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IN THIS EPISODE: I’ll tell you about the sad death of John Sellers, which teaches us that if you must pass from this earthly realm, at least be considerate enough to do so in a way and at a time that is the most convenient for those around you. (A Case of Criminal Neglect) *** In October you can find haunted house attractions on just about every street corner, with a multitude of themes – haunted asylums, ghost hospitals, zombies in cellars, and hell houses. But in 1905, visitors to Coney Island were treated to a different kind of Hell attraction all year long, not just in October. It was a boat ride that, for the cost of one dime, was meant to literally scare the hell out of you. (Coney Island’s Hell Gate) *** What type of person raises a young girl, telling everyone she is their daughter, and then years later marries her? That’s just part of “The Disturbing Story of Sharon Marshall.” *** A man wakes up one morning to find his entire family has been handcuffed – and the paranormal is to blame! (Ghost Handcuffs Family) *** It has happened to all of us. Something will disappear, and then come back later or relocate to somewhere else before we find it again. It could be car keys or a wallet, or maybe an important paper. Why does this happen? (Just One Of Those Things) *** (Originally aired October 21, 2020)

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DISCLAIMER: Stories and content in Weird Darkness can be disturbing for some listeners and intended for mature audiences only. Parental discretion is strongly advised.


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…

I’ll tell you about the sad death of John Sellers, which teaches us that if you must pass from this earthly realm, at least be considerate enough to do so in a way and at a time that is the most convenient for those around you. (A Case of Criminal Neglect)

In October you can find haunted house attractions on just about every street corner, with a multitude of themes – haunted asylums, ghost hospitals, zombies in cellars, and hell houses. But in 1905, visitors to Coney Island were treated to a different kind of Hell attraction all year long, not just in October. It was a boat ride that, for the cost of one dime, was meant to literally scare the hell out of you. (Coney Island’s Hell Gate)

What type of person raises a young girl, telling everyone she is their daughter, and then years later marries her? That’s just part of “The Disturbing Story of Sharon Marshall.”

A man wakes up one morning to find his entire family has been handcuffed – and the paranormal is to blame! (Ghost Handcuffs Family)

It has happened to all of us. Something will disappear, and then come back later or relocate to somewhere else before we find it again. It could be car keys or a wallet, or maybe an important paper. Why does this happen? (Just One Of Those Things)

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!


Here’s something I’m sure we’re all familiar with: an item, usually a small one, inexplicably goes missing. Some time later it turns up in a place where it has no right to be or, even more puzzling, appears staring you in the face in an area which had already been thoroughly searched. Mostly we can put it down to absent mindedness, or some such “rational” explanation, but sometimes it is harder to explain. When we bought a second hand car, I purchased a logbook, which stayed in the glove box when I wasn’t writing in it. Two weeks later it disappeared. I bought a replacement, and that one also vanished after six weeks. I wasn’t game to tempt fate a third time but, six or seven years later, we collected the car from its twice yearly service, and discovered that the mechanics had left both logbooks, not obviously dirty or damaged, on the front seat. Obviously, they had been discovered in some nook of the car. How did they get there from the glove box? How come it happened twice? And why weren’t they found earlier? Just the same, I am not (yet) prepared to invoke a paranormal explanation. It was “just one of those things”. However, some other incidents are more difficult to dismiss.

Take, for instance, the experience of Prof. Michael Swords. He used to empty his pockets every night and place the objects – nearly always the same, and always including his watch – on a space by the sink. One morning, the watch wasn’t there. No amount of searching and backtracking could locate it. Finally, after five days without a watch, he purchased a new one, and placed it with the other items that night. The next morning, not only was the new watch there, but the old one had come back. (Have you noticed how missing items tend to reappear just after their absence ceases to be an inconvenience?)

So these things represent a genuine paranormal phenomenon. There is a website called “Reality Shifters” about it, while the Fortean Times magazine calls it “pixilation”, and readers told many stories about how they used to successfully ask for the items back. I suggested elsewhere that this custom might inadvertently encourage the phenomenon.

Mary Rose Barrington, a prominent member of the (British) Society for Psychical Research, labels it “JOTT”, for “just one of those things”, and has written a book about it. The case histories she provides are quite extraordinary, so I shall list only a few.

* This case was unusual in that it was documented by a series of correspondence. Prof. BSM was living in a house in rural Somerset, the nearest neighbour being half a mile away. The children were at school. His elderly uncle was resting in bed. His wife was asleep in the garden, well secluded from the outside world, but when she woke up, there was an unopened letter on her lap, addressed to a Miss X in the West of London. When she showed it to her husband at tea time, they opened it, and discovered it had been written a month earlier (where had it been in the interval?) from a London University college library demanding the return of a certain book. Well, they corresponded with the college, and returned the letter. Later, the Professor realised that, although he had made copies of all their correspondence, he didn’t have a photocopy of the original letter to Miss X, so he wrote to the library requesting a copy. The one he received was not the original, but a copy of the second letter demanding the return of the book. When he brought this to the attention of the library, they searched and searched, and discovered that their copy of the original letter had disappeared.  This is something you may wish to consider the next time a letter from or to you is “lost in the mail”.

* A small child chewed a gramophone record and tossed into the air – where it promptly vanished! Five years later, it returned, complete with tooth marks. As the author said, “This is surely too bizarre for anyone to make up with an expectation of being believed.”

* This is especially weird, as it apparently involves a ghost. A month after she had lost her husband, ERC lost a bracelet given to her by her late husband, so that afternoon she and a friend searched for it thoroughly, including “every inch of the ground between the car and the front door.” Before going to bed she addressed (?prayed to) her late husband aloud, asking him to find the bracelet. That evening her daughter was out on a date. At 1 a.m. she and her boyfriend burst into the bedroom to report that they had both seen her husband looking out through the kitchen window. To cut a long story short, at 6 o’clock, when it was barely daylight, she decided to take her dog for a walk. When she returned about 9, lo and behold! there was the bracelet just below the milk bottles. The milkman insisted he had never seen it. It hadn’t been there when ERC had left at 6, and certainly not when she and her friend had combed the whole area the previous afternoon.

* A Frank Drucker was holding a special stamp between thumb and forefinger as he crossed the floor to stick it on an envelope. While both his eyes and fingers were fixed on it, it dematerialised – and, of course, was never seen again.

* From your own experience, you probably know that keys are popular items to go wandering. This case was written down within 24 hours of its occurrence. Maurice Grosse’s wife lost her handbag, so they had to replace the lock on the door – ditto the keys. Removing the old keys from the keyrings was a real trial; Maurice had to use pliers to keep the spring-loaded plunger open. He then put the old lock and the spare old keys in a special box. The very next day, his wife noticed a new key on her keyring. Another one was found in the box with the old lock and, yes, they did fit the old lock. But they weren’t the old keys; they were brand new. Not only that, they bore the name and telephone number of a locksmith the family had never used. Further investigations revealed that the locksmith had ceased making this sort of key at least two years before.

* Dr Alan Mayne once picked up a pale green apple in order to eat it, only to have it slip from his fingers. He heard it strike the floor, but then it disappeared. Much later, he was finishing dinner with a retired physicist in the latter’s kitchen, when a wizened green apple suddenly appeared at eye level and fell softly onto his plate. This is similar to the phenomenon of things materializing out of nowhere which I’ll touch on in just a moment.

* She also provides examples of what she calls “oddjotts”, which defy the laws of nature as we know them. In this case, a woman entered her bathroom, locked it from the inside, and hung her dressing gown on the back of the door. When she emerged from the shower, it was missing, only to turn up at the foot of the stairs. The implication was that it must have passed through the locked door. The book is essentially two books in one. The second half is an attempt at an explanation. It takes us through a grand tour of psychic phenomena, and ends up with a bizarre theory-of-everything which turns out to be pantheism dressed up in scientific language. It may be a vast edifice built on a slim, shaky foundation, but the exposition of paranormal phenomena is well worth the read, and it appears the psychical research of a century or more ago was more rigorous than it is usually given credit for.

Finally, I would like to throw into the melée another anecdote. I must emphasize that I am NOT proposing this as a blanket explanation for the phenomenon of jott, but it deserves a mention. It is case number 267 of the second fairy census, and concerns a woman from Illinois: “Some friends came from the city for the weekend and the lady brought with her a pattern and fabric so I could help make [a] dress for a party. One of the items was a long zipper and when it came time to put the zipper in, it had gone missing. She drove into a nearby town and bought another and the dress was finished. A couple of days after they had gone I was in my parlor and I looked up from what I was doing to see a wee man about eighteen inches high. He had brown skin and a very odd looking face. His hair was black and tousled like the hair of a baby. His eyes reminded me of apple seeds. And in his hand was the missing zipper. ‘HEY’ I called out and in that instant, he was gone and the zipper was lying stretched flat on the floor in the doorway. . . . I saw the little fellow clearly one other time while she [her toddler daughter] was playing with him.”

If you want to learn more about this strange phenomenon, I’ve linked to the book JOTT by Mary Rose Barrington in the show notes.

In 1998, Tony Healy and my friend, Paul Cropper descended on the small Northern Territory town of Humpty Doo to investigate a poltergeist infested house. They didn’t have long to wait. While Paul was talking to two of the occupants, there came a clatter, like hail on the corrugated iron roof and, as he looked upwards, a dozen grey pebbles fell to the floor from the ceiling. As it turned out, this was not to be an isolated experience for them. Trickery, they soon discovered, was out of the question. However, it was pretty easy to deduce that the pebbles came from the driveway outside but how did they get to the ceiling? No-one ever saw them move from the driveway into the house, or onto the roof, or even hover below the ceiling. Paul got the impression that they had simply passed through both the roof and ceiling without leaving any holes. It is not clear from their reports whether the clatter was heard on each occasion, so did they simply materialise under the ceiling? And why, when the ground was saturated outside, did they remain dry, if not warm? And this phenomenon is not limited to Humpty Doo. Harry Price, the psychic researcher, said that he had heard of many objects falling from ceilings, but never anyone ever seeing anything go up to the ceiling.
Most of you, I suppose, already know what poltergeists are supposed to be, and what they do. They are either mischievous spirits or RSPK (recurrent spontaneous psychokinesis): somebody’s subconscious having a psychic tantrum and exhibiting powers the conscious mind could never display. We actually covered that in yesterday’s episode of Weird Darkness entitled “How Do I Know if My House Is Haunted”; I’ll link to that episode in the show notes.
Poltergeists are the things that go bump in the night – and in the daytime, and make a whole lot of other noises as well. They throw things around and smash them – although “throw” is perhaps not the correct word, for the objects frequently move slowly, fall heavily or lightly, or change course, as if being held by an invisible hand. Although they very rarely harm people, they may slap them, pinch them, or pull their hair. They also start fires. With advances in technology, they have now learned how to turn on electrical appliances even when they are disconnected, and run up huge telephone bills from disconnected phones. But the most mysterious of all poltergeist phenomena are apports.
Apports are objects which appear and disappear. Sometimes it happens just when the onlookers’ eyes are averted. On rare occasions they can actually be seen to materialise or dematerialise in front of the witness’s eyes – sometimes on request. At other times, they are seen to move into the room, but without any indication as to how they did so, for they were known to have been in some locked container. Sometimes, objects appear which simply did not exist in the building in question; they must have come from elsewhere.
Such phenomena are worldwide in distribution. In 1967 a 19-year-old girl called Annmarie of Rosenheim, Germany became the focus of poltergeist activity at her employment, at a bowling alley, and in her own home where, one night, her bed and that of her parents were bombarded for hours on end with stones, coal, pieces of litter, and tools. Came the morning, her mother replaced all the tools in their box, sat on it, and announced, “Now you will stay there!” It must have been like waving a flag at a bull because, one by one, the tools were scattered all around the room while she was still sitting on the toolbox.
If that makes your mind boggle, consider what happened at Furnace Mill in Lamberhurst, Kent, as described in the Daily Mail of 28 May 1906. No-one could approach the mill unseen, and two guard dogs stood watch. Despite this, some remarkably heavy items were disturbed, and one morning the horses were all found reversed in their stalls ie their heads were where their tails should have been, and vice versa. Supporters of the RSPK hypothesis must therefore assume that somebody’s subconscious mind had gone out to the stables at night while his or her conscious mind was still with its body in the house.
Not only that, but one of the horses was missing. They searched high and low for it. To be precise, they searched low, and finally, out of desperation, went up to the hayloft through a door so narrow even a man had difficulty entering. Since a partition had to be removed to get the horse out, one must logically deduce that somehow it had been moved through solid timber in the first place. What sort of power could do that? And just contemplate what it would be like if science were to learn to master it.
In point of fact, I have every reason to believe that advanced civilisations have learned to master it. As I stated once before, when I was going through old issues of Flying Saucer Review from the 1970s and 1980s, I kept coming across references to aliens walking through walls, and even taking their abductees with them. So fantastic were the accounts that I immediately put them out of my mind, and forgot them, but they have been reported independently too often and from too many different places to be ignored.
With all this in mind, let us return to Humpty Doo, and the adventures of Paul and Tony, along with three priests, the press, a television crew, and the two harried families who lived there. Time prevents a complete description of all the wonders they saw, so only the ones germane to the current subject will be discussed.
Like the experience of Danny Sim, a Channel 7 cameraman, who was on a ladder next to the open ceiling manhole when he heard something hit the tin roof. He was looking up at the ceiling, when he suddenly saw a piece of glass materialise below the ceiling and fall to the floor. It appeared to have passed right through both the roof and the ceiling. He also witnessed a spanner strike a kitchen cupboard with considerable force when no-one was around to throw it. It appeared to have come from the lounge room, but neither of the cameras covering the space which it must have traversed recorded it. Had it simply materialised in the kitchen?
Paul and Tony saw a light bulb fall onto the concrete outside the house. Although it must have been airborne for at least two metres, it didn’t break. Not only that, but it was a distinct yellowish colour, and none of the members of the household had any idea where it had originated.
Once Paul and Tony were sitting in the kitchen facing two of the tenants, Andrew and Kirsty across the table, when a heavy .44 magnum cartridge landed lightly on Paul’s knee. Andrew claimed that he had seen it materialise just a couple of feet above Paul’s shoulder. Another time, Kirsty was reading a newspaper at the same table when Tony saw a small brass plug, which normally resided in the garage, fell lightly on the table between them. He had been facing the object at the time, and he had the impression it had simply appeared in mid-air about eighteen inches above the table. Did you catch that? On two separate occasions people saw objects appear out of thin air!
They now went on to describe the thoroughly investigated poltergeist infestation at Mayanup, WA from 1955 to 1957.

One rainy night fifty people including some journalists were at “Keninup” when stones fell constantly inside and outside the Smiths’ house. In the living room, Rona Nicholson watched as stones simply appeared in mid-air, floated down and passed through a table to land on the floor below. [Healey and Cropper, p 62, emphasis in the original]

In fact, many objects simply disappeared for an hour or so, and then they would return. One outside witness was present when a teapot suddenly vanished. Two of the visitors included George Dickson and his son from a farm near Boyup Brook, and the poltergeist apparently followed them home. Pencils would appear and disappear. The owners would then assemble them on the kitchen table – only to watch them appear and disappear right in front of their eyes. Two journalists saw stones passing right through galvanised iron roofs and other objects appeared and disappeared in front of their eyes. They nicknamed the poltergeist “Uncle Bobby” after a deceased relative. Once, after they had gone shopping at the local bakery, the exact sum they had just spent dropped out of nowhere onto the kitchen table. (What the baker thought was not recorded.) On that occasion, pebbles had also fallen inside the car.
Since the manifestations appeared to focus on the 11-year-old son of the family, Harvey, George tried some experiments in front of witnesses. Various marked items would be placed in the boy’s pockets, and then his arms would be tied to his sides and covered with a securely buttoned coat. But the objects still got out, and turned up all over the house.
One can multiply such examples indefinitely. There was poltergeist activity in an engineering workshop in Cardiff in 1989. Things got thrown around (of course!) and objects, especially carburettor floats, turned up in unusual places. But when one of the workers, Paul asked “Pete”, the name they gave to the poltergeist, for money, some pennies and halfpennies fell to the floor. They came from a collection in the office. But a Jubilee crown also appeared, and it originated in the boss’s home. This immediately raises issues. How did it get there? It don’t suppose anybody saw it moving down the street from the house to the workshop, but the alternative is that it simply dematerialised in one spot and materialised in another. Not only that, but on another occasion when money was asked for, three pennies, dated 1912, appeared on the floor. Since no-one had ever seen them before, they must have been “spirited away” from somebody else’s collection. Banknotes also appeared on other occasions. So, unless poltergeists are involved in counterfeiting currency, the legitimate owner must have been deprived, and by asking for it, the workmen were unwittingly guilty of Theft by Poltergeist.
One is bound to wonder: how far can a poltergeist go to find the apport it wants? Does it have to search for it, or does it know it intuitively? Do the apports come from some other poltergeist infestation where items disappear, or are they removed from buildings otherwise unaffected? Is that sock of mine which got lost in the wash still hiding in some uninspected nook in my house (and how did it get there?), or did it turn up at some unreported poltergeist infestation in my suburb? And is it really possible to ascribe all this to somebody’s unconscious mind?
I recall the story of an Indian boy who was the focus of a vast amount of poltergeist activity. Not only did an ink bottle materialise on demand next to the ceiling (where else?) and fall to the floor, but coins were also seen to appear out of thin air.
All of these manifestations have been fully investigated and recorded. The Rt Rev Dominic Walker, co-chairman of the Christian Deliverance Study Group in the UK was once called to a house in Surbiton when the Christmas decorations went up in flames. He discovered a highly dysfunctional family where the nine-year-old had become the focus of poltergeist activity. They tried to control it by getting her to write notes to “Polty” – and she received written answers while she slept! More to the point, about half a pound of sugar used to appear in the kitchen every day. It happened while he was there. Only sugar. Small objects like coins and pencils I can accept, but granular material like sugar? Where did it come from?
His Roman Catholic counterpart, Dom R. Petitpierre, had the reverse experience. A house in Hemel Hempstead had been inflicted by things vanishing. A whole spray of tulips were sitting in a bowl on a table where two ladies were having tea. “Well, at least the tulips are still there,” one of them joked – and when they looked back, they were gone!
It makes you think. When small objects like pencils come and go, it is possible that they had spent the interval in some remote corner of the building, but what about those things which never return? Did those tulips vanish into some extra-dimensional twilight zone until such time as another poltergeist wanted them? Or did they immediately turn up in the house of some bemused stranger?
It Happened to Me! is a series of volumes in which the readers of the Fortean Times tell of their own paranormal experiences. Volume 2 features a whole chapter on mysterious objects turning up unexpectedly. One woman told how about a dozen halfpennies were found around her home, until she thanked “Them”, but pointed out that they were no longer legal tender. Another woman found exotic stamps and a foreign coin in places where they hadn’t been before, and neither she nor her flatmate collected either stamps or coins, or had been to their countries of origin.
But a really strange encounter was recorded on page 77 of volume 1. Rob Kirbyson described walking around Huddersfield one Sunday in 1986 when he saw an old man waiting for a bus. In fact, this was the first man he had encountered in the town. They looked at each other from a distance of about five metres, when suddenly he saw an egg materialise about an inch in front of the man and explode into his face with such violence that his head was thrown back and he almost keeled over. No cars, and no other people, were present anywhere in the vicinity.
Had that egg come from some poltergeist manifestation nearby? If so, had the victim just left the site of the infestation, and so was “known” to the phenomenon, or was he really a completely innocent and unsuspecting third party?
I’m afraid I have to leave it there. My mind is starting to boggle.


When Weird Darkness returns, I’ll tell you about a ride at Coney Island that was meant to scare the hell out of its riders – literally. But first, it’s the story of the sad death of John Sellers, which teaches us that if you must pass from this earthly realm, at least be considerate enough to do so in a way and at a time that is the most convenient for those around you. That story is up next.



One Sunday in the early years of the reign of Queen Victoria two men were making their way along one of the less salubrious streets near Smithfield.  Their identities are a complete mystery, which is a shame, as what they discovered there was remarkable, and what they did was little short of heroic.  Classics examples of overlooked Londoners they may be, but they are certainly not forgotten.

For what these two unidentified individuals stumbled upon in this sad corner of the capital was the body of a man.  And “body” is really the right word, for although there was still life in the man, there was not much of it, and every breath he took might well have been his last.  The two companions were moved by pity. But they were not entirely surprised, for this was West Street in Smithfield, and it lay only a stone’s throw from the notorious Field Lane.

George W M Reynolds, a contemporary writer with an eye for the grotesque, gave a horrified description of West Street.  To him it was a nightmare landscape in which the knackers’ yards—the suppliers of “meat” for the vast population of urban dogs and cats—carried on their grisly business with grim efficiency.  The bones of the slaughtered horses hung in the windows to bleach.  Over everything sat a dark pall of offensive smells.

Field Lane enjoyed an equally unsavoury reputation.  However, where West Street was the graveyard of old and diseased horses, Field Lane was a hub of human activity, much of which was not exactly in line with the law.  Standing along the pavements were the cheap lodging houses where indigent Londoners lived in sordid and crowded rooms.  Many of the rooms were occupied by the receivers of stolen goods, who slept during the day and worked at night.  Beneath these at street level were eateries and coffee shops.  Other houses were occupied by prostitutes.

The lodging houses of Field Lane were the subject of a dramatic exposé by the social reformer Charles Cochrane.  He went there in person one Saturday evening in the autumn of 1847, accompanied by two policemen, and that same night he wrote an account of what he had seen and heard, and above all of what he had smelled.  In one house he had found large families living in small rooms, where little tokens of normality, such as pictures and ornaments, sat in unhappy juxtaposition on the dilapidated walls.  In another the lodgers paid fourpence a night—with six consecutive payments earning them a free Sunday night—to sleep in rooms crammed with cheap bedsteads.  They moved through the shadows with the help of rushlights jammed into oyster shells.  As Cochrane noted, not without irony, lodgers in other establishments were paying only threepence a night, but they were sleeping two in a bed.  But his most damning comments were reserved for the cellars of these establishments, which in all cases were repositories of every imaginable sort of filth.  They served as lavatories for the lodgers and mortuaries for the neighbourhood cats, and the reek had easy access to the floors above through gaping holes in the rotten floorboards.

Cochrane was very distressed by the human degradation he had uncovered in the lodging houses.  He had come face to face with the cynical economics of social inequality, and he confessed, in print, that until he visited Field Lane he had not imagined that the wealthy Corporation of London would have permitted such horrid dwellings to continue in existence after they had expended so many hundreds of thousands of pounds in improving and embellishing the localities frequented by the richer classes of citizens.

A century later, in The Road to Wigan Pier, George Orwell would be making similar observations in his account of conditions in the north of England.

On another Saturday night a year or so after Cochrane’s visit a man came to a lodging house at No. 7 Field Lane.  His name was John Sellers.  He was a vagrant, as were all the lodgers at No. 7, and he was thirty years old.  He handed over a few pennies for a bed.  When he stepped inside he was accosted by one of the servants of the establishment.  This servant was called Robert Barton.  Looking Sellers up and down, Barton asked if he was well.  “I am not,” Sellers replied.  “I am sick.”  “I can see that you are sick,” said Barton.  The servant led the way into the dark interior, with Sellers shuffling along behind him.

During the night Sellers drifted in and out of consciousness.  He slept fitfully, only dimly aware of his surroundings.  He heard voices, but he did not know who they belonged to.  He felt himself moving, but he did not know why.  When he next opened his eyes he had a fleeting impression of the dark outside world.  Time meant nothing, and it might have been a second or several hours that had passed when he saw two men stooping over him, peering into his face.

They hauled Sellers to his feet, putting their shoulders under his arms.  He felt himself being helped along the pavement, and, even as his vision was growing dimmer, he heard as if from some far-off place the thumping of fists on a heavy wooden door.  The door creaked open, and Sellers stumbled inside.  Once more he was lying in the dark, but it was the dark inside the mind of a dying man.  He never woke again.

Such were the last hours of John Sellers.  His was a sad and lonely death.  And it was a remarkable death, for on the Saturday he had been asleep in the lodging house in Field Lane, and yet on the Sunday he found himself slumped on a pavement in West Street, and on the Monday he died in the workhouse of the West London Union, which was only yards away.

Two days later an inquest was held at the Red Lion public house in Farringdon Street.  The coroner, William Payne, saw it as a case of death from want and destitution.  The surgeon attached to the workhouse identified typhoid fever as the direct cause of death, brought on by the low condition of the dead man.

When Robert Barton, the servant at the Field Lane lodging house, gave his evidence, the coroner was aghast.  Barton recalled the events of the Saturday night when John Sellers had come looking for a bed.  He noticed that Sellers was sick, but not mortally, or so he thought at the time.  However, when he went to rouse him the following morning, he found the wretched fellow in a very bad state, unconscious and rapidly declining.  And it was then that he made a quite unbelievable decision.

We will never know what sort of man Barton really was.  Possibly he was callous by nature, without sympathy for his fellow creatures.  Possibly the harsh realities of nineteenth-century poverty had taught him to dispense compassion carefully.  But the facts are these.  With the help of some of the other servants, Barton hoisted Sellers out of his bed.  Between them they managed to drag the dying man out into the street.  They staggered off in the direction of West Street, where they left him in a crumpled heap, like a pile of discarded rags.

William Payne was shocked.  Although his verdict was confined to the cause of death—“low fever induced by extreme destitution”—he felt compelled to comment on the behaviour of Barton.  Never, he said, had he heard of such cruelty.  John Sellers had been carried from his sick bed to die alone in the streets.

Barton protested.  Better, he declared, for the dying man to die outside.  After all, No. 7 was a lodging house.  And had Sellers died inside, it would have been, well, inconvenient.  Yes, he said, it would have been inconvenient for the other lodgers had Sellers died inside.


In 1905, visitors to Coney Island experienced Dreamland amusement park’s latest—and most unusual—attraction. After paying 10 cents to ticket sellers in red robes and horned hats, they queued up in front of an open-faced building topped with a huge, red, winged figure of Satan. Under his glowering stare, they watched as riders ahead of them crowded into open boats and descended along an ever-narrowing 50-foot whirlpool swirling toward the center until, astonishingly, the boats disappeared—seemingly swallowed up by the waters of the Gate.

When it was their turn, the riders eagerly surrendered their tickets and clambered into the boats, ready to find out for themselves what lay beneath.

The ride was Hell Gate, and it was a star of Dreamland’s second season—one of several attractions and improvements Dreamland founder William Reynolds had spent $500,000 on in an effort to one-up nearby Luna Park. Hell Gate sat caddy-corner from Creation, a ride that took visitors through the events in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis. (Dreamland brought that ride, which had debuted at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, all the way to New York at a cost of $250,000.)

It might seem a little strange to have religious-themed rides in an amusement park, but according to Alex Delare and Jonathan Anderson, who lead walking tours around New York as The History Couple, there was a very good reason Dreamland chose them. “Amusement parks like Dreamland made these religious rides, ones that portray the Judeo-Christian values, because New York City would have shut the show down otherwise. In the early 20th century, New York City had very strict laws that only shows of a religious or educational nature could take place on a Sunday. Because Sunday was the only day that people had off, it was the busiest day of the week down in Coney Island. If the owners of the park wanted to turn a profit, they had to have attractions that the city would allow, hence all the shows of a religious nature.”

While Luna Park tried an attraction that simulated Hell called Night and Morning (riders entered a coffin-shaped room, which was “lowered” into the Earth, at which point one side of the coffin fell away as they took a tour of the afterlife), they tended to lean more toward attractions of an educational nature, or shows that allowed adults to feel like kids again. Dreamland, however, “went over the top with these shows about heaven and hell,” according to Delare and Anderson. “That way, their patrons could start their day in the Garden of Eden, see the apocalypse, and end in Hell. They turned morality plays into a cash cow.”

Hell Gate was owned by a showman named William Ellis, and it stood where a submarine boat ride from the park’s first season had been. It wasn’t ready for Dreamland’s opening day; on May 28, 1905, The Sun noted that “The delay in the opening of Hell Gate … is due to the elaborate machinery required,” with the New-York Tribune explaining that “there is so much mechanism in connection with the operation … that it has taken longer than anticipated to assemble the different parts.”

Once it did open, about a month later, Hell Gate quickly became a must-see attraction. On June 27, 1905, Brooklyn’s The Standard Union wrote that “Of the two water rides at Dreamland, it is a question of which is the most popular, the ‘Canals of Venice’ or ‘Hell Gate.’ The latter is the latest and newest and is drawing crowds.”

The press was effusive in its praise. The Harrisburg Telegraph called the ride “startling and unique,” while The New York Times noted that it was “rivaling all other waterside attractions. Since the opening … the attraction has caught on amazingly, and crowds are the rule in the vicinity.”

Once they disappeared through the Gate, riders took “a dash down an incline into a fountain of spray warranted not to wet the adventurer,” according to The Sun. A channel bore the boats through dark, plaster of Paris caverns replete with stalactites and stalagmites.

Theodore Waters explained how Hell Gate worked in the July 8, 1905, issue of Harper’s Weekly:

“The ‘pool’ is merely a spiral trough made of wood and iron, through which the water carries the boats to the centre, where the slope suddenly dips and allows them to slip beneath the outer rims of the spiral into a subterranean channel which follows a tortuous course under the building. There are scenes … intended to corroborate the popular conception of the Earth’s interior.”

“By the time the spectators above are beginning to wonder what has happened to the boat,” Waters wrote, “the passengers have had a surfeit of subterranean horrors, and are shot up through one side of the pool to the surface.”

For its second season, Hell Gate got several upgrades. Not only was the ride made longer, but it got a fleet of new boats, new hydraulic effects, and increased capacity; even the whirlpool was faster. This was part of the strategy of amusement parks at the time. “There was a philosophy that many of the Coney Island Showmen followed—if their attraction didn’t pay for itself in the first year, get rid of it. They were constantly updating rides in order to keep things fresh and keep tickets coming in,” Delare and Anderson say. Because Hell Gate stuck around for so many seasons, it’s safe to assume it was a moneymaker. Its popularity even served as inspiration for another ride that debuted in 1906 called The End of the World.

When the Italian explorer Duke of Abruzzi visited the park in 1907, he “paused … to catch his breath” at Hell Gate “and then lost it again shooting down the whirlpool,” according to the New-York Tribune. That same year, Maxim Gorky wrote what seems to be the only description of what actually happened in the tunnels below the whirlpool for The Independent [PDF]. Riders saw Satan, rubbing his hands in glee. They watched as demons dragged people—a girl admiring herself in a new hat; a man drinking whiskey; a girl who steals some money from a purse—into a trough, triggering gray steam and fluttering tongues of red paper fire. Before the end of the ride, they got a speech about good behavior, which Gorky said was delivered by a man who talked “monotonously, wearily” and did “not seem to believe in what he was told to preach.” Then, an angel appeared, sending Satan “[diving] like a fish into the pit after the sinners. A crash is heard, the paper stones are hurled down, and the devils run off cheerfully to rest from their labor,” Gorky wrote.

For years, Hell Gate terrified and delighted visitors to Dreamland. And then, in 1911, the ride that evoked Hell literally went up in flames.

Workers were feverishly readying the ride for the Decoration Day (now Memorial Day) start of the season when, at 1:30 a.m., the lights in the tunnels of the ride began exploding, plunging the area into darkness. Some tar—which, according to the Times Union, was “used to create a miniature Hades, attracting the attention of the patrons as they ride by in the boats”—caught fire, and the blaze soon raged out of control. Water pressure at fire hydrants in the park was too low for firefighters to stop the fire, which burned nearly everything in its wake from West 5th Street to West 10th Street and from Surf Avenue to the ocean.

According to Delare and Anderson, “When the park caught fire, it was a spectacle in itself. Everyone in Coney stopped what they were doing to watch Dreamland burn down to the ground.”

No human lives were lost in the inferno, but the Hell Gate fire destroyed virtually all of Dreamland, along with 50 other businesses, resulting in approximately $5 million in damage (the equivalent of about $135 million today). The park wasn’t rebuilt; neither were the smaller businesses engulfed in the blaze.

Luna Park and Steeplechase, Dreamland’s two major amusement park competitors, escaped unscathed, but things changed in Coney Island after the inferno. “There was a shift in Coney Island’s amusement culture—large scale productions like Creation started to disappear, and more and more dance halls, bars, saloons, movie theaters, and other ‘cheap amusements’ moved in,” Delare and Anderson say. “Coney started to cater to the lower income neighborhoods like the Lower East Side and appeal to a new generation of New York City’s youth. Kids started to come, date, make out, and then go back to Manhattan at the end of the day.”

In the end, Hell Gate lived up to its name, transforming what was one of Coney Island’s most popular tourist attractions into a smoldering pile of ash and rubble—and helping to change the very fabric of Coney Island itself.


Coming up, what type of person raises a young girl, telling everyone she is their daughter, and then years later marries her? That’s just part of “The Disturbing Story of Sharon Marshall”, up next on Weird Darkness.



This story is, quite frankly, pretty depressing. It reads like the most bizarre movie you’ve ever seen but sadly it actually happened. The story of Sharon Marshall has many twists and turns with many dates and aliases; you might need to listen to this episode twice just to take in all of the facts.

The two main characters in this story first came to be as Trenton Davis and his young daughter Suzanne. They are first known to be seen together around 1974 in Washington State and then soon moved to Oklahoma City. Suzanne was a beautiful 5- year-old blond haired, blue eyed girl and Trenton was a 31-year-old house painter. The duo never seemed to stay in one place for very long and were known to have lived in several states. Their names changed regularly too and the reason why would eventually be evident.

The first several years of the father and daughter’s life together seemed uneventful, at least from what we know. They lived in numerous states and would take their different names, it was discovered, from deceased names off of headstones.

In the mid 1980’s the two were living in Atlanta. They were then going by Warren & Sharon Marshall. Sharon was then in high school and Clarence was a very controlling and unstable person that everyone who met him seemed to dislike. Sharon herself was by all accounts an amazing and incredibly bright person. Several people talked about what a kind and wonderful friend she was who would always encourage them to try their best. Sharon excelled at her schoolwork as well. She was ranked #26 out of 350 in her high school class as well as being a Lt. Colonel in the ROTC and was awarded a full scholarship to Georgia Tech to study aerospace engineering. Her dream was to work for Nasa. Sharon was over the moon at achieving some of her dreams, but then quickly things seem to be falling apart.

It was pretty evident as Sharon was in her later years of high school that she was pregnant. She denied it when asked and then as her stomach grew she did finally admit it to a close friend. The father was a guy she had been dating thought to be Curtis Flourney. Sharon and her boyfriend had even attempted to run away to Alabama but Warren quickly found them and took Sharon back with him. Warren and Sharon abruptly left town around 1986 and moved to Arizona. Sharon had the baby there, a boy, who was said to have been adopted out by 2 wealthy Texas doctors that her father had found.

Once again on the move the two found themselves in Tampa, FL. Their new names there were Clarence Hughes and Tonya Dawn Hughes. Clarence always told people he was a painter but often complained of having a bad back and being unable to work. He then made his daughter, Tonya, work as a stripper at a club called “Mons Venus” to support them. As always, Tonya was very highly thought of at her work both by the customers as well as the co-workers as being a very kind and friendly person willing to talk to anyone.

In 1988 Tonya Tadlock was once again pregnant. The father was a man she was dating when they lived in Arizona whom she did not tell about the pregnancy. She had decided to keep this baby and so Michael Gregory Marshall was born on April 21, 1988. By all accounts Tonya was a very devoted and loving mother and Michael was her whole world. Clarence had an affection for Michael as well but couldn’t deal with his crying or any kind of outbursts from him so Tonya would always quickly deal with them so as not to anger her father.

One of the fellow strippers at Mons Venus whom Tonya had befriended was a young woman named Cheryl Commesso. She did spend some time with Clarence and Tonya at their trailer and her and Clarence even dated very briefly. They were on a boat one day where a fight escalated and Warren assaulted Commesso but she was able to get away. Cheryl then retaliated for the assault by calling Social Services to tell them that Tonya was collecting welfare but made more than $1500 a week being a nude dancer. Social Services suspended their benefits pending an investigation. Clarence was enraged. About a week later, Cheryl left her dad’s house to stay with a friend. She promised to call him in the morning but never did. Her Corvette was found abandoned at the airport soon after and Cheryl Commesso was reported as a missing person.

Within a few weeks of Commesso’s disappearance Clarence and Tonya were once again on the move. This time they moved to New Orleans. While they were there their trailer in Florida burned to the ground and was thought to be arson. The couple were now going by Clarence Hughes and Tonya Tadlock. Another interesting thing happened when they got to New Orleans. The father and daughter… got married. To each other. The couple who had for years posed as father and daughter, were now husband and wife. Clarence would say that he did it to give Tonya’s son Michael a name but as information would come out later, there was a more sinister reason that was much more probable.

Somewhere around this time Tonya gave birth to another child. This one was a girl, eventually named Megan, who was adopted by a childless couple in New Orleans. Not much is known of the father of this child but we’ll talk about her daughter a little more as the story unfolds.

The couple next moved to Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tonya was working at a strip club called “Passions” to support her now husband and son. As before, Tonya made friends wherever she went and everyone around her hated her husband. He wasn’t allowed in this club as he had been banned. There was an angry exchange of words one night between a fellow stripper and Clarence. She had shouted something to him about his wife should leave him and Clarence’s response was “If she ever left me, I’d kill the bitch”.

Tonya was dating someone named Kevin Brown while working at the club. She had always wanted to leave Clarence but had such a fear of him and even more so fear of what he would do to Michael if she ever left him that she continued to stay. It did appear though that with the support of her new boyfriend Kevin, that Tonya was actually planning to leave her husband this time. However, she wouldn’t live to see the plan through.

The details around Tonya’s accident seem pretty vague. It appears that Tonya, Clarence and Michael were living in a motel. Tonya had walked to the store that night to get some groceries and was later found unconscious on a busy Oklahoma City highway sometime after midnight on April 25, 1990. It had appeared that she had been hit by a car. Clarence claims he was asleep in the motel when the accident happened. She was rushed to the hospital and never fully regained consciousness. Tonya’s friends from the strip club wanted to go see her at the hospital but Clarence tried to ban all visitors. They were able to get a few quick visits in when her husband was distracted. Tonya seemed to be getting better and it was noted that her husband was in the hospital room alone with her the night before. By the next morning her vitals were failing and she died of her injuries that day, 5 days after her accident.

In addition to many old bruises and various injuries the autopsy also showed Tonya had had several prior pregnancies as well as breast and butt implants. The ultimate cause of death was a severe closed head injury. The doctor had his doubts as to whether her injuries were sustained by a car and classified her death as a homicide.

Clarence didn’t seem to show any emotion at the death of his young wife. He wanted her cremated and to take care of things quickly. The owner of the “Passions” club as well as her co-workers insisted on giving her a funeral and a proper headstone at their expense. There was so much mystery about their young friend who was now dead, but they did their best to honor her life and give her a nice service. Clarence did show up at her service, with bodyguards, and went on a tangent being verbally abusive to many of the people there, ranting and raving and seemed annoyed his wife’s funeral was even happening.

Clarence claimed he needed some time to grieve his wife and asked Social Services to take Michael for a week while he took care of some things. Before that he had also reportedly called the adopted parents of Tonya’s daughter Megan to see if they wanted Michael and they seemed interested but he never followed-up. Surprisingly, Clarence also contacted Michael’s biological father, Greg Higgs, who didn’t know he even had a son to see if he wanted Michael. Shocked at hearing of Tonya’s death and that he had a son he did agree to take him. Clarence said he’d be in touch soon but never contacted him again. Social Services did take Michael in and one of the first things Clarence did was to call the life insurance companies to try to claim the $80,000 in life insurance policies he had taken out on his wife months prior. The life insurance company asked him for his social security number for verification and the first few he gave them didn’t match up. He did finally give them the correct one but Clarence knew his secret was now out. The number he gave them came back to federal fugitive Franklin Delano Floyd.

Floyd’s backstory was trouble from the very beginning. In 1962 at age 19, he was convicted of abducting and sexually assaulting a 4-year-old girl and was sentenced to 10-20 years. He was placed in a state mental hospital where he escaped by stealing a car. The next day he robbed a bank. He was recaptured and released in 1972 and sent to a halfway house. While there, he attempted to abduct a woman at a gas station. He was arrested and made bail and when he didn’t show up for court in 1973, a federal warrant was issued for his arrest. Franklin Delano Floyd, now knowing his real identity was out, fled Oklahoma but was picked up a few months later in Georgia where he was ordered to serve out his sentence.

When Floyd asked Social Services to care for Michael temporarily after his mother’s death they were absolutely appalled at the young boy’s condition. He was non-verbal and would scream and moan and beat his head on the ground repeatedly. DHS had even wanted to charge Floyd for child abuse. He was given to the loving care of long-time foster parents Ernest and Merle Bean. They were overwhelmed at first and even considered declining, but they realized how much Michael needed them and agreed to keep him. Franklin Delano Floyd wouldn’t make it easy though. He had always insisted that he was Michael’s father, and with how private him and Michael’s mother’s life was, everyone just believed it. Michael was even ordered to go to prison regularly to visit Floyd, even though by Michael’s actions he clearly didn’t want to. Floyd vowed as soon as he got out of prison, he was going to get his son back and turn his life around.

In all of the legal wrangling of custody of Michael, a DNA test was ordered. Floyd balked at this and it was soon evident why. Tests confirmed he was NOT Michael’s biological father. All mandatory visitation was halted. Ernest and Merle Bean had lovingly taken care of Michael for over 4 years now and eventually he had started thriving. They were now interested in adopting him and making him a permanent part of their family. Floyd also now knew that when he was released from prison, and it being determined he wasn’t the father, he would never get custody of Michael like he had expected. So, a plan was put into action.

In early September of 1994 Franklin Delano Floyd was now out of prison. Ernest and Merle Bean were worried because they knew that Floyd wanted Michael back and was capable of anything. Merle even thought she saw Floyd drive by their house in early September and called the police. Floyd got up on September 12, 1994 with a plan to finally get Michael back. He showed up at Indian Meridian Elementary School in Oklahoma and talked to the Principal James Davis. He showed him a gun and said he wanted him and his son Michael to come with him. Everything was handled calmly and no one at the school was aware of what was going on. The 3 fled in the principal’s truck and stopped it at an area only a few miles from the school (which also happened to be very close to Ernest and Merle Bean’s house). He tied the principal to a tree and Floyd said he would call someone in 2 hours to free him. Then he took Michael and left in James Davis’ truck. It would be the last time anyone would ever see Michael Hughes.

Word got out quickly that Floyd had abducted Michael and a frantic search was underway. The Principal was able to summons help quickly and was freed from the tree and escaped unharmed. Two months later Floyd was found and arrested in Louisville, KY, but Michael wasn’t with him. Floyd had told differing stories but usually said a friend that he trusted was raising Michael. Floyd’s sister said he told her he had killed Michael at a motel but at this point nothing was really believed or could be verified. Michael Hughes was a missing child. Still, Floyd was convicted of the kidnapping and was sentenced to 52 years in prison.

Around the time of Floyd’s kidnapping trial, it was found out that Floyd had abandoned the principal’s truck the next month in Texas. Then someone from Kansas purchased the truck at an auction. As the mechanic was working on the undercarriage of the truck, they found a manilla envelope taped up near the gas tank. What was inside was not to be believed.

The mechanic opened the envelope and inside were about 97 photos. They were sickening. Most of them were of an underage female in pornographic poses. Sadly, the photos of the young girl were none other than Floyd’s daughter/wife Tonya Tadlock. There were some other pictures in the envelope that were horrific. Pictures of a woman who was blindfolded and bound. The victim was being tortured and had been burned, beaten and was near death. She was also posed provocatively. After some investigating it was soon revealed the unknown victim in the photos was Cheryl Commesso.

Around the same time the envelope full of pictures was found, unidentified remains were found along Interstate 275 in St. Petersburg, FL. Between unidentified remains being located and the unidentified person in the photos it was soon determined the skeletal remains found belonged to Cheryl Commesso. Aside from the torture depicted in the photos, she was ultimately killed by 2 gunshots to the head. Franklin Floyd was charged and convicted of the 1st Degree Murder of Cheryl Commesso and sentenced to die by lethal injection. It isn’t clear what part, if any, that Floyd made Tonya play in the murder and disposal of Commesso. There is a theory why the marriage between Floyd and Tonya took place though. Floyd knew that a wife couldn’t be forced to testify against her husband and they were married just weeks after the murder.

Now that Franklin Delano Floyd had been exposed for all of his horrible crimes and is locked away for life there was still a few important questions that needed to be answered. The FBI would work tirelessly to try to find out where Michael Hughes was and who Sharon Marshall/Tonya Hughes (and her various other aliases) truly was. Several females had been researched over the years and many DNA tests were done but none proved to be a match. Franklin Floyd had been interviewed many times and he was never willing to talk openly – and what little he did say couldn’t be believed.

Then in 2014, two FBI Agents decided to take another crack at Franklin Delano Floyd and question him about the two matters only he had the answers to. They did a lot of prep work ahead of time and planned on staying in the area a few days and spoke to Floyd each day. It was very stressful as Floyd would spend most of his time ranting and calling them every name in the book and being combative. The FBI Agents were very patient and to their amazement Floyd eventually, in bits and pieces, finally got around to telling them the real story of how he came to have Sharon/Tonya.

It began in 1974 when Floyd, then going by Brandon Cleo Williams, met a woman at a truck stop diner named Sandra Shipman. She was a prostitute and said she had lost her 3 daughters to the state. Floyd told her he’d marry her and help get her kids back. So they married in 1974 after meeting only 2 weeks prior. Soon all 5 of them shortly traveled to Pennsylvania to stay with family. The little girls were Suzanne, Allison and Amy and ages were 5, 3 and 2. The family moved around frequently and while living in Texas, Sandra Shipman was arrested for a bounced check. She had to spend a few weeks in jail and when she got out her husband and 3 daughters were gone. She would soon find Allison and Amy in a nearby Baptist Children’s Home but her husband and her oldest daughter, Suzanne Sevakis, were gone.

The FBI was completely shocked at getting Floyd to finally reveal a decades old question. They were able to verify the marriage certificate and even tracked down Suzanne’s birth parents for a DNA test which did confirm she was their biological child. The huge question was of course was why wasn’t Suzanne Sevakis ever reported missing?

When the FBI talked to Suzanne’s birth mother, they were not impressed. She would claim she really didn’t think she was kidnapped since her step-father took her but seemed to have no interest or emotion about her daughter that she had just found out is deceased. Even at the time of Suzanne’s disappearance, Sandra Shipman’s father and brother Jim wanted to find her but Sandra wasn’t willing to help so their efforts were not successful. Talking to Suzanne’s birth father was a very different story. Clifford Sevakis was briefly married to Sandra. He went into the military and was able to visit Suzanne a few times when she was young but ultimately the marriage didn’t work out. He was asked to sign over parental rights when she remarried and he thought that would be the best for his daughter so he agreed. After hearing what actually happened to his daughter and the life she led and what ultimately happened to her, he was absolutely devastated.

The FBI Agents had one more task in their interview. They needed to know where Michael was. At one point, growing tired from his usual ranting and raving, Floyd did appear to finally tell the story of what happened to Michael. He said that after he had left the Principal tied to the tree, Michael wouldn’t stop screaming. He wanted “Mama Bean” (Merle Bean) and as in the past Floyd couldn’t take Michael’s screaming. It was clear to him that Michael no longer had an attachment to him and the happy ending he envisioned was not going to happen. He said he shot Michael in the back of the head “2 times to make it real quick”. He drew the agents a map to where he said he laid Michael down. They visited the area with other agents to do a thorough search of the area exactly as Floyd had described, but it being 20 years later, no trace of Michael was found. It was noted that there were wild hogs known to be in that area and if that was the case back then, not even bones would have been left behind.

With Sharon/Tonya finally having her true identity revealed it was decided to give her a new headstone, this time with her family members and other important people in attendance. It was a very touching service with many people showing up including Michael’s biological father, Ernest & Merle Bean, Clifford Sevakis, Suzanne’s daughter Megan, Matt Birkbeck, friends, co-workers and law enforcement officials who worked so hard on the case. Suzanne’s headstone had now been replaced with a new one with her actual name. A particularly touching moment at the service happened when Suzanne’s father Clifford got to meet his granddaughter Megan, one of the babies Suzanne had given up for adoption, for the first time. It was also revealed at the service that Megan was pregnant and would soon be having a son. To honor the brother she never got to meet, she would name him Michael.

In the end, Franklin Delano Floyd will be locked up in a cage for the rest of his miserable life. Suzanne Sevakis was only on this earth for 20 years yet she left such a lasting impression on those around her. She had to endure in her life horrors we can’t even begin to imagine but still managed to be a loving soul who put out kindness in this world. Considering the monster who raised her Sharon Marshall, now discovered to be Suzanne Sevakis, was definitely a light in the darkness.


When Weird Darkness Returns, law enforcement uses handcuffs, as does some who are into bondage… but ghosts? One man says yes, a ghost handcuffed his entire family! That story is up next!



“Things would disappear from the house, only to resurface days later. Last month, we were all shocked when we woke up to find my two kids handcuffed. When we tried to inquire from them, they couldn’t explain what had happened.”

Ghosts using handcuffs? That might make a kinky twist in a romantic poltergeist comedy (50 Shades of Ghost?) but it’s an actual claim by a terrified father in Kenya who’s trying to convince the authorities that it’s spirits, not burglars, who are stealing from his house, setting fires, tying up his kids and tormenting his two wives. (OK, that may be where whatever is causing the trouble got the handcuffs.)

The Nairobian online news site reports that Cosmas Akumba of the Miguye village in Kisumu County in western Kenya claims his family has been bothered by ghosts since 2014 when something started throwing stones at his house – a common way poltergeists are believed to torment the living with their talent for levitation objects. One of his daughters was hit by the stones and needed medical treatment. Sure, it could have been neighborhood pranksters (perhaps with a crush on one of the girls … or two), but Akumba says that doesn’t explain the fires.

“Mysterious fires broke out in my two houses. What is strange is that it all happened at the same time. It is also shocking that the fires only burnt the mattresses and blankets. Nobody had lit the fires.”

OK, spontaneously-combusting mattresses could be a ghost or a consequence of trying to please two wives in two houses, but Akumba says other strange things are happening as well.

“My phone just disappeared, but at around 11pm, my daughter received a call from my number. We later received a text message stating: “You are sending people money but you are not sending me anything. I have withdrawn the money I have found in your phone and I am sending your daughter the remaining Sh50.”

Well, that sounds more like a stolen phone scam than a ghost … unless ghosts have moved from ectoplasm to extortion. While these incidents are certainly not harmless, they’re tame compared to the last event Akumba blamed on ghosts.

“During the same time, one of my daughters who was set to join school woke up with a rope tied around her hands with some oil dripping from it.”

At that point, most people would call the police, but this is Kenya where beliefs in ghosts, witchcraft and the paranormalare so strong that emergency rooms keep exorcists and shamans on speed-dial, so that’s where Akumba took them first.

“When I took my children to the hospital, I was advised to seek divine intervention or seek the services of a witchdoctor. I am a prayerful person and I have been praying over it.”

Yes, one would think that he should be praying for a watchdog or a strong set of locks, but this is Kenya. Mactilda Mbenywe, who interviewed the family, said Akumba was obviously stressed and that convinced reporters of his conviction that he and his family were being pelted, pyro-ed and placed in handcuffs by poltergeists.

This doesn’t appear to be a village with security cameras everywhere or anywhere, so there’s no pictures of the troublemaking spirits or burglars. Akumba says he’s notified the local chief but, if this has been going on since 2014, he and others in the village probably know about it. Is Akumba just the crazy neighbor with two wives who someone is trying to force to move out? Or is he really being haunted?

Seeing is believing when it comes to most things, but when it comes to ghosts in Kenya, it’s more like believing is seeing.


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 darren@weirddarkness.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.

“A Case of Criminal Neglect” from London Overlooked
“The Disturbing Story of Sharon Marshall” by Crystaldawn for Lost N Found blogs
“Just One Of Those Things” by Malcolm Smith for Malcolm’s Anomalies
“Coney Island’s Hell Gate” by Erin McCarthy for Mental Floss
“Ghost Handcuffs Family” by Paul Seburn for Mysterious Universe

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… “Learn to do right! Seek justice, encourage the oppressed.” — Isaiah 1:17

And a final thought… “Be sure to taste your words before you spit them out.” – Unknown

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



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