“UFOs, BIGFOOT, GHOSTS and PARANORMAL FOREST FIRES” and more Creepy TRUE Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“UFOs, BIGFOOT, GHOSTS and PARANORMAL FOREST FIRES” and more Creepy TRUE Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““UFOs, BIGFOOT, GHOSTS and PARANORMAL FOREST FIRES” and more Creepy TRUE Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: The author of Frankenstein always saw love and death as connected. She visited the cemetery to commune with her dead mother. And with her lover. (Mary Shelley’s Obsession With The Cemetery) *** A girl moves into a new apartment and discovers that a haunting doesn’t necessarily have to be frightening. (Ghostly Happenings In My Old Apartment) *** The July 1886 murder at the Shawmut Avenue laundry was so shrouded in mystery that even the victim’s name was uncertain. (The Wash-House Murder) *** Ghosts, high strangeness, and even Bigfoot – it appears they may all have something in common, and that would be forest fires. (Forest Fires and the Paranormal) *** How do you explain an experienced lookout reporting a blazing forest fire, only for it to disappear less than an hour later – leaving no trace? (Phantom Flames)
“Phantom Flames” by F.A.Loomis from Idaho Magazine: http://ow.ly/beq730nL94u
“Forest Fires and the Paranormal” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe: http://ow.ly/ROYC30nL8n1
“Mary Shelley’s Obsession With The Cemetery” by Bess Lovejoy for the JSTOR Daily: https://tinyurl.com/y9cgd29w
“Ghostly Happenings In My Old Apartment” by Cassie D, posted at MyHauntedLifeToo,com: https://tinyurl.com/ycexszvm
“The Wash-House Murder” by Robert Wilhelm, from the book “Wicked Victorian Boston”: https://amzn.to/2BGJOO0
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Originally aired: March, 2021


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It happened in the summer of 1976, the event that “threw me entirely off the rails.” I had taken a summer job as a U.S. Forest Service employee near central Idaho’s primitive area. I was paid to watch for forest fires from a rocky pinnacle several thousand feet above the wild South Fork of the Salmon River. The lookout was Pilot Peak in the Payette National Forest near Warren, not to be confused with Pilot Peak in the Boise National Forest.

Six or seven days after I arrived at my post by helicopter in July, I was trying to fall asleep next to a glass wall in the lookout tower. Frustrated with sleeplessness at two a.m., I opened my eyes and scanned the outline of black mountains around me. The skies were cloudy, but the cloud ceiling was high enough for me to see ridge tops up to thirty miles away. Almost immediately, my eyes fell on a bright orange triangle near the crest of a mountain to the southwest.

Stunned by what I saw, I leaped from my bunk, pulled on pants and a coat, laced my boots, and dug a flashlight out of a drawer, all the while glancing at what I perceived to be a forest fire. I slapped my face, splashed cold water into my eyes and down my cheeks, and then walked out onto the catwalk with the binoculars.

Sure enough, through the lenses I could see a patch of flame and a couple of huge trees crowning out with fire. Breathing heavily, I went back inside, made some azimuth-based calculations with my fire-finder, and filled out a fire report. Then I leaned my shoulder against the window, eyes on the fire, and radioed data to the closest fire station, fifteen air miles away. After reporting everything and knowing the fire crews were being awakened and prepared to leave base by helicopter at dawn, I stood back and watched the fire that I estimated to be two to four acres in size.

I watched for twenty-five minutes while retaining radio contact with another lookout upriver that was in the same vicinity as the fire. This lookout could still see no indication of a fire where I had reported it. Shortly, I called the fire station to report that the flames seemed to be receding. Within forty minutes after I spotted the flames, they disappeared altogether. Perplexity set in. What I had assumed was a two- to four-acre fire was now nothing, and I had been the only person in the entire national forest to report it. A two- to four-acre fire does not ordinarily cease to exist after only forty minutes.

When I reported that the fire had gone cold, the fire station guard said perhaps mist was blocking my vision. I was assured that at dawn I would at least see a pillar of smoke in the original fire location. When and if I did, I was to recalculate the intersection before calling the smoke in again. At dawn, however, there was still nothing: no smoke, no flames, and no charred terrain on the ridge, which was about six air miles away.

My supervisors, I later discovered, began circulating backbiting jokes around the district about “the Pilot Peak phantom fire.” For several days, the central fire command sent airplanes full of smokejumpers to scan the area where I had reported flames. Helicopters full of hotshot crews flew lazy circles around the area for nearly a week, desperate for a fire in a slow-starting season. But no fire or trace of one was spotted.

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…

The author of Frankenstein always saw love and death as connected. She visited the cemetery to commune with her dead mother. And with her lover. (Mary Shelley’s Obsession With The Cemetery)

A girl moves into a new apartment and discovers that a haunting doesn’t necessarily have to be frightening. (Ghostly Happenings In My Old Apartment)

The July 1886 murder at the Shawmut Avenue laundry was so shrouded in mystery that even the victim’s name was uncertain. (The Wash-House Murder)

Ghosts, high strangeness, and even Bigfoot – it appears they may all have something in common, and that would be forest fires. (Forest Fires and the Paranormal)

How do you explain an experienced lookout reporting a blazing forest fire, only for it to disappear less than an hour later – leaving no trace? (Phantom Flames)

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!



As a boy, I learned about fire when our farm’s huge granary south of Donnelly burned down. When Donnelly’s auto company warehouse burned down, I assumed it, too, was a fire. Afterwards I walked through rows of ash-covered automobiles. When the post office burned, I assumed a fire. Similarly, I assumed fire when the general store burned down, when the hotel burned down, and when a neighbor’s house burned to the ground. In every instance, I watched curiously but without question. Since continuity of experience is an important factor in a child’s growth, I think I was very healthy: I consistently saw real fires. And there was no confusion for me about whether I was seeing fire, for everyone else in town stood before these same phenomena and made comments to one another and to me about smoke and flames and charred ruin.

With respect to the forest fire, however, I was the only person to have witnessed it, and it had not behaved normally. It went out too quickly. I began doubting whether I had even seen a fire that night, whether I had seen bright orange-white light or trees aflame. The fire seemed to have been there, but it made sense to doubt that it had been. There were, in other words, grounds for my doubting, because of generally observed fire behavior and a lack of corroborating evidence.

To preserve my sense of good perceptive abilities, which I now questioned, my response was to map out the possibilities of what had brought about the fire incident. At the onslaught of doubt, I looked closer at everything. Perhaps I had experienced an optical illusion? But two a.m. is too late for a sunset and too early for a sunrise, so any sunlight was not present unless an object in space had reflected great, focused quantities of sunlight to the earth. This did not seem likely. I checked my stove to see if a few hot coals had shown through a crack in the metal and onto a reflecting window. By playing with the air vents in the stove with this possibility in mind, I concluded it could happen, but in this case, it had not. On the night of the fire, the stove had been completely cold by ten p.m. at the latest. And I had seen the forest fire clearly with binoculars from the catwalk outside the lookout’s glass walls.

Had I been sleepwalking? I had sustained conversation by radio for three or four periods of up to five minutes per conversation. I could remember everything that happened during the forty minutes of observing the fire, including slapping myself and splashing water in my face. No one has ever hinted that I have a history of somnambulating, and neither was this likely a dream, for there was no point when I woke up. If it were a dream, then I am probably still dreaming.

Perhaps I was experiencing a vision of something to come, or a theophany (God knows if I had read too much metaphysics by twenty-four years of age), but I didn’t consider myself a visionary, channeler, or specially-chosen person. Even so, I reread Old Testament passages of God touching down on mountaintops as a fiery presence, but that night I heard no voice, and the earth did not tremble.

Perhaps it had been a flashback of something primeval or historical? Again, although I admire some of Jung’s insights into the collective unconscious, this was not very likely, for there was nothing which struck me as uncanny or awesome about the episode while it was happening; only in retrospect did it seem strange. Perhaps a hallucination? I had wanted to see a forest fire so badly and was so afraid that I would miss seeing one if one were there that I did see one? Perhaps. A nervous breakdown? The problem with this possible solution is that a nervous breakdown can be defined in infinitely varying degrees, and no one ever agrees on the stages. How mild or how severe a case could this have been? Should I still be seeing a psychiatrist about it? Should I still be on medication? Who is really to say? Nor had I been drinking, and I didn’t use drugs.

Another explanation was that this was a fire indeed, but not an ordinary one. St. Elmo’s Fire? It’s uncommon in the northwest, as are patterns from the Aurora Borealis that can flash rarely all the way south to Idaho. Was it a plane crash? Only subsequent events could prove this possibility. It may also have been that my location of the fire was not accurate enough to guide a search party with precision. Or perhaps it was the phenomenon known as a “sleeper fire” that flares up, then goes back underground, or smolders in the brush for long periods before discovery?

These were the possibilities that I found it necessary to catalog as a first step to preserving my peace of mind.

Imagine we had to arrange the books of a library. When we begin the books lie higgledy-piggledy on the floor. Now there would be many ways of sorting them and putting them in their places . . . The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know. E.g., to see that when we have put two books together in their right order we have not thereby put them in their final places.

There were later developments that helped me see more clearly into what might have happened. They also gave me insight about the reliability of my faculties. For instance, the following night, as I was eating a plate of pasta drenched in butter and olive oil, another lookout upriver claimed to see a flicker of light from the direction of my phantom fire. While I also thought I had seen the same flickering, I did not communicate it to the other lookout. I was cautious not to admit to seeing something that might not really be there. My self-trust was very low. I did not believe my own eyes, which is not to say I did not gain a tiny bit of relief knowing that another lookout claimed to see something.

One week later, I spotted a column of smoke one mile from my lookout tower, a different fire, but only reluctantly turned it in to fire control after observing it for nearly an hour, much longer than normal. While a lookout’s job is to report instantaneously, I could not bring myself to do it. I watched the fire burn up an acre of buckbrush and pine trees before I got on the radio. When I did finally turn it in, I seriously expected that I might be fired if no one else could find it. Although a smokejumper aircraft then circled the smoke for thirty minutes, I was not convinced the fire was actually there until I heard fire confirmation over the radio and saw with my own eyes two smokejumpers descending to the fire by parachute. It was a beautiful sight. I had my reason back for a while.

Several weeks later, an experienced ex-lookout told me that firelight at night always looks larger than in the day. I began to wonder if what I had seen had really been just a campfire. A year later, I was still a lookout and turned in smoke that looked like it was two to six miles away, when, in fact, it was twenty-eight miles away. Yet another fire that appeared twenty miles away turned out to be seventy miles away. My understanding and experience, in any case, were growing. I had begun to see grave limitations to my physical vision and fire-spotting instruments.

I also heard stories about a fire on the forest that burned underground all winter in a root system. It burned through a mountain razorback, coming out on the other side of the mountain to start another forest fire ten months later, during the next fire season. I learned that many fires in Minnesota burn year-round because of peat bogs.

One old Northwest lookout reminisced with me how one night he had seen a meteorite illuminate an entire valley with a bright emerald hue. Another described what could have been a couple of UFOs or military helicopters at some distance in the night, moving up and down along a ridge. Later that summer, I saw a bright, silver flying saucer, which—after watching with binoculars for several minutes—I discovered to be a small plane flying at a steep angle under the sun. A “flying saucer” was a perfect description for what I first saw.

My discussions with people about fires multiplied. An ex-Vietnam helicopter pilot revealed the many ways a light plane can get lost permanently in high bush country, how certain amounts of fuel can keep wreckage burning for long or short periods of time, how high-impact crashes in rocks can never be spotted by air rescue parties, how slack FAA records are with respect to flight plans, etc. A former Navy officer told me tales of sightings of strange lights at night from watches on ships, the nature or origin of which often went unverified. All of this gave me a better picture of my situation. I felt less alone.

Two months after the incident—after I had closed down the lookout—I woke up to my nephews bouncing on my bed in Portland. They were holding The Portland Oregonian. “Look Uncle!” they exclaimed, holding up the newspaper. A headline on the front page read: “Fire Burning Out of Control in Central Idaho.” I said to myself, “It’s about time they had some big fires over there this year.” On the whole, it had been a slow fire season. Reading further, I discovered that the fire was in the vicinity where I had been all summer, along the steep breaks above the South Fork of the Salmon River. Curious, I called the regional Forest Service offices. From the teletype in Portland, they read to me the legal description of the thousand-acre fire’s location. The location—on Zena Creek—was roughly similar to the one I had turned in two months earlier as the phantom fire.

My life shows that there may actually have been a fire on that black ridge in July 1976. This understanding changed my behavior, made me take less in life for granted. The event was incorporated into how I act and react in general. For instance, I look up the street at twilight and see a figure walking. Before the fire incident, I might have said to my friend, “Look at that woman in the black skirt walking toward us.” After the incident, however, I wouldn’t speak immediately. I would wait. And when we were closer, I might see that it is not a woman at all, but a man walking a bushy black dog.

The fire event takes its place among similar experiences I have had: the time I fell through a loose plank under the straw floor of our barn; the time a staircase banister fell off the wall in my hand and I fell down to the landing; the time I was enjoying a midnight walk in the windy woods and a thick tree limb slammed me in the head and knocked me flat to the ground. All these incidents have instilled a sense of readiness, anticipation, expectation, and uncertainty. My reflexes are ready to test every situation. I have learned to expect anytime the possibility of something happening that may not be a normal occurrence or in common sequence.

My nephew asked, “May I take your picture, Uncle?” And before I answered, I asked myself, “Is that really a camera my nephew has?” The camera’s casing was rather old-fashioned. Then I recalled an old Marx Brothers film and thought this camera might not be a camera at all, but a squirt gun. I was wearing a new shirt. Sure enough, I noticed a suspicious-looking plug beside the shutter snap. “You rascal!” I shouted, as he shot me anyway.

Surprises, of course, come when one no longer can anticipate what might happen. I’m not out to eliminate surprises, but rather to prevent myself from getting into situations that might confuse me as badly as the fire did. I like surprise parties, and will probably be surprised if I am ever given one. But if someone were to, say, put a cadaver in my refrigerator, I do believe I am more ready to deal with it now than I previously would have been.

The fire incident jolted me throughout the following month, but I stayed with it, hung onto the facts I could gather. I developed empathy for skeptics. As I stayed in the saddle, I slowly gained awareness of several kinds. The first was that I am very egotistical. I do not like to be caught making mistakes or errors. Here I was in a situation that indicated I might be nutty. In the end, I did manage to hold onto some of my ego, although learning how arrogant I could be was a very good thing.

The second awareness was that other people’s opinions are important to my decisions. Not until I had spoken of this incident with numerous people did I gather enough data to determine all of what might have happened that July night. Gradually, I confirmed that I was not demented, that I am an ordinary person who, when alone, witnessed something extraordinary. The process of investigation gradually restored some of my self-confidence even while forcing me to listen to what other people had to say.

The third awareness was a better understanding of context. My context, in retrospect, was not my night sighting on the mountain during a forty-minute period. Rather, I was part of a larger context that I had barely begun to understand. This context included other lookouts on other mountains at other times, and their accounts of lookout life, the knowledge and lore of experienced bush and military pilots, the geology of the Salmon River Mountains, my own experiences with helicopters, my own psychological tendencies, etc.

In other words, the phenomenon, and what I had interpreted it to be, had seemed a total irregularity in the game I was in as a lookout. It seemed to me that there was no place in the game for what I had gone through. Only later did I see that the game was much larger than what I had originally imagined.

I have said to people: “As a Forest Service fire lookout I saw bright orange-white flames at two a.m. on a distant mountain. The flames disappeared after forty minutes and were never seen again.” But, depending on who I say this to, I add qualifiers. For example, to an inexperienced forester, I might add that this happens every once in a while in forest fire lookout work and that there are, of course, various explanations, blah, blah, blah.

On the other hand, I started telling my story once to an experienced forester who I thought would be intrigued, but he just smiled and said, “Hmmm . . . welcome to the club!”



Forces of nature beyond our control have always drawn legends and awe from humankind since time unremembered, and often serve as wellsprings of tales of the odd and unusual. One particular type of natural catastrophe that had birthed some intriguing stories of the bizarre are forest fires, and here we have tales of ghosts, high strangeness, Bigfoot, and more.

A very weird and spooky tale concerning a forest fire seems to have firm roots in the paranormal world of ghosts and specters. Lying in Southern California within the San Gabriel Mountains and the sprawling Angeles National Park is the magnificent South Mount Hawkins. Known for its pristine, unspoiled natural splendor and as being a haven for all manner of outdoor activities, South Mount Hawkins is nevertheless scarred by a bit of dark history. On September 1, 2002 this expanse of rugged beauty was hit by a major fire that raged through the canyon and basin of park’s recreation area, destroying large swaths of forest and severely damaging the main highway that passes through the remote area.

Known as the Curve Fire, this conflagration is believed to have begun at a fire lookout tower erected in 1935 upon the summit of South Mount Hawkins, which was unfortunately old, brittle, and made of wood. Rumors soon spread that this fire was not started by any natural means, but rather by a shadowy cult-like group, which had performed some dark ritual up there at the tower involving animal sacrifices and perhaps had awakened something that had sparked the flames. Whether this all had really had anything to do with the bizarre phenomena that would follow or not remains uncertain, but follow it did.

In the aftermath of the blazing fire, local residents and tourists and hikers alike began to report of hearing outlandish wails and shrieks echoing out from the forest of South Mount Hawkins, as well as seeing strange apparitions darting about. Wandering the woods were seen birds, rabbits, and cats that seemed to have something off about them. From a distance they were seen to have odd, disjointed movements, and upon drawing closer it could be seen that they had hair missing, odd hardened flesh, and eye sockets devoid of eyes, merely gaping black holes that stared into nothingness. Some hikers even reported being stalked by these prowling apparitions. Rumors quickly sprang up that these were the spirits of animals killed by the cult in the ritual that had led to the fire, that it had awakened some primal evil, and there were those who refused to go anywhere near the area.

On top of this there have also frequently seen tall shadowy figures standing top ridges on the mountain, very similar to the Dark Watchers I wrote of recently, as well as furtive dark entities flitting about and lurking in the trees. Apparently these zombie-like animal specters and shadow people have still been spotted from time to time right up to the present, and whether it is all an urban legend or not, South Mount Hawkins certainly seems to have its share of creepy stories.

Speaking of forest fires and ghosts, there are cases where the fires themselves appear to have been ghosts. According to a witness named Ludwig Wittgenstein, in the summer of 1976 he was working as a U.S. Forest Service employee in a rugged area of central Idaho by the fork of the Salmon River. The witness had a lookout vantage point in a lookout tower high atop a place called Pilot Peak, in the Payette National Forest, in an area so remote it was only accessible by helicopter. One evening he was camped out there when he woke up at 2AM unable to sleep. As he looked out over the horizon he noticed what appeared to be a “bright orange triangle” near the crest of a mountain about 6 air miles away. I began this episode with that story, written in his own words.

Other cases are of a more cryptozoological nature. On August 6, 1999, Battle Mountain, Nevada, was hit by a series of catastrophic wild fires that laid waste to large portions of the area in an apocalyptic blaze called the Battle Mountain Complex Fire. According to the Bigfoot Field Research Organization (BFRO), during the incident an actual Bigfoot was injured and subsequently captured, and the site listed a letter supposedly from an unnamed government employee at the scene, which read:

***I observed an animal wounded by fire moving on all fours not like a bear. More like ape. Fire fighters captured animal, contacted local vet and medical doctor. U.S. Department of Fish and Woldlife, Department of Interior, and Bureau of Land Management on the scene. Animal tranquilized and moved to unknown location. Those at scene told not to talk about what they saw. Animal approximately 7.5 feet long/tall, human like arms and legs, face not like man or ape but mixed between. Genitalia: male, uncircumcised and human-like. Hair covering most of body except chest, chest has hair but sparse, hands with sparse hair, palms bare, with five digits with human opposition of thumb and 5th digit. Doctor and Vet working together providing care and moved it to unknown location locally. This notice given in violation of orders given by BLM, DOI and DF&W. Witnesses numbered in the area of 30-25. Word is out in the government agencies, and among the firefighters, since an M.D. was called out. Many thought a firefighter was injured. Please note that I am a government employee of one of the listed agencies fighting bruse fire in wilderness area of Nevada (large scale fire approximately 70,000 acres burned) and under orders not to disclose information. I believe a cover up is in the making, people need to know, the animal needs to be kept alive and studied and released in protected area.***

The massive beast was claimed to have had serious burns and singed hair over large portions of its body, and was even described as trying to communicate with its caregivers through some grunts and groans, although what it was trying to say was anyone’s guess. Sadly, although the BFRO tried time and time again to contact this source and get further information they received no response, leaving no way to know if any of it had any truth to it whatsoever. Just when they had given up on ever knowing more there was apparently a phone call by the witness, during which he gave some additional reporting on the situation on the condition of anonymity.

The witness claimed to the BFRO investigator, Thom Powell, that the creature had wandered into a clearing in full view of around 20 firefighters, and had sort of realized it was captured, as if it had just “given up.” The injured creature then sat down upon the ground and put up no resistance whatsoever as it was loaded up into the back of a utility truck and an intravenous drip was administered. It seemed to know that the paramedics were trying to help, and did nothing to stop them. The witness mentioned a particular odor about the creature, which was described as a “strong equine odor,” and although the creature was quite animalistic in nature and had vaguely ape-like features, he was struck by how incredibly human it also seemed. As to what happened to the creature after its capture no one seems to know, and correspondence with this mysterious individual sort of just dried up, leaving it uncertain if there is any truth to this at all or if it is all a hoax.

What would an article on forest fires and the paranormal be without mentioning UFOs as well? In July of 2014 an out-of-control wildfire hit a place called West Kelowna, which is northeast of Vancouver, Canada. A news organization in Western Canada called Castanet posted video of the fire and it was not long before something odd was noticed in the footage. According to one witness who noticed the phenomenon:

***It shot out from the clouds above the mountain during a forest fire near our neighborhood. It pulled a wisp of cloud with it as it exited. A forest fire broke out on the mountain behind us and during the attempt to put it out, this event took place. I was watching a video online of the fire from a little earlier in the day and I spotted the UFO 37 seconds in. I have no idea whether anyone else has noticed this or not. Most folks would be focused on the fire. 37 seconds into the video the UFO comes shooting out from a cloud right above the mountain and passes through a clear spot back into the next cloud. I was quite startled and surprised when I saw it. The UFO left a thin trail of cloud vapor as it exited the cloud. This, to me, eliminates any thought that this might be a camera lens artifact or light phenomenon effect. The event lasted only a few seconds. Judging by the distance I was from the object it had to have been moving very fast. The scene cuts away while the UFO is still visible. I’m left to assume that there must be more footage of it than I saw. I phoned the website’s news department to ask if it would be possible to see the full footage, but was met with disapproval. In retrospect, perhaps I shouldn’t have mentioned the word UFO.***

Although it is speculated to have been merely a meteor, it is unusual to say the least. Another UFO was reported in 2017 at the White Mountains, in New Hampshire. A witness named Arthur Frenette claims that at around 6:40 PM he was driving home when he saw something that looked like a ball of fire with other flames protruding from it descend from the sky to plow into a cliff by Kinsman Ridge. The next day he was passing through the area and noticed that there were firefighters congregating at the scene, as well as helicopters circling above as they struggled to contain an out-of-control wildfire.

In the meantime, the witness is not sure what he saw, only to say, “I can’t say it was a meteorite, but I know it was something. It’s just kind of an interesting thing. I don’t care what people think, I just know I saw a ball of fire.” The thing that struck him as odd is that, unlike a meteor, it seemed to plummet straight down, and at a speed that suggested it was not simply at the whim of gravity. Was this a meteorite that caused the fire or a UFO, perhaps a crashed one? All that we know is that there was certainly a fire there, although what caused it remains up for debate.

Here we have looked at a selection of decidedly bizarre phenomena centered around one of the truly frightening natural disasters that scorch and scourge the wildernesses of our world. Is there something to this all, and if there is what part do these raging fires have to play in it all, if anything? Whatever the case may be, it certainly casts a sheen of the bizarre over the wrath of nature, and serves to get the imagination going.

BREAK #1=====

Up next… The author of Frankenstein always saw love and death as connected. She visited the cemetery to commune with her dead mother. And with her lover. (Mary Shelley’s Obsession With The Cemetery)

A girl moves into a new apartment and discovers that a haunting doesn’t necessarily have to be frightening. (Ghostly Happenings In My Old Apartment) These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.




In her 1831 introduction to Frankenstein, Mary Shelley explains: “It is not singular that, as the daughter of two persons of distinguished literary celebrity, I should very early in life have thought of writing.” She is answering an oft-asked question—the nineteenth-century equivalent of “What’s a nice girl like you doing writing gross stuff like this?”—and the fact that she begins by mentioning her parents is a sign of how greatly they figured in her sense of self.

Yet only one of Mary Shelley’s parents lived to see Frankenstein published. Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, the brilliant feminist best known for A Vindication of the Rights of Women, died shortly after giving birth to Mary, a fact that haunted her daughter for the rest of her life. Baby Mary, however, was not the fatal agent: It was the physician, one Dr. Poignand, who removed the placenta piece by piece with unwashed hands, and who transmitted the puerperal fever that killed Wollstonecraft Godwin days after giving birth. (In light of her daughter’s creative output, it’s worth mentioning that puerperal fever was then often transmitted by doctors proceeding directly from autopsies to births.)

After that, Mary Shelley’s “only real ‘mother’ was a tombstone,” as Sandra M. Gilbert writes. The remark is not as figurative as it may first appear: Mary spent a considerable amount of time at her mother’s grave in the St. Pancras churchyard, reading her mother’s work. Her father, the reformist writer and philosopher William Godwin, first took her to the churchyard when she was a child, and Mary continued visiting on her own, especially after father married his next-door-neighbor Mary Jane Clairmont—whom Mary found insufferable—and her home life became considerably strained.

“Especially because she never knew her mother … her principal mode of self-definition—certainly in the early years of her life with Shelley, when she was writing Frankenstein—was through reading,” Gilbert says. “Endlessly studying her mother’s works and her father’s, Mary Shelley may be said to have ‘read’ her family and to have been related to her reading, for books appear to have functioned as her surrogate parents, pages and words standing in for flesh and blood.” And much of Mary’s reading during her younger years took place in the graveyard.

The cemetery took on a new relevance when Percy Shelley burst upon the scene. The Godwins maintained an intellectual household, with visitors such as the radical essayist William Hazlitt, the painter Thomas Lawrence, the chemist Humphry Davy, and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge (who once allowed Mary and her stepsister to hear a recitation of The Ancient Mariner after the pair were discovered hiding under the sofa). But none had such an influence on Mary as Percy, a fervent admirer of her father’s who came for dinner one night in late 1812. The pair met again in 1814 and, despite the fact that Mary was only 16 and the 21-year-old poet was married (to another 16-year-old), began taking walks together in the St. Pancras churchyard. Mary was attracted by his idealism, fearlessness and what his friend Thomas Jefferson Hogg called his “wild, intellectual, unearthly” looks.

The Godwins probably assumed that Mary and Percy were “simply reaffirming their reformist ideals” in the graveyard, writes Mary’s biographer Martin Garrett. In fact, they were doing a bit more than that: The pair declared their love for each other there that June, and shortly thereafter had sex for the first time, which “tradition affirms” was in the churchyard, according to Garrett.

“Her mother’s grave: the setting seems an unusually grim, even ghoulish locale for reading, writing, or love-making,” Gilbert notes. Yet for Mary Shelley, the cemetery was not merely a repository of rotting corpses, but a site of knowledge and connection: It was a place where she read to deepen her literary education and her communion with her mother, and a place where she was inducted into mysteries of sexuality. Literary, familial, and carnal knowledge were all bound together in one place.

The idea of the cemetery as a site of (sometimes forbidden) knowledge shows up in her most famous work. As a student, Victor Frankenstein supplements his study of chemistry and anatomy with trips to the graveyard, explaining: “To examine the causes of life, we must first have recourse to death.” The cemetery, or at least its gleanings, is the site of Victor’s greatest aha moment, upon which the rest of the novel depends:

***Now I was led to examine the cause and progress of this decay and forced to spend days and nights in vaults and charnel-houses … I beheld the corruption of death succeed to the blooming cheek of life; I saw how the worm inherited the wonders of the eye and brain. I paused, examining and analyzing all the minutiae of causation, as exemplified in the change from life to death, and death to life, until from the midst of this darkness a sudden light broke in upon me—a light so brilliant and wondrous, yet so simple, that while I became dizzy with the immensity of the prospect which it illustrated, I was surprised that among so many men of genius who had directed their inquiries towards the same science, that I alone should be reserved to discover so astonishing a secret.***

The secret, of course, is that of life itself—of how the “component parts of a creature might be manufactured, brought together, and endued with vital warmth,” as Mary writes in her introduction. The fact that Frankenstein’s monster is assembled from fragments of corpses has a parallel in Mary’s assembly of her own self-identity: in some sense she is like her own creature, without a mother, assembling herself out of dead fragments in the form of books.

Frankenstein, too, is assembled out of fragments—the book is constructed as a series of potted narratives, texts within texts. Indeed, Gilbert connects the “evidentiary technique” of the novel to Shelley’s attempts to understand sex, which first took place in the graveyard: “[R]eading and assembling documentary evidence, examining it, analyzing it, researching it, was for Shelley a crucial if voyeuristic method of exploring origins, explaining identity, understanding sexuality.”

As Gilbert notes, there are other ways to read Frankenstein’s monster as a stand-in for Mary Shelley—and for femaleness in general. While pop culture loves to fixate on Victor as the mad scientist, some of the most moving parts of the book come from the monster’s monologue, which Gilbert reads as “a philosophical meditation on what it means to be born without a ‘soul’ or a history, as well as an exploration of what it feels like to be a ‘filthy mass that move[s] and talk[s], a thing, an other, a creature of the second sex.”

She finds the fact that the monster reads Plutarch’s Lives significant as a means of introducing him to the capital-H history his unusual parentage has denied him—the type of history women that have also so often been excluded from. (“What is woman but man without a history, at least without the sort of history related in Plutarch’s Lives,” Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar write in The Madwoman in the Attic.) For Mary Shelley in particular, suffering the loss of her mother and feeling herself excluded from her father’s household after his remarriage, the idea of being born without a history—or at least bound to a history that has been suppressed or altered—likely carried a particular poignancy.

Reading, too, can be an act of resurrection. Mary knew this in part thanks to her father. Godwin’s Essay on Sepulchres(1809) argued in favor of erecting memorials on the graves of the “illustrious dead” and instituting what the scholar Paul Westover calls a program of “necro-tourism” in Great Britain. Westover writes that for Godwin, “old books are the bodies ghosts possess,” and that “to read is to meet the shades of departed authors”—an attitude his daughter likely took to heart. Yet reading was only one form of communication with the dead: Godwin also believed in the power of visiting material remains, as clearly his daughter did too. “[The dead] still have their place, where we may visit them, and where, if we dwell in a composed and a quiet spirit, we shall not fail to be conscious of their presence,” he writes.

Mary shows something of this attitude in another affecting scene in Frankenstein. The last place Victor visits before he leaves Geneva to search the world for his monster is the cemetery where his father, brother, and bride are buried. “As night approached, I found myself at the entrance of the cemetery … I entered it, and approached the tomb which marked their graves. … The spirits of the departed seemed to flit around, and to cast a shadow, which was felt but seen not, around the head of the mourner,” she writes. It is here that Victor swears vengeance against his creation: “O Night, and by the spirits that preside over thee, I swear to pursue the daemon … And I call on you, spirits of the dead; and on the wandering ministers of vengeance, to aid and conduct me in my work.”

While the communion with the dead that Godwin sought was less dramatic than Victor’s vengeance-fueled mini-séance, it was intimate. Westover writes that although Godwin wanted readers to become more connected to the dead by visiting illustrious graves, he also “desires that intimacy himself: ‘I would have [the dead] . . . ‘around my path, and around my bed,’ and not allow myself to hold a more frequent intercourse with the living, than with the good departed.”

Though the line doesn’t have to be read as sexual, it takes on a new resonance when one considers that the “ideal friend” Godwin uses to try to prove his point about the importance of remains in the essay has often been identified as Mary Wollstonecraft. Although Godwin begins by calling the friend a “great and excellent man,” he describes a depth of sympathy and support from this individual that seems more suited to a partner than a platonic relationship. (He also anticipates the creepiest of embalmers when he says: “I would give all that I possess, to purchase the art of preserving the wholesome character and rosy hue of [my friend’s] form, that it might be my companion still.”) Mary Shelley’s interest in remains, and in cemeteries, is inherited not just from her mother’s death, but also from her father’s necromantic preoccupations.

Yet as the daughter of a mother who died eleven days after giving birth to her, and as the mother of three children who died soon after their births, Mary was in a unique place to understand how tenuous the line that separates the living and dead is, and how both life and death can spring from the same place: the womb. Gilbert, like other scholars, reads Frankenstein as not—or not only—a story about the perils of intellectual hubris, but about the “horror story of maternity.” In fact, from the time she ran away with Percy Shelley through the time she spent writing Frankenstein, Mary Shelley was “almost continuously pregnant, ‘confined,’ or nursing,” Gilbert writes, and many of the metaphors surrounding Victor’s monster-manufacture are suggestive of pregnancy. The creature emerges from a “workshop of filthy creation,” (“filthy because obscenely sexual,” writes Gilbert) and the descriptive language around his incubation yields easily to this double meaning: “incredible labors;” “emaciated with confinement;” “the instruments of life.” For Gilbert, “Victor’s entrance into what Blake would call the realm of ‘generation’ is marked by a recognition of the necessary interdependence of those complementary opposites, sex and death.”

The creature, of course, is never named. Shelley understood the connection between names and social legitimacy in a patriarchal society only too well, as Gilbert notes. She may have even been aware of the fact that since her own birth name, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, was the same as the woman who had died after giving birth to her, she herself was “a reanimation of the dead, a sort of galvanized corpse ironically arisen from what should have been ‘the cradle of life.’”


Sometimes a haunting can just be that– a haunting. This account from Cassie is of strange things taking place in an apartment. Nothing sinister– just noticeable. Take a look!

Over Christmas 2018 I had moved into a new apartment. One that was slightly bigger than my old one and had been looked after better. I ended up living there for three months before I moved in with my boyfriend. For three months that apartment was interesting to say the least.

I couldn’t keep the internet on. That was the first problem. My internet wouldn’t stay on, it would just blink off. I couldn’t really get a cell reception either in certain parts of the house. One morning I was awake at around 1am and heard footsteps in the kitchen room. Just the pitter-patter noises of bare feet on the floor. My boyfriend also heard this. We also had things like electrical sockets not working, bulbs burning out very quickly, and the shower would turn itself on. I often came home from classes to find the shower blasting away.

With all these strange things though I never felt threatened or scared in that place. It was never frightening like a horror movie. It was just, “oh there it goes again!”

Whatever it was, it tried to get my attention and it did, but I never let it take away the enjoyment I got from that place over those few months. When I moved, I was sure to say goodbye to whoever, or whatever was in there.

Cassie D.


When Weird Darkness returns… The July 1886 murder at the Shawmut Avenue laundry was so shrouded in mystery that even the victim’s name was uncertain. (The Wash-House Murder) That story is up next.



When a Chinese man was found brutally murdered in his laundry on Shawmut Avenue in Boston’s South End, in July 1886, the Boston Police—who usually steered clear of Chinese affairs—were forced to delve into city’s aloof Chinese community. Chinese immigrants, who first arrived in Boston in the 1840s, settled in a small, densely populated stretch of Harrison Avenue and its side streets, which soon became known as Chinatown. From the start, they preferred to handle matters of crime and justice in their own way, without outside interference. The police were happy to oblige but a murder, especially one outside the confines of Chinatown, could not be ignored.
Its residents, as much as possible, modeled Boston’s Chinatown after their native land. Sacks of rice were piled along the wall of groceries, with displays of herbs and vegetables; from the back of the store, the cackle of chickens could be heard. Men in long shirts and cotton trousers hustled by or idled on street corners, some with long braided queues of hair trailing from tight silk hats. They spoke rudimentary English when required for transactions, but to each other, they spoke a language completely bewildering to western ears.  Boston’s Chinese citizens practiced their traditional customs of diet, religion, justice and social hierarchy, with little regard to western notions.

They also indulged in their traditional vices. When the sun went down on Harrison Avenue, the backrooms and upper floors of the commercial buildings became busy gambling halls and opium joints. Vice operations in Chinatown, were controlled by mutual protection organizations called “companies” in Boston—in other parts of the country, they were known as tongs or “hatchet societies.” They provided capital and services to advance the members’ business interests, as well as providing protection and meting out justice in the community and arranging for lawyers for matters in the outside world. In return, they expected loyalty, obedience, and regular payments. Four companies controlled business in Boston’s Chinatown—Moy, Ching, Lee, and Sing. They were extremely competitive, and relations among them were often “at swords’ points.” The Boston Police were aware of what went on in Chinatown, but throughout the nineteenth century, opium was legal in Massachusetts, and as in all other parts of the city, the police would seldom raid gambling halls unless they had a formal complaint. In Chinatown, the only formal complaints came from rival gamblers hoping to shut down the competition for a night.
Most Bostonians had little contact with the Chinese community, though some adventurous diners visited Chinatown for the food. Hong Far Low, “the first man in Boston to make chop suey” opened a restaurant on Harrison Avenue in 1879 that became a Chinatown landmark lasting well into the 20th Century. The most common interactions between native Bostonians and Chinese immigrants were in the Chinese-run laundries operating throughout the city. The storefront laundries also served as residences for the laundrymen and were divided into three rooms; customers were received in the front, the manager and sometimes an assistant would sleep in the middle room, and in the back room a big coke-burning stove boiled water to wash the clothes and gave off the heat to dry them. The laundrymen cooked their meals on the same stove and at night the back room was used for opium smoking. Customers found the aroma of Chinese laundries pungent and exotic, but they were pleased with the quality and value of the laundry service.
The murder at the Shawmut Avenue laundry was so shrouded in mystery that even the victim’s name was uncertain. The Boston Journal called him Bin Chong, the Globe, Ding Chong; the Post, Wong Kong. Adding to the confusion, the original owner of the laundry was Quang Sing Kee, and sometimes newspapers used this name. The victim of the “Wash-House Murder,” as the papers called the crime, had been a successful gambler and had saved $500 which he planned to take with him to China. He had been a member of the Lee company. The money was missing but the brutality of the murder—stabbed fourteen times—and the fact that his queue had been cut off, implied that revenge, either by the Lee company or against it, had been the motive.
The people of Boston were fascinated by the case and amateur detectives were inundating the police with worthless clues. Three Chinamen were seen looking at daggers in the window of a store on Washington Street; a Chinaman was seen walking fast on Dover Street and frequently turning his head as if he feared he was being followed; Five Chinamen were seen boarding a boat to Portland, Maine. The legitimate clues the police were following were not much better. Reliable witnesses saw a man leaving the laundry the night of the murder, but there was no way to find him. Lee Sing, who appeared to match the description had been unaccounted for the night of the murder and was found packing his trunk to leave the city was brought in for questioning. The police brought in three more suspects matching the description but charged none of them.
The investigation suffered from the usual complaint—most of the Chinatown residents questioned could not understand, or would not admit to understanding English. The leader of the Moy company, Ah Moy Chong, was brought in for questioning. Ah Moy Chong, who wore a black slouch hat, but otherwise dressed in Chinese style, had a violent reputation. He carried a bamboo cane, wore a long Chinese knife in his belt and in his pockets carried a revolver and a blackjack. Allegedly, he had killed three men in California, and in Boston had driven the leader of the Ching company out of town at gunpoint. He fit the description of the Wash-House murderer, but he had a solid alibi. Ah Moy Chong spoke fluent English, and before he was released, he expressed the opinion that the killer was not Chinese. He also recommended that the police hire his cousin as an interpreter. They politely declined.

They did, however, bring in a professional interpreter from New York City, a Chinese man who went by the name of Warry S. Charles. Charles wore his hair short and dressed in western clothing, and although he was fluent in both languages, he was not fully trusted in Chinatown. He was inclined to think that the murder was premeditated, and the killer was Chinese, and someone who knew the victim well or he would not have allowed him to remain in the laundry at night. He did not believe the killer was a member of the Western hatchet society that had murdered a man in St. Louis a year or so earlier, as some had suggested.
But none of the information gathered by Warry Charles brought the police any closer to solving the Wash-House Murder. As the case grew colder, it became apparent to everyone that the murder would never be solved and before long the crime faded from memory. The police continued to watch Chinatown and now included the rooms on Harrison Avenue in their increasingly frequent gambling raids throughout the city.

Warry Charles decided to remain in Boston, working as an interpreter for the city. He also bought a lucrative laundry on Beacon Hill and became a member of the Sing company, eventually taking a leadership role. Charles himself would later be charged with murder. In 1907, as leader of what was then called the Hep Sing tong, he brought in “highbinders” from out of town to kill the leaders of the On Leong tong. The assassins, armed with hatchets and army revolvers, wreaked havoc in Chinatown, leaving four dead and six wounded. The following May, Warry S. Charles and seven others were found guilty of first-degree murder.


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. 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.

“Phantom Flames” by F.A.Loomis from Idaho Magazine

“Forest Fires and the Paranormal” by Brent Swancer for Mysterious Universe

“Mary Shelley’s Obsession With The Cemetery” by Bess Lovejoy for the JSTOR Daily

“Ghostly Happenings In My Old Apartment” by Cassie D, posted at MyHauntedLifeToo,com

“The Wash-House Murder” by Robert Wilhelm, from the book “Wicked Victorian Boston”


WeirdDarkness® – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” — Proverbs 27:17

And a final thought… “The fact that our heart yearns for something Earth can’t supply is proof that Heaven must be our home.” — C. S. Lewis

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



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