented in the National Cryptid Society database, we have a case from Michigan City, Indiana from 2012, in the middle of a lightning storm to add some atmosphere. The witness claims that she had been staying at the beach house of a friend by Lake Michigan and that there had been a lightning storm at the time. At around 2 AM some of them went outside to smoke and watch the lightning, and that was when they noticed the beam of a flashlight scanning the tall grass by the shore nearby as if searching for something. Thinking this to be a bit odd, the group of friends watched on and saw that the beam had captured an elongated, grayish humanoid looking creature stretched out on the beach, and the witness would say:
*****The light sweeps by something in the grass, then it shines back onto it. What was illuminated was very strange. It appeared to be a naked guy crawling around on the grass. Although, it had elongated arms and legs. It was moving kinda fast crunched over. It only lasted a few seconds, long enough for all of us to see it. Then, after the thing ran off, the flashlight shines directly at us. It stayed pointing at us until it went out after a few seconds. Creepy. So, we’re all like WTF was that, we asked what each other saw. We all seen a weird stretched out naked guy. The only explainable thing it could have possibly been was a drunk gangly naked guy. But, I don’t think so because it looked abnormally stretched, the light pointed at us, and it freaked everyone out. It was something strange. I can’t say what the height of it was accurately, maybe around 7ft tall. My husband said it looked like something from a Marilyn Manson music video.I wanted to go down there. I wanted to see if we could find it. But, no one would go and they were creeped out and wanted to go back inside.*****
What on earth was the outlandish thing they saw? What was with that flashlight and why did it train itself on the observers of this surreal scene? Who knows? There have been a few sightings of something similar and equally baffling around the town of Effingham, in the state of Illinois. One case file of the National Cryptid Society is dated as 2010, and concerns a witness only known as “Jade.” The witness was allegedly out one night headed for the supposedly haunted Kasbar cemetery out in the deep woods outside of Effingham along with two friends. When they were out in the countryside, at around 1 AM in the morning, something very curious congealed out of the night, and the witness would say:
*****I see something with yellow glowing eyes off the side of the country road just past the ditch in the head lights. Too short to be a deer, but too big to be a possum or raccoon. As we get closer it gets clearer, and I realize what I’m looking at is skinny, hairless and grey, human like but definitely not human. Crazy as hell looking…thing. It was crouched down, It’s arms were incredibly long and looked like it could have been 7ft tall or bigger standing. I can feel myself get cold and my heart race and my hair stand on that back of my neck. Complete shock and terror set in and i can’t make a sound, I’m just staring at it. By that time we are right in front of it, passing it and it just watches us drive by. It slinks into the dark. Then we all just start screaming. Literally freaking the hell out. I was convinced it was a demon for months but still doubted myself even seeing it. Thinking my mind was playing tricks on me. We didn’t even make it to the Kasbar that night, we went straight home. I couldn’t sleep that night.*****
The witness went on to become convinced that what she had seen was a “ghoul,” or an entity that lurks around feeding on the dead. She would say of this:
*****They feed on the freshly dead and normally stay close to cemeteries to be close to food. They have been known to show themselves to humans when trying to get close to them to eat in times where fresh deceased bodies are scarce. I went to images of them and could only find illustrations but they look exactly like what i saw that night. Everything i was reading was falling perfectly in place. Lined up perfectly with my experience. I couldn’t explain it away.*****
Also in the state of Illinois is a case from the town of Rossville, in 2010. The setting was at a cemetery and the time was just after sunset. The witness and a friend were walking down the main lane through the cemetery when something fairly weird scuttled out of the night. The witness would say:
*****Something came running from the gate and past us on our left. My friend had laughed and asked if I had heard that, and I stopped walking and responded that no, but I had seen it. As the thing had passed between headstones I caught a look. Looked like a pale, emaciated humanoid that was running on all fours. It had no hair at all that I could see, and I did not get a look at the face. It was moving far faster than any person running on hands/feet should have been able to. My friend and I just stayed frozen there and waited for another friend to come and get us because we were too scared to move. It continued to circle us, as we could hear it moving around. It never seemed threatening. If anything it seemed curious/scared of us. But who knows. I do know that it was not a coyote or a stray dog. I never saw the face but I did see the head; it did not have a muzzle. There was no tail, either. It definitely didn’t have fur; it had pale, almost bluish skin and I remember I could make out the ribs from where I was standing. Forgive me if this is a hot mess of a post; I was up all night researching this thing and when I did fall asleep I didn’t sleep well.*****
Other locations have had sightings as well, such as Ballard County, in Western Kentucky. As the witness was driving along the back roads on a gravel road one night at around 2 AM he says that he caught something in his headlights that startled him to the core. He would say:
*****I caught sight of something white and vaguely human crawling in the ditch. As we passed I hit the brakes thinking it was a person who needed help. “Are you crazy?! Don’t f***ing stop!” Blake screamed. I looked in the mirror and saw that it was standing up. Even though it was still in the ditch it was as tall as the stop sign next to it. It took a step towards us and I hit the gas. As we drove away I saw in the mirror that it dropped to all fours and was crawling after us. I didn’t start pulling away from it til I got up to about 40 mph. No matter how close I was to it I never got a good look at it. It was fuzzy like it was constantly out of focus. I’m not sure why but something about it makes me think of it as male. Maybe the height? When it crawled it moved like a lizard-hands and feet flat on the ground, elbows and knees up and out, body wiggling side to side. This happened when I was around 22. I’m 40 now and have never seen that thing again. I’ve taken many a midnight cruise along those narrow roads but I’ve never had the nerve to go near that particular farm road again. Call me a chicken…I’ll cluck happily.*****
Such accounts seem to lie beyond any easy classification. Are we dealing here with some sort of cryptid, ghosts, aliens, inter dimensional interlopers, or what? Or is it all just hoaxes and misinformation? These obviously seem to be far beyond normal reports of cryptids or ghostly phenomena, leaving us to merely ponder just what might be going on. Whatever the answers may be, these truly bizarre entities are not anything anyone would want to encounter slithering down a darkened road at night in the middle of nowhere, stumbling into your headlights.
When Weird Darkness returns…
There are roads on Long Island that are much more than a line between two points. Some roads contain legends that travel with you on your journey.
In 1981, a cabin in the woods played host to a brutal family murder. We’ll look into the still unsolved murders of the Keddie family.
STORY: MOUNT MISERY AND SWEET HOLLOW ROAD=====
In Huntington, Long Island there is a small area south of Jericho Turnpike that holds more than its share of ghostly tales. Two roads in particular seem to harbor most of these ghostly wayfarers. Mount Misery Road and Sweet Hollow Road are less than a mile apart at their farthest points. Both are narrow winding roads pinned in on both sides by thick woods. It used to be that you could turn your headlights off and drive in complete darkness, though due to accidents and land development lights have been installed and the woodland has diminished somewhat. It still gives off a very eerie feeling with the trees on all sides and overhead, a feeling where anything can happen… and anything does.
Odd stories have been circulating about a particular area in Hunting, Long Island since before the American Revolution. According to UFOlogist Bill Knell, at least two Native American tribes may have considered the area taboo. This is not how Mount Misery Road and Mount Misery proper got their names. Locals have called the area Mount Misery for centuries but you will never find it written that way on any map. It got its name because of its unfarmable land and the steep hills. Since the area was not conducive to farming it became a crossroads between farming communities and the difficult trek caused many a wagon wheel to snap.
To many travelers this was a miserable trip and hence the name. Since it became an area of high traffic, the Chichester family decided to build a small inn there called the Peace and Plenty Inn. Once the milling industry started up, the farmers had nowhere to go while they were waiting for the mill to finish, so the inn became a center of social life. The whereabouts of the Inn are uncertain but to this day there is a Chichester Road in that area.
In the mid 1700’s a small mental asylum was built. Back in those days the best cure for the mentally ill was to shut them up away from other people so as not to upset the other members of society with their craziness. It suffices to say the treatment was not good and there are accounts of screams and moans having been heard from the asylum. The story behind the fire that shut down the asylum is the beginning to the strange legends. Supposedly one of the female patients was going through a bout of depression and managed to set her room on fire with herself inside. This burned down the entire hospital. It is said you can still see this patient at times with a white hospital gown and messy white hair wandering the roads. We believe this legend is tied to the other “Lady in White” legends that surround Mount Misery. She is many legends in one, merged by centuries of oral records and passed from generation to generation. Some say she was a patient of the hospital. Others claim she was a woman walking home from work who was killed by a car in the dark of night. She likes to jump in front of cars and some cars will even stall rather than run her over.
For anyone familiar with the Long Island Mary’s Grave legends, you will be surprised to note that Mount Misery too has its Mary and its own haunted cemetery. This is also intertwined with the Lady in White tales. All over Long Island there are stories of a woman or child named Mary murdered in tortuous ways and buried but not at rest. Legends say she was walking home and was killed on the roadside and now she wanders these dark and lonely roads to protect other women from the same fate. Mary is also reported to be in white when she is sighted. Many drivers have noted seeing her both at the cemetery and along the roadside.
She is not the only hiker along this haunted road. If you drive under the overpass where the Northern State Parkway crosses Sweet Hollow Road, you might see many things. According to legend some teens hung themselves from the bridge and if you park by the bridge and flash the lights they will appear. Also, a child was once hit by a car near the bridge and you can see him sitting in the road. Another woman, who is never seen, haunts the bridge. She was killed in a head on collision in the seventies and now protects other drivers from the same fate. The road is very narrow and winding at that point, so it is very easy to believe a collision could occur. If you park under the bridge and put your car in neutral, she will push you back to safety, supposedly uphill. But that’s not the most horrifying thing that might happen to you along this road!
If a policeman pulls you over, check the back of his head. If he has no skull back there, you have just met one of Mount Misery’s ghosts. If you see a man walking along the road in the rain but when you stop to pick him up, he is gone, do not be alarmed. He may be a ghost. Some witnesses have reported seeing a disheveled man walking with a basket of heads, supposedly from people who mysteriously disappeared in the area.
Spectral humans are not the only spooks to look out for at Mount Misery, though. According to some tales there is a creature called a Hell Hound also. It lurks in the trees by the road and will stare at you with fiery red eyes. Its fur is black as night and some believe seeing the hound is and omen of imminent death.
We had our own weird experience while traveling down Sweet Hollow road once late at night. We noticed there was red paint on all of the yellow road signs reading, “Help Me.” Upon returning with cameras a few days later, the mysterious writing had vanished. Maybe road cleaners took it off, or maybe it was never even physically there. Just one more odd Mount Misery occurrence.
Tales about the Mount Misery area have been passed on from person to person for over 100 years, so it stands to reason that the tales will change and grow. Do demonic dogs wander the same roads as the eerie Lady in White? Only the road itself knows for sure, but whether you are a believer in the legends or not, it is indisputable that there are more oddities located in this small neighborhood than any other in Long Island. –John and Laura
The Burning Asylum of Mount Misery
I live on Long Island, and not far from where I live is Mount Misery Road. It is located in the town of Huntington between Plainview and Woodbury. The road has no street sign. The name is painted in white on a tree at the start of the road.
The legend is that there was once a mental hospital there and a mental patient started a fire in her room, killing herself and destroying the hospital. Ten years later the hospital was rebuilt, but only a few months later another fire broke out. Fearing another event, the town decided not to rebuild again and just used the land for housing. There are still some houses there hidden deep in the woods, but very few.
Mainly there are just thick woods on both sides of the road. The legend is that if you find the right trail that will take you to the spot where the main hospital once was, you will see burning ghosts running and screaming. Another part to the legend is that Mount Misery road is haunted by the mental patient who started the original fire there. She can be seen at certain times along the road. I’ve heard that she wears a hospital robe and has wild white hair. I’ve also heard that she slowly dances along the side of the road. I’ve been there several times and have seen nothing.
It is a dark road surrounded by woods and just looks creepy. The one strange thing that I noticed is that at the end of the road, there is a big tree stump lying across the road. It’s meant to block off anyone from going into the woods beyond that point. There is a sign saying no one is allowed past that point. I wonder what could be in those woods beyond. Maybe it’s the area where the ghosts can be seen. Who knows? –Anonymous
Sally Sits Up on Mt. Misery Road
I grew up on Long Island and though it is also an older part of country (settled during Dutch times) many of the legends have been lost over time. However there is one legend that I heard of when I was growing up and which was the story of Mt. Misery Road located in Huntington. The road starts in an affluent residential section and then continues into a large county park and ends. The road is said to be haunted and hostile to unwelcome visitors.
Another oddity on the road is the ghost of Sally, which was an unfortunate individual who was killed when her car hit a tree. The story is that when the headlights of your car flash past this tree you see a shadow sit up. Some say that it is a trick of car’s lights, some say that it is Sally. There are other stories of strange figures that walk along the side of the road and mysterious cars that chase you out of the area.
Mt. Misery Road was a favorite road to travel as high school student and each time someone traveled along it there was always a new story to tell. Perhaps if you ever find yourself in the Huntington area at night, you too might travel along it and have a new story to add to the tale.
STORY: KEDDIE KILLINGS=====
On the night of April 11, 1981, three people—a mother, her adolescent son, and the son’s friend—were bludgeoned to death in a California cabin, all while children slept soundly in an adjacent room. A fourth victim, a 12-year-old daughter, vanished in the night–her remains found years later and miles away.
The slayings, which would soon become known as the Keddie Cabin Murders, were chilling enough. Yet the case is made all the more unsettling by the fact that it remains unsolved nearly four decades later, leading some to suspect a police cover-up.
Glenna Sharp, who went by the name Sue, had been renting Cabin 28 in the tiny community of Keddie, California since November of 1980. She lived there with her five children. The family had moved from Connecticut after Sue separated from her husband, James. Newly alone, and with five children to raise, Sue chose Keddie in part because her brother, Don, lived nearby. Finding a new support system would be important as she restarted her life, even if it meant renting a cabin in a rundown resort in a rural area.
Five months later, the Sharps had found a semblance of community in their new home, with the children having made friends amongst the other residents of the Keddie cabins. On the night of the murders, Sue was at home while her two youngest sons, Rick and Greg, and their friend Justin Smartt played in an adjacent room. Tina, Sue’s youngest daughter, returned home around 10 o’clock, after an evening of watching television with the neighbors in Cabin 27.
Sue’s oldest son John had spent the day in the town of Quincy with his friend Dana Wingate. The pair was last seen walking along State Route 70. They returned home to Cabin 28 later that night, presumably retiring to John’s basement bedroom. Whether they entered the home with the murders actively in progress or became aware of intruders after hearing a disturbance upstairs is unknown. In either case, John and Dana would not survive the night.
The following morning, Sue’s oldest daughter Sheila came home after a night spent with friends. Upon entering, she discovered three bodies on the living room floor of Cabin 28.
Sue, John, and Dana’s bodies had been left, sprawled across the floor. A search of the premises revealed the trio of younger boys still in their room, alive and unharmed. With the help of neighbors, Sheila removed the three children. The final member of the Sharp family, 12-year-old daughter Tina, was nowhere to be found.
The three victims found in the cabin had met a violent end. Their bodies were bound with medical tape and appliance wire; they had been stabbed, bludgeoned, and strangled to death. Examinations revealed that the victims suffered blows from at least two different hammers of varying sizes, and Sue and John had been stabbed repeatedly. Sue had also been bludgeoned with a Daisy Powerline 880 rifle, while Dana Wingate was strangled to death by hand.
Sue was discovered lying on her side by the living room couch and was nude from the waist down. She had also been gagged with a blue bandana and her own panties—they had been secured on her face with medical tape. Her wrists and ankles were also bound with medical tape and two rounds of electrical wire. There was also wire that tied her ankles together—her ankles and wrists were tied so tightly that her legs and knees were drawn toward each other. She had been covered with a blanket and sheet that belonged to Tina.
Johnny’s hands were placed on his abdomen and taped tightly at the wrists with medical tape. His ankles were wrapped twice and tightly knotted with an extension cord. Dana had also been bound with medical tape.
Although the Sharps’ cabin did not show any indication of forced entry, detectives were able to recover an unidentified fingerprint from a handrail that led to the cabin’s back door. Detectives also discovered that the telephone had been left off the hook and the lights had been shut off with all the drapes fully closed.
Various weapons were found at the scene, including a table knife, a butcher knife, and a bloody hammer. Other weapons—including the Daisy rifle—were not recovered. Some evidence, such as a second bloody knife, turned up in a trash bin behind the Keddie general store.
In interviews, Justin Smartt told detectives that he had dreamt details of the murder only to later confirm that he had actually witnessed it. Under hypnosis, Justin claimed that he had seen Sue with two men: one with a mustache and long hair and one clean-shaven with short hair. John and Dana then entered the home and began arguing with the men. The argument became violent. The three were still alive when Tina entered the room. One of the men took her out the back door, before coming back to kill Sue, John, and Dana.
Composite sketches were made based on Justin’s descriptions, but never led to any identification.
In April of 1984, three years after the slayings occurred, part of a skull was found 29 miles away near Camp Eighteen in neighboring Butte County. The discovery prompted a thorough examination of the area, revealing a jawbone and several other bones. The fragments were eventually determined to belong to young Tina.
The discovery of Tina’s remains compounded a case already steeped in mystery. Why was the body of Tina Sharp found so far away from Cabin 28? How could a murder with so much physical evidence remain unsolved? The abundance of loose threads, in conjunction with what appeared to be a substandard investigation, have prompted some to suspect a police cover-up.
In 2004, Cabin 28 was demolished along with several other condemned buildings on the grounds. Some theorists believe that mob, gang, or police connections were responsible for the bungling of the case and the destruction of the property–but without the complete facts, it’s hard to know whether incompetence, conspiracy, or mere bad luck have left the Keddie murders unsolved.
In 2008, Marilyn Smartt (mother of Justin) claimed in a documentary on the murders that she suspected her husband Martin Smartt and his friend Bo Boubede were responsible for the murders of Sue, John, Dana, and Tina. In the same documentary, Sheriff Doug Thomas stated that Martin had successfully passed a polygraph examination about the murders–of course, the use of polygraphs in criminal cases has become increasingly discounted in recent years.
It was later confirmed that Martin was close with the Sheriff of Plumas County despite the fact that both Martin and Bo had criminal records.
In November 2016, the true crime show People Magazine Investigates released an episode dedicated to reexamining the Keddie cabin murders. Several new pieces of evidence and information came to light, which may finally help crack this cold case.
First, though the primary suspects in the slayings, Marty Smartt and Bo Boubede, are now deceased, new details continue to emerge that suggest their culpability. According to People magazine, Smartt’s anger toward Sue Sharp for interfering in his marriage was a viable motive for the killings. After the murders, he wrote a letter to his wife Marilyn, which was only discovered after the case was reopened in 2013:
“I’ve paid the price of your love & now that I’ve bought it with four peoples lives, you tell me we are through … Great! What else do you want?”
Though Marilyn claims she never received the letter and was only made aware of it after the murders by the authorities, she confirmed that it was in Smartt’s handwriting. Even more potentially incriminating is a therapist in Reno, Nevada, to whom Smartt allegedly confessed the murders.
Another important piece of new evidence is a hammer, discovered by a man with a metal detector, in a pond near the cabins. It matches the description of a hammer that Marty Smartt claimed to have misplaced: It is currently being tested for DNA evidence.
The final bizarre piece to the puzzle? A copy of a 911 recording, found at the bottom of a Keddie murder case file box. The call dates back to 1984, in the weeks after the skull fragments that would later be confirmed to belong to Tina Sharp were first discovered in Butte County. The anonymous caller identified the remains as Tina’s, then hung up. Chillingly, records indicate that this caller knew the remains belonged to Tina before investigators confirmed the fact with dental records.
In April 2018, Plumas County Special Investigator Mike Gamberg stated that DNA evidence recovered from a piece of tape at the crime scene matched that of a known living suspect.
Mike Gamberg, who leads the current investigation, is baffled by these inconsistencies. “It’s not what was done,” he told the Sacramento Bee in reference to the many flaws of the original investigation. “It’s what wasn’t done.”
Though the original inquiry into the Keddie murders was sadly lacking, there is new hope that authorities today may be able to discover the truth once and for all.
Coming up next on Weird Darkness…
During the grueling Great Northern Expedition, naturalist Georg Wilhem Steller came face-to-face with one of the sea’s most mysterious creatures. Or did he?
Weirdo family member Jamie Tyroler shares what happened to her and a few friends when they rummaged through a demolished building, only to find something still existing there.
STORY: STELLER’S SEA APE=====
As a deep-sea ecologist, I often find myself engaging with cryptozoology and other fringe science. That shouldn’t be surprising—after all, we actually did find the giant squid (and then the even larger colossal squid). Even though almost all infamous cryptids are, at best, the product of mythology, I enjoy getting to the meat of the matter, seeking out the origins of these stories and trying to understand how they emerge and persist. And among the most compelling cryptid in the sea is Steller’s Sea Ape.
In 1740, after a two-year overland journey from Moscow to Okhotsk, the naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller boarded the St. Peter and joined Captain Vitus Bering on the Great Northern Expedition. This expedition would define Europe’s relationship to the northern Pacific for the next three centuries. It marked the European discovery of Alaska, expanded the Russian Empire, and put to rest legends of a northeast passage.
During the expedition, Steller identified and described dozens of new species (it’s hard to argue that he discovered them, as the Arctic Pacific had already been populated by humans for thousands of years), including the now-extinct Steller’s Sea Cow, the threatened Steller’s Eider, the threatened Steller’s Sea Eagle, and the near-threatened Steller’s Sea Lion. Modern naturalists sometimes joke that it’s bad luck to be named for Steller, though the Steller’s Jay is doing fine.
Steller also identified a curious and enduring cryptid, Steller’s Sea Ape, which he describes in De Bestiis Marinis (The Beasts of the Sea):
“The animal was about two ells [about six feet] long. The head was like a dog’s head, the ears pointed and erect, and on the upper and lower lips, on both sides whiskers hung down … The body was longish, round and fat … the skin was covered thickly with hair, grey on the back, reddish white on the belly, but in water it seemed to be all red and cow-colored.”
He dubbed it Simnia marina danica, after a similar description from a 16th-century document.
Simnia marina hasn’t had any notable sightings since Steller’s account, but, due largely to his stellar reputation as a naturalist, the Sea Ape continues to endure in the annals of cryptozoology. Though not nearly as popular as Loch Ness monsters or Sasquatles (a prominent Bigfoot researcher informed me that this is the proper plural of Sasquatch), it does periodically appear on cryptozoology websites, either left unidentified or to be explained away as a mangy northern fur seal, a curious otter, or Steller’s own sea cow.
All these explanations tend to be unsatisfying and not particularly compelling. Steller’s notes indicate that he spent several hours in close proximity to the Sea Ape, watching it feed and play around the boat. He even attempted, twice, to shoot it. Cryptozoologists point to this extended account to argue that it is unlikely that Steller would so badly misidentify a species he, himself, described.
I tend to agree.
In order to unravel the mystery of Steller’s Sea Ape, we need to turn not to biology and ecology, but rather history; in particular, the history of Vitus Bering, Georg Steller, and the ill-fated voyage of St. Peter.
Though a public success, the Great Northern Expedition was a brutal, gruesome slog through the uncharted North Pacific. Steller missed the departure in 1738, which prompted his overland journey to Okhotsk to meet the ship two years later. Originally planning to join him for part of the journey, Steller’s wife decided a two-year schlep across Siberia was not for her. She stayed behind in Moscow.
Bering, by all accounts, was not particularly inclined to humor the naturalist. During the entire expedition, Steller was permitted ashore just once, for 10 hours, while St. Peter was resupplied. Many of Steller’s species descriptions came from that short jaunt. It would likely be the last enjoyable moment for Steller during the expedition. Though Steller was spared, the St. Peter crew and officers were plagued with scurvy. Bering was so sick that he barely left his stateroom. Steller’s opportunities for further expeditions ashore vanished. A month and a half after his one trip ashore, on August 10, 1741, somewhere south of Kodiak Island, Steller pulled out his notebook and described his Sea Ape.
Three months later, facing heavy storms, the St. Peter wrecked on the shore of Bering Island. Bering died of scurvy on December 8, and as the winter pressed in, the wrecked ship itself was destroyed. The crew held out through the winter, though another 28 died. On Bering Island, they discovered, then consumed, the ill-fated Steller’s Sea Cow, a massive arctic dugong (think gigantic manatee). Less than 30 years after its discovery, Steller’s Sea Cow would be hunted to extinction, the first modern marine mammal to go extinct thanks to human intervention.
As the weather improved, the surviving crew cobbled together a tiny vessel from St. Peter’s remains, and set off to continue the expedition. They named their new ship The Bering, likely not as a compliment.
During the eight months they spent stranded on Bering Island, Steller composed De Bestiis Marinis, a popular account of the animals they encountered on the voyage. This document would ultimately be published after his death. The Sea Ape did not appear in any of Steller’s official reports.
Steller remained in the high arctic for another 2 years, studying the Kamchatka peninsula before being recalled to St. Petersburg. He died enroute, in November 1746. His notes, documents, and manuscripts reached the Academy in St. Petersburg and were published posthumously. The Sea Ape would live on.
What was the Sea Ape? The secret lies in the breadcrumbs left throughout Steller’s notes. His description of the ambling creature, made only three months before the voyage’s catastrophic end, is not dissimilar from his descriptions of the captain he despised. The whiskers that hung down the Sea Ape’s face bear a striking likeness to the heavy chops favored by Bering. Perhaps desperate to return to land, Steller even fantasized about taking a few shots at the source of his suffering. Its absence from his official report suggest that Steller himself didn’t take the Sea Ape seriously. Stranded for months on a frozen island, did a bitter Steller choose to immortalize his hatred for the captain in popular lore?
The most compelling evidence for this hypothesis lies in the name Steller gave his Sea Ape. He didn’t name it Simnia marina, literally “sea ape”, but Simnia marina danica — the “Danish sea ape”.
There was only one Dane aboard St. Peter. Its captain, Vitus Bering.
There is a tendency to forget when studying natural history, especially of the early days of exploration, that these great scientific endeavors were conducted by people. Relationships have as much, if not more, impact on the success or failure of a voyage than scientific expertise. As Steller’s great expedition into the uncharted Arctic descended into an ice-filled slog, he turned to humor to lash out at the man he blamed for their misfortune. At the time, he couldn’t have known that things were only going to get worse, or that the story of his sea ape would endure.
STORY: THE NINTH STREET ENTITY=====
This next story is from Weirdo family member Jamie Tyroler.
Your recent story about Stull Cemetery reminds me of my experience with the cemetery and the old church. I was a freshman at the University of Kansas in the spring of 1978 and went there with some friends on the Spring Equinox. According to news reports, there were about 150 people there around midnight and nothing seemed to happen.
When driving back to campus, we decided to stop and look around an abandoned fraternity house – a concrete monstrosity that probably wasn’t used for very long. The building on 9th Street has since been demolished, but as we were walking around this abandoned building for about 10 minutes or so, a small pebble flew across the main room on the first floor. I was in the room with one friend and we barely payed attention to it, thinking it might have been something that just fell off the ceiling or wall, except for the angle that the pebble the pebble bounced on the floor. The others were walking around upstairs. After a few minutes, another small pebble flew into the room. My friend who was also downstairs with me looked out a large opening that was probably large windows at one time. He didn’t see anybody outside and came back in. We both denied throwing anything. After a few minutes, another pebble came into the room. The next pebble was a little larger and hit closer to my friend than the previous pebbles. It was thrown, or however it was put into motion, slightly faster than the previous ones. The two people who were upstairs came back downstairs and we asked if they knew anything about the flying pebbles and a small rock flew across the room, faster than the last rock shortly after they both denied having anything to do with these stones being thrown. The small stones started getting slightly larger and faster before we got out of there. We didn’t really talk about our experiences, but I don’t know if this had anything to do with going to Stull during the time when Satan was supposed to appear or if this abandoned fraternity house was haunted on its own, but I don’t think any of us went back. I know I didn’t.
Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks I’ve narrated, visit the store for Weird Darkness t-shirts, hoodies, mugs, phone cases, and more merchandise, sign up for monthly contests, find other podcasts that I host, and find the Hope in the Darkness page if you or someone you know is struggling with depression or dark thoughts. Also on the website, if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.
“Freaky Reports of Pale Crawlers” by Brent Swancer
“Mount Misery and Sweet Hollow Road” by Arthur Criscione
“The Unsolved Keddie Killings” by Orrin Grey
“Steller’s Sea Ape” by Andrew Thaler
“The Ninth Street Entity” by Weirdo family member Jamie Tyroler
Again, you can find link to all of these stories in the show notes.
WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” – Romans 8: 38-39
And a final thought… “Being rejected from something good just means you were being pointed towards something better.” – Unknown
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.