“WAKE THE DEAD” and More True and Macabre Stories (PLUS BLOOPERS)! #WeirdDarkness
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IN THIS EPISODE: I’m pretty sure that unless you were born of a virgin, died, and then rose from the grave three days later, no one has had any real success at bringing people back from the underworld. But that’s exactly what people who practice necromancy try to do – wake the dead. They can’t be successful at it though, can they? (Raising The Dead) *** The people of Japan have a myth of a terrible snake-like creature with death-dealing powers called a Tsuchinoko. But unlike many legends, there have been modern sightings of this bizarre cryptid. Is it real? If so, what could it be? (Is The Legendary Tsuchinoko Real?) *** At the age of only 14, George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person in history to be put to death in the electric chair. Then, seventy years later he was proven innocent. (The Execution of an Innocent) *** A snowy November day, a bus full of students, and an icy lake. It was about to become the day of the worst school-related accident in Washington state history. (School Bus Plunges To An Icy Death) *** They were cigar-shaped, glowed red and could turn on a dime. Which ruled out even the most sophisticated rockets of the time. What is it that World War II fighter pilots were seeing in the skies flying with them? (The UFOs of World War 2) *** (Originally aired June 01, 2020)
SOURCES AND REFERENCES FROM THE EPISODE…
BOOK: Military Encounters with UFOs in World War II by Keith Chester: https://amzn.to/2MdWUHl
“Is The Legendary Tsuchinoko Real?” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages: https://tinyurl.com/y7aoznc2
“The Execution of an Innocent” from Bugged Space: https://tinyurl.com/yagynb2y
“Zombie Science” by Kimberly Hickok for Live Science: https://tinyurl.com/ybud3hly
“Raising The Dead” by Jen Jeffers for Ranker: https://tinyurl.com/y9g48lkz
“The UFOs of World War 2” by Adam Janos for History: https://tinyurl.com/yamx3hnl
“School Bus Plunges To An Icy Death” by Daryl McClary for History Link: https://tinyurl.com/ybtxdrrl
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There are few things in life more permanent and guaranteed than death. Yet, that doesn’t stop us from imagining what life would be like if death was only temporary. In numerous movies and TV shows, reanimated human corpses roam the world, having avoided the permanent stillness of death only to devour the living. Now, we know zombies aren’t real but reanimated corpses aren’t exactly a figment of the imagination. Both necromancers and scientists have been attempting to restore life to the dead for hundreds of years. In the 1800s, physicist Giovanni Aldini became famous for his spectacular demonstrations of “reanimating” human and animal corpses by stimulating them with powerful electrical shocks. He would hook a battery up to dismembered humans or animals and cause the corpse to convulse as though it were alive. Audience members were awestruck, despite the fact the creature never actually came back to life. Aldini knew he wasn’t actually reviving the dead; though that didn’t stop him from trying, and neither did the scientists who followed him. By the 1930s, attempts to resurrect the dead with electricity had fizzled but the fascination with reanimation was far from dead. One of the most famous scientists in the field of reanimation is Robert E. Cornish, an American biologist who studied at the University of California Berkeley. Cornish reportedly managed to revive two dogs by rocking them back and forth to move blood around while injecting the animals with a mixture of anticoagulants and steroids. When Cornish announced he was ready to perform his experiment on humans, a California death-row inmate, Thomas McMonigle, volunteered his body post-execution, but the State of California denied his request. Because, let’s face it, the last thing we need is technology that can bring death row inmates back to life after their demise. That’s a horror movie script in the making. Recently, a team of researchers from Yale University have been experimenting with reanimating pig brains and published their findings in April 2019’s journal Nature. The scientists restored brain activity and some cellular activity in pigs a few hours after the animals died in a slaughterhouse. Although some brain cells began functioning again, it wasn’t enough for the pigs to regain consciousness. Scientists not involved in the study told Live Science that the results throw into question what it means to be alive or brain-dead. Zombies are most certainly fake, but a few remarkable case studies suggest that some semblance of spontaneous resurrection is possible. In 2011, 46-year-old woman Kelly Dwyer fell into a frozen pond while hiking alone in New Hampshire. Dwyer’s heart stopped before the ambulance could reach her and her body temperature plummeted to near 60 degrees Fahrenheit (15 degrees Celsius), Popular Science reported. Dwyer had been dead for 5 hours when doctors switched off life support, and her heart spontaneously started again. After spending two weeks recovering in the hospital, Dwyer returned home alive and with no brain damage. She wasn’t a zombie, but in a sense, she had come back from the dead. Enough people have spontaneously come back to life several minutes after cardiac arrest that the instance has its own name: The Lazarus phenomenon. Not all of the people who experience the Lazarus phenomenon regain full neurological function or remain living for much longer, but a 2007 review estimated that about 35% of Lazarus phenomenon patients return to a normal, healthy life. Even after hundreds of years of failed experiments, some scientists are still trying to manually reanimate human corpses. Bioquark, Inc., a U.S. biotechnology company, has been attempting to recruit 20 clinically dead patients for an experiment on reversing brain death. A letter published in the journal Critical Care said “the trial borders on quackery,” and “dead means dead.” Zombie fans might disagree… and so might Necromancers. Perhaps the key to bringing the dead to life has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with black magic, witchcraft, spells, potions, the time of day, and the weather outside. While scientists have been trying for hundreds of years to bring the dead back to life, necromancers have been claiming for even longer to have been succeeding at it. But can we believe that? Can we bring someone back from the dead to speak to them once again? There are all kinds of ways in which the dead differ from the living. Psychology professor Richard Wiseman recently said, “And one of them is that dead people tend to be rather particular about who they talk to. The dead,” he continued, “prefer chatting to people who are imaginative. Creative. Highly sensitive.” The professor gives a barely perceptible nod in my direction. “You know: the credulous, the gullible and the deluded.” Well, that escalated quickly.
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 people of Japan have a myth of a terrible snake-like creature with death-dealing powers called a Tsuchinoko. But unlike many legends, there have been modern sightings of this bizarre cryptid. Is it real? If so, what could it be? (Is The Legendary Tsuchinoko Real?)
At the age of only 14, George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person in history to be put to death in the electric chair. Then, seventy years later he was proven innocent. (The Execution of an Innocent)
A snowy November day, a bus full of students, and an icy lake. It was about to become the day of the worst school-related accident in Washington state history. (School Bus Plunges To An Icy Death)
They were cigar-shaped, glowed red and could turn on a dime. Which ruled out even the most sophisticated rockets of the time. What is it that World War II fighter pilots were seeing in the skies flying with them? (The UFOs of World War 2)
I’m pretty sure that unless you were born of a virgin, died, and then rose from the grave three days later, no one has had any real success at bringing people back from the underworld. But that’s exactly what people who practice necromancy try to do. They can’t be successful at it though, can they? (Raising The Dead)
If you’re new here, welcome to the show! While you’re listening, be sure to check out WeirdDarkness.com for merchandise, to visit sponsors you hear about during the show, sign up for my newsletter, enter contests, connect with me on social media, plus, you can visit the Hope in the Darkness page if you’re struggling with depression or dark thoughts. You can find all of that and more at WeirdDarkness.com.
Now.. bolt your doors, lock your windows, turn off your lights, and come with me into the Weird Darkness!
STORY: RAISING THE DEAD=====
One thing most ancient civilizations share is a fascination with the afterlife. The art of necromancy, communicating beyond the grave through messages to ghosts or the reanimation of deceased flesh, has long been regarded as a deviant way to find answers in the realm of the underworld. Although it has been practiced in some way in nearly every ancient civilization, necromancy began primarily in ancient Persia, Greece, Rome, and Medieval Europe.
Referred to more commonly as sorcery or black magic, necromancy derives from the Greek words nekros, meaning “dead body,” and manteia, meaning “divination.” It is the magical process of bringing the deceased to life with the intent of learning their secrets – a way to read the future, discover the unknown, or just exploit the wisdom of the grave. It’s been the subject of many forbidden doctrines and is still used in some religions today. Although first considered by the ancient Greeks as a way to descend into the underworld of Hades, necromancy eventually evolved into the act of summoning the departed into the mortal world, often against their will and with grave consequences. (Pet Semetary, anyone?) Talking to the deceased is not for the faint of heart, and the lore surrounding what necromancy is can be equally as terrifying.
Necromancy is most commonly associated with witches and witchcraft. Since ancient days, tales of witches using necromancy for power and insight have appeared in legends and lore from multiple cultures. Part of this association comes from the belief that witches work with spirits, including those of humans, animals, plants, and the Earth itself.
One of the more memorable stories is the story of Sextus Pompey, who in the Roman poet Lucan’s epic, sought out the help of Erichtho – a Thessalian witch known to be both horrifying and dangerous. Regardless of her reputation, Sextus was desperate to know the outcome of the civil war before it happened. Erichtho was a serious necromancer who set up residence in a graveyard to facilitate her conversations with the deceased and promised to help Sextus with his query.
In a gruesome scene, she wandered a battlefield in search of a cadaver whose neck and lungs still allowed him to speak, and when she found one, she and Sextus brought the body into a cave where the witch prepared it for her ritual. Calling on the help of Hermes, the guide of the dead, and other supernatural powers, she successfully summoned the spirit and the soldier’s body was reanimated.
The animated body then described for Sextus the bleak civil war on the horizon and the inevitability of his own early death. Despite the bad omen from the spirit, Sextus was satisfied because above all else, he knew his fate.
Necromantic rituals could be both mundane and grotesque, depending on their purpose, but they were almost always elaborate – often involving talismans, incantations, magic circles, candles, symbols, and wands. The necromancer might wear the clothes of the deceased, sit for days without moving, or even mutilate and eat corpses as a way to call out to the other side. They would choose melancholy locations that were well-suited to their guidelines – perhaps the home of the deceased subject, a ruin, or a dark graveyard.
All of these morbid practices were just the warm-up for the eventual summoning of the spirit. According to folklore about necromancy, in order to raise a physical body from the other side, the process had to occur within one year of the death, otherwise, the necromancer would only be able to evoke the ghost, not the real person.
These days, existing practices of necromancy relate to the spiritualism of certain cultures who still believe the dead can lead the living into a realm of understanding. For example, necromancy is still practiced in the Afro-Brazilian religion Quimbanda, which purports that there are several types of spirits, including a group of female spirits called Pomba Giras and a group of male spirits called Exus, who can be called on for aid.
People who practice Quimbanda ask spirits to help them with specific tasks.
But what do the dead really know? This question has been up for debate throughout the centuries.
Roman poet Ovid wrote in the Metamorphoses that many felt the dead converged in an underworld marketplace where they exchanged news and gossip. Others thought they were much more sinister – including Jews and Christians. Many books of the Bible offer warnings against necromancy, fortune-telling, and false prophets.
In the eyes of most Christians, bringing back non-living spirits was and still is nothing short of demon-summoning. They believe that regardless of any perceived benefits, raising the dead goes in the face of God’s authority and only leads to suffering.
The medieval world typically believed that the resurrection of the dead required God’s help, thereby labeling all other kinds of divination and spirit communication as requiring the help of evil spirits. Even though many Catholics pray to deceased saints and for their departed loved ones, the Bible and the Catholic church condemn necromancy as a magical practice.
The first literary mention of necromancy appeared in Homer’s Odyssey when the powerful sorceress Circe traveled to the underworld with Odysseus to determine the success of his impending voyage home. By raising the spirit of the prophet Tiresias, who was known for his clairvoyance, they hoped to gain insight into Odysseus’s future.
In this depiction of necromancy, Odysseus followed the rituals of his culture and made offerings to the underworld gods and the blood sacrifice of a sheep, which acted as a special drink for ghosts, enabling them to speak. He spoke to several ghosts and was given warnings.
Odysseus pandered to the dead as a way to ensure his future success and to gain insight into a realm where humans had no such visions. Odysseus was desperate to ascertain his fate, no matter what the cost. This theme of desperation for knowledge despite the religious and ethical implications of necromancy reappear frequently in history.
Despite it being a controversial form of black magic, many clerics in the Middle Ages studied and practiced necromancy. These medieval scholars believed necromancy could help them achieve many feats, both personal and spiritual, and they used their clerical training to perform the rituals correctly.
It was believed necromancy could obtain answers from the dead that could solve real-life problems like finding missing items, identifying culprits in crimes, or even predicting the future.
According to author Robert Masello, in a typical ritual of necromancy, once a coffin was unsealed, the body would be removed and laid out with its head pointing east towards the rising sun, and its limbs assuming the position of crucifixion. A small dish of burning wine, mastic, and sweet oil would then be placed near the right hand of the body to promote conjuration. Of course, the incantations varied greatly between cultures, but all seemed to focus on commanding the spirit to move in the name of the deceased person and to answer the demands of the living.
Assuming the ritual went according to plan, the body of the dead would slowly rise and dutifully answer the questions of the necromancer. The spirit would be rewarded for its cooperation by promises of future peace, and the body would be burned or buried in quicklime afterward so it could never be reanimated again.
As one would expect, the best time to perform necromancy was at midnight, especially if the night was filled with wind, rain, and lightning because it was believed that spirits would show themselves more readily in stormy weather. Although practices varied from place to place, the majority of rituals involved lighting the scene with torches and creating a backdrop of deep contemplation and morbidity.
For example, if a necromancer wanted to raise a corpse from the cemetery, magic circles would be drawn around the grave and certain powerful plants were burned, including hemlock, mandrake, and opium.
Even today there are people who claim they can speak to the dead. Modern necromancers cultivate working relationships with the departed through things like the art of throwing bones, where the future is read based on their placement. Working with the “energy” of the dead is the contemporary version of reanimation, and it tries to avoid brutality and the desecration of burial sites.
But despite a surprisingly robust online necromancy community, the ancient art of bringing dead things to life is mostly gone (probably because there’s no evidence anyone has actually done it). While there is plenty of literature on the subject and contemporary witches who claim to know the old ways, it’s clear that necromancy is not what is used to be.
STORY: IS THE LEGENDARY TSUCHINOKO REAL?=====
Tsuchinoko is a legendary ancient creature that appears in Japanese myths. Interestingly, people in modern times report having encountered the fearsome snake-like being, and I’m not talking about video games. Does this mysterious creature exist only in the realm of mythology or could it be an unknown new species?
In Japanese mythology and folklore. Tsuchinoko is described as a creature having a think belly. The Japanese word for Tsuchinoko means “child of hammer” or “child of dirt”.
In Northeastern Japan, the peculiar being is known as bachi hebi. Like many other mythological creatures, Tsuchinoko often displays supernatural abilities uncommon for animals we are familiar with. For example, despite its small size, being only between 30 and 80 centimeters (12 and 31 inches) in length, Tsuchinoko can jump very high up in the air. It often makes several jumps one after another.
This mysterious creature was “mentioned for the first time in the “Kojiki,” a text from the eighth century, which is Japan’s oldest existing chronicle and the oldest book written in Japanese.”
Japanese folklore stories tell the Tsuchinoko possesses the ability to speak and enjoy alcohol. It’s a creature that often lies and swallows its tail. In some ways, Tsuchinoko resembles the legendary American hoop snake.
Tsuchinoko is said to inhabit deep, remote mountains and the animal’s color varies, but it’s mostly described as a black or dark brown creature having a thick orange belly.
Some years ago, an unusual reptile was discovered in Mikata a town located in Mikata District, Hyōgo, Japan. Its peculiar appearance brought the legend of Tsuchinoko alive again.
Since no-one has ever found a real Tsuchinoko, it was difficult to determine if the unknown reptile was the same legendary snake mentioned in ancient Japanese tales.
However, according to local government official Toshikazu Miyawaki, the animal found in Mikita might have been the Tsuchinoko. Its body was very thick and short. Several people also heard its squeak.
It’s not the first-time reports of Tsuchinoko reached media.
In the opening years of the twenty-first century, there was another tsuchinoko boom, this one occurring when a farmer in a small town in Okayama Prefecture found the remains of a mysterious creature. The discovery set off a frenzy in the mass media, with tabloid newspapers, magazines, and television shows captured people’s attention. Eventually, the body was examined by a biologist, who pronounced it “probably a yamakagashi [tiger keelback snake, Rhabdophis tigrinus] but not a normal one.”
The town itself had quickly become identified with the tsuchinoko (there had been earlier sightings as well), and today tsuchinoko is a local brand—you can, for example, buy tsuchinoko wine.”
Alleged sightings of Tsuchinoko keep pouring in, but this little creature remains as elusive as ever refusing to give up its identity and reveal its hiding place.
Modern scientists still discovered many previously unknown creatures. So, it’s very possible there is a snake-like animal somewhere that once gave rise to the Tsuchinoko legends, but researchers have just not been able to confirm its existence yet. Perhaps Tsuchinoko resides not in mountains but rather inhabits the deep underwater realm because its a semi-aquatic animal.
One should not dismiss the possibility Tsuchinoko is a new species awaiting discovery. However, currently, it is still classified as a Yokai (“Yōkai”), a mysterious, supernatural creature mentioned in Japanese mythology.
Coming up… At the age of only 14, George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person in history to be put to death in the electric chair. Then, seventy years later he was proven innocent.
And, it was a snowy November day, it was a bus full of students, it was an icy lake. It was about to become the worst school-related accident in Washington state history. These stories and more when Weird Darkness returns.
STORY: THE EXECUTION OF AN INNOCENT=====
14–year-old George Junius Stinney was convicted of murdering two white girls; the youngest person to be electrocuted by an electric chair. His conviction was overturned 70 years later.
Nothing like that ever happened in the sawmill village of Alcolu. Alcolu was a place anchored by the lumber mill, where both men and women went to church twice on Sundays and green fields teemed with bolls of cotton every summer before bursting into clouds of white fuzz each fall.
According to official documents, on March 24, 1944 Betty June, age 11, and Mary Emma Thames, age 7 were riding their bicycles in the black part of Alcolu looking for flowers.
George Stinney Jr, a seventh-grader was out with his younger sister. When they saw Stinney outside, they stopped and asked if he knew where to find maypops, a local name for passionflowers.
Betty and Mary never made it home that day. White girls’ disappearance prompted hundred of Alcolu residents to come together and search for the missing girls, a search party of 100 to 200 men fanned out across town.
The Stinney family had gotten word of the missing girls that evening while attending a party in the neighborhood. George told his parents that he had seen them earlier and he left with his father to join the search parties.
The girls were found the next morning but sadly in a water filled-ditch with their skulls smashed in.
Later that day Medical Examiner A.C. Bozard performed an autopsy on the girls and determined their cause of death to be blunt force trauma. Bozard concluded that both the girls had been struck multiple times in the head with “a small round head about the size of a hammer,” both girls’ skulls were punctured.
Then the law enforcement officers found out from witnesses that Betty and Mary were last seen talking to Stinney. The officers handcuffed him and Stinney was taken to the Sumter County Jail.
Geroge Stinney was interrogated for hours in a locked room with no witnesses or an attorney. The reports differed to what kind of weapon had been used.
According to the police reports, Stinney confessed to murdering Betty and Mary after his plan to have sex with one of the girls failed. The medical examiner reported no evidence of sexual assault to the younger girl, though the genitalia of the older girl was slightly bruised.
George Stinney and his older brother, Johnny were arrested on suspicion of murdering the girls. Stinney was not allowed to see his parents until after his trial and conviction. Jhonny was later released by the cops.
“According to a handwritten statement, the arresting officer was H.S. Newman, a Clarendon County deputy, who stated, “I arrested a boy by the name of George Stinney. He then made a confession and told me where to find a piece of iron about 15 inches were [sic] he said he put it in a ditch about six feet from the bicycle.”
No confession statement signed by Stinney is known to exist. The 14-year-old claimed that the arresting officers starved him and then bribed him with food to confess.
After the arrest of George Stinney, his father was fired from his job and his family had to immediately vacate their company housing. The community and police threatened them if they did not leave immediately.
31 days after his arrest, George Stinney appeared at the Clarendon County Courthouse in downtown Manning, the county seat. George was dressed in jeans and a faded blue shirt.
George looked calm and “apparently little concerned”, a newspaper in Columbia reported.
The trail began at a Clarendon County Courtroom, where the Court-appointed defense attorney Charles Plowden did almost nothing to defend his client, Stinney.
Charles did not challenge the prosecution’s presentation of two different versions of what really happened. In one version, Stinney was attacked by the girls after he tried to help one girl who had fallen in the ditch, and he killed them in self-defense. In the other version, he had followed the girls, first attacking Mary Emma and then Betty June.
The most significant piece of evidence presented on the court was Stinney’s alleged confession, but there was no written record of the teen admitting to murders.
Trial prosecutors called three police officers and three witnesses: Reverend Francis Batson, who discovered the bodies of the two girls, and the two doctors who performed post-mortem examination.
The all-white jury took less than ten minutes to deliberate after which they found George Stinnely guilty of first-degree murder, and the judge, Philip H. Stoll sentenced him to death by electric chair. No appeal was filed by his defense attorney and there is no transcript of the trial.
Between the time of his arrest and his execution Stinney’s family was allowed to see him only once, later denied to see him a second time under threat of lynching.
On June 16, 1944, George Stinney Jr. walked into the execution chamber at the South Carolina State Penitentiary in Columbia with a bible under his arms.
The Bible he was carrying was later used as a booster seat because he was too small for the chair. Stinney was then restrained by his arms, legs, body to the chair.
At the final moments his father was allowed to approach George to say his final words to his son.
When an officer asked George if he had any last words, George just shook his head. A few moments later officials turned on the switch, 2400 volts surged through Stinney’s body. George Stinney Jr. was declared dead after eight minutes, and 83 days after the murders of Betty June Binnicker and Mary Emma Thames.
For a long time his grave was unmarked in hopes that anonymity would allow him to forever rest in peace.
George Stinney’s first-degree murder conviction was first appealed in 2014. George’s siblings claimed that he was pressured and that he had an alibi: his younger sister, Aime, who was with him at the time of the murders.
In fact Stinney’s cellmate at the Sumter County Jail, claimed that Stinney always denied murdering Betty and Mary.
After a year of consideration, on December 17, 2014, Judge Carmen T. Mullen overturned Stinney’s first-degree murder conviction, stating that his sentencing was “cruel and unusual.” She wrote that there was “a violation of the defendant’s procedural due process rights that tainted his prosecution.”
Mullen wrote, “No one can justify a 14-year-old child charged, tried, convicted and executed in some 80 days,” concluding that “In essence, not much was done for this child when his life lay in the balance.”
STORY: SCHOOL BUS PLUNGES TO AN ICY DEATH=====
On November 26, 1945, the driver of a Lake Chelan School District bus carrying 20 young students and a woman, skids off South Lakeshore Road during a snow storm and plunges down a 30-foot embankment into Lake Chelan. The woman and five children manage to escape thorough broken windows and reach the shore, but the driver and 15 students drown in the icy waters. Two bodies are recovered soon after the accident, but the bus and remaining 14 victims disappear. After searching for a week, Navy divers finally find the bus sitting precariously on a ledge in more than 200 feet of water. The bus is carefully hoisted to the surface, but it contains the bodies of only four students and the driver. Lake Chelan has a reputation of never yielding its dead and the bodies of the missing nine victims will never be recovered. It is the worst school-related accident in Washington state history.
Lake Chelan, located in central Washington state, is approximately 55 miles long, varies from one to two miles wide, and is the third-deepest freshwater lake in the United States, measuring more than 1,500 feet deep in places. The name “Chelan” is a modification of Tsill-anne, the Indian name for the lake, meaning “deep water.” Fed by glaciers in the Cascade Mountains, the lake flows into the Columbia River via the Chelan River. The Lake Chelan Dam, built in 1927 at the lake’s outlet to generate hydroelectric power, raised the water level 21 feet, requiring construction of new roads on the adjacent mountainsides. Tragically, the new lake-shore roads were unimproved and lacked safety barriers.
On Monday morning, November 26, 1945, Royal J. “Jack” Randle, a Lake Chelan School District bus driver, was proceeding on his normal route along the west side of the lake, from 25-Mile Creek to Chelan, picking up school children. Mrs. Glenna Brown caught a ride on the bus, hoping to keep a dental appointment in Chelan. It had started snowing, but there was only a light accumulation on the unpaved road, so he didn’t bother putting on tire chains. But the snowstorm intensified, limiting his vision. Randle, a World War II veteran, had spent 26 months on Attu in the Aleutian Islands as an Army truck driver, so he wasn’t intimidated by severe winter weather.
According to surviving witnesses, approximately nine miles from Chelan (now Lake Chelan State Park), a heavy accumulation of snow on the windshield stopped the wipers from working. Unable to see, Randle pulled the bus off the roadway to clear the windshield; however, the bus struck an outcropping of rock, sending it diagonally across the road, over a 50-degree, 30-foot embankment. The bus rolled over twice and came to rest right side up on a large boulder, with the front-end five feet under water. Randle, injured and trapped behind the steering wheel, ordered everyone to get out. There was mass confusion as the students frantically looked for ways to escape. Mari Condon, a student, managed to kick out a window near the back, but as she and others left the bus, it became over-balanced and slid off the rock. Only six passengers managed to escape before the bus disappeared into the lake. The survivors were Mrs. Glenna Brown, age 37; Donald Mack, age 13; Ethel Keck, age 9; Robert Watson, age 8; Peggy Rice, age 16, and Mari Condon, age 17.
Having escaped through the broken window, Donald Mack swam ashore and clambered up the steep embankment. He found a U.S. Forest Service emergency telephone box on a nearby utility pole and called for help. On the road, Mack was joined by Robert Watson and Mari Condon and they flagged down passing cars, telling the drivers that the school bus had gone into the lake.
Peggy Rice was credited with dragging most of the survivors from the water to safety on the embankment. Ironically, the first car at the scene was driven by her father, Albert R. Rice who, with his son Alan, had been a few minutes behind the school bus. After helping Glenna Brown, Peggy Rice, and Ethel Keck up the embankment, they looked for more survivors but found none; then, Albert Rice and other motorists took the survivors to the hospital in Chelan for medical attention. School officials were unsure how many students were in the bus. It was nearly 1:00 p.m. when an accurate count and their identities were finally established.
Meanwhile, as the alarm spread, emergency vehicles were arriving at the scene from all over Chelan County. The Chelan Fire Department with a resuscitator was the first to arrive and stood by all day and into the night. The Washington State Patrol and Chelan County Sheriff’s Office established roadblocks to control traffic through the area. The Forest Service erected a shelter over the nearby emergency telephone that provided direct communications with Chelan and the outside world. The Red Cross set up a small canvas tent on the bank, providing the rescuer workers with hot coffee and sandwiches. A tugboat and 100-foot ore barge, belonging to the Howe Sound Mining Company, were moored at the water’s edge above the sunken bus to use as a platform for diving operations. But nothing could be done to retrieve the bodies or raise the bus until men with diving equipment arrived. Meanwhile, the snow continued falling heavily, at about an inch per hour.
Late that afternoon, two U.S. Bureau of Reclamation trucks arrived from Grand Coulee Dam, loaded with deep-sea diving equipment and air compressors. After donning their equipment, the divers, brothers Colin and D. S. “Mac” O’Donnell, finally entered the water at 6:10 p.m. Since it was night, the divers used battery-operated spotlights to search the underwater embankment for any sign of the vehicle. They recovered the body of Henry Davis, age 16, and continued searching until 6:35 p.m. without further success. Limited by the length of the air hoses, they were only able to descend 130 feet on the first dive and sent for more air hose. Later that evening, Ben Thorson, a Washington Water Power diver, arrived from Spokane with a truckload of equipment. Meantime, the weather continued hindering rescue and salvage attempts.
On Tuesday, November 27, 1945, the O’Donnells recovered the body of Forman Ronald Ayers, age 13, and followed a trail down a rock ravine marked by scarred rocks, yellow paint scrapings and broken glass. At 200 feet, the divers came to a ledge and the visible end of the trail. It was also the limit to which they could safely descend without special equipment. Recovery efforts were temporarily abandoned and buoys were placed in the water, marking the spots where the bus disappeared and floating debris (papers, lunch boxes and clothing) had been spotted. At the request of the Washington State Patrol, the Thirteenth Naval District in Seattle agreed to take over the recovery operation and dispatched a team of diving specialists and equipment to the lake.
On Wednesday morning, November 28, 1945, Walter McCrea, an underwater salvage expert from Seattle, and seven Navy divers from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island arrived in Chelan with helium diving equipment and a portable decompression chamber, allowing divers to descend to about 450 feet. After talking to the original divers and analyzing soundings, the Navy divers determined the bus probably landed on a shelf of rock 280 feet below the surface and about 150 yards from the spot where it went into the water. The ledge, however, ended abruptly a few yards farther out in the lake, dropping to depths over 1,400 feet. If the bus was not found on the ledge, the experts conceded there would be little chance of recovery. Only a diving bell, used by the Navy for deep salvage operations, could descend to such tremendous depths.
Before descending on a potentially dangerous dive, McCrea decided to sweep the suspect area with drag-lines and grappling hooks. Late that afternoon, power launches commenced dragging operations but they were suspended after only three sweeps because of darkness. The search for the bus resumed the following morning and continued throughout the day, but without success.
On Thursday morning, November 29, 1945, McCrea descended 262 feet into Lake Chelan. He stayed at that depth for nine minutes and covered a circle approximately 60 feet in diameter, searching for traces of the missing school bus. Upon his ascent, McCrea was required to spend four hours in the portable decompression chamber to avoid “the bends,” nitrogen bubbles in the blood-stream that can cause excruciating pain, permanent injury, or death. Meantime, dragging operations were resumed and continued throughout the day. The Forest Service towed a big electromagnet along the lake bottom, hoping it would attach to the vehicle’s metal body.
On Friday morning, November 30, 1945, the divers began searching at the 130-160-foot level, where two bodies had been found, but farther down the embankment. The dive-team members, taking turns searching throughout the day, finally relocated the path of the lost school bus, late in the afternoon. The last diver into the lake was Lieutenant C. P. Ross who stumbled across the bus’s engine-compartment hood while searching in near darkness.
The search resumed in earnest on Saturday morning, December 1, 1945. Chief Petty Officer C. E. Meyers followed the trail of debris and found the bus shortly after 10:00 a.m., resting on a ledge, upside down, 275 feet from the shore, at a depth of 210 feet. After returning to the surface, Meyers was taken to the decompression chamber to recover from his dive. He reported seeing bodies, but visibility inside the bus was poor and he was unable to provide an accurate count.
The next diver, Walter McCrea, fastened cables around the front and rear axles; then, winches carefully hoisted the wrecked bus alongside the barge so the bodies could be removed. Divers found only five victims inside the bus, including the driver, Jack Randle. They continued searching the area around the wreck site for the nine missing children, but recovery efforts were eventually suspended when no additional bodies were found.
The bodies were taken by launch to Chelan city hall where parents could positively identify their children. Fastened against the barge, the bus was towed to the Howe Sound Mining Company dock in Chelan where it was removed from the water by a large crane. The Washington State Patrol, responsible for investigating traffic fatalities on state roads, had the wreck hauled to a police garage so experts could determine if a mechanical failure caused the accident.
On Wednesday, December 5, 1945, funeral services were held for the five victims recovered from the school bus on December 1. The city of Chelan closed schools, offices and stores, allowing everyone in the community to attend. Afterward, a memorial service was held on Lake Chelan at the site of the tragic accident, for all of the victims. Small boats circled the area where the bus was found, dropping flowers into the water.
On Thursday, December 20, 1945, the Washington State Patrol released the official results of their investigation into the fatal accident. Chief Herbert W. Algeo explained the accident was caused by a blinding snowstorm that obscured Jack Randle’s vision, causing him to collide with a rock outcropping along the right side of the roadway and throwing the bus off its line of travel. Apparently, Randle didn’t realize the road was bending to the right and drove diagonally across the road, over the bank into the lake. Although no mechanical defects had been found which could have contributed to the mishap, Algeo vowed to intensify the state patrol’s semiannual school-bus inspections.
Chief Algeo went on to say that it was incumbent upon school authorities to prevent busses from operating when weather conditions were unsafe. However, parents in the community pointed out that concrete guardrails, which were supposed to have been built along the lake road, would have prevented the tragedy. Ironically, on Thanksgiving Day, November 22, 1945, a front-page story in the Chelan Valley Mirror had quoted Chelan County Commissioner Leon Cronk as saying that the South Lakeshore Road would be improved and oiled in 1946.
After the tragedy, children in the Lake Chelan School District began collecting money for a memorial to their dead classmates. Later, Chelan businesses took up the cause, adding additional funds. The Chelan community collected enough money to erect a monument and establish a small memorial park, which is located near the site of the accident on state route 971, approximately one mile east of Lake Chelan State Park.
When Weird Darkness returns… They were cigar-shaped, glowed red and could turn on a dime. Which ruled out even the most sophisticated rockets of the time. What is it that World War II fighter pilots were seeing in the skies flying with them?
STORY: THE UFOs OF WORLD WAR 2=====
It was nearly the end of World War II. But for the airmen of the 415th Night Fighter Squadron, it felt more like the beginning of War of the Worlds.
Lt. Fred Ringwald was the first to see it. He was riding as observer in a night fighter piloted by Lt. Ed Schlueter, with Lt. Donald J. Meiers on radar. It was a late November evening in 1944, partly cloudy with a quarter moon. They were roaming the Rhine Valley just north of Strasbourg on the French-German border when Ringwald said, “I wonder what those lights are, over there in the hills,” according to an American Legion Magazine story on the sightings from 1945.
There were eight to 10 of them in a row, glowing fiery orange. Then Schlueter saw them off his right wing. They checked with Allied ground radar, but they registered nothing. Thinking that the lights might be some kind of German air weapon, Schlueter turn the plane to fight…only to have the lights vanish.
At first the men said nothing, fearing they’d be ostracized. But then the sightings spread through the unit.
On December 17, 1944, near Breisach, Germany, a pilot was flying at approximately 800 feet when he saw “5 or 6 flashing red and green lights in ’T’ shape.” The lights seemed to follow him, closing in “to about 8 o’clock and 1,000 ft.” before disappearing as inexplicably as they came.
Then on December 22nd, two more flight crews sighted lights. One crew, near Hagenau, reported two lights in a large orange glow, seeming to rise from the earth to 10,000 feet, tailing the fighter “for approximately two minutes.” After that, the lights, “peel off and turn away, fly along level for a few minutes and then go out. They appear to be under perfect control at all times,” according to Keith Chester’s book, Strange Company: Military Encounters with UFOs in World War II (which I’ve placed a link to in the show notes).
And then there was Lt. Samuel A. Krasney’s experience: a wingless cigar-shape object, glowing red, just a few yards off the plane’s wingtip. Lt. Krasney, justifiably spooked, instructed the pilot to attempt evasive maneuvers, but the glowing object stayed right next to the jet for several minutes before it “flew off and disappeared.”
Eventually, the airmen named the lights: foo fighters, inspired by the comic strip “Smokey Stover,” in which Smokey (a firefighter) would often declare, “Where there’s foo, there’s fire.”
An Associated Press reporter broke news of the foo-fighter sightings on January 1st, 1945, and theories about their origins quickly abounded: The sightings were flares, or weather balloons or St. Elmo’s Fire—a phenomenon where a light appears on the tips of objects in stormy weather. But the members of the 415th rejected all those theories. Flares and weather balloons can’t track planes like these objects could, and they’d seen St. Elmo’s fire and could distinguish the two.
Then there were those who claimed that the airmen were suffering from “combat fatigue,” a polite way of saying that war stress was driving them insane. But there was scant evidence to suggest collective psychosis: The 415th had an otherwise excellent record, and when a reporter for American Legion Magazine went to report on the squadron he described them as “very normal airmen, whose primary interest was combat, and after that came pin-up girls, poker, doughnuts and the derivatives of the grape.”
Lt. Krasney’s son, Keith Krasney, says his late father didn’t fit the stereotypical profile of a UFO theorizer. In fact, he never even suggested that the glowing wingless cigar-like object that flew next to his plane was extraterrestrial in origin.
“He was very level-headed, very analytical,” says Krasney of his father, adding that he kept a notebook where he wrote about (and drew) his foo-fighter sighting. But although he never seemed prone to conspiracy theories, Krasney says his father was open to one: “He entertained the idea that it could be late-breaking German technology. He did express the view that there were a lot of things during the war that were kept quiet.”
Holding Nazi Germany responsible for the flying glowing orbs isn’t too far-fetched. For one thing, the sightings took place over Nazi-occupied Europe, at a time when Germany’s Luftwaffe was making tremendous strides. Then there’s the fact that the sightings stopped once the German army was defeated.
But the most compelling link to the foo fighters might be Wernher von Braun, a 32-year-old wunderkind rocket engineer. Von Braun helped the Nazis develop the V-2 rocket: a long-range guided ballistic missile that Hitler was using in 1944 against Belgium and other parts of Allied Europe. It’s not too hard to imagine pilots—unfamiliar with long-range ballistics—comparing these rockets to cigar-like wingless planes. The V-2 could even explain the glow, since its tail emitted a long burning plume.
Nicholas Veronico, an author who has written several books on military aviation history, says that explanation comes up short.
“The V-2 rocket doesn’t have the maneuverability,” he says. “It couldn’t turn on a dime and change its acceleration pattern. Once it started burning, it burned and produced thrust at one rating.”
Nothing in Nazi Germany’s military-aviation arsenal can explain the foo-fighter description, Veronico says. One airman’s observation from the time—that the foo fighters follow the fighters so closely as to seem almost magnetized to them—is particularly confounding, given that “there just wasn’t the propulsion or metallurgical technology that could enable something like that.”
And yet von Braun’s career after World War II is worth considering. Following the collapse of the Third Reich, the engineer was recruited to be part of Operation Paperclip, a clandestine U.S. military program that spared 1,600 Nazi scientists prosecution for war crimes, moving them instead into the American military, where their past was whitewashed to the public.
By 1952, von Braun had reinvented himself as a space-flight advocate, writing a piece that year in Collier’s magazine declaring that “within the next 10 or 15 years, the earth will have a new companion in the skies, a man-made satellite that could be either the greatest force for peace ever devised, or one of the most terrible weapons of war—depending on who makes and controls it.” His prediction proved overly conservative: The Soviets launched Sputnik 1 only five years later. Von Braun helped the U.S. Army launch Explorer 1 shortly thereafter. By 1960 he was with NASA, where he became the chief architect on Saturn V—the rocket that sent Neil Armstrong and the Apollo 11 crew to the moon.
As von Braun recast himself as an American patriot, his career in the Nazi party shadowed him, an ambiguous secret that reporters would playfully poke at. At one press conference before one Apollo launch, a reporter asked von Braun to assure the press that the rocket wouldn’t hit London. But they could never prove his involvement, and it was only in 1985—several years after von Braun’s death—that CNN broke news of the full extent of the aerospace engineer’s Nazi past, more than 40 years after the fact.
Veronico hopes the foo-fighter narrative will follow a similar trajectory.
“The fantasy is that 100 years after the war, the U.S. or Soviets will release information about what they captured, and it’ll blow all our minds. But I think they would’ve capitalized on it by this point,” the historian says. “Or weaponized it.”
Thanks for listening (and be sure to stick around for the bloopers at the end)! If you like the show, please share it with someone you know who loves the paranormal or strange stories, true crime, monsters, or unsolved mysteries like you do! You can email me anytime with your questions or comments at email@example.com. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can find information on any of the sponsors you heard about during the show, find all of my social media, listen to audiobooks I’ve narrated, sign up for the email newsletter, find other podcasts that I host including “Church of the Undead”, visit the store for Weird Darkness merchandise, and more. WeirdDarkness.com is also where you can 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 on Weird Darkness are purported to be true unless stated otherwise, and you can find links to the stories or the authors in the show notes.
“Is The Legendary Tsuchinoko Real?” by Ellen Lloyd for Ancient Pages
“The Execution of an Innocent” from Bugged Space
“Zombie Science” which I used at the very beginning of this episode, was written by Kimberly Hickok for Live Science
“Raising The Dead” by Jen Jeffers for Ranker
“The UFOs of World War 2” by Adam Janos for History
“School Bus Plunges To An Icy Death” by Daryl McClary for History Link
WeirdDarkness® is a registered trademark. Copyright, Weird Darkness.
Now that we’re coming out of the dark, I’ll leave you with a little light… “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” – Jeremiah 33:3
And a final thought… “Every day may not be good… but there’s something good in every day.” – Alice Morse Earle
I’m Darren Marlar. Thanks for joining me in the Weird Darkness.