“TRUE HORROR STORIES MORE FREAKY THAN FICTION” #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: From Alexander the Great being buried alive to one man paying to watch a little girl be cannibalized, some real-life horror stories are too horrifying even for “Rated R” Hollywood. Stories in this episode are more graphic than what you usually hear from me – so listener discretion is advised, and I’d make sure the children are well out of earshot.
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“Real-Life Horror Stories More Freaky Than Fiction” by Marco Margaritoff for AllThatsInteresting.com: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8p9c72
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DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.
Anatoly Moskvin was a history buff. He spoke 13 languages and worked as a journalist in Russia’s fifth-largest city, Nizhny Novgorod. His parents believed they had a healthy and successful son on their hands, but it turned out he was a living horror story. Moskvin’s parents merely thought he had a strange fascination with collecting vintage dolls. The police, however, quickly discovered otherwise — they were the mummified corpses of 29 women and children. As Moskvin’s and many other stories in this episode make clear, the truth can be a whole lot freakier than fiction.
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…
From Alexander the Great being buried alive to one man paying to watch a little girl be cannibalized, some real-life horror stories are too horrifying even for “Rated R” Hollywood. Stories in this episode are more graphic than what you usually hear from me – so listener discretion is advised, and I’d make sure the children are well out of earshot. (Real-Life Horror Stories More Freaky Than Fiction)
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: ALEXANDER THE GREAT=====
***When Alexander the Great’s body failed to decompose six days after his death, the ancient Greeks were in awe. His loyal followers believed this was clear confirmation he was a god, but modern scientists have since posited otherwise. In fact, according to one theory, the ancient king’s body didn’t decompose because he wasn’t actually dead yet.
Alexander the Great may have been the most famous person in history to be buried alive.
According to Plutarch, an ancient Greek historian who wrote his Parallel Lives hundreds of years after Alexander’s reign using many secondary sources, the Macedonian conqueror died in 323 B.C.
After a 24-hour drinking spree, he came down with a fever and felt a sudden pain in his back “as though smitten with a spear.” Pretty soon he was paralyzed, and soon after, he was rendered speechless. Eventually, 32-year-old Alexander was pronounced dead.
His cause of death, however, has remained a mystery for millennia — but one doctor recently thought she cracked it.
In February 2019, Dr. Katherine Hall of the University of Otago in New Zealand posited in the Ancient History Bulletin that Alexander suffered from Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS). According to History, the rare autoimmune disorder can lead to fever, abdominal pain, and paralysis — which, to Hall, seems to exactly fit Plutarch’s account of Alexander’s death.
“The combination of ascending paralysis with normal mental ability is very rare and I have only seen it with GBS,” said Hall.
She suggested that Alexander contracted the rare disorder from a Campylobacter pylori infection, the “most frequent cause for GBS world-wide.”
Back in the fourth century B.C., doctors didn’t use a patient’s pulse to diagnose death — they used breath. And since Alexander was paralyzed, his body required less oxygen and his breathing was kept to a minimum. Thus, with his pupils dilated and apparent lack of response to stimuli, doctors assumed he was dead — when his mental faculties were completely intact.
Hall thinks Alexander was pronounced dead a full six days before he actually died. That explains why Plutarch described his body as remaining “pure and fresh” for days. It also means that Alexander was buried alive.
Some scholars dispute Hall’s explanation. For one, her source material was written more than 400 years after the death in question, and it’s nearly impossible to properly diagnose someone without examining their remains (Alexander’s burial site has never been found).
But even still, Hall’s is a freaky theory.
“I wanted to stimulate new debate and discussion and possibly rewrite the history books by arguing Alexander’s real death was six days later than previously accepted,” Hall said.
“The enduring mystery of his cause of death continues to attract both public and scholastic interest,” she said. “The elegance of GBS diagnosis for the cause of his death is that it explains so many, otherwise diverse elements, and renders them into a coherent whole.”
It’s a tidy diagnosis, but it means that Alexander the Great — the bright military mind who conquered half the planet — may very well have witnessed his own funeral.
STORY: The Ravenous Beast Of Gévaudan=====
For three years in the middle of the 18th century, a ferocious, wolf-like beast reportedly roamed the French countryside, mauling nearly 300 villagers. Most of them were women and children. Local newspapers seized on the story and published terrifying accounts, dubbing the creature The Beast of Gévaudan.
The first victim was a 14-year-old shepherdess named Jeanne Boulet, who in 1764 was discovered with her throat ripped out. A 15-year-old was found dead a month later. She managed to describe her attacker as “a horrible beast” before succumbing to her wounds.
More than 100 people had their chests or throats ripped out, as news of the beast made international headlines.
The corpses showed clear signs that something with sharp claws and teeth was responsible, while the press described a wolf-like animal with russet and black fur, a wide chest, large mouth, and very sharp teeth.
It didn’t take long for infantry leader Jean Baptiste Duhamel to organize a 30,000-volunteer hunting party to find and kill the beast. According to Smithsonian, they offered a reward equivalent to a year’s salary for ending the ghoulish creature’s life.
When that didn’t work, King Louis XV sent his own bodyguard, François Antoine, down south to get the job done.
In September 1765, Antoine and his team finally killed a large wolf. They returned to Versailles and received their reward from Louis XV, and the attacks on Gévaudan ceased entirely — but only for a couple of months.
With every subsequent attack, the animal’s description became more fantastical. Some accounts described it as a supernatural being that walked on its hind legs. Others said it was more like a werewolf — part-wolf, part-man.
Fed up with losing his loved ones amid a near-constant state of terror, one local farmer took matters into his own hands.
As the story goes, Jean Chastel wandered into the mountains, armed with a gun and a few silver bullets. He sat down and read the Bible, hoping that making himself an easy target would lure the beast from its lair.
It worked. Soon enough, the beast appeared, Chastel shot it, and he brought it to the king. Some accounts claimed the wolf’s stomach was opened up and had human remains tumbling out.
Historians have long debated what actually occurred at Gévaudan. Some argue it was merely mass hysteria and a pack of wild wolves that did the killing, while others claimed it was a lone, rabid wolf or an escaped lion.
Nonetheless, the legend inspired Robert Louis Stevenson’s 1879 book Travels with a Donkey in the Cévennes and modern productions like Christophe Gans’ 2002 horror film Brotherhood of the Wolf.
Up next… the rape and live burial of 9-year-old Jessica Lunsford.
The creepy and unexplainable Dyatlov Pass incident, where in below-freezing temperatures, the victims were found barefoot and barely dressed, running through the wilderness before freezing to death.
The torture dungeon of Leonard Lake and Charles Ng.
Plus, the true story of Robert the Doll – and how it came to be.
These and other real-life stories more freaky than fiction, when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: The Rape And Live Burial Of Jessica Lunsford=====
Jessica Lunsford was nine years old when sex offender John Evander Couey kidnapped her, raped her, and buried her alive.
On the night of Feb. 23, 2005, Couey broke into Lunsford’s family’s home in Homosassa, Florida, and took her from her room to his nearby trailer. He raped her over the next three days, put her into a couple of garbage bags, and buried her in his yard. According to CNN, her hands were tied with speaker wire.
The little girl was found clutching a stuffed dolphin that her father had won for her at a state fair. Couey allowed her to bring it with her before he committed his unspeakable acts. Her blood was discovered on a mattress in Couey’s home, as were her fingerprints.
The killer was said to have told Lunsford that he would take her home, but that he didn’t want her to be seen and get in trouble. And so he convinced her to climb into a garbage bag. He then placed a second bag over her head, and shoved her in a hole in the ground — before covering her with dirt.
She poked a few fingers through one of the bags before suffocating to death.
To make the ghastly series of events all the more horrifying, prosecutors later realized that Lunsford was probably alive when police interviewed Couey in his home.
“Couey’s timeline after he kidnapped Jessica Lunsford leaves open the possibility that she was alive, and in the house, at the time of the first and possibly second interview [with Couey],” a prosecution memo said.
Jurors convicted Couey of first-degree murder, kidnapping, and other charges in March 2007.
“He caused a slow, suffering, conscious death,” said Judge Ric Howard. “Her only source of comfort during this horrific experience was her purple dolphin.”
After Couey died of natural causes in 2009, it was tough for investigators and Lunsford’s family alike to find solace.
“I know he didn’t suffer the way Jessie did when he killed her,” said chief investigator Sheriff Jeff Dawsy. “I’m sorry I won’t get to look him in the eyes as he died, but I’m relieved to know he’ll never hurt another child again.”
STORY: Dyatlov Pass=====
The Dyatlov Pass incident is one of the most enduring and confounding mysteries of modern times. The story begins on January 27, 1959, when 23-year-old Igor Alekseyevich Dyatlov and his fellow students and researchers at the Ural Polytechnic Institute embarked on a hiking journey.
The ten-person party aimed to reach the summit of Otorten, a mountain in the Northern Urals. But after setting out on their journey (with one turning back due to illness), they were never seen alive again.
When their bodies were finally found weeks later, the grim discovery only raised more questions and provided few answers.
Dyatlov had told his sports club that he’d notify them via telegram once they returned, but an ominous lack of communication led to growing concern. On Feb. 20, army and police investigators were sent to investigate. What they found six days later were dead bodies — in a state so bizarre they looked like they came straight out of a nightmare.
The tent had been cut open from the inside. The team’s belongings, including shoes, had been left inside. Investigators then discovered eight or nine sets of footprints in the snow that were clearly made by shoeless individuals — with the tracks leading into the woods nearly one mile away.
They found the first two bodies in a forest next to the remains of a campfire. Despite temperatures of -13 to -22F on the night of their deaths, both Yuri Krivonischenko and Yuri Doroschenko were dressed in nothing but underwear.
The next three bodies were found on the way back to the camp, also in various states of undress. They were deemed to have died of hypothermia.
But half-naked bodies in below-freezing temperatures weren’t even the strangest finds. When the other four bodies were found in a ravine two months later, after the snow started to melt away, everything got spookier.
Two of them — Lyudmila Dubinina and Semyon Zolotaryov — were missing their eyeballs, and both had broken ribs. Dubinina’s tongue was missing. Nikolay Thibeaux-Brignolle had suffered severe fractures to his skull, the kind that result from a car accident. Two of the four were wearing clothing that tested positive for radioactivity.
More than six decades later, despite Russia’s intention of reopening the investigation and solving the case, no clear-cut explanations have been put forward.
Investigators looked to the hikers’ diaries and undeveloped photographs for clues, but all they pointed to was how the weather and visibility worsened as the hikers’ journey continued. That would explain why some died of hypothermia, but it leaves the missing eyeballs and tongue a total mystery.
One theory posits they headed west by mistake and ended up on the slope of a mountain the indigenous Mansi people call Kholat Syakhl, or “Dead Mountain,” where the Mansi then ambushed the hikers.
Some have suggested a forceful avalanche was to blame, or that they might’ve been driven insane by hypothermia. Still others believe the murders were part of a Soviet cover-up of secret radioactive weapon testing, or that they were killed by aliens.
There’s no clear-cut evidence for any of these theories, however. Real-life horror stories often end without answers.
STORY: The Torture Dungeon Of Leonard Lake And Charles Ng=====
American serial killers Leonard Lake and Charles Ng went undetected for two whole years before they were caught. Before a minor slip-up led to their arrest, some 25 people were brutally tortured and killed in a remote cabin in the foothills of California’s Sierra Nevada mountains.
According to Die for Me: The Legendary True Story of the Charles Ng/Leonard Lake Torture Murders, Lake did two tours in Vietnam before he was medically discharged from the Marine Corpse in 1971. He suffered a mental breakdown during the war and was diagnosed with “impending schizophrenia.”
Back in the U.S. and left to his own devices, that trauma led him down a dark path — though he displayed troubling signs as early as childhood. He took nude photographs of his sisters and cousins and began mutilating animals.
After his discharge, Lake seemed to positively acclimate to the hippie lifestyle booming in California. He worked as a store clerk and a general fix-it man, and by 1975 he married a girl he met in San Jose. They divorced the following year.
Though he remarried, he still lusted for carnal viscera. He was convinced a nuclear holocaust would eradicate life on Earth, and took to his wife’s cabin in the woods to establish a survivalist bunker.
He invited his little brother Donald and friend Charles Gunnar — best man at his second wedding — and murdered them. He then began to pose as Gunnar in public.
When he posted an ad to find another victim, he found an accomplice, instead. Charles Ng was younger, but grew up eerily similar to Lake — and enjoyed similar passions.
The two lived in the cabin together and set out on a torture and killing spree that shocked the nation. Between 1983 and 1985, they kidnapped, tortured, raped, and murdered between 8 and 25 people in their “survivalist” bunker. The remains of 12 people were found on the property, as was a 40-pound collection of charred human bone.
Lake and Ng kept their female victims as sex slaves in a six-and-a-half by three-and-a-half-foot cinderblock bunker, with nothing but a bucket and toilet paper. It was lined with a one-way mirror. After raping them, they’d kill them, chop them up, and dissolve their body parts in acid.
According to Historic Mysteries, many of them were put in leg-irons before these sexual assaults, with some so brutal they didn’t survive. Others were forced to watch their own partners get raped before witnessing their murder.
In June 1985, their torture chamber madness ended, when Ng tried to steal a tool from a hardware store.
Lake arrived at the scene to assuage authorities by paying for the item, but police began to question the two and quickly found they had stumbled upon a dangerous pair of individuals. They found a gun in Lake’s stolen car, which warranted an arrest.
In a remarkably obscene turn of events, Lake had prepared for this type of scenario by sewing cyanide pills into the lining of his clothing. He chewed a few up while in custody and died before he could be tried or even imprisoned.
Police captured Ng a month later, and in 1999 he was found guilty of 11 counts of murder. He was sentenced to death, but remains on death row at San Quentin State Prison, as California hasn’t executed an inmate since 2006.
STORY: Robert The Doll=====
Robert the Doll was unleashed in 1904 by the Steiff Company. The German toy manufacturer claimed Robert was never intended as a consumer product, but rather as a mannequin for window displays. He quickly became far more than that: a doll that haunted whoever dared to cross him.
Robert somehow ended up in the hands of a boy named Robert Eugene Otto — Gene for short — who lived in the Key West in Florida. Some say a Bohamian maid of Gene’s family imbibed the doll with voodoo magic and gifted it to Gene as retribution for the family’s trespasses. Others believe Gene’s grandfather bought the doll in Germany and gave it to his grandson as a present.
Regardless, the unsettling toy has been described as supernatural by many. It has purportedly giggled, moved to different rooms on its own, and punished people who treated it badly. Gene was overjoyed at his new gift, took it everywhere, and even dressed the black-eyed doll in a sailor suit he wore as a baby.
“What people really remember is what they would probably term as an unhealthy relationship with the doll,” said Robert the Doll expert Cori Convertito, curator of the museum where Robert now dwells. “He brought it everywhere, he talked about it in first person as if he weren’t a doll, he was Robert.”
After Gene built Robert a home in the family’s attic, the strangest things began to happen. Household items would move on their own. Gene would insist this was Robert’s doing, and adults would laugh off his suggestion as just a child’s overactive imagination.
Years later, after studying fine arts in Chicago and New York, Gene attended the Sorbonne in Paris and met his wife, Anne. The couple returned to Gene’s home in Key West, where Robert was permanently situated on a chair that faced out of an upstairs window.
A plumber once swore he heard a child’s laugh coming from inside the house, though nobody was home. He then noticed that Robert had moved from one side of the room to the other. He also claimed toys that had been in the doll’s lap somehow ended up on the floor halfway across the room.
After Gene died in 1974, a woman named Myrtle Reuter bought the house — Robert the Doll included. She lived with him for decades and confirmed he’d move around independently with no explanation.
Ultimately, fed up with his haunted-ness, she donated him to the Fort East Martello Museum. Soon after settling into his new home of the museum’s storage room, the place received countless letters begging for Robert’s forgiveness. People came in droves to see the pockmarked toy.
All that attention, even though the museum didn’t make a single announcement about the doll’s whereabouts. The museum reneged on keeping him out of sight, and finally put Robert on display — behind safety glass.
To this day, after more than a century, inexplicable happenings surround the mysterious doll. Many people have tried to take a picture of him — only to find that their cameras suddenly don’t work.
When Weird Darkness returns… more real-life stories that are more freaky than fiction. Such as…
Albert Fish, the “Brooklyn Vampire” who tortured, killed, and ate children.
The strange disappearance of the Sodder children.
And Anatoly Moskvin, the Russian who mummified dead girls
But first… the disappearance of Bobby Dunbar… and his eerie return as somebody else.
These stories and more are still on the way.
STORY: The Disappearance Of Bobby Dunbar — And His Eerie Return As Somebody Else=====
When young Bobby Dunbar went missing in 1912, the whole country was eager to find him. The four-year-old Louisianan vanished into thin air on August 23, during a trip to Swayze Lake. Lessie and Percy Dunbar searched everywhere, to no avail.
Desperate police dissected alligators and threw dynamite into the lake, and then offered a reward of $6,000 (about $160,000 today).
All seemed lost until eight months after Bobby’s disappearance, when police arrested a man named William Cantwell Walters on April 13, 1913, near Columbia, Mississippi. Walters was traveling with a boy matching Dunbar’s description.
He claimed the boy was named Bruce Anderson, the son of a woman named Julia Anderson, a field hand and caretaker for his parents. Regardless, the cops forcibly took the kid to the Dunbar home in hopes of reconciling the family with their missing child.
The Dunbars, however, didn’t recognize the boy as their son. They said his eyes were too small. And the boy didn’t seem to recognize them either — or his brother Alonzo.
It was only after Lessie Dunbar saw him a second time and gave him a bath that she celebrated the return of her baby boy, claiming to recognize his moles and scars.
But the Dunbars had another factor to contend with: Julia Anderson, who rushed from North Carolina to Louisiana to get her son back.
In order to determine whether the boy really was Julia’s son — remember, these were the days before DNA testing — police showed her the newly found boy as well as four other children. But she couldn’t pick him out.
And so, devastated, she gave up and return home, while the Dunbars were confident they had successfully gotten their son back. But none of it ever sat right with Julia Anderson.
It would take nearly a century for the truth to come out.
In 1999, Bobby’s granddaughter, Margaret Dunbar Cutwright, began researching her family’s mysterious past, poring over documents in small-town libraries, historical archives, and courthouses. Her journey was chronicled by the Associated Press in 2004, and again in a 2008 episode of This American Life.
While the AP reported the story, Margaret’s father, Bob Dunbar Jr., consented to a DNA test. Dunbar Jr.’s DNA was compared his cousin’s, the son of Bobby Dunbar’s younger brother. The DNA tests would be able to tell them whether their fathers had truly been brothers, or whether Bobby was actually Bruce.
The results were staggering: Bob Dunbar Jr. was not related by blood to any of the Dunbar family. The returned child, all those decades ago, was in fact, Bruce Anderson.
The true horror at the heart of this story is twofold: a desperate mother was robbed of her son, while another unknowingly raised a stranger — as her own child was likely dead, all along.
STORY: Albert Fish, The Horror Story Of The “Brooklyn Vampire” Who Tortured, Killed, And Ate Children=====
Before Albert Fish became known as the Brooklyn Vampire, the Werewolf of Wysteria, or most eerily, the Gray Man. He was born on May 19, 1870, into a family plagued by mental illness — and was promptly dumped in a New York orphanage.
The caretakers routinely beat children and encouraged violence among them. This is where Fish began associating pain with pleasure, which later included sexual gratification.
After his mother became self-sufficient again and finally removed Fish from the orphanage in 1880, he began beating himself. Soon enough, Fish was introduced to urolagnia and coprophagia by a telegraph boy. In simpler terms, he began eating and drinking his own waste. According to ThoughtCo, this sexual punishment, of sorts, later evolved into shoving needles into his groin and stomach while flagellating himself with a nail-ridden paddle.
When 20-year-old Fish moved to the big city in 1890, his crimes against children firmly took hold. He worked as a prostitute and regularly lured children from their homes to torture, rape, and kill them. He initially used his nail-fitted paddle on them, but his bloodlust soon included eating their bodies.
Oddly enough, Fish got married in 1898 and fathered six children. When his wife ran off with another man in 1917, he started including his kids in his sadomasochistic practices. He made them paddle him until he bled, and press the needles into his body.
He soon began hunting children across state lines, targeting African American children, since authorities sadly paid more attention to missing white children. These innocent victims were forced to endure Fish’s so-called “instruments of hell,” which included meat cleavers and knives along with his paddle.
In 1928, Fish answered a classified ad from 18-year-old Edward Budd, who was looking for a job. This meeting set a series of events in motion that — years later — would lead to his arrest. Fish claimed he was a Long Island farmer named Frank Howard, and that he needed a worker like Budd to help out on his estate.
Fish seemed gently and kind, and after a disarming lunch meeting, the Budds completely trusted their new financial savior. Fish said that before he could take Edward to the farm, he first had to go to a children’s birthday party at his sister’s home, and that 10-year-old Grace Budd should tag along. The family agreed — and they never saw the little girl again.
The investigation into Grace’s disappearance went on for six years with no signs of concluding, until Mrs. Budd received a horrific letter on November 11, 1934. It detailed the killing and cannibalism of her daughter, with the writer explaining he stripped her, strangled her, dismembered her, and ate her in an empty house in Worcester, New York.
The police traced the letter’s paper and quickly found their suspect in a flophouse. Albert Fish confessed to the murder of Grace Budd — and hundreds more — as he smiled and recounted how he’d killed them. Though he pled innocent by reason of insanity, the jury found him sane enough to kill.
He was electrocuted at Sing Sing prison on January 16, 1936.
STORY: The Strange Disappearance Of The Sodder Children=====
It was the most wonderful time of the year, yet George and Jennie Sodderwould have the worst day of their lives. Tragedy struck Fayetteville, West Virginia on the night before Christmas, 1945, when a fire consumed the Sodder house and killed five of the nine children within.
Or did it?
The fire broke out at around 1 AM. George and Jennie escaped with four children, and when George tried to go back inside for the remaining five, he encountered failure after failure: His ladder was missing, and neither of his two cars would start.
Firefighters didn’t arrive until 8 AM, at which point the Sodder home was a pile of charred rubble. They figured it was an electrical fire. Though the coroner’s office issued five death certificates attributed to “fire or suffocation,” not a single bone or piece of flesh was found.
Unconvinced that Maurice, Martha, Louis, Jennie, and Betty perish in the blaze, their parents put up a billboard along Route 16 to enlist any help they could get.
A crematorium employee confirmed to Mrs. Sodder that bones stick around even when bodies are burned for two hours at 2,000 degrees; their fire had only lasted about 45 minutes. Things only got weirder when the Sodders remembered the strangers that appeared at their home a few months earlier, and an odd phone call on the night of the fire.
A man had appeared in the autumn, looking for work. He pointed at the fuse boxes in the back and said, “This is going to cause a fire some day.” Another man showed up not too long after, trying to sell the Sodders life insurance, which they declined.
“Your…house is going up in smoke,” he warned them, “and your children are going to be destroyed. You are going to be paid for the dirty remarks you have been making about Mussolini.”
George Sodder did voice his opposition to the Italian dictator at local meetings, but didn’t take the man’s statement as a serious threat.
Minutes before the fire erupted, a phone call from a female stranger asked to speak with an unfamiliar person. Jennie could hear laughter and glasses clinking in the background. “You have the wrong number,” she said, and hung up.
So where were the missing Sodder children? The first reported sighting came from a woman who said she served them breakfast at a tourist stop 50 miles west. Another claimed said she’d seen four of the five kids at a Charleston hotel.
The Sodders reached out to the FBI, but J. Edgar Hoover turned them down. They then hired a private investigator, C.C. Tinsley, who found out the insurance salesman from the fall before the fire was a member of the coroner’s jury that labeled the fire an accident of faulty electrical wiring.
The family then scoured the grounds where their house was and found a few vertebrae, which they sent to the Smithsonian Institution for analysis. Pathologists determined the bones all belonged to the same person — but had not been exposed to fire.
The Sodder family’s reward for information was doubled to $10,000. This prompted a renewed flurry of calls and claims that people had seen the missing children, to no avail. Twenty years passed before Jennie received a promising clue: a letter from Kentucky with no return address, with a photo inside and a cryptic note:
“Louis Sodder. I love brother Frankie. Ilil [sic] Boys. A90132 or 35.”
The photo was of a man in his mid-20s who resembled their nine-year-old son Louis, all grown up. When they sent a detective to Kentucky to investigate, he disappeared. The Sodders added the photo to the billboard, but never found their missing children.
“Time is running out for us,” said George Sodder in an interview. “But we only want to know. If they did die in the fire, we want to be convinced. Otherwise, we want to know what happened to them.”
George died a year later, in 1968, and Jennie died in 1989. Their last surviving daughter, Sylvia, remains unconvinced her siblings perished in the fire.
STORY: Anatoly Moskvin, The Russian Who Mummified Dead Girls=====
But he also had a peculiar hobby: He was a self-dubbed “necropolyst,” or an expert on cemeteries.
Moskvin was so fascinated by cemeteries, in fact, that he visited 752 of them in and around his hometown. He wrote lengthy reports with titles like “Great Walks Around Cemeteries” and “What the Dead Said” that were published in a weekly newspaper called Necrologies.
Apparently, this curiosity was tied directly to an incident from his childhood, which he divulged in his last contribution to the paper on Oct. 26, 2011. When Moskvin was 13, a group of men stopped him and forced him to join a funeral — and to kiss the dead 11-year-old girl on the lips.
“I kissed her once, then again, then again,” he wrote.
The girl’s mother then placed a wedding ring on his and her daughter’s fingers. Moskvin wrote that his “strange marriage…was useful,” and spurred an irrevocable, lifelong fascination with the dead.
Moskvin began writing about the dead and taking detailed notes of each cemetery he visited. He even spent a night in the coffin of a dead person ahead of their funeral.
It was when locals found the graves of their loved ones desecrated and dug up in 2009 that Moskvin’s hobbies became untenable. The Russian government had no leads, but they were sure extremists were to blame.
Until 2011, nobody had any inkling who the culprit was. But when police heard that Muslim graves were being desecrated in Nizhny Novgorod following a terrorist attack at Moscow’s Domodedovo Airport, they finally caught a break.
They found Moskvin painting over the pictures of dead Muslims. While he wasn’t desecrating the bodies themselves, authorities arrested him and searched his apartment. That’s when they realized they’d stumbled upon a real-life horror story.
Countless life-sized dolls littered the apartment, which Moskvin shared with his parents. The dolls’ hands were covered in fabric, and makeup covered their faces. It quickly became apparent that these were not inanimate objects. These were the mummified corpses of human girls.
When police tried to move them, music began to blare. Moskvin had embedded music boxes into the chest cavities of these “dolls.” A dried human heart and a piece of a gravestone were found in the home, as well.
The corpses were stuffed with rags, their eye sockets filled with buttons or toy eyes. Moskvin said he would “watch cartoons” with them, and that he dug them up because he was lonely. He said his biggest dream was to have children, and that he’d been waiting for science to figure out how to revive the dead.
His parents had no idea; they assumed their son had a hobby of building large playthings. In court, their son confessed to 44 counts of abusing graves and dead bodies.
“I still find it hard to grasp the scale of his sickening ‘work’ but for nine years he was living with my mummified daughter in his bedroom,” said Natalia Chardymova, the mother of Moskvin’s first victim. “I had her for ten years, he had her for nine.”
Despite psychiatrists claiming that Moskvin’s condition is steadily improving, prosecutors agree with Chardymova — and have continued to keep him safely removed from society.
Coming up… the heir to the James Whiskey empire decided to have a fun time… by watching cannibals kill and eat a 10-year-old girl. Up next on Weird Darkness.
STORY: When The Jameson Whiskey Heir Watched Cannibals Eat A Girl He Bought=====
Jameson Whiskey usually connotes a good time with old friends, but in 1888, “a fun time with Jameson” meant watching a 10-year-old girl get killed and eaten by cannibals.
The story goes like this: Heir to the Irish whiskey fortune, James S. Jameson thought himself an adventurous explorer. It was during the Emin Pasha Relief Expedition across Central Africa that he decided to buy a child and watch her be eaten — simply so he could draw a picture of her being consumed.
With an Ottoman province in Sudan cut off by a revolt, the region’s leader Emin Pasha was in desperate need of supplies. As the expedition was being led by renowned explorer Henry Morton Stanley, all seemed to be in good hands.
Until it became clear that the true purpose was to annex even more land for the Belgian Free State colony in the Congo, that is. The abatement of humane treatment and working moral compasses found there are arguably what led Jameson to believe his unspeakable crime was nothing out of order.
The horrific account is detailed in Jameson’s own diary.
What’s clear from these records is that by June 1888, Jameson led the expedition’s rear column and arrived at the Congo’s Ribakiba trading post — famous for its cannibal population. These accounts also confirm that Jameson’s point-person was Tippu Tip, a local fixer and slave trader.
According to an affidavit by Farran — published in 1890, and which he later retracted under pressure from the expedition’s financiers — Jameson told Tip how he’d like to witness cannibalism in person. Tip consulted with the village’s chiefs, who told him that he’d better purchase a slave. Jameson asked for the price, and gave them six handkerchiefs.
A few minutes later, a man returned with a 10-year-old girl.
The translator recalled that the chiefs told their villagers, “This is a present from a white man who desires to see her eaten.”
“The girl was tied to a tree,” Farran said, “the natives sharpened their knives the while. One of them then stabbed her twice in the belly.”
“Three men then ran forward, and began to cut up the body of the girl,” Jameson wrote in his diary. “Finally her head was cut off, and not a particle remained, each man taking his piece away down the river to wash it.”
Both Jameson and Farran recounted how the poor girl never screamed during these last, bloodcurdling moments.
“Jameson, in the meantime, made rough sketches of the horrible scenes,” Farrad recalled. “Jameson afterward went to his tent, where he finished his sketches in watercolors.”
In a letter to his wife, Jameson claimed that the whole incident was a big misunderstanding. He offered the handkerchiefs as a joke, he claimed, unaware that the locals would actually cannibalize a little girl. Once they stabbed and dismembered her, there was nothing he could do but watch.
Though news of the incident outraged the public, both in Europe and in the U.S., Jameson never faced justice for his role in the gruesome death of the innocent 10-year-old. He died of a fever just a few months later.
But the real-life horror story did have one impact: The Emin Pasha Relief Expedition was the last of its kind. Non-scientific civilian expeditions into Africa were put on hold. This unbelievable horror story was simply too horrific to let things continue the way they were.
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Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Not that I speak from want, for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am. I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13
And a final thought… “Speak or act with a pure mind, and happiness will follow you as your shadow, unshakable.” – Gautama Buddha
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.