“THE TRUE HORROR BEHIND THE DEMON VALAK” and More Disturbingly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“THE TRUE HORROR BEHIND THE DEMON VALAK” and More Disturbingly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““THE TRUE HORROR BEHIND THE DEMON VALAK” and More Disturbingly True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: Although Valak is depicted in the films “The Nun” and in “The Conjuring 2” as a habit-wearing spirit, the real demon appears as a child riding a two-headed dragon — at least according to a 17th-century demon-hunting manual. (The Reality Behind The Demon, Valak) *** The Vatican is one of the most well-guarded areas in the world. But if rumors are to be believed, all that security isn’t only to protect the pontiff… but some dark, disturbing secrets… and a machine that could change everything we know to be true. (The Vatican’s Secret Machine) *** We’ll look at that time a force field was accidentally created at a 3M plant. (3M’s Accidental Force Field) *** In 1872 George Wheeler met and married May Tillson in Boston. He made a home for May and her younger sister Della, first in New York, then in California. Along the way, George fell in love with young Della and when she planned to marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one. (Thus She Passed Away) *** In the 1800s scientists and doctors needed cadavers to study human anatomy and practice their skills. To help accommodate the need, it was made legal to sell dead bodies. What could possibly go wrong? (The Unsettling Anatomy Act)

“The Reality Behind The Demon, Valak” by Gina Dimuro for All That’s Interesting: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/43vu356n
“3M’s Accidental Force Field” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/3vvnwbpv
“Thus She Passed Away” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/yyztmnat
“The Unsettling Anatomy Act” by SM for ListVerse: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8vdns9
“The Vatican’s Secret Machine” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8kxxz8
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.

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Originally aired: December, 2021


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Lorraine Warren, a medium as well as a paranormal investigator, has reported a number of times that during many of her investigations, including the famous Amityville Haunting, Enfield Haunting, and Annabelle case, she experienced the presence of a dark, demonic spirit. She dreamt of a hooded and veiled figure with ‘female energy’ who would often attack her husband, Ed. Over the course of months and years, the dreams would become more frequent, and eventually Lorraine began to experience these visions during her waking time too. Lorraine investigated these visions and discovered that the veiled entity was in fact the demon Valak – played so memorably by Bonnie Aarons in the supernatural horror film, “The Conjuring 2”. But, as is often the case when it comes to Hollywood and entertainment, what we see on the screen is not the real thing. Valak is real… but the truth behind this demon is darker than anything Hollywood has served up to us about him.

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…

We’ll look at that time a force field was accidentally created at a 3M plant. (3M’s Accidental Force Field)

The Vatican is one of the most well-guarded areas in the world. But if rumors are to be believed, all that security isn’t only to protect the pontiff… but some dark, disturbing secrets… and a machine that could change everything we know to be true. (The Vatican’s Secret Machine)

In 1872 George Wheeler met and married May Tillson in Boston. He made a home for May and her younger sister Della, first in New York, then in California. Along the way, George fell in love with young Della and when she planned to marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one. (Thus She Passed Away)

In the 1800s scientists and doctors needed cadavers to study human anatomy and practice their skills. To help accommodate the need, it was made legal to sell dead bodies. What could possibly go wrong? (The Unsettling Anatomy Act)

Although Valak is depicted in the films “The Nun” and in “The Conjuring 2” as a habit-wearing spirit, the real demon appears as a child riding a two-headed dragon — at least according to a 17th-century demon-hunting manual. (The Reality Behind The Demon, Valak)

If you’re new here, welcome to the show! And if you’re already a member of this Weirdo family, please take a moment and invite someone else to listen. Recommending Weird Darkness to others helps make it possible for me to keep doing the show! And while you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com where you can send in your own personal paranormal stories, watch horror hosts present old scary movies 24/7, see weird news items, listen to the Weird Darkness syndicated radio show, shop for Weird Darkness and Weirdo merchandise, listen to free audiobooks that I’ve narrated, sign up for the newsletter to win free stuff I give away every month, and more. And on the Social/Contact page you can find the show on Facebook and Twitter, and you can also join the Weird Darkness Weirdos Facebook group.

Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!



Skeptics are quick to dismiss the veracity of horror movies that claim to be based on real events, but references to the demon Valak — the one at the center of the film The Nun — stretch back centuries.

Valak (or Valac) appears in a variety of medieval grimoires, which were basically manuals on demons and spells.

Unlike the 2018 film, Valak does not appear in the form of a nun but rather as a sinister child with the ability to conjure serpents. According to one 17th-century text, Valak controls a legion of serpentine spirits and can summon living serpents to see to his evil bidding.

While Valak may not be real (or maybe he is), the divine fear it instilled in God-fearing citizens of yore certainly was — and continues to incite chills in movie-goers today.

The first known reference to the name “Valak” is found in a 17th-century grimoire titled Clavicula Salomonis Regis, or the The Key of Solomon.

University of Hertfordshire Professor Owen Davies, an expert of the history of ghosts and witchcraft, described grimoires as “books that contain a mix of spells, conjurations, natural secrets and ancient wisdom.” Indeed, Solomon is a self-described guide to “the ceremonial art of commanding spirits both good and evil.”

Solomon features King Solomon of Old Testament fame who was renowned for his wisdom. At some point around the second century B.C., the idea spread that the king’s realm of knowledge had also included certain secrets of astrology and magic. The grimoire bearing his name lists the 72 demons that the king supposedly vanquished during his reign, providing readers with their names and instructions for expelling them should they come in contact with such spirits themselves.

Valak, which is sometimes also spelled Ualac, Valu, Volac, Doolas or Volach, is the 62nd spirit listed in Solomon, according to which he “appeareth like a boy with angels wings, riding on a two-headed dragon.” His special power, according to the text, is finding snakes and hidden treasures while leading an army of 30 demons.

The Bible itself contains no reference to Solomon’s 72 demons, but Solomon was actually listed in the Vatican’s Index librorum prohibitorum, or the List of Prohibited Books, which the Church continuously updated until scrapping it altogether in 1966. The Church considered the text not only non-religious but heretical. However, to the dismay of many inquisitors, the grimoire was still found in the possession of many a Catholic priest.

Despite being banned, the grimoire remained hugely popular in Europe and, given the success of the Conjuring movies, it seems that its contents still hold a terrifying appeal to this day.

The demon Valak made its first appearance in the film series The Conjuring 2, during which a character named Lorraine Warren is able to stop it and banish it back to hell by using its own name against it. In The Nun, another installment in The Conjuring horror series, a Romanian monastery is haunted by a demonic presence dressed in the garb of a Catholic nun.

As it turns out, there is some truth to both of these storylines. Lorraine Warren was a real person and she was really a paranormal investigator who encountered a presence in a Church.

Ed and Lorraine Warren first came into the spotlight after their initial investigation into the famous Amityville haunting in 1976. Lorraine Warren claimed to be a clairvoyant and medium where her husband was a self-professed demonologist.

Although the disturbing and supposedly supernatural events at the Amityville house were later widely reported to be a hoax, the popularity of the 1977 book The Amityville Horror and the subsequent 1979 film catapulted the Warrens into the spotlight.

The Warrens, who were devout Catholics, claimed to have investigated over 10,000 cases of paranormal activity over the course of their career.

And according to the Warrens’ son-in-law, the Warrens encountered a “spectral hooded figure” while on a trip to the haunted Borley church in southern England in the 1970s. According to lore, the churchyard’s ghost was a nun who had been buried alive in the brick walls of the convent centuries ago after having had an affair with a monk.

Lorraine Warren allegedly met that ghost face-to-face at midnight one evening in the church graveyard — and left unscathed.

Valak’s recent depiction as a nun was pure invention on the part of the director of The Conjuring 2, James Wan.

“I had a strong outlook on the whole movie, but the one thing I wasn’t quite sure of [was the design of the demon character],” Wan said in 2016.

According to Wan, the real Lorraine Warren had told him about a “spectral entity” that appeared as a “swirling tornado vortex with this hooded figure.” Wan then decided to have the figure don the costume of a nun in order to put it more directly in conflict with the Warrens’ Catholic faith.

“Because it is a demonic vision that haunts her, that only attacks her, I wanted something that would attack her faith,” Wan continued, “and so that was eventually how the idea of this very iconographic image of a holy icon cemented in my head.”

The idea of being haunted by your own faith was so potent to Wan that Valak became a central character in 2018’s The Nun, wherein the demon terrorizes and possesses the devout members of a Romanian abbey in 1952. With black veins and lips peeking out of a ghostly-white face, Valak is truly a horrifying presence.


Up next… In the 1800s scientists and doctors needed cadavers to study human anatomy and practice their skills. To help accommodate the need, it was made legal to sell dead bodies. What could possibly go wrong? (The Unsettling Anatomy Act).

Plus, We’ll look at that time a force field was accidentally created at a 3M plant. (3M’s Accidental Force Field)

These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns!



During the 19th century, anatomists and surgeons needed an ever-increasing amount of bodies to advance their research in the study of human anatomy, and, as a result, the dead body trade boomed. Individuals turned to body snatching (digging up graves to extract the body) and selling them to make a neat profit—these people became known as resurrectionists.

The British government introduced the Anatomy Act of 1832 in an attempt to increase the availability of bodies for medical schools and put a stop to body snatching and murder. The Act ended the use of dissection as a punishment for murder and allowed unclaimed bodies from public institutions, such as hospitals and workhouses, to be used for dissection instead.

However, the Act did not fix the shortage of bodies, and the low supply was still not enough to satisfy, especially in London. As the Victorian era plunged ahead in its pursuit of science and innovation and the need for bodies increased and increased, the dead body trade became a complex and dangerous feature of everyday life.

Following the passing of the Anatomy Act, the concern that the bodies of the rich and the middle-class, as well as the poor, were being taken grew. Politicians responded to these concerns by reassuring voters that legislation would be introduced that would legalize the use of the dead poor for dissection. However, the poor didn’t take much comfort in the passing of the Anatomy Act because instead of being dissected alongside a murderer, they would be dissected instead of one.

The fate of the poor worsened significantly with the passing of the New Poor Law of 1834, a piece of legislation created to gain control over the poor, specifically their bodies. The law stated that no able-bodied person was to receive money or help from Poor Law authorities except in a workhouse. Unfortunately, a lot of workhouse officials were keen on making extra income from selling bodies.

If a person was poor, they were imprisoned, starved to death, and then upon their death, they were butchered. The poor within the workhouses also rebelled, especially when it was clear a body was being taken for dissection unlawfully.

The dead body trade became even more complex as the Victorian era stretched on, and “supply chains” were set up to facilitate the sale of bodies and body parts to ensure that the process ran smoothly for maximum profit. The supply chain meant that more people became involved in the process from start to finish, some for financial gain and some in the pursuit of anatomical training.

Bodies needed to be acquired quickly, sold quickly, and disposed of even faster. In order to do this, the supply chains were set up, which involved a number of different people from across the country. Hospitals, like St. Bart’s, set up relationships with those who had direct access to bodies, such as coroners, parish officials, and workhouse officials.

For example, coroner’s hearings could be expensive, and these costs could be recovered by selling bodies after a formal inquest. In addition, bodies found on the streets were not always cut open to determine the cause of death, especially cases concerning drowning and drunks. This allowed for a relatively fresh and untouched corpse to be sold to anatomists for financial gain.

St. Bartholomew’s, a teaching hospital founded in 1123, was a key customer in the dead body trade, which had a desperate need for cadavers to dissect in its purpose-built dissection room.

St. Bart’s had some unusual ways of obtaining cadavers and treated the law rather flexibly. Due to its location, on the streets outside of St. Bart’s, many poor people died in destitution, and the hospital most certainly capitalized on this. Porters would leave large wicker baskets outside under the King Henry VIII gate for passing body dealers to fill up. Further to this, the annual St. Bartholomew’s Fair, held outside the hospital, also proved to be fruitful for anatomists with deaths occurring due to exhaustion, ill health, or overexcitement.

As the century wore on, the simple relationship between a hospital and body dealers gradually turned into a more “sophisticated” system for acquiring bodies to keep up with demand.

The workhouse was one of the most important sources of dead bodies; all medical schools received nothing less than a warm welcome when they visited workhouses at nightfall.

In 1858, a scandal came to light which showed the extent to which the trade in dead bodies had reached. The master of St. Mary Newington workhouse, Alfred Feist, was accused of unlawfully selling pauper bodies to Guys Hospital Medical School in London. The Parish clerk Joseph Burgess had discovered that the undertaker Robert Hogg had taken a total of 45 bodies to Guys Hospital instead of burying them. The body of one Louise Mixer’s mother, Mary Whitehead, had been removed by Hogg and taken to Guys Hospital.

Hogg confessed to carrying out fake funerals from the workhouse, stating that he received double payments for each, one from Guys Hospital and the other from the parish. Hogg would bring in any bodies that he could, including the dissected bodies from Guys Hospital. Feist and Hogg would swap the body of a claimed relative for that of a dissected stranger; the fresh body would then be taken to the hospital at nightfall.

Although the trade in human bodies was predominantly in just that, bodies were very hard to come by, and sometimes desperate times called for desperate measures. The trade in human bodies also included body parts, and often those who needed bodies settled for body parts instead.

Even worse than the use of random body parts was the fact that some body parts were actually provided by people who were living, most likely for money. This included amputated extremities and growths, which became known as “pots.” Even though they were not whole bodies, they still played an important part in research and were often preserved for additional study in the future. Some collectors even had their own niche and built up special collections of pots that were particularly relevant to their work.

A combination of historical research and the archaeological assessment of specimens at Cambridge University found that fetus and infant cadavers were highly valued for studying anatomy.

Researchers studied the skeletal collection, which ranged from the 1700s to the 1800s, amassed by the dissecting room of Cambridge’s anatomy department. They found that anatomists tended to keep the skulls of fetuses and children in one piece instead of opening them. From a total of 54 specimens in the collection, only one had received a craniotomy.

Selling the body of a fetus or a child could generate quite a bit of money for destitute and desperate women. In addition, these cadavers were particularly popular as anatomists were eager to do further research on miscarriages and abnormalities in childbirth.

To demonstrate the anatomy of the nervous and circulatory systems, a whole body was required (a smaller body was better suited to this) and was injected with colored wax. In April 1834, an unknown child’s body was found floating in a river on April Fool’s Day; it had been dismembered with only a leg, a thigh, and part of the spine and arm remaining. A local surgeon named Dr. Webb reported that it was likely the body had been used for purposes of learning anatomy “for the arteries were filled with wax.”

Two of the oldest universities in England both had anatomy schools that required bodies for dissection, so much so that they were in a race of sorts with each other to acquire the bodies first and thus advance their research.

Alexander Macalister was appointed Professor of Anatomy at Cambridge University in 1883, and was put in charge of the Anatomical Lab. Macalister and his department set up a “business of anatomy” that a number of regional medical schools copied. Arthur Thomson was hired to teach human anatomy at Oxford in 1885 and swiftly set about increasing the number of cadavers available to the university.

Thomson had difficulty gaining a foothold in the local market, and in an attempt to improve this and catch up with Macalister, he decided to go further afield. His petty cash records show that he traveled extensively and paid around 12 pounds for each body. Thomson set up purchasing agreements in two west Midlands locations, and he acquired seven bodies from West Midland’s guardians from 1886 to 1887. He further expanded his trade, and between 1895 and 1929, 404 bodies were purchased from poor law unions and asylums in four locations: Leicester, Reading, Staffordshire, and from within Oxford’s city limits.

As demonstrated by the efforts of Macalister and Thomson to boost the number of bodies acquired, accessing bodies from several locations was necessary if not vital. Therefore, a pivotal part of the dead body trade was the use of the railway, especially for obtaining corpses from further afield to supply to places like Cambridge and Oxford.

Three times a week, an express train left Liverpool Street Station in London, traveling via Cambridge and Doncaster. This train became known as the “dead train” as it carried corpses to Cambridge. Attached to the rear carriages of the trains were “funeral wagons,” which contained stacked boxes of dead bodies. The boxes were carefully sealed to prevent foul odors from the bodies from leaking out so as not to alert the passengers.

Thomson, at Oxford, needed an efficient way to collect and move the bodies, and the railway became pivotal in the same way it did for Macalister. Both Leicester and Reading had main-line stations on the Great Western Railway network, and the quicker the route, the better. An undertaker was employed to take bodies to the railway station, and each body was placed in a box addressed to a member of the Anatomy Department at the university.

The Anatomy Act enabled the bodies of the poor to be possessed and used for dissection, and the horror stories concerning the use of these bodies were not unknown to the poor. For example, if someone died in prison or at a workhouse, a relative had seven days to come forward and claim the body with proof they could afford a proper burial.

Some wanted to avoid their loved ones being dissected so badly that they hid the body, often to bide time to raise funeral funds. In Shoreditch, East London, Mary Ann Huckle kept the body of her dead husband, Thomas Huckle, in their house for four days and four nights. The Bury and Norwich Post reported that it was most likely to buy time and avoid the body being taken to St. Bartholomew’s or Cambridge Anatomy School.

On a—somewhat—lighter note, “burial clubs” were formed to help families afford funeral services, where members made weekly payments to ensure the club could cover expenses, no matter how long someone had been a member. Sort of like the Victorian answer to crowdsourcing or holding a “funeral” car wash.

During the cholera outbreak of 1831-1832, victims were isolated in special hospitals. Upon death, their bodies were buried as quickly as possible after a brief post-mortem, despite the wishes of family and friends.

Combined with the passing of the Act, the actions of the medical authorities raised a lot of concern among the public, who began to get suspicious that the cholera scare was just a way for doctors to experiment on and dissect more bodies. Unfortunately, these fears were not completely unjustified.

In September 1832, a three-year-old boy died in the Swan Street Cholera Hospital in Manchester. At the boy’s funeral, the grandad asked to see the body, but his request was refused, so he opened the coffin himself instead. He found the boy’s head missing, and in its place, a brick. The story caused outrage, and a crowd of several thousand marched to the hospital, where they smashed windows and wrecked equipment.


Science and technology have come a long way since our dark ages of scrambling to create fire. We have built our scientific knowledge up steadily and sometimes exponentially as the centuries have gone by, making our lives better, but also feeding the machine of war and causing problems. Although new innovations take great amounts of study and resources to perfect, some of the oddest new discoveries are those that happened completely by accident, and a strange example of this is the time a factory supposedly accidentally created an actual working force field like something out of a science fiction movie.

Most people reading this will probably be at least somewhat familiar with the company 3M. It is a massive, multinational conglomerate corporation which operates in a diverse range of fields including industry, worker safety, US health care, consumer goods, and others. Indeed, the sprawling company produces around 60,000 different products, including such disparate products as adhesives, abrasives, laminates, personal protective equipment, window films, paint protection films, dental and orthodontic products, electrical and electronic connecting and insulating materials, medical products, car-care products, electronic circuits, healthcare software, optical films, and many more. With approximately 93,500 employees, and operations in more than 70 countries, it is a world spanning behemoth, and in one of their factories something very strange allegedly happened on one otherwise normal day in 1980.

In the summer of that year, workers arrived for work at a 3M facility in in South Carolina as usual. The day started off in a pretty mundane and routine manner, with the workers going about their usual business of checking 50,000 foot rolls of 20ft-wide Polypropylene film, then slitting, cutting, and transferring it onto other smaller spools. To do this, the film is unrolled from the original spool at very high speeds, around 1000ft/min, or about 10 mph, after which it is pulled upwards 20ft to overhead rollers, passes horizontally 20ft, and then flows downwards to the slitting device, where it is then spooled onto the shorter rolls. The whole intricate process creates a sort of cubical tent around the workers, and poses a few dangers. For instance, the fast-spinning spools, pose a potential danger, and there is always the threat of static build up during the process, which can be discharged into shocks that can reach into the megavolts. This was not an uncommon danger, and the workers were always careful of this potential threat, but on this day they would experience something they were not expecting and had not been trained for.

As the film went about this unspooling and re-spooling process, one of the workers found that as he tried to walk to a new location he was stopped as if by an invisible wall. Other workers also approached and pressed against it to find it unmovable, with them unable to pass through or even budge it, and one worker who examined it with a 200KV/ft handheld electrometer found that the reading went through the roof. They leaned all their weight into it and pounded on it, but it seemed this force field was impossible to pass through. Making it all even more bizarre is that the unseen wall seemed to be inexorably pulling them towards it, to the point that they were unable to turn away and had to walk backwards to pull themselves away. One of the workers would later claim to have seen a fly get sucked into the field, and would estimate that it would have been strong enough to imprison a bird with this suction effect. Then, just as suddenly as it had materialized, the force field was gone, the fly was released, and they were able to move normally again.

When the plant production manager heard about the strange anomaly, he at first didn’t believe a word of it, but there were enough witnesses that he decided to try causing the effect again, but nothing happened. It was then assumed that humidity had had some sort of effect on the mysterious process, as this had happened earlier in the day when humidity had been lower. They decided to try the next morning, and were able to reproduce the force field again, although only for a short time before it vanished again. At the time the plant production manager allegedly quipped that he “didn’t know whether to fix it or sell tickets.” After this news started making the rounds and it was discussed and debated, with some saying it was a fake story, but others have vouched for the veracity of the story. One commenter on the site Amasci would claim that it still occasionally happened, saying:

“(I) Have a relative who works at a 3M plant. (Stuff) still occasionally happens. He mentioned being able to throw small washers and bolts at the field and watching them get repelled. People got interested, and so someone came with a voltmeter, and after throwing a couple more, they checked for voltage, and there was a residual charge after they finally caught on a plastic sheet to prevent immediate grounding. It also had a very slight magnetic field. It’s apparently fairly common, but engineering hasn’t come up with a solid explanation why.”

Others have claimed that it is not only real, but that the force field effect had been experimented with in private and pursued by NASA, before being turned off for good, with one commenter on the site Amasci claiming:

“I met this guy at an ESD meeting in Austin once. He said the strength of the field maxed out his equipment at a distance so he couldn’t get a maximum measurement. After he published the paper he was contacted by NASA and all the three letter agencies asking for more info. He wanted to experiment around with it but no company had millions to throw into such a project (presumably, the government did). It had to be a pretty narrow window of temperature, pressure, humidity, etc. They kept the garage door open so that’s where the insects and sparrows got sucked in (which obviously ruined the product). He said it was actually known to the technicians for awhile before he experienced it and they just were kinda like “meh”. Eventually they fixed the grounding issue on the machine and the problem never popped up again.”

The story has since sort of disappeared off of the radar, and it is a rather curious oddity. If such a thing were true, then they could have stumbled across a potentially groundbreaking discovery, an actual functional force field with limitless potential applications, yet it seem as if the phenomenon has vanished and is unable to be replicated. We are left to wonder just what was going on here, and if any of the story is even true at all. Whatever the case may be, it is an odd little tale of a potentially life-changing discovery made purely by accident, and we will probably never know much more about it.



When Weird Darkness returns… The Vatican is one of the most well-guarded areas in the world. But if rumors are to be believed, all that security isn’t only to protect the pontiff… but some dark, disturbing secrets… and a machine that could change everything we know to be true. (The Vatican’s Secret Machine)

But first – In 1872 George Wheeler met and married May Tillson in Boston. He made a home for May and her younger sister Della, first in New York, then in California. Along the way, George fell in love with young Della and when she planned to marry someone else he was faced with a dilemma: he could not marry her himself and he could not bear to see her wed to another. The solution he chose pleased no one. (Thus She Passed Away)

These stories are up next!



Around midnight on October 20, 1880, George A. Wheeler went to the San Francisco police station and confessed to the murder of his sister-in-law, Della Tillson. He said he had packed her body in a trunk and left it in the room they shared in a lodging house at 23 Kearney Street. He was held at the station while the police went to check his story.

The police went to 23 Kearney Street and spoke with the landlady. She said Wheeler and his wife had moved into the room about a month earlier and sometime later his sister-in-law moved in across the hall. All had been quiet until a few days ago when a man named George Peckham moved into the house. He appeared to know the other three, and there was constant arguing among all the lodgers.

The police learned the truth when they interviewed the woman across the hall. She was actually George Wheeler’s wife May, who told them that Wheeler and her sister had been living together, in sin, in the other room. George Peckham had come to see Della and planned to marry her, and this had upset Wheeler. But Mrs. Wheeler did not believe that her husband had murdered her sister and thought he must have been drunk when he made the confession.

When the police opened the other room they saw no sign of a struggle and found the trunk Wheeler had spoken of against the wall near the door. When they opened the trunk, it appeared to be filled with clothing, but after removing several layers they found the body of a murdered woman, still warm, crammed into the trunk. May Wheeler was called into the room to see the body. Sobbing hysterically, she positively identified the body as that of her sister Della. George Peckham was equally distraught when he identified the body of his lover.

When the hysteria died down, reporters interviewed Mrs. Wheeler and George Peckham and uncovered the events that led to the murder. Mrs. Wheeler, twenty-eight years of age, was born May Tillson in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. In 1872 she married George Wheeler and they lived together in her parents’ house for a while before moving to New York, taking along May’s teenaged sister Della.

May Wheeler was somewhat deaf and had been unaware that her husband had been having sexual relations with her sister Della until Della became pregnant. Della confessed all but begged her sister not to reveal her shame to their parents. Both sisters agreed that it was best to keep the matter secret. The baby died soon after birth and the situation in the Wheeler household continued as before. When Della became pregnant again, they moved to California, where the second child died as well.

They settled in the town of Cisco where Wheeler got a job running an engine at a silver mine. There they met George Peckham, a miner, and a gambler. He became friends with George Wheeler and became quite fond of Della Tillson. He started taking Della out and, at the time, believed he had Wheeler’s blessing.

Wheeler’s job at the mine did not work out, and he decided that the family should move to San Francisco. There wasn’t enough money for all three to travel, so Wheeler took Della and promised to send for May when they could afford it. After they had been gone a month, May grew tired of waiting and went by herself to San Francisco. She knew where her husband and sister were staying, but had been surprised to learn that they were posing as husband and wife. Rather than cause trouble, May Wheeler took another room there, telling the landlady that she was George Wheeler’s sister-in-law.

George Peckham had fallen in love with Della Tillson, and when he realized that she was not coming back to Cisco, he went to San Francisco as well. He hoped to marry her and take her to Sacramento. Della had been writing to Peckham, so when he got to San Francisco he knew where to find her. Peckham took a room there too, and all four were living on the same floor at No. 23 Kearney Street.

Peckham was unhappy about Della and Wheeler sharing a room, but she told him they had done it to save money. She said, she slept on the sofa and he in the bed. Peckham began taking her out nights, bringing her home after midnight, and this angered Wheeler. On the day of the murder, Peckham came looking for Della and Wheeler told her she had left, taking a job as a companion to a lady and her daughter. He told Peckham she had gone where he would never find her.

While May Wheeler and George Peckham were telling their stories, George Wheeler, at the police station, was telling a story of his own. He said he had been upset about Peckham following them to San Francisco and keeping his sister-in-law out late. Wheeler convinced her that it was best that she stay away from Peckham, and he and Della spoke with police officer Moorehouse, asking if she could stay with him for a while to keep her away from the bad man who was perusing her. Officer Moorehouse agreed and so did Della, but when she went back to pack her clothes she had a change of heart. Wheeler said she told him “there had been a greater intimacy between her and Peckham than I had any idea of, and that she was going away with him.” This was when he decided he would rather see Della dead than with Peckham.

In a statement quoted in several newspapers, Wheeler said: “She seemed to feel her disgrace very keenly, and begged me to cut her throat. She did not want to go with Peckham, but such was his influence over her that she must go with him, and she would rather die than do it. Then she again asked me to cut her throat. I told her that I could not do that as I could not bear to see her blood, but I told her that I could choke her. She said very well, and sat in my lap. I place one hand on her mouth and with the other grasped her throat, and she, throwing her head back on my shoulder, died like a child. She struggled but little at first. She looked into my eyes and I kissing them, told her to close them, which she did, and thus she passed away.”

Reporters were impressed by the calmness and indifference Wheeler displayed while in custody.  He knew that by killing Della he would be throwing his own life away as well, but that mattered little to him. As he would say many times, “I would rather have her blood on my hands than have her associate with that man Peckham.”

An inquest was held soon after, and George Wheeler was indicted for the murder of Adella Tillson.

Jury selection for George Wheeler’s trial began on February 2, 1881. It was an arduous process; the case was a sensation in San Francisco, and it was difficult to find anyone who had not already made up his mind on the matter. The number of spectators was limited to the number of available seats, leaving hundreds outside, disappointed.

There was no contention over who killed Della Tillson; the prosecution was straightforward. Wheeler had confessed, and all of the relevant witnesses testified as to why he did it.

George Wheeler’s defense was “hereditary insanity.” The defense introduced evidence that there was insanity on both sides of Wheeler’s family. Several reporters testified to the statements made by Wheeler after his arrest. Expert witness, Dr. J. J. Kendrick, an Oakland physician, testified to various forms of murderous mania, and examined Wheeler’s bald head. He was uncertain whether a large scar on the right side of his head would cause insanity.

The prosecution countered the insanity defense by reading, over defense council’s objection, from a book called Browns Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity.

The jury had little patience for the insanity plea, and found Wheeler guilty.

George Wheeler was sentenced to hang on April 19, but the case was appealed and the hanging postponed. The California Supreme Court agreed that the prosecution should not have been allowed to read from Browns Medical Jurisprudence of Insanity without first establishing it as a standard authority. Wheeler was granted a new trial.

Wheeler’s second trial was held in September 1882. The result was the same, guilty of murder.

Following the first trial, May Wheeler, after a coolly received goodbye visit to her husband in County Jail, accepted a steamship ticket from the YWCA and returned to her father’s home in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts.

George Wheeler was sentenced to be hanged on January 23, 1884. His last days in prison were taken up with concerns for his soul. A lady from Oakland had urged him to become a Catholic and he had been meeting with Father Cottle to discuss conversion. As of the night before the hanging, Wheeler, who had been raised Quaker, was not feeling it.

The lady from Oakland may have been Mrs. Stratton, a divorced woman who had been among the hundreds of people who visited the prisoner before the execution. She frequently visited the cell and the night before the execution Mrs. Stratton insisted on being married to Wheeler. Wheeler expressed a willingness, but the sheriff took measures to prevent the ceremony.

The morning of January 23, 1884, five thousand people assembled outside the jail to witness the hanging of George Wheeler. Demand for entrance tickets was so great that they were being sold for $10.00 apiece. Father Cottle must have gotten through to Wheeler because he was at the prisoner’s side as he mounted the gallows.

Wheeler’s last words were, “I forgive the world, may the world forgive me.” He kissed a crucifix and said, “Jesus, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” The signal was given, the trap was sprung, and George Wheeler fell. His neck was broken and death was instantaneous.


Investigating the secrets of the Vatican is always difficult because the lack of reliable information. The Vatican’s history stretches back centuries and the Church has been accused of so much that distinguishing between facts, fiction, rumors and deliberate lies can be a real struggle.

Vatican is not a place you can easily enter and investigate. Serious researchers who have devoted their lives to study the ancient history of the Church cannot always determine if some events did happen or are products of modern humans’ fantasies.

In some cases, when we discuss the Vatican, we can only relate the story without having the means of researching it further. Some events can be confirmed, but some cannot. Today’s subject deals with a possible hidden Vatican secret that has been labeled dangerous because it could alter history. We are once again dealing with a mystery that still remains unsolved and perhaps this is what makes it so interesting.

Is the Vatican hiding one of the greatest and most important inventions of modern times? Is it possible that a Catholic priest would deliberately lie and deceive the public?

Is the Church suppressing the full truth of the priest’s life and achievements? What kind of device did he possess that showed incredible historical events in the exact moment they took place?

When Father Ernetti announced he was in possession of a genuine time machine, he shocked the world. The existence of Vatican’s secret time machine was alleged by François Brune, a French theologian and author of several books on paranormal phenomena and religion. In his book “The Vatican’s New Mystery” Bruno asserted that a friend of his, Father Ernetti was experimenting with a device that showed amazing historical images.

Father Pellegrino Ernetti (1925-1994) was an Italian Roman Catholic priest. He was a famous exorcist as well as biblical and musical scholar. Father Ernetti was also a scientist who had a strong interest in quantum physics and several occult subjects.

The story begins in the 1950s, when Father Ernetti revealed that he had invented a time machine that allowed a person to see and hear events of the past. The machine was called a Chronovisor.

Before we continue with this article I must stress this is a controversial story for a number of reasons.  For one thing, there is no proof of the Chronovisor’s existence. Also, there is no reliable witness to Ernetti’s claims.

According to Father Ernetti, the Chronovisor was a result of many years study by a group of scientists that apart from himself, included twelve famous people who, he said, preferred to be anonymous. He only revealed the names of two of the scientists. One of them was Enrico Fermi (1901-1954) a physicist and Nobel Prize Winner and the other person was Wernher von Braun (1912-1977) a German rocket physicist and astronautics engineer.

The second component was a direction finder. It was activated and driven by the wavelengths of light and sound which it received.

By using the direction finder one could enter a set of specific coordinates that would take the viewer to a desired place and time in history. With help of the direction finder it was also possible to locate a person’s historical activities.

If you for example wished to experience what really took happened when Julius Caesar was assassinated, you would have to enter the coordinates March 15, 44 BC, Rome, Italy, Julius Caesar, the date when the leader of the Roman Empire was killed. The third component was a very complex array of recording devices, which made possible the recording of sound and images, from any time and any place.

Through the Chronovisor, Ernetti said that he had witnessed a number of historical events, like one of Napoleon’s speeches, a performance in Rome in 169 BC of the lost tragedy, Thvestes and even Jesus Christ’s suffering on the cross.

How could Father Ernetti determine that what he saw were real events from the past?

“First of all we wanted to verify that what we saw was authentic,” Ernetti told Father Francois Brune.

“So we started off with a relatively recent scene of which we had much documentation and footage. We tuned the machine on one of Mussolini’s speeches. Then we started to go backward and observed Napoleon giving the speech in which he prodaimed Italy a republic. We then traveled much further back in time, to ancient Rome. First, there was a bustling fruit and vegetable market in the time of Emperor Trajan. Next, a speech by Cicero, one of the most famous, the first delivered against Catilina.”

Ernetti said that he had noticed slight differences in the Latin pronunciation of Cicero’s time as compared to the Latin taught in schools today. Next, the time-travelers “dallied,” as Ernetti put it, “at a playlet.” The year was 169 B.C.; they watched part of a tragedy, Thyestes, written by the “father of Latin poetry,” Quintus Ennius. It was a play, explained Ernetti, that is now almost wholly lost to us; only twenty-five fragments, a line or so each, have survived.

“Have you been able to reconstruct what you heard?” asked Father Brune.

“Yes,” replied Father Ernetti enthusiastically. “Since we heard and saw everything, text, choruses, music, I’ve been able to publish the entire text of the tragedy.”

On May 2, 1972, the Italian weekly news magazine La Domenica del Corriere published a picture which Father Ernetti claimed was obtained through the Chronovisor: According to Father Ernetti his controversial image showed Christ’s face in agony on the cross.

“At first,” explained Father Ernetti to Brune, “we tried to recapture the images of the day of Christ’s crucifixion. But we had a problem. Crucifixions, as awful as they were, were commonplace in Christ’s time. People were nailed to the cross every day. It also didn’t help that Christ wore a crown of thorns, because, contrary to popular belief, it wasn’t unusual to be punished by having a crown of thorns put on your head.”

They were thus obliged to go a few days further back in time, to the last supper of Christ. “We saw everything” said Father Ernetti simply. “The agony in the garden, the betrayal of Judas, the trial–Calvary.” The Chronovisor team brought back a record of this experience:

“We filmed it–losing the fine details, of course, but filming it was the only way to preserve it.”

It is doubtful the image is authentic. No trace of Father Ernetti’s film ever came to light. A few months after the publication of the image, an almost identical, though mirrored left to right photograph of a wood carving created by the sculptor Cullot Valera was discovered. Of course, this cast doubt on Father Ernetti’s story and credibility. We can assume the photograph is a fake.

If the Chronovisor did exist, one cannot help wondering what happened to the machine. To begin with, we must keep in mind that there is no proof of the Chronovisor’s existence. No person ever saw the Chronovisor, not even Father Brune who was a close friend of Father Ernetti. Father Ernetti never named the scientists who were cooperating with him because he wanted, he claimed, to protect them from public harassment. The exceptions were Wernher von Braun and Enrico Fermi, who were already dead. According to Father Ernetti, the Chronovisor was dangerous and this was the reason why the machine was disassembled and “hidden in a safe place.”

“This machine can tune in on everyone’s past completely, leaving nothing out. With it, there can be no more secrets; no more state secrets, no more industrial secrets–no more private lives. The door would be wide open for the most fearsome dictatorship the world has ever seen. We ended up agreeing to dismantle our machine,” explained Father Ernetti.

Father Ernetti went very quiet in the last decade of his life, but in late 1993 he and two surviving scientists from the project presented their findings at the Vatican before four cardinals and a scientific committee. What transpired has not been divulged.

At the end of this story we are left with more questions than answers. Was the Chronovisor a real time machine that opened a window to the past? If this device ever existed, is it now in the possession of the Vatican?

Is the Vatican suppressing the full truth of Father Ernetti’s life and achievements?

Was the entire story fabricated by a Catholic priests who thought his tale could lend credibility to Christianity?

There are those who believe Father Ernetti was a man of integrity and would not have created a hoax, but the lack of evidence is speaking against the priest.

The story of Father Ernetti’s Chronovisor remains a fascinating mystery. If the existence of the Chronovisor can be proven, we will know with certainty that Father Ernetti was sincere. Our other option is to wait until someone invents a time machine that will let us go back in time and ask Ernetti for the truth.


Thanks for listening. If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at darren@weirddarkness.com – and you can find the show on Facebook and Twitter, including the show’s Weirdos Facebook Group on the CONTACT/SOCIAL page at WeirdDarkness.com. Also on the website, you can find free audiobooks I’ve narrated, watch old horror movies with horror hosts at all times of the day for free, sign up for the newsletter to win free prizes, grab your Weird Darkness and Weirdo merchandise, plus if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY.

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 Reality Behind The Demon, Valak” by Gina Dimuro for All That’s Interesting

“3M’s Accidental Force Field” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe

“Thus She Passed Away” by Robert Wilhelm for Murder By Gaslight

“The Unsettling Anatomy Act” by SM for ListVerse

“The Vatican’s Secret Machine” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages


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… “This poor man called, and the LORD heard him; he saved him out of all his troubles.” — Psalm 34:6

And a final thought… “No duty is more urgent than giving thanks.” —James Allen

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

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