“THE VAMPIRE TIME-TRAVELER” and More True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

“THE VAMPIRE TIME-TRAVELER” and More True Stories! #WeirdDarkness

Listen to ““THE VAMPIRE TIME-TRAVELER” and More True Stories! #WeirdDarkness” on Spreaker.

IN THIS EPISODE: The mystery surrounding Count St. Germain is more than a little strange. Some think him to be a centuries old vampire. Others believe him to be a time traveler. And still others believe the whole thing to be a complete fraud. (The Vampire Time-Traveler) *** Escaping jail isn’t easy, but we’ll look at some who did the impossible – escaping the most secure prisons, in the most daring of ways. (History’s Most Daring Prison Breaks) *** What would you do if you discovered that the church you attend every Sunday has a dark past that involves hauntings and supernatural phenomena? We’ll look at some of the most haunted churches in the United States – perhaps you attend one of them and don’t even realize it! (Most Haunted Churches in America) *** Benny Binion was one of the friendliest mobsters in Las Vegas… unless, of course, you made him mad. (Benny Binion, The Nice Guy Brute)
“The Vampire Time-Traveler” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2f2psdnm
“History’s Most Daring Prison Breaks” by Mike Rothschild for Ranker’s Unspeakable Times:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p948z5e
“Most Haunted Churches in America” by Rain-Screaming-For-Horror, posted at Vocal.Media:https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/2p8we2se
“Benny Binion, The Nice Guy Brute” by Melissa Sartore for Weird History: https://weirddarkness.tiny.us/4rczaf27
Weird Darkness theme by Alibi Music Library.
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Originally aired: December, 2021


DISCLAIMER: Ads heard during the podcast that are not in my voice are placed by third party agencies outside of my control and should not imply an endorsement by Weird Darkness or myself. *** Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.

The case of the Count of St. Germain is without a doubt one of the most mysterious and intriguing on record. An enigmatic gentleman who first appeared on the public record in the mid-eighteenth century and then went on to appear in various places over the years, with some sightings stretching into the 1900s. What’s more, whoever this strange person was, he appeared to be at the center of some of the most momentous events in history. Just how many of the accounts about Count St. Germain are genuine and how many are fabrication based on hearsay is very much open to debate. There are, however, some wild and intriguing theories as to just who this strange person was. Were they from another world, for example? Perhaps they were a time traveler? Maybe they had somehow realized the secrets of the universe and had somehow managed to live, essentially, forever? Was he even what we would recognize as a vampire who somehow discreetly moved about the world of the living across the centuries? It is perhaps interesting to note that some claims suggest he was the son of a prince from Transylvania which simply adds another layer of intrigue to this already bizarre account. And when we later turn our attention to a bizarre encounter at the start of the twentieth century in New Orleans, these claims take on an even more disturbing tone.
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.

If you’re new here, welcome to the show! And if you’re already a member of this Weirdo family, please take a moment and invite someone else to listen, and please leave a rating and review in the podcast app you’re listening from – doing these things helps the show to keep growing. And while you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, my newsletter, to connect with me on social media, and more!

Coming up in this episode…

Escaping jail isn’t easy, but we’ll look at some who did the impossible – escaping the most secure prisons, in the most daring of ways. (History’s Most Daring Prison Breaks)

What would you do if you discovered that the church you attend every Sunday has a dark past that involves hauntings and supernatural phenomena? We’ll look at some of the most haunted churches in the United States – perhaps you attend one of them and don’t even realize it! (Most Haunted Churches in America)

Benny Binion was one of the friendliest mobsters in Las Vegas… unless, of course, you made him mad. (Benny Binion, The Nice Guy Brute)

The mystery surrounding Count St. Germain is more than a little strange. Some think him to be a centuries old vampire. Others believe him to be a time traveler. And still others believe the whole thing to be a complete fraud. (The Vampire Time-Traveler)

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

While the absolute truth of Count St. Germain will unlikely never be known for sure, the accounts still fascinate researchers today. And what’s more, it will likely do so for some time to come.
The best to start examining the Count of St. Germain would be to turn our attention to London in the early 1740s, [1] where from accounts on public record, he was making quite a name for himself with his bizarre and enthralling abilities, as well as the high-ranking company he kept. Just one of these was Harold Walpole, the son of the British Prime Minister of the time, Robert Walpole.
We know from a letter written by Walpole that the Count was a magnificent violin player and also a great composer of music. He also described him as “odd” and “mad”. We might accept, then, that whoever he was, he was eccentric.
Perhaps so eccentric that he was soon arrested on suspicion of spying. He would be released, however, without charges. The experience would appear to have unsettled the Count, though, and he left London and headed to mainland Europe.
Several years later, he had made his way to Paris and was once again mixing with the most upper classes of society. This time, he was a regular guest of Louis XV. Much of his time with Louis XV was shrouded in secrecy, however. He would often spend considerable time in a commissioned laboratory working on all manner of strange experiments. These would include producing substances that would dye fabric which would bring riches to the region. Perhaps even more intriguing, he was often said to perform discreet “missions” for Louis XV, although it is not known exactly what these missions entailed.
He was, though, often seen in the many drinking establishments around Paris. He was said to be able to speak several languages perfectly and would speak with great knowledge and wisdom. The count would also seemingly give away handfuls of diamonds to anyone he took a liking too. And it is perhaps this detail which gave rise to more rumors about the Count.
According to gossip around the city, the Count had the ability to turn normal stones into valuable jewels. Essentially that he was a master of alchemy.
Might this have been the case? Might this be the reason for the further sightings stretching decades into the future of this influential and seemingly mentally superior man?
There were also further rumors that the Count was not merely middle-aged as his appearance suggested, but that he was hundreds, perhaps thousands of years old. Perhaps some of the more outlandish claims were that he was even present at the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD when the premise of Christianity as we know it today was officially decided. We should note that many people, perhaps not surprisingly, dismiss such accounts.
However, the accounts and more specifically, the sightings of the Count would add further twists to the tale.
Further reports would suggest that the Count of St. Germain traveled to Russia from France. Even more intriguing, such rumors also state that he was an influential person in assisting Catherine the Great taking power.
He would also surface in Germany where he struck up a similar friendship to the one he had with Louis XV, only this time with Prince Charles of Hesse-Cassel. And once more, he would soon have a laboratory placed at his disposal so he might continue his mysterious and private work.
It is here where it is said that the Count passed away in 1784. However, there were soon claims of sightings of him in other parts of the world. These were scattered throughout the 1800s, mainly in Europe.
There were even claims on French TV in 1972 from a man who claimed to be the Count. He would even attempt to turn lead into gold so as to prove his identity. Incidentally, he didn’t succeed.
Perhaps the strangest sighting and claim of the Count of St. Germain, however, would come from New Orleans in the United States at the start of the twentieth century. It is there where we will turn our attention next.
According to the reports, a strange and mysterious gentleman [2] began to make himself known to the residents of New Orleans in Louisiana in the early 1900s using the name Jacque St. Germain. He would soon become very popular among the high-ranking social circles of the city. We might recall how the accounts of the Count of St. Germain always managed to put himself in similar positions in various cities of Europe.
What’s more, he was remarkably knowledgeable and enigmatic, often seen in many of the drinking establishments around New Orleans and hosting “lavish” parties at his home in an affluent part of the city. We might also note how many of those who knew this new arrival to New Orleans would describe him as eccentric. Of course, this is something that was noted about the Count during his travels in Europe.
Of even more interest, were the accounts of historic events he would speak of. He would do so in such detail it would make those who would listen to these tales believe he had actually been there himself. Remember, similar rumors would circulate around the Count of St. Germain also.
If we accept that Jacques St. Germain and the Count of St. Germain are one and the same person, it is perhaps interesting that he would declare that he was a descendant of the Count. Although many did not fully believe the claims, it was impossible to deny the physical resemblance between the two. In fact, he was almost a carbon copy.
Was this a true fact declared by Jacques St. Germain? Or was it merely something to give himself a backstory? Whatever the reason, the mysterious gentleman remained popular among the city’s residents.
However, it is here where even stranger rumors began to circulate.
During these eccentric parties, it was soon noted that St. Germaine would rarely, if ever, eat any of the food or drink on offer. When his remarkably similar physical appearance to the Count was considered, rumors began to circulate that Jacques St. Germain was, in fact, a vampire.
Then, things would change dramatically.
Following one of the St. Germain’s parties, the police were called to attend after a woman had seemingly fallen from one of the galleries in the house. Although the identity of the woman is not known, it is thought she was a prostitute. And what’s more, it would soon come to light that she had not fallen but had jumped from the balcony in sheer terror into the street below, a state she remained in when police arrived.
When she eventually calmed somewhat, she would claim that she had jumped from the balcony to escape St. Germain. She would claim that he had bitten her neck and attacked her. Furthermore, only a sudden knock at the door allowed her to make her escape.
The woman was taken to hospital. However, the police believed that she had merely imagined the encounter, possibly due to excessive alcohol. They would not trouble St. Germain that evening, instead informing him that he could come to the station at his leisure the following day to clear up the incident.
However, when he failed to show the following day, police realized they would have to visit the mysterious gentleman at his home. Their initial feeling that the matter would be cleared up upon speaking with him was beginning to fade.
They would arrive at the home of St. Germain they would find that the mysterious gentleman had seemingly disappeared overnight. All of the belongings remained at the house, but St. Germain himself was nowhere to be seen. They would, however, make some chilling and disturbing discoveries.
Inside one of the rooms, they would discover several bottles of red wine. What was strange, at least initially, they discovered they were all full but open. When they looked inside the wine bottles they would discover they were, in fact, a mixture of wine and blood.
Whatever the reason for this disturbing concoction, St. Germain himself was never seen anywhere in the city again. In fact, he was never seen anywhere again (the gentleman claiming to be him in the early 1970s aside).
What happened to St. Germaine? Did he manage to escape the city overnight and blend in somewhere else? What did he use for money given that he had seemingly left all of his possessions and wealth behind? And was the story told by the terrorized woman true? If not, why would the gentleman, who still enjoyed the benefit of the doubt and perceptions of high social standing in the city, simply pick up and leave unless he suspected that a dark secret would be revealed?
And if there is any truth to such outlandish claims, was St. Germain really the descendent of the Count from Europe? And if so, might there have been unknown deaths of individuals around this time that would match up with the strange account of St. Germain in New Orleans.
As we have examined, both the Count of St. Germain and Jacques St. Germain were certainly intriguing individuals. Were they the same person? And if so, just how was it possible for this apparent lengthy life?
Was this strange individual actually a time-traveler who arrived at various points in history and immediately slotted himself into the higher echelons of whatever society he was in? If so, for what purpose was this lone individual doing so? Purely for amusement, or might there be a greater mystery to unveil?
Or was he someone who had managed to live forever? Is he still circulating around society somewhere today? If so, is a lone person who has managed to cheat death, or are there others? Might stories of vampires have more basis in reality than most of us might think?
Or might the Count of St. Germain have been akin to a fraudster who used his knowledge to ensure his position in the affluent areas of society? And might Jacques St. Germain have been exactly who he said he was? The life of the two individuals will likely fascinate researchers for some time to come.

Coming up on Weird Darkness, escaping jail isn’t easy, but we’ll look at some who did the impossible – escaping the most secure prisons, in the most daring of ways. That story and more on the way!

Breaking out of prison isn’t easy. You have to have the right tools, a way to get out of your jail cell, a way to get to the outside world, and a way to stay on the lam. It helps to have friends on the outside, some kind of special skill like woodworking or yoga, a lot of luck – or just have a helicopter. Ever since the very first prisoner was kept in a blocked off cave, criminals have been figuring out ways to get back to the outside world. Whether they’ve smuggled themselves out, tunneled under walls, taken hostages, or gotten some accomplices to fly them out, all of these prison breakouts took great risks to reclaim their freedom. And while all of these prisoner escapes were successful in the short term, most ultimately failed. Even the most creative escapee, with the best prison escapes, finds themselves the subject of a manhunt, with limited resources and few allies to turn to. So most get caught and sent right back – where they usually try to escape again. Here are a few of the most well-known and famous prison escapes or breakouts in history. From recent prison escapes, to historical prison breakouts, these people had had enough of life behind bars and took matters into their own hands.
***In January 2016, three inmates of Southern California’s Orange County Men’s Central Jail used a combination of cutting through walls, crawling through tunnels, climbing, and rappelling to break out of the maximum security prison. The plan was aided by a fight between other inmates, which may or may not have been part of the plot, that delayed the normal head count – meaning the escapees had a 16 hour head start. The three men, Jonathan Tieu, 20; Bac Duong, 43, and Hossein Nayeri, 37, were awaiting trial for violent crimes, including murder in the case of Tieu. They also likely had help acquiring tools and possibly being picked up after they escaped. Duong turned himself in a few days after the escape, while Tieu and Nayeri were nabbed after San Francisco police received a tip that their stolen white van was in a Whole Foods parking lot. A prison teacher was also taken into custody on suspicion of providing Nayeri maps and tools to aid in the escape.
***In July 2015, the Mexican drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman escaped through a 20 inch hole in the shower area of his cell block at the maximum security Altiplano Federal Prison. Guzman, the leader of the vicious Sinaloa drug cartel, escaped through a lighted and ventilated tunnel system that stretched almost a mile, ending up at a half-built house outside the prison. This wasn’t Guzman’s first escape – he escaped from another prison in 2001 by hiding in a laundry cart, and eluded authorities until 2014. Authorities immediately began a manhunt and questioned prison employees to determine whether Guzman had any help from the inside with his escape. He was able to elude the dragnet for six months later, until he was finally re-captured in January 2016. While Mexican officials were light on details, it was revealed that Mexican marines acted on an anonymous tip that the drug lord was hiding out in a small house in the seaside town of Los Mochis, and moved in. Chapo apparently didn’t go down without a fight – at least five people were killed in the gun battle that preceded the cuffs going back on him. Marines also found a small arsenal in the house, including a rocket launcher and multiple 50 caliber sniper rifles.
***Clinton Correctional Facility inmates David Sweat and Richard Matt were the subject of both international headlines and a gigantic manhunt after breaking out in June, 2015. The duo meticulously planned their escape, creating realistic dummies of themselves with fake heads adorned with their own hair. Then they cut holes in the walls behind their beds, using tools provided by sympathetic prison employee Joyce Mitchell . Once in the walls, they cut into a two foot diameter steam pipe and crawled their way to freedom. Mitchell was supposed to pick the pair up at the manhole they climbed out of, but got cold feet and checked herself into a hospital – after which she was arrested. The two trekked north, staying in hunting cabins and nearly being caught several times before splitting up and taking different routes. Hundreds of police and federal agents took to the woods of New York state to find the pair, and were eventually successful. Matt was found and shot dead on June 26, and Sweat was captured alive two days later.
***After he was captured in Colorado, vicious serial killer Ted Bundy had one last trick up his sleeve. It involved the maneuver that’s traditionally saved for particularly crazy perps on Law & Order: he represented himself in court. As part of his “education,” Bundy was allowed to visit the prison library by himself. He had already been excused from wearing handcuffs in court, presumably so he could make grand gestures and pound on a table. Once he was alone and unfettered, Bundy simply jumped out of the second-story library window and made a run for it. He was captured a week later, and soon escaped again (through a hole he’d sawed in the ceiling of his cell) and made his way to Florida – where he committed three more murders before being captured once again.
***Convicted murderer Richard McNair had already escaped from a prison in Louisiana by running out of an interrogation room and crawling through an escape tunnel. But his 2006 breakout was legendary in its simplicity. He had gotten a job in the prison mail room, and took the opportunity to hide in a pile of shrink-wrapped packages. Once he was mailed out of the prison, he moved north, quickly being stopped by a police officer. But in an early viral moment, he was filmed by a police dashcam blathering his way out of being arrested – despite giving multiple names during the conversation and matching the description of an escaped fugitive. He was eventually tracked down in Canada, thousands of miles from the prison, and recaptured.
***Danish career criminal Brian Bo Larsen has escaped from various Denmark prisons an astonishing 22 times, sometimes by digging through or under walls, other times by smuggling himself out with garbage. He most recently busted out in 2014, escaping Vridsloseselille prison outside Copenhagen by sawing the bars off his cell window with a hacksaw. He then used a rope ladder to climb to the top of the roof, then another to climb back down to freedom. In this case, freedom didn’t last long, as Larsen was arrested after plowing a stolen car into a ditch while high on drugs.
***Famed Greek bank robber Vassilis Paleokostas (known as the “Greek Robin Hood” for giving away his hauls) was thought to be uncatchable, but finally went to prison in 2000 for a kidnapping. In 2006, he planned a daring escape from jail, with the help of two accomplices who hijacked a helicopter and landed it in the prison yard. The prison staff were caught off-guard, thinking the chopper actually was part of an impromptu inspection. Paleokostas was able to get out and spend two years on the run, before being arrested again. And once again, Paleokostas broke out of prison thanks to an accomplice landing a helicopter in the prison yard. Since then, the robber has continued hitting banks and giving much of the stolen loot to the poor of Greece. He’s still at large.
***Convicted killer Jose Espinosa had only a thick gauge wire at his disposal when he scraped the mortar away from the cinder blocks on the outside wall of his cell. He then broke up the bricks using a wheel from a water pipe and hid the chunks in his footlocker. By the time he was done, he’d dug a 16″ x 18″ hole that was just wide enough to get a person through. His cell-block neighbor Otis Blunt used the same tools to burrow into Espinosa’s cell, and the two broke out together. Just to be safe, they left dummies in their beds – and also left a taunting note thanking their cell block guard for giving them the tools they used.  To add a Hollywood twist to the plan, the two men used posters of girls in bikinis to cover the tunnel – the exact same plan used in the film The Shawshank Redemption. Unlike Tim Robbins, Blunt and Espinosa were recaptured and sent back to prison – where they pleaded not guilty to charges that they’d tried to escape.
***While many inmates had tried to break out of the famous island prison of Alcatraz, few had gotten far. Finally, in 1962, three men got out. They dug out of their cells, climbed to the top of the cell block and cut through bars on the ceiling to make it to the roof via an air vent. Now outside, they climbed down a drain pipe, hopped over a chain link fence, and then ran to the shore where they assembled a pontoon-type raft, and sailed into San Francisco Bay. They were never seen again, and while it’s quite likely they drowned, it’s also not out of the question that they made it to the mainland and disappeared into the city.
***In January 1934, bank robbing celebrity John Dillinger was arrested in Tucson, AZ, after locals recognized his accomplices. He was extradited to an “escape proof” jail in Indiana, but just a month later, he forced his way out of the main cellblock – brandishing a phony gun. Dillinger claimed he had fashioned it himself from wood, a razor handle, and black shoe polish, information later suggested that one of his lawyers smuggled in. Showing amazing gumption, Dillinger used the wooden pistol to round up several guards, steal a Thompson sub-machine gun, grab the sheriff’s personal police car and head to Chicago. Three days later, he and Baby Face Nelson robbed a bank in Sioux Falls.
***In 1970, 23- year-old New York student and small-time drug mule Billy Hayes was arrested attempting to smuggle hashish out of Turkey. He was sentenced to four years in prison and sent to the notorious Sağmalcılar Prison in the Bosphorus Strait. Just weeks from being released, Hayes received an extended sentence of 30 years (for no apparent reason), and decided enough was enough. Hayes took advantage of his job working on the prison dock to steal a rowboat and sail to Istanbul. He then dyed his hair and made it to Greece, finally being deported to the US. In 1977, Hayes wrote the book “Midnight Express” about his ordeal, which was then adapted into a film by Oliver Stone.
***It was the biggest prison break in British history, which, given the history of Britain and prisons, is saying something. On September 5, 1983, 38 Irish Republican Army (IRA) prisoners escaped from H-Block 7 of the notorious Maze prison in County Antrim, Northern Ireland. And since H-Block was encased in a field of walls and razor-wire fences, they did it the old-fashioned way: they overpowered the guards and took their guns. Then they hijacked a supply truck, tied the driver’s foot to the clutch, and drove out. Half of the group were recaptured, but the other half managed to avoid the authorities and make it to the US. A few are still at large, having been given amnesty by the British government. The Maze itself was closed in 2000.
***In 1864, more than 100 Union soldiers broke out of the Confederate Libby Prison in  Richmond, VA. Some of the men had figured out a way to dig a tunnel from the prison basement, a dank and dark pit they nicknamed “rat hell.” After a couple of weeks of burrowing, they dug upwards and emerged inside a tobacco shed in a farm field, well away from the prison. One hundred and nine Union soldiers eventually escaped through the tunnel before it was closed down. Many were recaptured and a few died later, but it turned out to be the largest prison escape of the Civil War.
***On April 25, 2011, more than 480 imprisoned Taliban insurgents escaped Kandahar’s Sarpoza Prison through an underground tunnel that had been dug from the outside in. The tunnel stretched over 1,000 feet, and because it was dug by insurgents outside the prison going inside it, rather than the other way, there was no need for secrecy, nor a way for the guards to discover it. Four hours proved to be enough time to get hundreds of men out, and the tunnel was only found after the inmates had been squirreled away to various safe houses. Few of the prisoners have been recaptured, and many are thought to have again taken up arms against the US.
***The biggest organized prison breakout in any Allied country in World War II was the Cowra Breakout, taking place in the small Australian town of Cowra. The town’s prison camp held a large number of Italian and Japanese prisoners, along with small numbers of other nationalities – all held in a massive swath of land hundreds of miles from any major city. On August 5, 1944, over 1,100 Japanese soldiers attempted a mass breakout, using knives, studded clubs and thick wires. They set their huts on fire and stormed the wire keeping them in. Despite facing down guards armed with machine guns and rifles, the horde of prisoners broke through the wire and fanned out into the desert. Over 200 were killed in the breakout, with others being killed or committing suicide later. Within 10 days, the entire group had been recaptured or killed.
***In the midst of serving a 23 year stint in military prison for murder, Private James Robert Jones escaped from Leavenworth and disappeared. He made his way east using a fake name and false papers, and settled in Florida. He managed to stay on the outside for an astonishing 37 years, until US Marshals finally caught him by matching up his face in a database of fugitives. Jones was arrested without in incident in 2014.
***Korean petty thief Choi Gap Bok was also a yoga master, having practiced the art for over 20 years. His skill and flexibility came in handy when he landed in prison in 2006 – and squeezed himself through his prison door’s tiny food slot. And tiny means tiny – 6 inches by 18 inches. Choi used skin ointment to make himself slippery, then pushed himself through the slot in 34 seconds. While he was caught less than a week later, Choi quickly became famous as a Korean Houdini – and is now in a prison with a food slot half as big as the first.
***French double murderer Jean-Pierre Treiber constructed a cardboard box (normally part of his job working in the prison’s stationary department), placed it on the loading dock and crawled inside. It was then loaded onto a truck and driven away, by someone who didn’t seem to question why one box was so much heavier than the others. Once on the road, Treiber cut through the tarp covering the truck bed and hopped out, disappearing into a nearby forest. The guards didn’t notice Treiber was missing for nearly seven hours, but he was captured anyway, being found in Paris three months later. He hanged himself in prison the following year.
***1995 saw three inmates of the UK’s Parkhurst Prison, Andrew Rodger, Keith Rose, and Matthew Williams, craft an intricate arsenal of tools and weapons to bust out of the jail on the tiny Isle of Wight. Among these were a 25-foot-long ladder to scale the prison fence, a gun, and a master key that unlocked every door and gate in the prison. They used the key to open a door in the gymnasium, then cut through the inner fence and scaled the outer fence. After that, they hid for four days in a shed waiting to steal an airplane. Even with all their preparation, they were caught and sent back to prison.
***Unlike other Nazi concentration camps, Sobibor had no other purpose but killing enemies of the regime. When rumors started going around the camp that it was to be closed, with all the inmates murdered, a plan was hatched to kill the guards and walk out. Using homemade knives, a captured Soviet officer and Poles with military experience killed 11 SS guards one by one and cut the outside phone lines into the camp. When the plan was finally discovered, the inmates made a run for it, with hundreds either being shot or killed in the minefield surrounding the grounds. About 60 made it out safely, and the SS ordered the camp destroyed.

When Weird Darkness returns… Benny Binion was one of the friendliest mobsters in Las Vegas… unless, of course, you made him mad. That story is up next!

You may never have heard of Benny Binion, but odds are you’re familiar with some of his work. So, who was he? For starters, he was one of the pioneers in Las Vegas gaming and founder of the World Series of Poker.
While Binion was said to be one of the nicest men you’d ever meet, he was also a guy you didn’t want to cross. From his start as a gambler and racketeer in Dallas, TX, to the establishment of his Horseshoe Hotel and Casino on Fremont Street in downtown Las Vegas, Binion was as ruthless as he was charismatic. Binion reshaped Las Vegas gambling, attracting high rollers and average players alike.
Binion never forgot his Texas roots, often donning cowboy shirts and carrying a pistol, and he built a legacy he passed on to his five children following his life’s end in 1989. His story is intriguing and troubling – though maybe a bit inspiring, too.
As his bootlegging reputation grew, Binion became increasingly protective of his livelihood. In 1931, Binion suspected Frank Bolding, an African American bootlegger, was taking from him and confronted the man. According to Binion, the two men met to discuss the matter – and I’ve cleaned up the language to make it more presentable in podcast form:
“Me and him was sitting down on two boxes… he was a bad (man). So he done something I didn’t like and we was talking about it, and he jumped up right quick with a knife in his hand. Then he’d cut the (tar) out of me, but I was a little smarter than that. I just fell backward off of that box and shot the son of a (mother) right there.”
Binion shot Bolding in the neck and the latter soon succumbed to his wounds. Binion later changed his story about the whole exchange and admitted Bolding didn’t brandish his blade, something authorities later determined as well. Binion did, however, remain steadfast in his claims that he feared for his life. Binion was convicted for the slaying but only received a two-year suspended sentence. After that, Binion took on a nickname: the Cowboy.
In 1936, Binion again killed one of his competitors, a man named Ben Frieden. Frieden was a game operator in Dallas who encroached on Binion’s territory. According to the Dallas Times Herald, Binion and one of his associates, H.E. “Buddy” Malone, shot and ended Frieden’s life on September 12, 1936.
Both men were put on trial, but witnesses disappeared and, once it was determined “Frieden was armed and fired the first shot,” neither were convicted.
Binion maintained he only drew his arm in self-defense, using his shoulder wound as evidence of that claim. Some observers believed Binion shot himself in the shoulder after offing Frieden, but it was never proven. According to John L. Smith, “Frieden was unarmed… [and] the bullet came from Benny’s own pistol.”
Binion learned a lot about running a successful crime syndicate from Warren Diamond, a well-known gambling powerhouse in Dallas. Binion idolized Diamond and learned how to mix business, style, and illegal activity while making a lot of money in the process. Diamond went into pseudo-retirement during the early 1930s, plagued with cancer, and ended his own life in 1933. From then on, Binion was the most powerful racketeer in the region.
In 1937, Binion based his gambling operations at the Southland Hotel in Dallas. The Southland was eight stories tall and featured a coffee shop, drugstore, and barbershop with bellhops that could procure controlled substances, ladies of the night, or access to one of Binion’s dice games. Binion didn’t control only the Southland, however, he also had games running at locations throughout Dallas, thanks to the city’s lax adherence to gambling laws. He controlled bookies as well, providing an array of gambling options to high rollers like Howard Hughes and Texas oil magnate H.L. Hunt. With his reputation and gambling monopoly at an all-time high, Binion decided to expand into nearby Fort Worth, TX.
By the end of WWII, however, the Chicago Outfit was in Dallas and law enforcement began to crack down on illegal activity. Binion decided to leave Texas – though he didn’t give up his interests there – and headed to Las Vegas in 1946.
When Binion arrived in Las Vegas in 1946, he invested in a couple of casinos before purchasing the Eldorado Club in 1951. The Eldorado was experiencing tax troubles and Binion was able to seize the opportunity to reframe the casino in his own image. He put in $18,000 worth of carpet, according to his own accounts, the first carpets ever to be featured in a Las Vegas casino. Despite this feature, the Horseshoe was decidedly no-frills, with neither performers nor other fancy features – just free drinks for customers and liberal slot machines.
Binion’s wife helped design the Horseshoe. Binion said she “did a very good job, and it’s had a lot of comment on it. I don’t know nothin’ about designin’ nothin’ like that. Hell, all I want’s four walls and crap tables, and a roof to keep the rain off, and the air condition to keep people comfortable.”
In addition to the design, the Horseshoe distinguished itself as a no-limit establishment, one that “didn’t believe in calling the police. They took care of trouble their own way.” Binion’s establishment attracted gamblers of all kinds, and his rivals had to raise their own limits to stay competitive. Within a year, however, Binion was charged with tax evasion and, after failing to bribe the judge, received a 42-month prison sentence.
Benny Binion had a longstanding feud with Dallas gambler Herbert “the Cat” Noble. Noble had a gambling operation in downtown Dallas and was, by many accounts, the polar opposite of Binion. Noble started as a bodyguard for Sam Murray, another Dallas gambler who got offed by another of Binion’s associates, Ivy Miller. Murray paid Binion 25% of his profits, something Noble was supposed to continue after he took over for his former boss. Instead, Noble recruited Raymond Laudermilk, one of Binion’s former lieutenants, to his operation and the two set their sights on expansion.
Noble and Laudermilk ran the Airmen’s Club until the latter was slain, after which time Noble ran it all by himself. By 1946, Noble’s extablishment was so successful, Binion raised Noble’s payment to 40%, a number Noble refused to pay. As a result, three men were sent to off Noble – Lois Green, Bob Minyard, and Johnny Grissaffi – in a high-speed chase that landed Noble in the hospital.
This was one of 11 attempts on Noble’s life that he blamed on Binion. In 1948, Noble’s car was targeted again and, in early 1949, he found dynamite strapped to his car. That same year, Noble’s wife, Mildred, perished when an incendiary device went off that was meant for her husband. Until 1951, when Noble was slain by a detonation device left near his mailbox, Noble and Binion’s violent exchanges continued.
Born in 1904 to Alma Willie and Lonnie Lee Binion in Pilot Grove, TX, Lester Ben “Benny” Binion was a sickly child. He suffered from pneumonia repeatedly, something that caused his horse-trading father to comment that since he was “going to die anyhow… I’m just going to take him with me.” As a result, Benny spent his youth with his father, learning about grifting and hustling.
By the time he was 10 years old, he had only a second-grade education. Binion didn’t mind, however, later commenting, “There’s more than one kind of education… and maybe I prefer the one I got.”
Binion was never shy about his lack of formal schooling, claiming his life was complete with “no books, no nuthin’… what I know, I know; and it’s goin’ to the graveyard with me.”
As a young man during WWI, Binion lived an itinerant life, developing business acumen as a mule dealer. Binion claimed he was “real good at it, and all them old guys that I worked for, they’d let me do the mouthin’ of the mules, and horses, and everything, you see, while they was tradin’ and talkin’.”
He also honed his poker skills while on the road, learning the ins and outs of the game. According to Binion:
“Everybody had his little way of doing somethin’ to the cards, and all this, that, and the other, so I wasn’t too long on wisin’ up to that. Some of ’em had different ways of markin’ lem, crimpin’ ’em… So then I kinda got in with more of a gamblin’ type of guy, you know, the – you might say road gamblers.”
The business and gambling lessons Binion picked up on the road set the foundation for what would be a long career in both. Binion himself was “never able to play anything, dice or cards, or anything… never a real good poker player,” but he learned how to hustle and find a mark. He also recognized that the house, when managed well, always wins.
In his late teens, Binion went to El Paso, TX, where liquor smuggling during Prohibition was rife. Binion had started working as a gravel spreader but soon joined in the bootlegging that plagued the border between the United States and Mexico.
Binion moved whiskey and, according to family lore, once took an entire stash of booze from a local jail. After an arrest, Binion was made “a trusty,” tasked with getting “liquor out of the evidence vault” for judges and the like. Jack Binion, Benny’s son, recounted what happened next:
“[He] went and made an imprint of the key. Sent it out and had a key made. Then he got the jailer drunk, and when the jailer went to sleep, he called up a friend with a truck, got some of the other trusties to help load it, and stole a truckload of liquor right out of the jail.”
Benny Binion succumbed to heart failure on December 25, 1989.  He was known as being generous and for having a big heart, so it was no surprise his passing brought thousands of people to the Christ the King Catholic Church to pay their respects. Politicians and fellow Las Vegas royalty mourned alongside individuals dressed in rodeo gear.
When describing Binion, Steve Wynn, owner of several Las Vegas casinos, called him “a man who never showed one shed of pretense… We will never see the likes of Benny Binion in our lifetime again. He was either the toughest gentleman I ever knew or the gentlist tough man I ever met.”
Wynn fondly recalled Binion’s reaction when he told the elder casino owner about his plans for a lavish Las Vegas hotel. Binion reportedly put his arm around his shoulders and said to Wynn, “Great, they can sleep in your place and gamble in mine.”
Binion’s funeral procession to the cemetery where he was buried was headed by six black horses leading the Horseshoe stagecoach through the streets of Las Vegas.
Founded in 1970, the World Series of Poker grew out of the Texas Gamblers Reunion, an event started in Reno by Bill and LaFayne Moore. Advised by gambling insider Vic Vickrey to stage an event for gamblers to boost revenue, the Moores invited several renowned players to their Holiday Casino for blackjack and craps. The following year, even more gamblers joined in to play poker.
By the third year, the Moores were no longer interested in hosting the event and graciously allowed the Binion family to carry on the tradition. They renamed it, calling it the World Series of Poker, and promoted it to noteworthy and amateur gamblers alike. At first, the Binions didn’t make a lot of money from the event, but the combined star power of gaming legends like Johnny Moss and Nick “the Greek” Dandolos boosted the overall appeal of their casino.
By 1973, the World Series of Poker was televised on CBS Sports and continued to grow in popularity. In 1991, the WSOP awarded its first prize worth $1 million. By the late 1990s, 300 players would enter the championship. In 2004, the Horseshoe was acquired by Harrah’s Entertainment, and the property is now owned by the same group that owns the nearby Four Queens.
When the Wrangler National Finals Rodeo moved to Las Vegas in 1985, it was largely thanks to Benny Binion. His granddaughter Mindy, who’s the wife of rider Clint Johnson, claimed her grandfather “wanted to get more purse money for the cowboys,” a goal he shared with fellow casino owner and current rodeo advocate Michael Gaughan.
Gaughan credits Binion with “taking” the rodeo from Oklahoma City, claiming it “might have been the greatest thing he did. I can’t tell you how much this rodeo has meant to this town. It keeps it alive. It keeps people working.”
Binion had a long history of working with horses and raised rodeo animals on his Montana ranch. He was inducted into the Pro Rodeo Hall of Fame despite never having participated in the sport himself. Each year at the National Finals Rodeo, a red stagecoach is led through the arena in his honor.
After his tax evasion conviction during the 1950s, Binion had to sell off part of his stake in the Horseshoe to pay legal costs and fines. Joe W. Brown, a friend and wealthy oil man, assumed control of the Horseshoe until Binion was released from prison in 1957, though Binion didn’t have 100% ownership until 1964. Binion could no longer hold a gaming license in Nevada, so his son, Jack, took over as casino president.
During the 1970s and ’80s, Binion’s sons were the face of the Horseshoe alongside their mother, Teddy Jane. Teddy Jane worked in the cashier’s cage and, after her passing in 1994, the remaining Binion children entered into litigation to decide who would control the casino. Jack and his sisters, Brenda and Becky, settled out of court in 1998 when Becky emerged victorious.
After years of falling into debt, the Horseshoe was seized by federal agents in 2004 and sold to Harrah’s Entertainment. Harrah’s sold the Las Vegas property but still has the rights to the Horseshoe name and the World Series of Poker tournament.
Benny Binion had five children – Ted, Jack, Barbara, Brenda, and Becky. Jack and Ted were both heavily involved in their father’s business, but Ted’s story took a tragic turn during the mid-1990s. Ted “took pride in being a chip off the old block,” according to his friends, but was a much better card player than his father. He was banned from the Nevada Gaming Commission in 1987, allowed back in 1993, and banned again the following year shortly before his passing.
In September 1998, a lifeless Ted was found in his Las Vegas home. His girlfriend, Sandy Murphy, and her lover, Rick Tabish, were charged with his slaying, allegedly attempting to take the silver bullion he held in his vault. Murphy and Tabish were convicted of his slaying in 2000 despite arguing that Ted had succumbed to an overdose of illicit substances. They appealed the conviction and were tried again. At the second trial, they were convicted of burglary but acquitted of the slaying.
To date, the bullion remains missing.

Coming up… what would you do if you discovered that the church you attend every Sunday has a dark past that involves hauntings and supernatural phenomena? We’ll look at some of the most haunted churches in the United States – perhaps you attend one of them and don’t even realize it!  That’s up next on Weird Darkness!

One of the places with more sanctity than any other is a church. Whether you’re a devout Catholic, a Christian, or any other religious denomination a church is a place of worship, peace, and most of all, your private time with your deity and your prayers. But what would you do if the church you go to every Sunday has a dark past that involves hauntings and supernatural phenomena? Do you stay? or do you simply look for another? I wonder what the good Samaritans in the next following cases decided to do.
Most Holy Trinity Church Brooklyn, New York: This 1880’s building that now sits on a former cemetery, has quite a history behind it, from footsteps, flickering lights and not to mention the spirits of those who “used” to rest in the cemetery are some of the things that have been seen lurking around. One of the most noted kindred spirits to roam is that of a former parish clerk named George Stelz who was brutally murdered in 1897. They say that his blood and the murderer’s bloody handprint, are still in one of the walls of the bell tower stairway since then the bells ring on their own from time to time. There are also the spirits of two former pastors who are buried under the church in a crypt.
Church of St. Andrews Staten Island, New York: Once used as a revolutionary war hospital the church of St. Andrews is highly haunted with apparitions of those dead soldiers who lost their lives, unexplained knockings, footsteps, screams thru the night that passersby have witnessed, candles flickering, and elevating loud music are some of the things that people have experienced. Even the guys from the T.V show “Ghost Haunters” found some activity when they filmed one of their episodes there.
Washington National Cathedral Washington D.C.: Sightings of ghostly president Woodrow Wilson have been caught by several parishioners in the nation’s cathedral with the sounds of his cane echoing against the walls. There was also a tragic fire that broke out in 1946, claiming the lives of several people, now some witnesses claim to have seen some charred specters walking around the lower levels of the building.
St. Louis Cathedral New Orleans, Louisiana: You cannot say haunted without including one of the country’s most infamous states known for their ghostly history. One of the oldest churches around with a breathtaking view yet a dark past. Personalities in history such as voodoo queen Marie Laveau and infamous French socialite Delphine Lalaurie are just two of the many devoted people to have set foot here. These women were known for their dark pasts, they are said to be two of the many entities walking among the living despite their love for the dark arts and slave torture. People have also witnessed the apparitions of 6 men who were executed on the church grounds, and also a haunted bell tower.
Christ Church of Alexandria, Alexandria Virginia: A colonial-era church and registered as a national landmark, The Christ Church of Alexandria served famous patrons such as George Washington and Robert E. Lee. The church also houses a cemetery on its grounds, where 34 confederate prisoners of war, lost their lives in local prison camps during the American civil war. Several occurrences have been registered by people claiming to have seen the soldiers roaming around the area and strange banging sounds in the evening. In 2010, a woman who was visiting the church took a snapshot and captured a face on the photograph, some people say it’s proof of real ghosts while others think it’s a man’s reflection.
Adams Grove Presbyterian Church, Dallas County Alabama: No longer active (in some way they claim it was due to paranormal activity) the small church made of simple wood columns, doesn’t resemble a place of worship. Now, privately owned, the property has been the talk of the small isolated town for years. With the sightings of a former minister and the creepy ghost of a confederate soldier who scares people off the property, warning them to “stay away” it was even a one-time trip for several ghost hunters around the nation due to its creepiness.
St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Cheyenne, Wyoming: A church with an unbelievable back story that will give you chills, it is said that two Swedish immigrants once working on the construction of the bell tower, simply left one day without any notice and never came back leaving the tower about halfway completed. After that, several workers came to take on the task but never did stick around, claims of “spooky” stuff kept driving them away. With all the mishaps going on, someone came up with a crazy idea of giving the “ghost” its room where he/she could continue with the loud banging, whispers, and humming. Believe it or not, it worked and the tower was finally finished. It is said that years later, one of the two immigrants came back to tell the church pastor that, his fellow worker had slipped and fallen to his death. Because of the fear of being deported, he simply kept it a secret and he sealed the body up in a wall and never came back. No word has ever been said about a body being found, perhaps he’s still trapped inside the wall, waiting patiently to be released.
Chapel of the Cross, Madison Mississippi: Another church with an adjoined cemetery is the home to several hauntings in the area. There have been claims of shadow figures as well as transparent ones roaming amok the cemetery. One of them belongs to a woman who was set and ready to wed in the chapel, only to find out her fiancée would never show up since he died tragically right before the wedding. Now the woman’s spirit walks around the church weeping for her long-lost love.
Old Rock Church, St. Olaf, Texas: Located literally in the middle of nowhere and with a silenced and calming atmosphere where you could hear a pin drop, this small church has reports of singing parishioners in the wind when there’s no one around, from organ music to misty figures lurking in the cemetery area, instead of the townspeople getting the heebie-jeebies, they feel a sense of peacefulness and relaxation.
St. Paul’s Chapel in New York New York: The oldest standing church in New York City was once witness to George Washington’s praying the day of his inauguration. It was also the home of George Frederick Cooke, an English actor who was known for his erratic habits, brilliant talent but also his alcoholism. A while after Cooke had passed away, his body was moved to a public grave in St. Pauls but at the time of the move, they noticed his head was missing. Some claim it was Cooke himself the one that sold it to science to pay off some creditors. The lore goes as far as his skull being an actual prop in some productions of Hamlet but that is unclear. In 1938 the skull finally found its way to the Thomas Jefferson Medical School Library in Philadelphia. But the spirit of Cooke can be seen roaming around the church possibly still looking for his lost head. The church was also a sanctuary spot on the day of the tragic 9-11 attacks.

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 through the website at WeirdDarkness.com. That’s also where you can find all of my social media, listen to free audiobooks, shop the Weird Darkness store, sign up for the newsletter to win monthly prizes, find my other podcast “Church of the Undead”, and more. Plus if you have a true paranormal or creepy tale to tell, you can click on TELL YOUR STORY.

All stories in Weird Darkness are purported to be true (unless stated otherwise) and you can find source links or links to the authors in the show notes.

“The Vampire Time-Traveler” by Marcus Lowth for UFO Insight
“History’s Most Daring Prison Breaks” by Mike Rothschild for Ranker’s Unspeakable Times
“Most Haunted Churches in America” by Rain-Screaming-For-Horror, posted at Vocal.Media
“Benny Binion, The Nice Guy Brute” by Melissa Sartore for Weird History

Again, you can find link to all of these stories in the show notes.

WeirdDarkness™ – is a production and trademark of Marlar House Productions. Copyright, Weird Darkness.

Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” — Romans 12:17-18

And a final thought… “Crocodiles are easy. They try to kill and eat you. People are harder. Sometimes they pretend to be your friend first.” – Steve Irwin

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

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